Dialogue between Vassula Rydén and the CDF
In 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a Notification of 1995
regarding Mrs. Vassula Rydén. The Notification was sent to all Catholic Bishops’ Conferences in the world. As stated in the Notification, the investigation leading up to its publication "brought out - in addition to positive aspects - a number of basic elements that must be considered negative in the light of Catholic doctrine."
The Notification of 1995 was confirmed in a second Notification
a year later that addressed some confusion due to the fact that the first Notification had not been signed.
This was the situation regarding Mrs. Rydén and her books, entitled True Life in God
(TLIG), when I arrived in Rome in late August 1997. I had taken my master’s degree in theology at the Theological Faculty of the University of Copenhagen, a state university almost entirely informed by a Lutheran theological heritage. Hence, as a Roman Catholic it was only natural for me to pursue graduate work in Rome.
I was inscribed at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and there I continued my research on the theology of Christian Prophecy under the direction of Fr. Prof. Elmar Salmann of the Pontifical Institute of Sant’Anselmo.
Having read works of the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, I ventured to ask him for an interview on the topic of Christian Prophecy. I first asked him after one of the Thursday morning Masses in the German Seminary, Campo Santo, inside the Vatican. Cardinal Ratzinger was present at most of these morning Masses, and I attended many of them, because they were in my mother tongue, German, and beautifully celebrated. During periods when there were many pilgrims - the church would be full, but outside of the peak months we would have only the seminarians and a couple of German residents in Rome. At this particular celebration I was with Professor Yvonne Maria Werner of the University of Lund of Sweden who has translated books written by Cardinal Ratzinger and is very well versed in his theology. Together, we approached and asked him for an interview. He kindly replied that I should write to the CDF for this request, which I did.
19.02.98 The above-mentioned letter requesting the interview with Cardinal Ratzinger was sent on 19.02.98. I received a positive reply from Cardinal Ratzinger’s personal secretary at the time, Mons. Joseph Clemens.
16.03.98 The interview took place one month later in Cardinal Ratzinger’s audience hall in the CDF. Professor Werner was present during the interview. Before the interview I had sent my questions to Cardinal Ratzinger and he had prepared himself beautifully. The interview lasted 50 minutes and the Cardinal was very eloquent and produced a level of reflection that was ready for print almost to the letter. After transcription and editing, I sent the text to the CDF for approval and received it back with minor edits some weeks later.
As I asked Cardinal Ratzinger the last question regarding Mrs. Rydén (see interview here
), his voice suddenly changed, he raised his arms up high, and exclaimed: "Oh, that is a large and problematical issue. Perhaps it would be best to leave this for now!" I allowed myself to insist, asking him: "People have said that Mrs. Rydén has been condemned by the Vatican. Is this true?"
His reply was prompt: "You have touched on a very problematical issue. No, the Notification is a warning, not a condemnation. From the strictly procedural point of view, no person may be condemned without a trial and without being given the opportunity to air their views first. What we say is that there are many things which are not clear. There are some debatable apocalyptic elements and ecclesiological aspects which are not clear. Her writings contain many good things but the grain and the chaff are mixed up. That is why we invited Catholic faithful to view it all with a prudent eye and to measure it by the yardstick of the constant faith of the Church."
I asked: "Is the procedure to clarify the question continuing?"
Cardinal Ratzinger answered: "Yes, and during the clarification process the faithful must be prudent, maintaining a discerning attitude. There is no doubt that there is an evolution in the writings which does not yet seem to have concluded. We must remember that being able to set oneself up as the word and image of interior contact with God, even in the case of authentic mysticism, always depends on the possibilities of the human soul and its limitations. Unlimited trust should only be placed in the real Word of the Revelation that we encounter in the faith transmitted by the Church."
29.05.98 On 29.05.98 I sent a letter to Cardinal Ratzinger asking him for permission to publish the interview in the Scandinavian journals Signum and AC Revue, once I received the CDF’s edits. Later, I received permission to have it published elsewhere: Communio, 30Giorni
, and other publications.
23.01.99 On 23.01.99 I sent a letter to Cardinal Ratzinger in which I expressed concern about the harsh words ("the grain and the chaff are mixed up") spoken of Mrs. Rydén. Later, I met him again in Campo Santo and talked with him about it. At that time, he was adamant about the said critique. When I asked him to reconsider the words concerning Mrs. Rydén that "the grain and the chaff are mixed up", he quickly replied: "Well they are!" End of story. At the time, Cardinal Ratzinger was still convinced that there were unhealthy elements in Mrs. Rydén’s writings.
This was the situation when I spoke with Mrs. Rydén about the possibility of a formal dialogue with the CDF. Mrs. Rydén knew that the outcome could be worse than the 1995 Notification. The Notification had only been a warning, as Cardinal Ratzinger said during the interview. However, a formal dialogue could result in a condemnation if the CDF would deem the writings heretical after the dialogue. Since Mrs. Rydén is entirely convinced that they originate in Christ himself, she did not seem to hesitate for one second to take that risk and thus was willing to engage in dialogue with the CDF.