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Rivas, Catalina (Katya or Catia)

Catalina Rivas is almost certainly a pious fraud. The thrice-married woman hails from Cochabamba, Bolivia, though she now dwells in Mexico (Merida, Yucatan). Her piety is expressed by her alleged stigmata and her alleged "messages" from Jesus, Mary and angels who, for some unexplained reason, dictate their messages to Rivas not only in Spanish, but in Greek, Latin and Polish. (For some unknown reason, Jesus and Mary don't dictate to Rivas in English, so her "messages" have to be translated into that language. Many are posted on the Internet.) She does not sign her name to her "messages," preferring to refer to herself as "la sierva de Dios" (the servant of God [sic]) or "la secretaria de Dios" (the secretary of God [sic]). She doesn't claim to be the author of her books; rather they are said to be channeled ("dictada a la sierva de Dios"). Nor does she have a publishing house. Her books are sold as photocopies.

Because of her alleged stigmata and "messages," Rivas is considered the spiritual mother of international religious movements known as the Apostolate of the New Evangelization (ANE) (in Spanish, Apostolado de la Nueva Evangelización and  The Great Crusade of Love and Mercy (in Spanish, La Gran Cruzada del Amor y Misericordia) and has followers all over the world.

If asked how it is possible for her to have the stigmata and be a pious fraud, the answer is that she does not truly suffer inexplicable wounds. They are most likely self-inflicted wounds, as evidenced by her performance on the Fox Network special "Signs from God [sic]: Science Tests Faith." If asked how it is possible for her to write books in languages she does not understand, the answer is simple: she copies them.

She has already been caught plagiarizing the work of José Prado Flores and Salvador Gómez of Guadalajara, Mexico. Her messages from God [sic] published in 1996 as “Renovacion Evangelica” (Evangelical Revival) bear a remarkable resemblance to Formacion de Predicadores (Training Preachers) published several years before she got them from "god." The work of Prado Flores and Gómez was actually written many years before Rivas claimed to have gotten remarkably similar and often identical messages from god. According to Prado Flores, he and Gómez prepared the first version of their work in 1980, gave it as a workshop in 1982 and published it in 1988 [ISBN 83-7224-026-4]. Their work has been translated into Portuguese (1990), Italian (1992) and Polish (1999). Formacion de Predicadores has been published in later editions with different ISBNs: 03-2001-0612 and 10-4933-00-01. I have the 1992 edition published by Kerygma.

José Prado Flores is a respected Mexican author of Catholic books. He has numerous publications to his credit. Salvador Gómez is the author of Para Un Matrimonio Feliz (For a Happy Marriage). Prado Flores has written to me that Rivas has even kept his Mexican examples in her work, which, he says, would only be understood by Mexican readers. Also, in one of her books Rivas claims that Jesus warns us against listening to the authors of books!

Rivas has not always been such a holy person. She was a "fallen-away Catholic" in 1993 when she saw and heard Nancy Fowler in Bolivia. She even went to Conyers, Georgia, in the U.S. to see Fowler, a woman who claims the Virgin Mary appeared to her on the 13th of each month (à la Fatima) for several years. (For some reason, the visions have stopped and for various reasons Fowler has dissociated herself from the Conyers people.) It was in Conyers that Rivas claims to have had her first stigmatic experience. For a while Rivas was a Fowler follower, but she broke away and, as mentioned above, is now considered the spiritual mother of another religious movement. (Fowler has distanced herself from Rivas and a group who tried to publish some of Rivas's "messages," noting that Rivas claims to have been in Conyers when she received one of her messages but she could not have been there because of an airline strike.)*

Rivas has credibility in part because she has the approval of her bishop, René Fernández Apaza, who has given his imprimatur to her "messages." He has also given his blessing to a bleeding, weeping statue, claiming it is worthy of veneration. He has even asked the Vatican to declare it a Signum Dei, a Sign of God [sic]. The Bishop is joined in his support of Rivas by Miguel Manzanera, a Jesuit theologian and member of the commission of Faith and Doctrine in Bolivia.

Some Catholics even think that the approval of Michael Willasee, who produced the Fox program mentioned above, is significant evidence in her favor. Willasee, however, has proved himself to be highly untrustworthy. He is either a dupe or a dope or both. He is not without his fans, however. Mr. Alastair Thompson thinks Willasee and Fox walk on water. The able Mr. Thompson is joined in support of Fox with Mr. Michael Cain of Catholic PewPoint who writes

...this time FOX truly has lept [sic] over the wall of division and immorality by bringing us programming that produced excellence in depth and devotion.

Whatever the opposite of skeptic is, Willasee, Thompson and Cain are the reigning triumvirate.

Rivas also has the support of Dr. Ricardo Castañón Gómez of La Paz, Bolivia, who is known as a former atheist and one with a keen eye for pious frauds. He also has been involved with the establishment of the Apostolate of the New Evangelization (ANE), which has centers in Bolivia and Mexico, among other places. He is the author of Father of All Mankind. Chapter 13 of this book is published on the Internet. He quotes Rivas and says of her "Catalina is a stigmatist from Cochabamba, Bolivia whom Dr. Castañón has studied extensively. The Archbishop of Cochabamba has given his Imprimatur to eight books of Catalina’s writing which she attributes to receiving from Jesus and the Blessed Mother." Both she and Dr. Castañón might also attribute some of these "messages" to José Prado Flores and Salvador Gómez, for the English words of Ch. 13 translate beautifully into the Spanish of  Formacion de Predicadores. [See Document 1]

Rivas' spiritual advisor is Fr. Renzo Sessolo Chies, S.D.B., of Bolivia, founder and president of ANE* and an active supporter of the La Gran Cruzada. Prado Flores claims that Sessolo was kicked out of his religious order.

Not everyone has been taken in by Catalina Rivas. Besides those she has plagiarized, she has apparently lost favor with Juan Cardenal Sandoval Iñiguez, the Bishop of Guadalajara, who cancelled a scheduled appearance in Guadalajara by Rivas last summer (2001) after Prado Flores showed the bishop copies of his book and her “messages.” Prado Flores wrote to me:

Catia was scheduled to appear in Guadalajara, Mexico where I now live. You can understand my total amazement when I put 2 and 2 together and figured out the famous "visionary and stigmatist" was the same lady that had "stolen" my book. A friend showed me a set books which were to be sold during the convention. We then went to the bishop of Guadalajara, Juan Cardenal Sandoval Iñiguez, who after seeing our study on her material immediately cancelled her participation. This of course made her write a letter accusing me of "stealing" her visions to write my book.

According to Prado Flores, Rivas sent a letter to Fr. Argulo, who had invited her to Guadaljara, in which she made the accusation that they "stole her visions." How this was possible, since her visions and "messages" occurred many years after their book, is left to the reader to discern.

further reading

reader comments

books and articles

Carroll, Robert (2004). "Pranks, Frauds, and Hoaxes from Around the World." Skeptical Inquirer. volume 28, No. 4. July/August, pp. 41-46.

Nickell, Joe. Looking For A Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions and Healing Cures (Prometheus Books: Buffalo, N.Y., 1993).

websites

Typical example of the similarity of "Renovacion Evangelica" and "Formacion de Predicadores"

Mass Media Bunk 9

CSICOP Response to Fox's Signs From God [sic]: Science Tests Faith

Farce-of-the-Week via Fox-TV - Commentary, James Randi

Katya Rivas: Your Will Be Done Not Mine Tuesday, 8 July 2003

Last updated 28-Jul-2012

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