HUMILITY THROUGH OBEDIENCE
The late Father Reginald Garrigrou Lagrange, one of the leading theologians of the twentieth century, in his magnum opus on the mystical life, "The Three Ages of the Interior Life", writes the following concerning the virtue of obedience:We know...the great sin is the sin of him who said: "Non serviam, I will not serve." This is the principal sin of the world that calls itself "modern" while claiming to separate itself from the Church...only too often it wishes to obey it's own reason, it's own judgment ... Obedience to God, to His spiritual and temporal representatives, daily assures the conformity of our will with the Divine Will. It thus delivers us from self-will, that is, from a will which is not conformed to that of God, and which through pride goes astray, acting contrary to the current of grace and refusing to act in the true direction ... Obedience delivers us also from the servitude of our own judgement, that is, from an excessively subjective judgement not sufficiently founded on truth, not conformed to the judgement of God. (17)
Although Peré La Grange, when speaking of "an excessively subjective judgement" in the passage cited above, is not referring specifically to private revelations, one can readily appreciate the indispensability of obedience relative to their authenticity.Humility, that crown jewel of virtues, subordinate only to Faith Hope and Charity, is expressed in an especially resplendent manner by loving obedience. What greater example of obedience expressing humility can the Church possibly propose for our edification and sanctification than that rendered by the God-man, Jesus Christ, to his parents, that is, His Virgin Mother and foster father?(18)
For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be himself equal to God: But debased himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in shape found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Phillipians, 2:5-8)Although "he was in the form of God" and as the Word Incarnate, infinitely wiser and superior to either Joseph or His Blessed Mother, he bore towards them a perfect interior and exterior filial obedience. In the light of the example of the God-man Himself, how could anyone, no matter how "illuminated", no matter how "blessed" with hidden or supernatural knowledge, claim to be above obedience to his or her natural and /or ecclessiastical superiors? Obedience is not merely a vow taken by professional religious; it an indispensable virtue in the ordinary way of sanctity and salvation, established as divine precept in the fourth commandment, and it is inconceivable that any apparition of the Virgin Mary would work towards subverting this divine commandment either within the context of natural obedience (within the family) or supernatural obedience (the Church's hierarchy). The presence of humility expressed through obedience is one of the foremost criteria which the Church employs in discerning the authenticity of those purporting to the recipients of prophetic revelations:One of the signs of the divine origin of a revelation is the humility and simplicity with which the favored soul receives it and, without excessive attachment to it, communicates it briefly to its spiritual director, whom it obeys perfectly as the minister of Jesus Christ.(19)
Religious obedience, which seeks nothing less than a perfect conformity of wills between superior and subject, expressed both outwardly and inwardly, is so sacred a virtue and aspiration that, according to the (church approved) revelations of Jesus Christ to Sister Josefa Mendez, Our Lord had this to say in its regard:Our Lord's attention to the observance of the Rule kept Josefa ever on the straight path. "Have you leave from the Mother Assistant?" He said to her after communion the next day. "Thou knowest, dear Lord, that her one wish is to please Thee." "I know it, but you must submit to the will of your Superior, even before you do what I myself ask you." (20)
Spiritual pride has always been acknowledged as one of the Devil's most efficacious snares in fooling many initially well intentioned members of the faithful with false and lying visions and prophecies, etc. All too often, many spiritually immature Christians have been led astray by such falsehoods basing erroneous conclusions on an inflated self-esteem and an exaggerated sense of personal holiness. One sure sign of the genuineness of a visionary is unwillingness to discuss the visions at all, except in obedience to the command of a religious or ecclesiastical superior, for the good of souls. Father Burosse, a French missionary, gives this account of an interview with St. Bernadette's religious superior:The first time that I was introduced to Reverend Mother Vauzou, I turned the conversation to Bernadette. Straightaway she said to me: "Ah, Father, don't imagine that Bernadette was so extraordinary as all that.
''Was Bernadette pious?' I added.'Oh, very pious.''Was she obedient?''Yes, very obedient.''But was she humble?''Yes! Very humble. She never of her own accord spoke about the Apparitions.''In that case, Mother, what more do you want? She was an excellent nun.' (21)
Ultimately, the Church is more concerned with personal holiness and the salvation of the soul than with the private revelations and charisms of which it may be a recipient. With respect to Lourdes, it is probably St. Bernadette's personal holiness, which even more than the great miracles which were wrought there, will be considered the preeminent sign of Our Lady's presence there.
Those visions, revelations, etc. of which the Church approves are never be based solely on the personal criterion of one individual, or on the mere visceral appeal of anything so tenuous as a private, subjective experience. The Church, has dealt throughout the ages with scores of saints and sinners, true prophets, lying frauds, and the demonically possessed, and it is upon her two millenia of accumulated wisdom unfailingly illuminated from on high by the Holy Spirit, which all must at last humbly rely. Personal intuition or feeling is not a primary criterion of discernment. Unfortunately, certain prominent Medjugorjian devotees would appear to give what they "feel" a pride of place, and prefer to obey some vague interior intuition rather than the legitimate Church authority:
When I first arrived at Medjugorje…I began to fear that it was a case of collective hysteria…But then I went to Mass and prayed. I said rosaries. I saw phenomena myself, but most of all I felt the Holy Spirit. I felt Mary … I felt her like never before … the tranquility was like nothing in my previous experience. (22)
Indeed, even if the seer or other recipient of the private revelation is humanly certain that the private revelation he or she is receiving, the judgement of the Church, expressed by those in authority, must be obeyed, and received in a spirit of divine faith and humility. Christians are called to walk by faith, supernatural faith, and not by sight or sense, nor by any exaggerated sense of self worth or self- esteem. Humble obedience to Church authority in a spirit of supernatural faith and charity is infinitely more meritorious, an infinitely more efficacious channel of sanctifying grace, necessary for salvation, than is receiving a private vision or revelation, even if such be authentic. The way of obedience is the only safe way to proceed along a spiritual highway that has been littered throughout the centuries with the "road kill" of souls, the casualties of spiritual frauds and lying visionaries.
"Among those virtues that a revelation should bring in its train, one that should shine forth most brilliantly…is humility. It is the one most opposed to our nature, and of which Satan has the greatest horror…Pride, on the contrary, is a mark of diabolical illusion or imposture. It shows itself by contempt of our neighbor, an independent spirit with regard to superiors and directors, by obstinacy in our opinions, by the refusal to submit to the necessary examinations, and by anger." (23)
However, obedience as a virtue or as an evangelical counsel, would appear to have little if any standing in the sight of the "Gospa of Medjugorje". On the contrary the prevailing attitude both among both the seers and their Franciscan "spiritual directors" has been and continues to be one of spiritual haughtiness and disobedience to both the former and present Bishops of Mostar-both legitimate successors to the Apostles, both in full communion with the Holy Father.
There are at least two messages from the "Gospa" actually threatening Bishop Zanic, the Ordinary of Mostar-Duvrno at the beginning of the "apparitions", with reprisals for not approving of the apparitions:April 26, 1982:
"The Bishop has no real love of God in his heart. Regarding the Bishop, may Ivica (Vego) and Ivan (Prusina) remain calm. What the Bishop is doing is contrary to the will of God, yet he can do as he pleases, but one day justice such as you have never seen shall be revealed.
