Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

A Badly Fictionalized Life of Jesus

by Unknown


This unsigned article appeared on the front page of L'Osservatore Romano, January, 1960, along with the official decree placing the Poem of the Man-God on the Index of Forbidden Books. The article provides an explanation for the action taken by the Holy Office.

Larger Work

L'Osservatore Romano



Publisher & Date

Vatican, January 6, 1960

"Elsewhere in our newspaper we have reported on the decree issued by the  Holy Office which placed on the Index a work of four volumes penned by an anonymous author (in this edition, at least) and published at Isola del Liri. Though dealing exclusively with religious matters, the aforementioned volumes have no “imprimatur” as required by Canon 1385, sect.1, n. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

In a brief preface, the editor writes that the Author, "like Dante, has provided us with a work in which numerous characters are framed against a splendid descriptive backdrop of times and places, speaking to each other and to us in an alternatively sweet, strong, or admonishing voice. The result of this is a work that is both humble and imposing: the literary homage of a suffering invalid to the Great Comforter, Jesus ”. Instead, to a careful reader, these volumes are nothing more than a long romanticized life of Jesus. Apart from the vainglorious association with Dante and notwithstanding the fact that a number of distinguished individuals have given their support to this publication (whose doubtless good faith had been surprised), nonetheless the Holy Office has deemed it necessary to place this work on the Index of Forbidden Books. The reasons are easily identifiable by those who have a Carthusian-like patience to read the nearly four thousand pages dense print.

First of all, the reader is struck by the length of speeches attributed to Jesus and to the Blessed Virgin; by the interminable dialog between the various characters who populate these pages. The four Gospels present us with a humble, reserved Jesus; his speeches are lean and incisive, but have maximum effectiveness. Instead, in this type of romanticized story, Jesus is most talkative, almost ostentatious, always ready to proclaim himself Messiah and Son of God and to give lessons using the same kind of terminology that might be used by a theologian today.

In the story of the Gospels, we admire the humility and the silence of the Mother of Jesus; instead, for the author (or authoress) of this publication, the Blessed Virgin Mary has the fluency of a modern-day propagandist. She is always present everywhere and always ready to give lessons in Marian theology that are up to date with the latest studies by current specialists in the field.

The story unfolds slowly, in an almost gossipy manner.  There are new facts, new parables, new characters and many, many women who follow Jesus. Some pages are written in a rather inappropriately and recall certain descriptions and scenes from modern romance novels. A few examples of this include the confession made to Mary by a certain Aglae, a woman of loose morals (Vol I, p.790 and following), the rather less than edifying story found on p.387 and following of Vol I, and a dance performed – certainly not modestly –for Pilate in the Praetorium. (Vol IV, p.75). And this point provokes a particular reflection: This work, by its very nature and in accordance with the intentions of the author and publisher, could easily fall into the hands of women religious and students in their universities. Should that occur, it would be difficult to avoid the spiritual danger or damage that could be caused by reading passages of the kind cited above.

Specialists in biblical studies will no doubt find many historical and geographical blunders, and the like. But this being a ... romance, these inventions obviously serve to enhance the picturesque and dramatic qualities of the book. But, in the midst of so much ostentatious theological culture, one may pick up a few... pearls that hardly shine for their Catholic orthodoxy. Here and there, on the subject of the sin of Adam and Eve, an opinion is expressed that is rather uncommon and inaccurate.

In Volume I, on page 63 we read this title: “Mary may be called the second-born of the Father”: an assertion repeated in the text on the following page. The explanation limits the meaning of this statement, thereby avoiding a heresy; but it does not eliminate the strong impression that there is a desire to construct a new Mariology, which easily transgresses the boundaries of convenience.

In the second Vol. on page 772 one reads: "Paradise is Light, perfume and harmony. But if the Father does not rejoice in Paradise, contemplating the All Beautiful [Mary], which makes the Earth a paradise, and if in the future Paradise should lack the living Lily within whose bosom contains three pistils of the flame of the divine Trinity—light, perfume, and harmony—the joy of Paradise would be diminished by half." A heretic and extremely confused concept, fortunately; because if one were to take it literally, it would not be spared from severe censure.

To finish, I refer to another strange and imprecise claim, in which it is said of the Madonna: "You, in the time in which you will remain on Earth, second to Peter "as an ecclesiastic hierarchy..”

The Work, therefore, would have deserved a condemnation even if it were only considered a romance novel, if for nothing else, for reasons of irreverence.

But in reality, the author has greater pretensions. Skimming through the volumes, here and there one reads the words "Jesus says...," "Mary says...; " or also: "I see..." and the like. And then, towards the end of the IV volume (page 839) the author reveals himself as... an authoress, named Maria (Valtorta), and writes that she is a witness of the entire messianic period. These words remind us that, about ten years ago, several voluminous typescripts that contained purported visions and revelations were in circulation. It was then that the competent Ecclesiastical Authority had prohibited the publishing of these typescripts and ordered that they be withdrawn from circulation. Now we see them reproduced virtually wholesale in this current Work.

Therefore, this public condemnation of the Supreme Holy Congregation is all the more appropriate, for reasons of serious disobedience.

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