What should we make of the book The Poem of the Man God by Maria Valtorta?

To answer to questions which were asked of us about Maria Valtorta, we publish here a text coming from Le Sel de la terre n° 7 (doctrinal review of the Dominicans of Avrillé).

For more details, you can consult the book of Fr Herrbach: “Des visions sur l’Évangile” on the website: http://www.clovis-diffusion.com/

Maria Valtorta died in 1961 “in an incomprehensible physical isolation” (in an insane asylum).

Her principal work The Poem of the Man God, which was written in the years from 1943 to 1947, took up 10,000 pages of note-books.

Her confessor Father Migliorini, claims to have been received in audience with Pope Pius XII alongside Father Berti, in February 1948 and the Pope is supposed to have said to them to publish this work, adding ” Whoever reads it, will understand“.  This oral authorisation of the Pope seems very unlikely: The Pope could only have given the authorisation of the work if he had read it and been assured of its orthodoxy; but how would the Pope have found the time to read these 10,000 pages?  This authorisation appears even less credible when the Holy Office forbade the work definitively (with no possible correction) one year later in February 1949.  The first four volumes were however published without Imprimatur from 1956 to 1959.  On the 16th of December 1959, the edited books were put on The Index [Editor: The Index of Forbidden Books].   The Osservatore Romano (official newspaper of the Vatican) published the placement on The Index accompanied with an article justifying the condemnation.  Here are some extracts:

“The four Gospels present us with a Jesus humble and full of reserve; His speaking is sober, incisive but supremely efficacious.  On the contrary in this sort of romantic History [Editor:  i.e. The Poem of the Man God], Jesus is excessively loquacious and resembles a man of propaganda, always ready to proclaim Himself the Messiah and Son of God, and to give out lessons of theology, using the same terms that a professor of theology would use today.

In the Gospel narratives, we admire the humility and the silence of the Mother of Jesus.  On the contrary for the author of this work, the most blessed Virgin Mary with the talkativeness of a modern lawyer, is always present everywhere and always ready to give lessons of Marian theology, perfectly up to date with the latest current studies of specialists on the matter…

Some scenes are rather indecent and make us think of scenes from a modern novel.  We will only give a few examples, such as the confession made to Mary by a certain Aglae, a woman of ill-repute (1st volume, p.790 and after1);  the not very edifying narrative from pages 887 and onwards in the first volume;  a ballet executed in an immodest fashion before Pilate at the pretorium (volume 4, p. 75) etc…

To finish let us point out another strange and imprecise affirmation where it is said of the Madonna, “You, all the time that you will be on this earth, you will be the second after Peter, in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. [It is we who underline, says the review]”

Here are some examples of the errors and improprieties of this book

  • Our Lord thinks that words tire now and we must have recourse to visions… of Maria Valtorta; 
  • The tree of life in the terrestrial paradise is only a symbol; 
  • The sin of Adam and Eve consisted in the use of marriage in a spirit of lust; 
  • Saint Anne gave birth without pain; 
  • Our Lady brags of her humility and her calm; 
  • She says that she redeemed women through her maternity; 
  • She said that she saw God at her creation; 
  • Satan became flesh in the form of Judas.

One can note numerous contradictions with the Gospel, for example:

  • Our Lord is supposed to have sucked with avidity the vinegar given by the soldier;
  • On the Cross Our Lord did not cease to cry out “Mommy!” and she replied: “Yes, my treasure, I am here”; 
  • Our Lady gets angry, cries out and becomes “almost” delirious after the death of her Son;
  • and this is not to mention the numerous sensualities which are spread throughout the work.

Let us finish by citing a talk by Archbishop Lefebvre at a retreat, where he expresses his reserve regarding Maria Valtorta:

It is better for us […] not to spend too much time on the material details of the life of Our Lord. […] These books which present themselves as revelations of the Life of Our Lord, in my opinion, can be a danger, precisely because they represent Our Lord in a too concrete manner, too much in the details of His life.  I am thinking of course of Maria Valtorta.   And perhaps for some this reading can do good, it can bring them close to Our Lord, to try to imagine what would have been the life of the Apostles with Our Lord, the life at Nazareth, the life of Our Lord as the visits of the cities of Israel.

But there is a danger, a great danger; that is to humanize too much, to concretize too much, and to not sufficiently show the face of God, in this Life of Our Lord.  This is the danger.  I do not know if we should recommend so much to people the reading of these books, if they are not forewarned.  I do not know if that would raise them up and make them know Our Lord, such as He was, such as He is, such as we should know Him and believe Him to be.2

Last advice : Rather than read these novels where errors abound, it would be better to read Holy Scripture with good commentary based on the Fathers of the Church3, or even good lives of the saints4.

(From Le Sel de la terre, n° 7)

  1. These references correspond to the edition published at that time in Italian.
  2. Retreat preached in september 1986, fourth instruction. Father Emily cites, at the end of his work, a part of this testimony, as well as an extract of a letter of Archbishop Lefebvre which goes along the same lines.
  3. For example, The Great life of Jesus Christ, by Ludolphe le Chartreux or the commentaries of Bossuet.
  4. The lives of the Saints, except in the case of a bad biography, make us remain in the real rather than depart into the imaginary, as is the case of these “visions” . The lives of Saints have what is needed to nourish the imagination, the heart and the intelligence of all Christians, even the most simple. Even today, one can find good illustrated lives of the saints.