A reader writes:

I recently read your Mary, Mother of the Son books, and I had a question for you about something you said on page 127 of book three of that trilogy, Miracles, Devotion, and Motherhood.

“Claims of Marian apparitions or miracles judged by the Church to be fake or false (as for example in Bayside, NY, or Garabandal Spain) should be shunned.”

From everything that I’ve read, the Church has made no definitive pronouncements to the validity of the apparitions at Garabandal. Where did you hear that Garabandal is invalid? Since reading your book, I have been trying to find anything definitive from the Church about Garabandal. If you could shed some light on the situation we would really appreciate it.

If by “definitive” you mean that Rome has not condemned it, then I suppose you are right. However, given that multiple local ordinaries have condemned it and that the “prophecies” which emerged from it are, well, demonstrably false, I think we can stick a fork in Garabandal, cuz it’s done. Here is Karl Keating on the state of the question in 2003. You will note that nothing has changed except that Karl’s forecast that the “prophecies” would prove to be rubbish has been borne out.:


That was the way the end of the day was announced in the old British clubs. Something very much like it is about to be said to the whole world, if we are to believe “Garabandal” magazine.

I received a promotional issue of that publication a few days ago. Articles summarize what purportedly happened between 1961 and 1965 in the mountain village of San Sebastian de Garabandal in northern Spain. Four children, ages 11 and 12, claimed to have seen apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

Three events were foretold: a warning, a miracle, and a chastisement.

The warning is to come first and is to occur within a year prior to the miracle. The miracle will be at a grove of trees near Garabandal. “It will be the greatest miracle that Jesus will have ever performed for the world,” claims the magazine. Left in the miracle’s aftermath will be a “visible supernatural sign [that] will remain in sight until the end of time.” If the world does not turn from its sin in response to the warning and the miracle, there will follow a chastisement.

“Garabandal” magazine claims the Church looks favorably on the apparition, quoting from a letter that allegedly indicates the Pope “favors propagation of the Garabandal events.” It actually appears that the letter, said to be signed by the Pope’s secretary, was a perfunctory thanks for a book sent to the Vatican by the German businessman to whom the letter was addressed.

In any case, what the magazine does not mention is that successive bishops of Santander, the diocese in which Garabandal is located, have condemned the apparition. I know that some Catholics–perhaps including some readers of this E-Letter–will discount those condemnations, saying that we all should know by now how error-prone bishops can be: Just look at the mess in our own country!

There’s no need to argue with such folks because the internal logic of the apparition will settle things in its own way.

One of the locutions received by the children included the prediction that there would be only three more popes until “the end of the times.” The pope when that prediction was made was John XXIII. Then came Paul VI and John Paul I. Now we have John Paul II, who, being John XXIII’s third successor, is therefore the last pope.

A further locution told the children that John Paul II would live to see the miracle. The present Holy Father, as we all know, is frail and ailing. While he might live another decade, he might be called home at any time. Most of us will outlive him, which means we will be able to know with certainty whether the warning and the miracle occurred during his reign and whether he turned out to be the last pope.

Although there are more than a dozen Indian casinos within easy driving distance of my home, I do not visit them. I have no interest in gambling. By the time I put the fourth quarter into a slot machine, I’m bored. I can think of smarter and more enjoyable ways to lose money.

But I am tempted to lay a wager, with anyone who might wish to take me up on it, that there will be another conclave of cardinals and that from it another pope will emerge. I do not worry about losing this bet because I have every confidence that Garabandal is a false apparition.

If a new pope is elected, that will put the lie to the apparition’s claims. This will doubly be the case if the promised warning and miracle do not arrive during the current pontificate.

Over the years I have known several Catholics who were devoted to Garabandal. I appreciated their seriousness while I questioned their prudence. What will happen to them when the apparition in which they have invested so much of themselves goes bust?

Most other false apparitions–there have been hundreds of them in the past few decades–have not obviously set themselves up for a fall. Garabandal has through its precise predictions. If the cardinals elect a successor to John Paul II, Garabandal instantaneously fizzles.

The way things work in such matters is not “Go on insisting on the validity of the apparitions despite the repeated verdict of the local ordinary until Rome finally overrules you.” Rather, the normative approach is “Listen to the local ordinary until and unless Rome definitively overrules him.” Given the demonstrably false prophecy coming from Garabandal, that’s now absolutely certain to never happen.

Absolutely. Certain.

There are plenty of valid Marian apparitions out there. Stick with them. Don’t waste time with unapproved (and still less dubious, and still even less condemned) ones. The itch to get an inside gnostic scoop is always with us and can only end in tears.

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