Among Catholics there seems to be common misconceptions as to what exactly is to be known by a work having an Imprimatur or Nihil Obstat and what is to be believed when an apparition (usually associated with some sort of private revelation) is approved by the Church. An Imprimatur simply means that a cleric of the Church has read over the work and gives his approval to its being published. Thus, an Imprimatur is only as good as him giving it, so for example, if a Modernist has stamped his approval in this way, then we can’t necessarily take that as a sanction of its orthodoxy. Similarly, a Nihil Obstat only means that the assessor of the work didn’t find anything in it contrary to faith or morals. It doesn’t mean that there is any authoritative Church assurance that everything in it is true or correct. Furthermore, when an apparition is approved by the Church, and even if some sort of message associated with an apparition is said to be approved, that doesn’t mean that everything (or anything) in the message is true and correct, nor is there any obligation for anyone other than the individual person, or persons, in direct receipt of these heavenly locutions to believe them.
Here are a few quotes regarding private revelations that have been approved by the Church:
- “Since Divine authority is equal in particular revelations directed to a private person, as in public Revelation it follows that that (private Revelation) is an object of divine Faith, and can be believed as long as he is certain regarding them. In which case he is obliged to believe to whom the Revelation was directed; if he refuses to believe, he commits the sin of infidelity, by disbelieving the authority of God thereby taking away his faith from Him; for others however, it suffices that they do not despise the revelations. However, if private revelations are approved by the Church, they are not proposed to be believed by divine Faith; rather the Church only declares that, 1) they contain nothing against Faith and morals, 2) there are present sufficient reasons to prudently, piously, believe them without superstition, by human faith; 3) it is not allowed to despise them.” ~Merkelbach O. P., Summa Theologiae Moralis Volume 1. No. 674, Corollarium De Revelationibus Privatis.
- On the dangers of adhering to insufficiently clear private revelations, Royo O.P. and Aumann O. P. : page 365: …” Faith is incompatible with intellectual or sensible vision. Of itself it is of those things which are not seen…… “ And the footnote says: “ CF. St. Thomas , SUMMA, II-II question. 1, article. 4. It follows from this that private visions and revelations, especially if they are not clear and distinct, may be more of an obstacle than a help to pure faith, as St. John of the Cross explains in his The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Books II and III.
- Peeters OFM, Manuale Theologiae Moralis, Vol. 2 no. 135, pg 114. Scholion I: De Revelationibus Privatis: “There are revelations concerning which ecclesiastical authority (Holy See) has made no judgement; there are others which the Church has approved. Such approbation is either negative (declaration that in these are contained nothing against faith and morals: which happens e.g. in causes of beatification and canonization) OR positive (declaration that the revelation truly is from God: e.g. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque).
- “Private revelations positively approved by the Holy See, must be admitted by all from obedience towards the Church; Since however such revelations are not the object of infallibility, they do not give such certitude that its denial be against Faith, or heresy."
This all accords with what was published about approved private revelations in the Catholic Encyclopedia. In brief, after a private revelation has been approved in either or both a negative and positive way by the Church, there is still no obligation on anyone who didn't directly/personally receive such a revelation to believe it by divine faith, but all we are required to do is not despise it. However, if the Church does not approve of a private revelation, and even goes so far to actively condemn/suspend its promotion, then the obligation is for all to not accept it, nor believe it has come from God in the form that has been condemned.
Bearing all the above prefatory notes and references in mind, we thought it would be particularly beneficial to share a piece about the commonly-known messages associated with the apparition of Our Lady at La Salette, given there seems to be much confusion and false notions surrounding them. Due to appreciation shown in the past for our work in commissioning translations of useful texts, we are continuing with providing translations, as well as presenting a series of research articles, on worthwhile topics.
Consequently, with permission of the author, we are publishing (below) a translation of a booklet containing the documents pertaining to an article originally compiled in 1999 by the Fathers of the Institute of Our Mother of Good Counsel (IMBC), then presented last year by Fr. Francesco Ricossa in Sodalitium, in French; it is a collection which we believe our readers will find very enlightening with information not readily found in English (until now).
For those unfamiliar with this topic, here’s a brief overview that provides a backdrop before digesting the translation of the booklet, “The Holy See and the Secret of La Salette”:
On September 19, 1846, a beautiful lady appeared to two shepherd children high in the mountains of southern France, near the village of La Salette. Dressed in a countryside woman’s apparel, her face bathed in tears, she revealed to Maximin Giraud (aged 11) and Melanie Mathieu (aged 14) how much she suffers while trying to appease the just wrath of God, outraged by the sins of His people, particularly by the profanation of Sundays and the contempt of His Holy Name, bidding the children to make this message known to all her people.
After a five-year process of thorough canonical investigation, Bp. Philibert de Bruillard, the pastor of the diocese, solemnly declared that “the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to two shepherds (…) bears in itself all the characteristics of truth, and that the faithful are justified in believing it to be true and certain” (French ed. of Sodalitium, April 1999 p. 58). The Church soon allowed the faithful to practice devotion to Our Lady of La Salette as well as established her liturgical cult. In 1879, Pope Leo XIII issued a bull granting canonical coronation to the image of the Virgin of La Salette. The Supreme Pontiff would also give his papal endorsement in these words: “with all my heart, I bless La Salette and everything that pertains to La Salette” (The Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette with the Imprimatur of Abp. Cushing of Boston, 1951 p. 4). Indeed, all of the popes, beginning with Pius IX up until the reign of Pius XII approved and spoke highly of the devotion to Our Lady of La Salette.
Nonetheless, as Fr. Francesco Ricossa notes in the aforementioned Sodalitium article, in the very fact of the Church-approved apparition at La Salette there is included also the existence of two “secrets,” entrusted to both of the seers, which remained a mystery for a long time. They were written down by the children in July of 1851 and reached Rome the following year. These two versions of Maximin’s and Melanie’s secrets sent to Pope Pius IX had remained unpublished for roughly 150 years until they were discovered in the archives of what used to be the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (reorganised by the Modernists into the so-called Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) in October of 1999. None of these 1851 secrets, however, constitute what is commonly referred to as the La Salette secret.
“Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of Antichrist” – “the Church will be eclipsed and the world will be in consternation” – “the true faith is extinguished and the false light illuminates the world” – “fight children of the light (…) behold the time of times the end of ends”: these striking remarks are all included in what is commonly known as the proper Secret of La Salette, the last one published by Melanie herself in 1879 with the Imprimatur of Salvatore Luigi Zola, the Bishop of Lecce. These statements, and many others along a similar vein, are surely well-known in traditional Catholic circles.
What should a Catholic make of these alleged prophecies and what bearing have they on the current crisis in the Church? Fr. Ricossa rightly observes that having made the distinctions among the apparition itself, the secret in question, and its various interpretations, we have to conform our judgment to the mind of the Church, if we do not wish to be led astray. In the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, to have the true sentiment which we ought to have in the Church Militant we should firstly “all judgment laid aside, (…) have our mind ready and prompt to obey, in all, the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our holy Mother the Church Hierarchical” (The Spiritual Exercises).
