FACE DEVOTION CONDEMNED?
A Claim That the Holy Face Devotion Is Condemned?
There is a priest in the United States currently claiming that the Holy Face devotion has been condemned by a decree in 1892. To our knowledge he is the only priest currently making this claim. We have reviewed his research and arguments and believe he is mistaken. Below are some reasons why.
There is a well-known book covering the entire history of the Holy Face in the Church, from Scripture to present. To our knowledge it is the most thorough and authoritative book on the history of the Holy Face. The book is called, "The Holy Face in the Documents of the Church" (by Pedica, imprimatur 1959), and this book speaks of the decree of the Holy Office of 1892 regarding the Holy Face devotion. Here is what the book says on the subject, with this particular comment being in relation to a priest from France asking the Supreme Congregation for clarification on the decree of 1892:
The Holy Face in the Documents of the Church, imprimatur 1959, page 36:
"How a Confraternity Dedicated to the Cult of Our Lord Jesus Christ May Be Maintained: … The stigmatized priest, Gaetano Pizzighellla, wrote to the Holy Father asking for the precise explanation from the Supreme Congregation.
The request stated briefly that a little chapel exists in Verona, where the Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ is venerated with great piety. The decrees of the Holy Office have given rise to disturbance and confusion, telling many people that this devotion may have to be entirely abandoned. It asks therefore, if, removing everything which indicates a special direct cult, it may be possible to have devotional practices, and that the Oratory and Sodality may exist.
The Holy Office replied in the affirmative, that it is not forbidden: neither the altar with the picture of the Holy Face, nor the pious exercise, nor the devotion to the Holy Face, provided that there is no question of a special, distinct cult, and neither with the adherence to the same conditions, are the Confraternity and Indulgences prohibited."
Conclusions, page 48:
"The Decree of the Holy Face does not prohibit the devotion to the Holy Face, but calls upon the Priests of the Holy Face of Tours to remove all sense of novelty different from that held by tradition and not to consider the Face of Christ as a special symbol of reparation, but as the special object of worship, thanksgiving, reparation. Above all, this rectifies the aim and indicates the scope, and ever more opportune in modern times, gives it the true meaning desired by the Holy See, proposing it as a valid means of reparation for the many offenses committed against the Beloved Lord."
The priest in question made an additional claim that a condemnation of the Holy Face devotion was published in 1897, however a copy of this has never been presented. The main question regarding this is, if there is indeed a condemnation of Sr. Mary of St. Peter's revelations around 1897, then why do we see books with imprimatur repeatedly printed throughout the 20th century continuing to approve of the revelations and Holy Face devotion itself? Below is a list of books gathered from the 20th century, each with imprimatur, in which 100% of them fully promote Sister Mary of St. Peter and her revelations:
It's also important to note that the Oratory of the Holy Face in Tours, France, has been operating for over 130 years and is still operational to this day. Are we really to believe they have been unknowingly operating contrary to Rome for more than a century?
Likewise, if the Holy Face devotion were truly condemned in the 1890s, then we should see references to this in newspapers after that time, such as mention of the shutting down of Holy Face Confraternities, or of restrictions placed on them. Yet when we performed a search of a database of over 300 million newspapers from the 1890s to present looking for condemnations or restrictions placed on the Holy Face devotion, Archconfraternity, or individual Confraternities, we could not find a single negative article.
To argue that all of the books above were ignorant of a condemnation from Rome, and that not a single newspaper mentions anything related to a condemnation obviously crosses the boundary of absurdity. All of the above books show that the Archconfraternity and revelations have obviously been continuously approved throughout the 20th century, and all newspaper articles concur. If there were truly a decree condemning the Holy Face devotion, it needs to be presented. However as of this writing, it has not.
If we look at the original letters from Tours to Pope Leo XIII requesting a Confraternity and Archconfraternity of the Holy Face, the letters clearly mentioned Leo Dupont and the countless miracles that were occurring in Tours. This was the main reason why Pope Leo XIII was so quick to approve the Confraternity, and then to quickly raise it to an Archconfraternity, and contrary to tradition, to make the Archconfraternity for the entire world.
We need only look at the book, "The Holy Man of Tours" (imprimatur 1951) to see mention of these miracles being associated with Sister Mary of St. Peter and Leo Dupont:
Page 149: "By the end of the year, so many miraculous cures were obtained by anointing with the oil in the lamp and the recitation of the Litany of the Holy Face, composed by Sister Marie Pierre, that Leo was unable to keep an exact count of them. Cancers, interior and exterior ulcers, cataracts and other maladies were reported cured."
