Medjugorje: Old Lies, New Admissions
by Craig L. Heimbichner
With a Catholic generosity, many of us have wanted to believe in the apparitions of Mary at Medjugorje. Consequently, many of us have reacted with disbelief and righteous indignation over the Medjugorje dirt-digging done by Fr. Sivric, E. Michael Jones, Michael Davies, Phil Kronzer, Rick Salbato, and others. I too first looked at a book by E. Michael Jones with disbelief, and joined the ranks of those who accused him of lacking Christian charity: that is, until I purchased a few recent books by Medjugorje defenders--including the latest book by Fr. Laurentin. It turns out that the largest proponent of Medjugorje, Mariologist Fr. Laurentin, has been forced (along with proponent Denis Nolan) to admit almost every accusation and problem unearthed by Jones and company.
Fr. Laurentin's tone in his latest book (Medjugorje Testament) is defensive and even defeatist. He admits that "the negative current is taking on more and more of an official value" and "humanly speaking, the adversaries are winning; they have official approval on almost every level." He even writes that "those who...defend this place of grace are looked upon as filled with illusions, disobedient or senile, as is murmured in my own case." He, Nolan and Fr. Svet of Medjugorje have been forced to admit the following facts and events originally raised as objections by opponents, and still today hotly denied by many followers of Medjugorje. We will begin by documenting, for the sake of truth, the comparitively minor incidents; we will end with the gravely problematic.
1) Vicka claimed to have received a message in which Mary defended the innocence of two disobedient priests expelled by the authority of the Pope, one of which subsequently fathered a child by a nun. Laurentin writes, "I do know that Vicka had asked Our Lady during an apparition about the situation concerning the two Franciscans who had been banished and punished...I found it regrettable that she had put such a question to Our Lady...I objectively exposed this sad affair which I deplored...The comments were regrettable in that they placed the Virgin and the established authorities at odds." Unfortunately, the "established authorities" included the Pope, who authorized the two priests' expulsion. Of Ivica Vego, the priest who fathered the child, Fr. Svet of Medjugorje now admits, in a reply to E. Michael Jones, that "the story about a former priest, Ivica Vego and a former nun, who now live in Italy raising their five children in seclusion, is sad, to say the least."
Unfortunately, the problem has recently compounded itself. Laurentin writes of this aspect of the "Herzegovina affair," stating that "Vicka has learned a lot from her error (that is: having Our Lady interfere in local quarrels). She now shrugs it off saying she didn't receive any information from Our Lady concerning the Herzegovina polemic." (She has learned to lie about it? Note that above, Laurentin admits that he knows she did in fact ask and get the "information.") Laurentin knows that all of these admissions sound bad. He writes, confusedly, that "I am probably wrong in reporting this recent response from Vicka [i.e., shrugging it off with a denial] as it could be taken as a new "lie." How else could it be taken?
2) Ivanka and Mirjana lied as well. Laurentin admits that "the first two visionaries, Ivanka and Mirjana, held back for some time the fact that they were not only going to listen to some tapes that day, but were actually planning to go and smoke..." Of what incident are we speaking? The first apparition! Medjugorje promoter Wayne Weible also now admits this fact: "...Ivanka and Mirjana, having finished evening chores, had slipped off to a secluded spot to listen to rock music while smoking cigarettes pilfered from their fathers." These details were, as Laurentin says above, "held back for some time." In other words, another story was given by the children to the Bishop. Put plainly, the seers lied, as the Bishop said.
Incidentally, some people have trouble picturing teenagers stealing cigarettes and hiding out to listen to rock suddenly being blessed by an apparition of the Immaculate Mother of God. Unquestionably, the original story sounded better at seminars.
3) Vicka lied again, aided by perjury from her spiritual director. Denis Nolan, Medjugorje promoter, answers the accusation that Vicka kept a diary regarding the apparitions, but lied about this fact to the Bishop. Nolan quotes Fr. Rupcic: "Among the alleged arguments against the apparitions of Medjugorje, 'Vicka's diary' is of special importance. This diary is absolutely non-existent." Rupcic adds that Vicka claims "it does not exist!" Fr. Vlasic, spiritual director of the seers, even "swore on the Cross that the 'diary'...did not even exist..."
