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The “Rosary of the Unborn™” Controversy

Posted by Matt Yonke (June 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm)

Rosary of the UnbornHere at the Pro-Life Action League we have received many inquiries over the years about the “Rosary of the Unborn™,” a rosary produced by Holy Love Ministries in Elyria, Ohio that claims to bear certain promises from the Blessed Virgin Mary through messages given to purported visionary Maureen Sweeney Kyle.

People have contacted us to exhort us to employ and promote the devotion, but others have had questions about the veracity of the claims surrounding it.

Relevant Radio’s Father Rocky Hoffman was recently asked about Holy Love Ministries on the air and further clarified the Catholic Church’s position on the matter on Facebook, so it seems like a good time to address the issue.

Controversial Visions Make Extraordinary Claims

Holy Love Ministries claims that Our Lady gave this message to Maureen Sweeney Kyle on July 2, 2001:

“I see you are using the new Rosary of the Unborn. I affirm to you, my daughter, that each Hail Mary prayed from a loving heart will rescue one of these innocent lives from death by abortion. …”

Maureen asks: “Blessed Mother, do you mean any Hail Mary or just one prayed on the Rosary of the Unborn?”

Blessed Mother: “This is a special grace attached to this particular rosary.”

Understandably, in their fervor to save babies from abortion, many pro-lifers have latched on to this devotion. Some even figure that it’s worth the risk that the promise might be untrue because of the great good that would be done if it is true.

Discerning Spirits to See if They Are from God

But when it comes to matters of alleged apparition and private revelation, we must test the spirits to see if they are from God, as St. John said (cf. 1 Jn. 4:1).

That’s exactly what Bishop Richard Lennon of the Diocese of Cleveland was asked to do by the Vatican. They asked Bishop Lennon to discern for the faithful whether Holy Love and the associated apparitions were from God or not and give an official opinion. He issued a letter [PDF] and a decree [PDF] in November 2009, which included the following:

I declare that the alleged apparitions and locutions to Maureen Sweeney Kyle are not supernatural in origin.

I forbid members of the clergy of any jurisdiction to celebrate the sacraments on the site of Holy Love Ministries.

I admonish the faithful of the Diocese of Cleveland to cease gathering for any religious, liturgical, spiritual or devotional purpose on the site of Holy Love Ministries.

First, Bishop Lennon declares that the apparitions are not of supernatural origin. This means they did not come from Our Lady. Maureen Sweeney Kyle can’t promise anything on Mary’s behalf if the visions didn’t really come from Mary to begin with. That means that the promises Mrs. Kyle claims to have received are either innocently misunderstood (i.e., she thought she received a vision but did not) or they are maliciously made up.

In either case, it would not be in the best interests of pro-lifers to be praying based on false promises.

Second, Bishop Lennon forbids priests from celebrating the sacraments and admonishes the faithful not to pray on the premises of Holy Love. This is because Holy Love Ministries is not a Catholic ministry. They claim to be an “ecumenical ministry,” but they use the term “ecumenical” not as most people do—to convey that they welcome people of other faiths—but rather to make it perfectly clear that they are not subject to the authority of the Catholic Church.

Holy Love Responds with Rebellion

Bishop Lennon 

Bishop Richard Lennon of the Diocese of Cleveland

In fact, when Bishop Lennon issued his statement, Holy Love responded [PDF] with a statement of their own in which they told the faithful that Bishop Lennon’s words were not binding on the faithful and were merely his personal opinion. They encouraged the faithful to continue to pray at the shrine, despite Bishop Lennon’s explicit command otherwise.

As if that weren’t enough, they claim they were visited by none other than St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who each supported Holy Love’s rebellion against Bishop Lennon.

Jesus and the saints do not encourage disobedience to the Church. Even when Our Lady has appeared and the Church has been hesitant to accept her message, she always encouraged those to whom she spoke to pursue docility and patience, never to take matters into their own hands or defy the bishops of the Church, who are the successors of the Apostles.

Motives: Prayerful or Pecuniary?

On top of all the heresy and disobedience going on at Holy Love, there is the issue of the price. They charge $24.95 apiece for the Rosary of the Unborn™ (and yes, the term “Rosary of the Unborn” is trademarked) which, by all accounts, is a fairly cheap plastic Rosary. I’ve heard numerous complaints of these rosaries falling apart and being very cheaply made.

Further, if every prayer offered on one of these Rosaries saved a baby from abortion, they should be giving them away. To hold these supposed graces hostage with a $25 fee would be an outrageous scandal. If 50 people prayed 5 decades of the Rosary per day on the “Rosary of the Unborn™,” we wouldn’t have abortion in America anymore. But that’s simply not happening.

