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Is The Mystical City of God Venerable Maria Agreda a banned book?

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No, it is not.

From the writings of Tim Duff of Daily Catholic and the other sources mentioned below (see references), it was believed to be banned because of the following:

1) The entire basis of the attack - and this cannot be emphasized enough - was a faulty French translation published about 1678 (Carrico, 87, 90; Fr. George J. Blatter, Conception, xvii).


2) The primary attackers, it seems, were heretics, especially Jansenists (Carrico, 88; Blatter, ibid.) and Gallicans (Blatter, ibid.). The Sorbonne, it must be stated, was the veritable cradle of both of these heresies. The Jansenists, who have always tried to minimize devotion to Our Lady, were especially irked by the magnificent defense of the Immaculate Conception, still hotly debated at that time, in The City of God. The Gallicans, who sought to undermine the power of the Pope in favor of temporal authority, were likewise incensed by the defense of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. (Venerable Mary of Agreda herself during her lifetime repeatedly petitioned the Pope to define ex cathedra the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility, both of which were solemnly defined some two hundred years later. No wonder her major attackers were Gallicans and Jansenists!) More specifically, the three foremost attackers were: Dr. Louis Elias du Pin, "called by Pope Clement XI 'Nequioris doctrinae hominem,' 'A man of pernicious doctrines'" (Blatter, Conception, xvii); Dr. Hideux, who "turned out to be a rabid and fanatical Jansenist, cut off from the Church as a heretic" (ibid.); and Dr. Amort, known as the "most formidable adversary of Mary d'Agreda" (Boullan, 322), who led a Sorbonne censure of The City of God in 1696 (years after the book had been approved by the Church, as we shall see), yet who later, according to Pope Benedict XIV, acknowledged the censure to be "without foundation and of no value" (ibid.). Why "without foundation"? Because it was based on a faulty translation!



3) The censor whose criticisms led to the condemnation by Rome was biased against The City of God, and the Tribunal was unaware of this bias (Carrico, 87). Blatter even calls this a "sectarian attemption" utilizing "Gallican courtiers" (Conception, xvii-xviii), a charge for which here is much evidence.

4) Cardinal Aquaviva said: "The prohibition (of the books) came out from the Sacred Tribunal without its having before it, the writings of the venerable authoress either in the original or in authentic copy" (Carrico, 87). This is almost the same as the Diary of St. Faustina, apostle of Divine Mercy which was once also banned. Thus one could argue it was not The City of God which was prohibited but the false French translation of it.

"Spain and Portugal were scandalized at the treatment accorded the books" (Carrico, 89). King Charles II and his Queen Ludovica wrote numerous letters to Innocent XI, himself fervently devoted to Our Lady. At this crucial juncture, Blessed Innocent did something totally unpredictable -- he read The City of God for himself!

The result shall ever redound to the glory of God, the honor of our Immaculate Queen, the salvation of souls, and his own glory. Three months after the prohibition, he suspended the sentence, i.e., delayed the execution of the sentence until the matter could be further studied. The suspension was given by way of a letter written to King Charles II dated November 9, 1681: "In negotio librorum sanctimonialis Marine a Jesu de Agreda supersedendum duximus quamvis sacrae hujus inquisitionis ratio et stylus aliter suaderunt" (Boullan, 318). "Regarding the cause of the books of the nun, Mary de Agreda, we have decided to suspend sentence...even though the procedure and practice of this Sacred Inquisition would counsel otherwise... Given at Rome from St. Mary Major, under the Ring of the Fisherman, November 9,1681, the sixth year of Our Pontificate" (Carrico, 90).
Simply put, this meant The City of God could be read by all the faithful until the contrary was commanded.

Curiously, the article in the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia twice says the suspension was "for Spain only" (Vol. I, 229, 230). Yet Blessed Innocent did not say this - the prohibition was for the whole Church, as was the suspension. This is proven by an event referred to by Blatter (Conception, xxi) and described in detail by Boullan (318-319). In 1713, the Bishop of Ceneda, Italy, objected to the publication of The City of God in his diocese. On September 26, 1713, the Holy Office in Rome published the following decree (Boullan, 319): "In the Congregation held September 19, 1713, when were present their Eminences, Cardinals Acciaioli, Spada, Ferrari, Fabroni, and Ottobani, it was decreed, that the letter of the Inquisitor de (Ceneda) must be withdrawn, and that the suspensory decree has the force of law throughout the Universal Church."
Blatter (Conception, xxi) states Blessed Innocent XI also issued a breve on July 3, 1686, "permitting the publication and reading of the 'Ciudad de Dios.'"