However, Laurentin finally has admitted the truth: "I have in my possession Vicka's diaries (I am the only informant who enjoys that privilege)." Once again, then, the Bishop spoke the truth, while Vicka lied, and her spiritual director perjured himself on the cross before Almighty God. Why? What were they hiding? This is the next question which should be asked by all followers of Medjugorje who value the truth.
4) Vicka lied again, claiming that the Blessed Virgin Mary had said that she wanted a 100 bed hotel built--a statement used to squeeze money from benefactors. Laurentin quite reluctantly admits the story behind this sad event, downplaying it as less than a lie (?) and adding that he did not attach much importance to this "minor and private incident." Laurentin writes that "some benefactors (let's call them B.) of Medjugorje were asked in March of 1995 to finance the construction of a Pastoral Centre in Medjugorje, in fact a 100 bed hotel with a chapel for pilgrims. Vicka was supposed to have said to the promoters, 'Our Lady wants this hotel.'[!]
"When Father Slavko got news of this accusation against the visionary, he immediately denied that Gospa could have intervened in a financial and commercial matter:
'That does not come from Gospa' he answered B. quickly, without taking the time to consult Vicka.
"Then B. received a fax from Vicka, confirming that the Mother of God had given her consent and insisted that they begin the construction. [emphasis mine]...Slavko asked Vicka why she had kept this discussion from him...She apologized in writing for having given an apparently negative response to Father Slavko [i.e., lied]."
Laurentin candidly admits that "one of Slavko's correspondents is stunned that Vicka, educated by Our Lady for a period of 14 years, would still lie in such an insignificant matter..." True, but is there not something even more stunning in this story--an even greater and clearly blasphemous lie--that Our Lady, who gave birth to Jesus in a manger amid poverty, would go into real estate?
5) Ivan lied to a Church Commission while studying to be a priest (he later flunked out of the seminary). Laurentin writes, "...two members of the Commission came and ordered him to put down in writing the 'sign' announced by Our Lady: the third sign which would be given when the apparitions ceased..." Ivan was left alone with a sheet of paper and an envelope "which he was to seal until the day the secret was to be realized..." Ivan then told Laurentin that he had not "written anything." Laurentin writes that "having heard his declaration, members of the Commission came back and said to him: 'Since you have written nothing, we can open the letter.' He realized...that in actual fact he had written something." Laurentin adds that Ivan subsequently underwent a "grueling meeting with the Commission on March 7, 1985..."
One sympathizes with the Commission's outrage, particularly after the contents of the paper have been disclosed. Medjugorje defender Mary Craig admits, "On 7th March 1985, three members of the episcopal Commission asked Ivan directly if what he had written on the paper in the sealed envelope really concerned the Sign. 'No,' said Ivan. They then opened the envelope and found the paper headed: 'Declaration of visionary concerning the sign to be given by the Blessed Virgin at Medjugorje.' 'What sign will the Virgin leave?' went the question. And Ivan had clearly replied: 'The Blessed Virgin has said that she will leave a Sign...There is to be a great shrine dedicated to her in Medjugorje in honor of her apparitions there.' 'When will this Sign come about?' Answer: 'In the sixth month.' Signed, Ivan Dragicevic. There was no escaping the disgrace." In fact, Craig reveals that he lied twice: "At first, he told the Franciscans that he simply wrote 'nothing at all' on the paper he was given. Later in 1985, when the Commissioners opened the envelope, he admitted that he had written 'something,' but that it had nothing to do with the sign."
One might note that the Sign did not appear "in the sixth month" of that year--nor has it appeared in the fourteen years since (as I write this paper). Contrast this scorecard with Fatima, in which the sign (the Miracle of the Sun) was accurately predicted to the day, and promptly occurred before 80,000 people. The contrast is dramatic and suggestive.
