Thursday, March 17, 2011

Patriarch of Constantinople Denounces Vassula

Vassula Ryden occassionally comes to Brighton and speaks in one of the large Anglican churches. Last time she was here she was even invited to speak in the local cathedral. She pushes the old Anglican "branch theory": Catholics, Orthodox and Anglicans are all branches of the same Church. Her followers, mainly Anglicans, insist on receiving Holy Communion, when refused, she and they, can be quite disruptive. Normally she has a tame bishop Catholic Bishop in tow.
She has a home in Rome, where she boasts, she a none Catholic, is given Communion by the parish priest. She and her followers have a well deserved reputation for being litigious.

My thanks to Rorate Caeli for this:
Yesterday, the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople issued a strongly-worded decree denouncing Vassula Ryden and her works, excluding her supporters from (Orthodox) communion, and warning Orthodox clergy from spreading her teachings her lest they incur canonical censures. An initial English translation of the new decree can be found here. The relevant portion is as follows:

In this spirit, and for the beneficial protection of our pious Orthodox plenitude from dangerous spiritual confusion, who do not know well matters underlying the risk of delusion, rejects from the Mother Church Vasiliki Paraskevis Pentaki - Ryden, widely known as a "Vassula", and her organization founded under the title "True Life In God" which rashly and frivolously proposes teachings based on the supposed "direct dialogue between her and the Founder of the Church Jesus Christ our Lord", and those conquered by her and the supporters of "True Life In God", which deviate arbitrarily from the God-given teaching of the Church, but also scandalize the Orthodox phronema of pious believers.
Hence, we call upon the proponents of these unacceptable innovations and the supporters who maintain them, who henceforth are not admitted to ecclesiastical communion, not only to not be involved in the pastoral work of the local Holy Metropolis, but also to not preach their novel teachings, to prevent the appropriate sanctions under the Holy Canons.
This come a few months after the Romanian Orthodox Church defrocked one of its priests for concelebrating with a Roman Catholic priest, in an event that came about under the influence of Vassula Ryden. (See this and this for Rorate Caeli's posts on that incident, and this post on another website reporting on the rejection of the priest's appeal of his punishment.)

Vassula continues to enjoy support from some Roman Catholic priests and bishops despite repeated Vatican warnings against her teachings. Hopefully that will change soon...


nickbris said...

Could that behaviour be construed as blasphemous? Sounds like she ought to chance her arm in a Mosqe,they would know exactly what to do.

Philip A said...

I can think of quite a few male and female saints who claimed a "direct dialogue...with Jesus Christ our Lord"

If she has a Catholic bishop in tow that is good enough for me.

Why describe such a priest as "tame"?

When we have read a little more about her thinking perhaps such condemnation can be justified, but not yet.
Best Wishes.

David A. said...

This does look like an Orthodox equivalent of the Vatican's Notification of 1995 and so is another sad day for those who love the messages of True Life in God.

Hopefully, however, it might lead to an eventual clarification of understanding with the Orthodox such as occurred with Cardinal Ratzinger in 2004. The full details of what happened between the Vatican and Vassula can be seen at

I know that the anti-Vassula brigade will point to Cardinal Levada's letter of 2007 as outdating the earlier dialogue but the fact is it does no such thing.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Because they are generally ignorant of what the CDF has to say about her, ignorant of Catholic theology, ignorant, possibly, of what she is actually saying.
I don't know if the luxury hotels have an attraction for such men, or the possibility of extra funding for their diocesan projects.

The CDF has certainly spoken strongly about her, and normally issues warnings in places she appears.

Gigi said...

I was vaguely aware of "the" Vassula before but had no idea she claimed any direct dialogue with Jesus Christ; although I am mindful of the point Philip is making.
Clearly, if she is disruptive and essentially antagonistic then she contradicts any kind of unifying communication elsewhere, as for example in the Ordinariate.
Surely it's preferable if she has a tame Catholic Bishop in tow rather than a wild one Father Ray? :)
But yes, sadly even the Church has bandwagons and jumpers.

