Recently in Apparitions and Mystical Phenomena Category

Here's an item from the "Credit Where It's Due" department.

Ireland seems to be the hotbed for phony Catholic prophets. Every few years, it seems, another kook mystic either comes from there or goes there from here to set up shop. For a while Christina Gallagher was attracting followers with her supposed messages from the beyond, then American-born Kathryn Ann Clarke ("Anne, a lay apostle"), and now it's the anonymous gal styling herself "Maria Divine Mercy". With a name like that, obviously she didn't get the humility memo from Pope Francis.

Her writings are full of angry, apocalyptic talk, and even after the failure of her date-specific prediction of a worldwide "warning" to souls, there are still Catholics here and there sucked into her stories of impending doom and disaster, war and warnings, false popes and fake prophecies. From what I see, these are angry people who would like God to knock heads and kick butts, and they are quite willing to spread the gospel of anger provided by this would-be seer. She tells us that the Church isn't going to approve her messages, but that we should believe her anyway, because God'll get you if you don't; and (in her apparently heretical dispensationalist teaching) she indicates that the Church will no longer have a real Pope, so who's gonna say no to her?

Well, that's not how Catholic life works.

Professor Mark Miravalle has helpfully applied the Church's criteria for evaluating mystical claims to her case, and gives the results of his analysis in an on-line article.

Why is this a case of "credit where it's due"? Because I'm usually pretty skeptical about Miravalle's writings; after all, he's taken far too favorable positions about various cases of dubious mysticism: Medjugorje, Kathryn Ann Clarke, and the Amsterdam case. But when he's right, he deserves our thanks.

Here's a little good news for readers who are concerned about the case of non-Catholic false mystic Vassula Ryden. You may recall that Mrs. Ryden won a small victory in 2012 by shutting down the leading web site with critical information about her writings.

Her campaign of harassment by means of lawsuits got the site owner to close the web site.

But in an example of the Streisand Effect, the suit brought lots of attention to Mrs. Ryden and her dirty method of dealing with sincere religious critique: among Orthodox Christians here and among sect-watchers here, and particularly here on the world's leading English-language Catholic news site. And there's information here in Spanish; and here in French and here in German.

And various people took action to make sure that the informative material on that web site would not disappear. For instance, Catholic Culture picked up this analysis of the case by a prominent Dominican theologian, Fr. François Dermine, O.P.

Now the theologian himself has stepped up by putting the whole website back on line, at the new domain He's the president of an Italian organization studying religious sects, and they're willing and able to defend their freedom of speech from legal harassment by sect leaders.

Mille grazie, Padre Dermine!

Free speech, part II

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Some months ago the non-Catholic false mystic Vassula Ryden sued Swiss resident Maria Laura Pio, in a court in Belgium, demanding to take down Mrs. Pio's web site of critical articles, The choice of Belgium as a venue was puzzling, since both Pio and Ryden are residents of Switzerland. Maybe some foolish lawyer in Belgium is a follower of Mrs. Ryden and volunteered to do the dirty work at no charge, thinking that he's serving God by persecuting Mrs. Pio.

When the case came to a hearing, the court in Belgium promptly dismissed it on procedural grounds, so that went nowhere.

Well, Mrs. Ryden has found another foolish lawyer to do her dirty work, and this time she may get her way. A lawyer in Cardiff, Wales, has threatened to sue Mrs. Pio, claiming that the domain name of her web site infringes on Mrs. Ryden's trademarks. Mrs. Pio has decided not to spend any more time defending herself from such vexatious litigation and has announced (here's a copy) that she's closing the site this month.

A commenter on the previous blog post observes:

Vassula and TLIG are at it again and this time may have potentially shut down the one-stop site for truth about the cult -

The threats are spurious - and I've done some more research on the people behind this. The solicitor who is threatening to sue for legal fees and loss of TLIG(TM) earnings, Anthony Jeremy, is a specialist in CANON law and a fully paid up member of the cult, having posted at length, coincidentally, about the Congregation's ban on the use of church premises and being mentioned by someone else in a 'testimony'.

Vassula(TM) is a registered trademark, as is TLIG(TM), which is curious. The attack has no basis, clearly Pio's site is not trading as TLIG, is not selling a bogus product, in fact is not selling anything and doesn't even carry advertising! It clearly falls under 'fair use', otherwise it would be impossible to ever mention Vassula(TM) or TLIG(TM). Also note that nowhere on the TLIG(TM) site does it mention that these are registered trademarks and only refers to copyright on the message content. I wonder why?

Also note that TLIG(TM) is not mentioned in full, no corporate address or full details of the company. TLIG(TM) seems not registered in the UK as a trading entity. Looking at the Foundation, we find that this is registered in Switzerland. It has one office and one employee. The president, Jan Kooger Howard, has currently 19 separate companies running from front offices around Geneva - none has more than 6 registered employees - his main interest seems to be an oil brokerage for Nigerian oil, Sahara Energy Services. And no, that does not appear to be a trademark!

The trademarks are owned by the VP, another Swiss big businessman, Jacques Gay, one of the Freres Gay and the owner of a few watch clasp patents.

I'll take your word as to the lawyer's identity, since I don't know it for myself. His claims seem spurious to me too: Mrs. Pio isn't engaged in trade, so it seems strange to claim that she's violating a trademark. And the claim that Vassula's followers can't tell a critical website from a supportive one is really an insult to them.

How a lawyer can make such implausible assertions without turning purple from embarrassment is beyond me, but some people have a natural skill for it.

[Update (August 2012): clarified the description of the Belgian court's action.]

Thanks to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has just published its 1978 document of guidance for bishops discerning private revelations.

Yes, you read that right. It's 2012, and we're talking about the publication of a 1978 document. If anything proves the old quip "Roma eterna, sed civitas Vaticana sempiterna" ("Rome is eternal, but Vatican City is almost eternal"), it's this.

The document, usually known as Normae Congregationis from the first words of its title, was issued in 1978 and sent to bishops. It contains principles and general procedures for bishops on how to judge a claimed private revelation. It was issued with the intimidating marking sub secreto, a warning that it was not to be published: not because it contained anything startling, but probably because it hadn't undergone the full review process a public document would receive.

But "information wants to be free", as the saying goes, and from 1994 to 2010 various writers, from Japan to France, and from Canada to Italy, have published it in Latin and in vernacular versions. It appeared in at least one canon-law dissertation, and I even contributed to its spread a little by publishing an English translation made with two colleagues (and yes, the leader of the project did have permission from his bishop). Most recently, the vaticanist Andrea Tornielli got a copy by simply asking the CDF for it, and his copy had no instructions about keeping it secret, so he published the Latin text and an Italian translation in February 2012.

Cdl. Levada writes in a preface that the document had in effect passed into the public sphere, so CDF chose to make its release official, here in Latin and with five vernacular translations, including the English version, Norms regarding the manner of proceeding in the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations. Cdl. Levada's preface also discusses the issue of private revelations in general and mentions how the topic came up in the bishops' Synod on the Word of God, and expresses his hope that the document will be helpful to pastors and experts needing to deal with this pastoral issue.

A news item:

Cardinal Puljic: Report on Medjugorje ready before the end of 2012
14 February 2012 - 14:57

(ASCA): Rome, 14 Feb: The commission appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to evaluate the authenticity of the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje, led by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, is expected to present its concluding report before the end of 2012. "Within the year we want to finish our work and give our opinion to the Pope so that he may express his judgment," said Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Sarajevo and member of the commission, during the press conference announcing the Sant'Egidio community's "Meeting for peace" which is to take place next September. "We cannot talk about what the commission is doing, because we are bound to secrecy", the cardinal explained: "Our work is continuing. But we need to finish it this year." (asp/mpd)

(my translation)

Source: ASCA

Thanks to Diane at Te Deum Laudamus for alerting me to the news.

Just when one kerfuffle over the automatic-writing mystic Vassula Ryden is announced, along comes another.

Now the Orthodox Church of Cyprus issued a statement about her on January 13. The Synodical Committee for Matters of Heresy --

By the way, isn't that a great name? Sure, we have a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is a nice, positive-sounding name, but some issues really deserve a statement coming from an organization that gets right to the point. This is about identifying, defining, combating and routing heresy. I'll send a little note to Levada and see if he-- well, I'll do that later.

The Synodical Committee for Matters of Heresy warned:

In reality, her teachings are heretical, and her claims that she communicates directly with Christ are fantastical and outside of the spirit of the experience of the our Church.

So how many Orthodox Churches have issued warnings against her: Greece? Cyprus? The Patriarchate of Constantinople? Does she plan to stop in at church offices to collect the condemnations on her tour?

There are probably more to come!

What do false mystics do, besides peddle spiritual messages and collect money from naive followers? They sue people who try to expose them.

Last March the Patriarchate of Constantinople warned against Vassula Ryden's claims of presenting messages from Jesus. It was an impressive statement from her own church (English translation here), which should help to diminish the bad influence of this long-exposed phony, especially when it is added to the warnings from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1995, 1996, and 2007.

In March 2011 the critical web site, based in Switzerland, wrote, apparently incorrectly, that the document was a formal excommunication of Ryden, and in November 2011 Vassula's organization sued the site author, Maria Laura Pio. A hearing about some issues was held on January 6.

The impression of an excommunication is understandable, since the Patriarchate's document stated:

we call upon the proponents of these unacceptable innovations and the supporters who maintain them, who henceforth are not admitted to ecclesiastical communion, not only to not be involved in the pastoral work of the local Holy Metropolis, but also to not preach their novel teachings, to prevent the appropriate sanctions under the Holy Canons.

Of course we are dealing with translations, so ambiguities are possible. It sounds at least as if the followers of Vassula are to be denied Holy Communion until they desist.

I wish Ms. Pio all the best in dealing with this legal harassment from the Vassula camp.

A 2011 book by four pro-Medjugorje journalists accused the late Bishop Pavao Zanic of collaborating with the Communists in Yugoslavia against the claimed apparition: an outrageous charge.

The current bishop reviews the accusation and points out that Zanic's position on the case was consistently the exact opposite of the Communists' position. When he was favorable, they were against; when he was against, they were favorable! So they weren't very good at getting him to collaborate, hm?

Tsk, tsk, these Communists were so incompetent!

(Note: the English version published on the Mostar diocesan web site is my translation.)

mrcover.jpgI finished reading religion writer Donal Foley's updated book on the Medjugorje phenomenon today; it's called Medjugorje Revisited and I recommend it to everyone concerned about the affair.

Compared with the vast array of books promoting the shady apparition, there is only a handful of critical works.  And I do mean vast: a list made in 2004 counts 646 works favorable to the alleged visions and messages. Offhand, I can think of just 13 critical books, and even after a little web-searching, I've only brought the count up to 14.

But no matter: while the stream of favorable propaganda flows on, and the production of boringly predictable "messages" is endless, Foley's thorough research in Medjugorje Revisited is enough to expose the lies and deviations for what they are.

He walks through the case patiently, taking up topics as if they were exhibits in a gallery, presented in chronological order.  Several of the early chapters are devoted to what the visionaries said in June 1981, when their interviews with Fr. Jozo Zovko were tape-recorded. This is material few of the promoters' books ever deal with.  

In that first week, the phenomenon was radically different from what it became later.  At that time, the visions took place on the Podbrdo hillside, not in the parish church and not at sites on the visionaries' speaking tours.  Back then, the entity they saw had not given them any message to take to the world or even to the parish: in fact, Fr. Zovko made a public statement to that effect on the sixth day of the visions.  

Moreover, when the seer Vicka asked the apparition what the "Gospa" wanted to happen on the Podbrdo hillside, the Vision "didn't know".  Fr. Zovko responded to this: "What kind of Gospa is it who doesn't know? Then she is smaller than a child." 

Such an answer -- "I don't know" -- is absurd for Our Lady, who sometimes makes herself known on earth through marvels, but only for a reason.  In the historic apparitions approved by the Church, there is a mission, a purpose, a divine plan.  But at Medjugorje in June of 1981, there was an aimless "Gospa" making pointless appearances. This is not of God.

St. James Church in Međugorje.

Image via Wikipedia

It's impressive to see how much more material Donal has assembled and examined in just the past five years since he published his previous work on the subject. The new edition has grown about 40% and it now has almost 700 footnotes. Although I try to follow the case closely, it included quite a lot of material that was new to me!

The book is available direct from Foley's little publishing house or on-line from the big bookseller. If you want to sort out what happened at Medjugorje, this book is essential.

Here's a background item on the Medjugorje case, a May 2008 interview with Bishop Andrea Gemma from Gianluca Barile's website Petrus. It was reported in the press at the time, and some quotations did appear, but I never came across the full text until recently.

Medjugorje: the accusation of the bishop-exorcist Mons. Gemma: "The apparitions of the Madonna? Completely false: the seers lie under the inspiration of Satan to profit economically"

by Gianluca Barile

bp-andrea-gemma.jpgVATICAN CITY - A mixture of economic and diabolical interests, with the alleged seers and their collaborators directly involved in profits related to the increased flow of pilgrimages and visits in the area, and the Evil One well content to sow discord between the faithful most convinced of the validity of the apparitions of Medjugorje and the Church, sceptical as ever in the face of what she has declared more than once, through the words of two successive bishops of Mostar during that time, "a great deception". Monsignor Andrea Gemma, former bishop of Isernia-Venafro [served 1990-2006], among the greatest exorcists living, does not mince his words: instead of the Virgin, so far only rivers of money have appeared at Medjugorje, a grave accusation that sums up not only the courage but also the moral and spiritual capacity of the prelate who agreed to respond to questions from "Petrus" on such a prickly event.

So, Excellency, how do you define Medjugorje?

"It is an absolutely diabolical event, around which numerous underworld interests revolve. The Holy Church, which alone can make a pronouncement, through the words of the Bishop of Mostar, has already said publicly and officially that the Madonna never appeared in Medjugorje and that this whole production is the work of the Devil."

You speak of "underworld interests". Of what kind?

"I'm referring to 'the Devil's dung', to money, what else? At Medjugorje everything happens for the sake of money: pilgrimages, overnight stays, the sales of trinkets. In this way, abusing the good faith of the poor people who go there with the idea of meeting the Madonna, the false seers have set themselves up financially, they have married and live a wealthy life, to say the least. Just think: one of them, directly from America, with a direct economic profit, organizes tens of pilgrimages every year. These people don't seem to be really disinterested persons to me. Rather, with all the people vulnerable to this noisy swindle, they evidently have a great material interest in getting people to believe that they see and speak with the Virgin Mary."

Monsignor Gemma, is there no appeal from your verdict?

"Could it be otherwise? These people claim to be in contact with the Madonna, but in reality are inspired solely and exclusively by Satan, are creating chaos and confusion among the faithful for the sake of absolutely deplorable interests and advantages. Think, then, of the disobedience they have fed in the bosom of the Church: their spiritual guide, a Franciscan friar expelled from the Order and suspended a divinis, continues to invalidly administer the sacraments. [NB: The interview took place in 2008, before the laicization of Tomislav Vlasic.] And numerous priests from all over the world, despite the express prohibition of the Holy See, continue to organize and participate in pilgrimages with Medjugorje as their destination. It's a shame! This is why I speak of a mixture between personal and diabolical interests: the false seers and their helpers are pocketing money, and the Devil creates discord between the faithful and the Church; the more fanatical faithful, in fact, aren't listening to the Church, which - I repeat - has, from the beginning, warned about the mendacity of the Medjugorje apparitions."

And if the alleged seers were really seeing the Madonna?

