WHAT THE CHURCH REALLY SAYS
Those who have taken the time to read extensively about Medjugorje and other unnapproved revelations and apparitions are undoubtedly familiar with the ubiquitous disclaimer at the beginning of most of the (favorable) publications on the phenomenon: The publisher (or author) recognizes that the final authority regarding the apparitions at Medjugorje (or others) rests with the Holy See of Rome, to whose judgment we willingly submit.This is a very disingenuous ruse by means of which those who publish such books can skirt around the legitimate and authoritative pronouncements of Church authorities (by and large, local Bishops) and still appear to be totally faithful and obedient members of Christ's church. For what it implies is that, if and until the Pope himself declares his disapproval, they are perfectly free to publish and distribute literature, motion pictures, electronics media, and organize conferences promoting unnapproved revelations, miracles and apparitions, with no negative consequences. This is done ad infinitum by the radical followers of Medjugorje. First of all, they insist that John Paul II is really in favor of the apparitions, and has publicly expressed this sentiment on numerous occasions:In a public Papal audience in June 1986, the Pope, when asked by twelve Italian Bishops about Medjugorje, had this to say:"Let the people go to Medjugorje if they convert, pray, confess, do penance, and fast." (116)
There are stories of the Pope secretly meeting with the "visionaries", whimsically saying that if he were not the Pope, his greatest desire would be to be a parish priest at Medjugorje, of John Paul's eyes "filling with tears" at the merest mention of Medjugorje, etc. The truth of the matter is that John Paul II, as Pope, possesses supreme, immediate, and full power over the Church Universal, and can exercise that power that power at his discretion, and is answerable to no one, (save God) for its exercise. If the pontiff were truly convinced that the Virgin Mary was indeed appearing at Medjugorje, he could simply overturn all the negative judgements with no one the wiser, and as the code of cannon law states, his actions are a nemine judicatur, not adjudicated by anyone on earth. If this were indeed the case, why have the actions of the Holy See been totally supportive of both Monsignor Zanic and his successor, Monsignor Peric? This raises an interesting question, though; suppose that the Pope were personally in favor of the apparitions. Doesn't that mean that, possessing as he does the charism of infallibility, the apparitions must be authentic? Absolutely not-first of all because private revelations are just that-"private." The charism of infallibility does not extend to such revelations, only to the Deposit of Faith, delivered once for all to the Apostles:The condition of the infallibility is that the Pope speaks ex-cathedra. For this is required:
The Pope, even when he is not speaking ex-cathedra, is to be heeded and obeyed by all the faithful, of course. But the important point here is to recognize that the Pope's quasi-private statements (if we for a moment concede that he really made such statements concerning Medjugorje) are not to be regarded as authoritative or definitive. Private revelations, since they do not, in an individual sense, form part of the Deposit of Faith are not objects of Divine, supernatural Faith on the part of the faithful. They are objects of moral certitude, or human faith based on the "weight of the evidence", much like a jury's verdict. It is for this reason that most Catholics accept the apparitions at Fatima, Lourdes and Guadalupe-because so many holy men, and many Popes, have publicly mentioned these apparitions with approval, ratifying the previous favorable decisions of the local Bishops in all three cases.
Although rare, there have even been cases in which Popes have been fooled by false "seers" or mystics:Lambertini mentioned the example of his predecessor, Pope Gregory XI, who lay on his death bed, clutching the Eucharist to his breast, and warning those around him "to beware of both men and women under the guise of religion speak visions of their own heads." For Pope Gregory XI, Lambertini continued, "seduced by such, had neglected the reasonable counsel of his friends and had dragged himself and the church to the hazard of imminent schism."(118)
This is in no way meant to imply that John Paul II has been fooled, merely to demonstrate that such incidents are not within the purview of Papal infallibilty. One cannot, obviously, speak regarding the Pope's private thoughts, but it is not unreasonable to imagine that if John Paul, as devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary as he obviously is, truly believed in the apparitions of Medjugorje, he would by now have made some public, official statement to that effect.
In any case, it would appear that such statements attributed to the Pope are spurious. The President of Unity Publishing, Rick Salbato, who is tirelessly dedicated to exposing false apparitions in the Catholic Church, went to the Vatican and spoke personally to one of the Pope's closest friends in the Curia, Louis Cardinal Gagnon. Cardinal Gagnon told Mr. Salbato unconditionally that the Pope had never made such statements.
The Apostolic Nuncio to the United States,Archbishop Pio Laghi, wrote the following to Mr. Joseph O'Connor of San Diego, on March 1, 1988 :Although there have been made observations about Medjugorje attributed to the Holy Father and other officials of the Holy See, none of these has been acknowledged as authentic the local hierarchy (i.e.,Bishop Zanic) has the backing of the Holy See.And, as regards Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect for the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith:On April 19, 1998, the publisher of the Schwarzer Brief sent documentation on Medjugorje to Cardinal Ratzinger, including 14 quotes from various books by people like Rene Laurentin and Bishop Paolo Hnilica, in which the impression was given that the pope and Cardinal Ratzinger had repeatedly recognized the authenticity of the apparitions. In response, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote on July 22, 1998: "Thank you for sending the Claus Peter Clausen's memo. He is well known to me as the publisher of the Schwatzer Brief . I can only say in response that the quotes endorsing Medjugorje attributed to me and the Holy Father have been made up out of thin air." Ratzinger's testimony makes it clear that he discussed the issue with the pope. (119)
Nevertheless, the Medjugorje movement persisted in insisting that the Pope was pro- Medjugorje, and had also said that were he not Pope, "I would go to Medjugorje." If this were true, who or what could possibly impede the Supreme Pontiff from visiting any place he wanted to go, save perhaps God or the true Gospa? It is perhaps more signifigant that, on his last visit to Bosnia Herzegovina, the Holy Father, a mere twenty minutes away from Medjugorje, in Sarajevo, made no mention at all of Medjugorje .The pope celebrated Mass at both traditional shrines of Marian devotion in Croatia , Maria Bistrica and the Madonna of the Island. The Madonna of the Island is venerated under the name of Queen of Peace. (120)
His holiness extolled the Maria Bistrica as a "true center of Marian devotion " according to James Drake, writing in Business Week, December 28, 1998:When the Pope preached in the nearby Croatian port of Split this summer, Barbaric and his colleagues ( priest supporters of Medjugorje) stayed home after the pontiff declined an invitation to see Medjugorje for himself.If the Medjugorje proponents are to be believed, then Catholics are apparently free to accept, follow and propagate any private revelation, prophecy, alleged apparition, devotion, etc. that has not been explicitly condemned by Rome. Therefore, one must assume that Catholics are free to subscribe to the messages of Veronica Leuken in Bayside, New York, and those of Garabandal, in Spain, even though both have been repeatedly and unambiguously condemned. Adding to the confusion, propagandists, in their pro-Medjugorje publications, also use this supposed "official" statement:"Since the abolition of Canon 1399 and 2318 of the former Canonical Code by Pope Paul VI in AAS 58 (1966), publications about new appearences, prophecies, miracles, etc., have been allowed without the expressed permission of the Church, provided they contain nothing which contravenes faith and morals.
"If this were indeed the case, it would give virtual carte blanche to any and all persons, sincere and otherwise, to publish anything and everything regarding alleged private revelations and pass such off as the truth, as long as "faith and morals" are not impugned. The problem is, if the local Bishops have no authority to prevent such publications and propaganda, then who is to define just what "contravenes faith and morals"? The truth of the matter is that the above interpretation of the declaration is erroneous, as was recently clarified by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith:The interpretation given by some individuals to a decision approved by Paul VI on 14 October 1966 and promulgated on 15 November of that year, in virtue of which writings and messages resulting from alleged revelations could be freely circulated in the Church, is absolutely groundless. This decision actually referred to the "abolition of the Index of forbidden books" and determined that-after the relevant censures were lifted-the moral obligation still remained of not circulating or reading those writings which endanger faith and morals.
It should be recalled however that with regard to the circulation of texts of alleged private revelations, canon 623 #1 of the current code remains in force: "the Pastors of the Church have the right to demand that writings to be published by the Christian faithful which touch upon faith or morals be submitted to their judgement".
