A Catholic Religious on Emmitsburg


A person claiming to be a Catholic religious did not agree with my comments concerning the so-called Emmitsburg apparitions of Catholic Mary. He expressed his disagreement in an email. In what follows, his unedited words are in blue. My comments are in black.

First off sir I have my Master's in Theology. I had three Semesters in Scripture according to the New American Bible.

As the Church Lady would have said, “Well, now. Isn't that nice?” Three semesters in Scripture? I wonder; does this mean that he took three courses over three semesters? Or did he carry a full course load of Scripture studies for three semesters? The difference is significant. If the first condition were true, that would mean that he picked up six to nine semester hours of credit “in Scripture.” Should the latter possibility be true, it could mean that he earned as many as 36 to 45 semester hours of credit in the study of Scripture.

One might also wonder about the quality and nature of those “three Semesters in Scripture.” Were scriptural studies preceded by instruction in hermeneutics, exegesis and the historical, religious and social histories of the peoples to whom the Scriptures were first delivered? They were, in the Bible College that I attended.

I don't know in which school or seminary this Marian apologist studied, but I do know that, in the Catholic institutions of higher learning that I am familiar with, the study of philosophy is an important adjunct to the study of Scripture. John Paul II is a case in point; he held a doctorate in the obscure philosophical specialty known as phenomenology.

I am also a religious. Meaning I have taken the vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. I have taken these vows in submission of my life to Christ. I spend most of my life in prayer and solitude.

Let's see now. Who else can I think of who also took vows of “Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience?”

For a time, nearly hald a century ago, I worked in a hospital operated by Catholic order called “The Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis,” all of whom had taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. As executive housekeeper, I had access to all areas of the property—including the convent as necessary.

From my own observations, I can confirm that the members of this order lived under austere conditions—in so far as their sleeping arrangements were concerned. The rooms, or cells, of individual sisters were tiny spaces hardly bigger than the cells of Alcatraz prison. Furnishings consisted of a narrow wooden bed with a thin mattress, a nightstand with reading lamp, and a single wall-mounted hook for hanging their robes. Now, that's austere.

The nuns ate in the hospital's former kitchen, which also served as a gathering room. In addition to kitchen equipment, the area held what then was considered a very large color TV, with comfortable lounge chairs to sit in while watching programs. There was an obviously expensive billiard table, with all the usual accessories, and a craft area where the nuns could paint, create ceramic goods, string beads and the like. Not so austere.

Though there were but few nuns living in the convent. I never saw the full company all present at the same time. One or two of the sisters always seemed to be off traveling. One of the younger sisters enjoyed painting and frequently visited overseas national museums, where she might closely study the work of the great masters. One of the elder sisters enjoyed taking trips, which she referred to as pilgrimages or retreats, to renew old friendships. Several of the stay-at-home sisters attended classes in one of the area's universities or craft centers. Not so austere.

Austerity was practiced at the hospital, however. As executive housekeeper, I hired housekeeping staff at a starting wage of 80 cents an hour. When a housekeeper's wages had been increased to 95 cents an hour due to seniority increases, my instructions were to induce him or her to quit. It was necessary that the individual voluntarily leave in order to avoid increases to the hospital's contributions to the state's unemployment program. Workers in my laundry hired on at 85 cents an hour, and were induced to leave when their hourly compensation rose to more than $1.15. Housekeepers and laundry workers were, without exception, African-Americans. White folks were employed in my security and maintenance sections. Their pay was significantly higher than that of the workers of color. This was the way the Order required me to run my departments.

The homes of popes, cardinals and bishops stand in mute testimony to the obvious fact that not all those who rise into the upper echelons of the Catholic hierarchy life in poverty.

When it comes to the matter of chastity, it would appear that a number of Catholic priests and religious have ignored that particular obligation. A decade ago, news media carried numerous accounts of predatory sexual behavior on the part of priests and religious, and similar accounts continue to be reported to this date. The former priest of my wife's parish was a philanderer who was not rehabilitated during retreats at his order's Irish headquarters. He fathered at least two children; one by his parish secretary and another by a 17-year-old parishioner. Finally, in response to public outcry and the threat of a major lawsuit, diocesan authorities withdrew his faculties and laicized the man. They put him to work in the Archdiocese' youth programs.

Obedience? To whom? God? The pope? Catholic Mary? One's religious order? When it comes to Catholic priests and religious it's hard for me to know.

I was just down in Emmitsburg, Maryland on Wednesday and I went to St. Joseph's Church were the Blessed Virgin Mary has been appearing to Giana Tallone Sullivan.

Have you ever wondered why Catholic Mary, whom we know to be a figment of Catholic imagination, should choose to shift the locus for her visits to visionary Sullivan from Scottsdale, Arizona to a suburb of Baltimore?

Have you ever wondered why Catholic Mary would choose to make herself visible to a very select few and then instruct those visionaries to pass along her message to the Catholic faithful gathered at the apparition sites? After all, if the message were so important that Catholic Mary would take time off from her duties as Queen of Heaven and Earth, patroness of a number of professions and nation states, Dispenser of God's graces, Co-Redemptrix, etc.; why not show herself in all her glory to the assembly? I can't speak for others, but I for one would be greatly impressed to see Catholic Mary—or any other Pagan deity—suddenly appear out of nothing to deliver a message.

