While Mons. Ratko Perić, bishop of Mostar, is going to Rome this week (according to the Croatian press), I’m going to catch up by presenting his most recent article reviewing problematic aspects of the alleged supernatural messages from the Medjugorje phenomenon.

(Translated from the Italian version published on the diocesan website.)

 

The deviations of Medjugorje
Bp. Ratko Perić, January 25, 2010

Introduction. Recently, after his “private” visit to Medjugorje, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, stated that in the discernment of the phenomenon, beyond the positive elements, it is necessary to take account also of “some open questions“. [1] In this article we report some “dubious” things, erroneous answers or heresies, that is, doctrinal errors written in the Chronicle of the apparitions of the parish of Medjugorje and in some other writings connected with the “Medjugorje phenomenon”. The original of the Chronicle is located in the archive of the parish office of Medjugorje, and a copy at the diocesan curia of Mostar. It is not surprising that the “young people of Medjugorje” at one time attributed their imperfect doctrinal knowledge to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but we are surprised at how priests, parochial vicars of the era at Medjugorje, Fr. Tomislav Vlašić (who edited the Chronicle from September 11 [1981] to August 31, 1984) and Fr. Slavko Barbarić (who continued from September 2, 1984 and died in 2000) could have recorded such suspect and heretical phrases. How could they have supposed, not only that there was new knowledge that was supposed to be adopted by individual persons and by groups of the faithful who yearn for “miracles” and “healings”, but that the Church herself would also change her biblical and magisterial doctrine! We have already seen various “games” about the “great sign” as well as the innovation about the change of the liturgical calendar relative to the Nativity of the Madonna. Bishop Pavao Žanić wrote several times, with arguments, about these remarks or obvious lies in the context of the Medjugorje phenomenon:

  • In the supplement to the diocesan newsletter of 1982;
  • In the “Current (unofficial) position of the diocesan curia” from 1984;
  • In the “Declaration on Medjugorje” at Medjugorje in 1987;
  • In the booklet “The truth about Medjugorje” in 1990 (in Italian, German, English, and French)

Here we will limit ourselves only to the self-evident deviations that are recorded by the chroniclers of Medjugorje as “revelations” and “messages”, delivered through the individual “seers”.

 

1.  The “seers” do not need to pray for themselves.

9/16/1981. The chronicler Vlašić reports: “She told them also that they do not have to pray for themselves, because she has rewarded them in a better way. Let them pray for others.”

A “message” like this is not fitting for the Blessed Virgin Mary. The most holy Mother of God knows in a better way that no private apparition on earth substitutes for the necessity of prayer to God. Moreover, this is in contradiction with other “messages” in which prayer is constantly mentioned, including the “seers”. And Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Mary, Himself prayed, first for Himself, so that he might glorify God and the Father might be glorified in Him, and that He might carry out the will of the Father; then He prayed for those who followed Him and finally for those who would believe in their words (cf. Jn. 17). If we attentively read the holy Gospels, we find many places in which Jesus went apart from other people and prayed to the heavenly Father. The Madonna prayed for her whole life and has left us the most beautiful biblical prayer which we recite or sing every day in the Breviary: Magnificat anima mea Dominum!

 

2.  The “apparitions” of Fr. Jozo Zovko

10/19/1981. “Jakov and Vicka had an unusual vision. The Gospa came at 18:10. The seers were not praying then. The Gospa said that she was going to have them see Fr. Jozo Zovko. Jozo appeared smiling. While he was with the Gospa, the Gospa asked them to invite the children and young people; they were singing religious songs outside and praying. The Gospa wanted Fr. Jozo to see how they were glorifying God and him. When they came, the Gospa and Fr. Jozo encouraged them to continue to pray and glorify God.”