Alleged supernatural revelations and writings concerning them are submitted in first instance to the judgement of the diocesan Bishop, and, in particular cases, to the judgement of the Episcopal Conference and the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. (121)This declaration is significant with regards to Medjugorje for two reasons: first, because it reaffirms that the local Bishop is ordinarily responsible for judging the authenticity of private revelations and apparitions occurring within his diocese, and because it contradicts what the partisans of Medjugorje have long been claiming, that there is nothing to prevent them from publishing anything they intuit to be genuine with respect to such phenomena.
The document is merely following the precedent of nearly two millenia. The local Bishops have always exercised jurisdiction over apparitions and the like occurring within their dioceses, and, although mistakes have been made by Bishops in declaring such things authentic when indeed they were false (e.g., the case of the saintly Bishop Anibale di Francia erroneously declaring the false mystic, Luisa Picarreta of Divine Will fame, to be worthy of belief), there has never been a case of Rome overturning a local Bishop's negative judgement with regards to happenings within his diocese. The local Bishop may sometimes appeal for assistance in dealing with such cases to the Episcopal conference or the Vatican, but this decision is usually his to make. Indeed, the Vatican prefers not to involve itself in such cases, a point which was recently reiterated by Father Brown , one of Cardinal Ratzinger's staff members, in an interview with Network 5, an independent film company. (122)
Just who are the late Bishop Zanic, and his successor Ratko Peric, and what have they said about the apparitions at Medjugorje?
Ironically, Bishop Pavao Zanic was ordained to the priesthood forty years to the month before the "apparitions" began, in June of 1941. Throughout his priestly life he was fervently devoted to the Blessed Mother, and often led pilgrimages from his diocese to Lourdes. At one time during the first few years of the apparitions, he publicly vowed to crawl on his knees for miles over broken glass, if the Madonna were actually leave a miraculous sign testifying to the authenticity of Medjugorje. He is hardly the unbelieving and cynical communist collaborator presented in the major motion picture entitled "Gospa", a masterpiece of pro-Medjugorje propaganda:The Chancery office of the diocese of Mostar, fervently condemns as untrue all the scenes and words regarding the ecclesiastical behavior of Msgr. Pavao Zanic, the former diocesan Bishop (under the name of Peter Zubic in the film) Not even a shadow of cowardliness or easing off of the bishop before the communist authorities was ever in question, let alone any type of collaboration with them, as can be concluded by watching the film To present bishop Zanic as a collaborator with the communists and as a weakling in conversation with the Franciscans while talking about Medjugorje, contradicts all the bishop's public appearances and statements which are well known regarding these events A film which abuses the name of our Lady, which does not shy away from an incorrect and insulting presentation of the local bishop does not merit the attention of the faithful.(123)
Indeed, it is difficult not to sympathize with Bishop Zanic, being under siege from all four corners of the globe, having arrayed against him the entire weight of the Medjugorje propaganda machine. Belittled in print, dismissed as irrelevant in scores of Medjugorje conferences, disdained as a recalcitrant, pusillanimous cleric by thousands of misinformed Medjugorje devotees, Bishop Zanic never wavered in his defense of the truth and of the true faith. When the smoke surrounding Medjugorje finally clears, as it inevitably must, perhaps the example of Mons. Zanic and the few fellow clergymen in the diocese who stood by him will be the one bright spot in this whole sordid affair. The truth is seldom popular, and always discomfiting, but in the end invariably triumphs.
As early as 1983, Bishop Zanic was taking great pains to get the truth out. In December of that year, the Bishop published the following warning:
"It seems that the promoters of Medjugorje are busy creating a situation, by means of their propaganda, such that Church authority will never dare oppose. But the Church has no needs of counter truths in order to defend the faith. The truth must be presented although it is disagreeable. And concerning the 'Virgin's' support of the rebellious priests there has been no peace in the Church of Herzegovina for fifteen years. Half the Franciscans resist the restoration of certain parishes to the diocesan clergy using as their pretext the alleged messages of the Blessed Virgin at Medjugorje. The present provincial, his collaborators and the other half of the Franciscans are working to restore peace with the Bishop. They do not believe in the apparitions. Thus, on account of Medjugorje and the Queen of Peace, there is even more tension and disquiet. Regina pacis, ora pro nobis! (124)
Bishop Zanic subsequently condemned a book by Father Rupcic-"The Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Medjugorje" and forbade all further publications and literature favorable to the alleged apparitions. This prohibition was published in L'Osservatore Romano on July 24, 1984.
On August 7 of the same year, and again on October 30, Mons. Zanic forbade the seers and priests from using St. James Church and the adjacent buildings for the apparitions; a prohibition, which was contempuously disregarded by all parties concerned.
On November 12, 1984, the Bishops of Yugoslavia forbade official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, and reaffirmed the necessity of obtaining permission from the local ordinary for all priests wishing to say mass there. This prohibition was also ignored by a great many "pilgrims", priests, and tour guides, as tourists and their hard currency began to flood Medjugorje.
On March 25, 1986, Bishop Zanic published yet another decree prohibiting pilgrimages, apparitions, and commercialization of the phenomenon:"I had asked that the doings of Medjugorje be slowly stifled and brought to an end, but everything is continuing as before. This is a disgrace. Consequently, I now demand of you without indulgence the following:1) That the seers hereafter be prevented from appearing in public.2) That there be an end to apparitions in the parish church. That the seers have them in their homes as they did during the summer of 1981
3) That from ten days hence, without any hesitation, the new statue of the Virgin modeled on the apparition and placed before the altar be removed. That the old statue be replaced.
4) That all talk of the apparitions must cease and that no messages be divulged.
5) That devotion developed as a result of the apparitions and in accordance with the messages linked thereto be brought to an end
6) That the sale of souvenirs and publications propagating the apparitions cease. The people may still, however, go to confession, and Mass may be celebrated.
7) I do not allow priests from outside to celebrate mass in the parish or to preach, Friars Jozo Zovko, Tomislav Vlasic and Ljudevit Rupcic in particular.
8) The seers must hand over all they have written Diaries and writings are public deeds and exercise a great influence on the events of Medjugorje. Consequently, all these documents and this material must come under the control of the Bishop's House, and be made subject to inquiry I greet you and with you the divine blessing."P. Zanic"None of these requests by the Bishop were fulfilled by the Franciscans of Medjugorje. Then, on May 2, 1986, the original commision investigating Medjugorje reached, as it were, a verdict on the alleged apparitions: eleven of the Commisions members declared that there was "nothing supernatural" taking place in Medjugorje, with only two of the members (both Franciscans) deciding in favor of the "supernaturality" of the apparitions; one of the members declared that he was of the opinion that there had been an authentic revelation at the very beginning of the apparitions, and one member abstained. Therefore, the first commision essentially vindicated the position of Bishop Zanic.