Michael Clifton said...

So Vassula is litigious. Has she got relations in Helmsdale ! A friend of hers seems to live there. You know what I mean.

Pat said...

The main Roman Catholic priest promoting Vassula Ryden and her 'True Life in God' group in the UK is Fr John Abberton (Leeds Diocese) - even on his parish website: For reliable information and official condemnations from the RC Church and other denominations, please see here:-

Fr John Abberton said...

Just a few facts about Vassula, if I may, rather than some of the usual half-truths. First of all, Orthodox are allowed to receive Holy Communion in Catholic churches. This permission was granted by Pope John Paul 11 (was it in 1983?) Secondly, she does not "push the Anglican branch theory" That is a gross misrepresentation of what her writings say and a serious misunderstanding as well. As has been said ad nauseam Vassula provided answers to the Notifications - answers which have been accepted as "useful clarifications". If you read the report of the dialogue Vassula has with the CDF you will also see that Cardinal Ratzinger was pleased with her answers. He then insisted that these answers should be printed in her books. The proper way to understand the Notification is to read it alongside those answers. As regards the Patriarch's condemnation this comes against a background of debate amongst the Orthodox about how far to go in ecumenism. The "innovations" the Patriarch condemns - as those who read the writings will know - are actually Catholic doctrines, so presumably the Catholic opponents of Vassula will find themselves supporting the Patriarch's comments and will be arguing against aspects of their own faith!
Vassula and her followers "litigious"? When and where? We do defend ourselves in relation to Canon Law. Is that wrong?
I should also say in relation to the matter of Anglicans receiving Holy Communion at Catholic Masses. This happens on Pilgrimages because Vassula actually asked at the Vatican what she should do. Permission was granted for this. In fact the Pope, John Paul 11 did the same on occassion(special circumstances etc). No one following Vassula is being disobedient or causing problems. I have never spoken or written to or about anyone in the unjust way I have often seen Vassula's opponents speak and write, nor will I. Nor do I -as presumably a "tame" priest - promote any kind of disobedience or controversy.

B flat said...

She appeals to "itching ears"(2Tim.4:3), and those left spiritually starved by the New Order. A priest enthusiast gave me one of her books which I read. Her "revelations" betrayed an unorthodox view of the Holy Trinity which left me feeling rather sick, and sad about her whole deluded ensemble.

It is right that there should be no doubt concerning her message: that she does not speak from the Church, and her ideas are inimical to our salvation.

Jacobi said...

Don't know what all the fuss is about. The situation is quite clear.

The Catholic Church (sometimes known as the Roman Catholic Church in these Isles) is the True Church, the Mystical Body on Earth of Jesus Christ.

All other Christian churches, except the Orthodox Churches and some others, are to a greater of lesser degree in error, usually guilty of some heresy, and should come into union with the Catholic Church. The Orthodox Churches are in a different category and probably differ only on interpretations of Authority

Having a tame bishop or indeed hordes of tame bishops, and there have been such, for instance during the Protestant Reformation and indeed some today, as well as many priests, in no way alters this.

If Ms Ryden gets litigious Father, don't worry. We will all come and visit you in prison, and I am sure you will find your priestly services in great demand there.

Adulio said...

I shall be waiting to see how Fr. John Abberton will explain this one. False visionaries are a pestilence.

Pat said...

Please readers, I ask you, go to the website I mentioned previously and look at some of the twaddle that Vassula has written. Any well-instructed Catholic school-leaver would be able to demolish this stuff in seconds. All the more worrying that certain priests are taken in by it and seem to be obsessed with defending it. In one sense, it doesn't matter what condemnations are issued either by the RC Church or any other ecclesial group. The followers of Vassula will continue to reject them, saying that they are 'seeking further clarification' until they get the answer that they want to hear.

Gigi said...

