Do Catholics believe "The Dolorous Passion"?Before Gibson's movie came out, the work was not widely known among Catholics. It was most popular among traditionalist Catholics, a relatively small percentage of Catholics worldwide. "The Dolorous Passion" belongs to a devotional category of pious literature that some Catholics find value in. But since works like "The Dolorous Passion" are considered to be private--not public--revelation, Catholics are not required to believe in them.Emmerich was "imaginative, but her visions are not what really happened in Bible times," says Miesel.

The imprimatur on "The Dolorous Passion" does not indicate that the Catholic Church accepts her visions as true, according to Mary Francis Lester of TAN Books. The view of the Jewish people reflected in Emmerich's writings is not in keeping with Vatican II-inspired documents on relations with the Jews or the U.S. Bishops' Guidelines for Passion Plays.

Will Emmerich be named a saint?

Emmerich's sainthood process was stalled in 1928 because of the uncertainty over Brentano's embellishments. However, some voices--including German bishops--are pressing her cause today. Miesel worries that if she is beatified (the step prior to canonization), Catholics might "think her writings are validated."

Thigpen sees value in Emmerich less for her writings than for her holiness in the face of severe physical pain. "What the Church is focusing on is her heroic suffering, offering up that suffering to God," says Thigpen. "If she is canonized, she would be a wonderful role model for the disabled and those with chronic illness."