Owing to the worldwide interest in the Medjugorje phenomenon, the Yugoslavian Conference of Bishops formed a new commission to investigate the alleged apparitions in 1987. This news was used by Medjugorje propagandists through conferences, newsletters, and charismatic renewal networks to create the false impression that the Vatican had stripped Bishop Zanic of his authority over Medjugorje, and led even some to claim that he had been forced to resign his bishopric. Subsequent events proved that these rumors were totally false, but to this day there are many in the Medjugorje movement who believe this to be the case.. Bishop Zanic, never ceased speaking clearly and unambiguously against the false apparitions. In what was perhaps the most comprehensive public statement he has made concerning Medjugorje, issued even before the declaration of the Yugoslavian Bishops, Bishop Zanic presents a devastating case against the apparitions. Although too long to be included here in its entirety, it can be found in its complete form in Michael Davies excellent book, Medjugorje: After Fifteen Years. In it, Bishop Zanic presents a detailed overview of his reasons for rejecting the phenomenon from the very beginning. In the first paragraphs of the document, Mons. Zanic declares that it is his duty to get out the truth and help the commission, even though this is not a pleasant thing:
1) for a short description of the falsehoods of Medjugorje, we would need at least two hundred pages I am somewhat uneasy, because of the fact that in some statements my name is in the forefront, yet from the beginning of the "apparitions" I have been in the center of the events due to my episcopal position and duties. I am sorry for having to mention some unpleasant things, but without them the arguments lose their strength The Bishop explains that Medjugorje devotees often try to hide the truth from the misinformed, and mentions one particular case involving a priest from Panama, who asked him why he didn't believe in the apparitions. The Bishop then explained to the priest (through an interpreter favorable to the apparitions) about the "Gospa's" statements in defense of the sacrilegious priest, Ivica Vego: I asked Marina (the interpreter) to translate this in English She spontaneously responded, according to the practice of Medjugorje: "Do we have to tell them these ugly things?" I responded by saying that if you had not held back and covered these "ugly events" these people from Panama would have found out earlier and they would not have had to travel to Medjugorje for nothing. It is an injustice and a sin to hide the truth .Bishop Zanic then relates how even an internationally recognized scholar prefers the rule of appearances over truth:The Marian theologian Rene Laurentin behaves in the same manner. He came to visit me around Christmas 1983 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 Unfortunately, this has remained Laurentin's position: to hide the truth , and defend falsehoods There follows a documentation by the bishop of the lies told by the various seers during the course of the original investigations he carried out, as well as of the so called messages of the "Gospa" expressing support for the rebellious Franciscans, especially Vego and Prusina. Mons. Zanic includes:The lie told by Mirjana about going up the hill to look for sheep.The "bloody handkerchief story" related by Vicka in her diary.Vicka, Jakov and Marija's claims that they had received messages from the "Gospa" exonerating Vego and Prusina. Extracts from the interviews with FatherGrafenauer, wherein Vicka effectively denies even the Pope's authority.Marija Pavlovic's retraction concerning the "Gospa's" endorsement of Tomislav Vlasic's co-ed religious community.Ivan's lie about the contents of the sealed envelope and the "prophecy" of the sign.Next, Bishop Zanic puts the lie to the assertion that he had believed in the apparitions in the beginning:"The bishop also believed in the beginning." This is not true! While the communists were persecuting the Franciscans, the "seers" and the pilgrims, I defended all of them and therefore I did not change my mind "because of threats by the Republic commission or because the diocesan priests sought this from me." This is simply fabricated slander by many. While I was publicly defending the imprisoned Franciscans, Rev. Jozo Zovko said during the investigation that the bishop is a 'wolf' and a 'hypocrite.' Rev. T. Vlasic often put "Our Lady's" affirmation that Satan (in this case the bishop) is out to destroy her plan I complained about this accusation that he has called the bishop Satan, in front of Vlasic and his Provincial. He did not deny my objection There follows an analysis of the so called "fruits" of Medjugorje and promises of miraculous cures which never materialized: Mr. Blazevic told the archbishop and many other patients, doctors and hospital staff that Our Lady had promised, through the "seers", that the operation would succeed. A nun who assisted in the operating room, wrote to me later that Blazevic's wife and his daughter spoke to her with a fanatical type of faith in "Our Lady's" promise" The patient did not wake up after the operation Rev. T. Vlasic, in his typical fashion of hiding the truth, succeeded in convincing the daughter of the late Mr. Blazevic, to go to the bishop to tell him that Our Lady only told them to pray, not that she promised them that the operation would succeed!!! I told her not to make a liar out of her late father or liars of the others to whom she had spoke.The rest of the bishop's declaration is basically an overview of the Herzegovina problem, some examples of false visionaries of the past, and a lamentation by Mons. Zanic over the many people who have been deceived by the alleged apparitions, and who sooner or later are bound to experience a crushing spiritual dissapointment:There are many prayers and pious activities in Medjugorje. Some say that there have been conversions as well. I have received indeed many truly touching letters, and I feel sorry for those who will sooner or later be dissapointed Jesus said: "I have come into the world to witness to the truth." The Church would easily be able to attract the masses if it dropped the sixth commandment, if divorce were allowed, if it let everybody believe what they wanted I know that there will probably be many sincerely pious souls that will misunderstand me and consider me an enemy of Our Lady What I am doing is defending the truth, defending the Church, and I pray to God that I be able to give up my life for this.
On April 10, 1991, the Yugoslavian Bishops , after a consideration of the findings of their Commission, made the following declaration:On the basis of studies made so far, it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations.This is the equivalent of saying that the Virgin Mary is not appearing at Medjugorje, and represents another vindication of Bishop Zanic's long-standing, consistent and heartfelt opposition to the alleged apparitions. Yet, the Medjugorje machine rolled on, blithely ignoring all the negative judgements and prohibitions on pilgrimages, at the same time stressing its supposed absolute obedience to the Church. When pressed by critics of the apparitions on the matter of the Church's disapproval of the apparitions as enunciated by the local Bishop, the Yugoslavian Episcopal Conference, and the support given to both by the Holy See, the promoters of Medjugorje fall back on the argument that "the Church has not yet arrived at a final judgment", which is really not a germane argument at all. For even if the Church were to eventually reverse the negative judgements (an almost impossible scenario), the obligation still remains on the part of the faithful to obey without question the decision of the local Bishop in the matter. Future contingencies do not dispense faithful Catholics from obedience to their authentic religious superiors. In any case, the action that the Holy See had always been one of official support of Bishop Zanic. Such support was in evidence in 1993, when Bishop Zanic submitted his resignation (as prescribed by canon law) upon reaching his seventy fifth birthday. It is important to clarify here that Bishop Zanic was not " forcibly removed" by the Vatican, as some in the Medjugorje insist on maintaining:
On February 5, 1996, during a private audience with Cardinal Ratzinger, I mentioned the claim that Mgr. Zanic had been "removed from his post". His Eminence was visibly shocked that such a disgraceful allegation could have been made, and he assured me that the Bishop had resigned not simply because he had reached the statutory age, but because he was very tired. (125)
The Holy See appointed as Zanic's successor Monsignor Ratko Peric, who in 1995 published a book (whose title, translated into English, is The Throne of Wisdom) which contains a chapter on the Medjugorje phenomenon. In the following extracts from this chapter are a few particularly salient points made by the new Bishop: The competent Church authorities, first of all the Diocesan Bishop on the basis of investigations made by his two Commissions and then the Commission of the Bishop's Conference both brought forth the following negative judgement regarding the supernatural nature of the apparitions of Medjugorje: "it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations." Therefore, it is forbidden to claim and profess the contrary, in churches and ecclesiastical communities, that is, as if Our Lady appeared there or is still appearing The "messages" of Medjugorje on prayer, fasting, faith, conversion and peace, repeated daily as something new but in reality always the same are already present in Holy Scripture and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church This Christian requirement and duty cannot be lessened or strengthened by any confirmed apparition, let alone thousands of unsubstantiated "apparitions" at Medjugorje there are such contradictions, falsehoods and banalities, which cannot be attributed at all to our heavenly Mother since there does not exist even a minimal guarantee of credibility The talk of a "great sign", of "ten secrets", which Our Lady supposedly conveyed to the children, resembles the scare tactics which are typical of non-Catholic communities and not the sound teachings of the Catholic Church Our holy faith, which is based upon listening to the word of God and not upon seeing heavenly apparitions Neither the diocesan Bishop as the head of the local diocese of Mostar-Duvno, nor any other competent authority has ever officially declared the parish church of St. James the Apostly in Medjugorje as a "Marian Shrine" and no "cult" of the Madonna has ever been proclaimed the local Bishop has repeatedly forbidden anyone from preaching or speaking in churches on the supernatural nature of these so-called "apparitions and revelations", and he has asked that no official pilgrimages be organized These and similar warnings were made by our former Bishop's Conference, and by the Holy See. Whoever acts to the contrary, is directly going against the official statements of the Church which still remain valid Mostar, May 1995 Mons. Ratko PericBishop of Mostar (126)
