The Problem with Vassula
He asked me to give it to Fr Ray Blake, saying it was a "gift" and so give it to him I did. Fr Ray, in the sacristry opened it. It was a book that looked like a kind of weird new Gideon's Bible with a CD and flyers for 'True Life in God'. The fact that this book was presented as a Bible was, to put it mildly, disconcerting!
'True Life in God' is a massive book, a voluminous collection of writings, claimed, by Vassula Ryden, to be a collation of intimate conversations between her and Our Blessed Saviour, emerging through 'automatic writing'. She puts pen to paper and, according to her, Christ speaks to her everyday and, through her, to the entire listening World. Crikey! Such a claim demands thorough investigation, since if this is true the writings may be both important and edifying. If it is not true, then, equally the writings should be burned pronto and treated as anathaema - a danger to souls.
Our Blessed Lord said, "By their fruits you shall know them." So, what is the fruit of Vassula? Well, as a Greek Orthodox woman who befriends, or takes in, depending on your point of view, figures in authority in all Christian denominations, whether it be Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal or Presbyterian churches, Vassula claims to be on a 'mission from God' to unite all churches 'in Christ'. She's as happy to be at a charismatic service with a bunch of wide-eyed Baptists a-praisin' the Lord as she is to receiving the Precious Body and Blood of Christ at a Catholic Church, even though she is not a practising Catholic.
Whenever and wherever this occurs it is a cause of great scandal, not only to the Faithful, but to Bishops and Priests who are presented with a problem whenever Vassula presents herself for Holy Communion or requests that she may give a speech to followers at a massive Cathedral in the Diocese. This is because while it is true that Orthodox communicants can present themselves for Holy Communion in Catholic Churches, it is widely disputed as to whether Vassula is 'in good standing' even with her own Orthodox Church. She can draw upon some faithful friends in the Orthodox, even Catholic and most certainly Anglican hierarchy, but while one Orthodox Bishop will denounce her as an heretical witch, another will recommend her as a 'prophetess' for a new dialogue between Christian denominations in the 21st century. Unsurprisingly, with her total ambivalence to doctrine, she is most popular with Anglicans. My Anglican friend tells me that the Anglican monks at Crawley Down pour over her writings every day, devotedly, when surely Papal encyclicals such as Anglicanorum Coetibus and the newly released Verbum Domini would surely suffice.
In essence, aside from the fact that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith finds her writings to have an air of authenticity, the CDF have grave concerns, noting that her writings contain some important doctrinal errors. The most obvious one that leaps out from the page is Vassula's definition of the Church itself. Truth, to Vassula, is a hobo with no fixed address. She presents 'the Church' as something in the eyes of the Christian believer and suggests that 'all roads lead to Rome', whereas the words given to St Peter by Christ categorically affirm the Pope's authority over believers, the power to bind and loose, to teach dogma, faith and morals, Our Blessed Lord confirming to Peter that "the Gates of Hell shall never prevail" against His Church, built upon the him, the first Pope, who proclaims Christ's identity, infallibly, as 'the Son of God, the Messiah, the Saviour of the World'. Outside of the One True Church are shadows of truth, partial truth, even, but the 'fullness of Truth' is only to be found in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. While she appears to recognise the primacy of the Pope, she, rather conveniently, does not feel "called" to speak on such matters.
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI is, in many ways, a true Pope of Christian unity, able to embrace the Archbishop of Canterbury as a friend and a brother, yet never once denying the truth that he is 'the Successor of St Peter' and the proclamation of the Catholic Church as the Instrument of Salvation, the Ark of Truth, in a fallen World that is yearning for Truth. Hence we have the creation of the Ordinariate for disaffected Traditional Anglicans, the fruit of which is already evident in the five flying Bishops who've flown the roost to their true home. The Holy Father does not present the Gospel as a pan-Christian phenomenom which serves to unite the various 'branches' of the Church in 'fellowship' and 'peace'. The Gospel is distinctly, identifiably, Catholic. Our Blessed Lord is the Divine Founder not of many different 'branches' of His 'Church', but the Founder of the One True Church in which true peace and unity is to be found.
|Fr Rene Laurentin: Vassula supporter|
The sad truth of the matter is that as long a creature like Vassula presents herself as a 'prophetess' of Christian unity, while resisting full communion with the One True Church, and continues her claims to be the 'bridge' between the denominations, she will lack validity and credibility. She is a woman obedient to no ecclesiastical authority and seemingly above any jurisdiction whatsoever. She raises more questions than she answers.
|Vassula promotes her 'healing' ministry|
If she were truly credible and truly holy, she would lead by example. The only thing we can deduce is that, to her, membership of the Body of Christ in His Church is not necessary for salvation, a dangerous belief to hold, especially when one has become so influential that believers consider her words to have come from the Mouth of God.
A small, yet telling, example of this occurred when the young man who gave Fr Ray Blake a book of her writings received Holy Communion. I know through an Anglican friend that the young man is an Anglican who worships at St Patrick's Anglican Church in Brighton. Yet, the young man presented himself for Holy Communion. Clearly, being one of Vassula's disciples has not impressed upon him the importance to be in full communion with the Church, reconciled to the One True Church and in a State of Grace, in order to receive the Precious Body and Blood of Our Blessed Lord under the guise of bread. To Vassula, his actions would not be problematic, but to the faithful Catholic who is loyal to the Magisterium, they are, whether they are performed with or without an informed conscience, a cause for scandal. Vassula promotes a Christ without Doctrine and that is profoundly damaging both to her credibility and to souls.
That, and that alone, is precisely the reason why Vassula Ryden is dangerous to souls. That is why I dropped her writings, the "gift" from the young man, in the bin with no questions asked. I do not know the origin of her 'revelations', but the CDF has never changed its position that her writings should not be treated by the faithful as such, but as her own 'private meditations'. While the CDF issued a 'warning' rather than a condemnation of the Vassula phenomenom, she herself is without doubt a cult leader who inspires loyalty from her cult followers, who is leading souls not into communion with the One True God and His One True Church, but terribly astray. True ecumenism does not deny infallible dogma or doctrine and articles of Faith. True 'mystics' and 'visionaries' do not point to themselves, but always to Our Lord Jesus Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
I found this link at Catholic Doors and this link at Info Vassula helpful, in writing this post. Particularly striking are the testimonies which reflect the wholly negative aspects of the cult of Vassula, the particular problems of which were very evident in the man bearing the "gift" for Fr Ray Blake. Her followers are said to get very angry if you object to her writings and her validity, regardless of the fact that their own denominational commitment has seemingly been over-ridden by their love for Vassula. You will notice this when you look at the top of her Wikipedia entry, which seems to covers her true biography pretty accurately!