Therefore, in the Catholic spirit of true obedience to lawful authority, let us consider what the Catholic Church has to say about the 1879 Secret of La Salette and its expositions. Fr. Ricossa will also try to shed some light on the reasons why Rome dealt with both the secret itself and the interpretations thereof, as well as with the disobedient individuals who promoted them, in an unrelenting manner.
The original French text of the translation which follows can be found here.
Some readers, whether favorable or opposed to our statement, have been asking us to release the documents related to the “Secret of La Salette,” following the article published in Sodalitium n°48 (April 1999, pp.57-59). Such is our purpose in delivering this booklet, entitled The Holy See and the Secret of La Salette.
This title indicates — as it should — the booklet’s content: it only contains documents from the Holy See concerning the “Secret of La Salette” (therefore it excludes any document which refers to the Most Holy Virgin’s apparition, officially recognized by competent authorities, in our case the diocese of Grenoble).
By “Holy See,” the Code of Canon Law (can. 7) designates “not just the Roman Pontiff, but also…the Congregations, Tribunals, and Offices through which the same Roman Pontiff is wont to expedite the affairs of the Universal Church.” In our present work are to be found documents from the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (which was, in Roman Curia, the “Supreme” Congregation), and from the Sacred Congregation of the Index. Concerning the worth of the decisions issued by Sacred Roman Congregations, let us recall that Saint Pius X, in the Decree Lamentabilii adjunct to the Encyclical Pascendi, condemned the modernist proposition according to which “They are free from all blame who treat lightly the condemnations passed by the Sacred Congregation of the Index or by the Roman Congregations.” (D.S. 3408). Of course, it doesn’t mean that all decisions from a Sacred Congregation are unalterable, or that all the documents we are presenting here have the same value.
By “Secret of La Salette,” we wish to designate the booklet entitled "The Apparition of the Most Holy Virgin on the Mountain of La Salette on September 19, 1846, published by the shepherdess of La Salette with the Imprimatur of His Excellency the Bishop of Lecce”, published in 1879, and reprinted in 1922 by the Société Saint-Augustin (Paris-Rome-Bruges) publishing house under the following title : “The Apparition of the Most Holy Virgin on the Mountain of La Salette on Saturday September 19, 1846. Simple reprint of the full text published by Mélanie with the Imprimatur of His Excellency Bishop Salvatore Luigi Zola, Bishop of Lecce in 1879, followed by some supporting documents. All published under the Imprimatur of Reverend Father A. Lepidi, Master of the Sacred Palace, Perpetual Assistant of the Sacred Congregation of the Index, delivered in Rome, June 6, 1922” . These are two prints of the same text, or commentaries of the text, which were subject to the Holy See’s interventions.
The question came up as to whether it was opportune to publish the documents without any comments, or to accompany them with some further explanations. We chose the second solution, nevertheless reducing as much as possible our commentaries, in order to truly let the documents speak for themselves. This will give to the reader an easy way to gather in front of him all the key elements of the case.
I will now, very gladly, let the documents speak…
Father Franceso Ricossa, IMBC
Documents on the “Secret of La Salette”
Interventions of the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition (Holy Office)
- A) Decree of the Holy Office of Wednesday 26 February, 1879 (CORTEVILLE, p.254)
The Most Eminent Fathers have decreed ad mentem that it be written to the Bishop of Lecce asking him the reason why this booklet has been published, and how he allowed it. That it be ordered to him to remove the copies and to prevent their diffusion. That it be written to the Patriarch of Venice not to have the booklet published, and that he does not allow, nor get interested in the proposal that one would like to make of the Dogma of the Assumption. That the French priest who is at the little Holy Saviour be called and admonished to cease such efforts and images.
Fr. Vinc. Leo Sallua, Chief Commissioner, Archbp. of Chalcedonia
The same day: recounted to the Most Holy [Father]
- B) Decree of the Holy Office of Wednesday 10 March, 1880 (CORTEVILLE, p.258)
The Most Eminent Lords for deciding and stating [ad supersendum et ad mentem] about the Bishop of Lecce: it is in their minds to beseech the Holy Father that he be willing to give the writing that Mélanie sent to His Holiness through the Most Eminent Consolini, as this one said it to Cardinal Ferrieri, writing that contains the secret revelation she claimed to have received, in order to compare the revelation itself with the one currently published, and to examine it intrinsically and extrinsically, for seeing whether this revelation is to be held true or not in all of its parts.
Jacobini, As[sessor] The same day of the ferial
The Most Holy [Father] approved. Jacobini As.
- C) Decree of the Holy Office of June 2, 1880 (CORTEVILLE, p.260)
The Most Eminent Lords ad mentem: the thought is to write to the Bishop of Lecce that he does not look after Mélanie and that he cut off all contact with her, and that it be done by this Supreme Congregation.
That the Supreme Congregation of Bishops and Regulars replies to the Bishop of Castellamare, exposing to him everything that has been done in order to appease the troubles caused by the booklet of said Mélanie: let His Excellency be asked to keep watching over her and take care of her, and that he does not allow her to leave his diocese.
That the said booklet be examined in his fullest edition.
- D) Second letter from Cardinal Caterini, Secretary of the Holy Office, to Bishop Zola of Lecce, June 5, 1880 (CORTEVILLE, p.261)
Illustrious and Most Reverend Lord and Brother,
By mandate received from the Supreme Assembly, I must relate to His Lordship that the thought of these Most Eminent General Inquisitors, fully approved by His Holiness [the Pope], is that you stop looking after Mélanie, and interrupt any relation with her.
I hasten to let you acknowledge this as your standard and rule, whereafter I only have to wish you all the blessings of the Lord.
From Your Lordship Rome, June 5, 1880
With all brotherly affection,
- Cardinal Caterini
- E) Notification of the Consultors and Decree of the Holy Office, Monday 26 July, and Tuesday 3 August, 1880 (CORTEVILLE, p. 272-273)
2nd Feria, July 26, 1880
The Lords Consultors advised as follows: That it be written now to the Archbishops of the Gauls (France) and of Italia under the Holy Office’s secret ad mentem: The thought [of the Holy Office] is that the revelations of Mélanie, printed and distributed everywhere, cannot be considered authentic or doctrinally sound; that therefore, without any prejudice to the cult given to the Blessed Virgin under the title of La Salette, they [the archbishops] don’t approve of them in any way whatsoever, and moreover that they ensure the said revelations won’t get printed and spread over their dioceses and the dioceses of their suffragans, but let them even carefully remove these wherever they have already been spread.
