Accusations of trinitarian heresies, Fr. Michal Kaszowski
A method which enables heresies to be found anywhere
Although the teaching on the Holy Trinity in ’True Life in God’ is the same as in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Vassula Ryden and her writings often become the object of sharp criticism and accusations and allegations of heresy. Thus some theologians accuse her writings of portraying the Persons of the Holy Trinity as identical, and thus expounding heretical trinitarian teaching.
But is it really true that ’True Life in God’ is in opposition to the dogmatic teaching of the Church, according to which there exists a real distinction between the Divine Persons? (see CCC 253, 254,
A careful study of the writings of Vassula, and the analysis of that which she herself speaks about in her numerous witnessings, in no way at all warrants such judgment, since in ’True Life in God’ the three Divine Persons reveal themselves as really distinct from one another.
This real distinction of Persons becomes apparent in the fact that the Divine Persons speak separately. First and foremost however – and surely this is the most important point – the relation of origin of the Divine Persons, through which they are really distinct from each other, is never questioned in these writings (see CCC 254). Thus the Son does not identify with the Father as a Person, because He is never described as He "who generates", but as He "who is begotten". Similarly, the Holy Spirit does not identify Himself with the Father or with the Son as a Divine Person, because nowhere is He called "the One who generates" (that is, the Father), nor is He called "He who is begotten" (that is, the Son). He also is sent by the Father and by the Son. In this act of being sent His separateness is made apparent, because no one can send himself, but a separate person.
Therefore throughout the writings of Vassula the Divine Persons are portrayed – in conformity with the teaching of the Church – as really distinct from one another. There is not a single sentence in the entire work of ’True Life in God’ which could contain a trinitarian heresy, not even in those extracts which have been criticised as allegedly presenting the Divine Persons as having similar names. A trinitarian error could only be when there is clear assertion made of the following nature: "In God there is no relation of origin", "There is only one person in God", "The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the same Person", "I, Jesus Christ, am the same Person as the Father and the Holy Spirit", "The Father, Son and Holy Spirit identify themselves as Divine Persons, and do not distinguish themselves from one another as Persons". There are no such heretical statements that do not conform to the teaching of the Church in Vassula’s writings. If then, there are no doctrinal errors in ’True Life in God’, then how is it possible for the opponents of this work to allegedly find them? Those who attack this work know very well that they would be wasting their time in trying to find formal heresies – that is, those that are expressed unambiguously and intentionally – because they do not exist in this work. That is why they choose a particular method in order to find errors and heresies ’in spite of all’ and ’at any cost’.
What characterises this method? Its basis is simple. It is enough simply to read the text of ’True Life in God’ according to the following principle: when it is possible to interpret the messages of the Divine Persons either in the spirit of the teaching of the Church or contradictory to it, then the messages are given a meaning which is at variance with the teaching of the Church. Thanks to this method – which is applied with great glee with regard to Vassula’s writings – one can always arrive at the desired conclusion: that her writings negate the dogmas of the Church and spread heresies.
Such a way of interpreting the texts is, however, false. If it were applied also with regard to the Sacred Scriptures, there too one would be able to ’discover’ a multitude of ’heresies’.
This method is not only false but also immoral; it is contrary to God’s eighth Commandment, which forbids us to bear false witness against one’s neighbour, to slander him or to judge him rashly.
The Catechism reminds us with these words: "To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret in so far as it is possible his neighbour’s thoughts, words and deeds in a favourable way (CCC 2478).
The Catechism also cites a valuable teaching of St Ignatius Loyola: "Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favourable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved". The words of the Catechism which forbid us to pass unfounded harsh criticism are very severe. "He becomes guilty of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbour (CCC 2477).
’Unclear’ or ’ambiguous’ does not mean erroneous or heretical
The favourite weapon used in fighting against Vassula’s writings is to accuse them of being obscure, of double meaning or ambiguous. This accusation is not honest, because it suggests that ambiguity or lack of clarity is an error, or that ambiguous expressions are nonsensical and of no value. In this way one can easily put down even the most highly esteemed theological works. To suggest an error where something is unclear or ambiguous, is inadmissible, and contradictory to the true principles of interpretation of texts. If this were the case, it would undermine the value of all poetic expression, metaphors and similes which so frequently occur even in the sacred Scripture. Error or heresy are only found in explicit statements or negations. As regards ambiguous or unclear sentences, they could be erroneous or true. However the deciding factor is the context and not the whim of the reader. It is the context which defines the real meaning of ambiguous of unclear expressions. Ambiguity per se is therefore not necessarily an error or a heresy.
In connection with the problem of so called unclear texts, it is useful to turn our attention to one other thing: that this is not necessarily the fault of the writer or his intellectual failings. There are many texts which are unclear only because they are beyond the capability of understanding of the reader, who cannot grasp them; for example, as with a child reading with difficulty many parts of a book, which adults understand without difficulty – to the child these parts seem incomprehensible and unclear. Let us now go on to a more detailed analysis of these parts of ’True Life in God’ which are attacked and labelled as heretical by their opponents. At the same time we shall investigate the methods used which ascribe the worst possible meaning to the messages, even if it does not harmonise with the whole context of this work.
(From an article of Fr. Michal Kaszowski, teacher of theology at the Archdiocesan Seminary, Katowice, Poland)