Normae Congregationis

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Normae Congregationis (NC) is a 1978 document written by the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (SCDF) concerning guidelines for Catholic bishops in discerning claims to private revelation such as apparitions. It includes the manner of discernment, the criteria for judging good and bad fruits, when church authorities can intervene, what authorities are competent to intervene, and the intervention of the Holy See.


In November 1974, when the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith met for its annual Plenary Congregation,[1] part of the discussion concerned problems relating to reported apparitions and revelations. New developments in theology and psychology prompted questions on how to evaluate claims of such events.

The eventual fruit of those discussions was a four-page document in Latin bearing the title "Normae S. Congregationis pro doctrina fidei de modo procedendi in diudicandis praesumptis apparitionibus ac revelationibus" ("Norms of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Manner of Proceeding in Judging Presumed Apparitions and Revelations", hereinafter Normae Congregationis or NC). The document was approved by Pope Paul VI in February 1978 and was signed by Franjo Cardinal Seper and Archbishop Jérôme Hamer, then the prefect and secretary of SCDF.

The Holy See decided that the text was an "in-house" document intended for bishops, and as such did not need to be published.[1] It was given to bishops “sub secreto” and not published in the Holy See's official journal Acta Apostolicae Sedis.


Though Normae Congregationis was originally issued sub secreto, excerpts from the text and translations of it appeared in print and on the internet from 1994 to 2010.[2][3][4]

In 2012 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released the text to the public in Latin and five vernacular translations with a new preface by Cardinal William Levada, prefect of CDF.[5][6]

The Constats[edit]

There are traditionally three possible judgments in Catholic theology:

  • "not worthy of belief"
  • "approved"
  • "nothing contrary to the faith"

The 1974 norms mention two possible judgments:

  • "constat de supernaturalitate"
  • "non constat de supernaturalitate"[7]

A third option is for the bishop to decide the matter needs more study and refer it to the national bishops' conference.[8]

Some mistakenly think that a third judgement:

*''Constat de non supernaturalitate'' ("It is evident to be of non-supernatural origin")

is also an option, however, because ''NC'' mentions only the first two options, this option is not probable.  Some theorise that the CDF decided to forego the third "''constat''" and collapse its meaning into the second.  This can be thought of in terms of western secular courts declaring a defendant "guilty" or "not guilty".  The third option, that is, being declared "innocent" may be used in common speech, but it does not form the official language of the legal system.  Hence, if a bishop was to declare "Constat de non supernaturalitate" this may well be considered his personal opinion, but the negative judgement will only be recorded as "Non constat de supernaturalitate".[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Gianni Cardinale (interview with Abp. Amato). "Tempi e criteri per "giudicare" le apparizioni". Eroici Furori (originally from Avvenire). Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. 
  2. ^ Joachim Bouflet and Philippe Boutry (1997). Un signe dans le ciel. Grasset.  (in French)
  3. ^ James Mulligan (2008). "Medjugorje: What's Happening". London: Dusty Sandals Press.  (in English, based on the French of Bouflet and Boutry)[dead link]
  4. ^ Rene Laurentin; Patrick Sbalchiero (2007). "Dictionnaire des apparitions de la Vierge Marie ("Dictionary of Marian Apparitions")".  Laurentin also provides the Latin word "taxativa" in NC I:B with respect to the positive and negative criteria being "indicative standards and not final arguments" (as Bouflet/Boutry and Foley translate).
  6. ^ Cardinal William Levada. "Preface". Retrieved 22 May 2012. 
  7. ^ Seper, Francis. CDF. "Normae Congregationis", 25 February 1978
  8. ^ "How the church faces claims of Marian apparitions", The Compass, Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, February 17, 2011

See also[edit]

External links[edit]