6) Marija lied and admitted it in writing. Marija endorsed a religious community in 1988 established by Fr. Vlasic and a German woman by the name of Agnes Heupel. Marija indicated that Mary appeared in a joyful mood and blessed the community. Later, however, Marija issued an announcement in both Italian and Croatian on July 11, 1988, stating that "my first declaration does not correspond to the truth," adding that she never asked the Madonna for any approval for the Vlasic community. This summary of Jone's reporting by Nolan is admitted in his book, but downplayed; Marija is said to have reported that Mary only blessed the free decision of those who joined, not their decision to join per se. Yet such a splitting of hairs by Nolan--oddly reminiscent of the Pharisaical gnat-straining of the Talmud--contradicts the simple admission of Marija, that her "first declaration does not correspond to the truth." In other words, she lied to support Vlasic. She admits it. End of story. Mr. Nolan, please close the Talmud and flush the gnats.
7) The Franciscans in Medjugorje are in a state of disobedience to Rome, and the apparitions have supported their disobedience. Laurentin quotes the Franciscan General to the province of Herzegovina (November 4, 1996) as stating that "the complete normalization of our province is suspended. Our province has not held a chapter since 1976." When Vicka quoted Mary as endorsing the rebellion of the expelled priests (see Number One above), the implication was wide: Mary was sanctioning disobedience. By continuing to appear in a province legendary for its disobedience to Rome since the time of Paul VI (disobedience which continues today), the clear implication is that Rome's authority is secondary. Medjugorje defenders understand this point, despite a few tributes to the Holy Father here or there (particularly at seminars). For example, on the back cover of his most recent book, Laurentin warns us "not to fall for the trap of preferring authority to life..." The Franciscans have rationalized their disobedience to authority for the past 24 years on this basis, and Mary seems to approve by favoring them with apparitions in their parish, apparitions sponsored and guided by disobedient priests.
The implications of such a fact are profound. First, Mary, Mother of the Church, would never do such a thing. Legitimate apparitions are always marked by obedience, as the history of the Church attests. Second, those who follow such an approach are materially close to schism, since they already disregard Rome when convenient. By preferring the authority of the apparitions to that of Rome, they have substituted a new Magisterium--the apparitions--and could, like the Mariavites or other groups, fall into formal schism at any time. The potential is real and the danger serious.
8) In defiance of the Bishop, a Church was bricked shut and an illegal bishop brought in by the Franciscans who had been expelled by Pope John Paul II, but allegedly defended by Mary, according to Vicka (see Number One above). A photo of the Church in Capljina is included by Laurentin on the inside back cover of his book. He writes of the "disobedience of Capljina, where after 18 months, the exiled priests brought in a mysterious bishop whose name and origin they hid so that he might give the sacrament of confirmation." This bricked-shut Church is a statement of rebellion against the Bishop of Mostar by the Franciscans, and indicates an important "fruit" of Medjugorje which would be unmentioned except for the journalism and research of people like Jones and Davies. It is now admitted by Laurentin, who laments that he is regarded as senile for still believing in the apparitions.
9) In a frenzy, the devout followers of the Franciscans kidnapped the Bishop, ripped his pectoral cross from him, and held him captive until the Mayor used the United Nations to free him. I could not believe this when I read it in Jones, but Laurentin now admits it as a fact, incredibly blaming the Bishop himself (much like blaming a rape victim for "asking for it"). He blames the Bishop for legitimately asking for the parishes to be turned over to the Diocese--an order which goes back to Paul VI. Laurentin writes, "On June 6, 1975 Pope Paul VI decided to transfer eight Franciscan parishes to secular [he means diocesan] priests. The application of that decree Romanis Pontificibus has never been accepted..." The reason? Incredibly, Laurentin writes that "the authoritarian measures were taken without a true dialogue..." Someone needs to remind Laurentin and all of the Franciscans in Medjugorje that the Church is not and never has been a democracy. But such a "right to dialog" (and disobey freely) appears backed by Mary, who keeps appearing in the middle of these disobedient Franciscans and blessing them. Laurentin continues that "when Bishop Peric annexed the Franciscan parishes around Mostar [simply fulfilling the Pope's wishes], the Croatians wrongfully kidnapped him." Laurentin goes on to blame the authoritarian, non-dialoging actions of the Bishop and the Pope for this type of reaction: "Should not the Pope's authority be exercised with the heart and the spirit of the Pope, who is directed by charity? Is it not that very same charity which should solve all problems rather than an authoritarian escalation and canonical punishments?" Such a split between "charity" and "authority," worthy of the subtlety of Lucifer, immediately implies that we can disobey the Pope or the Bishops if we think they are not being charitable toward us with their "authoritarian" directions. Thrown back on subjective impressions of charity, the faithful are once again encouraged to ignore legitimate Church authority when they feel like it. And such behavior is standard in Medjugorje already. Laurentin writes, "For many years now, young Franciscan priests have received no canonical mission from the bishop of Mostar, and those remaining are more or less irregulars." Now that all of these facts are being admitted, one can see a completely different picture of the "fruits" of Medjugorje than the one portrayed at seminars around the country by Medjugorje promoters. The constantly-quoted statement of Jesus, "By their fruits you will know them," takes on a new meaning as the full picture of Medjugorje is brought into the open. Disobedience to the Church is not a fruit on any tree planted by Mary.