According to the June 30, 1996 edition of The National Catholic Register, the Vatican's position remained one of support for the local Bishop and the Episcopal Conference:"Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a June 19 note to the press that the Church retains its official position of skepticism towards the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje. Navarro-Valls message said "no new facts" had been presented on the validity of the alleged apparitions that have attracted 20 million pilgrims in the last 15 years. The message said that for now the Vatican 'must respect the competence of the local Bishops' regarding the matter." Mr. Navarro-Valls statement to the press was merely a reaffirmation of what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had previously written to several Bishops regarding the alleged apparitions. With regards to the "Herzegovina problem" which the "Gospa" had so often blamed on Bishop Zanic, in November of that same year:Bishop Peric has perhaps suffered even more that Bishop Zanic at the hands of the rebellious Franciscans. Both Bishop Peric and his own Vicar General were kidnapped and beaten in the city of Mostar by an angry mob in support of the rebellious Franciscans. While it cannot be proven that the alleged apparitions were the cause of this incident, the "Gospa" of Medjugorje has wthout a doubt been exploited to the rebellious friar's advantage, and has certainly been instrumental in whipping up Croatian religious and nationalistic fervor in the contested areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where both religious and ethnic tensions have led to enormous bloodshed. At any rate, Msgr. Peric has enjoyed unconditional support from the Holy See, receiving public recognition from Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his much heralded visit to Sarajevo on April 13, 1997. The Pope specifically welcomed "the esteemed and zealous Bishop, Ratko Peric." Bishop Peric has also been very specific regarding Medjugorje, changing the negative formula on Medjugorje from "non constat de supernaturalitate" (it is not established as supernatural) to "constat de non supernaturalitate" (it is established as not supernatural) making reference to this in a letter he wrote to Mr. Thierry Boutet, General Secretary of the publication "Famille Chretienne" (Christian Family) on 2 October, 1997: 3) The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, citing in its entirety the Declaration of the Bishops of the ex-Yugoslavia in two identical letters sent to the French Prelates: Mons. Daloz, Archbishop of Besancon (4 July 1995) and to Mons. Taverdet, Bishop of Langres (23 March 1996) says: " official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, understood as a place of authentic Marian apparitions, should not be organized at a parochial or diocesan level, because this would be in contradiction to what is affirmed by the Bishops of the ex-Yugoslavia "4)
On the basis of the serious study of the case on the part of thirty of our sholars [and] of my five years episcopal experience within the diocese, of the scandalous disobedience which surrounds the phenomenon, of the messages which are put into the "Madonna's" mouth of the strange way that the "spiritual directors" of the alleged "visionaries" take them all over the world propagandizing, of the way that the "Madonna" appears at the "fiat" ("let her come") of the "visionaries", my conviction and position is not only "Non constat de supernaturalitate" , but " Constat de non supernaturalitate" regarding the apparitions and revelations of Medjugorje.
5) I am still open to any study which the Holy See would wish to undertake, as the final instance of the Catholic Church, to state the supreme and definitive judgement of the case for the good of souls and for the honor of the Church and of the Madonna.Mons. Ratko Peric Bishop of MostarJust what is the significance of this change in wording on the part of Bishop Peric in making his negative judgement on Medjugorje? "Non constat de supernaturalitate", in essence, implies that there is no evidence that the alleged apparitions are supernatural in origin; whereas "constat de non supernaturalitate" constitutes a much more negative judgement, laying open the possibility that there may be diabolical activity present. As has been stated above, this does not prove that the "apparitions" where diabolical "in nucleo" or at their very beginning, but merely that, given the atmosphere of feverish spiritual expectation present in Medjugorje, is it any wonder that the devil has obliged the curiosity seekers, and those who, like the Pharisees in Jesus' time "ask for a sign" with a little of his sleight of hand?
Nevertheless, in spite of all of the negative judgements made by the local hierarchy, and despite the fact that both Bishop Zanic and Bishop Peric have received the unconditional support of the respective Bishop's Conferences and of the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, there are those who continually persist in putting forth the notion that "the Bishop of Mostar's authority over the apparitions has been taken away by the Vatican" and that the apparitions must be authentic because so many bishops and cardinals go to Medjugorje.
Whatever the Church's final decision on the matter, if Rome indeed does finally emit a judgement one way or the other (and this is extremely unlikely), how can the partisans of Medjugorje justify disregarding the rightful and legitimate authority of the local Bishop? Or do they believe that somehow, Medjugorje's "Gospa" is somehow so privileged that "she" can overturn with her "fiat", the very foundation of the Church of Christ, the authority of a Bishop, as authentic successor to the Apostles?
In spite of all the foregoing negative judgments expressed by the responsible Church authorities, the proponents of Medjugorje have claimed that a letter sent to a French Bishop by a secretary to Cardinal Ratzinger, Archbishop Tarcisio Beltrone, and dated May 26, 1998 somehow vindicates their disobedient position regarding Medjugorje :To His Excellency, Mons. Gilbert Aubrey, Bishop of St. Denis de la Reunion Excellency,In your letter of January 1, 1998, you submitted to this Dicastery several questions about the position of the Holy See and of the Bishop of Mostar in regard to the so-called apparitions of Medjugorje, private pilgrimages, and the pastoral care of the faithful who go there.
In regard to this matter, I think it is impossible to reply to each of the questions posed by Your Excellency.
"The main thing I would like to point out is that the Holy See does not ordinarily take a position of its own regarding supposed supernatural phenomena as a court of first instance.
"As for the credibility of the "apparitions" in question, this Dicastery respects what was decided by the bishops of the former Yugoslavia in the declaration of Zadar, April 10, 1991: "On the basis of the investigation so far, it cannot be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations."
Since the division of Yugoslavia into different independent nations it would now pertain to the members of the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina to eventually reopen the examination of this case.
What Bishop Peric said in his letter to the Secretary General of Famille Chretienne, declaring: "My conviction and my position is not only non constat de supernaturalitate, but likewise, constat de non supernaturalitate of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje" should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion.
Finally, as regards pilgrimages to Medjugorje, which are conducted privately, this Congregation points out that they are permitted on condition that they are not regarded as an authentication of events still taking place and which still call for an examination by the Church.This letter has become a cause for jubilation among the Medjugorje triumphalists, who now claim in various publications that it represents an "overturning " of Bishop Peric's latest condemnation of Medjugorje, and that at least "private pilgrimages" are permitted. In reality, such celebration may in reality a sort of whistling past the graveyard (which Medjugorjians have become quite proficient at). The alleged apparitions proponents distort two admittedly ambiguous paragraphs in the letter, and ignore the rest:What Bishop Peric said in his letter should be considered the expression of his personal opinion Bishop Peric's letter was a personal letter and therefore, did not constitute an official Pastoral letter or declaration to his diocese; therefore, in that sense, it can be said that, in this particular case, his statement was that of a "personal conviction" and not an official episcopal pronouncement. Nevertheless, Archbishop Beltrone does acknowledge Bishop Peric's right, as Ordinary, to make pronouncements on the matter. pilgrimages , which are conducted privately are permitted provided they are not to be regarded as an authentication of events still taking place, and which still call for an examination by the Church.This statement, far from being a cause for celebration among Medjugorje devotees, is in reality a two edged sword-in effect it says, "Yes, private 'pilgrimages' may be undertaken to Medjugorje, provided they are not regarded as an authentication of events still taking place, and which still call for an examination by the Church.'" Therefore, if Medjugorje devotees are truly obedient sons and daughters of the Church, they should cease their heretofore ubiquitous claims that "the millions of pilgrims who have gone to Medjugorje" could not be wrong, as is claimed by such proponents of the apparitions as Laurentin. And they should refrain from making claims in support of the authenticity of the apparitions in travel brochures and books related to Medjugorje. It is doubtful, however, whether there would be so many pilgrims (and consequently tourist dollars) pouring into Medjugorje for the sole purpose of going to confession at St. James Parish, or to admire the local flora and fauna. Who would travel halfway around the world just to be near the site of apparitions that are only possibly authentic? The "Gospa's" adepts apparently want it both ways-they would deny the Bishop the exercise of his rights, and quite cynically make use of two of Archbishop Beltrone's paragraphs to circumvent the true exercise of Church authority, while ignoring the rest of the letter:The Holy See does not ordinarily take a position of its own regarding supposed supernatural phenomena as a court of first instance this dicastery respects what was decided by the Bishops of the former Yugoslavia "On the basis of the investigations so far, it cannot be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations."In other words, the Holy See, contrary to the claims of the "Gospa's" advocates, respects (and consequently accepts) the decision of the Bishops of the ex-Yugoslavia, which was a total vindication of both Bishop Peric's previous position, and that of his successor, Bishop Peric:" it cannot be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations."