"In reality they would be seeing Satan under false pretenses. Because Satan has great interest in splitting the Church, setting the two currents of the 'pro' and the 'contra' Medjugorje against each other. Moreover, it wouldn't be the first time: St. Paul himself asserts that the Devil can appear as an Angel of Light and can, so to speak, camouflage himself. He did that, for example, with St. Gemma Galgani. But beyond his disguises, the Evil One has already intervened and I can assure you that it is he inspiring the false seers since the beginning with the promise of easy money."

You're not exactly fond of those seers...

"Please! It's enough to see how they act: they're disobedient to the Church, they should have withdrawn to private life and instead they keep on making propaganda for their lies, for the sake of money, and thus playing the Devil's game! My thoughts go immediately to St. Bernadette, the seer of Lourdes: that sweet creature wanted to shed her life and took up the habit of a Sister to serve the Lord. Instead, the impostors of Medjugorje continue to live comfortably in the world without showing any kind of love either for God or for the Church."

The supporters of Medjugorje emphasize that the Holy See has never expressed any position on the matter.

"That's another lie! As I pointed out before, the Vatican has forbidden pilgrimages by priests to the place and has spoken through the words of the two successive bishops of Mostar, Monsignors Zanic and Peric, with whom I have spoken personally, and who have always manifested their doubts to me. You see, even for Fatima and Lourdes, the Holy See didn't express any position directly on those Marian apparitions. So why would they have to make an exception in this case? The truth is that when the Bishop of Mostar speaks, the Church of Christ speaks, and is it to him, who speaks with the authority conferred to him by the Vatican, that we need to listen. Thus, the Holy See has already expressed itself with the words of the Bishop of Mostar, making evident that Medjugorje is a diabolical trick. But I will share a secret with you. You'll see that soon the Vatican will intervene with something explosive, to unmask once and for all who is behind this swindle."

The same supporters note that at Medjugorje every year they report a record of conversions and miracles...

"It's artificial. And who is counting all these conversions? You see, if someone has a conversion, it's because he had a certain predisposition, because he thinks to look inside himself, because he receives the gift of the Spirit. The place in which this conversion happens is completely relative. Let's think of St. Paul: he converted on the road, and now what should we do, all go out to the road and wait to be converted? As regards the miracles, I'll tell a personal anecdote. I owe the miraculous healing of a person in my family to the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary at Pompei, but that doesn't imply that the Madonna ever appeared to me at Pompei. So, just from believing, or from being healed inside or outside, it doesn't necessarily mean that Mary is letting people see her."

To the best of your knowledge, what opinion does the Holy Father Benedict XVI have of Medjugorje?

"I'll limit myself to underscore what he did as Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to send out official notes adverse to Medjugorje, such as the one which forbade priests and religious from going on pilgrimages in that country. Do you ..."

Yet it is said that John Paul II was convinced of the goodness of the apparitions.

"An unproven legend, considering that his opinions were personal and did not in any way represent an act of the Magisterium."

[Thanks to Gianluca Barile. Translation (c) Richard Chonak, 2011, all rights reserved.]

The Patriarch of Constantinople issued a statement yesterday warning the clergy and faithful about phony mystic Vassula Ryden, a member of the Greek Orthodox Church -- at least until he repudiated her. With her channeled messages, delivered through the occult method of "automatic writing", she has attracted a following of Catholics and Orthodox who like saccharine spiritual talk.

Here's a translation of the Patriarch's statement:

In this spirit, and for the beneficial protection of our pious Orthodox plenitude from dangerous spiritual confusion, who do not know well matters underlying the risk of delusion, rejects from the Mother Church Vasiliki Paraskevis Pentaki - Ryden, widely known as "Vassula", and her organization founded under the title "True Life In God" which rashly and frivolously proposes teachings based on the supposed "direct dialogue between her and the Founder of the Church Jesus Christ our Lord", and those conquered by her and the supporters of "True Life In God", which deviate arbitrarily from the God-given teaching of the Church, but also scandalize the Orthodox phronema of pious believers.

I know, you're all asking "what's a phronema?" It sounds like the Orthodox version of sensus fidei, more or less.

And here's the 1995 statement from the CDF:

Among other things, ambiguous language is used in speaking of the Persons of the Holy Trinity, to the point of confusing the specific names and functions of the Divine Persons. These alleged revelations predict an imminent period when the Antichrist will prevail in the Church. In millenarian style, it is prophesied that God is going to make a final glorious intervention which will initiate on earth, even before Christ's definitive coming, an era of peace and universal prosperity. Furthermore, the proximate arrival is foretold of a Church which would be a kind of pan-Christian community, contrary to Catholic doctrine.

So it's good to see that Mrs. Ryden has fostered Christian unity: she has brought the Holy See and the Patriarch of Constantinople together to condemn her heresies!

(HT: Diane K. at Te Deum Laudamus; Rorate Caeli blog)

Akita remains a disputed case

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There's been some talk about the alleged apparition at Akita, Japan, in the wake of the sad earthquake and related disasters in that country. Donal Foley has written a short article to point out that Akita remains a case of a controverted apparition: while the bishop approved it, the bishops conference examined it at his request and refused approval.

Here's a translation project I've had in the works for a few months, an excerpt from Prof. Manfred Hauke's "Introduction to Mariology" (Introduzione alla Mariologia). This chapter presents an overview of theology, pastoral principles, and history regarding Marian apparitions.

Thanks to Fr. Hauke and to EUPress FTL for permission to publish this excerpt.

It's not often you get to say that a bit of news reflects a history-making event, but this is one: Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay has been studying the case of a Marian apparition reported in 1859, witnessed by a young immigrant from Belgium by the name of Adele Brise.adele_brise.jpg Today, the bishop announced his verdict: the event is confirmed to be of supernatural origin, and the faithful are free to believe in the apparition.

This makes the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Wisconsin, under the title of "Our Lady of Good Hope", the first and only Marian apparition in the United States to be validated by Church authority. I can only wonder what lies ahead as the grace of this event is to be explored and shared for the good of God's people.

Today's announcement from the diocese is on-line, along with the relevant decrees by the bishop presening his judgment on the apparition and designating the long-standing chapel at the site to be a diocesan shrine. The web site of the newly-designated Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help (Notre Dame de Bon Secours) at Champion, WI also has information.

In 1978, CDF wrote a document of norms to guide bishops in judging alleged apparitions and other private revelations. While the document has never been published, copies were sent to bishops after Pope Paul VI approved it, and they have used it in cases of alleged private revelation since then.

While it is not permitted to publish the Latin text, some authors have published translations of the text in books and on the Internet, and have contributed to understanding the Church's thinking on the issue of private revelations.

Those translations, due to their writing style, or due to inconsistencies, have made me wonder about what the original text says. In some cases, there are translations based upon other translations, adding an additional layer of possible imprecision.

For this reason, I was happy to join the efforts of writer Kevin Symonds and a priest colleague a few weeks ago to produce a new translation of the Norms from the Latin text. I've posted a copy on Scribd, and I hope it will be of use to pastors and interested readers.

Wade St. Onge has been reading about the alleged Medjugorje apparition for some time, and has written a seven-part series about the case for his theology blog.

He reviews commonly posed arguments for and against the phenomenon and makes distinctions among the stronger and weaker elements in each case. St. Onge does not always put emphasis where I would, but is trying to be balanced. For readers not familiar with the controversy, I think his article will be a good introduction to the subject.


The informative web site Petrus (, directed by Gianluca Barile, is looking ahead at the work of the investigating Commission on the phenomena of Medjugorje.

To summarize: Official meetings of the new commission will begin after the summer, with the six visionaries summoned to Rome for interviews. Petrus expects that they will be asked to disclose the ten "secrets" which they have refused to give up in previous investigations. The article also reports a suggested compromise idea floated in Rome: that CDF could reject the claims of an apparition, but grant approval to the messages (thousands of them?) as "interior locutions". Is it just a last-ditch attempt to salvage the phenomenon?

Related link:

My translation of the article follows.

Trickery, interior locutions, or apparitions? The 'seers' of Medjugorje will have to report to the Ruini Commission and submit the ten secrets received (?) from the 'Gospa'

VATICAN CITY - Vicka Ivanković, Mirijana Dragičević, Marija Pavlović, Ivan Dragičević, Ivanka Ivanković and Jakov Čolo, the famous pseudo-seers of Medjugorje, will have to report to the Vatican, probably right after the summer, to respond to questions from the Commission of inquiry - instituted by Benedict XVI, under the presidency of Cardinal Camillo Ruini - assigned to shed light on the alleged Marian apparitions that they have reportedly witnessed uninterruptedly since June 24, 1981. At the same time, the six will be called on to submit to that body, created at the Pope's will, the ten secrets which the Madonna is said to have entrusted to them.

Official meetings have not started yet, but the tendency among the members of the Commission is to meet and 'interrogate' the protagonists of that bruited event in person. The Commission, which took office last March and is eagerly at work to shed light on the supernatural events that call millions of pilgrims from all over the world to the little town of Bosnia-Herzegovina, has already been informed by the Bishop of Mostar on the disobedience of the pseudo-seers to local ecclesiastical authority. Casting shadows on the apparitions, notoriously, are the theological inconsistency of the messages, their contradictions, and the infinite number of the apparitions.

Besides Cardinal Ruini, participants in the Commission are the Cardinals Juliàn Herranz, Jozef Tomko, Vinko Puljic and Josip Bozanić; the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Monsignor Angelo Amato; Monsignor Tony Anatrella, psychoanalyst and specialist in social psychiatry; Monsignor Pierangelo Sequeri, Lecturer in Fundamental Theology at the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy; Fr. A. David Maria Jaeger, Consultor for the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Fr. Józef Kijas Zdzislaw, Relator of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; Fr. Salvatore M. Perrella, Lecturer in Mariology at the Pontifical "Marianum" Theological Faculty; the Rev. Achim Schütz, Lecturer in Theological Anthropology at the Pontifical Lateran University (in the role of secretary) and Monsignor Krzysztof Nykiel, official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (in the role of assistant secretary). When the Ruini Commission has completed its investigations and expressed its own opinion, it will report to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, from which the final word is expected.

The establishment of the Commission represents an exception in the history of the Church, in consideration of the complexity of the phenomena that are allegedly happening at Medjugorje. It is naturally too soon yet to know or foresee what the Vatican will ratify in its regard, but in the 'Sacri Palazzi', many among the Cardinals and Bishops of the Curia are certain that at the end the Holy See may recognize these events 'only' as interior locutions of the seers and not as true and proper apparitions. In that way, the pilgrims would be able to continue to go to the little town in Bosnia-Herzegovina to venerate the 'Gospa' (as they call the Virgin there), knowing well, however, that our heavenly Mother is not appearing in that place.

Kevin Symonds went to work today on one of the internet spin-meisters for Medjugorje. On his blog Desiderium, Kevin fisks a pretty typical piece written in defense of the dodgy apparition in Herzegovina.

I have to wonder if the supporters realize how weak their case is: they seem to have little defense to any critique about the visionaries and their messages.

When somebody points to problems at the core of the phenomenon, the defenders rush to distract attention by pointing to "fruits" on the periphery.

The people experiencing those "fruits" are outsiders: visitors with little involvement in the phenomenon. But when you look at the core of the phenomenon and stick to the core, you find a bunch of alleged seers, all of whom make a living off the alleged apparition. You find so-called messages that, due to their content, can never be plausibly be called celestial.

There are cases of so-called seers passing off their own thoughts and imaginings as messages and visions from Heaven: for example, in the cases where the visionaries at Medjugorje had "apparitions" of their associates who were away, such as Ivan at seminary or Fr. Zovko in jail. In both cases, the visions were accompanied by messages about the status of those persons, but facts later contradicted those claims.

When you look at the core group, you find manipulation, self-editing, refusal to cooperate in official theological investigations and unofficial medical tests, and even some clear cases of lying.

The hard-line supporters pretend not to see that -- but look at these nice seminarians over here! but look at these nice people going to confession! but look at the good deeds this person did in the US after he went to Medjugorje! but look at these foreign bishops who think it's real!

This is pretty dense, and disappointing when all this evasion comes from someone who's supposed to be a grad student studying religion.

Patrick Madrid discussed the Medjugorje case today on Ave Maria Radio's "Al Kresta Show" today. Speaking from a favorable point of view on the alleged apparition was Fr. Neil Buchlein, a pastor from West Virginia. You can hear a replay of the show over at Patrick's blog.

While Fr. Buchlein got much more air time than Patrick did, he did seem to back off in his approach as the conversation progressed. He eventually resorted to saying that, for people who have good experiences at Medjugorje, Church approval really isn't all that necessary. I had to wonder if that might have been his first exposure to the skeptical case, brief as it was.

[UPDATE (5/30): I've received some recommendations on improving the translation, to fix a couple of mistakes I made, and to add a couple of changes on the basis of the original text in Croatian, so I've updated this post accordingly.]

Here is a new background article on the Medjugorje phenomenon, published in March of this year in the diocesan bulletin of Mostar.

This piece discusses the history of the Medjugorje visionaries in regard to seeking vocations as friars or religious sisters. Over the 30-year course of the phenomenon four of the six expressed some interest in consecrated life, three are known to have made contacts or more extensive efforts toward such vocations, but none succeeded. All eventually settled the question by marrying.

The lack of religious or priestly vocations among the six has been a cause of puzzlement to observers, and Jose Cardinal Saraiva Martins mentioned it in his January interview as one of several points that make the Medjugorje case unlike Fatima.

In addition to what the article tells about the visionaries' vocational decisions, it includes some interesting material about the personal relationships among them, and their relations with the priests who advised them over the years.

This translation, based on the Italian edition on the diocesan website, is my own work, and any suggestions for improving it are welcome.

Let me introduce you to Mr. Mark Waterinckx, a Belgian who has become known as a critic of the alleged Medjugorje apparitions.

He started out as a great supporter of them, and he was close to the people involved. From 1984 to 1989, his confessor was Fr. Jozo Zovko, who was at times pastor of St. James Church and a spiritual advisor to the visionaries. Mark wrote for Medjugorje magazines, and went to the place 24 times. But things changed.

The other day, Mark summed up the state of the case from his point of view. His article describes the non-believers, the believers, and the fanatics. He tells some history about how the bishops tried to restrain Medjugorje, but were prevented from doing so by the war. He also places the new wave of criticism toward Medjugorje in the context of Pope Benedict's efforts to clean up cases of corruption.

[NB: The headers within the article were added by me for the sake of clarity.]

Now, after that little survey, written with Mark's characteristic bluntness, it's not surprising that he drew fire from some supporters, just as this hit piece.

Such a reaction may be understandable: if some guy took a tough stand against your favorite apparition, why wouldn't you be puzzled at his anger?

Well, there's a reason for it.

Mark Waterinckx was the first man from Belgium to make contact with Medjugorje and has made 24 pilgrimages there since 1984. He has raised thousands and thousands of dollars for Medjugorje. In the summer of 1989 he had become friends with [Fr.] Jozo Zovko [OFM] in Tihalijna Mark Waterinckx (right) and Fr. Jozo Zovko, then his confessor, in 1984when an American woman came to him and told him that Zovko had sexually assaulted her. Waterinckx went to Zovko the next day, and Zovko denied everything but was pale and in a terrible state. The incident precipitated a crisis of faith for Waterinckx, who had a conversion experience at San Damiano, which he now doubts. After praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament, Waterinckx decided to walk barefoot to Tihalijna to try to get to the bottom of the matter. When he arrived in Tihalijna, Zovko had regained his composure; he laughed at Waterinckx in spite of the fact that he had severe burns on his feet. Since that time, Zovko has pretended that he doesn't know Waterinckx.