As to the booklet disclosed by the press, four [of the consultors] advised that it be prohibited by a Decree of the 4th feria. But also, that the decree remains under the secrecy of the Holy Office, for it to be published only if and only when the Most Eminent Fathers will consider it useful and appropriate.
- Jacobini Ads
3rd Feria instead of the 4th, August 3, 1880
The Most Eminent Lords, ad mentem: their thought is that if there comes any request similar to the one presented by the superior of La Salette’s missionaries, the response has to be: that it does not please the Holy See to see this booklet spreading out, and that he rather wants to remove it wherever it has been spread. That this be repeated also to the Bishop of Castellamare, asking him to inform Mélanie of these decisions made by the Holy See about her booklet, and that she be forbidden to write more things of that sort, especially to give explanations on this booklet.
The same day of feria,
On the same date the Holy Father approved. A. Jacobini As.
- F) Letter from Cardinal Prospero Caterini, Cardinal secretary of the Holy Office, to His Excellency Bishop Cortet, bishop of Troyes, August 14, 1880 (CORTEVILLE, p.273)
Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Lord and Brother,
The Sacred Congregation of the Index transmitted to the Supreme Congregation the letter of Your Excellency regarding the booklet entitled “The Apparition of the Holy Virgin on the Mountain of La Salette.” Moreover, the Most Eminent Fathers, [who] along with me [are] General Inquisitors, have judged worthy of the greatest praise the zeal you displayed in denouncing to them the said booklet; it is convenient indeed for you to know that the publication that was made of it did not please the Holy See at all: and therefore, his will is that the copies of this booklet, wherever they have been released, be removed from the faithful’s hands, as far as possible.
While fulfilling the duties of my office, I renew to Your Excellency the expression of my best regards, and I pray to the Lord that He may fulfill all the wishes of happiness I wish for you.
Rome, August 14, 1880 P. Cardinal Caterini
To the Most Reverend Bishop of Troyes
- G) Decree of the Holy Office of Thursday 25 August, 1880 (CORTEVILLE, p.274)
4th Feria, August 25, 1880
The Most Eminent and Most Reverend Lords, regarding the forbidden publication of Melanie’s booklet, approved the advice of the Lord Bishop of Grenoble.
The same feria and day recounted to the Most Holy [Father]
- H) Decree of the Holy Office of Wednesday 16 February, 1881 (CORTEVILLE, p.278)
4th Feria, of February 16, 1881
The Most Eminent have decided: that it be written 1° to the bishop of Lecce ad mentem: the mind [of the Holy Office] is to tell him that this Supreme Congregation and His Holiness are highly surprised that he wrote letters relative to this case, disobeying to the received orders, and that he reports it.
2° That it be written to the Bishop of Castellamare ad mentem: the thought [of the Holy Office is] that he renews to sister Mélanie the prohibition to keep doing what she is doing, threatening her of being deprived of using the sacraments if she keeps transgressing.
The same day and the same feria:
The Most Holy [Father] confirmed it. Jacobini As
Two books of Father Combe are placed on the Index
On June 7, 1901, the book of Father Gilbert-Joseph-Emile Combe entitled: Le grand coup avec sa date probable, Etude sur le Secret de La Salette » (The Great Strike and its Probable Date, Study on the Secret of La Salette), published in 1894, is placed on the Index; then on April 12, 1907, another book from the same author is also placed on the Index: Le secret de Mélanie, bergère de la Salette, et la crise actuelle (The Secret of Mélanie, Shepherdess of La Salette, and the Current Crisis), published in 1906.
(see for example: Annales de N.D. de La Salette – 51st year – January 19, 1916 – p.551; note 20).
Condemnation of Father Rigaud and his periodical
A condemned journal
On December 11, 1910, the Osservatore Romano published the following information:
“For several years, a periodical entitled Annales mensuelles des Croisés de Marie et des apôtres des derniers temps (Monthly Annals of Mary’s Crusaders and the Apostles of the Latter Days) has been published in Limoges (France) without the permission of diocesan authority prescribed by the apostolic constitution Officiorum, by the priest Ernet Rigaud. A periodical in which, regardless of the reservations imposed by Urban VIII, are reported alleged miracles and prophecies, in a manner extremely inappropriate and outrageous towards high-ranking ecclesiastical dignitaries.
Let the faithful be warned against this publication: they are strongly urged not to read it, or foster it in any way whatsoever.”
Cardinal Merry del Val, Secretary of the Holy Office, gave confirmation to this note from Osservatore Romano, in a letter issued on January 30, 1911:
From the Vatican, January 30, 1911
To His Excellency Bishop Firmin-Léon-Joseph Renouard
Bishop of Limoges
It has just been related to the Holy See that the press release from the Osservatore Romano dated December 11, 1910, concerning “Les Annales mensuelles des Croisés de Marie et des Apôtres des derniers temps”, is considered as inauthentic, and that its meaning and worth is contested.
Therefore, I wish to proclaim to Your Excellency that this press release is perfectly authentic, and has a directive value; public opinion cannot henceforth be deceived by these false and treacherous manoeuvres.
Your Excellency will not fail, after this declaration, to take the measures it deems appropriate in this regard.
I take the opportunity to express towards Your Excellency my wholly devoted feelings in Our Lord.
Cardinal Merry del Val
(Annales de La Salette, mars 1911, pp. 701-702)
Bishop Renouard of Limoges declared Father Ernest Rigaud suspens a divinis, and forbade him to publish his periodical (February 18, 1911) and to celebrate Holy Mass (May 26, 1911).
(See for example Annales de N.D. de La Salette – 51th year – January 19 1916 – p.550; note 19)
But as Father Rigaud kept disobeying the canonical punishments inflicted on him by the diocesan bishop, Pope Saint Pius X personally wrote to him the following letter:
To the Venerable Brother Firmin-Joseph Renouard
Bishop of Limoges
We come to tell you the deep sorrow caused to Us by the behavior of a priest of your diocese, [Father] Ernest Rigaud. Under the pretext of propagating an association he founded and of fostering the devotion to Our Lady of La Salette, he is revolting against your legitimate authority, despises your warnings and decrees, and takes no account of the suspension you were forced to inflict on him. But there is more. Based on some simple acknowledgments of receipt he would have received in the past from Rome, whose meaning he interprets and deforms as he pleases, this unfortunate priest prides himself of having received Our authorization and approbation to act as he does and to propagate his strange doctrine. From that he concludes that the Pope alone has a right to dispute his writings or to strike him. After the explicit notification published under Our command, he denies the authenticity of this act, notwithstanding the formal letter you addressed on this matter to Our Cardinal Secretary of State. He adds to that some outrageous publications against you and several bishops of France, truly scandalizing the faithful. Facing such excessive behaviors, evidenced by the folder that is before us, and having now exhausted any action that pity and longanimity could have suggested, We only have to invite you to address now a last admonition to this lost priest and tell him, in Our name, that if he does not immediately and completely give up his errors and his deplorable attitude, we shall apply to him the most severe ecclesiastical punishments. In the hope that Our Lord will deign to enlighten this priestly soul and recall him to the truth and to his duty, We unite in this purpose Our prayers to Yours, and We wholeheartedly impart to You, Venerable Brother, with your clergy and all the faithful of your diocese, the Apostolic Blessing.
