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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Locutions are messages heard by an individual and believed to be from a supernatural or divine source (as opposed to apparitions, which are seen). Such locutions may be heard as external sounds, perceived as words imprinted on the imaginative faculty, or concepts or truths that a person realizes but must then formulate into words. Of these three, the second is the most common. It is often a component of a total encounter with an angelic or divine being, such as the Virgin Mary, that alsoincludes an apparition. For example, Bernadette Soubirous, who saw the Virgin at Lourdes, was said to have received the message accompanying the apparition as words received in her heart. Among the many people who had locutions and also described and commented on the process was Saint Teresa of Avila (1515–1582).

One modern example of locutions can be seen in the experience of Fr. Stefano Gobbi. A priest in Milan, Italy, Gobbi heard his first locution in 1972 during a moment of concern for some former priests who were organizing against the Catholic Church. The Virgin Mary told him to take refuge in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Similar locutions continued, and the next year he began to keep a record of the messages. The messages motivated him to form an association of priests ready to consecrate themselves to her Immaculate Heart and encourage the laity to be so consecrated and to strengthen their bond to the pope and the church. The association’s first meeting took place in September 1973, and the movement spread worldwide as the Marian Movement of Priests.

In sharp contrast to Gobbi is William Kamm (b. 1950), an Australian Roman Catholic layperson and founder of the Order of Saint Charbel. Kamm was born in Germany and claims to have begun having mystical experiences as a teenager in 1968. Having moved to Australia, a few years later he founded a program called the Marian Work of Atonement. Over the years, the Virgin Mary appeared to him and on numerous occasions spoke to him. By the end of the 1990s, he had received more than six hundred locutions covering a wide range of issues about personal piety and behavior, but most notably on the future of the Catholic Church. In 1982 he was given the designation Little Pebble, which has been understood as a reference to Saint Peter (believed by Roman Catholics to be the first pope), whom Jesus called the Rock. Messages also suggested that Kamm was to be the next pope after John Paul II.

Kamm’s messages increasingly placed him in tension with Roman Catholic authorities. Adding to the issues raised by the publishing of various messages that challenged the church’s authority and even orthodox teachings, in the mid-1990s he was caught in an adulterous relationship that led to his divorce and public statements justifying his adultery.

In 2000 the Most Rev. Philip Wilson, the Bishop of Wollongong, established a commission to examine Kamm and his writings. As a result of their negative conclusions, the Bishop ordered him to cease his work, close the religious order he had founded, and refrain from making any statements implying that the Catholic Church approved of what he was or had done. Wilson went on to state that after examinations going back to 1984 and reaching offices in Rome, the church had concluded that Kamm’s locutions were not supernatural, the content was false, and his work was harmful to the church’s membership.

Kamm, of course, is only one of a number of people around the world who claim to receive private revelation from Mary, Jesus, one of the saints, or an angelic being. As a whole, the church makes no appraisal of these revelations as long as they remain largely unpublicized and no obvious teachings that contradict Catholic teachings are evident.


Gobbi, Stefano. To the Priests Our Lady’s Beloved Sons. 17th edition. St. Francis, ME: National Headquarters of the Marian Movement of Priests in the United States, 1996.
The “Last Pebble”: The Official Publication of Petrus Romanus, the Last Pope. 2 vols. Australia: William Kamm, 1999.
Teresa of Avila. The Life of St. Teresa of Avila, including the Relations of Her Spiritual State. London: Burns & Oates, 1962.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
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The database contains approximately 22,500 lexicographical records, a total of over 8,000 entries (mostly locutions), 3,600,000 words, and 2,000 illustrations.
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He cannot overcome the shortcomings of his sources, however, and the reader cannot help noticing the extent to which Austin resorts to locutions of the "might have been," or "may have" variety.