Waterinckx now claims to know 12 women who Zovko has molested including a woman whose father still conducts pilgrimages to Medjugorje, One or two months after his first encounter with the American woman, Waterinckx, seeing that nothing was being done, went to see Leonardo Orec, then curate at Medjugorje. Orec seemed unconcerned about the whole thing. "If you don't do something," Waterinckx told Orec, "I'll go to the provincial in Mostar." Eventually Waterinckx had to write to Herman Schalueck, the Franciscan general, and it was he who finally brought about Zovko's suspension a few months later on August 23, 1989. Rene Laurentin mentioned the suspension in one of his books in '89 adding that the severity of the actions must have indicated that it happened for a good reason. In spite of being suspended, Zovko continued living at Tihalijna. Zrinko Cuvalo, one [of] the Franciscans who was in Medjugorje on day one of the apparitions, was sent to keep an eye on him, but since Cuvalo had a drinking problem the eye was probably not all that observant. Zovko was disciplined a second time in 1994, this time under Bishop Peric for pertinacious disobedience.

Waterinckx had had a number of negative experiences which shook his faith beginning in 1986, but the events of 1989, particularly those associated with Jozo Zovko's behavior were so devastating that Waterinckx decided that he had to warn people. However, when he tried to warn people in articles he had written, he suddenly found that his access to the Medjugorje publications which were previously so eager to print what he wrote had been cut off. It was a pattern which would repeat itself over and over again. Only "positive" articles got published. As a result, people were kept in the dark until the truth suddenly overwhelmed their defenses, at which point they became alienated from the Church and disillusioned. Vain credulity was quickly replaced by a general skepticism on the part of people who were having difficulty coping with changes they didn't understand in the first place.

The evidence against Zovko was particularly damning, not only because he had, in effect, created the apparitions by bringing them into the church and thereby conferring on them what seemed to be Church approval, but also because the Blessed Mother herself, at least according to the testimony of Marija Pavlovic on October 21, 1981, had said, "Jozo Zovko is a saint." By March of 1994, Marija had had enough experience with the Franciscans to convince her that Franciscans like Zovko and Vlasic were no saints, but apparently not enough to get her to admit that she wasn't seeing the Gospa. "We must not like only persons like Father Jozo," Marija said in March 1994, "or the seers themselves, since they can become a disillusion [sic] to you. They are not saints." Marija had by then forgotten that she, speaking for the Blessed Mother, had said the exact opposite 13 years before. By the time her caveat of 1994 was made public, Marija Pavlovic had been caught twice in lies involving the two Franciscans who had taken control of the apparitions over the summer of 1981, but by then the Herzegovina Franciscans had shown that they were not interested in the truth -- Father Barbaric had no difficulty inviting the twice-suspended Zovko to attend the International Youth Festival in August of 1997 -- and the pilgrims were too befuddled to know the difference.

(source: E.M. Jones, "The Medjugorje Deception", South Bend, IN, 1998, pp. 164-166. I have corrected a few typographical errors.)

That's reason enough, I'd say.

The other day I offered some fairly conventional thoughts about the possible outcomes of the new international study commission on the Medjugorje phenomenon.

In that piece I suggested that the study could lead to possible verdicts of "constat de non supernaturalitate", or "non constat de supernaturalitate", or merely a decision to wait and let things go on with no verdict. But I may have been wrong about the possibilities. One of those may no longer be an option.

I learned earlier today about a 2008 interview with Abp. Angelo Amato, then secretary of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, about the discernment of alleged apparitions. In addition to his past responsibility, Abp. Amato is reportedly now a member of the study commission on Medjugorje.

In the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire of July 9, 2008 (reproduced here and here), he answered some questions about a 1978 document from CDF on this subject.

I've translated most of the interview (below), but here is the part that draws my attention:

Q.: At the end of these proceedings, what positions can authority take?

A.: There can be approval, the constat de supernaturalitate, as was recently done by the bishop of Gap [France] for the apparitions of Laus. Or disapproval, the non constat de supernaturalitate, as for example quite a few pseudo-mystical manifestations.

Q.: But can the "non constat de supernaturalitate" be considered a wait-and-see decision, compared to the negative, which would be the "constat de non supernaturalitate"?

A.: In the Norms we are talking about there is only mention of constat de and non constat de. There is no sign of constat de non.

Well, I get to learn something new every day.

So, if CDF does follow the 1978 norms exactly, then the old distinction between non constat de supernaturalitate and constat de non supernaturalitate may have been dropped.

One has to wonder: what motivated this change from past practice? Was the omission intended to limit what options authorities should consider in future cases? Would Pope Benedict keep this change, or act to make it clear that the more clearly negative formulation remains an option?

If this reduction of options is real, it would imply that the Yugoslav bishops already gave the Medjugorje phenomenon the most negative verdict possible (non constat) in 1991. Perhaps a clarification from Rome about these norms would be helpful.

Perhaps this explains the statement of Cardinal Puljić in 2009: "The doctrinal issue of the Medjugorje phenomenon is resolved, but its pastoral significance must still be taken into account."

The Avvenire interview follows. Thanks to Diane K. of the Te Deum Laudamus blog, who tipped me off about it.

[UPDATE (10/2011): Welcome, Jimmy Akin readers!

Since writing this, I've become more reserved about the speculations I made above. Some months ago I asked Mariologist Fr. Manfred Hauke whether the 1978 document means that constat de non would be excluded in the future, and he replied that it would be best to apply the "hermeneutic of continuity" to the document. The three constat options are long established in Catholic practice, so it's best not to assume from SCDF's omission that there was any intent to change the possible options. If SCDF had wanted to take on that issue, they could have done so directly. Moreover, I suppose, such a change would need to be addressed in a published document, not one issued sub secreto to the bishops. A published document would have a more thorough process of preparation and review. --RC]

The Vatican's new study commission is conducting its research behind the scenes, but an open theological debate continues, mostly in Europe, regarding the alleged apparitions and supernatural messages of Medjugorje.  Here at Catholic Light, I've been covering some of the discussion from the German Catholic press.

In his latest contribution, Fr. Manfred Hauke, a professor in the Catholic theology faculty in Lugano (Switzerland), has followed up on arguments by Medjugorje defenders Dcn. Thomas Müller and Dr. Christian Stelzer, who disputed some of Hauke's historical points.  He offers a response with information from two experts:

  • Medical expert Dr. Thilo Buchmüller explained that the reported healing of three-year-old Daniel Setka in 1981 was not proof of a miracle.

  • Anthropologist Mart Bax responded to complaints about name discrepancies in his writings about ethnic violence near Medjugorje.
A third Medjugorje supporter, Fr. Ivan Dugandzic, OFM, a member of one of the previous commissions, offered his own defense which appeals to the theories of Karl Rahner.   Professor Hauke responds to Dugandzic's argument as well.   The article follows.

From the Vatican Information Service:

VATICAN CITY, 17 MAR 2010 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office today published the following communique:

"An international investigative commission on Medjugorje has been constituted, under the presidency of Cardinal Camillo Ruini and dependent upon the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Said commission - made up of cardinals, bishops, specialists and experts - will work privately, submitting the results of its work to the authority of the dicastery".

I assume that this is good news for Bishop Perić of Mostar, as he has wanted an intervention from the level of the Holy See for a long time. It has been twenty years since the last official investigation, held at the level of national bishops' conference in the former Yugoslavia. While the facts of the case's early years have not changed, the intervening years have allowed us to examine the historical record, and they have confirmed the wisdom of the bishops' decision to deny approval.

After the commission presents its report to CDF, there may eventually be a declaration on the case, containing a doctrinal judgment and pastoral directives.

The doctrinal judgment could be:

  • "constat de non supernaturalitate": the phenomenon is confirmed to be not of supernatural origin
  • "non constat de supernaturalitate": the phenomenon is not confirmed to be of supernatural origin
  • no judgment, but cautious encouragement: "nihil obstat"
Because the phenomenon is ongoing, it cannot be given a fully favorable evaluation ("constat de supernaturalitate"), so the most favorable result theoretically available is to give cautious encouragement on the grounds that "nothing stands in the way". 

I mention that last option as a theoretical possibility, but the many objective reasons against approval, and the relatively few and subjective reasons for approval make me expect that the doctrinal judgment will be negative.  Readers unfamiliar with the case against the apparition  can see the archives of this blog.  Under the category of "Apparitions and Mystical Phenomena", there are translations of commentaries from experts and reports by Bishop Perić, which point out questionable aspects of the "messages".

[UPDATE (3/21): I have some further discussion of possible verdicts here.]

In addition to a doctrinal evaluation, CDF can also issue pastoral directives.  Possibly it might leave them up to a lower authority, either the local bishop or the Bosnia-Herzegovina bishops' conference. 

In the case of a negative doctrinal evaluation, the current vague limitations could be left as is, or there might be new restrictions.  

What cannot be forbidden totally is travel to Medjugorje and visits to the parish church: after all, it is a lawful parish, and Catholics are free to attend Mass there.  Also, the long-standing devotional traditions of the country, such as the saying of seven Our Fathers, etc., are perfectly acceptable, and their spread to other places is unobjectionable.

What can be regulated or prohibited?  Devotions based on the alleged apparition; the use of titles such as "Our Lady of Medjugorje"; the publishing of promotional material (in literature, through the mass media, on the internet); the use of Church facilities to promote the claims of supernatural revelations; the participation of the clergy in promotional events; perhaps even the participation by the laity in promotional events. 

Promotional events which could be regulated or restricted may include prayer services, speeches, journeys to Medjugorje: perhaps any event based on a belief in the claimed supernatural origin of the phenomenon.   If the Church wishes, She can regulate or forbid the formation of associations to promote belief in the apparitions: that is, She can forbid the various "Medjugorje centers" or "Marian centers" from promoting the claims of supernatural apparitions.

At present, foreign priests can celebrate Mass or hear confessions in Medjugorje without the local bishop's permission, merely by presenting proof (a celebret) to the pastor, attesting that they are in good standing with their own diocese or religious order.   It is conceivable that this freedom could be restricted in some way.

Of course, these are only possibilities that indicate the range of actions that could be taken, depending on how permissive or restrictive an approach the authorities of the Church decide to take. 

Is it possible that the Church might issue a split decision: say no to the apparition, impose some restrictions, and yet allow or encourage visitors to keep going to Medjugorje as a "place of prayer" or of "retreat"? Such a mixed verdict would be intended to smooth over difficulties among those faithful who are very attached to the alleged apparitions; it would seek to spare the poor country a loss of tourist revenue; it might seek to keep the reported "good fruits" going.  But it seems there would be a fundamental inconsistency about it, and it opens Church authorities to an accusation of consequentialist decision-making.  

Some voices, pro- and con-, are saying that the goal of the commission should be to render a decision before the 30th anniversary of the start of the affair: that is, before mid-June, or before this summer's planned youth festival in early August.   I'm not holding my breath for that: if a commission with twenty members (so says papal spokesman Fr. Lombardi) reaches conclusions and writes a report that quickly, that may be the first real miracle to happen in connection with Medjugorje.

I've just finished translating the late Fr. Jean Galot, SJ's article on the role of private apparitions in the life of the Church and in salvation history. It has a good section with principles of discernment and an explanation of why Church approval of an apparition is never an infallible judgment. An excerpt:

Often apparitions have been received with a passionate enthusiasm, and have made crowds of faithful rush to the place where they have occurred. In effect, many expect to find a confirmation of their faith in those who "see". This favorable prejudice could easily encourage a credulity that does not really seek to test the signs of authenticity of the phenomenon.

Others, in contrast, assume in regard to apparitions an attitude of scepticism that closes them to any judicious examination of the facts stated. Sometimes this scepticism touches their faith itself, because it is from a lack of faith that some reject all sensible manifestations of the supernatural. In other cases scepticism is simply that of the believer who wants to hold to the faith as given and feels repugnance in the face of something that seems to introduce elements of vision.

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.)

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".

Image of Panorama magazine, March 11, 2010The Italian weekly magazine Panorama, in its March 11 issue, has a piece about the anticipated commission of inquiry on Medjugorje. There's no official word yet, but for your interest, here's a translation. (The original article is only accessible to subscribers, but the blog Dagospia has the text.)

N.B.: The article uses the term "shrine", and I present it as-is, but this is not officially correct, as Church authorities have not given the title of "shrine" to the parish church of St. James or to any other place at Medjugorje.

UPDATE 3/7: The Croatian press is reporting that Bishop Perić is making a visit to Rome this week. Diane K. at Te Deum Laudamus has the information she found. [PS: Diane, have you ever considered changing that name to Te Deum Blogamus? :-)]

Miracles of Medjugorje: Ruini investigates
The Pope opens an inquiry on the apparitions

VATICAN -- Benedict XVI wants a clear understanding about the apparitions of the Madonna of Medjugorje. That's why he has decided to form a commission of inquiry, led by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, associated with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

And the next few months are predicted to be stormy for the shrine of the Queen of Peace, near Mostar (Bosnia-Herzegovina), which has become the #3 Marian shrine of Europe (over 1 million pilgrims a year and thousands of conversions).Cdl. Camillo Ruini; photo from dagospia

In spite of the title, though, the Queen of Peace of Medjugorje has brought chaos in the Church: accused of manipulating consciences and of having an affair with a Sister, Fr. Tomislav Vlasic, former assistant pastor and, in the first years, spiritual advisor of the six young seers (now married adults) who receive the apparitions of the Madonna and speak her messages to humanity, had to leave the Franciscan habit to avoid a trial by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Nor is there peace in the conflict between the diocese of Mostar, led by Bishop Ratko Peric, and nine ex-Franciscans, expelled from the Order of Friars Minor, who have not agreed to give up their parishes. The recent visit to Medjugorje by the cardinal of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, reignited spirits: the bishop of Mostar took a stand against the purple-clad cardinal because he had celebrated Mass and met with seers.

"Next year will be the thirtieth anniversary of the beginning of the apparitions. It is time to make clear: whether we're dealing with the most colossal blunder in the history of man, or the most important event in the history of Christianity since the Resurrection of Christ," observed Saverio Gaeta, journalist and author of the volume "Medjugorje. È tutto vero" (Piemme). And those want to check it out in person can plan for March 13 at the "palasport" in Casalecchio di Reno (Bologna), where a twelve-hour prayer meeting will be held, dedicated to the Madonna of Medjugorje, with Paolo Brosio and Nek taking part. The seer Mirjana will be there, and according to the program, in the course of the meeting she will receive her daily apparition of the Madonna. --Ignazio Ingrao

Some related posts:

(UPDATE 2/25: See the end of this article for an update on Thomas Müller's remarks.)<

Theologian Fr. Manfred Hauke's recent interview with the Tagespost Catholic newspaper has drawn a lot of attention since it was published on January 15.

The interview on the subject of Marian apparitions and the Medjugorje affair was picked up by news sites in Germany, Austria, the U.S., and Argentina. Recognizing the value of Fr. Hauke's contribution in moving the debate forward, Dutch- and Spanish-speaking sites translated all or part of the interview.

Outrage from offended followers of the Medjugorje visions was swift too: here in America, a Yale graduate student titled his rant "Theologian Manfred Hauke flunks Medjugorje 101". That text was copied to other websites and offered through the Google news service. Since then, the author seems to have felt some shame at his insult and changed the title of the commentary.

Christian Stelzer, a member of the "Oasis of Peace" community which illicitly operates in Medjugorje, countered the interview with a set of rather pat denials [in German] about some of Fr. Hauke's points. He pointed vigorously at the medical studies of the seers, as if they could produce a theological proof, but he did not even address the most critical argument against the messages: that some contain false doctrine.

