The text, published on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith website, lays out guidelines to help distinguish those who have experienced real apparitions from con artists seeking fame, or financial or sexual gain.
Whether the claims have any basis in reality is judged largely on the claimant’s character, with “positive criteria” such as “honesty and rectitude of moral life” weighed against negative elements such as “a search for profit”.
Bishops are warned against people who swear to have witnessed the supernatural but have “psychological disorders or psychopathic tendencies” or have committed “gravely immoral acts” during their vision.
One of the most famous cases currently being inspected by the Vatican is the supposed apparitions of the Virgin Mary to six local Catholics in Medjugorje, Bosnia, who claim she has been appearing to them once a month since childhood.
In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI defrocked Tomislav Vlasic, the visionaries’ former “spiritual director”, for mysticism, manipulation and exaggerating the claims – as well as secretly fathering a child with a nun