10) Mary told the seers that the apparitions would end on July 3, 1981: Who has been appearing to them since? This little-known fact is extremely significant. Fr. Svet writes that "another important, though controversial, aspect of the day was the children's contention that the Madonna had told them that she would return for only three more days, until Friday (July 3, 1981)." But since the apparitions have continued for the past eighteen years, what happened? Was Mary in error to the children in her first statement? Unthinkable. Did She, the Seat of Wisdom, change Her mind? Sacrilegious. Were the children wrong about the message from Mary? Then they are untrustworthy messengers. Or did She stop appearing, and Satan start? Not unheard of in the history of Saints: St. Ignatius Loyola had a famous and similar encounter. In addition, Vlasic writes that Satan appeared to Mirjana in 1982, followed by Mary.
Whatever has happened after July 3, 1981, one thing is clear: the explanations do not make any sense. Fr. Svet writes that "in my interview with Father Jozo Zovko, held on August 11, 1983, I asked him if he could explain the statement [that the apparitions would end], which proved to be wrong. He explained that he...gave them a book about Lourdes, which they all read. From the number of apparitions to Bernadette at Lourdes...the children concluded that they would have the same number of apparitions..." But Fr. Svet had just stated that the children said that the Madonna had told them, not that they were calculating numbers from a book. The explanation is so weak that it has been abandoned by Laurentin, who tries another: "During these troubled times, under the threat of the police, she [Vicka] meant the end of apparitions on the hill..." In other words, Mary simply meant that she was moving the apparitions to the Church. The problem with this new explanation from Laurentin is that the daily apparitions had already moved to the Church by July 1, as Laurentin elsewhere admits: "June 30th marked the end of the apparitions on the hill..." Unfortunately for Laurentin, the prophecy regarding the end of the apparitions occurred on June 30th (Laurentin writes, "Vicka would have said on June 30, 1981 that the apparitions would end in 3 days"). So his explanation cannot possibly make any sense: the apparitions were obviously not to be moved to the Church in three days, when they were already in the Church.
Each explanation advanced by these two main defenders of Medjugorje not only fails separately, but also contradicts the other. But no one says that Mary's announcement of the end of the apparitions in 1981 did not occur. Medjugorje followers are left with the blasphemous conclusion that a definite prediction attributed to Mary must have been in error. The alternative, obviously, is to disbelieve in the apparitions, particularly in the light of the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas and Scripture. St. Thomas writes of false prophecy as follows (Summa, Q. 172 Art. 6): "The prophecy of the demons can be distinguished from Divine prophecy by certain, and even outward, signs. Hence Chrysostom says that some prophesy by the spirit of the devil...but they may be discerned by the fact that the devil sometimes utters what is false, the Holy Ghost never. Wherefore it is written (Deut. xviii. 21, 22): If in silent thought thou answer: How shall I know the word that the Lord hath spoken? Thou shalt have this sign: Whatsoever that same prophet foretelleth in the name of the Lord, and it come not to pass, that thing the Lord hath not spoken." Applying this time-honored test of the Bible, recommended by the Angelic Doctor, we must conclude that Mary did not speak what was said by the Medjugorje seers in Her Name--hence, the seers of Medjugorje are false prophets and should be avoided. The conclusion is inescapable.
