The Vatican has rejected the appeals of a British woman for formal recognition of her community and her claims that she has received Marian apparitions for the last 20 years.
Patricia De Menezes, 67, has developed an international following since she first began “seeing” the apparition, dubbed “Our Lady of Surbiton”, in 1984.
The freelance jewelry designer insists that she has been given a divine message urging the Church to proclaim aborted babies as martyrs and be seen as companion martyrs of the first Holy Innocents.
The mother of three, a convert to Catholicism, founded the Community of Divine Innocence, which now has members in about 50 countries, reported The Telegraph.
When the Catholic Church in England and Wales rejected her claims in 2001, she appealed their ruling and sought approval for her movement from the Vatican.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith came back with four areas of concern: the exaggerated claims made for the Community of Divine Innocence; the inappropriate words and phrases attributed to Jesus; the questionable demand made concerning the status of aborted children, and; the intemperate language used in the “Inspirations” when attacking Church authorities.
“Given [that] the supposed revelations which ground the spirituality of the Community of Divine Innocence are highly questionable, it follows that the community’s spirituality is flawed at its root,” the Vatican document said. “Because this spirituality thoroughly animates the community’s proposed constitution, it cannot be approved.”
Archbishop Angelo Amato, the secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said he found De Menezes' claims to be “exaggerated” and “hysterical”.
The archbishop added that the message that De Menezes claims to have received about the “martyrdom of all the innocent children deliberately killed before birth” was highly suspect.
"A martyr is someone who bears witness to Christ,” he said. “If the victims of abortion were to qualify for martyrdom it would then seem that all victims of any moral evil should be likewise deemed martyrs.”
The Archdiocese of Southwark, in which De Menezes lives, welcomed the ruling by the Holy See, indicating that it meant the sect had no backing from the Catholic Church.
In a statement, Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark said he received the Vatican’s decision on July 16.
“I am aware that many devout people, deeply committed to the pro-life movement, have become involved with the Divine Innocence,” he said. “I wish to encourage them in their work and prayer but in view of the Observations of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this must no longer be in the context of the organisation or spirituality of the Divine Innocence.”