Shortly the first movie on the apparitions of Garabandal will be premiered. Many faithful are enthused, because in the movie, in a very respectful manner, the apparitions and messages of Garabandal are presented. These are tremendously current and already have touched many hearts. The bishops of Santander who have commented on these messages have always pointed out that their content is orthodox and laudable (i.e., Bishop Beitia in 1965, Bishop Cirarda in 1970, Bishop del Val in 2000 and Bishop Osoro in 2007).[1]  Nevertheless, the apparitions have not been approved yet, nor 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 awaits further information to make a declaration, such as abundant fruits in souls.  In the meantime the Church waits.  Nevertheless, a priest recently accused one of the faithful for publicizing the movie, stating emphatically that for him NON CONSTAT means that “there is nothing supernatural, and therefore the case is closed negatively.”  Thanks be to God, this priest is totally wrong.  In 1978, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) included the term NON CONSTAT in its norms in proceeding as to the discernment of presumed apparitions and revelations.  Cardinal Levada published these norms 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 Congregation omitted the phrase which condemns an apparition: CONSTAT DE NON. In the quoted statement, the Cardinal recognized with humble realism, that in these matters it is easy to make a mistake. In the past, certain 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, excepting those 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 ecclesial delicacy, has been interpreted by some persons, among these the priest previously referenced, as a hardening, and in lieu of removing the condemnation, believe that the Vatican has suppressed the uncertainty. They believe that the options are two, CONSTAT and NON CONSTAT, meaning approval and condemnation. Nevertheless, the most current theology is faithful to the tradition. The review of the Spanish Mariological Society in 2009 or Manfred Hauke in 2015, who is a member of the International Pontifical Marian Academy, among others, affirm that even today, there are three options: “The judgment can be CONSTAT de supernaturalitate, CONSTAT DE NON supernaturalitate or NON CONSTAT de supernaturalitate. The supernatural character of the event is recognized, it is rejected or the fact that the divine origin cannot be affirmed is underscored.” [2] Approval, condemnation or doubt. Two negative expressions need to be distinguished:

  • - The first negation condemns:  CONSTAT DE NON (the NON supernaturality is confirmed).
  • - The second expresses doubt:  NON CONSTAT (The supernaturality CANNOT be confirmed). The expression NON CONSTAT, “although negative in its form, only expresses a doubt by the Commission, which has not reached a majority conclusion, which neither clarifies the situation nor enlightens the faithful in their search for discernment.  In this manner, the diocesan authority (stated more clearly) remains in "ambiguity.".[3]

According to the Magisterium and Theology, NON CONSTAT means that the Church neither condemns nor approves. The matter, therefore, is open for all purposes and the faithful may go there.  The Church, when insisting on the orthodoxy of Garabandal, does not see anything wrong, although it awaits new facts or spiritual fruits in order to approve the apparitions.
In Garabandal, disciplinary measures prohibited pilgrimages by priests to the village from 1961 and 1962.  However, from 1991 to 2007, Bishop Juan A. del Val and Bishop Carlos Osoro, rescinded those prohibitions, encouraging thereby pilgrims to visit the village with faith, and the fruits therefrom have been abundantly admirable.  Therefore, while we await the definitive judgment of the Church, the faithful may approach Garabandal with devotion.  It is precisely in the abundance of spiritual fruits from these pilgrimages, that the Church will find the best argument to judge the phenomena.  In 2017, the doctoral thesis of Father José Luis Saavedra, approved with the highest grade by the University of Navarre, speaks of the incredible fruits derived from Garabandal, which are current and very real.  You can find the thesis at evk.es.

[1] Cf. MONS. DEL VAL, J. A., “Testimonio audiovisual sobre Garabandal” en TUBBERTY, M., Garabandal: The Eyewitnesses, Auckland 1996 (audiovisual).
[2] HAUKE, M., Introducción a la Mariología, BAC: Madrid 2015, 262.
[3] GUTIÉRREZ GONZÁLEZ, J., “Las apariciones de la Virgen María”, o. c. en nota 4, 428.