APOLOGIA PRO MARIA VALTORTA
By a traditional Catholic priest, friend of the webmaster
EXTERNAL SUPPORT OF AUTHORITY
Many conservative and traditional Catholics have been misled by an article circulating since 1992, referring to Cardinal Ratzinger's letter of 1985 and a summary of the seven "reasons" for condemnation of The Poem of the Man God in 1960. There is a good analysis of this in a new book Fireworks (Kolbe Publications Sherbrooke, Canada, 1996, pp. 78 9, 87 107). It points out (p. 105) that Father Giraudo of the Holy Office in early 1962 reversed the previous decision of that Office to place The Poem on the Index of Forbidden Books. Since then acceptance of The Poem has spread widely with imprimatur granted by Bishop Roman Danylak in Rome for all the approved English translations. The canonical approval to publish, given by Pope Pius XII has not been seriously challenged. I received a letter from Cardinal Gagnon in Rome (Jan 3, 1992) assuring me that many good people are benefiting from Valtorta's works, but that Cardinal Ratzinger's office has only the negative side of the story. He suggested that more people write to Cardinal Ratzinger to request a clarification.
Given the genuine approval, widespread growth, and immense spiritual fruit of The Poem of the Man-God it would be rash to deny refuse or fight against this great gift of God (see Gamaliel's advice, Acts 5:38 9).
Let us not forget that even the works of St. Thomas Aquinas were at first condemned, as were the person of St. Athanasius and the writings of Saint Faustina Kowalska. Truth will find its way in the end, and the judgement of Pope Pius XII will be clearly vindicated. In 1978 an anthology was published in Portuguese with the Imprimatur of the Archbishop of Belem, Brazil. In India seven bishops have sent warm letters of congratulations to the publisher of the Malayan translation One of these bishops gave his Imprimatur in 1993. Don't forget, the approval of Pope Pius XII was more than an Imprimatur (permission to publish). It was an instruction to publish, given at the Vatican before official witnesses on February 26, 1948.
INTERNAL VALUE OF THE WORK
Now for the intrinsic arguments. Just about all the objections to The Poem involve taking quotes somehow out of context.
I distinguish three ways to take a text out of context and thus distort its meaning.
First there is verbal or literal context. The Bible has these words: "…There is no God" (Ps. 52), and "Christ died in vain" (Gal. 2:21). No one can say that the Bible says (affirms) these statements, because in context we have:
"…The fool says in his heart, there is no God"; and "If justice comes by the law, then Christ died in vain". Yet the verbal context could also be made clear somewhere else, e.g. St. Paul saying "I would wish to be anathema from Christ", in Rom 9:3, can only be understood rightly in the light of verses 38/9 of the previous chapter, and the rest of Chapters 9, 10 and 11. Likewise with Our Lord's words about cutting off a hand or plucking out an eye (Matt. 5:29 30) in a true verbal context we must understand the literary expression of hyperbole. It would be wrong to take it too literally. In the same way, Our Lord has given Maria Valtorta some surprising expressions. Without putting these into context, one could raise an eyebrow every few hundred pages! One example might be Christ speaking to the pagan Romans about the human soul. He calls it a spark of the divinity, yet if you keep reading it is made clear that He is not speaking literally, for He tells us that the soul is created, separate from God yet made in His image and likeness. The spark of the divinity is an allegory, an image that better expresses our understanding.
Second is the cultural and temporal context. It comes as a surprise for some to realise that Christ our Savior was truly human, and with other characters of the Gospel, was of quite a different cultural stock (from ourselves). Jewish first century styles and customs greatly differ from Western twentieth century ones. Even today, what is normal and proper in Palestine or Italy might be considered queer and sinful in America or England. In these latter countries we know it is not proper for men to kiss each other unless they are of close family, or they are enthusiastic U.K. soccer players kicking a goal. Yet in the East it is entirely proper and even expected. Sometimes they even may kiss on the lips as a sign of special affection without any unnatural or sexual connotation. Recall Our Lord at the house of Simon the Pharisee rebuking him for not giving the customary kiss (Luke 7:45). It would be calumny in trying to impute evil motives in the chaste, loving and manly kisses revealed in The Poem. No one who has read it in context entertains any suspicion on this score, even if they are surprised.