"Regarding this supposed statement of the Virgin, one should keep in mind these words of the Mystical Doctor, St. John of the Cross:"He (the devil) is wont occasionally to reveal falsely, but with great distinctness, the sins of others … with a view to detraction." (24)
The "Gospa" then followed up with this "message":21 June, 1983:
"Tell the Bishop that I seek a quick conversion of him towards the happenings in Medjugorje before it is too late. May he accept these events...For this reason I seek his conversion towards these events...If what I seek does not come about, my judgement and the judgement of my Son await the Bishop." (25)
The theological implication of the words of the Gospa, "my judgement" and "conversion towards these events" will be dealt with further on. Suffice it o say that while many authentic apparitions have lamented lukewarmness and even immorality among the clergy speaking in general terms, and prophetically threatened dire consequences for such a state of affairs, none has ever publicly exposed individual Bishops in full communion with the Holy Father to contempt and slander. This is pure calumnious gossip, in the service of disobedience. Bishop Pavao Zanic, the ordinary of Mostar in 1981, when he first became aware of the alleged apparitions, was hopeful that, if authentic, the apparitions might be God's way of peacefully ending the "Herzegovina Problem", a long running dispute involving the Herzegovina province of the Franciscans, the secular clergy of Herzegovina , the Franciscan father general, and the Vatican which centered around the province's refusal to relinquish certain parishes to the diocesan clergy. This was a hope, sad to say, which was not realized. Favorably disposed though justifiably prudent,
Bishop Zanic at first merely recommended caution, patience, and discernment, as commanded by the Apostle Paul to "test all things, and cling fast to that which is good"(26) and which, according to unanimous divine and ecclesiastical tradition and canon law, was his sacred obligation and right, as the Bishop having authority over Medjugorje, the authentic successor of the Apostles.In mid August 1981, in the declaration of Msgr. Pavao Zanic, Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, which was open to honest interpretation it was said that the "most difficult question remains whether this is the subjective experience of children or something supernatural?"(27)
He actually went to the public defense of certain priests (including Jozo Zovko) when they were accused of crimes by the communist government of Yugoslavia. A diocesan commission to investigate the phenomena was established. One of the events which apparently changed the Bishop's mind was a "message" from the "Gospa" given by one of the "seers" regarding two Franciscan by the names of Ivica Vego and Ivan Prusina. Vego at that time was apparently living in open concubine with a Franciscan nun, Sister Leopolda, while at the same time continuing to administer the sacraments and preach in public, and had been commanded by the Bishop and the Franciscan Order to cease and desist. The following is a written transcript of a taped interview with the "seer" Marija Pavlovic conducted by a Father Grafenhauer, a Jesuit priest whom was sent by the Bishop Zanic to investigate the seers.
Graf: Did Our Lady say that the Bishop is to blame?Mar: Yes.
Graf: When Our Lady says that the Bishop is to blame, this immediately appears suspicious, and we would conclude that this is not Our Lady speaking. The seers are apparently spreading word around that the Bishop is to blame.
Mar: Our Lady told us this.
Graf: This is causing revolt in Herzegovina and these are not good fruits. People will be angry with the Bishop, and will defame his reputation. How can Our Lady do such things? The Church knows...well that Our Lady is good, and that she would never do such things.
Mar: Our Lady told us this.
(It is worth noting here that Vego has since been expelled from the priestly state, and lives with his lover, the former Sister Leopolda. They have two children.)Bishop Zanic knew that the Blessed Virgin Mary could never, would never refer to a Bishop in this manner, even if the Bishop was indeed a bad Bishop, since the fact that a Bishop's conduct, even in the case where it leaves much to be desired, does not derogate from his authority as a successor to the Apostles. All Christians (including Bishops and Popes) must ultimately stand before God's throne and give an accounting of their actions. It is not a mere man or personality whom we must respect, but the office, which we must reverence. It is true that there have been many cases of private revelations where Our Lady has lamented the loose morals of a great number of clergy and laity, but she would never play the role which in scripture is reserved to the accuser.(28)
It is equally impossible that Mary most Holy would approve of a priest living in open fornication. At this stage, we should pause and consider what was allegedly said by the "Gospa." She, supposedly on a mission from heaven, is either ignorant of Father Vego's actions, which would be categorically ,totally, and unambiguously impossible if this were truly the Mother of God (not because she herself possesses the divine attribute of omniscience, but due to the fact that God, sending her on this divine mission, would certainly not fail to communicate to her knowledge of such an egregiously scandalous situation right in the very place she was to appear.) Otherwise, the "Gospa" is the bearer of a new moral/ pastoral message at variance with what for two thousand years has been the constant and uninterrupted moral teaching of the Catholic Church, from the New Testament, through the great fathers and doctors and great saints and mystical writers, through the Popes and Ecumenical Councils, regarding the vow and virtue of chastity...and of obedience, not to mention the sin of fornication and the right of the Bishop to enforce the Church's cannon law. Or could it be that the Gospa of Medjugorje has come to lead the Church, both clergy and laity, out of what the New Age terms the "patriarchal oppression" into the promised land of self-indulgence and full license for all to do as they please, under the free "reign of the spirit"?
The incalculable importance of the virtue of obedience is something that the overwhelming majority of all Catholic spiritual and theological writers stress, to a degree to which our fleshly nature , in this "New Age" of the atomistic and autonomous "little god" individual, is certainly uncomfortable with. . The "Gospa", on the other hand, is portrayed on many other occasions as siding with the rebellious Franciscans against both the Franciscan order and the local Bishop. Perhaps the greatest challenge of the "Gospa" to the concept of authority in the Church is the statement of Vicka Ivankovic, to Father Grafenhauer, to the effect that the Bishop of Mostar should pay more attention to the purported messages of the "Gospa" than to the Pope himself.
Graf: The Bishop has the duty to judge whether or not this is Our Lady.
Vicka: He can judge as he wants, but I know that it is Our Lady
Graf: The Church says of those who are confident in themselves, that this itself is a sign that Our Lady is not in question here.
Vicka: Let those who are doubtful remain doubtful. I'm not.
Graf: This is not a good thing. .. You once told the Bishop that he should pay more attention to Our Lady than to the Pope.
Vicka: Yes, I did...
Graf: You told the Bishop that he is to blame and that those two (Vego and Prusina) are innocent and can perform their priestly duties.
Vicka: Yes I did...
Graf: Our Lady said this, and the Pope says they cannot?(29)
Vicka: The Pope can say what he wants. I'm telling it as it is.
The phrase, "I'm telling it as it is," should give pause to all of the Medjugorje partisans, since they have made a point of claiming that since the Pope hasn't personally pronounced on Medjugorje, or has supposedly said, "let the people go there if they fast and do penance, etc.," they are free to believe in the apparitions in spite of the local Bishop's prohibitions. The manifest attitude of disobedience exhibited by the "seers" and their "Gospa" during those early years has, if anything, solidified and poisoned the entire religious atmosphere of Medjugorje with an attitude of total contempt towards the authority of the local Bishop in particular and the Church hierarchy in general. As this is being written (1999) there are currently, according to Msgr. Zanic's successor, Bishop Peric, so called have not yet been recognized by the Church, and are therefore canonically illicit; they are not authentic religious communities.