Rome, from Vatican, July 1st 1911
Pius P.P. X
(See Annales de N.-D. de La Salette, August 1911, pp. 90-91)
Acta of the Holy See: Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office
Ex Acta Apostolicæ Sedis – Annus VII – Vol. VII – p. 594.
- A) Decree concerning what is commonly called “Secret of La Salette” (December 21, 1915)
“This Supreme Congregation (of the Holy Office) has been informed that some people, even members of the clergy, ignoring the responses and decisions of the said S. Congregation, keep discussing and dealing with in books, booklets, articles, anonymous or not, of what we call the Secret de La Salette, his various aspects and applications in present or forthcoming times, and this without the permission of the Ordinaries, but rather against their prohibition. In order to repress these abuses, which are detrimental to true piety and seriously offensive to ecclesiastical authority, the said Sacred Congregation prohibits the faithful from all over the world to discuss and deal with this topic, under any pretext or in any way whatsoever.
Anyone who violates this prohibition of the Holy Office, if he is a priest, shall be deprived of any dignity of which he may be vested, and the Ordinary shall strike them with interdiction to hear confessions and celebrate the Mass; if he is a layman, he shall be denied the sacraments until he repents.
Moreover, one and the other shall incur the penalties decreed by both Leo XIII (Constitution Officiorum ac munerum), against them who publish religious works without the legitimate permission of superiors, and Urban VIII (decree Sanctissimus Dominus Noster, March 13 1625) against them who spread among the people alleged revelations.
This decree however does not condemn the devotion to Our Lady under the title of “Reconciler,” commonly called “of La Salette.”
Given at Rome, at the Holy Office Palace, December 21, 1915
Louis Castellano, Notary of the S.R. and U.I.”
This decree was transmitted two days after to the Bishop of Grenoble by Monsignor Donato Sbaretti, titulary Archbishop of Ephesus and assessor of this Supreme Congregation. Here is the translation of the expedition ticket:
“Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office.
Rome, December 23, 1915.
Along with this letter, I send to Your Excellency a copy of the decree of this Supreme Congregation, that prohibits any publication regarding what we call “Le Secret de La Salette.”
Please agree with all the wishes that I form for you.
Your truly devoted servant,
† Donato, Archbishop of Ephesus, assessor.
To the Most Reverend Father His Excellency Bishop of Grenoble”
- B) Letter of Cardinal Merry del Val to the Bishop of Grenoble (February 7, 1916)
“Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office.
Rome, February 7, 1916.
Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Lord,
In the supplement of the newspaper La Croix (supplement to the n°10.074) dated January 12 of the current year, after the relation of this Supreme Congregation’s decree dated December 21, 1915, regarding what is commonly called the Secret de La Salette, are reported some conclusions apparently drawn from La semaine religieuse in which it is stated that by this decree is recognized the fact of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at La Salette. By the present letter to Your Excellency, I would like to indicate on this matter, in the name of this same Congregation, that the intention of the Holy Office regarding this decree was neither to make a judgment nor to express an opinion on the fact of the apparition, and that the above mentioned conclusions shall be corrected accordingly.
Please accept my best wishes.
Of Your Excellency
The most devoted servant in the Lord.
- Card. Merry del Val
To the Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Lord Louis Joseph Maurin, Bishop of Grenoble
Ex Acta Apostolicæ Sedis – Annus VIII – Volumen VIII – p. 175.
Declaration concerning a book
Wednesday 12 April, 1916
In the general assembly of this Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office, the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Lords Cardinals, General Inquisitors in matters of Faith and morals, have declared that the book entitled “La Leçon de l’Hôpital Notre-Dame d’Ypres – Exégèse du Secret de La Salette – par le Dr Henri Mariavé, tome I, Paris, 1915; tome II, Appendices, Montpellier, 1915” (The lesson of the Hospital of Our Lady of Ypres – Exegesis of the Secret of La Salette – by Dr. Henri Mariavé, Volume I, Paris, 1915; Volume II, Appendices, Montpellier, 1915) has been condemned and proscribed by the general rules of the constitution Officiorum ac munerum.
Given in Rome, at the Holy Office Palace, April 13, 1916.
Luigi Castellano, Notary of the S.R and U.I.
Ex Acta Apostolicæ Sedis – Annus VIII – Volumen VIII – pp. 178-179.
Sacred Congregation of the Index – Decree
The Sacred Congregation of the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, who have been made by His Holiness the Pope Benedict XV attendants and delegates in the whole Christendom to the Index of [Forbidden Books], to their proscription and permission, gathered in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican in June 5, 1916, has condemned and condemns, has proscribed and proscribes, has commanded and commands that the works condemned and proscribed in other circumstances shall be placed on the Index of Forbidden Books:
Dr Henri Mariavé, La leçon de l’hôpital Notre-Dame d’Ypres. Exégèse du secret de la Salette, tome I, Paris, 1915 ; tome II, Appendices, Montpellier, 1915 (Decr. S. Off. 12 apr. 1916).
Therefore no one, of whatever rank or condition, shall dare to publish in the future the condemned and proscribed works abovementioned, nor to read them or keep with oneself the already published ones, otherwise he would face the penalties prescribed in the Index of Forbidden Books.
This has been recounted by me, Secretary to His Holiness the Pope Benedict XV, His Holiness approved this decree and commanded that it be promulgated. In witness thereof, etc.
Given at Rome, June 6, 1916.
Fr. Card. Della Volpe, Prefect.
- † S.
Thomas Esser, O.P., Secretary.
[DOCUMENT #5 bis]
Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office
(Source : “Le secret de La Salette devant l’Episcopat français”, by the Marquis de la Vauzelle)
Rome, August 21, 1916.
Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Lord,
In the meeting held on Wednesday, 16 of the current month, concerning the appeal of the Marquis de la Vauzelle against the decree of Your Eminence, of January 13, 1916, in execution of the decree issued by this Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office, December 21, 1915, regarding what is commonly called “Le secret de La Salette,” after taking into consideration the things Your Eminence itself submits to us, the Most Reverend and Most Illustrious Cardinals General Inquisitors have decided not to support the appeal of the applicant; consequently, he must obey the commands of the bishop, and the bishop shall report back in due time.
I take this occasion to further wish Your Eminence all kinds of prosperities and successes.
To the Most Eminent and Most Reverend
Monsignor the Cardinal member of the Private Counsel,
Fr. Dom. M. Pasqualino O.P.
Comm. Gliss. S.O.
Ex Acta Apostolicæ Sedis – Annus XV – Vol. XV – p. 287.
