Pius XII was against Faustina’s apparitions before he was for them. He first distanced the Church from them by placing her writings on the Index of Forbidden Books (Index Liborum Prohibitorum). Notwithstanding, he blessed an image of the Divine Mercy in Rome in 1956.
The Holy Office [not yet renamed Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] under John XXIII, suppressed the writings twice, the second time in 1959. The stay against Faustina’s diary and devotion to the image of Divine Mercy lasted until 1978, the year Karol Wojtyla was elected to the papacy.
According to the 2005 Marian Press edition of the Diary, the Marian Fathers in Poland had been promoting the devotion since the 1940s. Between 1979 and 1987, the men devoted themselves to a taffy-pull on Faustina’s manuscripts in order to shape them into acceptable revelatory goods.
Were the Marians engaged in promotion during the decades of suppression? No mention is made. Editorial comment leaps from the 1940s ahead to 1979. That year marked the beginning of an aggressive lobbying effort based on re-translating, re-writing, and re-editing the original documents. This exercise in revision was offered to the faithful as an exemplary act of clarification. John Allen, in a 2002 essay “A Saint Despite Vatican Reservations,” described it this way:
Officially, the 20-year ban is now attributed to misunderstandings created by a faulty Italian translation of the Diary, but in fact there were serious theological reservations—Faustina’s claim that Jesus had promised a complete remission of sin for certain devotional acts, that only the sacraments can offer, for example, or what Vatican evaluators felt to be an excessive focus on Faustina herself.
But John Paul II was anxious to fortify Polish Catholics with another saint. When he assumed the papacy, the Berlin Wall still stood. Poland’s anti-Communist labor movement was about to emerge as Lech Walesa’s Solidarity. The nationalist note in Faustina’s visions, no help to Poland in the Thirties, was made to order for the Seventies. Jesus told her:
I have loved Poland particularly. If she obeys my will, I will raise her up in power and sanctity. From her will come forth a spark that will prepare the world for my final coming.
With no more than three or four years of schooling, Faustina might not have known that Jesus once declared His kingdom was not of this world. It was certainly not in Poland on the eve of Hitler’s invasion and the slaughter of over five million Poles.
From Sow’s Ear to Silk Purse
Making saints is a political act, inextricable from the machinery of special interests. And the process can be just as unedifying. The 640-plus pages of her writing required revision to make the prose coherent and theologically acceptable. The Marian Press phrases the rescue this way:
A rigorous, scholarly analysis of her notebooks was necessary to extract from them everything which is considered essential to her mission. This work was accomplished by an eminent and highly esteemed theologian, the Rev. Professor, Ignacy Rózycki. . . .
In other words, the Diary‘s promoters appointed a theologian to make a silk purse out of an inadmissable sow’s ear. Think of Justice Roberts “translating” the Affordable Care Act to salvage it from its failings. Like Obama’s ACA, Faustina’s diary is an artifact of purposeful editing.
Peter Scott, writing in The Angelus, June 2010, took particular exception to the pervasive presumption in Faustina’s Diary. Self-flattery is a characteristic contrary to the unpretentiousness of any true mystic. Illustrating that lack of humility is Faustina’s claim that Jesus told her: “Now I know that it is not for the graces or gifts that you love me, but because My will is dearer to you than life. That is why I am uniting Myself with you so intimately as with no other creature.”(§707).
Fr. Scott comments: “What pride, to believe such an affirmation, let alone to assert that it came from heaven.” He continues with instances of her tendency to praise herself by means of words spoken by Jesus:
Listen to this interior locution: “Blessed pearl of My Heart, I see your love so pure, purer than that of the angels . . . . For your sake, I bless the world.” (§1061). On May 23, 1937 she describes a vision of the Holy Trinity, after which she heard a voice saying: “Tell the Superior General to count on you as the most faithful daughter in the Order.” (§1130). It is hardly surprising that Sister Faustina claimed to be exempt from the Particular and General Judgments. On February 4, 1935, she already claimed to hear this voice in her soul: “From today on, do not fear God’s judgment, for you will not be judged.” (§374).
Add to this the preposterous affirmation that the host three times jumped out of the tabernacle and placed itself in her hands (§44) so that she had to open up the tabernacle herself and place it back in.
• • • •
The Church does not oblige Catholics to believe any private visions. But that wise and gracious exemption is effectively undermined once the seer is declared a saint. By now, the reveries of a minimally literate young woman with a heated imagination have been enshrined. They are barricaded against demurral by canonization and the institutionalized incentive of indulgences.
Implicit in our complaints about secular culture is recognition of the Church’s loss of credibility in the modern world. If the phenomenon of Faustina reveals anything, it is that those who speak for the Church are not all blameless in the tilt toward secularism.