One of the beliefs most influential in popularizing the brown scapular devotion was a purported promise known as the Sabbatine privilege. It was associated with a Papal Bull allegedly written in 1322 by Pope John XXII. It states that Pope John XXII had a vision of Our Lady granting that through her special intercession, Mary will come down to personally deliver the souls of Carmelites and Confraternity members out of Purgatory on the first Saturday after their death (“Sabbatine” means Saturday), if they fulfil certain conditions including wearing the brown scapular.

 The Vatican has denied the validity of this document since 1613, but didn’t forbid the Carmelites “to preach that the Christian people may piously believe in the help which the souls of brothers and members, who have departed this life in charity, have worn in life the scapular, have ever observed chastity, have recited the Little Hours [of the Blessed Virgin], or, if they cannot read, have observed the fast days of the Church, and have abstained from flesh meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays (except when Christmas falls on such days), may derive after death especially on Saturdays, the day consecrated by the Church to the Blessed Virgin through the unceasing intercession of Mary, her pious petitions, her merits, and her special protection.” These elements are reflected in older versions of the requirements of enrolment in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular.

At times the scapular has been preached as an easy way to heaven, which has led to criticism of the devotion. Devotees of the Brown Scapular have sometimes been accused of straying into superstition. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that sacramentals such as the Brown Scapular “do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.”

Believers in the traditional scapular promise sometimes argue that Mary’s intercession either grants conversion, final perseverance, and/or last rites to the wearer, to secure the assurances of the Scapular Promise. Another argument is that in cases of stubborn unrepentant sinners the scapular will somehow, miraculously or not, be taken off the wearer, this was suggested by Saint Claude de la Colombière.

Today, the Carmelite Orders, while encouraging a belief in Mary’s aid and prayerful assistance for their souls beyond death and commending devotion to Mary especially on Saturdays which are dedicated to her, explicitly state in their official catechetical materials that they do not promulgate the Sabbatine privilege and are at one with official Church teaching on the matter.