The same chronicler writes (4/11/1983) that when the apparitions first started, “Fr. Jozo had a vision of the BVM and clearly experienced her voice in the church.” And in addition to him, some hundreds of adolescents and adults have seen the “Gospa”! And here we read that not only has he seen her, but he has also “appeared” together with her, smiling! The apparition invites the children and young people so that “Fr. Jozo would see how they were glorifying God and him”?! Glory and adoration belong only to God, veneration is owed to the Madonna, or rather, super-veneration, to St. Joseph, proto-veneration, and to all the other saints only veneration. To Fr. Jozo, according to the “apparition”, “glory” is due! How the “children” reported this to their spiritual advisor, I don’t know; the chronicler reported it to the world this way.

 

3.  The second “apparition” of Fr. Jozo Zovko

10/21/1981. The parochial vicar wrote this message in the Chronicle also: “Jakov and Vicka say that they saw the Gospa and Fr. Jozo. Jozo was happy. The seers also saw the tribunal and a chief in the middle (probably the chief judge). The Gospa told them that the trial was not finished and was continuing. She also said that he (Fr. Jozo) will not receive a serious sentence and that they should not be worried for him, because he is a saint, as she already told them earlier. She also said that Fr. Jozo wants them to persevere in prayer.”

In the Second Diary[2] under the same date, Vicka has written similarly: “Once again I and Jakov said something to my sister about Jozo, if only we could see him today, how he is and how things are going to be for him. Just in that moment our room was filled with light. Then I and Jakov knelt and the Gospa came. She made Jozo appear. Jozo was happy and was smiling to us. She told us not to be afraid for Jozo, he is a saint, which I’ve said for a long time!”

According to the “apparition” of the children, the trial of Fr. Jozo was “continuing” (but the sentence was pronounced the next day, October 22, 1981, which means that the trial had ended on the previous day), “he will not receive a serious sentence” (he was condemned to three and one-half years in prison), and not to fear for him – “he is a saint”. The apparition of Medjugorje proclaims Fr. Jozo “a saint” while he is alive, as it had “already told them earlier”. This “message” is not in accord with the general practice in the Church and the history of apparitions. The most prudent Virgin of Nazareth, from the Gospels, is not going to proclaim anyone a saint, especially while he is living in “this adulterous and sinful generation” (Mk 8:38), precisely because no one knows what will happen to him or in what civil and ecclesiastical trials and sanctions he could fall. Therefore such “proclamations” could simply be childish stories.

 

4.  What are the three heavenly states?

9/19/1981. In the Chronicle we read: “They say that she led them to Paradise which is very beautiful (light, joy, flowers). In Purgatory it is gloomy, while Hell is full of fire and black devils with tails. When they returned after 20 minutes, they were very happy.”

Here the same chronicler reports to us that the adolescents were in all three states of the beyond, for about 20 minutes. In the beautiful Paradise, in the gloomy Purgatory, in Hell with fire and black devils with tails. Devils are malign spirits and they do not have the color black or tails. The adolescents see their fantasies according to the stories others have told them and they pass them along, and the chronicler uncritically reports them as a supernatural apparition or revelation. Paradise with its “light” and “flowers” didn’t touch them enough to make them want to stay, because when they came back to this valley of tears, they were “very happy”.

Members of the Commission, Fr. Ante Brajko and Fr. Ivan Dugandžić, OFM, had a conversation with three “seers”, Vicka, Jakov, and Marija, at Medjugorje on May 10, 1982. From that we excerpt the account of their vision of Paradise, Purgatory, and Hell. This vision was before the Annunciation in 1982. Probably it is a story similar to the one we presented above. At least as regards to Hell, the phrases agree: the fire, the devils with tails and black in color. The “seer” Vicka recounts:

“It was just before the Annunciation… Jakiša [Jakov] tells me: ‘There’s the Gospa.’
Quickly he drops. The Gospa comes and tells us: ‘Now you will come with me.’ Jakiša says: ‘I’m not going… let Vida [Vicka] go, they’ve got eight [in Vicka’s family]. I’m alone.’ And then I said: ‘If he doesn’t go, then I won’t go either…’ The Gospa came and took us by the hand when we were in the house and then we jumped, there was no ceiling or roof, nothing everywhere, and in the blink of an eye we were suddenly before Paradise. She said to us: ‘Now we will go into Paradise, into Purgatory, and into Hell.'”