Page 151: "To give even a sketchy account of the numberless miracles that took place in Leo Dupont's home, and those that were reported to him in duly signed certificates, would require more than one heavy volume."
Back cover: "The miracles became so numerous that Pope Pius IX declared Leo Dupont to be perhaps the greatest miracle worker in Church history."
To put it simply, once the miraculous healings began occurring to those coming in contact with the water at Lourdes, that immediately removed any doubt as to the authenticity of Bernadette's revelations. Likewise, the miracles in Tours were equal in magnitude to those in Lourdes, lasting 30 straight years, and since it was the prayers from Sister Mary of St. Peter that were directly responsible, this also removes doubt about the authenticity of her revelations. God would not grant such marvelous miracles related to someone claiming false revelations.
Also consider these statements from the “Holy Face in the Documents of the Church” (imprimatur 1959), by Don Stefano Pedica:
Page 146: "We have interesting information about the life of Sr. Mary of St. Peter in a publication dated 1958. Her life and revelations have an eminently ascetic character and agree with the principle foundations of the faith; on the merit of which however the Church has not yet announced."
Page 148: "It is owing to this soul (Sr. Mary of St. Peter) that Leo XIII would erect the Archconfraternity of the Holy Face in the city of Tours on October 1, 1885…"
Page 150: "Thanks to him (Leo Dupont) and under the influence of Sr. Mary of St. Peter, the devotion to the Holy Face, not entirely new in the Church, but adapted to the needs of the moment, has been in a sense popularized by this new event and thus renewed for the faithful of our days."
To add to these quotes it might also be added that both Sr. Mary of St. Peter and Leo Dupont died in the odor of sanctity, according to the books on their lives.
Furthermore, it's also important to note the miracle in the Vatican with the original veil of Veronica in 1849, which was recorded in the Vatican daybook. Copies of the original veil were immediately made in the Vatican during the 3 hours that the miracle occurred, and having been touched to the original veil, they were sent abroad. One of these relics was obtained by Leo Dupont. Shortly afterward, it was Leo Dupont utilizing the prayers from the revelations of Sr. Mary St. Peter that resulted in the 30 years of miracles in his home (now the Oratory of the Holy Face). This is an obvious sign from God that He wanted attention brought to the Holy Face devotion at the time.
It is also worth noting here that whenever Leo Dupont is mentioned in a book from the Church, Sr. Mary St. Peter is almost always mentioned at the same time. The Archconfraternity would not exist without both of them together.
Another crucial point to consider is that Pope Leo XIII was clearly notified about the events and miracles in Tours, and in response he chose to create an Archconfraternity for the whole world via papal brief. He was declaring to the whole world that this was safe and good. Now to suddenly declare that the revelations of Sr. Mary St. Peter were pernicious to the piety of the faithful and that they contained novelties is to say that Pope Leo XIII misled the faithful of the entire world. Certainly a true Pope cannot endanger all the faithful of the world. To say that Pope Leo XIII approved the devotion and related revelations as good and holy and then 12 years later completely reversed his decision, declaring them as exceedingly harmful, seems quite unlikely.
St. Therese of the Holy Face was quoted as saying the Holy Face was the “foundation of all her piety”. In the book from the Secretary of State to Pope Pius XII, it also mentions St. Therese kept a picture of the Holy Face attached to her bed curtain, and kept a lock of hair from Sr. Mary St. Peter with her at all times. It seems quite unlikely that St. Therese could have attained sainthood through such dedication to a false devotion.
The book, "The Holy Face in the Documents of the Church", as mentioned above, provides a quote from the Holy Office confirming that the Holy Face devotion is still approved. To doubt the Holy Face devotion inevitably leaves the average Catholic to doubt the value of miracles, to doubt the value of imprimaturs, and to conclude that a true Pope can mislead the faithful. These have all the markings of coming from an enemy of the Church.
Regarding enemies of the Church at the time, we know modernism and Freemasonry were on the rise and out to destroy the Church. Furthermore, numerous times in the revelations of Sr. Mary of St. Peter she mentions that our Lord told her that what He was revealing to her was "the most beautiful work under the sun", and that the devil would do anything he could to squash it.
It should also be noted that many traditional Catholic priests and bishops across the globe currently approve of the Holy Face devotion.
With 30 years of miracles backing Sr. Mary of St. Peter and Leo Dupont, and 100% of the books found from the 20th century containing an imprimatur (including one from the Secretary of State to Pope Pius XII), and the fact that Pope Leo XIII could not have possibly endangered the entire Church, it is obvious the revelations of Sr. Mary of St. Peter are authentic and the Holy Face devotion safe to practice.