Condemnation of the booklet “The Apparition of the Most Holy Virgin of La Salette”
Decree of the Holy Office
In the general assembly of the Congregation of the Holy Office, the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Cardinals guardians of Faith and morals have proscribed and condemned the booklet “L’apparition de la Très Sainte Vierge sur la sainte montagne de la Salette, le samedi 19 septembre 1845. – Simple réimpression du texte intégral publié par Mélanie, etc… Société St-Augustin, Paris-Rome-Bruges, 1922” (The Apparition of the Most Holy Virgin on the Holy Mountain of La Salette, on Saturday 19 September, 1845. – Simple reprint of the complete text published by Mélanie, etc…) urging those who have the right to do so to have the condemned booklet removed from the hands of the faithful.
The same day, His Holiness the Pope Pius XI, in the ordinary audience given to the Reverend Assessor of the Holy Office, approved the decision taken by the Most Eminent Cardinals.
Given in Rome, at the Holy Office Palace, May 10, 1923.
Notary of the Holy Office.
Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office
From the Holy Office Palace, January 8, 1957.
Most Reverend Father,
By your request letter dated December 14, 1956, you submitted to the Holy Office the following question: “If by the May 9, 1923 decree, the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office wanted to condemn the booklet L’apparition de la Très Sainte Vierge sur la sainte montagne de La Salette, le Samedi 19 septembre 1845, Société Saint-Augustin, Paris-Rome-Bruges, 1922, of 40 pages; or if it [the decree] only concerns the booklet published with the adjunction of the letter of Dr. Mariavé (alias Dr. Grémillon de Montpellier), which has 11 extra pages.”
On this matter, you pointed out that in some circles, it was told that the booklet, denounced and condemned by the Holy Office, would have certainly not been the one published by the Société St-Augustin, but only the one which was propagated without the consent and knowledge of its author, which contains Mariavé’s letter, dated February 2, 1923.
Therefore, I make it my duty to let you know that this Supreme Congregation has examined and condemned by the aforementioned decree the said booklet published and propagated by the Société St-Augustin, even without the letter of Dr. Mariavé.
I take this opportunity to declare myself, with a sense of distinct esteem, most devoted to you Reverend Father.
- Card. Pizzardo,
To the Most Reverend Father Francesco Molinari, General Procurator of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette.
A Few Comments about the Published Documents
The publication of the “Secret” in 1879, with the Imprimatur of Bishop Zola of Lecce, caused the reaction of several bishops.
It seems that the denunciation of the booklet to the Holy See came from two different sides. There was, on the one hand, a letter of denunciation from Bishop Cortet of Troyes, dated February 15 and sent February 16, 1880 to the Paris nunciature; the denunciation was transmitted to the Sacred Congregation of the Index by a letter dated February 28. On June 13, 1880, Father A. Eschbach, Relator of the Index, formulated his “votum” on the matter, estimating that it should be addressed by the Holy Office: (“I do not think it is up to our Sacred Congregation of the Index to adjudicate or resolve such issues; it pertains rather to the Holy Office. Therefore, in order to answer the question which was put to me as Relator of the Index of the Most Reverend Father Saccheri, Secretary of the Congregation, I would say, according to my humble judgment and remaining except any more authoritative judgment, that the said booklet referred to the Index by His Eminence the nuncio of Paris has to be transmitted with its attachments to the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office” Corteville, pp. 253-254). On the other hand, the Holy Office was already interested in the issue, as recalled in the report from Father Bernard Smith O.S.B., Consultor of the Holy Office: “By order of the Holy Father, the Most Eminent Cardinal Bartolini delivered personally and denounced to the Supreme Congregation in February 19 the booklet written in French by Mélanie, published in Lecce, with the approbation of the Curia by the end of 1879” (Corteville, p.262). It was probably the Patriarch of Venice who had caused this intervention by the Holy Office: as some people wanted to publish an edition of the “Secret” in his diocese, he had written about this topic on January 19. As early as January 19, 1880, the Holy Office was thus dealing with this issue.
Document 1A). At the meeting of the Holy Office on February 19, 1880, it was decided that the Commissioner of the Holy Office would present a report on the topic at the next meeting, on February 26. It is based on this report that the document related in Corteville’s translation was redacted. The “French priest” referred to was Father Crévoulin, of the church of the Holy Saviour in Rome. Also, on February 28, pursuant to the decree of the Holy Office, the secretary of the Holy Inquisition Cardinal Prospero Caterini wrote a letter to Cardinal Caverot, Bishop of Lyon, the diocese from which Mélanie’s booklet was spreading, and to Bishop Zola of Lecce, in whose diocese the booklet was printed (the two letters have been lost). Cardinal Caverot responded on March 7 (the letter’s content was published in Corteville, pp. 255-258) saying that he himself was about to denounce the booklet to the Holy Office when the letter of Cardinal Caterini had reached him. As to Bishop Zola, he responded on March 6 (text present in Corteville, pp. 255-258) saying that the “Secret” had already been printed at Grenoble (from 1871 to 1874) by C.R. Girard, and at Naples in 1873 by Father Félicien Bliard, with the approbation of Cardinal Sisto Riario Sforza. Mélanie – said Bishop Zola on March 6 – “placed in my hands, as early as 1869, the original manuscript of her revelations of La Salette. Questioned many times by myself, and put to probation, she declared to me constantly and evenly throughout various times, and in any case, that she had done nothing but reproduce sincerely and faithfully in her writing the very words uttered by the Most Holy Virgin at La Salette, as she had also written to Pius IX in 1851” . (cf. Stern, vol. 3, p. 124, note 54. But the same Bishop Zola wrote on November 8 to Girard: “in the secret written to the Pope, there are elements not present [illegible word] to Monsignor Bliard, and even in this one there are things not confided to the Pope'' cf. Stern, ibid, p.119, note 38; see the texts themselves to compare the 1851 and the 1879 versions). However, the Bishop of Lecce concluded as follows (in his letter dated March 6): “I finally note for Your Eminence that upon receiving orders from this Supreme Congregation, I have already withdrawn from my possession the few copies of the booklet which were at the Lecce publisher. I also wrote to Mélanie, to whom the entire edition was sent by the publisher himself, to send me back all the copies that may be with her and could have been withdrawn from France. That’s all I had to tell you, in execution of the orders issued by Your Eminence, declaring myself further willing to receive with due submission whatever the Holy See would like to dispose of and judge on this subject.” (See Corteville, p.258; original Italian in Galli, p.220).
Document 1B). From Castellamare, Mélanie went to Rome on November 24, 1878 (in order to submit to the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars the religious rule of the “Mother of God’s Order”) and stayed here until May 5 of the following year (cf. Father Gouin, Sœur Marie de la Croix, Bergère de La Salette, née Mélanie Calvat, Tertiaire de Saint Dominique, Victime de Jésus, Téqui, 1969, pp. 118-129). On December 3, 1878, Mélanie was granted a private audience by Pope Leo XIII. On that occasion, the Pope consulted the Cardinals Guidi, Ledochowski and Consolini regarding the Secret; the last one sent the text to the Pope. A few months later, the Secret was printed at Lecce. This is why the Holy Office asked to compare the text given to Cardinal Consolini and the one printed at Lecce.