Hmm. I have spent the past couple of hours reading about this woman and trying to digest the messages she says are from her ogoing direct dialogue with Jesus. The tone of these makes me personally uneasy; I can't quite put my finger on why, perhaps a vein of self-indulgence running through? I haven't yet read anything about her that immediately illustrates her disruptiveness...
A comment from the Pope when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger and presiding on CDF stands out: "Her writings contain many good things but the grain and the chaff are mixed up". She may be blithely sowing and meaning no harm, but I am not sure what crop will harvested.

Gigi said...

Part 2:
After a few more "messages" - eek! All this blather about Jesus bringing her wedding rings etc and making her his altar... This does sound quite blasphemous to me; and yes, self indulgent.
I would be surprised to see any Catholic Bishop in tow here, tame, wild or other. I won't be reading any more of them. Eek!

The Bones said...

I think she is cruelly deceived. Sadly, the deception of the visionary leads to the deception of a multitude.

GOR said...

I am not familiar with this person, but the trend is familiar – people rushing after ‘seers’, ‘visionaries’ and the latest ‘apparition’. Itching ears, indeed!

Why are we never satisfied with just the Word of God, with the Church, with our Holy Father, that we continually look elsewhere for inspiration? Fallen human nature I expect – but Our Lord did warn about this…

Gigi said...

Laurence and GOR: yes indeed.
By the time of my second posting on here in the early hours, I was feeling quite disturbed by her fancies of a spiritual marriage to Jesus Christ, complete with virtual, matching wedding bands; and also of her stroking the face of God. I actually switched the laptop off and made myself a strong cuppa. I really feel she believes at least part of this, intently. I feel for her self-deception, which in my admittedly unqualified opinion may hint at self esteem issues. The question and answer format of the messaging seems to be very self-endorsing. I am sorry if my comments offend anyone on here who truly believes in Vassula and whose faith and love of God has been enriched by her messages. But personally I am fearful for those who follow her whose faith is vulnerable or has been compromised. I now understand Fr Ray's concern that she might have any Caholic Bishop in tow, or similar endorsement

Pat said...

Look at the latest posting on Fr Abberton's blog 'Defending Vassula - Again!' and you will see the confusion that he is sowing. He says:- "Vassula is attacked (there is no other word for it) by both Catholics and Orthodox. One Catholic used the word "schismatic" - presumably, on the basis of her Greek Orthodox faith. So this is the same for all Greek Orthodox Christians then?" Er . . . yes, Father, it is. Look up the definition of 'schism'

Sharon said...

should also say in relation to the matter of Anglicans receiving Holy Communion at Catholic Masses. This happens on Pilgrimages because Vassula actually asked at the Vatican what she should do. Permission was granted for this.

Fr Abberton, is there hard copy proof of this?

B flat said...

Fr John Abberton starts his clarification with an outrageous distortion of the truth:
First of all, Orthodox are allowed to receive Holy Communion in Catholic churches.

He makes it clear in his next sentence that this permission came from the venerable Pope John Paul II. This is muddled thinking, not clarification. The Orthodox Church does not permit this to her faithful.
If a neighbour allows children to come and eat and play in his house, is that sufficient? Are the children thereby "allowed" to do this?
There are many shepherds who act as pastors of their flock. Some are appointed for this by Christ and with His authority by the successors of the Apostles. I know mine, and my own know Me, is applicable here. Some are self-appointed. They are separate. But they, not the flocks, answer to God for their decision to join together or not.

I am certain that the Church has all that is necessary for salvation. If I look outside the Church, stray from my shepherd even in my intentions, then I answer before God for my unfaithfulness. Was I straying through hunger, or just vain curiosity for novelties? Or was I deluded by soft words of those who came as thieves and robbers? Constantinople has made it clear that Vasoula and her teachings are out of bounds for the Orthodox Faithful. Fr John Abberton will follow his own superiors' directions, I trust, and probably not comply with the OEcumenical Patriarchate's directive.

Fr John Abberton said...

