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We do not believe in the apparitions

 Christopher Gaul
Catholic Review

An archdiocesan theological commission investigating messages alleged to have been delivered to Gianna Talone-Sullivan by the Blessed Virgin Mary has concluded that there is nothing supernatural going on and that, in fact, there are "negative elements" contained in some of the apocalyptic prophecies she has made public.

In a letter sent to the visionary Sept. 24 at her home near Emmitsburg, the archdiocese’s judicial vicar and cardinal’s delegate for canonical affairs, Monsignor Jeremiah F. Kenney, informed Dr. Talone-Sullivan that Cardinal William H. Keeler accepts the findings of the three-priest commission and has instructed that "no Catholic church properties may be used for the purpose of providing a platform for any activities associated with the alleged apparitions."

"We do not believe in the apparitions," Monsignor Kenney told The Catholic Review.

On Sept. 27 Cardinal Keeler sent a letter to the pastor of St. Joseph, Emmitsburg, informing him of the commission’s decision. It was at St. Joseph that Dr. Talone-Sullivan claimed to receive messages from the Virgin Mary during Thursday evening prayer services beginning in 1993 until September 2000 when the archdiocese banned them.

In the letter to Father William O’Brien, C.M., Cardinal Keeler quoted the commission as stating that, "given the present circumstances throughout the world of what may be called a growing addiction to the spectacular, we think that the Church should not promote or encourage persons claiming to have extraordinary channels to God."

In response, Dr. Talone-Sullivan, who has a doctorate degree in pharmacology, said she is "grateful for the time, devotion and commitment, which the commission undertook in reviewing and studying the alleged experiences and events."

"It is," she further stated, "a great gift to belong to the Catholic Church, and we are always safe when we bow in obedience under her wing." However, she maintained that her regular apparitions and messages were and continue to be real.

In an open letter to those who have followed her messages, Dr. Talone-Sullivan said, "We ask forgiveness from you if any misunderstanding or confusion has been caused to you or your family as a result of the lessons and messages that have been given to me by Our Lord and Our Lady."

The archdiocese and the commission were also critical of a video called, "Unbridled Mercy," produced by Dr. Talone-Sullivan’s Mercy Foundation, in which references are made to a "eucharistic spiritual reign where the Child Jesus will usher in a kingdom of peace."

The commission noted that "such a spirituality is not the traditional Church teaching about the eucharistic mystery.

"It may well be a comforting devotion for the visionary," the commission stated, "but it cannot claim to be a private revelation of divine inspiration, to be presented as a divine message for the public."

Married to a physician, Dr. Michael Sullivan, Dr. Talone-Sullivan is the founder of the Mission of Mercy, based in Fairfield, Pa., near Emmitsburg. It is a non-profit mobile medical program that works to provide free medical and dental care to the poor, homeless, uninsured and underinsured patients in central and Western Maryland.

After first receiving "private revelations" in Scottsdale in 1987, Dr. Talone-Sullivan said she began to receive messages in 1988 that she said the Virgin Mary wanted to be made public. She said that from Dec. 19, 1989, to the present time, Our Lady has appeared and spoken to her nearly every night (except Fridays) during her private prayer, and during nearly every weekly public prayer group in both Scottsdale, Ariz., and since November 1993 at St. Joseph, Emmitsburg,

In 1989 Bishop Thomas O’Brien of Phoenix formed an investigative commission to look into Dr. Talone-Sullivan’s reported apparitions and messages and later announced that the diocese neither supported nor condemned the events. The bishop wrote that people were "free to believe in private revelations if you wish."

The Archdiocese of Baltimore remained silent on the events in Emmitsburg until Aug. 30, 1995, when Monsignor Kenney said that because a diocesan investigation in Arizona had uncovered "nothing contrary to faith" Baltimore was "neutral on the matter at this time."

Events at St. Joseph’s parish accommodated the growing crowds which averaged some 600 people every Thursday evening, growing to about 1,000 during the summer months.

After the archdiocese ordered the cessation of the Thursday prayer service, which Dr. Talone Sullivan accepted "in obedience," she stopped publishing the messages she claimed to receive from the Virgin Mary until this past August when she again began to post them on an internet Web site.

In his letter to Father O’Brien, Cardinal Keeler noted that the commission acknowledged that "impressive results" came from the Thursday evening prayer services, including conversions, significant increases in the number of confessions as well as physical and spiritual healings.

However, the commission stated that while it "gladly recognizes the working of God’s grace, even in somewhat strange circumstances," it saw "no necessary connection" between Dr. Talone-Sullivan’s alleged apparitions and the reported benefits.