As Bishop Peric, the successor of Bishop Zanic has stated:"I endeavor to visit the parish of Medjugorje on a regular basis. There are many disorders there. There are Franciscan priests there with no canonical mission, religious communities have been established without the permission of the diocesan Bishop, ecclesiastical approval. (30)
There are priests celebrating mass and administering the sacraments without the permission of the local Bishop, something clearly proscribed by cannon law. Many of the "pilgrims" who go to Medjugorje are unaware that they are attending illicit (but not invalid) masses, and may be engaging in at least materially sinful actions of disobedience. Things have degenerated to the point of the Franciscans getting an unknown "Bishop" to enter a church building in the town of Capljina, whose main entrance the rebellious Franciscan's partisans had walled up as an act of protest against the implementation of Romanus Pontificibus. This event took place on Sunday, October 5, 1997 and was in direct violation of canon 390 of the Code of Canon Law, as the individual in question was acting without the permission, even against the will of the Bishop of Mostar, Msgr. Peric. Nobody can say for certain if the individual in question was even a Bishop, and the confirmations which he administered cannot be assumed to be valid, until he is identified. Perhaps this would not directly bear on the events at Medjugorje, if not for the fact that the unknown "Bishop" was quoted as saying only that:
"I came to your homeland for the first time exactly ten years ago. The reason for my visit was the apparition of Our Lady at Medjugorje ... But last year I arrived home feeling sad and spiritually unhappy. The real reason for uneasiness and great sadness were these walled-up doors of your church in Capljina. Even though this sign (31), written in five languages, speaks sufficiently for itself, I continued asking friends for more news on the situation."(32)
When Bishop Peric, supported by two Papal Nuncios, Francesco Monterisi and Giulio Einaudi together with Cardinal Puljic publicly condemned this action on October 7, two days later, the illicit "chaplain" of Capljina, Boze Rados, a rebellious Franciscan wrote a reply to the Bishop in which he states in part:
"Nuncio Monterisi may remember me from our meeting in Posusje. I told him on that occasion what it was that troubled my conscience, namely the lie in the first sentence of the decree Romanus Pontificibus, on account of which my brethren uttered their non possumus to that very decree in 1975. They fortified their non possumus by setting their signatures to it...rather a case of heroic resistance to the evil incarnate in the decree as a lie."
The disobedience expressed by Rados here takes on tones of near blasphemy. It is quite evident "Gospa" and her messages of support for the rebellious Franciscan perhaps have been instrumental in emboldening them to this extreme? "Evil incarnate" in a papal decree?! A strange and uncharacteristic action indeed, for one who styles himself an ardent disciple of the Madonna, of who said those immortal and inspired words in all humility:
"Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to thy word." (St. Luke 2)
The most holy virgin Mother of God, shares (subordinately to her Divine Son) in the work of our redemption as her obedient heart is pierced with the invisible sword in the shadow of that supreme exemplar of all obedience, His cross. If the "Gospa" of Medjugorje is indeed expressing support for the rebellious Franciscans, and has indeed made the foregoing statements, rather than the whole business being a case of fraud and manipulation, then this particular spirit cannot possibly be the Virgin Mary. A rather revealing observation was made by one of the rebellious Franciscans:At Medjugorje, the apparition has no need of official recognition.
The Virgin has not asked to be recognized at Medjugorje-She has said, 'I am the Queen of Peace', and not "I am Mary, who seeks to be recognized by the Church."
If this "Gospa" were indeed the Holy Mother of God, then Mary has apparently adopted a "new look" of assertive womanhood, totally in harmony with that particular brand of feminism preached by so many so called "nuns" -the "history" of Medjugorje, where the New Mother Goddess reigns and smashes the old patriarchal hierarchy to smithereens! Though it may seem to some to be reaching to connect the "Gospa" with pagan Gnosticism, it should seem apparent to anyone who has read the foregoing messages concerning the Bishop that the "Queen of Peace" does not gently exhort or admonish; she (or he) is as demanding and imperious as any Isis, Ishtar or Kali Durga of antiquity:"….he (the Bishop) can do as he pleases, but one day justice such as you have never seen will be revealed." (April 26, 1982)
On November 10, 1998, the Bishop of Mostar, Msgr. Ratko Peric, and the Franciscan Father General, Father Giacomo Bini met with the Prefect of the Congregation of the Evangelization of the Peoples, and decided that on February 21, 1999, the Franciscans would be withdrawn from Medjugorje and all their parishes in the diocese of Mostar, and replaced by diocesan priests.
Six days later, Boze Rados, and another rebellious Franciscan priest, Boniface Barbaric, both residing at Capljina were expelled from the Franciscan Order. (33)Although one can certainly not lay blame for the entire Herzegovina problem at the "Gospa's" doorstep, as that particular dispute began prior to the alleged apparitions, it is quite obvious to any impartial observer that the "Gospa" has shown herself (through her "messages") to be an enthusiastic partisan of the rebellious Franciscans. It will not do to pretend that the Herzegovina problem and the apparitions are two mutually exclusive events, as many proponents of Medjugorje, such as Father Laurentin, have attempted to do. This fact, in and of itself should be enough to sow doubt in the minds of the devotees, but it, like so many other inconvenient facets of the Medjugorje phenomenon, has been swept under the rug, and the Medjugorje band plays merrily on.
The individual who claims to have had a message or vision from God, should be characterized by truthfulness, or veracity: "Veracity...a virtue attached to justice, leads a man to tell the truth always and to act in conformity to it...The virtue of veracity thus practiced, not only in speech but in action, in our whole way of living, brings truth into our lives...To let ourselves fall into the habit of lying is to turn away from the truth and to deprive ourselves of the higher inspirations of the gift of wisdom." (34)
As noted before, private revelations, are by their very nature subordinate and ancillary to the truths contained in the Deposit of Faith committed to the Apostles and to their successors, and are not, in an individual sense, the objects of divine supernatural faith. Rather, the acceptance or rejection of a private revelation must depend on other factors-factors which can be likened to the evidence submitted in a court of law, on a certainty which, being human, is not absolute.
While one must never dare to disregard the charism of discernment as a work of the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church, the charism of infallibility, even on the part of the Pope, does not extend to private revelations. Therefore, the exercise of discernment by the pastors of the Church in the matter of such revelations depends to a great degree upon the prudent evaluation of human testimony. This being the case, it is eminently reasonable to suppose that if God has anything of particular urgency to communicate to the world via the extraordinary mode of private revelation (as was assuredly the case at Fatima) it is only reasonable to suppose that he will not choose a person or persons who will easily fall into the habit of lying and dissimulation of the truth; in other words, He will likely choose someone with at least a modicum of truthfulness or veracity. Such has generally been the case throughout the history of the people of God. Satan, on the other hand, as the arch liar and "father of lies," (35) since he knows he cannot cause the entire Church to err, would like nothing better than to lead multitudes of faithful Christians astray by means of pious sounding false prophets and falsifiers.