Sir I tell you now if you were in my shoes when I walked into that Church, even you a non-believer as you are, you would have fallen on to your knees as I did the second I walked in. That church was full with the presence of Mary and SHE WAS THERE! No doubt about it. They call Emmitsburg the center of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is.

I have been in Christian assemblies in which the Holy Spirit clearly was present and working. I have been in assemblies in which demons or some other malevolent force was present. I have never been in an assembly where a fictional being such as Catholic Mary was present.

How did the Baltimore Archdiocese react to the reports of regularly-scheduled closed door visits of Catholic Mary to Talone-Sullivan at its St/ Joseph church? With ambivvalence, of course.

Church Reaction

In a letter dated Aug 30 [1995]from Msgr. Jeremiah F. Kenner, who was writing on behalf of Cardinal Keeler, he stated that Gianna Talone Sullivan had been investigated by the Diocese of Phoenix, and nothing contrary to Faith was found. He stated that the position of the Archdiocese of Baltimore is neutral on the matter at this time.

In a response to a query from Edmund J. Koenke, the Secretary to the Archbishop of Baltimore - Cardinal Keeler, wrote the following:

September 8, 2000

Statement Concerning the Alleged Apparations to Gianna Talone-Sullivan in Emmitsburg.
1) The Archdiocese of Baltimore can no longer give tacit approval to these alleged apparations. Following a careful examination of information related to them, we find there is no objective basis to the alleged apparations.
2) The Archdiocese of Baltimore has directed that the Thursday night prayer group meetings held at St. Joseph Church in Emmitsburg, Maryland, be discontinued until further notice.
3) The Archdiocese of Baltimore is unable to support the message of the video, "Unbridled Mercy" and has asked that sales of the video be discontinued immediately.
Later this week I understand that there will be a statement issued on our website and through The Catholic Review, our archdiocesan newspaper.

Pat Nadolny

Secretary to the Cardinal [My emphasis]

The above are taken from a website devoted to archiving the ghostly messages delivered to Talone-Sullivan.

I find it interesting that this Catholic religious, who claims to have completed graduate studies in theology; and who claims to have taken a vow of obedience should be so moved by his Emmitsburg experience. The Archbishop of Baltimore has publicly proclaimed that he finds no evidence to support the alleged Emmitsburg apparitions. In fact, he suppressed the practice of gathering at Emmitsburg's St. Joseph Church on Thursday evenings to watch Gianna's performances. The Vatican supported the decision:

The Vatican has strongly confirmed Cardinal William H. Keeler's September 2000 decision to prohibit the Thursday evening prayer services at St. Joseph, Emmitsburg, in which Gianna Talone Sullivan claimed to receive messages from the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In an April 2 letter to Father William O'Brien, C.M., pastor of St. Joseph, Cardinal Keeler reported the Feb. 15 ruling of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, that Baltimore's archbishop is in a position to conclude the matter with a decree that the alleged apparitions are clearly not miraculous ("constat de non supernaturalitate").

Cardinal Ratzinger said his opinion on the decree was made after careful consideration of the report of a three-member theological Commission of Enquiry appointed by Cardinal Keeler that concluded there was nothing supernatural going on and that there were, in fact, "negative elements" contained in some of the apocalyptic prophecies that Dr. Talone Sullivan made public. As a result, Cardinal Keeler informed her that "no Catholic church properties may be used for the purpose of providing a platform for any activities associated with the alleged apparitions."--Christopher Gaul, Vatican Supports Action To Suppress Visionary,, Catholic Review (4/15/2003) [The official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore]

The Catholic Doors Ministry is involved in

Presenting doorways to assist Christian pilgrims to spiritually grow in their faith, hope and charity through the gaining of knowledge and understanding of the Roman Catholic Church teachings.—© 1999-2004 Catholic Doors Ministry.

As regards the fantasy of the Emmitsburg apparitions, Catholic Doors informs:

In consideration of the Church developments that have recently taken place, it is sufficient to say:

1) That although the archdiocese "does not intend to detail a point-by-point theological analysis" of the alleged messages from Heaven, "it finds material in them that cannot be reconciled with the teaching of the church."

2) One such teaching consists of the content of the Video that promotes the return of Jesus on earth as a child.

3) Dr. Michael Sullivan informed the Church, "we will be obedient…"-- Gianna Talone-Sullivan. © 2000 Catholic Doors Ministry

Dr. Sullivan's “obedience” to orders from senior Catholic authorities apparently is limited to the 'letter of the law.' For a while, she received her apparitional visitations privately.

The prohibition against using "church properties for any activities associated with [the] alleged apparitions" to Gianna Talone-Sullivan remains in force. In a letter of Sep. 27 Cardinal William Keeler confirmed that "the prohibition of the Thursday evening prayer meetings at Emmitsburg remains in effect."—Bill Steo, Visionary still forbidden to use church property, © Emmitsburg Dispatch, October 2002

No problem. Marian revelations and prophecy received in the visionary's home chapel are published on the World Wide Web.