If it were in fact true that a baby is saved from abortion merely by piously praying a Hail Mary on a particular type of rosary, then we should drop all the other pro-life work we’re doing right now and do absolutely nothing else but exactly that. Constantly.

Fighting Abortion Takes Hard Work

Quite simply, fighting abortion is not that easy. To be sure, the pro-life struggle involves prayer—and lots of it—but it also involves a lot of work, too (cf. St. Benedict’s motto, Ora et Labora, “Pray and Work”).

In short, the Pro-Life Action League would encourage you to stay far away from the “Rosary of the Unborn™” and Holy Love Ministries. They are based in lies at best and possibly demonic.

The people running Holy Love are endangering the souls of the faithful whom they are tempting into grave sin by encouraging them to disobey their bishop. And worse yet, they seem to be inventing these promises from Our Lady all to make a quick buck on rosary sales. What could be more deplorable?

But every lie has a grain of truth to it, and that’s where we can take heart. The Rosary is one of our strongest weapons in fighting abortion. Our Lady cares deeply for unborn babies and their mothers, and acquiring her intercession doesn’t depend on which particular rosary you’re holding in your hands while you’re praying it. So let the revelation of this fraud push us all to rely ever more deeply on the Rosary and other prayers as we strive to fight for these precious children of God.

For Those Who Have Been Devoted to the Rosary of the Unborn™

If up until this time, you have believed the messages given to Maureen Kyle were authentic and been devoted to the “Rosary of the Unborn™”, this was presumably no fault of your own, provided you were acting out of a sincere desire to spiritually combat the evil of abortion and were previously unaware of Bishop Lennon’s definitive statement regarding Holy Love Ministries.

But from this point forward, now that you are aware of Bishop Lennon’s statement, I would urge you to heed the aforementioned Father Rocky Hoffman’s pithy advice: “Obey the Bishop. That’s what we do.”

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70 Responses to “The “Rosary of the Unborn™” Controversy”

Note: Visitor comments do not necessarily reflect the views of the Pro-Life Action League.

  1. melba abelardo says:

    We should not lose hope that the Bishop of Cleveland will one day reconcile with the Holy Love Ministries. This is the same bishop who closed 50 churches in his diocese. He is now trying to reconcile with the priests under his authority, and busy reopening at least 11 churches, as ordered by the Vatican. This is a hopeful sign.

    Meanwhile, we should continue to be faithful in prayer, forgiving one another, especially at this time when prayer and encouragement are very much needed.

    May each and every one of us who love God continue to love one another even when we view things from a different perspective.

    September 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm
  2. Louise Ingebrethsen says:

    What I would like to say is this………..

    Those of you who are warning people to NOT have anything to do with this ministry is truly putting your souls in jeopardy. Think about it for a second………first of all who on earth has the right to tell anyone NOT TO PRAY at a certain place ??? It doesn’t matter whether the bishop thinks or doesn’t think that these apparitions are true, he has NO RIGHT WHAT-SO-EVER to say that to anyone especially to a group of people, where prayer is “more” powerful when people are “gathered” together……how dare he say that. The Lord would NEVER want, or expect us to “obey” any priest or bishop that tells us such a horrific thing. We are NOT suppose to obey the clergy if they are telling us to do something that goes AGAINST God/the teachings of the church/the commandments.

    Secondly……..How crazy is it to say that you should drop all pro-life work if it were true that each rosary bead, on the rosary of the unborn, saved a baby ??? The pro-life work is to get the law over-turned, am I not right ? Once the law is over-turned what pro-life work is necessary except to maybe have doctors give out pamphlets to patients that they think might do there own abortion. So it’s really stupid to say something like that. Saying the rosary constanty for the unborn would be the greatest thing ever…………St Padre Pio constantly had the rosary in his hand praying it even while he was talking/administering to people. Imagine if we all did that while at the same time doing work to change the law ???