The Church, in investigating supposed revelations and visions, considers the personal veracity of the individual/s involved. Veracity is an absolutely indispensable condition, especially as regards their relating of the events themselves. In other words, was what these individuals said or wrote always in conformity with the truth? For instance, have these individuals had a habit, (especially in reference to their relationship to both their natural and religious or ecclesiastical superiors) of invariably telling the truth? Have these individuals been truthful in their actions, words, and deeds, especially with regards to their description of their purported "revelation"?
Have they avoided even the appearance of dissimilitude, contradiction or of covering up or hiding the truth where the truth may bear unfavorably on their fame, reputation, or circumstances? If the answer to any of these questions is other than an unambiguous "yes" one may safely assume that the case for credibility has encountered an insurmountable obstacle. One of the most interesting footnotes in the history of private revelations, and which is only incidental to the consideration of Medjugorje, is the encounter between Maximin Giraud, one of the two seers of La Salette, and St. John Vianney, the holy cure d'Ars; certain individuals brought the boy to the holy priest in hopes that Vianney, who had the gift of cardiognosis, or of reading souls, would be able to discern the secret which Our Lady supposedly entrusted to Maximine, and some unforeseen confusion resulted:The encounter between Maximin and Vianney resulted in a misunderstanding that created a scandal both for the cause of La Salette and for the cure himself. After holding two brief conversations with Maximin that day, Vianney was convinced that Maximin had come to Ars to confess to him that he had lied about seeing the Virgin Mary at La Salette…To Vianney's question about whether he had seen the Virgin he had replied:
"I do not know if it was the Holy Virgin. I had seen something…a Lady…But if you know, yourself, that it is the Holy Virgin, it is necessary to tell all these people so that they believe in La Salette."
Maximin said that he had indeed told to the cure of Corps…Maximin said that he had in mind lies that about such everyday matters as not wanting to study or about where he was going, and Vianney, he conjectured, must have thought he was talking about the apparition…The incident was embarrassing to all concerned …" (36)
Needless to say, St. John Vianney, who had been quite devoted to Our Lady of La Salette, was crushed by what he perceived to be Maximin's lies about seeing Our Lady, even though Maximin was referring to lies that he had told in the course of his everyday life, not about what he and Melanie, the other seer, had seen of Our Lady at La Salette; it is important to note that in regard to the apparitions of La Salette, one of the factors which led to their approval by the local Bishop was the absolute veracity of the seers with regard to all that they had seen on the mountain. And it is also fitting that one contrast St. John Vianney's attitude (even though he had misunderstood Maximin) towards the truth with many of the proponents of Medjugorje; the saint was truly preoccupied with an objective standard of truth, which he perceived Maximin to be violating, and not with a pragmatic "fruits" argument, such as that constantly trumpeted by the Medjugorje proponents. To repeat what was stated above, it is only logical to conclude that when entrusting private revelation to certain individuals for the spiritual benefit of an entire region of the world, or of the entire Church at a certain point in time, God would invariably choose individuals whose credibility could in no way be impugned owing to the untruthfulness of their character, that is, their lack of veracity.
St. Bernadette and Lucia of Fatima are two eminent examples of individuals to whom God (through the apparitions of His blessed Mother) entrusted important "messages" the contents of which were intended for the entire Church at a certain point in time; and it is indeed the case that Bernadette, while always humbly submitting to Church authority, when told to deny the having seen the apparitions by the Curé of Lourdes (as a test ) simply said that she could not lie, and could not deny that she had indeed seen the apparition as lying would be a sin, which of course she could not commit in this regard. She never had anything but the highest reverence for the truth and for the Curé, despite his initially outward brusqueness when she first reported the apparition.
In the person of Lucia we continue to have today a model of religious veracity and obedience; Lucia not only has always maintained the reality of the events at Fatima, her recounting of the events has never varied, not even when she and the other two children were taken into custody by the hostile anti-clerical government of Portugal, and threatened with death by (literally) being boiled in oil! And yet this child would not retreat or back away one iota from her original account! Lucia has always maintained that it is the duty of the Church's hierarchy to determine the authenticity of these events; she merely gently affirms that she did witness the events as she has, throughout her life, consistently described them.
When the Medjugorje case is considered, however, one is faced with an entirely different type of situation, in which the lie appears to have played a defining role from the very beginning. One month after the first purported apparition, in July of 1983, Bishop Zanic questioned Mirjana Dragicevic under oath concerning the first apparition on June 25th, 1981. Mirjana claims that Jakov Colo, Ivanka Ivankovic and herself had gone to Podboro (the famous "hill of the apparitions") to look for their sheep. When reminded by the Bishop that she was under oath, and that lying in this case would be a mortal sin, she retracted her first statement, and said:
"Forgive me. We went out to smoke."
This in itself should cast not only a shadow, but a black thunder cloud of doubt on Mirjana's credibility since this is an unambiguous lie. (One should at the same time try to sympathize with the dilemma in which Mirjana found herself. She obviously did not want to get into trouble for doing something that had undoubtedly been forbidden to her.) If the "children" had indeed gone up to smoke, the whole apparitions began in an ambience of disobedience to parents and of deception, and this is not normally the way things happen with regards to apparitions of the Blessed Mother.
If, by way of example, Our Lady at Fatima reproached mere children for saying their prayers in a careless manner, is one not entitled to believe that the "Gospa" who is, after all, alleged to be the same Mary who appeared at Fatima and Lourdes, would have reproached these disobedient adolescents at least mildly? And the fact that they saw fit to lie in order to cover-up their disobedience does not speak well for the supposed "fruits" of the apparitions, even after the fact.
Subsequently, Mirjana Dragicevic, when asked on June 30, 1981, how long the "Gospa" would continue to appear, replied unambiguously that she would appear for only "three more days." Therefore, either this statement by Mirjana was a lie, or the "Gospa" changed her mind. The number of alleged apparitions, messages, locutions, etc. now adds up to tens of thousands. Mirjana now claims that she cannot remember the "Gospa" ever telling her about the apparitions ending in three days time!
As far as Ivan Dragicevic is concerned, his slip-up regarding the famous secret supposedly entrusted to him regarding the "great sign" is well known. Bishop Zanic had asked all of the "seers" to write down the sign that the "Gospa" had supposedly prophesied would appear on the mountain of the alleged apparitions and ratify the authenticity of the apparitions. Whatever the seers would write down as a "prophecy" concerning the sign would be placed in a sealed envelope, and when the sign occurred, the envelopes would be opened and the "prophecies" verified. (Vicka Ivankovic had mentioned the sign thirteen times in her diary by this time.)
Father Tomislav Vlasic, at that time the pastor at Medjugorje, then told the "seers" to say that the "Gospa" had told them not to write anything down. Ivan, however, was in a seminary outside of Medjugorje at that time, and was for the moment out of the reach of Vlasic. Ivan wrote down the "prophecy" concerning the sign, signed, dated and sealed the envelope in the presence of canonical witnesses. Ivan later said that he never wrote anything down, but "tricked" those present by putting a piece of blank paper into the envelope.