From Germany, where the interview first appeared, a transitional deacon by the name of Thomas Müller attacked the professor on the news site, which promotes the alleged apparitions, accusing him of "spreading lies and half-truths" and of unscrupulously considering "any means correct". Müller writes:

It is frightening how lightly Prof. Hauke calls for the "love of truth", but spreads complete lies and half-truths himself in this interview, and silences known facts. Through it all, he sets about to mix with Medjugorje negative incidents which have nothing to do with it.

The high point, then, is the indirect conclusion that the fruitfulness of Medjugorje, which has been unique in the world in relation to conversions, vocations, the revival of the sacrament of penance, the rosary, and love for the Eucharist, comes from the work of the Devil and that the messages represent a spiritualistic phenomenon. This is an insult to God, since Hauke is thereby saying that the Devil, in order to deceive the Church, is more fruitful than the Holy Spirit.

[my translation --RC]

Clearly this is a man in high dudgeon, and not above putting words in other people's mouths.

(Here is a machine-generated translation of Müller's denunciation, for those who cannot read the original.)

But, as St. Paul teaches, all things work together for good, for those who love God. These overwrought and reckless offerings have done a service for the Church, by revealing the depth of illusion, of denial, even sometimes prelest, if I may say so, generated by the false mysticism of Medjugorje.

Professor Hauke, in turn, has replied to this criticism with a statement that backs up his assertions. In the face of outrage, he is calling for more objectivity and scholarly prudence. The German original of his response is on, and an English translation follows here:

An Appeal for Objectivity

A response by Prof. Manfred Hauke to Thomas Müller's critique of his interview on Medjugorje

padrehauke.gifFor years there has been a contentious debate about the so-called "Marian apparitions" of the seers who originated from Medjugorje. The current official position of the Church is still the 1991 declaration of the Yugoslav Bishops Conference, which emphasizes: "non constat de supernaturalitate", i.e. it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelation. The local Bishop Ratko Perić goes beyond this affirmation and has emphasized his conviction, according to which it has been established that the pertinent phenomena are not of supernatural origin. Among Catholic Christians, it should be possible to discuss the questions connected with this matter objectively. My interview in the Tagespost, which has been propagated in various languages since then, was a contribution to this very necessary discussion. If it should happen that I have, in the process, repeated any false information, I am ready and willing to correct these errors. Thus far I do not see any reason for corrections.

In any case, I am shocked over the unobjective reactions of certain followers of the Medjugorje movement, who ascribe bad intentions and "lies" to me. To "lie" means to consciously state a falsehood. In my scholarly career of nearly thirty years now I have fought out many battles and have had to bear many criticisms, for example the polemics of a "woman priest" ordained somewhere on the Danube between Linz and Passau, in the magazine Publik-Forum. But even in these circles no one has ascribed a "lie" to me so far, or a presumption "that the end justifies the means". Such reactions are character assassination. Among these, sadly, is the contribution of Deacon Thomas Müller, which appeared in (18 Feb.). Deacon Müller, who has published a master's thesis ("Diplom" in German) on Medjugorje, asserts that I have spread "complete lies and half-truths" in my interview and that I "set about" "to mix with Medjugorje negative incidents that have nothing to do with it." He speaks of "untruths and distortions". Because I, on the basis of the facts presented to me, consider the possibility that the visions come from the workings of the evil one, I am even accused of an "insult to God". These accusations are very grave.

St James Church, Medjugorje; Photo: KNA, Germany(Translated from the German-language Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost. Thanks to reader budapestinensis for spotting a translation error on my part. The corrected word is marked in red below.)

(UPDATE 2/9: A Dutch translation of the interview is now available on-line at In Caelo et In Terra.)

(UPDATE 2/18: Translations into other languages are welcome. Bienvenidos, lectores de Panorama Católico internacional.)

(UPDATE 2/22: Fr. Hauke has responded to critics from the Medjugorje movement.)

The Medjugorje phenomenon and the discernment of spirits: a conversation with dogmatic theologian Manfred Hauke

For years there has been discussion of the phenomenon of the alleged "Marian apparitions" that took their origin in Medjugorje: Does the Mother of God really appear to the seers who originated in Medjugorje? Or are the experiences parapsychological fruits of the seers' unconscious? Are they a deceptive manipulation or even a trick of evil forces? According to reports, there are plans at the Vatican to have the Medjugorje phenomenon conclusively investigated by a commission. Regina Einig asked the chairman of the German Society for Mariology (Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Mariologie), professor of dogmatics and patristics at Lugano, Manfred Hauke, about the subject.

Wherein can we find the theological meaning of Marian apparitions?

Appearances of the Mother of God belong to the charism of prophecy, in which the mysterious working of the Spirit of God comes to expression. St. Paul emphasizes: "Do not quench the Spirit! Do not despise prophetic utterances!" (1 Thess. 5:19-20). The book of Proverbs already emphasizes: "Without prophecy, the people become demoralized" (Prov. 29:18). According to Thomas Aquinas, prophetic revelations after the Apostolic era are not given in order to spread a new teaching of faith, but serve to guide human action. Theology speaks here of "private revelations", inasmuch as the content conveyed does not belong to general and public revelation, which closed with the Apostolic era. "Private", then, means a reference to an individual person, a group or even the whole Church in a particular historical situation. "Private revelations", or (better) prophetic revelations help us to recognize the "signs of the times" (Lk. 12:56) and act accordingly. Following Pope Benedict XIV, the recognition of a private revelation by the responsible bishop is not the basis of any duty to believe, in the strict sense (fides divina), but it states that one can approach the apparitions with a purely human faith (fides humana) based on reasoning. So no Catholic is obliged to believe that the Mother of God appeared in Lourdes and Fatima; but the Church states that the reports of the apparitions are worthy of belief and a Catholic may believe in them and cultivate a corresponding spirituality. Yes, the Church has even set several memorial days in the liturgical calendar and issued corresponding Mass formulas. Prophetic revelations are not the normal case of Christian life, but an exception: "Blessed are they who do not see and yet believe" (Jn. 20:29). The Catechism of the Catholic Church stresses with St. John of the Cross: In Jesus Christ, the eternal divine Word, God the Father has shared everything with us (cf. Hebr. 1:1-12). "Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty" (CCC 65).

For his birthday today, 65-year-old Cardinal Schönborn has given an interview to a friendly local church-news outlet. is also friendly to the alleged Medjugorje apparitions, and in fact sells videos of the Cardinal's recent "pilgrimage" there. In the interview, he confirmed a bit of news from a Petrus article that appeared here on January 12: that Pope Benedict will soon create a new commission to evaluate the controversial site of alleged apparitions.

My translation:

KATH.NET: In the past few days, you visited Pope Benedict XVI. Did you tell him about your positive experiences of Medjugorje? Did he express any opinion about it?
Cardinal Schönborn: It's not customary to talk about audiences. But I can naturally say this much: that Medjugorje was a topic in Rome during those days, due to the public awareness of my pilgrimage. I reported about my impressions in Rome. And I am very confident that the Commission, which the Holy Father is setting up to examine the events of Medjugorje, is very good and will work very conscious of its responsibility, and that the result will certainly be good. And I am confident that it will proceed with great prudence and great sensitivity to a phenomenon that has attracted about 30 million pilgrims and brings very many good fruits, but certainly also some open questions.

As a skeptic about the phenomenon, I didn't appreciate his recent highly publicized visit there, but I am glad to see the Cardinal acknowledge that there are some, ahem, questions to be examined.

The German-language service of Vatican Radio has an article on Cardinal Schönborn's private audience with the Holy Father last Friday, and the letter he faxed to Bishop Perić the same day.

My translation:

Schönborn: Apology for Uproar about Medjugorje Visit


After his controversial pilgrimage to Medjugorje Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has apologized to the local bishop of the place, Ratko Perić. In a letter published in excerpts on the official home page of the Mostar diocese, the Vienna cardinal emphasizes that he had no intention of "harming peace." Schönborn had visited the village of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina at the end of the old year and argued for "an integration of the Medjugorje phenomenon into normal pastoral practice". He had declared his visit to the ecclesiastically unrecognized site of Marian pilgrimages a private trip. However, he provided for considerable visibility to it in media publicity. The letter of apology is dated January 15, the day on which Schönborn was in Rome for a private audience with Pope Benedict. With his letter, Schönborn answered a letter from Perić, who had sharply criticized the visit of the cardinal to Medjugorje and emphasized that the visit implied no recognition of the "apparitions". Furthermore he recalled that the so-called seers of Medjugorje had repeatedly manipulated the alleged Marian apparitions. With Schönborn's letter the discussions are now considered closed, said a spokesman for the Mostar-Duvno diocese this Tuesday. -- Since 1981, Marian apparitions are said to be taking place in Medjugorje. They are not recognized either by the local diocese or by the Vatican.

After meeting with the Pope on Friday, Cdl. Schönborn faxed a conciliatory letter from Rome to Bishop Peric in Mostar; it is available on the Mostar diocesan website. Now that there is some communication between the two prelates, I hope it will serve to bring some good and some common understanding from the recent unfortunate events around the Cardinal's visit.

papasc.jpgFrom the Italian web site Petrus (my translation):

Rumors from the "Sacri Palazzi": the Pontiff calls Cardinal Schönborn into line: "More prudence about Medjugorje". The cardinal traveled there December 31.

VATICAN CITY - The Pope did not welcome the end-of-year visit to Medjugorje by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and his former student at university. According to word filtering out from the "Sacri Palazzi" (there has been no official statement on the subject), Benedict XVI has personally communicated with the Austrian cardinal, receiving him in audience a few days after the arguments sparked by the journey of the prominent prelate to the small village in Bosnia-Herzegovina in which six alleged seers have claimed to see the Madonna since the 1980s. The Bishop of Mostar (the diocese in which Medjugorje is located), Monsignor Ratko Peric -- steadily convinced, like his predecessor, that the Virgin is absolutely not appearing in the village -- lamented in an official note that he had not been warned by Schönborn in advance of his arrival. The Archbishop of Vienna, for his part, after having prayed and said Mass at Medjugorje on December 31, also expressed his favorable judgment on what is said to have happened there, and had one of the six alleged seers who claim to see and speak with the "Gospa" accompany him. Then, as the Holy See has not yet expressed itself on the apparitions and many Cardinals and Bishops have shown their skepticism on the authenticity of the apparitions, Benedict XVI has therefore asked Schönborn for more prudence in statements relative to Medjugorje (the destination, this year, of millions of pilgrims), so that his presence there, as a member of the College of Cardinals, not be exploited by anyone to "authenticate" phenomena which the Holy See intends to monitor and analyze, besides the ordinary way, with an ad hoc Commission to whose guidance Cardinal Camillo Ruini will reportedly be called. The most recent Prince of the Church to express his own perplexity on the Medjugorje apparitions (in an interview in these pages) was the Cardinal José Saraiva Martins.

saraivam.jpgThe Italian Catholic website Petrus has published an interview with the former prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, José Cardinal Saraiva Martins. Cardinal Saraiva has joined in the public debate about the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje in Herzegovina by expressing his own skeptical take on the phenomenon. Here's a translation of the interview. Corrections to the translation are welcome.

[Welcome, readers from Catholic World News, Mark Shea (Catholic and Enjoying It), Medjugorje Forum, Patrick Madrid, etc.]

Cardinal Saraiva, also, is a skeptic about the apparitions at Medjugorje: "The last word is up to the Holy See, but this has nothing to do with Fatima: it could be a trick of the devil"
by Gianluca Barile

VATICAN CITY - The alleged apparitions of Medjugorje continue to inspire debate and sustain polemics, within and without the Church. Thus the presence at New Year's of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, in the little Bosnia-Herzegovina locality, was only the most recent occasion to confirm the tension existing in the place where, since the 1980s, the Madonna is said to have appeared to six "seers". The Austrian cardinal, in fact, celebrated Mass for the faithful coming from around the world, but did not inform the diocesan bishop, Monsignor Ratko Peric, of his presence. Bishop Peric, is still, like his predecessor, unconvinced of the validity of the phenomena, and has publicly objected in the face of what he, evidently, considers an offense. All that has happened, while Pope Benedict XVI, who has had the opportunity to deal with Medjugorje since he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is said to have decided (but there has been no official confirmation of the matter yet) to entrust to Cardinal Camillo Ruini the coordination of a Commission to definitively ascertain the truth on the authenticity, or lack thereof, of the apparitions in this small country of the former Yugoslavia. But what, then, are the fruits of Medjugorje? Those who believe in the seers speak of miraculous cures, deliverances from evil, conversions; it is beyond doubt that many people pray, receive Holy Communion, and make confessions in the town. But the "skeptics", those who do not believe in the authenticity of the apparitions, underscore the division among the people of God, between supporters and opponents, to show that this is a case of deception. "Devil", after all, means: "he who divides". We spoke about this complicated event with the Portuguese Cardinal José Saraiva Martins (see photo), a close and trusted collaborator first of the Venerable John Paul II and later of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI; rector of the 'Urbaniana' University much praised by Paul VI; a theologian, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and a great expert on the Marian apparition, officially recognized by the Church, of Fatima.

Eminence, in your opinion, are the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje to be considered true or false?
"There is no doubt: the apparitions will not be considered authentic, as long as they have not been officially approved by the Church in the person of the Holy Father."

It is said that the Holy See wants to wait as long as possible before expressing itself.
"To me, this seems the best way of proceeding. The Church does very well to be prudent in the face of events so delicate, which inevitably involve the feelings of millions of the faithful."

How should a faithful Catholic who wants to go on pilgrimage to Medjugorje proceed?
"He must not take for granted and must not become convinced that the apparitions are authentic; therefore, he must go to the place to pray, but not through his presence to acknowledge the authenticity of phenomena whose approval depends solely and exclusively on the Church, and which in any case neither subtracts nor adds anything to Revelation, which is already complete in Christ."

And are the conversions a sufficient reason to believe in Medjugorje?
"Absolutely not; whether about conversions, or also about healings, it is not a sufficient argument to evaluate the thesis of the authenticity of the apparitions. Just because people convert in this place, it is not given that the Madonna is appearing. Conversion is also possible in a little country parish."

Let's turn to the "seers". Some people accuse them of having invented everything, and of having economic interests, and some think that in reality, the demon is appearing to them in the guise of the Madonna in order to bring divisions into the Church, even at the price of some conversions, Do you not think so?
"I don't know if these apparitions were invented or if they have economic interests; for sure, in cases of this sort, the devil's paw may be here. But God is so great that he knows how to make even the evil one serve for the good of humanity: in this way, it is possible to explain the benefits which many people maintain they received at Medjugorje."

Ivan's $800,000 house in the Boston suburbsAgain in reference to the "seers", none of them, in contrast to the overwhelming majority of other seers recognized officially by the Church, has chosen consecrated life. One of them has even married an American model and lives in the USA in a mega-villa with a swimming pool.
"Consecrated life would have been a beautiful testimony on the part of these people, but I see that there is a great difference from Fatima, where the three little shepherds chose to be even more little and humble than even they already were, in order to live in fullness the great gift of the apparitions."

On this subject: the "seers" assert that the apparitions of Medjugorje are the natural successors of the apparitions of Fatima.
"I don't believe that they are. I see too many differences. As I said before, the little shepherds of Fatima made themselves humble and chose silence; at Medjugorje, I don't know if that is going to happen; Sister Lucia entered the cloister, at Medjugorje, no one has chosen consecrated life; the same Sister Lucia put into writing the secrets entrusted to her by the Madonna, while at Medjugorje they continue to keep them for themselves. No, I see nothing in common between Fatima and Medjugorje."