THE ASCENDANCY OF CELEBRITY
This author was recently informed (by a supposed theologian, who should have known better) that , since Mother Theresa prayed to "Our Lady of Medjugorje", the apparitions were probably true! As if no saint had ever been mistaken! As if personal sanctity was enough to veto the decision of a bishop! One is not inclined to believe this anecdote about Mother Theresa, but, supposing for a moment that it were indeed true that the saintly nun, having a thousand other things on her busy mind, were really praying the novena, it would be most probable that she simply under the impression that Medjugorje had been approved, and had not investigated the matter further. But the fact of her praying, or not praying to "Our Lady of Medjugorje" has no bearing upon the authenticity of Medjugorje, because, Mother Theresa, despite her extraordinary sanctity, was not a member of the Church's hierarchy, nor the Bishop of Mostar, and thus, the decision regarding authenticity or non-authenticity of Medjugorje was not hers to make.
The controversy surrounding Medjugorje is a symptom of a much greater malady presently affecting the Body of Christ; as has been stated below, Catholics who make an effort to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church's magisterium feel that they are oftentimes betrayed by the very Pastors whose authority they do most to uphold. And this leads to a sense of marginalization and a perception of bureaucratic coldness on the part of the official Church at times. So it is only natural that such faithful "conservative" Catholics turn from the Scylla of what they perceive to be the weak minded or liberal Bishops and Pastors, to the Charbydis of what can be called the "neo-conservative" wing of the Church, which Medjugorje exemplifies to a certain degree. There is always a danger that in many of the faithful's mind, a "para-magisterium" of "doctrinally sound" preachers, teachers, and apparitionists, which, in certain circumstances, will tend to challenge the authority of the legitimate pastors of the Church, the Bishops in union with the Pope. The reader may recall that, during the early years of the pontificate of John Paul II, there was much talk on the part of so called "liberal Catholics"of a "para-magisterium" of progressive theologians which would ultimately replace (or perhaps supplement) the Church's old "papal-episcopal" magisterium, and lead the Church to finally make its peace with the modern world, acknowledging, among other things, the ordination of women to the priesthood, the use of contraception as a legitimate means of family planning on the part of the faithful, unrestricted access to the sacraments for the divorced and remarried Catholic, and other such reforms. Those who were to make up this putative "para-magisterium" were theologians of the likes of Hans Kung, Edward Schillebex, Charles Curran, et al. The whole rationale behind such thinking was that the Church's Hierarchy was composed of mostly benighted, reactionary mountebanks who were totally unable to come to terms with the modern world in the "spirit of Vatican II", and, with the exception of certain episcopal luminaries like Helder Camara, Mendez Arceo, Cardinal Suenens, et al, were, in their subservience to the "arch-reactionary" John Paul II, badly botching the implementation of the "Council." Therefore, it was necessary for the enlightened theologians to come to the fore, and "save" the Church from herself, an "end run" around the hierarchy, as it were. Such plans, of course, never came to fruition; since, as the Episcopal and Papal natures of the Church are of Divine Institution, such theologians and their partisans were fighting a losing battle with the Holy Spirit.
What one can perceive happening today is much the same thing, although in a different direction. There can be said to exist a "Catholic cult of celebrity" which, although not nearly as doctrinally off base as the "progressive" theologians mentioned above, is in many Catholic's minds supplanting the authority of the Bishops. Such a phenomenon, to which passing reference was made in an earlier chapter of this book, is evidenced by the proliferation of "Catholic" television networks, "freelance" priests (a canonical anomaly) at "healing" mega-conferences in which authentic Catholic spirituality oftentimes takes a back seat to a "protestant - pentecostal word of faith" theology, periodical literature, newspapers, etc. These networks, individuals, conferences and publications seem at times would appear to be working hand in hand with many of the radical "apparitionists" (read: "pro-Medjugorjians") to articulate a very particular Catholic "neo-orthodoxy" which, although enunciated with the best of intentions, tends to transform authentic Catholic teaching to the point of presenting a truncated version of what the Catholic Church has unceasingly taught throughout her history, presenting a hyper-individualistic view of Papal authority, and an ecclesiology based more upon the illuminism of certain celebrities within the Church, rather than on the Church's ordinary magisterium, which of course, is composed of the Pope and the Bishops united to him as to their head.
The foregoing should in no way be interpreted as a disparagement of the authority of the Pope, but rather seeks to expose an erroneous and hyper-personalist notion of the Papal office which does not in any way serve the infallible institution of the papacy.
As an example of such a tendency, a reporter for one of the most prestigious Catholic publications in the United States, while interviewing a certain prelate about the death penalty, asked the prelate, in words to this effect: "Well, if, as it seems to be the case, the death penalty is not in line with this Pope's thinking, why doesn't the Church simply condemn the death penalty categorically?"
What does this question imply? It implies that the Deposit of Faith, and the Natural Law, are somehow subject to the "thinking" of whomever happens to be Pope at any given time. Therefore, if John Paul II personally abhors capital punishment, (as he probably does), then it is simply a matter of issuing a Papal "condemnation" on the matter, and that's that. (127) The erroneous nature of such a perception of Papal power, which quite frankly, is held (at least in a practical sense) by a great many "neo-conservative" Catholics, should be obvious to anyone who has studied Church history. The unique charism of infalliblity does not extend to the Pope's "thinking" but to his teaching as head of all the Catholic faithful, for all the Catholic faithful on a matter of Faith or Morals. The faithful are also bound by the Pope's non-infallible ordinary teaching, since he is head of the Church and as such commands their obedience. Catholics are also obliged to form their consciences in the light of Papal teaching, but are not bound to anything so interior and/or subjective as the "Pope's thinking", or the Pope's opining on a certain matter. The Pope has no power to alter or abolish, or even modify anything in the Deposit of Faith proper; he cannot change dogmas or doctrines, or even moral teachings. He can, of course, change, alter or abolish disciplinary canons, ecclesiastical customs and laws, and liturgical rites, but these of themselves have nothing to do with the Deposit of Faith itself. Even such a renowned theological champion of what can be termed "Catholic neo-conservatism" as Urs Van Balthasar has written:On the other hand, the charism [of infallibilty]is not given to the Pope as a private person, because as such, he is by no means infallible Yet it would be too little (and again abstract) to grant infallibility, not to the person, but to the 'function'; rather it is a question of the public person who expressly represents the whole Church . But even to him (who is always the highest judge in matters of faith and morals), infallibility is not granted as an inherent characteristic. It is strictly limited to the act by which , with the help of the Holy Spirit, he explicitly exercises the office of judge in matters concerning the whole Church. (128)
At this point, the reader may be tempted to ask, "what does this all have to do with Medjugorje?" The fact of the matter is that many sincere and orthodox Catholics possess, as was previously alluded to, a notion of Church authority which is sadly at variance with the Church's true constitution, as founded on the Apostles:Now, therefore, you are no more strangers and foreigners: but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God:Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-20)
This popular notion of Church authority (alluded to in chapter 2) seems to be: "the Pope, along with the 'Vatican' and people like Mother Angelica, various Charismatic and/or enlightened Cardinals, Bishops, and Priests, certain miracle workers and exorcists, along with a few mystics like Vassula Ryden, and assorted Marian visionaries (Medjugorje having first place), and theologians like Miravelle and Laurentin, have, given the apocalyptic significance of the times, an 'inside track' as to the direction the Church will currently go. Such individuals constitute, as it were, the 'first tier' of the Church's elite, while the second tier consists of the benighted members of the hierarchy 'out of the loop', who are effectively denied the illumination necessary to govern the Church with full effectiveness in these times. The third tier consists of the Catholics who must rely merely upon the sacraments and the Church's official teaching. Although few, if any, would acknowledge that they hold such a concept of the Church, this particular "ecclesiastical model" may exercise a considerable influence over the way many faithful Catholics view the Church today; it could be referred to as "the cult of Catholic celebrity."