The first Pope officially to take notice of "Ciudad de Dios" [Mystical City of God] was Pope Innocent XI, who on July 3, 1686, in response to a series of virulent attacks and machinations of some members of the Sorbonne, known to be Jansenists, issued a breve permitting the publication and reading of the "Ciudad de Dios."


Blessed Innocent's successor, Alexander VIII, "expressly authorized (The City of God) to be -- read, 'oraculo vivae vocis'" (Boullan, 319), i.e., he stated this orally. This fact is noted by Blatter (Transfixion, xv) and the exact words are given in Carrico (90). Remember - this is a verbatim quote from the original document in the Archives of the Congregation of Rites (English translation in Carrico): "Hos libros posse ab omnibus impune legi:" = "These books may be read by everybody with impunity."
In the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia, it is stated that Alexander VIII refused to approve the book (Vol. 1230). More on this later. Finally, what is perhaps the greatest possible official Church approbation of private revelation was given. The cause for Venerable Mary's beatification having been introduced, a council was named to minutely and officially - in the name of the Church - examine The City of God to determine whether anything in it (i.e. errors in faith or morals) could hinder her beatification and canonization. I quote Boullan (319), who himself quotes the official document: "...Finally, under Pope Benedict XIII, the Sacred Congregation of Rites passed the following decree: "It is ordered that the cause of the above-mentioned servant of God shall be continued before the holy Congregation of Rites without further examination of the 'Cite Mystique,' and these books can be retained and read. March 14,1729.' This decree is signed by Pope Benedict XIII."



The favorable decision of His Holiness is not surprising since he himself was a great devotee of The City of God, for "when he was archbishop of Benevent, (he) used these revelations as material for a series of sermons on the Blessed Virgin" (Blatter, Conception, xxi).



Moreover, two decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, signed by Popes Benedict XIV and Clement XIV, "officially declare that The City of God was not only originally written but also composed exclusively" by Venerable Mary (Blatter, Transfixion, xv; cf. Boullan, 324).




FURTHER PAPAL APPROBATIONS


To round out this discussion of papal approbation of The City of God, mention shall be made of four additional Popes whose views I have found. First is Clement IX. the story is interesting: Venerable Mary was first elected Abbess of her convent at the age of 25, and thereafter every three years (except once) until her death. At each election a special dispensation was required, and the nuns of her convent, who wished to elect her, had to apply each time to the Apostolic Nuncio, Venerable Mary each time pleading with him not to grant it since she felt herself unworthy. The only Nuncio to accede to her pleas and refuse the dispensation was Msgr. Rospigliose - later Clement IX, who became a "great defender of Agreda's writings" (Carrico, 98, fn. 32), though not officially.
Clement XI prohibited The City of God from being placed on the Index (Boullan, 4) and in two decrees of June 5,1705, and September 26,1713, declared it could be read by all the faithful (Blatter, Transfixion, xv). - Lastly, two Popes in our century have given the Apostolic Blessing to readers and promoters of The City of God.


In 1900 a devout lay woman sought to spread the "science of the saints" by publishing some verbatim extracts from The City of God. She informed Pope Leo XIII of the project, and the great Pontiff not only gave her the Apostolic Blessing, but amazingly, allowed her book to be "printed by the presses of the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda in Rome"! A few months later it was observed by a Canadian diocesan journal:"The reserve which is ordinarily maintained on the subject of revelations really no longer has any reason to exist in relation to The Mystical City, since His Holiness Leo XIII has been so good as gladly to encourage the project of spreading among the faithful the science of the saints which is contained in that heavenly life of the Mother of God."
Finally, His Holiness Pius XI on April 29,1929, told the publisher of The City of God in a private address:


"You have done a great work in honor of the Mother of God. She will never permit herself to be outdone in generosity and will know how to reward a thousandfold. We grant the Apostolic Benediction to all readers and promoters of The City of God."

Read also the whole story at:
http://www.dailycatholic.org/issue/05Jun/jun17tim.htm

The process of canonization of Mary of Agreda was promoted by the Spanish bishops and other eminent men of the Church soon after her death in 1666. It has resulted so far in securing her the title of Venerabilis, thus clearing the way to her beatification, for which, let us hope, God will soon raise a promoter among the many pious and eminent men who hold in esteem her writings and have learned of her holy life and of the miracles wrought at her tomb.