    Thirdly………..what’s wrong with the Blessed Mother attaching a particular promise to a particular item. Did she not attach a particular promise and graces to the “brown scapular”, though people can and are still are being saved without wearing it. Of course babies can and are being saved by using regular rosaries, and even by people praying their own prayers. but the rosary itself makes prayer more “powerful”, and the rosary of the unborn makes it even more powerful…..one baby per bead. When God allows the Blessed Mother to attach these promises, “I believe” it’s a way for us to prove just how badly we want something……..we would be willing to dish out the money to buy it, and the cost is NOT atronomical. You actually expect them to give it away for “free” when they themselves have to pay to have it made (how stupid is that). When we take the time and make ourselves go to the church to pray in front of the tabernacle our prayers is also more powerful………….special promises attached to that………or even praying before a crucifix. So who are you to say that special promises can’t or won’t be attached to the rosary of the unborn ??? The devil is convincing you of these things, just like how he’s telling the bishop to not allow praying at this particular site……….you guys need to watch out for your souls when you tell people these things. Tell me what “wrong” could be done by doing these things whether or not they are true ? But MUCH wrong can and will be done by telling people to stay away from these things !!!

    Please think about this !!!

    November 17, 2012 at 7:18 pm
  3. John says:

    Hello,
    yes obedience is very important to the church authorities but as someone said, can any one tell another where or where not to pray, ok kneeling down in a supermarket (UK terminology) would not be appropriate for example and you would get stopped but as for praying the rosary for the unborn, that must be a good thing if you believe in the promises attached to it or not.

    November 26, 2012 at 12:38 pm
  4. margaret leiberton says:

    The PRAYER is what counts, not whether one holds onto one’s fingers or onto beads when one does the praying. Our calling upon God or His Blessed Mother/Spouse/Daughter is what we ought to do. We ought not to focus on a cheap piece of plastic which costs $25 or which costs nothing. We ought to simply listen and respond to the presence of God by our petitions, by our thanks, by our praise.

    December 18, 2012 at 1:33 am
  5. Lyann says:

    Louise Ingebrethsen,” It doesn’t matter whether the bishop thinks or doesn’t think that these apparitions are true, he has NO RIGHT WHAT-SO-EVER”
    I think you are confusing the Catholic Church with some other denomination, We are obedient in this Church. I stand with the Holy See & her Bishops! I think it is very important in our time to be united, instead of divided in our Holy Church.
    “You actually expect them to give it away for “free” when they themselves have to pay to have it made (how stupid is that). ” I guess you better put my family in that stupid line; we have given away more than 1000 rosaries that have not been free to make, package or mail.

    February 14, 2013 at 9:32 am
  6. Binu says:

    http://www.catholicapologetics.info/modernproblems/vatican2/obediance.htm

    March 5, 2013 at 12:11 am
  7. Denis says:

    I am assuming that all of those who believe that the local Bishop is infallible in his pronouncements also believe that St. Joan of Arc was justly condemned as a heretic and burned as a witch under the authorit of the local Bishop

    March 12, 2013 at 2:14 am
  8. Ruby Nicdao says:

    The true seers of apparitions were obedient to their local bishop. To disobey the bishop who has the authority to make a judgement of the apparition is to place oneself in danger of being deceived by the devil, the great deceiver.

    March 13, 2013 at 11:58 pm
  9. Maureen Devlin says:

    Whether the Bishop is wrong or right at this point should not be our focus, although his decision has bothered many people. Our responsibility as children is to obey. The Catholic Church must be extremely discerning in matters of “apparitions” and “messages from heaven”. Take a look at many of the saints of the past who were “silenced” under obedience, and complied with the authority of the Church. Christ Himself was silenced and crucified, out of obedience to the Father, but He rose again. The Bishop was asked by the Vatican, the Seat of Peter to discern what he thought the Holy Spirit was telling him. If he is wrong then this will come out in the end. God always has His way and we as members of His body must be patient and obedient to the Holy Father and the Bishops given to us. . So it is with the matters of God. If this is from God it will be proven so and we can know that we did the right thing from the beginning as Christ would want us to. If it is not from God it is prudent to be obedient and stay away from it. Maureen Devlin – Canada

    March 23, 2013 at 9:28 am
  10. debra Jones says:

    I have 3 days before I pull my granddaughter out of school as we will stand in front of the abortion clinic saying the rosary and perhaps attempt the chaplet for the unborn, even though I do not have that particular rosary for it. I hope the Blessed Mother will be greatful that a poor sinner as I will be blessed to have taken the time to have prayed the chaplet for the unborn. As for Holy Love Ministries. I ask God everyday to show me the truth and the gift of discernment so that I can follow the path of the true church at all times. Many will come in sheep’s clothing. Many will come in His name. We must be on guard. I find my own church is not what it once was. When they remove Jesus from the Altar, what becomes of the church? Where have they put Him? They continue on crucifying Him. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Holy Love is one of the world’s only hope for a sinful world. Live the messages. Pray the rosary.