This lie of Ivan was consequently circulated worldwide by the renowned Mariologist and Medjugorje proponent Renée Laurentin, to cover up the other lie, the false prophecy about the sign. What Ivan in fact wrote down on the paper was the prediction that there would be "a great shrine on the hill of apparitions" and that the sign would appear in June of 1986. Since this did not come to pass, and since this fact discredited the "Gospa," Ivan first declared that he had never written anything down regarding the secret; when he was subsequently confronted with the contents of the sealed envelope, he then claimed that the "Gospa" had upbraided him for having written a lie! (Always after the fact, of course).
One should pause here to consider the words of Father Augustin Poulain, S.J., the renowned theological expert on private revelations:
"A prophecy fulfilled will be the equivalent of a miracle if it was couched in definite language..."(37)
Conversely, one must assume that a prophecy couched in definite language which did not come to pass was not only not a miracle, but a false prophecy. Ivan's prediction cannot be placed in the category of a "misunderstood" prophecy, such as those revealed to saints, wherein the saint or seer may humanly misinterpret the gist of the prophecy. This is due to its extreme specificity regarding time and place. It should be obvious to any impartial observer that Ivan simply resorted to the poorest of all ruses, the equivalent in Croatian of, "the dog ate my homework."
Vicka Ivankovic and Jakov Colo took an alleged message of the "Gospa" to Bishop Zanic, according to which the "Virgin" said that the Bishop was to blame for the disorder with the suspended Franciscans and that "Ivica Vego is not at all guilty" although Vego had already been expelled by the Franciscan order and suspended by the Holy See, and alsodespite the fact that his sexual escapades were public knowledge at the time. When Bishop Zanic asked the "seers" if they knew the suspended priest, they both replied that they did not. What they did not know at the time was that the Bishop had obtained Vicka's diary, and was well aware that they knew Vego. When confronted with this lie, Vicka at first denied that she ever kept a diary, but later had to recognize the truth.The supposed "scientific evidence" in favor of "ecstasies" on the part of the seers is one of the strongest "proofs" that Medjugorje's proponents furnish regarding the apparition's authenticity.
What these proponents fail to clarify to their public is that "science" is not the ultimate arbiter of the "authenticity" of any ecstasy. However, the impression that most writers favorable to the alleged apparitions seem to give is that "scientists" (more likely of the "soft" variety, such as para-psychologists and psychologists) have demonstrated with experimental verification that the seer's supposed "ecstasies" are absolutely genuine. The reality is that such "experiments" prove nothing relative to the authenticity of such ecstasies.As Father Poulain states:"As to the physiological effects (of ecstasy) no conclusions can be drawn from them, as a rule. The alienation of the sensible faculties can quite well present the same appearance in a divine ecstasy and in its counterfeits." (38)
The work of scientists in this regard is merely to exclude verifiable natural causes as being responsible for the phenomena, and therefore establish a case for the possibility of the miraculous. The discernment exercised by the Church's pastors with respect to these phenomena is a spiritual discernment, transcending the scientific method and not relating to matters of "flesh and blood" as it were, but taking into account the reality of the spiritual warfare which the Church perpetually engages in with the Prince of darkness: Put you on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the snares of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness: against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. (Ephesians 6:11-12)
In other words, just because an event is not explicable by means of scientific investigation does not mean it is from God, or miraculous. The Devil is quite adept at simulating the miracles of God, and the appearance of holiness. In Pére Garrigou Lagrange's "The Three Ages of the Interior Life" one finds this definition of ecstasy:Ecstasy is the suspension of the exterior senses...This suspension...is marked by more or less marked insensibility, the slowing of the respiration...The body then becomes motionless, the gaze fixed on an invisible object...the loss of the use of exterior senses ...proceeds from the soul's absorption in God, which is the result of a very special grace of light and love. (39)
In other words, the senses of those in ecstasy are impervious to the outside world, except, as Pére Lagrange notes, in the occasional case where the suspension of the senses is incomplete for the purpose of the ecstatic being able to dictate what is received during the ecstasy, as was the case, Lagrange writes, with St. Catherine of Siena, and I might add, with the stigmatist Theresa Neumann. One other exception, interestingly enough, is in response to a mental or verbal command by a religious superior. Let Medjugorjians take heed of these words of Father Lagrange:
"The awakening may be provoked by an oral or simply a mental command given by a religious superior. In this connection it should be observed that, in the judgement of the Church, religious obedience during ecstasy is one of the characteristic signs of its divine origin, and a sign which eliminates the hypothesis of hysteria." (40)
From the foregoing, it can be safely assumed that true ecstasy is not something which can be interrupted by extraneous actions around the ecstatic, except in certain cases involving religious obedienceIt may be the case, however, that many of the supposed ecstasies of the "visionaries" do not even measure up to "decent" counterfeit states which can be brought about by human manipulation or diabolical activity.
One of the most tragicomic events in the entire history of Medjugorje occurred on 14 January 1985, while the visionaries where being filmed while undergoing supposed "ecstasy." On July 14, 1985, a French cameraman who was filming the "visionaries" during one of their "ecstasies" moved his fingers towards Vicka's eyes as if he were about to poke them. Vicka was visibly startled, and moved her head back as if to avoid getting an eyeful of fingers. Immediately after this incident, with nary a word, Vicka left the room, and returned to the gathering in the company of the notorious Ivica Vego. Vicka's obviously contrived explanation follows
"When I arrived in the chapel I saw Jean Louis (the cameraman in question), I saw all the people , but when the ecstasy began I saw nothing except the Virgin Mary who had the infant, and at that time I saw that the infant Jesus would fall on the floor, so I made a gesture to catch the infant Jesus because he would fall on the floor." (41)
In true Zapruder film-like fashion, the video of the event clearly shows Vicka's head to move backward, not forward. It is obvious that Vego manipulated Vicka into a pre-emptive lie, and in hindsight this attempt at deception just makes things worse for the defenders of Medjugorje, as the idea of the Mother of God losing her grip on the child Jesus during what mystical theology deems a "corporeal" vision is simply laughable, a grotesque hoax that would not even be accepted by the most credulous participants at a tent revival .
