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Why should we take 'visionaries' at their word?

YOU couldn't make it up, or perhaps you could -- if you expect people to believe that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and all the saints and angels have private conversations with you in your mind.

Apparently a Cavan housewife and self-declared visionary called Anne and her organisation, Direction For Our Times, is seeking to buy the 44-acre Norbertine monastery at Kilnacrott Abbey.

This property became infamous when serial child abuser Fr Brendan Smyth was buried there in the middle of the night and his grave sealed with concrete.

Now we're told by local priest Fr Daragh Connolly that Jesus himself has asked Anne to buy the site to bring healing to abuse victims. One has to wonder where was this Jesus when Fr Smyth was on an abuse rampage up and down the country and if he couldn't have spoken up for the children then instead of offering real estate advice now.

Anne's books have been bringing in the shillings to the tune of several hundred thousand euro, so it helps to have Jesus as your promoter.

Yet all is not well in this heavenly realm. Another long-established spiritual writer and healer, Sr Briege McKenna, has now withdrawn her support for the alleged Co Cavan-based visionary. The matter featured on RTE's Liveline show yesterday.

Sr Briege, who along with Vincentian priest Fr Kevin Scallon are renowned for their international healing ministry, has published a note on her website saying: "It is with regret that I have discerned the need to withdraw my endorsement and support of Direction for our Times".

Fr Scallon goes further in his comments, questioning the authenticity of 'Direction for Our Times'. Both had been firm supporters of Anne.

Bishop O'Reilly, under whose jurisdiction Anne falls, established a commission to investigate the authenticity of the phenomenon in 2010. He said the "work of evaluation is continuing and the outcome of it will be made public in due course".

Dr O'Reilly pointed out that his "permission to distribute the messages does not imply a final judgment on whether they are authentic private revelation".

What always makes me laugh about self-declared visionaries such as Anne, Joe Coleman (remember his prediction of tsunamis last year?) and Christina Gallagher at the Achill House of Prayer is that, despite God himself conversing with them freely, they expect us to believe them at their word.

They are immensely media shy. Anne apparently has claimed that she had a statement from Our Lady asking the media to respect Anne's privacy.

While asking for privacy, she is not shy in getting priests and a theologian to go on the airwaves to stake her claim.

Very often you shall know such visionaries not by the priests or theologians who advocate for them, but by the money trail. Already Anne needs a 44-acre site to bring healing when I'm sure there are churches all over Co Cavan that would welcome more regular congregations and donations.

Perhaps it is best to give the last word to Jesus himself as this phenomenon of false visionaries (remember the moving statues?) is as old as the bible itself -- he said: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits."

The fruits of Anne's ministry seem to be turning a bit sour now and hopefully others will speak up to support Sr Briege McKenna.