New user? Register here:
Email Address:
Retype Password:
First Name:
Last Name:
Existing user? Login here:
Way In

Visions and dreams

How do you tell a visionary from a nutcase, or even someone possessed by an evil spirit? The Vatican is instructing bishops on how to test the spirits in a new apparitions handbook, helping them deal with a phenomenon that has increased dramatically in recent years.

The first principle is that anyone claiming a vision should be told to keep quiet about it until it's approved. If they disobey the embargo, this will be taken as evidence of inauthenticity.

The alleged prophets are then to be examined by psychiatrists for the possibility of delusion, and investigated for fraud, and their teachings screened for heresy. If they pass all these tests, they will finally be scrutinised by exorcists and demonologists to see whether their vision could be the artifice of Satan to deceive believers. If the bishop is satisfied with the results of all this, he will send a report to the Vatican for its approval.

The instructions are written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern incarnation of the Inquisition.

Pope Benedict is said to be alarmed by the increase in purported apparitions. The most popular are weeping statues, such as that of the Virgin in Sacramento that wept blood in 2005, and another in Australia that wept tears from 2002 to 2004.

In Kottayam, southeast India, 48 people were reported to be blinded last year by staring at the sun in an attempt to see the Virgin. There had been stories of visions in the sky over the home of a hotel owner, who also apparently claimed that statues of the Virgin in his grounds had cried honey and bled oils and perfumes.