The unwitting adherents of this "cult of celebrity", far from treating John Paul II as the authentic, infallible successor of St. Peter, who in union with the Bishops (authentic successors of the Apostles) governs the Catholic Church, tend to regard the Pontiff more as the chief "oracle" among the many oracles (apparitions, healers, prophets) who now dot the Church's landscape, and of which Medjugorje is the preeminent example, and who are (in their mind) more orthodox than the "ordinary" pastors of the People of God. That is, John Pauls "utterances" are received by many people in this category not within the context of two thousand years of constant teaching of Scripture and Divine Tradition, but as quasi-divine and inspired prophecies, to be placed within a context of the other sayings of the other "prophets, seers and revelators" preserving the truth within the Church. Lest some consider this an exaggeration, the following (unapproved) yet widely circulated "message from heaven" should be considered:The most Holy Trinity has given Our beloved son, Pope John Paul a plan from the beginning of his papacy Pray with him and for him, as he knows of what We speak All his writings should be taken to heart, learned, studied, and then put into holy action, as all he does has been guided by the Holy Spirit at all times (129)Such attitudes lend credence to the notion that the "deposit of faith" itself can only be interpreted and expounded by direct illumination from messengers from heaven, not via the historical continuity of the Apostolic succession, realized in the Bishops of the Catholic, in communion with the Pope as their head.
No one can question the personal holiness or orthodoxy of John Paul II, but one must ever be mindful that, for all his manifest greatness, John Paul II is, after all, the member of a long line of successors of St. Peter, stretching over two thousand years of history; the Holy Spirit has indeed protected them all from error, but as far as can be proved, no Pope, not even St. Peter, could ever claim direct Divine Inspiration by the Holy Spirit, "at all times."
The disastrous consequences of such a way of thinking may indeed come to fruition when the present Holy Father departs this life; could his successor, in the radical apparitionist's eyes, ever measure up to the greatness of John Paul II? Could there arise doubts about the next Pope's orthodoxy or even his legitimacy, if he takes what a somewhat harder attitude towards the worldwide apparition "networks" than does his predecessor? This is only speculation, but it is certainly not an impossible scenario. One must only call to my mind the nostalgia about "good Pope John XXIII" expressed by modernist theologians, such as Hans Kung, when faced with the less accomodating
Mother Angelica of EWTN is also apparently a member of the Catholic elite; one recalls her dispute with Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles, when, in response to the Cardinal's pastoral letter on the eucharist, which apparently stated some things of which she did not approve, she told her television audience that "my obedience in that diocese would be zero." When the archdiocese of Los Angeles threatened to take canonical action against her, she was allegedly healed miraculously on live television!
In this case, how should the faithful of the archdiocese of Los Angeles react, when confronted with what could admittedly be described as ambiguous language in a Cardinal Archbishop's pastoral on the Eucharist, are told by a nun who has been allegedly miraculously healed, that her "obedience in that diocese would be zero"? Since, owing to her celebrity talk show status, Mother Angelica is probably more well known for her "orthodoxy" than is Cardinal Mahoney, many of those Catholics who follow the "cult of celebrity" in the Church may feel that it is not only their right, but also their duty as faithful Catholics, to disregard the authority of Cardinal Mahoney to the point of "zero obedience", since Mother Angelica, who is a member of the "first tier" said so.
Father Stefano Gobbi is another "celebrity priest", who has supposedly been receiving prophetic "interior locutions" since 1972; although not one of his prophecies has ever come to pass, such as the one foretelling that the anichrist would appear in 1998, many within the Church continue to lend total credence to his supposed revelations. It would seem that Father Gobbi's celebrity status obviates the necessity of his prophecies (and therefore his locutions) being authentic.
Another case that can be called to mind is the fact that Hans Urs Von Balthasar, who during his lifetime was renowned as an extraordinarily erudite and talented theologian, by the fact that he is considered safely within the camp of the "neo-conservative elite" can actually propose in his writings, with no consequences, the heretical doctrine of "final apokatastasis", that is, the concept that all creatures, even the demons and the damned in hell, will in the end, achieve salvation. In questioning a dogmatically defined teaching of the Church (Vatican Council I, canon 6) , not only is Von Balthasar not taken to task by many of the so called elite celebrity "neo-conservatives", but rather, it is smugly asserted by many that, since he apparently had, prior to his death, a "close relationship" to John Paul II, e could not possibly be guilty of anything resembling error or heresy.
However, were Kung or Schilliebex to proffer such a speculation, one surmises that the reaction on the part of "neo-conservatives" would hardly be favorable. Interestingly enough, the author of the pro-Medjugorje publication, The Mother of All Nations, illustrates just such a state of affairs with regards to Urs Von Balthasar's apparent "special theological status" with regards to the apparitions themselves:It is a relief to find that the great and respected Swiss theologian, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, wrote to Bishop Zanic on 12 December 1984 (130) 'My Lord, what a sorry document you have sent throughout the world' and shortly afterwards he referred to the tragic events current in Medjugorje, where priests are removed, children forbidden to go to church and preaching is banned. (131)
SHADES OF TERTULLIAN AND MONTANUS?
Vassula Ryden is another eminent example of this tendency: an obvious false mystic, who allegedly receives messages from Jesus Christ via the occult method of divination known as automatic writing, Vassula is cheered at Marian (pro Medjugorje) conferences worldwide, endorsed, a la Magdalen of the Cross, by many theologians who should know better. Not even a negative judgement on her writings, made by Cardinal Ratzinger himself, was sufficient to keep her off the stage of many so called "Catholic" events; Cardinal Ratzinger's judgement is just (in the words of a brochure advertising a Marian conference) "persecution by the Church."
Given the prevalence of such a situation among the People of God, is it any wonder that Medjugorje has acquired such a pride of place in the folklore of unapproved spirituality? Is it any wonder that a Bishop who is courageous enough to assert his authority in matters of spiritual discernment and render a decision unfavorable to the "apparitionists" snowballing enthusiasm will become the victim of an avalanche of popular dissaproval? How dare a mere "ecclessiastic" stand in the way of heaven's messengers.
This should not be taken as a denial of the true "charismatic's" place in the history of the Church-the Church has always been blessed by saints such as Catherine of Siena, Francis, Dominic, Vincent Ferrer, Don Bosco, and Grignion de Montfort, men and women who were not afraid to preach the unalloyed and true Catholic doctrine,and announce the necessity of reform. But it is interesting to note that no true saint would ever consider his or her mission superior to being submitted to the Church'' legitimate pastors, nor would any saint preach disobedience to such authority or a cult of personality. Rather, the authentic cult of the saints grows out of their acceptance and approval by the Church's hierarchy; the former is dependent on the latter, not vice versa-Francis of Asisi did not begin his order and then demand that Bishop Guido acknowledge it; as the first step towards its establishment, he begged permission from Bishop Guido, who gave such permission. Only afterwards did Francis seek approval from Innocent III.