Virgin Mary Apparitions

The Virgin Mary usually arrives about 7:30 in the evening. Every day but Friday, believers say, she appears at Gianna Talone Sullivan's home overlooking a golf course near Emmitsburg to dispense words of wisdom, advice and, sometimes, warning.

To believers, the details of Mary's apparitions are well known: She wears a veil, has brown hair and blue eyes, and emerges from a bright light. Her visits vary in timing and duration. "It depends on what's going on," said Michael Sullivan, 53, Talone Sullivan's husband and spokesman. "If we're at home and were not going anywhere, it's usually between 7:30 and 8:30."

Sullivan, a tall, bearded doctor who favors polo shirts and tasseled loafers, does not see the Blessed Mother when she appears to his wife. Neither have the thousands who have flocked to Emmitsburg over the years to receive Mary's messages, transcribed by Talone Sullivan on spiral notebooks.--Virgin Mary Apparitions, Signs Supplement: Anomalous Phenomena - Part 1, January 2003 - March 5, 2004 [Ron comments: This report is the 10th in a series of weird accounts. I invite readers to read their way down the column of reports to reach it. The experience will be entertaining, I suspect]

So, what's the harm in permitting someone who apparently inhaled too many incense fumes act out a fantasy in church?

By embracing these alleged messages, the faithful would be heading towards a false hope that will never come to pass. As such, Catholics, including those traveling from out-of-state, are asked to discontinue their attendance to St. Joseph Church in Emmitsburg.

"The archdiocese calls on the faithful to strengthen their resolve to follow Jesus through reception of the sacraments, personal prayer, study of our Catholic faith, devotion to the Blessed Mother, and participation in the life of their parishes."—Catholic Doors, Op. cit.

In 2008, the current Archbishop of Baltimore published a "get tough" order enjoining silence on Talone Sullivan's visions and such:

The alleged apparitions to Gianna Sullivan have not been recognized by the authority of the Church. Studied in detail by experts in theology and other pertinent fields, the investigations have come to the conclusion that the alleged apparitions are not supernatural in origin. This has been confirmed by the authority of the Church. Therefore, I strongly caution all the faithful regarding these purported apparitions to be guided by the Magisterium which cannot affirm them as authentic. The confusion and division that have come as a result of these apparitions have prompted me to take this public and decisive step.

I also strongly caution Mrs. Gianna Talone-Sullivan not to communicate in any manner whatsoever, written or spoken, electronic or printed, personally or through another in any church, public oratory, chapel or any other place or locale, public or private, within the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Baltimore any information of any type related to or containing messages or locutions allegedly received froth the Virgin Mother of God.

Further, I strongly caution those who participate in any activity surrounding these alleged apparitions or who seek to disseminate information and promote them here in the Archdiocese. To do so is a great disservice to the Church and creates further confusion and division among the faithful. - Baltimore Archbishop Enjoins Silence on Visionary. CatholicCulture.Org, (C) Archdiocese of Baltimore

I do not doubt that some spiritual entity was present during the gatherings in Emmitsburg, or in Gianna Talone-Sullivan's home chapel, for that matter. I do not believe that the spiritual presence was that of Catholic Mary or any other of the fantasy pantheon of Catholic deities they call saints. I do believe that a demon or demons are able to make use of the gullibility and theological ignorance of the visionary and those who are willing to believe her oracles.

I would include biblical evidence but I don't have the time for your silly games. You want archaeological proof get it Yourself. I have my faith that's all that matters.

Archeological proof?” What manner of archeological validation could support the claim that a fantasy spirit makes private visitations to a self-declared visionary in a closed room? In his invitation to me to search out and discover my own proof, my Catholic antagonist provides a wonderful example of Catholic apologetics. In effect, he declared that what he claims is true is, in fact, true because he believes it to be true. No attempt to support his claims with searchable evidence. Just a take it or leave it declaration. Sigh!

He has, he declares, his faith and that is sufficient to his needs. Fine with me. I would like to know the basis for that faith, however, if for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity as to what moves people to blindly heed the pronouncements of false prophets.

He then provides a small lesson in theology:

By the way faith is the belief of something unseen.

In my KJV faith is defined in these words:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.--Hebrews 11:1

He closed the email with a rather off-hand invitation to me to respond to his communication.

You can respond if you like. But that's your choice. I will continue to pray for you as I did on my Pilgrimage.

As I read through this guy's email, I began to doubt his claim to hold an advanced degree in Theology; or anything else for that matter. It just didn't have the 'feel' of being the work of someone who had obtained to the level of formal education that he claimed. I'm not talking about typographical errors, by the way. How could I base my opinion on typos? Am I not the undisputed king of typos? The email simply did not 'feel' right.

I suspect that the author was a young man, likely a student in a Catholic university. Can I prove that? Of course not.

FYI: Those wishing to read the official statement of the Archdiocese of Baltimore concerning these apparitions may do so by clicking here.

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