The "Gospa" supposedly confided certain secrets to the visionaries, and enjoined them strictly to reveal the said secrets to no one at all, except a priest of their choosing- this did not keep Marija Pavlovic from undergoing hypnosis, and subsequently revealing the "secret" to none other than the hypnotist:Dr. Ludovic Stopar, psychiatrist and para-psychologist …was director of the "Polyclinic of Maribor" in Yugoslavia. He put Marija Pavlovic under hypnosis to test her sincerity…under hypnosis, Marija told the secret she had kept while conscious…Dr. Stopar has kept this strictly to himself as required by his professional code.(42)
In the first place, assuming that her Franciscan spiritual directors (or handlers) were cognizant of the hypnotic session, allowing Marija to put her reason under the control of another was a revolting example of manipulation and of the Disneyland like spirituality surrounding Medjugorje. In the second place, if the Mother of God had truly confided a secret to Marija and given explicit instructions that this secret be revealed to no one, except a priest of her choice, it is not unreasonable to conclude that God would have miraculously intervened to prevent its disclosure. One looks in vain, among the countless loose ends of the Medjugorje phenomenon for answers, but it increasingly appears that the so called "Gospa", far from being the true Queen of Peace, is in reality the Queen of excuses and dissimulation. Another actor on this stage of deception was the Franciscan Tomislav Vlasic, spiritual director of the seers for the first three years. At the beginning of the apparitions had written a letter to the Pope in which he presented himself as the "one who, by Divine Providence, has been directed to guide the seers at Medjugorje." In his own ongoing conflict with the Bishop, Tomislav Vlasic has artfully employed the "Gospa" message to his own and the rebellious Franciscan's ends. He apparently put words into the "Gospa's" mouth actually threatening Monsignor Zanic with imminent judgement. Vlasic later admitted that he had written the message in the heat of emotion, but the fact that he apparently can manipulate the "seers" at will is revealing in itself.
At the beginning of the Medjugorje phenomenon, Tomislav Vlasic was presented in most "pro-Medjugorje" literature as a central figure in the lives of the seers and in the phenomena surrounding Medjugorje. The end of Tomislav's tenure as a "courtier" to the "Gospa-Queen of Peace" probably came about as a result of his manipulating of the seer Marija Pavlovic into declaring that the "Gospa" had given her blessing (43) to a peculiar religious endeavor of Vlasic-the establishing of a co-ed religious community in Parma, Italy under the co-headship of Vlasic and a certain lady named Agnes Heupel, who was supposedly miraculously healed on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Since the Vatican refused to permit such a religious aberration to occur, and ordered Vlasic back to Herzegovina, Marija and the "Gospa" were placed in a very embarrassing situation-and so, in a manner that anticipates Clintonian spin, publicly declared on July 11th, 1988:
"I feel morally bound to make the following statements before God, our Lady, and the Church of Jesus Christ:(1) The message of the text An Invitation to the Marian Year and the deposition which bears my signature is that I brought Our Lady's answer to Brother [sic] Tomislav Vlasic's question. That answer was supposedly: "This is God's plan." In other words, it follows from these texts that I transmitted to Brother Tomislav Vlasic Our Lady's confirmation and express approval of this work and of the program set in motion in Italy with the Medjugorje prayer group. (44)(2) I now declare that I never asked Our Lady for any confirmation whatsoever of this work begun by Brother [sic] Tomislav Vlasic and Agnes Heupel. I never expressly ask Our Lady whether I should take part in this work, and I never received from Our Lady an instruction connected with the group, apart from her instruction that each of us should be free to make a choice for his or her own life. (3) From the texts and depositions, which bear my signature, it appears that Our Lady suggested that the community and program of Brother Tomislav Vlasic and Agnes Heupel are God's way for myself and the others. I now repeat that I never received from Our Lady nor gave Brother Vlasic or anybody else such a statement or instruction from Our Lady.(4) My first statement in its published form in Croatian and Italian does not correspond to the truth. I personally had no desire to make any written statement. Brother [sic] Tomislav Vlasic advised me, stressing the point again and again, that I, as a seer, ought to write a deposition which the world expected..."
Translation:I lied; I put words in the "Gospa's" mouth, I let myself be manipulated by another liar, Tomislav Vlasic, and I tried to pass off these lies as authentic "messages" of the Virgin Mother of God.Vlasic himself has virtually disappeared from the Medjugorje scene, "edited out" of the Medjugorje cannon, probably because of what happened with Mirjana, and perhaps also because his fathering a child by an ex-Franciscan nun who now lives in Germany had become public knowledge. When the nun in question wrote to Bishop Zanic, asking him to help obtain some financial support from Vlasic for the child's upbringing, the Bishop questioned Vlasic about the child. He did not deny that he was the father, but seemed to consider his paternity part of a chapter of his life, which had subsequently been closed. Certain Medjugorje apologists, foremost among them the renowned Mariologist Renée Laurentin, tried to pin the paternity of the child on an ex-Franciscan priest who now resides in California, Marian Pehar.(45)
When it became apparent that this ruse was not going to work, down went Vlasic into Orwellian oblivion, at least as far as the pro-Medjugorje people were concerned. The fact of Vlasic's paternity of the child alone, though certainly grave, would not of itself deter one from considering the veracity of Medjugorje's claims. Nevertheless, the fact that it is perhaps the most sordid untruth, along with Vego's escapades, and that the blame for it, rather than having been shouldered with a sincere repentance on the part of Vlasic himself, and acknowledged in humble regard for the truth, by the Medjugorje promoters and seers, was covered up and actually blamed on another. To which category of "fruits" does this particular lie belong to? The "Gospa" also made an endorsement of Father Jozo Zovko, who was the pastor at Medjugorje at the time when the alleged apparitions began, if we are to believe Marija:"Jozo Zovko is a saint." (10/21/84)
The heady wine of being declared a saint by no less a personage than the "Gospa" of Medjugorje was apparently too strong for Father Zovko. He was suspended by Bishop Zanic as parish priest of Tihaljina because of numerous sexual assaults, and the second time, on August 23, 1994 by Bishop Peric for disobedience. (46)
Interestingly enough, Bishop Zanic, in a homily, which he gave in St. James Church (the famous "Church of the apparitions") on July 25th, 1987, almost a year before Marija's fiasco, had this to say:. ...to preach falsehood to the faithful concerning God, Jesus, and Our Lady-that merits the depths of hell.(47)
The reader should be able to judge for him or herself, who the real prophet has been, in light of the subsequent events. The lack of veracity, which characterizes the Medjugorje phenomenon seems to radiate from Medjugorje centrifugally, as from a source focus of untruth, affecting all and sundry, who, propagandize the alleged apparitions. One example of this is the way in which the lie was circulated that the first commission convened by Bishop Zanic to investigate the events, the judgement of which was negative regarding the apparitions, had been 'terminated' by the Vatican:" The impulsive remarks of the Bishop sometimes harden the content. This could the case now, to his detriment, because Rome has not said anything against him, and in fact supported him without reserve in his Episcopal duties. After having told him not to precipitate anything, the Congregation of the Faith (sic) in liaison with the Pope terminated the Commission which had begun so badly, and whose information, without a doubt, is useful but one sided." (48)