Paradise: “First of all she led us into Paradise. There is a wooden gate there at the entrance. We walk ahead for five meters. There are people. The people are talking as we are now. And we come closer and we can’t recognize anyone, they’re all young. You couldn’t say: ‘This one died old or that one is fat.’ I thought that there would be some fat people up there. But we go on walking and there are no fat people: everyone’s the same. Some are dressed in white, some in yellow. They wear long clothes. On the left is a tall saint with enlarged hands. We don’t ask who it is, or what has happened. We look at him, and he looks at us. And we pass and he stands by the gate. And when we go in, she lets us see that we should keep walking – we advance just five meters – we should keep walking just like you. And we were there.”

Purgatory: “And she said to us: ‘Did you see? Let’s walk a little into Purgatory.’ And we come closer. And we go into Purgatory. Everything is sprinkled with ashes, like cigar ashes. We don’t see anyone’s head, nothing. Just one thing is visible: everyone’s in agony down there. They’re tormented. And she says to us: ‘See how they are tormented here! This is Purgatory.’ And (says) that we need to pray for them as much as possible.”

Hell. “And from there she says: ‘Now we’re going into Hell. And we walk into Hell. And there’s the gate. We go in. There are many people there. And in the middle there’s a fire. And it’s not a fire that burns in the oven or a small one. It’s a large fire. One leaps this way, another leaps that way. Those people are not like people usually are, now that they have gone into Hell, like we are now. They have horns, tails. Real devils. Black as coal. Like this.” (She points to the black cassock of Dr. Brajko.)[3]

This is the original story of the vision of the post mortem states. The “seers” enter into Paradise through a wooden gate. They enter about 5 meters. Inside Vicka and Jakov recognize no one, they see only that everyone is young, there are no old or fat people there. Some wear white clothing, another yellow, everyone wear long clothes. At the left is a big saint with enlarged hands, like a statue; he is silent, he looks at them like a sphinx. In Purgatory the pavement is like tobacco ashes, under the pavement there is suffering and torment, but the heads are not seen. Finally they arrive in Hell. A lot of people. How is it that the children are surprised at the multitude; it seems that there are more people there than in Paradise. The great fire is not like in an oven. The devils leap one after another, with tails and horns, black in color!

From this we “learn” that in all three of the post mortem states, the resurrection has supposedly happened. The children are taken by the hand by their apparition who, somewhat by force, pulls them to Paradise, Purgatory, and Hell, and they resist and yield under duress. And all of it seems little more than a childish dream.

7/21/1982. “The five seers participated in the prayer in the church. They had a vision. There was no particular message. There were some answers to the questions posed by Fr. Tomislav Vlašić:

Purgatory (some questions were asked; I am only writing the answers relative to them)

  • In Purgatory there are many souls….
  • Among them are persons consecrated to God: priests, religious brothers and sisters.
  • They earnestly recite the Seven Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glory Bes, and the Credo. I recommend this to you.
  • In Purgatory there are quite a lot of souls who have been there for a long time because no one prays for them.

Let us consider the untruth that in Purgatory, there quite a lot of souls who have been there for a long time because no one prays for them. Today the 400,000 priests and 4,000 bishops pray every day in the Holy Mass for all the brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of the Resurrection, who died in the mercy of God, whose faith is known to God alone. And here is one of the prayers of the people: “For the souls in Purgatory who have no one to remember them….” They are remembered every time this prayer is recited.

Hell: [The Chronicle continues;]

  • Today many people go to Hell.
  • God permits his children to suffer in Hell because they have committed grave sins that he cannot pardon.
  • In Hell everyone suffers in the same way.
  • In Hell people suffer in the soul and in the body.