Well, I have just returned from a weekend away (working). First of all, let me say that I respect those who do not like certain kinds of mystical writings. We are free to like or dislike them. As someone else has reminded us, the most important thingsare the Holy Scriptures, the Sacraments and the doctrines of the Faith. Mystical writings are not necessary for salvation etc. All this is known. However, because you do not like them or think them "sickening" does not prove them false. The charge about confusion regarding the Trinity has been answered already by more than one academic theologian. The just thing to do is to follow both sides of the argument. Some will be asking if I have. Yes, because I was a pretty fierce critic of Vassula and told people to burn her books. What happened? I started to read the messages. I met Vassula and spoke with her. It is often necessary to do this before judging somebody. Some will be wonderering if she is a "witch" or something. Has she "bewitched" me? No. I looked at it as cooly as I could and thought about it and prayed about it. I noted what others had said - e.g. the retired professor from Notre Dame, Fr. Ed O'Conner, (not retired at that time)I also spoke to the late Fr. Michael O'Carroll who suggested I take more time over the matter and he was right. Some say her writings are not very sublime - fine, that's a matter of opinion. I disagree as I am entitled to. The simple facts are as I have said regarding her position re the Catholic Church. She has not been condemned. The position re the Notification is modified by her answers which Card. Ratzinger asked her to publish in her books. Is there evidence of this request? Yes, the report by the theologian Dr. Neils Hvidt who personally discussed Vassula with the Cardinal. This report is available on the internet - I have a link to it on my blog.
Look everyone, people are free to read this kind of thing or not. if some of you don't like it - fine. But why insult others (and Vassula) who do? What is the problem?
A note about mystical theology and experiences: mystical marriage is well-known and similar experiences can be seen in the lives of others - e.g. St. Catherine of Sienna. Some mystical writings can seem bizarre and even "erotic" - see the reading in the breviary from St. Clare of Assisi - or read the Song of Songs. Mystical writings have to be read in a certain way - they are not theological treatises. if you don't like this kind of thing, that's OK, but please stop hammering away at those who do. Some of you may feel that you do not need this sort of thing - good. Some people like this kind of writing, and it is not unknown (St. Faustina's Diary is one of the best examples). Please now give us some slack O.K? By the way the Patriarch's statement is not signed and does not bear his seal. it also flatly contradicts the acceptance of the Patriarch of Alexandria who accepted Vassula as a communicant. I was present before when he welcomed her at the Patriarchate. (I was with about 40 others).
With regard to the Vatican permission for pilgrimages - is there documentary evidence? I do not know, but I believe it because I know both Vassula and the Mgr. who was then involved in it, and I do not believe that either of them are (were, in his case for he has died)liars.
Peace be with you

Gigi said...

Hi Father Aberton. Yes I did say some of the messages and the imagery made me uneasy - and I believe another blogger said some messages made him feel a bit sick. I have already apologised if stating my opinion would offend Vassula's followers. I assume regular followers of Fr Ray's bloke are here to discuss issues raised and comment openly and honestly, rather than to batter and offend.
I am familiar with the writings of St Catherine of Sienna and St Clare of Assisi, and Yahweh of the ancient scriptures as Israel's jealous bridegroom. I do appreciate that the language of mystic theology can be passionate and even sensual. As you say, we are entitled to our tastes whether this be in daily newspapers, music or visionaries. Finding Vassula's messages disrurbing does not, as you say, make them false. Citing the tradition of mystical writings does not guarantee the veracity of their source.
You are obviously a man with a vocational interest and knowledge, as is Father Ray, and I respect that immensely. My stated concern was for those who follow Vassula "whose faith is vulnerable or has been compromised".
Obviously, you are a man with a vocational interest and knowledge. I will stand by my opinion that I find Vassula self-indulgent and the format of many of the messages seems self-endorsing. The point of discussion originally appeared to be whether any implied or assumed endorsement from the Patriach in Constantinople or the Holy Father in Rome can be justified. I have followed the links on here and elsewhere and I am not convinced it can and I'm content as I don't feel the need to follow Vassula. But I feel those who cannot make up their own minds may mistake promotion for guidance.

n said...

Vassula's stuff was rightly characterized as "personal meditations" by Cardinal Ratzinger and that is a charitable description. The CDF judgment of 2007 still stands.

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