Eminence, in some of the apparitions, the Virgin is said to have asked the six "seers" of Medjugorje not to obey the prohibitions of their diocesan Bishop, such as, for example, to not speak publicly any more of the alleged "visions".
"The Madonna could not, in any case at all, be anti-hierarchical and incite disobedience, even if the Bishop of Mostar were wrong. This is another element on which to reflect."

The Bishop of Mostar recently made known his own displeasure at not being informed of the presence of Cardinal Schönborn at Medjugorje. A "weighty" presence, that some could interpret erroneously as a recognition of the apparitions on the part of the Holy See.
"Far be it from me to think of judging the conduct of Cardinal Schönborn, but I, considering the morbid attention which is concentrated on Medjugorje, and as I always do every time I go out from Rome, would have spoken beforehand with Monsignor Peric: when we Cardinals enter into a Diocese, we are entering into the "house" of the Bishop of the place and we must have the good manners and good sense to announce ourselves."

Kookery retreats!


An acquaintance on Facebook posted an item about an upcoming retreat put on by one of the promoters of doubtful mystical messages. I won't give the details here, but here's my reaction.

First, a word from Scripture: 2 Tim. 4:3-4 (RSV):

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.

These nut cases with all their phony apparitions and mystics and apocalyptic stuff run retreats? Oy. As in the times of St. Paul, people want to have their "ears tickled", so they go chasing after phony mystical messages instead of devoting themselves to classic doctrine, Scripture, etc. People want to be "in" on the latest "message from God" and "know" what's "really happening" -- the result is a sort of gnosticism disguised as Catholicism.

[UPDATE (1/16): The Mostar diocesan website has picked up this translation of Bishop Peric's statement, and improved it in a few places, so I recommend readers use that edition. I'll leave this draft here, along with my introductory comments.]

One sensational element of the claimed apparition at Medjugorje is in predictions of a "great sign" to eventually appear at the town. According to the alleged seers, the sign would be a miraculous proof of the alleged apparitions' validity, and as such would encourage the world to repent. The "sign" was part of ten apocalyptic "secrets" that the apparition supposedly told to the seers.

On December 11, Bishop Ratko Peric of the diocese of Mostar-Duvno issued a paper relating how this idea got started, and what the seers have said and done in regard to it. This document highlights various contradictions among the seers vis-a-vis each other, and inconsistencies between their earlier and later statements.

It also looks at the apparent falsehoods claimed by "seer" Ivan Dragicevic, who at one point wrote down a prediction of the sign, and later denied having written it.

Bp. Peric begins by addressing the contention of some apparition promoters that all the talk of a "great sign" was invented by other people, and does not come from the seers themselves. Then he proceeds in chronological order through various diaries, books, chronicles, and interviews to present how the idea of the "great sign" first appeared. He also recounts the efforts of two study commissions to explore the question, efforts that were somewhat thwarted by the non-cooperation of the seers.

This document was published on the diocesan website in Croatian and in Italian, and here I present an English translation based on the Italian.

By way of full disclosure: please be aware that I am an amateur in learning the Italian language; any errors or omissions are my responsibility, and I appreciate any appropriate corrections. [Thanks to Marco Corvaglia for sending a correction already.]

[One technical note: the translation of the key words apparizione and apparsa needs a little explanation. Apparizione refers to an apparition as an event; apparsa to the personage or entity that appears. Apparsa, in the feminine gender, indicates a feminine being. In English, both of these words might be translated as "apparition". However, to do so would lead to obscurity, especially in sentences containing both words. Therefore, I translate apparizione as "apparition" and apparsa as "lady". This does not imply any endorsement of the alleged seers' reports.]

To begin with a sample, here is a quotation from Bp. Peric's conclusions:

"The sign" has to be, and may indeed be, the most splendid weapon of the "seers" of Medjugorje and of the propagandists of the "apparitions". The same "seers", from the beginning, have asked the lady that appeared to them for it. They asked for it and "begged" for it, as we have seen. Then, through the "seers", followed whole floods of lies, contradictions, promises, speed-ups, slowdowns, falsehoods, uncertainties.

Peric v. Schönborn


[UPDATE (1/5): Bishop Peric has issued an English version of his statement on his diocesan website.]

Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar has issued a letter of public criticism of Christoph Cardinal Schöborn, O.P., the Archbishop of Vienna, for his public statements endorsing the claims of apparitions in Medjugorje.

The Cardinal's latest interference in the case is a so-called "private" visit he made over New Year's. It was so private that it was announced in advance by bloggers, confirmed by the Cardinal's spokesman, and followed by the media when he arrived. It included public celebrations of Mass, a visit to the alleged apparition site in the company of a "seer", and an address in Italian to visitors. However, there was no notice to the local bishop, and not even a courtesy visit.

Bishop Peric has delivered a statement that I find refreshingly frank. I can't remember anything comparable from a bishop, really. Here are some quotes (my translation from the Italian version on Bp. Peric's diocesan site):

  • "I am surprised because no one from Cardinal Schonborn's office has contacted me, even up to the publication of this statement,"

  • "I suppose that the Cardinal knows the position of the Church, based on the findings of the commission and its conclusion that no one can say that these are "supernatural apparitions or private revelations."

  • "His visit ... [to religious orders operating in the diocese without permission] can be read as an encouragement for their ecclesiastical disobedience."

  • "the Cardinal, with his visit, appearance, and statements, is adding to the present suffering of the local Church"

Diane Korzeniewski has posted an English version on her blog.

CDF tips its hand about Medjugorje


Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna has been a supporter of Medjugorje for some time, recently hosting Marija Pavlovic Lunetti, one of the alleged seers, for a event in his cathedral and being photographed with her. It's not surprising, then, when stories appeared on the net to say that he was going to make a visit to the town "from December 8th to January 4th." At least that's what Medjugorje supporters were happy to report.

Would he really spend a month there? That does sound odd, for a sitting bishop. Maybe something has been lost in translation, and the trip is going to take place some time between those dates.

But what looked like favorable publicity for Medjugorje has turned into an embarrassment for the Cardinal. His travel and the boasting of apparition supporters about it told the world that the Cardinal was showing support for the "seers", even on the territory of another bishop.

Now, this sort of public interference in another country's and another bishop's local controversy is, well, highly irregular, and Cardinal Schönborn has been forced to make a statement. Catholic News Agency writes:

Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nov 16, 2009 / 02:55 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Christoph Schönborn will visit Medjugorje, the small town in Bosnia-Herzegovina where six young people have allegedly been witnesses of apparitions from the Virgin Mary. But according to the Archdiocese of Vienna, the trip is "completely private" and does not imply a statement from the cardinal on the veracity of the apparitions.

"It was supposed to be a completely private visit, it was not supposed to go out to the internet," Fr. Johannes Fürnkranz, personal secretary to the Archbishop of Vienna, explained to CNA.

Really? It wasn't supposed to be known to Internet readers (i.e., to the public)? What quaint and old-fashioned expectations Fr. Fürnkranz has!

The cardinal's visit will take place between December 8th and January 4th.

"The cardinal's visit was supposed to be absolutely personal and not public, but since it has been leaked, I can only confirm that it will take place. There is no statement whatsoever involved (in the visit)," Fr. Fürnkranz told CNA.

On the face of things, the Cardinal's secretary is indicating that Cdl. Schönborn is not changing his plans. and nothing unusual is happening. On the other hand, the statements that this visit was supposed to be "completely private", not even known to the public, and certainly not a "statement" of any kind, are an admission that His Eminence is violating protocol -- and markedly so because of the public statements of the local bishop against the apparition claims:

The local Church authorities, including Bishop Ratko Peric, whose diocese encompasses Medjugorje, have declared that the alleged apparitions are not to be published or promoted.

Bishop Peric has reaffirmed the official statement of his predecessor, Bishop Pavao Zanic, who in July 1987 wrote to the pastor of Medjugorje:

"I demand from you that you remove the 'visionaries' from public display and put an end to their 'visions' in the parish church. They have had 'visions' in Mostar, and earlier in Sarajevo, Visoko and Dubrovnik. Let them now have them at their homes: people say that they had them at their homes during 1981... You must stop talking about apparitions and also cease publicizing messages. The devotions that grew out of the 'apparitions' and their messages must be eliminated, sales of souvenirs and printed material which propagate the 'apparitions' must also stop."

In June 2009, Bishop Peric addressed the parish in Medjugorje and insisted that "the presumed daily apparitions, known as the 'phenomenon of Medjugorje,' have not been declared as authentic by the Church. Not even after the investigations of various commissions nor after 28 years of media hype. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we cannot behave as if these 'apparitions' are authentic and approved."

Nevertheless, 22 years later, the popularity of Medjugorje as a Marian destination for pilgrims remains.

But even if Cardinal Schönborn doesn't accept the bishop's position, there is someone whom he should (and of course will) respect: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Any remaining doubts about CDF's position should be fading, if this leak to the press -- probably a planned and wanted leak -- is correct.

The official's key statements (which I've emphasized) use some very firm language:

Speaking on background, an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told CNA that the Roman dicastery remains behind the bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"The local bishops have the ultimate authority on this matter, and their arguments against the alleged apparitions are doctrinally solid," the official said.

Asked if Medjugorje should not be judged by its fruits of many conversions and vocations to the Church, the official responded: "It is not the duty of this Dicastery to make a pastoral assessment, but a doctrinal one. But regarding the argument, it can equally be argued that God can write straight with crooked lines, just as it has been proven in several previous occasions with patently false apparitions."

It's understandable that a CDF official has been thinking about the issue. Cardinal Puljic, the chairman of the Bosnia-Herzegovina bishops, has already said that CDF will soon make a statement, and he is traveling to Rome this month. At the bottom line, Cdl. Schönborn's interference may help the critics, as an illustration of how very much CDF's intervention is needed.

Apologetics speaker and writer Patrick Madrid gave his view on "good fruits" at Medjugorje in his radio show the other day.

Well . . . I don't deny that there are good "fruits" associated with Medjugorje, but even so, I am strongly disinclined to believe that it is the site of authentic Marian apparitions. And, as I explained to the caller, I personally do not agree that the "good fruit" argument constitutes proof of its authenticity.

More at Patrick's blog.

No "love" lost in Cleveland


Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland has issued a letter and decree about some false mystical messages promoted in the Cleveland area, declaring the alleged messages "not supernatural in origin", and forbidding the faithful to gather at the "Holy Love Ministries" site for any religious purpose.

Link: Diocesan website. Also, a 1999 caution from the diocese on the matter. [Sorry, the link is broken now.]

(Hat tip To Wendy Cukierski for the news.)

UPDATE (8 pm): For those who (like me) don't know much of the history of this affair, here's a summary of the story from an unusual web site: it presents "reviews" of apparition web sites. [NB: I don't agree with some of the anonymous author's opinions about other subjects, but on apparitions, he's doing some good work.]

The story of Mrs. Sweeney Kyle takes a weird turn when she dumps her husband 'cause he doesn't believe in her apparitions: hm!

UPDATE II (22 November): The "caution" statement linked above makes an interesting point: the group told diocesan officials that it was an ecumenical group and not subject to the authority of the Catholic Church. That, whether the group realized it or not, was a declaration of schism. Schism consists of the refusal of submission to the local ordinary or to the Pope. They qualified!

[I'm continuing to present an English version of Bp. Peric's three-part article "The context of the Medjugorje phenomena". This translation is based on the Italian version of the article on his diocesan website. In this portion, Bishop Peric describes the episode in which the alleged "messages from the Gospa", written down by friar Tomislav Vlasic, spoke about the date of the Blessed Virgin's birthday.]

Vlasic's fantasies about the birthday of the Gospa

The Catholic Church, according to the Liber Pontificalis, has celebrated the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary since the seventh century, in the times of Pope Sergius I (687-701); and in the East, at Constantinople, several decades earlier.

According to the Chronicle of the apparitions of the parish of Medjugorje, in the "visions" - as Vlasic regularly calls them - the alleged apparition says that the 2000th birthday of the Madonna was 5 August 1984. The chaplain at the time, friar Tomislav Vlasic, sent that invention to the Pope in Rome and to Bishop Zanic in Mostar. Here is how the matter reads in the Chronicle maintained by Vlasic. But let us turn back three years to see how the nativity was celebrated and how the date changed.

Birthday greetings, 8 September 1981. There are two different official reports, from Vlasic and Laurentin. Vlasic, in the Chronicle, writes:

"Visions: the seers had the encounter with the Gospa. Little Jakov wished her a happy birthday. She was overjoyed, saying it was one of the happiest days for her. She exhorted the seers to perseverance in faith and in prayer.

R. Laurentin, "historian" of the Medjugorje phenomena, reports differently on the same event.

Birthday of the Gospa. On 8 September, the feast of the Nativity, the Virgin appears with the child Jesus, actually in Jakov's house. Vicka is there too: she speaks familiarly, extending her hand: "Dear Gospa, I wish you a happy birthday". The Madonna takes her offered hand, but Vicka does not dare to do the same, and Jakov, confused by her audacity, asks her not to speak about it.

But she tells it all to Laurentin, and he tells it in his book! [1]

Birthday greetings,

8.IX.1982 (Wednesday). Mirjana and Ivica [Ivanka] are missing from the seers. The others have met. They had a vision. The Gospa was particularly solemn. The young people gave her birthday greetings. There were no particular messages.
Therefore on 8 September in 1981 and 1982 the "Gospa of Medjugorje" regularly celebrates her birthday, as the whole Catholic Church celebrates the feast of her Birth into this world. She was even visibly "overjoyed". The following year also, the recurrence will continue to be characterized by the splendor of the solemnity and the joy of the birthday. As we see:

The Gospa's birthday:

"8. IX. 1983 (Thursday). Four seers had a vision. They say that the Gospa was particularly solemn and happy. She did not have any special messages."
For the Nativity of 1983, the Gospa maintained the solemn clothing of the preceding year, but there were no wishes from the "seers". Evidently something is being prepared behind the curtain on part of the "apparition of Medjugorje" and on part of the "seers of Medjugorje" and on part of the "myth-maker" [mistificatore] Tomislav Vlasic. We can see what Vlasic writes:

The birthday of the Gospa is not the day of the Nativity, but the 5th of August, Our Lady of the Snows. Friar Tomislav writes:

"28. V. 1984 (Monday). Today father Bishop Zanic visited. He took with him the last part of the Diary of Jelena and of Marjana Vasilj. Also, he took the message of the Gospa given to Jelena for him, for the Holy Father, and for the Christian public, that the 2000th birthday of the Gospa is 5.08.1984. (See the document sent to the bishop).
Let us quickly recall that in that document of the same day, the following is written:
"She said:' Those who feel a little love for me on that day, let them not go to school, or work, or anywhere. They should take up the rosary and recite it."
Besides, what day was it: Sunday, and nobody had to go to school!

The Bishop rejected the message a priori; he doesn't believe in it. He forbade me orally to talk about it, and said he would also forbid it in writing. He would make sure the message went with the other material to the Congregation.

When I asked him to understand our pastoral co-workers could not be indifferent to the messages that asked the people to convert, he said approximately this: "The Gospa is not appearing here. I don't accept that duty... no one is obligated to believe in private apparitions...." The bishop had a thousand reasons to not believe. And no reason moved him to believe. That's how he acted.

I asked him to have someone from the Commission interview and study the phenomena about Jelena. (Jelena has been seeing the Gospa for a year and a half and neither the bishop nor any member has spoken with her!) He gestured with his hand, saying that there are hundreds of such seers. I asked him again to speak with all the seers. since they are making great events known soon. He responded that he has nothing more to discuss with them.