 

How many people go to Hell, only God knows. The Faith teaches that there is no sin that God cannot pardon if man repents. In Hell there are contumacious people who have not repented of their sins. In Hell no one is suffering now in the body, because the end of the world and the resurrection of the body have not happened yet.

 

5.  A “theological” question and a non-theological answer

5/6/1982 in the Chronicle we read: “This evening the young people posed a theological question and received the answer. They asked: ‘Are the people in Heaven present only with the soul, or with the soul and the body?’ They are present with the soul and the body: that was their answer.”

A “theological” question was posed, and a completely non-theological answer. Who gave them such an answer? “That was their answer!” – and thus it is impersonal. From Christian terminology we know that man, composed of soul and body, constitutes the [human] person; that the rational souls in Heaven are not fully persons, for they are lacking their bodies. And from the Faith we know that in Heaven are only the saved souls, until the final Judgment, excepting Jesus the Lord who arose with a transfigured body, and the Blessed Virgin Mary who was assumed, soul and body into celestial glory. And at the last Judgment there will be the “resurrectio carnis”, when we will be complete persons anew, with soul and body. And, see, now here’s a new doctrine on the part of the “seers” of Medjugorje and their spiritual director: that the saved souls in Heaven not only have their souls but also their bodies. From experience we know that the human bodies of the dead are buried in the earth, in the tomb, and that the buried bones of men are discovered several centuries later, even the bones of Saints. Why are they not in Heaven yet? And a Catholic priest reports such an absurd improbability as Medjugorjean teaching!

6.  The identity and diversity of religions

10/1/1981: The same chronicler writes: “Jakov and Vicka had the ‘regular’ vision. Characteristic of the apparition, the answers were given by the Gospa to the questions by the seers, which someone wrote down. Here are the questions and the answers:

1.  Are all the faiths good? Are all the faiths identical? “Before God all the faiths are identical. God governs them like a king in his kingdom… In the world all the faiths are not identical, because the people do not observe the commandments of God, but reject and corrupt them.”

Here there are two questions: are all the faiths or religions good? To this question there was no response. And regarding the second (whether all the faiths or religions are identical, equal, regardless of whether they are good or not so good), the response is scholastically distinct: before God all the religions are “identical”, and among men they are diverse. How is this known? From the fact that “God governs them like a king in his kingdom.” If all the religions are equal before God – Shintoism, Confucianism, Shamanism, Christianity, etc. – then why are we obliged to believe “in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was put to death for our sins and was raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:24-25)? If all the religions are equal, where’s the difference? The difference is in this world, the “seers” say? How did they see that? From the fact that the people “do not obey the commandments of God, but reject and corrupt them.” The question had nothing to do with the submission of men to the commandments of God, since the judgment whether all the faiths or religions are “good” or “identical” before God and before the world does not depend on that. An answer was sought to the question of whether all the religions, based on their content, their natural or spiritual character, according to their moral teaching or their rites, are good or identical. To that they got an meaningless answer and attribute it to the “apparition”. And the chronicler writes that this is “characteristic of the apparition”!

 

7.  And the non-identity of the “Church”

The second part of the question refers to the “Church” as the Christian community, but the “seers” did not understand, and attributed to the “apparition” their “homemade” answer. On October 1, 1981 the chronicler Vlašić writes the account of the children of Medjugorje:

2.  “Are all the churches identical?” “No. In some they pray more to God, in others less. Also it depends on the priest who organizes the prayer and on the power that he has in himself.”

Nor is there here an answer to the written “ecumenical” question: whether all the churches are identical, that is, whether all the Churches (Catholic, Orthodox, some Protestant), as Christian communities, are identical. The “seers” evidently have not understood it and answer at point-blank, thinking of the churches as buildings, and with their natural and childish eyes see some differences, for example, in “some they pray more to God, in others less” – let’s say, at Medjugorje, at Mostar, at Čapljina, and this in turn depends on the charismatic “directing” and “power” of the priest! The “seers” attributed their failed response to the “apparition”. And now the faithful are supposed to be informed and content with this “revealed” answer and this supernatural “message”!

