The “Rosary of the Unborn™” Controversy

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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