Thirdly, the most important context is the doctrinal or faith context. This is the norm for interpreting Sacred Scripture consistent with the unanimous view of the early Fathers or the analogy of faith. i.e. we must always interpret in conformity with the Magisterium of the Church.
The Vatican newspaper in 1960 hinted at an error in Valtorta's account of the sin of Eve. Fr. Roschini O.S.M. exposes the falsity of this charge in his book The Virgin Mary in the Writings of Maria Valtorta (Kolbe., Sherbrooke, Canada. 1986, pp. 276 9). He points out that The Poem teaches precisely what St. Thomas taught; that the first sin was a complex one involving pride, disobedience, gluttony and finally lust ('fuerunt plures deformitates " Summa 1 li 9.82. a.2, ad 1). He goes on to quote 10 saints and numerous other theologians in support of Valtorta! This is context.
With Valtorta, as with the canonical Scriptures, there are difficulties that are easily resolved by distinction from Thomistic philosophy such as: general vs. specific, strictly vs. broadly, properly vs. allegorically, in fieri vs. in facto esse, ad esse vs. ad melior esse, simpliciter vs. quodammodo. These distinctions are usually not needed for the simple faithful as the context gives them the truth without danger.
The Most Quoted "Error"
It has been described as blasphemous that Our Lady could say what is recorded in pages 37-42 of The Poem. There the Blessed Virgin is three years old, talking with her parents. She expresses her great desire to see the Savior, Who She knows will come for sinners. She asks a logical question: can I be more saved and loved by Christ if I become a big sinner? The question shows that even with Her infused knowledge, Mary was ignorant of the great gift of Her Immaculate Conception which St. Joachim then explains to Her with a beautiful comparison. There is no dispute in Catholic theology about Mary's Immaculate Conception (since 1854) but there is a lawful and traditional disagreement about the extent of Her infused knowledge. On these disputed questions of theology, no one has the right to call the other opinion blasphemous. Nor should Our Lady's statement be taken out of context to condemn the whole work.
Thus you have the answer to the main objections. The writings of Maria Valtorta are in no way opposed to the Catholic faith or morals, they were never put on the Index of Forbidden Books for this reason, and they continue to edify the Church resulting in many conversions and vocations. Valtorta's writings were specially given by Christ Our Lord as a gift to His priests, to support the work of His Vicar St Pius X to combat Modernism (see The Poem. vol. 5, pp 946), and to reveal the truth of the Gospel in a special way. They fill in the gaps. They put you in the picture. They amplify the sacred text, e.g. the Passion may be five pages in your Gospel, it is 100 pages in The Poem. The popularity of these books has spread widely.
If The Poem at times seems sentimental, it is really the remedy of sentimentalism in matters of faith. It is no more sensual than the works of St. Ignatius. who encourages the use of all five senses, plus imagination, in his ‘Spiritual Exercises'. The Biblical book Canticle of Canticles could be charged with the same falsehood by the spiritually immature. Valtorta always leads from the senses to the spiritual, the sublime and the supernatural. It is a masterpiece of sacred literature, unlike anything ever written. In some ways it is like being in the first seminary, trained by the Master Himself. A professor and sculptor friend of Maria Valtorta wrote in 1965: "(her works) have completely transformed my inner life. The knowledge of Christ has become so total as to make the Gospels clear to me and make me live them in everyday life better (Lorenzo Ferri). All those among our parishioners who have read Valtorta say the same thing.
May God give us the grace to see His truth and bless these works, especially the great work of spreading His truth and love on earth. With Pius XII I say: "He who reads will understand"
o o 0 o o
N.B. Remember that her major work on the Life of Christ, THE POEM OF THE MAN GOD, was condemned by the Holy Office in Rome mistakenly ONLY for the same reasons and the same time frame (2 years) as was the Saint Padre Pio condemned thirty years previously.
The Pope has beatified only one Biblical Scholar of the twentieth century, Blessed Gabriel Allegra. His latter years were spent reading, studying and promoting the Poem.
Holy Cross Seminary in Goulburn, Australia has the Latin works of Fr. Gabriel Roschini, a famous Mariologist who also promoted Valtorta until his death in 1976, considering her writings greater than anything he has ever read on Our Blessed Lady. He wrote over 125 books!
St. Pius X granted an Apostolic Blessing for those who read "True Devotion". One day perhaps a traditional pope will grant a similar reward for reading Maria Valtorta. When you have read the Poem, read the Notebooks.