Here is the solemn announcement of the Gospa's birthday, for August 5, 1984. If therefore the 2000th birthday of the Gospa of Medjugorje was in 1984, that means that there were 16 years before the beginning of the new era, that is, B.C. She would have been about 16 years old when she brought Jesus Christ into the world. And since according to the current historical documents, the birth of Jesus took place between the 7th and 6th years B.C., that means that we have to subtract those 6-7 years from the age of the Gospa. According to this fantasy of Medjugorje, the Gospa would have to have borne a son at the age of 9 to 10 years. But the fanatics of Medjugorje are ready to believe in even more incredible inventions!

We cannot overlook the very clear and decisive attitude of the local bishop Pavao Zanic, who absolutely does not believe in the "apparitions", who was quick to take upon himself the responsibility for what he declared, who had "a thousand reasons" to not believe, and no reason compelling him to believe in the fables of the "seers" and their myth-maker of Medjugorje. A truly courageous bishop![2]

But in regard to Vlasic here there is not one, but there are two points:

There is an expectation for the Church to approve the birthday of the Gospa or that Heaven will arrange for it.

14.VI.1984 (Thursday). 6. We are not proclaiming the declaration message of the 2000th birthday of the Gospa for now, as long as ecclesiastical authority does not approve it, or until Heaven provides that the day be evidently prepared.

However, ecclesiastical authority has not approved it , either then or now. Yet the apparition of Vlasic has already asked that the 2000th birthday of the Gospa be celebrated in a particular way.

The special preparation for the birthday.

27. VII. 1984. (Friday). The seers saw the vision together. There were no special messages. Ivan had the vision this evening in the place of the apparitions. The vision took place at 22:30. The Gospa said this: "I continue to wish to remain with my chosen ones in the church, to spread the Good News here through them..." (The desire of the Gospa refers to the intention of Bishop Zanic to remove the seers from the church). Be at peace in this time and do not be upset, since my son Jesus is working strongly in this parish and in the people who come here..." The Gospa, says Ivan, said that for her 2000th birthday, that is, 5 August 1984, we should prepare in particular. She asked that in these days people pray and abstain, that they receive Holy Communion on Sundays with a pure heart, because Jesus must work in people. Ivan reported that the Gospa said that there will be conversions and signs among the people.

The "Gospa of Medjugorje" goes directly against the directives of the bishop; both that the seers and their apparitions be removed from the church, and in that the fantasy about the change to the liturgical birthday of the Madonna was being spread. After the intervention of the Bishop, however, a week prior to the alleged birthday, no statement was made from the altar. The chronicler Vlasic writes:

Nevertheless, without the announcement.

"We did not announce the birthday of the Gospa (2000th) for August 5 since the bishop forbade it. We only exhorted the people so that the day, the first Sunday - Sunday of reconciliation, would be a true day of reconciliation."

The apparition of Vlasic obeyed the directive of the bishop, but only tactically. He said, "there is to be no mention from the altar on account of the bishop", in order not to irritate him.

No mention from the altar.

"30. VII. 1984 (Monday). Ivan had the vision again at the place of the apparitions at 22:00. The prayer group was with him, some Sisters, and people, and myself," writes Vlasic. "The apparition lasted 15 minutes. At one point, Ivan said that the Gospa said that everyone should present his problems and wants in silence. Everyone prayed in silence. After the apparition Ivan told me that the Gospa said that there should not be any mention of the 2000th birthday from the altar on account of the bishop, but that the people should be urged to conversion and prayer. He said that she asked the youth of the parish specially to pray more. She also said that her son Jesus was bringing people here by Himself.

Nonetheless, the "apparition" of Medjugorje and its myth-maker Vlasic, violating ecclesiastical directives, "privately" will celebrate the "birthday" of the alleged Gospa who was "unusually happy", and because of the private wishes, "bloomed with happiness".

The first non-liturgical 2000th "birthday" feast.

5. VIII. 1984 (Sunday) All five of the seers had the vision in common. They say that the Gospa was very happy, uncommonly so. She had particular words for the individual seers. To Marija: "Pray! Open your heart to me and ask. I pray to my son Jesus that he will grant graces. Pray with faith." We wished her a happy birthday. She was blooming with happiness."

It is apparent also that Vlasic, the promoter, propagandist, and myth-maker of the Medjugorje phenomena, has formed his "apparitions" in the visions of the "seers" according to his contumacy, duplicity, and myth-making. Publicly no, privately yes!

Preparations for the non-liturgical feast of the "birthday". Friar Slavko Barbaric writes:

"30. VII. 1985 (Tuesday). This evening the vision was on the mountain. Present: Marija, Ivan, and VIcka. Marija says that the Gospa asked for much more prayer for the "birthday".

Evidently for the new invented birthday, 5 August.

Continue - at any cost! Friar Slavko continues:

"1. VIII, 1985. (Thursday). A lot of people are asking me for news about my transfer. So far none of us has a fitting response. We all feel that something should be done, but we don't know what to do. In any case we need to carry on with the work at Medjugorje, at any cost. We can't be unfaithful."

Even at the cost of ecclesiastical disobedience. Friar Slavko has personally demonstrated this to me, because he did not want to leave Medjugorje, even at the cost of losing his faculties for hearing confessions. He died in this stubborn disobedience.

The "birthday" is celebrated regardless. Fr. Barbaric notes in the Chronicle:

"2.VIII.1985 (Friday). According to the pilgrims they feel the nearness of the feast of the Gospa. Last year the birthday of the Gospa was already announced. It was celebrated in prayer and fasting. This time nothing was said about it. The faithful are arriving."

Nothing was said from the altar, but in private it was spoken of, spread abroad, promoted. Why else would "the faithful arrive"?

The people have not forgotten!

" 4.VIII.1985. (Sunday). Today there are so many people and pilgrims because last year the Gospa said through Jelena, that it was her 2000th birthday. A year has passed, and we cannot say a word about it, and the people have not forgotten. They love their Mother, and this is moving!"

These are the moving words of friar Slavko Barbaric! "They could not say a word". referring to words "from the altar". All the other channels remained available.

The second "birthday" celebration. Fr. Barbaric writes:

"5.VIII.1985 (Monday). - 2001st BIRTHDAY. The vision was in my rooms.. Marija, Ivan, and Vicka were present. It lasted 4 minutes. There were no particular messages. They described the apparition as very solemn. She called for joy and happiness and blessed us solemnly. A fact to return to: it is the BIRTHDAY of the Gospa. We had nothing about it from the altar. Others spoke about it during the Mass. This was in obedience to the bishop. We are not sure if one day the history of the apparitions of Medjugorje will praise us. But, you see, we are justified in obedience, for the sake of not provoking worse consequences and attacks, which surely there will no shortage of. It's a sad fact, but so it is.Yet the people of God has responded in their way. Hundreds and thousands have arrived yesterday and today and for hours, they have prayed and sung, and made confessions. All just to wish their Mother a happy birthday. It is a consoling fact. Without announcements, publicity, or propaganda, the people hears and sees, feels and responds to the call. What a chance for the Church. But in this moment we are still blind men. At the end of the Mass three of the seers recited the Magnificat and we all responded with "Alleluia". Mary, thank you for being here for us!"

The "apparition" happened in Friar Slavko's rooms: a solemn apparition, solemn joy, solemn blessing! Both times he wrote BIRTHDAY in capital letters. Friar Slavko obeys the bishop! He doesn't speak from the altar, but other people speak from the altar! He justifies himself with "obedience" for the sake of not provoking worse consequences. "It's a sad fact!" And the people of God knows the response! Hundreds and thousands yesterday and today, give the Mother their birthday wishes" "It's a consoling fact!" Friar Slavko cheers himself up like a child because he is innovating the anti-liturgical birthday of the "Gospa of Medjugorje", because he is making a double play, because through the apparition he is manipulating human consciences! And he has left it all for us in writing.

No mention of the liturgical celebration of the Nativity, 1985,

"8. IX. 1985. (Sunday) Nativity of Mary. The vision was in the cellar. Marija and Jakov present. It was very brief, not even a minute. But some results were obtained." (This alludes to the experiment that was made.)

There is no mention that the Gospa was solemn for her liturgical birthday as in 1981, in 1982, in 1983. The "apparition" of Medjugorje has abolished the birthday of the Madonna by means of the fables of the "seers" and the fantasies of Friars Tomislav and Slavko.

What happened for the Nativity in 1986?

"8.IX.1986. (Monday). The apparition was in our rooms. Present: Marija Pavlovic and Jakov Colo. This evening the apparition was filmed by the TV team from the BBC. The leader of the charismatic renewal of the German protestant church was present."

The Nativity and the liturgical celebration of Our Lady's birthday are not mentioned, but the presence of the German protestant charismatic renewal leader is mentioned. Symptomatic!

The third celebration of the "birthday": The "Gospa" wants people to look forward to her birthday with her.

"3.VIII.1987. (Monday). Many pilgrims are here, especially Italians. They are arriving for the birthday of the Gospa."

And the next day?

"4.VIII.1987. Marija and Ivan were here for the apparition. It lasted about 4 minutes. They said that the Gospa wanted people to look forward with her to her birthday. A lot of people stayed on the Hill of the apparitions all night because of this."

And on the day itself?

"5.VIII.1987. Exactly at midnight between August 4 and 5, there was an apparition on the Hill of the Apparitions. Many people were there. The seers reported that the Gospa was very joyful on account of the multitude of the people and she called anew for holiness and for living out the messages."

"And yet it moved!" The paraliturgical birthday is being introduced. The people come together more and more. and everything is leading up to the youth festival on 5 August, to "give our Mother birthday wishes". We'll talk about that more ahead.

What about the Immaculate Conception? Bishop Zanic asked about this in 1984.[3] Here's what friar Tomislav Vlasic said about it:

"8. XII. 1983 (Thursday). The five seers had a vision in common. The Gospa was dressed solemnly, as always on the great solemnities."

If the "apparition" of Medjugorje is changing the birthday of the real Madonna, which is celebrated on 8 September, then this "apparition" would have to also change the date of her Immaculate Conception, and in consequence transfer it from December 8 to November 5, to agree in some way with the liturgical date of the birthday. She was born, supposedly, on the 5th of August, in the 16th year B.C., which means that she would have been born after less than 8 months' gestation.

The Church has not accepted any of the "apparitions" of Medjugorje, the messages, the birthday, the biography, the secrets, the great signs, and has officially proclaimed that on the basis of all the canonical commissions of inquiry, it is not possible to affirm that this is a matter of "supernatural apparitions or revelations."

It is worth noting that in the context of the invented "birthday", August 5, the "Mladifast" began to be organized, the Youth Festival at Medjugorje at the start of that month. Young people came from around the world to give the Gospa birthday greetings! Here is how it all happened, according to the Chronicle of the apparitions:

(or: Why the "Gospa" is a heretic)

[Welcome, readers from Catholic World News!

In addition to this document, I've translated Bp. Peric's recent directives to two priests in the Medjugorje parish.--RC]

This is a translation of a recent document from Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno, from the Italian version on his diocesan website. Corrections to the translation are welcome in the comment box.

The web page begins with a bare statement of Mr. Tomislav Vlasic's laicization, and proceeds to the bishop's article.

The bishop's view:

Vlasic's involvement in the "Medjugorje phenomenon"

Just as last year, when the Holy See sanctioned the Rev. Vlasic with interdict, warning him of more severe penalties if he would not obey, once again numerous comments have appeared in the mass media to proclaim the non-connection between the "Medjugorje phenomenon" and the "Vlasic case". If in both the letter and in reference to the two more serious penalties there is an explicit reminder of the "Medjugorje phenomenon",[1] in which Tomislav Vlasic in involved, why is there never any connection between the one and the other? We would like to recall just that undeniable connection, from the beginning.

Tomislav Vlasic, born at Socivi, 16 January 1942, was ordained a priest as a member of the Herzegovinian Franciscan province, 16 July 1969, at Frohleiten, Austria.[2] After ordination he worked for some time as a spiritual assistant at Humac[3] and starting in 1973 as superior of the residence at the Franciscan house in Jablanovac, Zagabria.[4] At the proposal of the provincial superiors, he was canonically named spiritual assistant in the parish of Capljina in 1977,[5] where he remained in service until 17 August 1981, when he moved to Medjugorje, on his own initiative, without any necessary warning and without the approval of the bishop.[6]

But, according to the Reverend R. Laurentin, the quasi-official historiographer of the "Medjugorje apparitions", the Provincialate gave Fr. Vlasic permission to reside at Medjugorje, all without the knowledge of the Bishop. Fr. Laurentin writes:

"Coming to know of the arrest [of Fr. Zovko, the parish priest] that same day, August 17, Tomislav Vlasic, parish priest from Capljina, went to Medjugorje in order to inform himself and take account of the situation. From there he went immediately to the provincialate, at Mostar, to inform them of the serious situation and the danger that weighed on the parish left without anyone to guide them. The provincial found his observations sensible and his visit providential. He immediately named him to replace the imprisoned parish priest. - Therefore, at the end of the next day, friar Tomislav settled into the presbytery of Medjugorje. For the second time, he contacted the seers, whom he had rapidly questioned on June 29. He became their 'spiritual director' and this would be the title he kept later in the parish....'[7]

Therefore, by the sixth day after the "apparitions" happened at Medjugorje, and after the arrest of friar Jozo Zovko, 17 August, transferred to the parish of Medjugorje, where the Provincialate "appointed" him parochial vicar. Obviously, the Provincialate cannot appoint him as a parochial vicar, but can only propose him, because it is the Bishop who canonically appoints a parish priest or a chaplain, but again such "appointments" are part of the tragic "Herzegovina case" and the "Medjugorje phenomenon".

The Provincialate did propose Fr. Vlasic as "spiritual assistant at Medjugorje", only a year later, 19 July 1982, although it could and must have known about the sad "Zagabria case", which had to be resolved in another way. Bishop Zanic, not knowing about Vlasic's moral life and the implications of the "Zagabria affair", sent the decree on 27 July of that year for his transfer and carrying out his activity at Medjugorje.[8]

Since the year 1981, Fr. Vlasic has been implicated in the events of Medjugorje, accompanying the "seers" and inseparably connected to the "Medjugorje phenomenon", from its beginnings and also in what followed. Or rather, the "Medjugorje phenomenon" was created in a sense , even before its beginning. Already in May 1981, over a month before the beginning of the "apparitions"

"Fr. Vlasic went to Rome for an international congress of leaders of the Charismatic Movement. During the congress he had asked some of those present to pray with him for the healing of the Church in Yugoslavia. A religious, Sister Briege McKenna, who was united with those in prayer, had a vision: she saw Fr. Vlasic seated and surrounded by a great crowd of people facing him, and from the place where he was seated, there flowed rivers of water. Another religious there, Fr. Emile Tardiff, OP, said in prophecy, "Do not be afraid, I will send you my Mother." After a couple of weeks, the Madonna began to appear in Medjugorje." [9]

And above all he has been involved in the "Medjugorje phenomenon" after having been proposed by his Superiors in July 1982 and having been approved and appointed by the Bishop as chaplain of Medjugorje. Here are written proofs.

Friar Tomislav Vlasic and Friar Slavko Barbaric tell the seers what they are to say to the people. In the Chronicle of the apparitions, prepared then by friar Tomislav Vlasic, we read:

21. VIII. 1982. (Saturday). In the morning friar Tomislav and friar Slavko spoke with the seers. The conversation turned toward the direction of the edification of themselves as persons, and toward indicating their role in the context of these events, especially in regard to their authority, which they must not put at risk in responding to all the questions, but direct the people to the way of conversion and waiting for the promises of God."

--Two Franciscans want to indicate the role of the "seers", that they must not put their own authority at risk in responding to all the questions, but speak of "conversion" and "waiting for the promises of God", because they won't make any mistakes that way; at least that is compatible with the real Madonna!