Document 1C). This document is the response of the Holy Office to the letter (of May 30, 1880) to Cardinal Caterini from Bishop Vincezo Maria Sarnelli, Bishop of Castellamare, diocese in which Mélanie was residing (text in Corteville, p.260). The bishop was complaining about the fact that Bishop Zola was directing Mélanie without him knowing, and was asking if “the Holy See permits the spreading of the book” and if he allows Mélanie to leave the diocese.
Document 1D). This letter from Cardinal Caterini to Bishop Zola (it’s the second one written to him, the first one has been lost) is a consequence of the Holy Office decree reproduced in the preceding document. Bishop Zola responded on June 26 (text in Corteville, pp. 261-262) stating that for seven years now, that is to say since he was raised to the episcopacy, he was not directing Mélanie anymore.
Document 1E). The Holy Office decided on June 2 (document C) to have Mélanie’s booklet examined. The Benedictine Father Bernard Smith, consultor of the Holy Office, was put in charge of that examination; on July 5, 1880, he delivered his printed report (text in Corteville, pp. 262-268) to which another consultor replied, Father Alessandro del Magno, Dean of the Roman Rota, in a handwritten text dated July 26 (text in Corteville, pp. 269-271). The same day, the Consultors came to the conclusion reported in this document, whereas on August 3rd the Father Inquisitors limited themselves (as reported in the present document) to impose silence on Mélanie and to have the booklet withdrawn from trade. The superior of the Missionaries of La Salette, cited in the decree, was Father Archier represented by Monsignor Bernard, missionary of La Salette and Apostolic Prefect of Norway.
Document 1F). Pursuant to the preceding decree (decree of August 3, document E), Cardinal Caterini wrote on August 8 to Father Archier, Superior of the Missionaries of La Salette (his letter can be found in the archives of the general house of missionaries in Rome), and to Bishop Sarnelli of Castellamare (“forbid her henceforth to write similar things and to give explanations on the things already written,” quoted by Stern, note 43; a copy of the letter sent to Mélanie is kept in the archives of the postulation of the Rogationists at Rome), and on August 14 to the Bishop of Tarentaise (who had written to the Holy Office) and to Bishop Cortet of Troyes, who had denounced Mélanie’s booklet to the Nuncio of Paris.
Against these letters of Cardinal Caterini, the lawyer Mr. Amédée Nicolas publicly advocated the “secret,” causing the publication of the letter to the Bishop of Troyes in the Semaine religieuse de Nîmes, followed by many “words of warning” from French bishops (cf. Stern, vol. 3, pp. 120-122; the letter from Cardinal Caterini to the Bishop of Troyes was published by roughly a dozen of diocesan bulletins: cf. Corteville, p.274). Until the publication, in the year 2000, by Father Corteville of previously unpublished Holy Office documents here reproduced, the letter of Cardinal Caterini (Document F) was almost the only widely known text of this case relative to the year 1880.
It was said about the Cardinal Caterini’s letter that it resulted from a private initiative, issued without the knowledge and consent of the Congregation itself: “Obviously”, wrote in 2001 Antonio Galli, “the prohibition imposed on the prelate [Bishop Zola] did not result from a collegial decision of the ‘Most Eminent General Inquisitors’ in complete accordance with the Holy See… The Congregation had not been summoned, nor the Holy See informed” (p.222). Yet the documents published show the opposite: “According to Nicolas (Nouvelle défense … Nîmes, 1884, p. 63), the ellipsis at the end of this document [published by the Semaine religieuse de Nîmes on September 4, 1880] are supposed to replace the following words: ‘as to clergymen, they shall keep the secret with them so that they can profit from him’. The facsimile of the letter published in the Annales [of La Salette] in May 1913 proves however that the ellipsis only replaced the closing formula” (Stern, vol. 3, p. 122, note 46). Father Corteville (who is in favor of the “Secrets”), reproducing also the original text, corroborates this fact, thus demolishing the fallacy spread by Mr. Nicolas.
Document 1G). Bishop Fava of Grenoble did not deem it appropriate to publish Cardinal Caterini’s letter in the Annales de Notre-Dame de La Salette (document of August 20, 1880; quoted by Corteville, p.274). The Holy Office (document G) indeed would have rather kept the issue secret. Yet on August 24, the Bishop of Grenoble wrote to Father Archier, superior of the Missionaries of La Salette, so that the booklet stops spreading, and instead be removed from the people, exactly as the Holy Office ordered (cf. Stern, vol. 3, p. 122).
Document 1H). On February 15, 1881, Bishop Cortet of Troyes presented himself to Leo XIII who invited him to get in touch with the Commissioner of the Holy Office. In his report dated from the next day (text in Corteville, pp. 227-228), the Commissioner reported that Bishop Cortet had denounced three new booklets: “the first booklet is from the lawyer Amédée Nicolas, printed in Nîmes [La nouvelle guerre faite au Miracle de la Salette faite sous le couvert du Secret de Mélanie, Nîmes, Péladan, 1880 – The New War Made Upon the Miracle of La Salette on the pretext of Mélanie’s Secret], where it is said that two letters from Bishop S. L. Zola of Lecce are reported. The second one is from Mr. Adrien Péladan and is labeled ‘Dernier mot des prohéties, ou l’avenir dévoilé’ [Last Say of the Prophecies, or the Future Unveiled]. The third booklet is titled ‘Lettres de Mgr Sauveur-Louis Zola Evêque de Lecce à un curé d’un diocèse de France sur le Secret de Mélanie, dans lequel sont aussi reportées quelques lettres écrites par d’autres et par Mélanie elle-même ’ [Letters from Bishop Salvatore Luigi Zola, Bishop of Lecce, to a parish priest of a French diocese (Father Roubaud, parish priest of Saint-Tropez) about Mélanie’s secret, in which are related a few letters written by others or by Mélanie herself].” The Commissioner recalled the prohibitions issued by the Holy Office (prohibition on Bishop Zola to have any relations with Mélanie, June 2, 1880; prohibition on Mélanie to issue any comment or explanation on the Secret – letter to the Bishop of Castellamare, August 3, 1880; obligation to keep silent on the part of Father Rigaud, redactor of the Annales des Croisés de Marie, communicated in September to the Bishops of Limoges and Carcassonne). The Commissioner concluded: “it is thus obvious that neither the Bishop of Lecce nor Mélanie have observed the prescriptions received especially from this dicastery” (text in Corteville, pp. 277-278). The decision of the Holy Office, from the same day February 16, 1881 (document H), is the result of this report. Cardinal Caterini therefore wrote again to Bishop Zola on February 23, 1881, who responded on March 4th by pointing out that the incriminated letters had all been written before receiving the injunction not to write anymore on this topic: “I couldn’t indeed disobey an order that was not yet given to me.” The remark of Bishop Zola was formally true (even though not very fitting with the February 26, 1880 decree), which is why “The Primary Congregation almost excused Bishop Zola” (letter from Bishop Sarnelli of Castellamare, July 26, 1882, to Cardinal Ferrieri, in Corteville, p. 283). The same Sarnelli had communicated to Mélanie the threat of being deprived of Sacraments, as he reported in a letter to Cardinal Caterini, of February 28, 1881 (in Corteville, p.282). Bishop Zola complied with the prohibition to write anything on the matter from 1880 to 1895.
