The first movie on the apparitions of Garabandal will soon be premiered in English. Many of those who have seen the movie in Spanish are happy to discover that the movie presents the apparitions and the messages of Garabandal in a very respectful way. The movie has touched many hearts. Our Lady’s message in Garabandal is just as relevant today as it was in the 1960s.
When the bishops of Santander commented on the message of Garabandal, they repeatedly pointed out that the content of the messages is orthodox and laudable (i.e., Bishop Beitia in 1965, Bishop Cirarda in 1970, Bishop del Val in 2000 and Bishop Osoro in 2007). The apparitions have not been approved, yet neither have they been rejected. The current bishop of the diocese signed the most recent assessment on June 24, 2015, declaring non constat as to the supernatural nature of the events. The term non constat means that the Church needs further information— for example, documentation about the abundant fruits in souls— before making a declaration. In the meantime, the Church waits.
Some faithful have doubts about Garabandal and about the legitimacy of going to see the movie because they are under the impression that non constat means that the Church declares that there is nothing supernatural, and therefore the case is closed negatively. However, this is not at all the reality. In 1978, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) included the term non constat in its Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations. Cardinal Levada published these norms officially in 2011. The complete text referring to the term non constat states:
“On the other hand, modern mentality and the requirements of critical scientific investigation render it more difficult, if not almost impossible, to achieve with the required speed the judgments that in the past concluded the investigation of such matters (constat de supernaturalitate, non constat de supernaturalitate) and that offered to the Ordinaries the possibility of authorizing or prohibiting public cult or other forms of devotion among the faithful.”
When evaluating an apparition, the logical options are three: approval, condemnation or doubt. Nevertheless, the text of the CDF only speaks of two: constat and non constat. The document omits the phrase that condemns an apparition: constat de non supernaturalitate. In the statement reproduced above, the Cardinal recognizes with humble realism that in these matters, it is easy to make a mistake. In the past, some revelations were banned and subsequently approved. The Divine Mercy of Saint Faustina Kowalska was condemned in 1959 (CDF, “Notification 6.111.1959” in AAS, 25.IV.1959, p. 271), first by her ordinary and subsequently by the CDF. Nevertheless, in 1978 the same Congregation approved this devotion (CDF, “Notification of April 15, 1978” in AAS, 30.VI.1978, p. 350). It is true that in cases of fraud or abuse, the Vatican can condemn. Overall, with the exception of some lamentable cases, the Vatican prefers not to resort to condemnations in order to avoid premature rash judgments. Since 1978, normally the Vatican has preferred to issue only a constat or non constat— approval or uncertainty. Nevertheless, this gesture of prudence and carefulness on the part of the Church has been interpreted by some as a hardening. Instead of removing the option of condemnation, some hold that the Vatican has suppressed option of uncertainty. They believe that the options are two, constat and non constat, meaning approval and condemnation. Nevertheless, current theology is faithful to the tradition. The Spanish Mariological Society in 2009 affirm that there are still three options. Manfred Hauke, a member of the International Pontifical Marian Academy, among others, agrees: “The judgment can be constat de supernaturalitate, constat de non supernaturalitate or non constat de supernaturalitate. The supernatural character of the event can be recognized, it can be rejected, or the divine origin simply cannot be affirmed.” Approval, condemnation, or doubt. The negative expressions need to be distinguished:
- The first negation condemns: constat de non (It is confirmed to be of non-supernatural origin.)
- The second expresses doubt: non constat (It is not confirmed to be of supernatural origin.) The expression non constat, “although negative in its form, only expresses a doubt by the Commission; a conclusion has not been reached. This judgment neither clarifies the situation nor enlightens the faithful in their search for discernment. To be clear, the diocesan authority remains in ‘ambiguity.’”
We have seen that both the Magisterium and theologians hold that non constat means that the Church neither condemns nor approves. The matter is open and the faithful may visit Garabandal. The diocesan authority has insisted on the orthodoxy of Garabandal’s messages, but it awaits new facts such as spiritual fruits to approve the apparitions.
In Garabandal, temporary disciplinary measures prohibited priests to go on pilgrimages to the village from 1961 and 1962. However, in 1991 and once again in 2007, Bishop Juan A. del Val and Bishop Carlos Osoro withdrew those prohibitions, which encouraged pilgrims to visit the village with faith. This pilgrimages have led to abundant fruits in the souls of the faithful. Therefore, while we await the definitive judgment of the Church, the faithful may approach the apparitions of Garabandal with devotion. The Church will find convincing arguments for a definitive judgment of the phenomena by studying the abundance of spiritual fruits that result from these pilgrimages. In 2017, the doctoral thesis of Father José Luis Saavedra, which merited the highest distinction in the University of Navarre, speaks of the incredible fruits derived from Garabandal. The thesis is available at evk.es.
 Cf. MONS. DEL VAL, J. A., “Testimonio audiovisual sobre Garabandal” en TUBBERTY, M., Garabandal: The Eyewitnesses, Auckland 1996 (audiovisual).
 HAUKE, M., Introducción a la Mariología, BAC: Madrid 2015, 262.
 GUTIÉRREZ GONZÁLEZ, J., “Las apariciones de la Virgen María”, o. c. en nota 4, 428.