The Redemptorist Fathers published a new German translation in 1885, which was approved and highly recommended by the Bishop of Ratisbon in the following terms:


"We take pleasure in giving our episcopal approbation to the annotated translation of the Spanish original "Ciudad de Dios" of Mary of Jesus and recommend this book, which will surely edify all readers and be the occasion of great spiritual blessings."


Ratisbon, September 29, 1885
+Ignatius, Bishop of Ratisbon.



Notable is the high recommendation of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Apost. Legate, Primate of Germany, etc.


"According to the decrees of Pope Innocent XI and Clement XI the book known as 'Ciudad de Dios' written by the Venerable Servant of God, Maria de Jesus, may be read by all the faithful."
"A number of episcopal approbations, the recommendations of four renowned universities, namely, of Toulouse, Salamanca, Alcala and Louvain, and of prominent members of different orders, coincide in extolling the above-named work. The learned and pious Cardinal D'Aguirre says that he considers all the studies of fifty years of his previous life as of small consequence in comparison with the doctrines he found in this book, which in all things are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures, the Holy Fathers and Councils of the Church. The Venerable Superior-General of St. Sulpice, Abbe Emery, adds: "Only since I read the revelations of Mary of Agreda do I properly know Jesus and His Holy Mother."
"We therefore do not hesitate - in granting our episcopal approbation to - "Ciudads de Dios" - and wish to recommend it to the faithful and especially to our clergy."


+Franz Albert,
Archbishop.
Archiepiscopal Chancery, Salzburg.
September 12, 1885.



A more recent official approbation of "Ciudad de Dios" is from the Bishop of Tarazona, prefacing the new edition of 1911 - 1912.


"We, Dr. James Ozoidi y Udave, by the grace of God and of the Apostolic See, Bishop of Tarazona, Administrator Apostolic of the Diocese of Tudela, etc., etc.
Having charged the priest Don Eduardo Royo, chaplain and confessor at the convent of the Immaculate Conception of Agreda, carefully and exactly to compare the manuscript which is to serve as copy for the printing of the new edition of the "City of God" now about to be published by the religious the above-named convent, with the authenticated autograph manuscript of that work there preserved, - and having ascertained by a personal revision of a great part of the manuscript that the said priest has diligently and faithfully fulfilled this charge imposed upon him by us:
We now therefore certify that this present edition of 'Ciudad de Dios,' with the exception of a few more orthographic modifications, is entirely conformable to the autograph of that work as composed and written by the Venerable Mother Mary of Jesus of Agreda.


Tarazona, April 7, 1911.
[Diocesan Seal] +James, Bishop of Tarazona.



Finally follows the official approbation of the Right Reverend Bishop of the Fort Wayne Diocese, where this English translation is published.


Rome City, Ind., Aug. 24, 1912.
The Rev. George J. Blatter,


Dear Rev. Father:
My imprimatur is herewith granted to your English translation of the work entitled 'Ciudad de Dios.' Wishing you every blessing, I remain,
Devotedly in Domino,


+H.J. Alerding, Bishop of Fort Wayne.


WHY THEY SAY ITS STILL "CONDEMNED"?


Despite the approval of the Church as shown above, why do so many today believe The City of God is "condemned" by the Catholic Church? I believe that there are three main reasons.



The first is the belief that Innocent XI's original prohibition is still valid, or has only been lifted for Spain. Certainly a fundamental reason so many believe this is the article in the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia (CE) already quoted. I have long wondered why so many traditional priests hold the opinions they do regarding The City of God - the fact that the 1907 CE is used by so many as a reference may be a major reason. I shall summarize the main errors of this article, found in Volume I, pp. 229-230, and written by T.J. Campbell, S.J., Associate Editor of The Messenger, New York.


1) The primary error is the twice-repeated statement that Innocent XI's suspension was for Spain only. As amply proven above, this statement is simply false. (Besides, the idea that a book could be condemned everywhere in the Church except Spain seems ludicrous in itself - what! does the air in Spain possess special immunizing properties?)



2) A second, and no less important, error states that Alexander VIII did not issue an approval of the book, but only "confirmed the Brief of his predecessor" (confusing in itself since Innocent's brief suspended sentence for the whole Church).



