You thought that Charismatic TV evangelists had a corner on bogus schemes to filch people's hard earned money out of their pockets. You thought that they were the great exponents of bogus visions and strange apparitions. Those TV charlatans deserve to be exposed for how they have made merchandise of the gospel but in many ways they are mere beginners at the game. The real experts in reeling people in with false claims and bogus visions are the pope and his cohorts. For centuries they have beguiled unwary souls with empty claims of appearances by the Virgin Mary. They have made millions out of useless pilgrimages. They have plied a lucrative trade in useless relics. And if interest seems to be waning they can always come up with some new apparition or vision or miracle or whatever. Listen to this.
Between 1664 and 1718 a girl who lived in the French Alps by the name of Benoite Rencurel claimed to have received visitations from the Virgin Mary-that is from she was 17 until she was 71 years old. She claimed that the Virgin appeared to her every day for four months in 1664, instructing her to build a church and a house to receive priests. All that took place back in the 17th century. So why raise it today? Here's why.
A few weeks ago, Monsignor Jean-Michel di Falco Leandri spoke at a Mass that was broadcast nationally on France-2 television and announced that he recognized the "supernatural origin" of the apparitions to Benoite Rencurel. In an interview on France-Info radio, the bishop said the decision meant the church "has committed itself in an official way to say to pilgrims, ‘You can come here in total confidence.'" He reported that the recognition process involved a panel of "experts," including two theologians and an investigating judge.
Today, the sanctuary that Rencurel founded welcomes about 120,000 pilgrims a year. Some of them go there in the hope of receiving healing oils based on a method that the Virgin Mary was said to pass on to the Alpine shepherd girl. By adding it to the official list of alleged genuine appearances by the Virgin Mary the Church of Rome has made sure to multiply those numbers-and the revenues the pilgrims will bring.
I must confess that I know nothing about Benoite Rencurel. I have no idea if she was devout or deranged or both. What I do know is that the Bible does not traffic in occult appearances and that the claimed visitation by the Virgin Mary is a farce. Yet Rome has now officially recognized Rencurel's claimed visions as genuine-after almost 300 years, no less! "You can come here in total confidence," Rome is telling its deluded pilgrims. Come for what? Have confidence in what? Does she mean that pilgrims will receive an indulgence? Or some needed grace? Does she mean that Mary will somehow do them good? If so, she is as guilty as the worst Charismatic charlatans who disgrace so-called Christian television.