With the new state of affairs, it is quite the opposite. Bishop Zanic has been publicly threatened by the "Gospa" with being crushed by "her" judgement, calumniated in a motion picture as a coward and communist collaborator, and berated at Marian mega-conferences across the United States and the world as a benighted reactionary, hopelessly opposed to Medjugorje's triumphalistic program for spiritual renewal. Bishop Peric has been abducted and beaten by an angry mob, which, in support of the rebellious Franciscans (partisans of Medjugorje), went so far as to rip off his pectoral cross. And of late, even John Paul II has come under fire by some radical Medjugorje devotees, as in 1997, when on his visit to Sarajevo, a mere half hour drive away from Medjugorje, refused the repeated entreaties of Medjugorje devotees to visit the shrine. It is not inconceivable that the Pope himself could become the subject of criticism on the part of fanatical "first tier" apparitionists and "ultrasupernaturalists" if his attitude appears to them to become more strident with regard to asserting the authority of the local hierarchy as being theunique, Divinely appointed trustee of the discernment of spirits and charisms. Medjugorje is the symptom of a potentially grave crisis which at any moment could break forth and assail the body of Christ-an unchecked desire on the part of the faithful to be guided at all times by messages from heaven, mediated by charismatic spokesmen who claim infallibility for themselves and their movements, not basing themselves on what Christ's Church has constantly taught and preached as the truth, but upon their own claims of direct contact with the Divine:Still more confidently, the enthusiast dismisses all considerations of human prudence, and trust to the light within him, when he must face the day to day problems of life it may be questioned whether this kind of illuminism is an enviable characteristic. That there should be a few people, close friends of God, who seem to live by instinct and by pass calculation, is well enough; even the common run of us may experience, now and again, a flash of intuition which seemed akin to inspiration. But when a whole sect aspires to be spoon fed with providential guidance, such as makes all deliberation, all effort of decision unnecessary, there is ground for misgiving To live, by and for, a series of supposedly Divine communications is, too commonly, to cultivate an unhealthy state of mind, avid of portents and ill protected from the inroads of superstition (132)
One would not be inclined to question the motivations of the radical apparitionist and illuminist "clique" if, despite all their claims to the contrary, they were to continually express a willingness to submit their claims to the hierarchy's judgement. But they pretend to establish a new standard of holiness and illumination, and seek to completely circumvent the divinely established order within the Church, with the putative "corruption and heterodoxy of the Bishops", or their own "illumination from heaven" as their rationale. One would be hard put to find a better way to divide the Body of Christ than that of convincing the most devoted and orthodox members of the Church that they can indeed get along fine without the mediation of Apostolic authority, living instead off , as Monsignor Knox would say, the "spoon fed" illuminism of certain self proclaimed messengers from heaven.
1. St. John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mt. Carmel, ICS Publications,
Institute of Carmelite Studies, Washington, D.C. 1979, Bk. II, Chapter 21
2. Rev. Ludovic-Marie Barrielle, C.P. C.R. V., Rules for the Discerning of
Spirits in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Angelus Press,
Kansas City, Mo. 1992
3. Mons. Ronald Knox, Enthusiasm: A Chapter in the History of Religion,
University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana 1994, pge. 2
4. David Spangler, William Irwin Thompson, Reimagination of the World: A
Critique of the New Age, Science, and Popular Culture, Bear &Company
Publishing, Santa Fe, NM 1991, pge 127
5. Knox, op. Cit. Pge. 32
6. Catechism of the Catholic Church, English translation copyright of the
U.S. Catholic Conference, Inc.-Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994, #67
7. Ibid, #895
8. Epistle to the Magnesians
9. De Verb. Dom. Viii
10. The Church certainly recognizes an ancillary role for the "sensus
fidelium" when considering the solemn promulgation of dogmas. Such was the
case when Pius XII requested the Bishops of the world regarding his
(subsequent) dogmatic pronouncement on the Assumption of Mary. However, this
"sensus fidelium", or sense of the faithful, is not autonomous, especially
regarding matters involving the discernment of spirits, which is an eminently
pastoral, hierarchical charism, and must be guided by the magisterium and at
all times subordinate to the legitimate exercise of hierarchical authority.
11. Fr. Rene Laurentin, The Apparitions at Medjugorje Prolonged: A Merciful
Delay for a World in Danger?, English Translation by Judith Lohre Stiens,
The Riehle Foundation, Milford, Ohio 1987, pge. 61
12. Op. Cit., #'s 800-801
13. In 1997, Bishop Peric, along with his chancellor, Father Ljubcic, was
kidnapped and beaten by an angry mob of supporters of the rebellious
Franciscans in Mostar.
14. This matter will be treated below in some detail.
15. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social
Transformation in the 1980's, J.P. Tarcher, Inc. Los Angeles, Ca. 1980, pge.
16. Genesis 3:20
17. Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., The Three Ages of the Interior
Life, TAN Books and Publishers, Rockford, Illinois,1989, Volume II, ch. XV
18. St. Luke 2:51
19. Garrigou Lagrange, Op. Cit., Vol. II, ch. 53
20. Sister Josefa Mendez, The Way of Divine Love, or The Message of the
Sacred Heart to the World, and a short biography of His Messenger, Sister
Josefa Mendez, Coadjutrix Sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
1890-1923 The Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland 1965, pge. 109
21. Abbe Francois Trochu, Saint Bernadette Soubirous, 1844-1879, translated
and adapted by John Joyce, S.J., TAN Books and Publishers, Rockford, Illinois
1985, pge. 307
22. Michael H. Brown, The Day Will Come, Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, MI
1996, pge. 109
23. Fr.Augustin Poulain, S.J., Revelations and Visions:Discerning the True
and Certain from the False or the Doubtful, translated by Leonora L. Yorke
Smith, Edited and with an introduction by Bro. Frank Sadowski, SSP, ALBA
HOUSE, NY, 1998, pge. 72
24. The Ascent of Mount Carmel, cit., II ch. 26
25. All of these quotes from the "Virgin", along with the interview with
Father Grafenauer, are taken from The Truth about Medjugorje: A Declaration
by Msgr. Pavao Zanic, Bishop, published in May, 1990
26. see I Timothy 5:20
27. Monsignor Ratko Peric, Bishop of Mostar Duvno, Criteria for Discerning
Apparitions: Regarding the Events of Medjugorje, taken from the book:
Prijestolje Mudrosti (The Throne of Wisdom), Mostar 1995, pp. 266-268
28. See the first chapter of Job.
29. Vego had by this time been suspended from his priestly ministry by a
30. From an interview with Bishop Peric by Yves Chiron, published in the
French publication, Present, Jan. 25, 1997
31. The sign reads, in French, "This Church will be opened up (or the walls
will be knocked down) when restored to its rightful clergy, the Franciscans"
or words to that effect.
32. As published in Slobodna Dalmacija, the diocesan bulletin of Mostar, on
Oct. 6, 1997
33. Der Schwartzer Brief, Lippstadt, Germany Jan. 6, 1999
34. Garrigou-Lagrange, op. Cit., Vol II, ch. XVI
35. see St. John 8:44
36. Sandra L. Zimdars Swartz, Encountering Mary: From La Sallette to
Medjugorje, Princeton University Press 1991, pge 173
37. Poulain, op. Cit., pge. 66. Conversely, one is entitled to surmise that
a prophecy couched in definite language which does not come to pass, but
proven false, and later the subject of a lie by one of the visionaries,
constitutes an insurmountable obstacle with regards to the authenticity of a
purported private revelation.
38. Ibid, pge. 96
39. Garrigou Lagrange, op. Cit., Vol II, ch. 51
41. Michael Davies, Medjugorje After Fifteen Years: The Message and the
Meaning, The Remnant Publishing Company, St. Paul, MN 1998, pge 10
42. Rene Laurentin, Ljudevit Rupcic, Is the Virgin Mary Appearing at
Medjugorje? An Urgent Message for the world given in a Marxist country:
translated by Francis Martin, Word Among Us Press, Washington, D.C. 1984,
43. This was published as An Invitation to the Marian Year, in April 1988.
44. How many more "messages" from the "Gospa" that "the world expected" were
to be fabricated in this fashion?
45. The fullest account of the omnipresent aura of intrigue, lies, and
skullduggery surrounding Medjugorje can be found in E. Michael Jones'
masterful and exhaustive The Medjugorje Deception: Queen of Peace, Ethnic
Cleansing, Ruined Lives, published by Fidelity Press, 206 Marquette Ave.
South Bend, IN 46617
46. Taken from: A Dance on the Volcano, published in The Sword of Truth,
The Newsletter of Discernment, Unity Publishing, Campbell, CA 1998
47. From: A Declaration of the Bishop of Mostar Concerning Medjugorje, July
48. The Apparitions at Medjugorje Prolonged, cit., pges. 42-43
49. Rev. Vittorio Guerrera, Medjugorje: A Closer Look, The Maryheart
Crusaders, Meriden Connecticut, 1993, pges. 45-46
50. A Declaration by Msgr. Pavao Zanic,Bishop, cit.
51. Published in der schwartzer brief, vol. 33 nr. 1/99, by Claus Peter
Clausen, Lippstadt, Germany
52. Interestingly enough, both of these phenomena are mentioned as possible
signs of diabolical possession in the Rituale Romanum, the Church's official
rite of exorcism.