Thus, renowned Mariologist Rene Laurentin , perhaps the single individual most responsible for publicizing the apparitions world wide, characterized the Vatican's handling of the first Episcopal commission as termination, "in liaison with the Pope," as well as engaging in some gratuitous sniping at Bishop Zanic, calling him "impulsive" and impugning the credibility of the first commission as "one sided." However, if one wishes to familiarize oneself with true one- sidedness, anything that Laurentin has written so far regarding Medjugorje should be read. According to an item published in the National Catholic Register on July 6, 1986 the Vatican's account differs distinctly from Father Laurentin's version: Because of widespread international interest, local Church authorities investigating the validity of reported Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, have been offered assistance by Vatican agencies," said Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"We have offered assistance and asked the local Bishop to stay in touch with the Congregation and the secretariat of state," he said. He said primary responsibility rests with the local Bishop, and denied reports that the Vatican would take over the investigation. The Cardinal says the Congregation discourages 'official Church pilgrimages' to Medjugorje because [the validity of the apparitions] is still an open question.At that time, rumors were circulating throughout the Church to the effect that Bishop Zanic had been reprimanded or silenced by the Vatican. As Father Guerrera observes in "Medjugorje, A Closer Look":The allegation that Bishop Zanic was silenced is dispelled by the fact that he has continued to speak out publicly against Medjugorje. (49)
This author himself remembers being told by several close friends of his, all Italian missionaries, that, in effect, the Vatican saw that something was wrong with the Bishop, and removed his jurisdiction over the events, which, in retrospect, would have represented a canonical absurdity. The real truth was that Medjugorje promoters have a propaganda network that is flush with cash, and they can publicize anything which casts a favorable light on Medjugorje, and effectively dismiss anything or anyone that reflects unfavorably on the phenomenon. Father Laurentin, as chief propagandist for Medjugorje, cannot claim ignorance of the facts as his defense. According to Bishop Zanic:
"Rene Laurentin…came to visit me…He asked me why I do not believe in the apparitions. I told him that, according to the diary of Vicka and the words of the other "seers", this Lady has been speaking against the Bishop. Laurentin quickly responded, ’Don't publish that, because there are many pilgrims and converts there.’ I was scandalized by this statement of the renowned Mariologist! Unfortunately this has remained Laurentin's position: to hide from the truth and defend falsehoods." (50)
The lies surrounding Medjugorje are apparently abetted not only by an extensive worldwide propaganda network, but also by an atmosphere of intimidation and threats towards anyone who would dare to try to get the truth out. A German photographer claimed to have observed and photographed the Franciscans in the act of fabricating the messages. When he was observed peeking into the sacristy, he was threatened by both a seer and a priest. Later, a taxi driver told him that anyone who opposed Medjugorje would be murdered. In March of 1998 this photographer wrote to the Schwartzer Brief:
"After the bishop intervened with the Franciscans as a result of my testimony, the hard core of the manipulators, Tomislav Vlasic, Slavko Barbaric, and Tomislav Pervan announced that I was no longer welcome there."
Ivan (Dragicevic) the seer, came up to the German photographer afterward, and "made a gesture which indicated that his throat would be slit" if he continued. (51)
At this point, one is tempted to throw up one's hands in desperation and ask why anybody would consider the alleged apparitions anything but false. It is certainly true that in many authentic mistakes are made by the seers, their spiritual directors, and many of the revelations are misunderstood. But in no true or authentic private revelation recorded in Church history will one find the absolute predominance of obvious untruths and deliberate deceptions as at Medjugorje. Indeed, the defining characteristic of the apparitions appears to be deception, which is just, in essence, what fits the New Age mold so well. For it can safely be said that truth in the New Age is not what it used to be, as the conformity of thought and thing, the "adecuatio mentis et rei" of the scholastics. Truth in the New Age is the peak experience, the nebulous experience of oceanic divinity, divine madness. To those who are of the opinion that the Church hierarchy should just "let go and let God" (or "let Gospa"!) according to the updated phraseology of quietism, permitting every wind of doctrine to rock the barque of Peter from port to starboard as long as the gale comes as a "message from heaven", the old idea of objective truth is an inconvenience, a summation of irrelevant facts which just gets in the way. To paraphrase Euripides, "whom the New Age gods would destroy, they first make immune to the truth."
CHARISMA OR MANIPULATION?
Whatever opinions one may hold about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, it is generally acknowledged as being the "spiritual grandchild" (via the ecumenical "charismatic movement begun during the 1950's) of the Pentecostal movement, which began on the first day of the twentieth century by former British Israelite and freemason, Charles Parham. Parham (who was to end up as a propagandist for the Ku Klux Klan) apparently invoked the "Holy Spirit" down upon one Agnes Ozman, who, according to Pentecostal claims, began speaking Mandarin Chinese (she had no knowledge of any foreign language).(52)The Catholic Renewal, begun in 1967 by a group of students from Duquesne University who had recently read the famous "The Cross and the Switchblade" by the anti-Catholic pentecostal and founder of "Melodyland", David Wilkersen.
The students in question apparently longed for the experience of "Baptism in the Spirit" as described in the book, and began to experience the typical paroxysms touted by the Charismatics as "baptism in the spirit." By 1981, the Charismatic Renewal had spread throughout the length and breadth of the Church Universal, through such luminaries as Cardinal Suenens of Belgium and Rene Laurentin, the famous Mariologist. Bosnia Herzegovina was no exception. One of the principal "Charismatic" leaders among the Franciscans of Herzegovina was Fr. Tomislav Vlasic, spiritual director of the seers of Medjugorje during the first three years of the apparitions.
An interesting and a well known fact in Medjugorje circles is that it was Tomislav Vlasic, who first received the prophecy of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother. This took place at a conference of Charismatic Renewal leaders in Rome a mere month before the first "apparitions" in June of 1981. Briege Mackenna, a leading light in the Charismatic renewal apparently prayed over Vlasic, and had a vision of Vlasic "surrounded by great crowds in the midst of living water," or something similar, and Father Emile Tardiff (53), another neo-pentecostal illuminatus, prophesied:
"Do not fear. I am sending you my mother."The generically charismatic Father Tardiff can be very convincing. Tardiff travels world wide, and at his giant "healing conferences" propagandizes the Medjugorje apparitions, as after all, his stake in them is enormous, for as the one who prophesied the "apparitions" in the first place, it would just not do for such an elect vessel of the Charismatic Renewal to have been involved in the confection of a false apparition. As a matter of fact, it was by attending one such conference of Tardiff's that this author became interested in Medjugorje. As E. Michael Jones observes in his masterful volume on the alleged apparitions:As a charismatic, he (Vlasic), must have gone to the Rome conference with some sense of expectation. Then came the prophecy: then on June 24, the apparitions. For someone with the charismatic mindset, it must have seemed like a sure sign from God. (
It does not require a quantum leap of the imagination to envision Vlasic, an obviously manipulative individual (as noted above, ch. 2) parleying the original "in nucleo" experience of the Medjugorje seers, whatever it was (either hallucinatory, demonic, or just a tall tale run amok) into the gigantic world famous spiritual carnival it has since become. Father Tomislav held before 1981 (the year the apparitions started) a strange sort of sensitivity training sessions with adolescents in Capljina where he, as well as Father Slavko (Barbaric) had been chaplain before. These young ones came to the Bishop telling bewildering stories of unheard of actions during these therapeutic sessions. (55)Anyone who is familiar with Charismatic prayer groups knows that almost invariably an atmosphere of expectation, as noted by Professor Jones, prevails there- expectation that the "Spirit" will "move" and manifest some extraordinary phenomenon, such as tongues, visions, "words of knowledge", being "slain in the spirit", spasmodic reactions, tingling sensations, etc. The sensitivity training alluded to above, when used in conjunction with such a religiously oriented atmosphere under the leadership of an authority figure, such as a priest, is bound to lead to hyper-suggestibility and altered states of conscience, especially among impressionable adolescents. The thing to remember would in no way be an abnormal reaction, even among "normal" subjects. Exposure to an atmosphere such as a prayer group / sensitivity session often is a potent force to reckon with even among those who are unwilling to "join in."