Note on the “Curia style” and the translation of Father Corteville. Many readers may be puzzled by the Holy Office documents we are publishing, first because it results from a French translation of Latin original (or Italian) [Translator’s note: and now an English translation of a French translation from Latin or Italian!], then because it uses a technical terminology (the “Curia style”), unusual to the “uninitiated.” This brings many difficulties for the translator. Take for example the Latin term “mens,” used in two different ways: “ad mentem” and “mens est.” As for the first expression (ad mentem), Corteville often leaves it in Latin; another time, he translates it as “to decide” (pour se prononcer). Regarding the expression “mens est,” he translates it in multiple different ways: “it is in their minds” (il est de leur pensée – Document B), “the thought is” (l’opinion est – Documents C, D, E), “the mind is” (l’esprit [du Saint-Office] est – Document H). The Enciclopedia Cattolica (Città del Vaticano 1949, vol. I, col. 309-310) explains the formula as follows: “Ad mentem (iuxta mentem, iuxta modum). It is one of the extensively used formulas in the answers usually given by the dicasteries of Roman Curia, especially by the Sacred Congregations; it has the effect of adding to the rescript some conditions or terms that gives it a more precise meaning, for it not to be not overly absolute or generic, or else it prescribes conditions and terms relative to the execution of the rescript. Such a declaration, generally expressed by the words ‘Mens est…’ is not always made public [as in the case of the decrees over the ‘Secret” of La Salette], but communicated only to people involved in the matter discussed.” Another more succinct explanation: “ad mentem: clausula by which the substantive decision is moderated. The competent Congregations sometimes make public the reasons which inspired such sentence.” (Dictionnaire de Droit canonique, Paris 1942, T. 3, Clausules apostoliques. Clausules usitées dans leurs réponses par les Congrégations Romaines, col. 821).
Father Emile Combe, parish priest of Diou in the Allier département (died in 1927), hosted Mélanie from May 1899 to June 1904 (Mélanie died in Altamura on December 14, 1904). It was Father Combe who transmitted the manuscript of Mélanie’s autobiography to the well-known French author Léon Bloy, who published it under the title “Vie de Mélanie bergère de La Salette. Écrite par elle-même en 1900. Son enfance (1831-1846) (Stern, p. 222, note 3).” (Life of Mélanie, Shepherdess of La Salette. Written by Herself in 1900. Her Childhood 1831-1846). The first of condemned books, ‘Le grand coup avec sa date probable,’ placed on the Index in 1901, was printed at Vichy (Allier) in 1894, and gave as probable dates of the “great strike” September 19-20 1896; a third edition was published in 1896, still at Vichy. The second one, ‘Le Secret de Mélanie,’ printed at Rome in 1906, was placed on the Index in 1907, under the pontificate of Saint Pius X. In this second book are reported words attributed to Mélanie and which would constitute a yet unpublished part of the Secret (Corteville calls it the “second secret” p.307). According to this testimony, the Blessed Virgin would have, among other things, revealed to Mélanie in 1846 at La Salette that the souls in Limbo will be put in the state of innocence and be able to live in this state on earth (cf. Corteville, pp. 308-309; “doctrine de la Rénovation”). The books of Father Combe, and Combe himself, are held in high esteem in the circles of Mélanie’s defenders: for example, here is what Bishop Lecce of Zola wrote to Father Jean Kunzlé, on March 5 1896: “If you would like further clarifications on this subject, you can look for this interesting booklet: ‘Le grand coup et sa date probable,’ recently published by the parish priest of Diou (Allier), Father Combe. At the end of this booklet, you will find various excerpts of some of my letters sent to a French priest in 1880. They have been faithfully reproduced and regarding La Salette, they are accurate.” Still Bishop Zola, in a letter to Father Combe, February 10, 1896: “I have read and considered each line of your booklet ‘Le grand coup et sa date probable’ and I can assure you that everything you have written over the Secret of La Salette is absolutely accurate. I associate myself, gladly and unreservedly, with the praise you have received” (Galli, p. 230, F. Corteville, p. 282). But the booklet recommended by Bishop Zola is precisely the one placed on the Index in 1901.
Father Rigaud (who passed away in 1915, while still under censorship) was one of the most fervent supporters and apostles of the Secret de La Salette, for the defense of which he had founded the review later condemned by the Holy See. We have seen that as early as September, 1880 (cf. commentary of document #1H) the Holy Office intervened against Father Rigaud. It was in vain, since the Church, and even Saint Pius X himself, had to intervene once again in 1911. As witnessed by the mentioned documents, Cardinal Merry del Val, Secretary of State under Saint Pius X, was far from being favorable to the “Secret de La Salette,” to the point that Max Le Hidec described him as “one of the most influential and relentless among the enemies of the Secret” (Max Le Hidec, Les Secrets de La Salette, p. 118). The attitude of Father Rigaud is meaningful: first he casts doubt on the authenticity of the note published in the Osservatore Romano; then, contradicted by Cardinal Merry del Val, he pretends that only the Pope could judge him; and even when the Pope intervenes, he asserts that the letter of Saint Pius X was counterfeited by the Cardinal Secretary of State… As we will see, the supporters of the “Secret” will use the exact same method after the condemnations of 1923.
“This decree originated from the intervention of several French bishops, especially Cardinal de Cabrières, Bishop of Montpellier, whose attention had been drawn to the ‘secret’ by the publications of Dr. H. Grémillon, a military physician who was writing under the pseudonym of Dr. Mariavé. The Cardinal asked that the Holy Office examines not only the doctor’s works, but also the ‘secret’ of Mélanie (cf. ASV, Secrétairerie d’Etat, rubr. 82, 1915 ; lettres du cardinal de Cabrières et de Mgr Latty, archevêque d’Avignon, 1915, éditées dans L’Impartial, premier trimestre 1988, pp. 11-12).” (Stern, p. 122, note 48). It should be pointed out that Cardinal Rovérié de Cabrières (1830-1921) was not at all a sympathizer of Modernism or Liberalism: on religious matters, he was integralist; on political ones, he was a monarchist (cf. Cf. Marcel Bruyère, Le Cardinal de Cabrières, Ed. du Cèdre, Paris 1956; Emile Poulat, Intégrisme et catholicisme intégral, Casterman, 1969, p. 329; concerning the attitude of integralists over the ‘secret,’ cf. Poulat, op. cit., p. 298). The same cannot be said of Father Lepidi, protector of the chief Italian Modernist Ernesto Buonaiuti until the end (cf. Andreotti, I quattro del Gesù. Storia di un’eresia, Rizzoli, 1999, pp. 22, 25, 28, 29).