53. Ironically, it was through attending one of Father Tardiff's
"mega-conferences" in Navojoa, Mexico, that the author first became
interested in Medjugorje. It should also be remarked that Tardiff can be very
persuasive, especially in an ambience of hyper-spirituality.
54. E. Michael Jones, The Medjugorje Deception: Queen of Peace, Ethnic
Cleansing, Ruined Lives, Fidelity Press, South Bend, IN 1998, pge. 77
55. A Dance on the Volcano, cit.
56. Elizabeth Hillstrom, Testing the Spirits, Downer's Grove, Illinois 1995,
as quoted in John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs,
Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or. 1996, pge. 25
57. Poulain, op. Cit., pge. 115
58. An Appeal in the Marian Year, cit.
59. Poulain, op, cit. Pges. 115-116
60. The Apparitions at Medjugorje Prolonged, cit., pge. 78
61. Charismata, The Catholic Encyclopedia (Electronic version copyright 1997
by New Advent, Inc.)
62. Mons. Ratko Peric, Criteria for Discerning Apparitions, cit.
63. Poulain, op. Cit., pge. 70
64. ibid, pges. 70-71
65. Davies, op. Cit., pge. 94
66. ibid, pge. 30
67. Poulain, op. Cit., pge
68. More about the "Poem of the Man God"further on.
69. For a fuller treatment of this subject the reader is here referred to The
Medjugorje Coverup, by E. Michael Jones, previously cited.
70. Criteria for Discerning Apparitions, cit.
71. Poulain, op. Cit., pge. 84
72. St. Francis de Sales, Philothea, or an Introduction to the Devout Life,
with an introduction by Fr. John Reville, S.J., Ph.D. TAN Books and
Publishers, Rockford, Illinois 1994, ch. XXIII
73. Catechism of the Catholic Church, cit., #67
74. From an interview seen on Visions on Demand Part I, a documentary on
Medjugorje produced by Network 5, Liverpool, U.K. 1997
75. Nostra Aetate, 2-D
76. From an interview of Mirjana by Tomislav Vlasic, as quoted by Dr.Mark
Miravelle, The Message of Medjugorje: The Marian Message to the Modern World,
University Press of America, Lanham, Maryland 1986, pge
77. Spangler and Thompson, op. Cit., pges. 127-128
78. See Romans 8:28
79. This council was called to combat the Albigensian heresy, which was
merely a medieval restatement of primitive gnosticism, with certain of its
own idiosyncracies. It is interesting to note that the concept of a
"transfigured" or "astral" body endorsed by the "Gospa" is a key doctrine of
the spiritualist and theosophical sects of today (along with the concept of
80. Medjugorje's "Gospa" would appear to run the gamut of incompatible
heresies, from denial of the bodily ressurection to attributing physical
suffering to the Divinity!
81. Poulain, op. Cit., pge. 79
82. Ibid, pge. 66
83. Dr. Francois Leuret and Dr. Henri Bon, Modern Miraculous Cures: A
Documented Account of Miracles and Medicine in the Twentieth Century, Peter
Davies Press, London 1957, pge. 44
84. Barthas and Fonseca, S.J., Our Lady of Light:Worldwide Message of Fatima,
The Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, Wis. 1947, pge. 154
85. Guerrera, op. Cit., pge. 66
86. Marie Hancock, Be a Light: Miracles at Medjugorje, Whitford Press, West
Chester, PA. 1988, pge
87. Ibid., pge
88. Charles Toye, Miracle of the Sun at Medjugorje, A Send Your Spirit
Publication, Reading, MA 1988, pge. V
89. The Ascent of Mount Carmel, cit., bk. II, ch. 21
90. Again, the reader is referred to Jones' The Medjugorje Deception
91. Joseph A. Pelletier, A.A., The Queen of Peace Visits Medjugorje, An
Assumption Publication, Worcester, MA 1985, pge. 15
92. The Ascent of Mount Carmel, cit., bk. II, ch. 2
93. The Sword of Truth, Unity Publishing Newsletter,
94. Poulain, op. Cit., pge. 83
95. Laurentin-Rupcic, op. Cit., pge. 51
96. A Declaration by Msgr. Pavao Zanic, Bishop of Mostar, cit.
97. G.W. Peters, Demonism in the Mission Fields, published in Demon
Possession, edited by John Warwick Montgomery, Bethany Fellowship,
Minneapolis, Minn. 1976, pge. 199
98. See Marie Hancock, op. Cit.
99. Leon Christiani, Evidence of Satan in the Modern World, TAN Books and
Publishers, Rockford, Illinois 1961, pge. 95
100. Malachi Martin, Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of
Five Living Americans, Harper and Rowe Publishers, New York, NY 1987, pge.
274. Interestingly enough, in a letter written a few months before his
death, Father Martin congratulated certain opponents of the "apparitions" and
wrote (in part): "I have been fighting Medjugorje for the last fifteen years.
It was Satanic from the beginning." (author's italics)
101. Poulain, op. Cit., pges. 82-83
102. A letter from Slavko Barbaric, trans. By John T. Shindler
103. Louis Monden, S.J. Signs and Wonders: A Study of the Miraculous Elements
in Religion, Desclee Company, New York, Paris, Tournai, Rome 1967, pge. 157
104. This bizarre anecdote is found in an entry in the "seer" Vicka
Ivankovic's diary for Sept. 4, 1981
105. Words from Heaven: Messages of Our Lady of Medjugorje, St. Jame's
Publishing, Birmingham, Alabama 1990, pges. 293-294
106. Guerrera, op. Cit., pge. 20
107. See The Apparitions at Medjugorje Prolonged, op. Cit., pge. 95
108. The Apparitions at Medjugorje Prolonged, op. Cit., pge. 27
109. Davies, op. Cit., pge. 65
110. Ankerberg and Weldon, op. Cit., pge. 34
111. Jones, op. Cit., pge. 192
112. Readings from the The Poem of the Man-God,quoted in The 101 Times,
published by the 101 Foundation, Asbury, New Jersey, Vol. 3, 1991
115. Jones, op. Cit.
116. As quoted in The Apparitions at Medjugorje Prolonged, cit., pge. 106
117. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, TAN Books and Publishers,
Rockford, Illinois 1974, pge. 287
118. Jones, op. Cit., pge. 371
119. Der Schwartzer Brief, Lippstadt, Germany
121. Declaration of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, November,
1996, Regarding the Circulation of Texts of Private Revelations
122. From the documentary film, Medjugorje-Divine or Deceived? The Hidden
Agenda Cover Up, "Sex, Priests, ,Politics and Power", Produced by Network 5
International, Liverpool, UK
123. Monsignor Luka Pavlovic, Vicar General of the diocese of Mostar-Duvno,
Falsehoods on Film, declaration of June 17, 1995
124. Bishop Pavao Zanic, Declaration in December, 1983
125. Davies, op. Cit., pge. 72
126. Criteria for Discerning Apparitions, cit.
127. This is not to say that the Holy Father himself has any intentions of
declaring capital punishment intrinsically evil, on a level with abortion or
euthenasia-the current moral quandary concerns more the context of the
application of the death penalty, in which its use may not be morally
justifiable-rather than of the nature of capital punishment itself.
128. Hans Urs Von Balthasar, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the
Church, trans. Andree Emery, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA 1986, pges.
129. Harriet Hammonds and Carol Ameche, Do Whatever Love Requires, Queenship
Publishing, Santa Barbara, CA. 1997, pge. 178
130. Regarding the Bishop's negative judgment on the apparitions.
131. Joan Ashton, Mother of All Nations, Harper and Rowe, San Francisco, CA
1989, pge. 180
132. Knox, op. Cit., pge. 587