For the last week or so, I've been following a story that has started to gain traction in the English-language press and blogosphere.
The gist of the story is this: A new document is going to be released from the Holy See governing the way in which Marian and other apparitions (or private revelation in general) is handled. This will be an updating of the guidelines privately circulated to bishops since the 1970s.
The document is reported to be a vademecum (a brief guide, not an exhaustive tome), and it's being presented as something that will create a "crack down" or a "gag order" on visionaries.
There are several reasons to be cautious about this story.
First, even assuming the basic facts of the story are true, it's being represented with an anti-apparition spin that the Holy See would not approve.
The Holy See has always been receptive to genuine apparitions, which are gifts of God's grace. As St. Paul said, we should not despise prophecies, but test everything and hold fast to that which is good. The Holy See in no way would want to send the signal that it wants to "crack down" on legitimate visionaries or put a "gag" on them.
It may well want to discourage false reports of apparitions, and it might institute disciplinary norms requiring greater circumspection on the part of those reporting apparitions (as was the case before the 1960s, when there was a liberalization of the procedures visionaries were obliged to follow in making their reported revelations public). However, the language of "crack downs" and "gag orders" and similar idioms is not the Holy See's intent.
Second, and equally fundamentally, there is a problem with the sourcing on this story.
Basically, the only source on this at present is an Italian website called Petrus.
Petrus would appear to have a source that has at least read a draft or heard a summary of the vademecum, perhaps in the CDF, but who knows?
The problem is that the Italian press is often filled with rumors about that Vatican that turn out to be completely untrue or grossly distorted. There is a lot of gossip in Rome, as there is in every city, and a lot of it isn't reliable.
Reports of a new vademecum on apparitions, especially one to be made public, must therefore be treated with caution, especially when there is such slender sourcing on the claims.
It may well be that there is a new vademecum or other document on the subject. It may be in a draft stage or a final stage. It may possibly include provisions like those described in the Petrus article. It may even be made public in the future.
But we don't know any of that at this point, and people should be cautious in how they handle the subject.