If one looks at it carefully, the 1915 decree only renews the 1880 decisions of the Holy Office presented in document #1, specifying the canonical penalties against the transgressors of the decree and recording these decisions in the Acta Apostolicæ Sedis.
The letter from Cardinal Merry del Val, dated 1916, genuinely interprets the last lines of the decree: the fact of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin at La Salette had not been formally recognized by Rome, but by the Bishop of Grenoble (who is indeed the competent authority in such matters).
The 1915 decree had the effect, among other things, to prevent the publication of a study that Jacques Maritain (converted by Léon Bloy) was preparing in defense of the Secret: “in such circumstances, as far as I am concerned, I renounce of course and without bitterness the hope of publishing my work” (letter to Father Mollière, January 17, 1916, in Corteville, p. 298). But anonymous writings will keep spreading even after the decree was issued, and in violation of this decree (for example, the one written by the same Father Mollière, cited by Maritain in a letter written to him dated March 12, 1916; see Corteville, p.300).
[DOCUMENT #5 Part 1]
This is about placing on the Index the work of Doctor Grémillon about the ‘Secret de La Salette’, that he published under the pseudonym of Mariavé. The first volume was published in 1915, I think before the decree mentioned in document #4; the second one, in 1916, that is to say after the decree. Both were condemned in 1916.
[DOCUMENT #5 Part 2]
This is a response from the Holy Office sent to Bishop Félix Guillibert of Fréjus, on whom was depending the Marquis de la Vauzelle. The bishop, through a “communication of the bishopric” of January 13, 1916, in application of the December 21, 1915 decree (document #4), had commended the parish priests to deny communion to whoever was not submitting to the decree. The Marquis de la Vauzelle submitted an appeal through a letter of March 27, 1916, addressed to Pope Benedict XV. The Holy Office rejected this appeal, precisely. Henri Prévost de Sauzac de Puybottier, Marquis de la Vauzelle, was a convinced supporter of the “Secret de la Salette,” and also a supporter of Karl-Wilhelm Naundorff (+1845), known for pretending to be the Dauphin Louis-Charles de Bourbon (Louis XVII) escaped from the Temple prison. Owing to their unorthodox doctrines, Naundorff and Vintras (1807-1875) were condemned by a Brief of Gregory XVI dated November 8, 1843, addressed to the Bishop of Bayeux. On this topic, one may read the article of Emile Appolis, available online: En marge du catholicisme contemporain: Millénaristes cordiphores et naundorffistes autour du “secret” de La Salette, in Archives de sociologie des religions, n. 14, 1962, pp. 103-121.
Some authors have suggested that the placement on the Index of 1923 and the decree of 1915 would have been a deception of the notary Castellano. The latest being Father Grossin, to which I was responding in Sodalitium #52:
“Father Grossin, indeed not very convinced that the 1915 and 1923 decrees are not contrary to the “Secret,” puts forward the hypothesis of a conspiracy: ‘[The 1915 decree] should have been signed by the Cardinal Secretary of the Holy Office, and countersigned by a bishop assessor, which was not the case, since it is signed by a simple notary: Luigi Castellano, without any title’; [and then] ‘the May 10, 1923 decree, still signed by the notary Castellano (is this really a coincidence?), which proscribes and condemns the Montpellier booklet [sic: The decree does not condemn the booklet of Montpellier – from Grémillon/Mariavé – but the one approved by Lepidi and printed by the Société Saint-Augustin]. Once again, the same formal flaws from the same author are observed, and no one cares to notice them.’ “No one cares” because these formal flaws only exist in the imagination of Father Grossin…One could simply refer to the Acta Apostolicae Sedis and notice that every single decree of the Holy Office, during the period we are interested in, is signed by the notary of the Sacred Congregation, that is to say by Monsignor Castellano. Here is a photograph [Translator’s note: in the original printed edition of the present article] of the Acta containing the 1923 decree, then a decree immediately preceding (issued with the exact same formalities), and the famous 1949 decree of excommunication against the Communists, also signed by the same notary. If the decree against the ‘Secret’ has formal flaws, then the 1949 one contains the same flaws: is it a shady plot of anti-communist clergymen?” (Sodalitium n°52, pp.70-71).
The Italian text and the French translation are extracted from L. Bassette, Le fait de La Salette, nouvelle édition, Cerf, Paris 1965, pp. 440-441.
BIBLIOGRAPHY (FRENCH & ITALIAN)
Michel CORTEVILLE, La “grande nouvelle” des bergers de La Salette, Diffusion Téqui, 2000. (Part of the Thesis submitted by the author to the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas at Rome.)
Antonio GALLI, “Apologia di Melania”, l’incompresa e combattuta pastorella de La Salette. Il Segno 2001.
Jean STERN, La Salette. Documents authentiques, 1er mai 1849 – 4 novembre 1854, vol. III, Ed. du Cerf, 1990.
 Original French title as follows : « L’Apparition de la Très Sainte Vierge sur la Montagne de La Salette le 19 septembre 1846, publiée par la Bergère de La Salette avec l’Imprimatur de Mgr l’Evêque de Lecce. »
 « L’Apparition de la Très Sainte Vierge sur la Montagne de La Salette le 19 septembre 1846, publiée par la Bergère de La Salette avec l’Imprimatur de Mgr l’Evêque de Lecce”, de 1879, puis réimprimé en 1922 par la maison d’édition Société Saint-Augustin (Paris-Rome-Bruges) sous le titre : “L’Apparition de la Très Sainte Vierge sur la Sainte Montagne de La Salette le samedi 19 septembre 1846. Simple Réimpression du Texte Intégral publié par Mélanie avec l’Imprimatur de Sa Gr. Mgr Sauveur-Louis Zola, Evêque de Lecce en 1879, suivi de quelques pièces justificatives. Le Tout Publié avec l’Imprimatur du R.P. A. Lepidi O.P., Maître du Sacré-Palais, Assistant Perpétuel de la Congrégation de l’Index, Délivré à Rome le 6 juin 1922 ».
 “più volte da me interrogata e messa alla prova, mi dichiarò costantemente e identicamente in diversi tempi, ed in ogni caso, ch’essa nel suo scritto non aveva fatto altro che riprodurre schiettamente e fedelmente le parole medesime pronunziate dalla Ssma Vergine sulla Salette ; secondo che le aveva scritte ancora a Pio IX nel 1851.