    March 25, 2013 at 6:43 pm
  11. judi says:

    Only The Holy Father is Infallible.
    Bishops are not and can make a PRIDEFUL Discernment.
    We only have to look at the recent Cardinal of Scotland and his pronouncements on Priestly celibacy , only to be revealed for what he was!!!!!1
    Only time will tell but in charity you will be well adviced to start living a Life of Holy Love.

    March 26, 2013 at 4:27 pm
  12. DominicaPia says:

    the pride and arrogance that is coming out of some of these posts is astonishing! Even in the life of St. Faustina we find that though some of the priests directives may have been different than Jesus’, Jesus expected her to be completely obedient to what they told her to do. so, what is the problem with following the command of the bishop when you know full well that there are a lot of red flags going up about this particular devotion and to act contrarily is being in direct and obvious turning away? why even think of the possibility of risking your soul over something so pithy and prideful on your part? that’s what it boils down to. what you want and think is right vs. what you are being told you ought to avoid for your own good. Jesus wasn’t the Messiah people were expecting at all and they persecuted Him in their pride (hello, satan!). wouldn’t obedience be expected of us as the Church’s children? especially if priests act in the person of Christ for sacraments and such. their dignity is above ours. And aren’t you forgetting that next to Mass there is no prayer that is better loved by Jesus and Mary. my question is, why fret and get your feathers ruffled if this rosary of the unborn devotion isn’t approved? why not ask our Lady for the graces you would like with the traditional Rosary? we know for a fact that the promises of our Lady have been approved and on top of that, our Lady Herself says that she will grant all that is asked by recitation of the holy Rosary. problem solved. have confidence. use your good intentions for saving babies while still being under the loving mantle of the Church in the Church’s approved ways. God Bless you all.

    June 5, 2013 at 5:07 pm
  13. jeslovesall says:

    I agree with DominicaPia’s post. I had been given the rosary of the unborn in the past, but I had not read the messages and had no idea there was so much controversy behind them. I have learned first hand of the importance of obedience and disobedience and regardless of personal opinion, if a Bishop who has looked into this says you cannot follow those messages, then we should not follow them. We already have the standard rosary which we can offer to Our Blessed Mother for the babies. One of the messages I read that was very strange from the “Holy Love” website is that they require that people purchase their rosary only and to not buy any other replicas, as if the point is to buy their rosary and no so much to pray for the unborn babies. We, the “faithful” ought to obey (St. Padre Pio’s example), should the Bishop make a mistake, he will be subject to God. Unless you know it goes completely against our moral belief, then we consult with another Church authority; otherwise, we should trust in the Bishop’s order. Please pray for the Mercy of God to be with me as when I have disobeyed my superior (even if not with the intention of disobeying; on another personal situation; but I still did and now I’m asking the Lord to make right what I disregarded). May God have Mercy on all of us and make us obedient children trusting in His love, forgiveness and healing….Jesus makes all things right! Let’s pray for a humble and obedient Church!

    June 30, 2013 at 5:36 pm
  14. Marie Hemming says:

    I wish I could visit Marantha springs (the Lourdes of the USA), but at this time I am unable. However, I had the good fortune to attend a retreat in San Diego and met women who had been praying the rosary for 8+years (it is still intact) and one great grandma had visited the site 3x, once with 60 of her family members. Just as Immacullee Ilibageza is evangelizing the rosary and spreading the good news that once does not need to be catholic to pray the rosary; so too is Holy Love Missionaries spreading the word that one does not need to be catholic to pray the rosary of the unborn. Gratefully Bishops of Ibarra and Guayaquil in Ecador approve of the movement. It is important to note that “since the abolition of Canon 1399 and 2318 of the former Code of the Canon Law by Paul VI AAS58 (1966) page 1186, publication about new apparitions, revelation, prophecies, miracles, etc., have been allowed to be distributed and read by the faithful without the express permission of the Church, providing that they contain nothing which contravenes faith and morals. This mean no imprimatur is necessary.” (from The Discernment of Visionaries and Apparitions Today by Albert J. Hebert, S.M., Page III. The two primary directives of the Holy Love Missionaries as directed by Mary is to 1. Practice Holy Love in each moment 2. Pray the rosary of the unborn. Personally when I pray this rosary it brings me much peace.