"The seers must not make statements without informing us." In the Chronicle of 12 April 1984. Vlasic wrote:

"Today I spoke with all the seers. I brought to their attention again the necessity of not releasing statements to anyone without informing us."

-- This means that he is to control, verify, approve, and announce what is true and what is false in the "messages of the Gospa". The censor of the "messages of the Gospa"! What an interference in the "Medjugorje phenomenon"!

A grave theological error. In spite of Vlasic, who was illicitly at Medjugorje, a notorious theological heresy showed up, which he had already written down in the Chronicle, 6 May 1982, getting it sincerely from the "seers":

"This evening the young seers posed a theological question and received the answer. Are people in heaven present with their souls, or with the soul and the body? - they asked. They were answered: They are present with the soul and with the body."

-- All of us profess the Catholic faith that the resurrection of the body (resurrectio mortuorum) will be at the Last Judgment, and Fr. Vlasic takes down the fable of the "seers" of Medjugorje: not only Jesus and the Madonna, as we believe in the Catholic Church, but also all the other saved persons in heaven "with the soul and the body"! And he leaves that in the official Chronicle, with no other observation! This means that even he is not clear about this Catholic dogma, and that after 13 years of preaching on the Nicene Creed at Humac, Jablanovac, Capljina, and Medjugorje. No wonder that last year the Congregation indicated he should take the elementary course on theology and pronounce the profession of faith, on the approval of the Holy See!

"The apparition" of Medjugorje praises the work of Vlasic. In Vicka's diary manuscript of 28 February 1982, the alleged apparition greatly praised the work of Vlasic as a guide to the "seers". Vicka's literal text:

"I and Jacov were there. The Gospa came at 6, 3 minutes, she looked kindly at us. Then the Gospa spoke about Tomislav, first she looked at him, and then said: "you can thank Tomislav very much because he is guiding you so well."[10]

-- The one who is illicitly at Medjugorje, and is directing everything so well, and -- directing everyone to follow him. And the "Gospa of Medjugorje" praises and approves it all!

"The apparition" recommends Vlasic as a spiritual teacher. He himself writes in the Chronicle of the apparitions, 5 March 1984, speaking of Ivan Dragicevic:

"The Gospa expressed the desire and recommended, after his request for advice, to finish his upper levels and after that she would show him what to do. She also told him to entrust himself to friar Tomislav Vlasic to guide him spiritually."[11]

The one who, furthermore -- either one of them -- have acted without regard to the "message" of the "apparition" of Medjugorje! Friar Tomislav talks to the "seer" Ivan, Ivan talks to friar Tomislav, and then the whole thing is attributed to the Blessed Virgin.

Vlasic accompanies the seers according to "divine providence". In the letter of 13.IV.1984, he presents himself to the Pope as the one who "through Divine Providence guides the seers of Medjugorje". He reports that "the Madonna continues to recount her life to the seers" and informs the Pope:

"I will be in Rome from 19 April to 10 May for an international meeting. I know that you are very busy, but if you can receive me for a few minutes, I will be able to tell you about the main points of the apparitions."[12]

--The Pope did not receive him.

Barbaric on Vlasic

On the role and the connection of Vlasic with the "Medjugorje phenomenon" even from the beginnings, how he "channeled" the apparitions and events, another disobedient person of Medjugorje has testified, in a better way, writing chronologically: the propagandist of the "apparitions" and myth-maker of the events, friar Slavko Barbaric.

Appointment by the bishop and then the request that friar Slavko leave Medjugorje. The Provincialate proposed Rev. Barbaric as parochial vicar of Medjugorje in the letter of 16 August 1984. Bishop Zanic approved the Tabula the same day and the transfer of Barbaric.[13] But the bishop, on 3 January 1985, writes to the Provincialate, "I ask you to transfer friar Slavko Barbaric from Medjugorje to another position. He at Medjugorje, on the very important questions regarding the alleged "apparitions" of the Madonna is making propaganda in a way completely opposed to the directions I have given many times orally and in writing."[14]

The desire of the "Gospa" for friar Slavko to remain at Medjugorje. The apparitional "phenomenon", however, intervenes, expresses the "desire" that friar Slavko stay at Medjugorje to guide things and collect the information so that after the visit of her "apparitions" a synoptic image may remain of what has happened. In the Chronicle of the apparitions friar Slavko personally wrote this "message" sent to himself:

"3 February 1985. (Sunday) The vision came suddenly. Shorter this evening than in some days, just 2 minutes. Marija, Ivan, and Jakov were present. The message was for friar Slavko, as promised in the vision yesterday. It was given by Ivan. It went as follows: "I would like that Slavko remain here, and attend to all the details and the notes so that at the end of my visit we will have a synoptic image of everything. I am praying especially for Slavko at this time and for all those who work in the parish." [15]

-- It is well known that such a "synoptic image" was a typical Medjugorean daydream of friar Slavko, because he died on 25 November 2000, while the apparition has not ceased to multiply, even nine years now after his death, and as things stand, the apparitions of Medjugorje will have no end! An image truly a-synoptic [a-sinottica], not synoptic.

Vlasic "channels" the "apparitions". Here is what Barbaric wrote in the Chronicle of the apparitions of 1984,[16], which needs to be read in the light of what the Holy See decided in regard to Vlasic during 2008-2009. After the departure of Vlasic from Medugorje, friar Slavko Barbaric wrote that he remained in Medjugorje in the hope that he too would be "chosen according to divine providence" to continue to guide what had become a "tradition".

"2.IV.1984 (Sunday) I cannot fail to mention what happened today. Friar Tomislav Vlasic has been transferred. He said his goodbyes during the high Mass. The whole church was moved to tears, and with reason. Tomislav remains a luminous figure in the history of these apparitions. He was truly prophetic and courageous to come after the imprisonment of friar Jozo Zovko and carry on his work. How much work and fatigue he invested, how much pastoral prudence and prayer, no one could count it all. The grace of God chose him and sent him. He responded and worked. With his pastoral and spiritual experience he channeled this great fountain which welled up on the day of the apparitions. Also wise, full of the Spirit of God he has guided the seers, the parish, and the pilgrims. Despite all the positive activity every day he had to combat the attacks and dangers ready to destroy what was happening at Medjugorje. He knew prophetically to foresee events, read the situation, and move ahead. I am a witness like no one else, because I was here 13 months with him together in this place. In his case, we speak of wisdom and dedication. And in the most difficult moments he remained calm.

And at the more serious attacks, coming from inside and outside, he responded with dignity. He was always ready to support more difficult sacrifices, so that the things of God could advance. Just when I recall all the attacks on the part of the Curia, I have sufficient reason to say: the deportment of Tomislav, the answers and the behavior in the face of the bishop, the prayers and fasting despite denigrations, are one of the proofs that she is - the Queen of peace.

He often repeated. if anyone is disturbed, I'll be ready to get out of the way, because that's for the glory of God. When he knew about the transfer he reacted with calm: I am ready, in humility, to accept every decision and every decree. All of us in the house reacted with emotion. And Tomislav knew, as we all knew, that our Superiors were moving him at the request of the Bishop. It is difficult to say how unjust this request is: one thing is certain - the intention is to punish Tomislav and shut down everything that happened here.

He is already at Vitina. We hope he will be able to come and continue to work in the extraordinary plan of God and collaborate with our Gospa, who is slowly but surely revealing her plan.

I am profoundly convinced, and this is also my prayer: that the Gospa, who in so many messages has made people know to count on her, will impart the grace of love and more profound peace!

With reason Fr. Laurentin said: friar Tomislav, the diligent gardener has cultivated and guided the new people of God.

I remain here, I hope to be chosen in the providence of God to continue what has become a tradition. If I am not sure that God is guiding these events, this evening I will be without fear and trepidation before the great responsibility. I will continue to labor with the groups of pilgrims and with individuals to inform them about the message and development of the events here at Medjugorje. I know that was much more secure while Tomislav was here continually. But may God's will be done. That's how the Gospa's plan will be fulfilled. That the thing will not happen without our sacrifice, prayer, and fasting, that is clear above all. I learned from my dear brother Tomislav and experienced concretely what it means to let yourself be guided and be ready to work as long as God wants. And as well, I know the other friars are ready as are the sisters.

Today friar Petar Ljubicic arrived. He loves Medjugorje, loves the Gospa, and that's enough.

Amen. So be it!"

-- From this statement and from the subsequent events some clear facts follow, in plain terms:

First, friar Tomislav Vlasic does not remain "a luminous figure in the history of these apparitions", but a shadowy figure, "a myth-maker [mistificatore] and charismatic magus" as Bishop Zanic called him.[17] and finally the Holy See dismissed him from religious life and reduced him to the lay state warning him of excommunication if he does not obey the precepts issued up to now. The gravest sanction for a priest.

Second, he spiritually and pastorally "channeled" all these "apparitions", as his colleague friar Slavko put it in his inspired and accurate way; he controlled it, he created myths. created fantasies, always glorified himself, and even perjured himself before the Bishop.

Third, the "attacks" of the Bishop are founded on facts and canonically justified. And the "denigrations" of which friar Slavko writes are the sad facts, easily demonstrable about T. Vlasic because of his double life.[18] All these sad truths were known also to the Superiors and to the same friar Slavko Barbaric, and yet he speaks of denigrations!

Fourth, the thought of R. Laurentin, quasi-official historian of the "phenomena" of Medjugorje from 1983 to 1997, according to whom Vlasic was a "gardener who cultivated and guided the new people of God", is shown to be completely out of place in the light of the statement of Holy See on Vlasic, accused of "spreading dubious doctrines, manipulating consciences, suspect mysticism, disobedience to legitimate orders, and violations against the sixth commandment." If you understand that this does not only refer to his time in Italy, since he regularly and systematically came to Medjugorje, to his big house whose construction the Franciscan fathers, through the parish priest of Medjugorje, approved in 1994, and where he directed retreats in which he not only "manipulated consciences", but also called upon spirits! The Curia of his community have received proof.[19]

Fifth, friar Slavko wants to continue the work of friar Tomislav, to "channel" things according to his own intentions. He too, like Vlasic, will be praised by the "apparitions of Medjugorje". He too is convinced of being chosen by the providence of God. And now: how can you prove to such fanatics that they are "false prophets"!



Two items from the medical literature: ophthalmologists started seeing cases in the late 1980s of people who went to Medjugorje and stared at the sun, expecting to see mystical wonders and signs. Instead they got eye damage. One woman's vision reached the point of making her legally blind. Several other people got solar retinopathy and persistent blind spots.

Update: directives on Medjugorje


[SUMMARY: Bp. Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno in Bosnia and Herzegovina has sent letters to the pastor and a parochial vicar at Medjugorje, with specific directives about how they and the parish are not to promote the alleged apparitions of the place:

  • that alleged messages and commentaries on them are not to be published;

  • that prayers from the apparitions are not to be used publicly;

  • the parish church is not to be called a "shrine", even privately;

  • that foreign priests may not give conferences or retreats without permission of the bishop;

  • foreign priests wishing to offer Mass must present a celebret from their diocese or order, and the information is to be recorded;

  • a privately-built church has already been closed and is not to be used;

  • unauthorized religious communities have no permission to set up residence;

  • and about regulating several other forms of promotion of the alleged phenomenon.

This is a newly published document from the website of the diocese of Mostar-Duvno. (Note: the web page contains three documents; scroll down to see the source for what follows.) Here I am presenting a translation based on the Italian version on the website, so I have to acknowledge the limitations involved in a derivative translation. Any mistakes are my responsibility; please inform me via the comment box of improvements or corrections. Thanks! -- Richard Chonak]

Letter of the bishop to Friar Petar Vlasic, parish priest of Medjugorje

Mostar, 12 June 2009.: Prot. 648/2009

Reverend parish priest friar Peter!

After having made the canonical visit to the parish of Medjugorje last Wednesday, 10 June, where nine other Franciscan fathers share the pastoral care of souls with you, according to the directive issued by this office, I wish to make reference now, by this means, to several points.

Inasmuch as you are the current parish priest, who have been working in that capacity since September 2007, I express to you my sincere thanks for maintaining transparent records in the books of registration and other matters. For a parish priest, as for a bishop - it is really essential to carry out not only the munus docendi et sanctificandi, but also the munus gubernandi entrusted to us.

Munus docendi:

The rule is still valid that in the parish of Medjugorje priests coming from elsewhere are not permitted to conduct retreats or spiritual exercises, nor to hold conferences, without the approval of this office. (Circular of 23.8.2001, #1290/2001)

Analogously, neither foreign nor domestic priests can promote alleged "messages" or "apparitions" which have not been proclaimed authentic in that church or on church property.

Munus sanctificandi:

It is praiseworthy that you require from every priest who wishes to celebrate the Holy Mass at Medjugorje the celebret of his ecclesiastical superior and that you record in a particular book all the concelebrants, from the beginning of this year.

As well, you have kept me informed about the "Oasis of peace", which, since the intervention of this office on 15 December 2008, no longer keeps the Blessed Sacrament privately in their chapel and no longer conducts adoration, which they had been doing according to their own account. They do not have permission as a religious association to reside in the territory of this diocese.

Munus gubernandi:

You have informed me that the church in Bijakovic, built by a foreign member of the faithful as his ex voto, without the necessary request and approval of the competent ecclesiastical authority, has been closed by now and that no services are conducted in it.

In the parish chronicle you have made sure to record, with the right terminology, everything that happens to this parish as a pastoral unit of this diocese, without regard to all the stories about "seers", "apparitions", and "messages" connected with the parish.

"The phenomenon of Medjugorje":

The "Shrine". The parish of Medjugorje cannot be called a shrine, neither privately, nor publicly, not officially, because it is not recognized as such by any level of competent ecclesial authority. And that wording cannot appear on the web site of "Medjugorje - place of prayer and reconciliation", where it is currently found in many places. In a statement on that site - where there is no indication of who is responsible for it - this message appears:
"To avoid any misunderstanding, we wish to underscore that the Shrine has not given the mission of representing Medjugorje to anyone. The Shrine has not given the mission to any community or person either in Medjugorje or outside of Medjugorje - of speading or interpreting the messages of the Gospa. All these initiatives are private and voluntary on the part of the faithful and the communities."

From that statement it appears as if the site is proclaiming itself as being a "Shrine". Then it seems in some way to be the only competent [source] to give instruction to the world. As the local Ordinary, in this present letter, I declare that the so-called "shrine" has no mission to declare itself a "Shrine", nor to present (the parish) with that title, because it has no ecclesiastical mission to present itself in the name of Medjugorje, nor to spread or interpret the "apparitions" and "messages" of Medjugorje.

Commentaries on the "messages": I have already discussed with you and with another vicar, with friar Danko Perutina, who writes and publishes the commentaries on the "messages" issued from the "apparitions" on the 25th of the month. It was said that he receives the "messages" of the "seer" Marija from Italy or from Medjugorje when she is in that location, and then he presents them there, comments on them and publishes them. This is contrary to the decision and request of this Curia, especially after the declaration of 10 June 2006, which was repeated in the parish church on 6 July 2009 (the accompanying homily).

The Cenacolo. After our intervention, on Christmas Day of last year, there are no longer private "apparitions" in the courtyard of the Cenacolo by the alleged "seer" Mirjana Dragićević, married name Soldo, on the second of each month.

The association "Queen of Peace..." I have been informed in our meeting that in the association founded by Tomislav Vlašić at Medjugorje, which equally has no permission to reside in the territory of this diocese, there are some members, men and women, who dress in lay clothes.