 

8.  Mixed marriages?

The next year, August 18, 1982, the chronicler notes in the “Chronicle of the apparitions” regarding the “seer” Mirjana as follows: “Mixed marriage. She asked the Gospa on behalf of a girl who is marrying an Orthodox. The Gospa responded: ‘Before my eyes and before those of God it is all equal. It is not equal for you who are divided. Then it is better, if possible, that she not marry him, since she and her children will suffer; it will be difficult for her to live on the way of the faith…'”

If all the religions or faiths in God are “equal”, then a fortiori is it equal whether someone is Catholic or Orthodox? The invisible apparition explains ambiguously and incredibly: “Before my eyes and before those of God it is all equal.” But it is not equal among men where there are various kinds of divisions. Therefore, it is better, “if possible”, that the Catholic woman not marry the Orthodox man, “because she and her children will suffer; it will be difficult for her to live on the way of the faith….” The “apparition” gives advance notice that this Catholic woman, if she marries, will have children, and that both she and her children will suffer because of the mixed marriage. Will the husband suffer too? Don’t all Catholics who marry Catholics perhaps suffer in this valley of tears? Both them and their children? For that answer there’s no need for daily “supernatural” revelations, secrets, messages, and apparitions!

And another thing: in these “messages” the Gospa usually presents herself in the first place, then God and His Son, as above: “Before my eyes and before those of God it is all equal.” Similarly, she will say:

  • If Bishop Žanić does not accept and propagate the messages of Medjugorje, that is: “If he does not convert or correct himself, my judgment and that of my Son will catch up with him” (June 19, 1983). Or:
  • “I desire that a greater number be always with me and with my Son” (March 1, 1984)
  • “Because I and my Son have a special plan for this parish” (April 12, 1984).
  • “Because I love you, even in the moments in which you are far from me and my Son” (May 24, 1984).
  • “Follow me and my Son Jesus” (October 4, 1984). etc.

When you take account of the humility of the Handmaid of the Lord who puts her Spouse in the first place: “Your father and I have searched for you, in anguish” (Lk. 2:48), then these “messages” in which the Gospa put herself ahead of God and His Son are not in accord with the humble Virgin of the Bible. This is also a sign that such “messages” are not only presumed, but also the product of a childish imagination, supported by the intentions of their directors and promoters!

9.  R. Laurentin and the “seer” Vicka

The French mariologist René Laurentin was not content with the answers of the “Gospa” on the identity and diversity of faiths or religions. Some years later he insists that the “seer” Vicka give better explanations regarding the “identical faiths”. The Church teaches one thing, they teach another: the “seers”, the chronicler, their spiritual director, and the apparition of Medjugorje.

The “seer” responds: “If you had asked me for an explanation right away, I could have been clearer. After some years, I don’t dare to interpret it by myself. I leave it to the theologians. I pray that they have light. The Gospa said to me that all the religions are equal before God, that is, all men are equal before God, and the divisions are not made by God, but by men.”

The “seer” Vicka, entirely unsure of her memory, does not dare “by herself” to repeat the answer from five years before. If Fr. Laurentin had asked in 1982, “I could have been clearer.” Now, it is not clear to her. And it seems she doesn’t dare to ask more from the Gospa, with whom she converses and spends time every day, to remind them of what she had said a few years earlier. Anyway Vicka gives a completely absurd answer, which she attributes to the “apparition” (now or earlier, is not clear): the fact that the Gospa had said “all the religions are equal before God” means precisely that “all men are equal before God”. An equality between religions and people!

But the persistent mariologist insists that the privileged “seer” resolve this theological confusion properly. The “seer”, even more confused: “We are equal before God, regardless of the religions and the nations to which we belong. Let us all respect one another!”

