Approbations of Major Religious Orders and Universities

The bold and impious condemnation of The Mystical City of God in 1696 by the Jansenist contingent within the Theological Faculty of the Sorbonne (University of Paris) touched off a firestorm of reaction in Europe. However, this firestorm did not consume the book as the Jansenists intended, but rather consumed only themselves since they were later censured by Rome; moreover, it caused nearly all of the great Religious Orders and Universities in Europe to study the book, and all of them came to the defense of the City of God.

Leading the way was the decision of one hundred Doctors of the University of Salamanca:

“The Sorbonne’s condemnation is entirely unjust, entirely null.”

Religious Orders

The learned men and teachers in all of the religious orders which maintained teaching institutions in Europe were asked to examine The Mystical City of God. The following complied, all giving the book their high praises and recommendations: The Augustinians, Benedictines, Carmelites, Dominicans, Jesuits, Cistercians, Basilians, Trinitarians, Mercedarians, Minims, Hieronymites, Premonstratensians, Reformed Augustinians, and Theatines.

Universities The following also favored the book with their official approbations: The Universities of Granada, Burgos, Cádiz, Madrid, Canaries, Salamanca, Alcalá, Toulouse, Louvain, and seventeen of the greatest Colleges of Europe.

Ironically, the University which also must be included on this list is the Sorbonne itself, for among the 50 Masters of Theology who voted in favor of the book (102 had voted to condemn it) there were many who denounced in the strongest terms the judgment issued. The incomparable Dom Guéranger, author of The Liturgical Year, having studied The Mystical City of God, the Papal decrees regarding it, and the proceedings of the Sorbonne, noted these objections in the July 18, 1859, issue of L’Univers (Paris). He stated several professors protested the proceedings, denouncing them as “scandalous and brutal, violating the rights of others; opinions of [those favoring the book] were null; the Faculty was incompetent to pronounce judgment in matters which the Holy See had reserved for itself; the censure [of the book] is null because of a defiance of the essential formalities; and it is not correct to say that The Mystical City of God by Ven. Mary of Jesus of Agreda is condemned by the Sorbonne.”

While the unanimous high praises of every other University which studied the book would fill many volumes, the following approbation of the University of Louvain seems to summarize them all. After noting the power of God in giving private revelations to whom He chooses must not be circumscribed, and pointing out some general rules regarding private revelations, Drs. Hermann Damen and Anton Parmentier go on to say:

“While abiding the decision of the Church concerning the revelations which are given to us under the title of The Mystical City of God, we, having read the whole work, say and are of the opinion that the faithful can read it without danger to their faith and without damage to the purity of morals, for there is not found anything within it which could lead to relaxation or to indiscreet rigor. On the contrary, we have come to the conclusion that it will be most useful in enlivening and augmenting the piety of the faithful, the veneration of the most holy Virgin, and the respect for the sacred mysteries.

“The strong and the weak, the wise and the ignorant, and in fine all the world can gather richest fruit from the reading of this book, for they contain what is most sublime in theology, and in a style so simple, easy and perspicuous that in order to enter deeply into an understanding of the holy mysteries no more is necessary than to read them with sound judgment.

“Combined with this simplicity are found many doctrines and valid proofs, free from contradictions and not easily found in other writings. This history of the Mother of God explains more than a thousand difficulties in Holy Scripture, in a manner equally natural and wonderful. At every step are encountered exquisite interpretations until now unknown, and which had been hidden beneath the mere letter, but are laid open in these writings and brought to light. In short, the whole work is a beautiful web of Scripture passages which, though spun from its different books, are directly and specially woven into a whole for the purpose intended by the Venerable Mother [Mary of Agreda].

“In addition thereto the instructions given by the most holy Virgin at the end of each chapter contain the purest morality, instruct, entertain, and at the same time sweetly inculcate the love of virtue and the abhorrence of vice, painting them in the most vivid and natural colors. They not only convince the intellect but contain such a special unction that they enkindle a sacred ardor in the soul. In meditating upon them one certainly will experience a delight not met with in ordinary writings; and the more they are read, the greater the delight experienced. In short, the whole work contains something so attractive that once begun the reading of it can scarcely be relinquished.

“The novelty and variety found in these writings delight and recreate the reader beyond all that is pleasant in the world, at the same time instructing him and inspiring him with new fervor. All can easily persuade themselves that if the interior life of Christ our Lord, and of the most holy Virgin, was not just as described in this book, it could certainly have been like it, and it would have been well worthy of them if it was as it is there depicted. All that is said in the book is befitting the majesty and humility of Christ, and corresponds to the sanctity and dignity of the Virgin Mother, since there is found nothing in the whole work which is not worthy of both one and the other.

“Notwithstanding all of this, we should not at all wonder if this book has met with men who are disposed to be critical, for what book is there which can hope to escape the opposition of the people of our times? God has not even provided that Sacred Scriptures be free from such attack among the greater part of the learned of this world.

“There are contained in this work such noble and such devout circumstantial and pertinent discourses as cannot be the result of mere discursive thought. Nor can it be attributed to the demon, for from beginning to end it suggests and breathes nothing but humility, patience, and the endurance of hardships.

“Therefore, just as The Mystical City of God must without a doubt be attributed to the venerable Mother Mary of Agreda, so she cannot have composed it without particular help from on high. Our conclusive opinion is that The Mystical City of God, for the common good and the advantages to be derived therefrom, should be brought to the light. This is our judgment, which we submit entirely to the supreme decision of the Holy See, to which alone belongs the right of final judgment in such matters.”

Signed at Louvain, July 20, 1715

Dr. Hermann Damen Professor Ordinary and Regent of the of the Theological Faculty, Don of St. Peter, President of the College of Arras, Censor of Books, etc.

Dr. Anton Parmentier Professor Ordinary, Regent of the Theological Faculty, President of the Great College of Theologians, etc.