The EST seminar is a good example of this. Many such encounter groups concentrate on creating a group mentality, via the breaking down of barriers or "inhibitions" separating individuals from one another and from the group as a whole. When an individual finally "gives in" to the "group" a feeling of euphoria is often forthcoming, thereby opening up the individual to a hyper-suggestive state, of thinking with the group, of merging one's individuality with the group.
Within the Catholic Church, the same thing is done, perhaps with the best of intentions, in the Charismatic movement. First one is made to sing along with the trite little ditties; then one is exhorted to clap and sway in rhythm with the beat of the music; on many occasions inside Church in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, something that some Catholics may be hesitant to do. If an individual appears reluctant, he or she is chided gently and reminded that the Holy Spirit is present; "don't sadden the 'Spirit'; if one decides to join in, one receives a pat on the back and general approval from the leaders. The individual generally gives in, and by the time everything is over, may actually find him or herself on the floor, in a paroxysm of pseudo-ecstasy, "slain in the spirit." Prayer group leaders within the Renewal acquire an almost "guru" like status among their younger adepts, especially those who would appear to possess "spiritual" or "psychic" gifts. The factors of suggestibility and dependence, coupled with supposed manifestations of the supernatural and a desire to please the leader of the group, all serve as a combustible mix when combined with the altered state of conscious:
Altered states also have important commonalties. They can all impair one's ability to test reality, to think critically and logically or to remember. They create a passive state in which mental events seem to develop on their own and are simply experienced rather than being controlled. Many also weaken emotional restraints, allowing moods to swing from wild jubilation to deep fear and deep depression. In addition, they can all create perceptual distortions and hallucinations and precipitate unusual bodily sensations like numbness, dizziness, tingling or rushes of energy…They can make people hyper-suggestible, so they are open to many strange beliefs and are easily influenced by the suggestions of other people. Altered states gave the singular ability to make all kinds of probable events seem exceptionally real and significant…One final effect of altered states is their apparent ability to facilitate or enhance mystical experience….(56)
At this point it is only possible to speculate, but many of those who have actually been close to the seers themselves now believe that when they were all having the visions together in Medjugorje they may have been in a hypnotically induced light trance, due to the manner in which they seemed to react "on cue" at the beginning and end of the periodic alleged apparitions. Tomislav Vlasic is credited by Bishop Zanic as being the creator of the Medjugorje phenomenon. Although Fr. Jozo Zovko was the pastor at St. James at the time, his prolonged absence due to being jailed by the Communist authorities set the stage for Vlasic to come to the fore.
After the conference in Rome, Tomislav Vlasic was back in Capljina, a few miles away from Medjugorje, and it is not unlikely that he had an influence on the youths. Since Mirjana, who was present at the first apparition, had read a book on the apparitions of Lourdes during the first few days of June, and this along with the fact that Fr. Tomislav was describing his experiences at the Rome Charismatic conference, at which the "prophecies" concerning the Blessed Mother were made, it does not take a rocket scientist to put two and two together. Besides, all this was taking place in what could only be described as a small town atmosphere. Anybody who has ever lived in a small town knows that nothing of any importance, gossip or otherwise, escapes public attention for long.
Whatever the role played by Vlasic in the apparitions, he did without a doubt, exercise a great deal of control over the seers: it was apparent that by now, the seers and Vlasic had formed something of a spiritual "limited partnership", whereby he would have a somewhat similar relationship to the seers as Montanus to Prisca and Maximilla, with the oracular pronouncements of the "Gospa" replacing those of the Montanist "Paraclete."This kind of relationship between seers and clerics is quite common in the history of false mysticism. When one endeavors to dominate or manipulate the other, the roles can be reversed, especially when there is a real, palpable manifestation of preternatural power, as may be the case at Medjugorje:Let the director be on his guard against certain prophetesses who, dreaming of some great enterprise and seeing their own powerlessness, form the idea of entering into partnership with their director. They tell him that heaven has chosen him; which is very flattering. They skillfully reserve the divine communications to themselves…the priest will have the publicity of the exterior work, all the heavier tasks.(57)
It may have been the case in Medjugorje that, once the center of mediumistic power was established, Vlasic, whose manipulation was instrumental, was cast aside as no longer useful to the plans of the "Gospa." In cahoots with Slavko Barbaric, he told the seers to lie and to say that the "Gospa" had ordered them not to write anything down about the "sign." This was the false prophecy that Ivan inadvertently disclosed, as he could not be reached by Vlasic at the time. (See above, chapter 2) Vlasic probably was himself the author of the messages in which the Gospa berates and threatens the Bishop. (See above, Chapter 3)Vlasic put words in the "Gospa's" mouth in order to bless his idea of an illicit religious community, even going so far as to claim a unique status for himself and his female counterpart, Agnes Heupel:Brother and sister will always be the leaders of the community. While they are in charge, they will offer themselves as sacrifice for one another, then together for the community.
This is an explicit wish of the Madonna. She wants this that the reconciliation might be realized in the roots of mankind. The war started in the world between two human beings which had been created in the image of God, between a male and a female (Gen. 3) By offering themselves as propitiation for one another they realize the basis for reconciliation and harmony for all other human beings.(58)
Perhaps Sun Nyung Moon may have had something to say about Vlasic's pretensions, as there is a striking resemblance between Vlasic's proposal to 'reconcile all human beings' by having Agnes Heupel and himself somehow remedy the disobedience of our first parents, and the Unification Church's teachings about himself and his first wife completing the work of redemption at which Jesus Christ failed.
Vlasic's proposal is totally irreconcilable with orthodox Christianity either morally, theologically or spiritually. It sounds like Vlasic had fallen into the same trap that most extreme enthusiasts ultimately fall into: antinomianism and utterly bizarre, Gnostic speculation:He (the director) must also be aware lest the seer carry him away into sentimentality, into romance. There are persons who are tormented with the need of affection. Finding no outlet in the natural order, or not allowing themselves to seek for it there, they turn instinctively to the supernatural side. They dream of I know not what "union of souls" declaring them to be inspired by God, while really they are merely ridiculous and lead to nothing.(59)
Marija, whom he had beguiled into having the "Gospa" endorse the envisioned community, was virtually forced to retract, as any sane person would. No wonder Marija or the "Gospa" could no longer put up a front for this. Had Marija persisted in affirming that the "Gospa" initiated the idea of this community, such a position would almost have certainly precipitated a direct condemnation from Rome. Thus Vlasic, who was favored by prophecy and designated by "Divine Providence" to guide the phenomenon, was outmanipulated by the "Gospa" he may have helped to bring to life.