3) No mention is made of any other Pope having spoken on the subject, whereas no less than four others officially, and four more "unofficially," have approved the book. All this leads the reader to believe the book is still condemned (outside Spain, that is!), which is exactly what so many traditional priests believe.



4) The only University opinion cited was that of the Sorbonne, yet this heresy-riddled faculty (later suppressed) was the only one in Europe which dared issue a "condemnation," and this fully fifteen years after Innocent XI allowed the books to be read! The faculties of "Madrid, Alcala, Salamanca, Toulouse and Louvain" (among others) all vied in holy competition to see which could heap the highest praises on the book.


5) Also unmentioned is the approval of "practically all the religious orders" (cf. Blatter's list in Coronation, xii) and the imprimaturs of so many bishops that it has been said no book except Holy Scriptures has so many!



With all the objective evidence showing Church approval of the work, and since ignorance or lack of reference materials are unplausible excuses for the editors of this massive 16-volume work, to level the charge of bias does not seem altogether unfair. An interesting anecdote, related to me by two traditional priests, may shed some light on the subject: I have been told that when St. Pius X was presented Volume I of the 1907 set (ironically, the very one containing the article on Venerable Mary), he threw it on the floor!


A second possible reason why so many believe The City of God is prohibited is that they have confused the Church's judgment of these writings with the cause for the beatification of Venerable Mary. The two are entirely different processes. It is true that on April 27, 1778, Pope Pius VI placed a perpetual silence on the cause of Venerable Mary, and that on March 16, 1886, Pope Leo XIII decided not to change this decree (Carrico, 82) This, however, was "because, according to a decree of Pope Urban VIII, all the manuscripts of Venerable Mary of Jesus must be submitted for a minute examination" (ibid., my emphasis). This has absolutely nothing to do with The City of God, which already had been submitted for such an examination and fully approved, as noted above.



The third reason is one I have often heard - that The City of God is "on the Index" of forbidden books. Here again the 1907 CE chimes in with discordant information. "(Venerable Mary's) works had been put on the Index, but when the Franciscans protested they were accorded satisfaction by being assured that it was a trick of the printer ('supercheria'), as no condemnation appeared there" (Vol 1,230). Could someone kindly unravel this distorted statement for me? Why do they say her works "had been put on the Index" only to state they in fact had not? And what is meant by a "trick"? The fact is that such "tricks" have been used against The City of God from day one by the powers of hell afraid of being crushed anew by the virtues they knew would be practiced by faithful imitators of Our Lady's virtues detailed therein. Besides, as we have seen, Clement XI "prohibited its being placed on the Index" (Boullan, 4).





REFERENCES:


The first is Abbe J.A. Boullan, doctor in theology, who extracted his book, The Admirable Life of the Glorious Patriarch St. Joseph (New York: Sadlier, 1860), from the City of God. Two appendices to this book are: "Life of Venerable Mary of Jesus, of Agreda" (pp. 241-314), and "Historical Notice of the Mystical City of God" (pp. 315-324). The former is a precise abridgement of the beautiful life of Venerable Mary written by her contemporary biographer, Most Rev. Joseph Zimenez Samaniego, who was also her Provincial in the Franciscan order and later Bishop of Placenza. The latter is a concise summary of a three-year theological study of the status which The City of God holds in the Church in which he utilizes primarily the "acts of the process for the canonization" of Venerable Mary which are documents, as he states, "of unexceptionable authority" (Boullan, 316).


The second source is James A. Carrico's book, Life of Venerable Mary of Agreda (Stockbridge, Mass.: Marian Press), also taken from Bishop Samaniego's biography. In this book (pp. 85-91), Very Reverend Peter Mary Rookey, O.S.M., Consultor General of the Servite Order, summarizes his research of the original handwritten manuscript, The Cause for the Beatification of the Venerable Mary of Jesus de Agreda, dated 1773, found to this day (hopefully) in the Archives of the Congregation of Rites. The third source is none other than the English translation of The Mystical City of God by Rev. George J. Blatter. Rev. Blatter, who spent ten years translating the original Spanish into English, and perturbed by the continued attacks against The City of God, devotes a section at the beginning of each of the four volumes in defense of the book, stating the decisions of the Popes on the subject (ex. Conception, xxi), as well as statements of various cardinals, bishops, theologians, and heads of religious orders and universities, who all seem to seek to outdo one another in heaping the highest praises on this book.
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