In short, unclear and without the desired answer! Let us set aside faith, religion, and nation, then, and let everyone respect each other: this is the doctrine on the identity and equivalence of faiths and “churches” of Medjugorje, according to the children.

Laurentin is properly interested now, and as a true mariologist, wants a real private illumination from the “seer” he is dialoguing with, so that the problem does not cast shadows on the “apparitions” that he promotes with his visits and books, and he asks: “But for you, Jesus or Mohammed or Buddha, are they equal?”

The translator explains to him that the “seer” in question did not understand those words, but the “seer” added: “Jesus is true God and true man. Men have caused divisions. All men are equal. Love is a true mercy. The Gospa is great. She is our Mother. She cannot be compared to anyone.”[4]

Abbé Laurentin on one track, the “seer” on another. The theologian Laurentin asks: what is the relationship between Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed? And the “seer”, not understanding the question and confessing that Jesus is true God and true man, responds that the Gospa “cannot be compared to anyone”. The speaker for the “apparitions” of Medjugorje said nothing more on the subject[5] in the years since.

 

10. What kind of prayer is this invocation?

On April 20, 1983, the same spiritual assistant notated in the Chronicle the following: “Jelena Vasilj had visions as usual yesterday and today. Yesterday she asked the Gospa to tell her the prayer of dedication that we are to say every day. She said it to her. Jelena got up, took her notebook, and wrote while the Gospa was present and spoke to her: ‘O my Mother, Mother of goodness, love, and mercy, I love you infinitely (….) I pray to you also for the grace to be able to be merciful toward you.”

The child Jelena writes, according to the statement of the Gospa and in her presence, imploring to be merciful to the Blessed Virgin Mary. “Milostiv” in Croatian means someone who has compassion toward someone, who expresses his grace toward someone. In prayer we say to the Madonna that she has compassion and pity on us sinners; similarly this expression “milostiv” seeks from God who is the fountain of all graces: Good and merciful is the Lord! Here it is vice versa: little Jelena asks to be “merciful”, “compassionate”, kind, piteous toward the Madonna! Upside down. Such an invocation cannot be pronounced, nor recommended to anyone to say it, to the Mother of God, Mary the Immaculate, Assumed, and Most Holy Virgin, Full of Grace! That a child can imagine to “infinitely” love the Madonna, that can be attributed to her age as a child. But that someone would write down childish fantasies in the official parish Chronicle and give them to the faithful as revealed prayers from the “apparition” for “every day”, this perhaps only happens “in the context of the Medjugorje phenomenon”.

Conclusion. We have recalled ten “suspect” messages that show sufficiently that the tower of “apparitions” from Medjugorje cannot be considered a supernatural phenomenon. Is it only a psychogenic product of the imaginations and minds of the children? Or has a strange force put its fingers into this phenomenon? One thing is sure: such phrases and messages cannot be attributed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the official declarations of the Church also state: it is not possible to affirm that this is a case of supernatural apparitions or revelations.

Ratko Perić, bishop

 

[1] Kath.net, 22. I. 2010.
[2] On the dependency of the Second Diary on the Chronicle of the apparitions, see N. Bulat, Istina će vas osloboditi (The truth will set you free), Mostar, 2006, pp. 40-48.
[3] Archive of the diocesan curia of Mostar, The Conversation of the commission members with the seers, May 10, 1982, p. 4. Tape transcript; R. P., « Zovkićeva prosudba međugorskih zbivanja», in: U službi Riječi i Božjega naroda (“Zovkić’s discernment on the events of Medjugorje”, in: In the service of the Word and of the People of God), Sarajevo 2007, pp. 731-733.
[4] M. de la Sainte Trinité, Medjugorje en toute vérité, St. Parres Les Vaudes, 1991, p. 115; R. Laurentin, La Vierge apparait-Elle à Medjugorje? Paris, 1996, p. 150.
[5] J. Bouflet, Medjugorje ou fabrication du surnaturel, Paris, 1999, pp. 116-118.