11) The messages of Medjugorje include a sacrilegious story about a bloody handkerchief. This story is not trotted out at Medjugorje seminars, but it has now been admitted. Here is the story, quoted by the Bishop from Vicka's diary: "Friday 4 September, 1981. Today, we waited for our Lady at Marija's house. Marija, Ivanka, Jakov and I (Vicka) were there. We started to pray at 6:20 p.m. Our Lady immediately appeared. We asked her about the Friars and nuns from our parish. We asked about the man who saw Jesus along the road when he took the people in his car. He met a man who was covered in blood--this man was Jesus--and he (Jesus) gave him a handkerchief soaked in blood and told him to throw it into the river. Driving on further, he met a woman, it was the Blessed Virgin Mary, and she asked the driver for the blood-soaked handkerchief. The man gave her a handkerchief that belonged to him, but Our Lady asked for the blood-stained handkerchief. When the man gave her the blood-stained handkerchief, Our Lady said: 'If you hadn't given it to me, it would have been the last judgment for everyone!' Our Lady said that this was true." Laurentin's response is to blame Fr. Bubalo for being honest and including it in his book: "I had suggested to Father Bubalo to eliminate this confusing and insignificant event from his book." He adds that "these transitory extrapolations of fervor do not discredit...Medjugorje, and to reduce Vicka to these details does not show any discernment."
On the contrary, to dismiss such a message as insignificant does not show any discernment; nor does explaining the diary entry as a "transitory extrapolation of fervor"--a fancy way of saying, it seems, that Vicka freaks out occasionally (hardly a defense which restores our confidence in her as a messenger of Heaven). For a Medjugorje seer to authenticate this diabolical story with Our Lady's stamp of approval is most serious. Pause, for a moment, on the theology: Jesus is ready to end the world if one man obeys him; the world is saved through disobedience to Jesus at the command of His Mother; Jesus appears degraded and bloody, rather than in His current risen and glorious state; and finally, the whole event ranges around a handkerchief.
Even stranger, though, is Nolan's attempt to seriously consider the interpretation of Fr. Grafenauer, who accuses the Bishop of being the "driver" of Mostar and refusing to obey Mary. Nolan actually wonders if this interpretation of the bloody story could be true--a tragic and revealing comment about the state of theology in Medjugorje circles, since Grafenauer would appear to be advocating that the Bishop disobey Jesus in order to obey Mary--a conundrum which is simply impossible since, being a Saint, She wills what Her Son wills. Nor does Grafenauer continue his bizarre analogy in a way which explains just what the disgusting little bloody handkerchief could reasonably represent, nor why the Mother of God would want it while Jesus wished it to be tossed.
These details of the message of Medjugorje are suppressed by omission. They have been exposed, thanks to Jones and others. How honest are Medjugorje advocates who have withheld this important information--information which is clearly necessary for evaluating the apparitions in a fair manner? And how honest are those, like Laurentin, who advocate suppression of the story on the grounds that it is insignificant?
In conclusion, we must reassess Medjugorje. Instead of vilifying Sivric, Jones, Davies, Salbato, Kronzer and others who have forced suppressed facts to the surface, we should thank them. In fact, promoters of Medjugorje owe them an apology for calling them liars. All of the above facts have been documented in this paper from promoters and advocates of the authenticity of the apparitions, advocates who are back-pedalling and trying hard to come up with explanations. But one thing is clear. Jones has not lied in exposing the above facts; Davies has not lied: It is the seers themselves who have lied, and the lies are documented. They are numerous. They damage credibility, and reveal a "Mary" who promotes disobedience to the Pope, ventures in real estate, defends a rebellious priest as "innocent" (who subsequently impregnates a nun), and can't make up her mind when she will stop appearing. For the sake of the love of God Who is Truth and the honor of His Mother, the truth about Medjugorje must be faced--even if, like Ivan, it flunks several tests, and turn out to be as ugly and repulsive as a bloody handkerchief.
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