    September 2, 2013 at 7:02 pm
  15. marie says:

    To Marie Hemming,
    I am curious to know whether you are brought peace when you pray the Rosary or only when you pray the rosary of the unborn.
    To judi,
    No one seems to suggest that Bishop Lenon’s decision on Holy Love Ministries is infallible; the point is moot. Rather, it is a Bishop’s obedient prerogative, when requested by the Vatican, to investigate and issue rulings on claims of personal revelation. Do you think he has done wrong to caution the faithful? Might the Catholic faithful do wrong to disregard his caution? Do you know of any saint who changed his/her ministry’s affiliation from Catholic to ‘ecumenical’ after Church authority denied his/her claim of supernatural events? The children of Fatima went to prison as did John of the Cross, and Teresa of Avila was denied Holy Communion. Throughout history, those declared saints by the Catholic Church have readily submitted their experiences to the Church’s test (…what is declared bound on earth is bound in heaven…), believing that He who performs all miracles, ordinary or extraordinary, will have His way through His Church.

    September 7, 2013 at 4:07 pm
  16. Santiago says:

    I`m from Argentina, and i don`t write very well in inglish, but… THANK YOU for this post. It has clear my mind over this issue. We have to be careful of false prophets. And i agree: we must pray and work. Blessings!!!

    February 26, 2014 at 5:25 pm
  17. DonnaJean says:

    I have been to this site twice. All the messages i have heard have pointed to developing a deeper spiritual union with the Trinity, go to confession, pray for conversions in all hearts. Seek to live in the present moment. This is all scripturally based. Regarding the apparitions of the other saints, they point to a deeper relationship with our Lord. I have this rosary and look upon the babies that remind me of the reality of the situation inside the clinic where we pray.
    Obedience is necessary as the Church watches over her children. Ie. in Bayside Queens NY the apparition made me feel uneasy at best…for example, It spoke of St Michael being thrown out of heaven. Now CLEARLY that is a lie. It was easy to discern the meesages not of God. It was condemned. But these? Are they bad?

    March 2, 2014 at 3:33 pm
  18. marie says:

    The local Bishop, at the request of the Vatican, has investigated and declared that Holy Love messages are not of supernatural origin. He has directed that priests from his diocese not say Mass at the site, and people from his Diocese are cautioned against visiting.

    Why would a Rosary, said using the PLASTIC BEADS of the ‘rosary of the unborn,’ cause God to act any differently than a Rosary said with any other beads?

    An Internet search of Church documents about Holy Love reveals: 1) The seer claimed that her ministry of messages was ‘Catholic’ prior to Church investigation. After the Church claimed that her messages were not of supernatural origin, the seer claimed the ministry was ‘ecumenical’. 2) The seer has remarried after a divorce. If the first marriage was valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church, did she receive an annulment? If not, how does she explain her second marriage? Perhaps she could reveal these answers to us.

    April 16, 2014 at 2:48 am
  19. Kaare Hostland says:

    State FACTS when you claim Holy Love Ministry is heretical

    In fact, the messages are indeed URGENT and much needed. Proof of that is that the government increasingly has replaced God’s commandments in deciding between good and evil so the world conscience no longer considers God in making moral decisions such as abortions and same sex marriages. These messages are a call from Heaven to bring the world into God’s will before God’s intervention is severe.
    God says; I Am the Potter, and you are the clay

    May 1, 2014 at 12:30 am
  20. Anne says:

    Some years ago, at the behest of a dear friend, I attended a prayer service and recitation of the rosary at Holy Love’s site. I found the people gathered there more concerned with capturing miraculous images on their cameras than with prayerfully reciting the rosary. The whole experience seemed more like a carnival than a reverent gathering honoring Jesus and Mary. Some time during the recitation I heard something that sounded like a generator or machine turning on. I thought it was odd since the tent where Maureen Sweeney Kyle sat was constantly illuminated, not seeming to need any supplementation by a generator. Shortly after I smelled the scent of roses coming from the direction of the noise. I firmly believe it was a scent emitting machine that the rose scent came from. After the service ended I walked up to the statues of Jesus and the Blessed Mother. I glanced behind them into the field beyond and saw the dark outline of a box-like shape that was in the direction that the noise had come from. I was immediately suspicious. I do not believe that this apparition is authentic. There is also a claim that Maureen found a long hair on her carpeting as she was receiving a supposed message from Mary. It is enshrined at the site.. We know that Mary was taken body and soul to heaven to live with her Blessed Son. If we believe this doctrine, it is impossible for this hair to have come from the Blessed Mother. I will heed the bishop’s directive, and that along with my own discernment tell me this is nothing that comes from Jesus’ holy mother, or from any other saint or member of the Blessed Trinity.

    June 19, 2014 at 5:53 pm

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