The number of prayers. In September 2007, on the occasion of your installation in the office of parish priest, I indicated to you that the so-called "seers" cannot present themselves on any occasion to promote their private "apparitions" and "messages", nor to preside, nor to have anyone preside in their place, at the recitation of a certain number of prayers "received" in an "apparition". Therefore, they cannot use prayers from scripture or those approved by the Church as a means of introducing "numbers" and "messages" from the private "apparition".

The intentions of the rosary. It is equally not permitted to introduce intentions received in an "apparition" or "message" during the prayer of the Rosary of Our Lady. We have sufficient official intentions (from the Pope, from the bishop, for the missions) and there is no need to arbitrarily have recourse to alleged apparitions and messages and mix them with the Church's public prayers.

Anniversaries. It is not permitted that the "seers" be invited and present themselves in the parish church or on any church properties at any time, especially on occasions related to the "apparitions" of Medjugorje, to promote their private "messages" and "apparitions". Therefore, we do not mix the unrecognized with what is recognized, the private with the official, the non-liturgical with the liturgical.

Grateful for what you, together with the other friars of the parish, undertake for the good of souls, and because you know how to clearly separate pastoral care from private "apparitions" and "messages", I greet you with devout respects.

And the second letter:

Letter of the bishop to friar Danko Perutina, parochial vicar of Medjugorje

Mostar, 12 June 2009; Prot. 649/2009

Reverend friar Danko!

After your priestly ordination in 1999 and at the conclusion of your studies, I appointed you, at the suggestion of your religious superiors, in 2000, parochial vicar of Humac. Then, again at the suggestion of your provincial governor, in 2001, vicar of Medjugorje, in 2005 again of Humac, and in 2007 at Medjugorje. In the meantime, you studied and obtained a degree in mariology at Rome.

I write to you in reference to your commentaries on the so-called "messages" and "apparitions" on the 25th day of the month. In an official visit to Medjugorje on the 10 June, I had a conversation with you, with the parish priest friar Petar Vlasic and another vicar present.

In the conversation it became clear that Marija Pavlović, married name Lunetti, daily "seer" who lives in Italy, and temporarily also at Medjugorje, sends to the parish office or to some one of your pastoral workers in the parish of Medjugorje, her "message" of the 25th day of the month, which is then published on the Medjugorje web site and in other mass media. And you regularly make commentary on the monthly "message", which is published in various languages.

When I asked how the "messages" of the 25th were published, and not the other "messages" said to be "private", I did not feel I received a clear and convincing answer. I do not know who has sent and authorized you to comment on them and publish them on the site. What sort of person is assuming the right to decide that some "messages" be omitted and others published, and that this is done through the parish office and the site connected with the parish of Medjugorje?

We are gradually succeeding in distancing the unrecognized "apparitions" and "messages" from the parish church and from church property, and the appearances of the "seers" before or after Holy Mass. In that conversation I reminded you of having asked in 2006, and reconfirmed in 2009 from the altar, that "No priest who works canonically in this parish of Medjugorje or who is here temporarily, is authorized to present his private opinion, contrary to the official position of the Church on the "apparitions and messages", neither at the celebration of the sacraments, or during the regular acts of devotion, nor in the Catholic media." (homily attached).

To avoid any misunderstanding, in this present letter I declare that you, according to my decree, are not authorized, either in the name of the parish office or as parochial vicar, to comment upon and publish the "messages" of the 25th or any other day of the month. These are private "messages" of private persons for private use. And we cannot permit that this is given the form of a message from the parish office, from the parish priest, or any parochial vicar, or even of the "Shrine" which is not recognized as such at any level: not diocesan, or the level of the episcopal conference, or of the Holy See.

Therefore I expect with trust, without any further admonitions, that from now on you will not publish your commentaries, either in the name of the parish office or in your own name, or under a pseudonym, not after the 25th of this month or at all, as long as things continue as is.

I greet you with devout respects.

This is an excerpt from a 1978 document by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on "Criteria for Discerning Apparitions and Revelations": I'm copying it from a web page at

I. Criteria of judgement, concerning the probability of the character of the apparitions and supposed revelations.

  • A) Positive criteria:
    • a) Moral certainty, or at least great probability, as to the existence of the fact, [revelation] acquired at the end of a serious investigation.
    • b) Particular circumstances relating to the existence and the nature of the fact:
      • 1. Personal qualities of the seer--in particular mental balance, honesty and rectitude of moral life, habitual sincerity and docility towards ecclesiastical authority, ability to return to a normal manner of a life of faith, etc.
      • 2. With regard to the revelations, their conformity with theological doctrines and their spiritual veracity, their exemption from all error.
      • 3. A healthy devotion and spiritual fruits which endure (in particular, the spirit of prayer, conversions, signs of charity, etc).
  • B) Negative criteria:

    • a)A glaring error as to the facts.
    • b) Doctrinal errors that one would attribute to God himself, or to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Holy Spirit in their manifestations (taking into account, however, the possibility that the seer may add something by their own activity--even if this is done unconsciously--of some purely human elements to an authentic supernatural revelation, these having nevertheless to remain free from any error in the natural order. Cf. St Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises, n. 336).
    • c) An obvious pursuit of monetary gain in relation with the fact.
    • d) Gravely immoral acts committed by the seer, or his associates, at the time of the facts, or on the occasion of these facts.
    • e) Psychic disorders or psychopathic tendencies concerning the seer, which would exert an unquestionable influence on the allegedly supernatural facts, or indeed psychosis, mass hysteria, or other factors of the same kind.

It is important to consider these criteria, whether they are positive or negative, as indicative standards and not as final arguments, and to study them in their plurality and in relation with the other criteria.


III. Other Authorities Entitled to Intervene

  • 1. The foremost authority to inquire and to intervene belongs to the local Ordinary.

  • 2. But the regional or national Episcopal Conference may intervene.

    • a) If the local Ordinary, after having fulfilled the obligations which fall to him, resorts to them for a study of the event in its entirety.

    • b) If the event assumes national or regional importance.

  • 3. The Apostolic See can intervene, either at the request of Ordinary himself, or at the request of a qualified group of the faithful, or directly by virtue of the immediate right of universal jurisdiction of the Sovereign Pontiff (cf. above, IV).

From the blog Medjugorje senza maschera by Marco Corvaglia:

(The translation and any errors in it are my own amateur work. Background on the censures imposed on Fr. Vlasic is described in an earlier post.)

Fr. Tomislav Vlasic reduced to the lay state
Marco Corvaglia

20090724-vlasic-marija.jpgVlašić (in profile) together with Marija, in the mid-1980s

The final word has arrived. As was reported earlier, on the 30th of May 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the person of its Secretary, Archbishop Angelo Amato, explicitly asked the bishop of Mostar, Ratko Perić (in letter no. 144/1985-27164), to make known "for the good of the faithful" the contents of a declaration by that Congregation regarding Father Tomislav Vlašić.

Let us recall a brief excerpt:

In the context of the Medjugorje phenomenon, this Dicastery is dealing with the case of the Rev. Father Tomislav Vlašić, OFM, originally from that region and the founder of the association "Kraljice Mira, potpuno tvoji - po Mariji k Isusu" [...] Confirmed reports presented to this Congregation reveal that the religious priest in question has not responded, even partially, to the ecclesiastical obedience called for in the very delicate situation he faces.

In the decree of the Congregation [see circular 939/2008, dated 8 July 2008, from the Curia of Mostar] it was written that Fr. Vlašić was suspected of "heresy and schism" and accused of "spreading questionable doctrines, manipulation of consciences, suspect mysticism, disobedience to legitimate orders and violations contra sextum (against the sixth commandment, that is). This last accusation relates to an event in 1977 (therefore prior to the "apparitions"), already reported on the page "And the Gospa said, Thanks so much to Father Tomislav; he's guiding you so well."

Today, as mentioned above, the Holy See has made a definitive pronouncement. Here is the transcription (and afterward the reproduction) of the official act, signed by the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, Father José Rodriguez Carballo. The letter of the Minister General has already been sent to all the Provincials in Italy, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina and forwarded by them to the Guardians in each province. The Guardians have in turn sent it on to all the daughter houses in their respective provinces. However, the document has not been distributed outside the order until now:


Prot. N. 098714

To the Provincial Ministers of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Italy

Dear Brother Minister,

The Holy Father, accepting the request of friar Tomislav Vlasic, O.F.M, member of the province of friars minor of St. Bernardino of Siena (L'Aquila), responsible for conduct harmful to ecclesial communion both in the spheres of doctrine and discipline, and under a censure of interdict, has granted him the favor of reduction to the lay state (amissio status clericalis) and of dismissal from the Order.

In addition, the Holy Father has granted the petitioner, motu proprio, the remission of the censure incurred as well as the favor of dispensation from religious vows and from all the responsibilities connected with sacred ordination, including celibacy.

As a salutary penal precept - under the pain of excommunication which the Holy See would declare, and if necessary, without prior canonical warning - the following precepts are imposed on Mr. Tomislav Vlasic:

a) Absolute prohibition from exercising any form of apostolate (for example, promoting public or private devotion, teaching Christian doctrine, spiritual direction, participation in lay associations, etc.) as well as of acquiring and administering goods intended for pious purposes;
b) Absolute prohibition from releasing declarations on religious matters, especially regarding the "phenomenon of Medjugorje";
c) Absolute prohibition from residing in houses of the Order of Friars Minor.

For the execution of the serious measures imposed by the Holy See regarding Mr. Tomislav Vlasic, the same Apostolic See calls directly on the Superiors of the Order.

Therefore I turn to you, so that you make sure to instruct the Guardians and superiors of friaries about full compliance, by Tomislav Vlasic, with the pontifical measures regarding him, in particular relative to the prohibition of residing in any houses belonging to the Order of Friars Minor, under pain of removal from office.

Trusting in your full understanding and prompt cooperation, I greet you fraternally.
Rome, 10 March 2009.

Fr. José Rodriguez Carballo, Ofm
Minister General"


[Update: (7/27) I have improved the English version slightly; any errors in the translation remain my responsibility. Thanks to Marco Corvaglia for his kind assistance. --RC]

[Update 2: Catholic News Agency has a report now.]

Well, it can't come too soon!

Petrus reports that the Holy Father has directed CDF to prepare an instruction for bishops on how to proceed with cases of alleged Marian apparitions and other alleged mystical phenomena.

The first step is to impose silence on the alleged visionary. And that step by itself is half the battle, because stopping the publicity associated with false mysticism limits the damage and confusion it can cause. Also, when false seers disobey such directives, they make the bishop's job in identifying them much easier!

A rough English version of the article is available on-line as well.

"Petrus" interviews Fr. Laurentin

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The Italian web site Petrus, "the on-line daily on the pontificate of Benedict XVI", is presenting an interview with the renowned Mariologist Msgr. Rene Laurentin, who seems to be taking a surprisingly cautious stand on the Medjugorje apparitions he has promoted for over 25 years. Here's my effort at a translation. (A note of caution: I'm only beginning to study Italian this year, so there are probably some flaws here.)

Fr. Rene Laurentin takes a step backward: "I have never expressed a positive judgment on the authenticity of the Medjugorje apparitions." And a rebuke to those who want a proclamation of Mary as co-redemptrix

by Gianluca Barile

VATICAN CITY - Without a shadow of a doubt, Fr. Rene Laurentin represents one of the greatest authorities on the subject of mariology, the realm of theology that studies the figure of Our Lady and her role in the history of the salvation of man and of the world. For the past 40 years, after having been appointed an expert at the Second Vatican Council, the French clergyman has concerned himself with the principal Marian apparitions of history. In sum, a true expert, whose interview, granted exclusively to Petrus, will not fail to discuss both the Virgin's role as co-redemptrix and the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje, from which Fr. Laurentin is unexpectedly distancing himself in these very pages. But let us take one step at a time.

Father Laurentin, in the Apocalypse of John, Mary prevails over the Dragon. Can we say, therefore, that next to the Holy Trinity, the Madonna is Satan's most feared adversary?

"Chapter 12 of the Apocalypse is indeed the principal theological point that sets the Virgin and the Dragon in opposition, but already Genesis (3:15) says that the Woman, that is to say, Mary, will strike with her own heel at the seed of the devil. Furthermore, that the Madonna is the most feared adversary of Satan, next to the Trinity, is completely confirmed by exorcists and by Christian experience."

In that regard, the greatest exorcists have been able to verify how the infernal spirits are stricken with terror when they hear the name of the Virgin pronounced and many of them even seem to bear respect to Her, calling her "the Lady": can we affirm that she has received a sort of specific "mandate" on the part of God against evil?

"Very simply, as I was mentioning before, the Virgin is the enemy of the devil. And this is not because she received a specific mandate, but already through her Immaculate Conception. So to speak, the Madonna has been terrifying the evil one ever since she came into the world."

In practically all the Marian apparitions, the Virgin exhorts us to the steady, daily, recitation of the Holy Rosary, declaring this pious practice the most powerful weapon against Satan. As a mariologist, do you consider the Holy Rosary more a Marian prayer or a Christological one?

"Christ and Mary are together only one thing: there is no dilemma! I don't like the word "Marian", because it has a specialist flavor and would have made the Virgin Mary laugh when she was walking to the well."

Has Mary been made co-redemptrix of the world with her Son Jesus? In the Church one can't speak of timing, but the hour doesn't seem to have arrived for the proclamation of a dogma, although it has been requested by some initiatives and with the insistence of many bishops and cardinals (in particular) of Latin America. Don't you think so?

"For 50 years I've been studying the role of Mary in the Redemption of the world. And from the beginning I have thought how unique this participation is. In any case, the title of co-redemptrix is ambiguous, often misunderstood, and in addition conflictual from a theological and ecumenical point of view. This is why I personally am against the definition of Mary co-redemptrix and I think those people who sign petitions, without knowing what they are doing, for the definition of a dogma ad hoc, would do better, seriously, to go deeper into the role of Mary in the Redemption. An important role, most important, but not comparable to the unique role of Jesus."

In the "Salve Regina", we call the Madonna "our advocate": what role will the Virgin have when we find ourselves before the judgment of God? Will her judgment count toward the salvation of our souls? That is, will she be able to intercede before Jesus to alleviate our Purgatory?

"Mary is our mother: she loves, sustains, and defends her children. This is called intercession, but it would be mistaken to represent the Madonna in a naive way, occupied in a dialogue during which she takes our defense against God and against Christ, as some bad literature of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries portrayed. The action of Mary in relation to God is a heart-to-heart, in identification with the love to which she has arrived and which draws us. So there is no need for the Madonna to defend us before God, because He is not a wicked judge and, as Jesus already said in the Gospel (John 5:22), "the Father judges no one". Furthermore, let us not forget that the Trinitarian function of God is even more maternal than paternal. Let's read John 1:18: the Son is in the bosom of the Father."

It is the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Lourdes, but aren't there other ones officially recognized by the Church (for example, Fatima). What does the Virgin want to communicate to us?

"For one thing, we recall that only 13 apparitions of Mary have been officially recognized, while a fourteenth has been accepted pastorally but not canonically by the bishop of San Nicolas in Argentina. Having said that, in regard to the messages, they are various, but at the same time, unanimous, inasmuch as they represent the simple echo of the Gospel and invite us to prayer, to conversion, to penance, to fasting, to the reading of the Bible, in various ways according to the times and the prophetic relevance of each individual message but without ever going beyond what is the doctrine of the Church."

You are a supporter of the apparitions of Medjugorje, whereas many other prominent mariologists are skeptics. In your opinion, when will the Church declare herself on these manifestations? And, in the Vatican, why do they not appear to be convinced of the authenticity of the Medjugorje apparitions...

"At Medjugorje, the bishop is against the apparitions and his predecessor chose him precisely for that reason. Naturally, as everyone knows, the Holy See always takes the position of the local bishop as its own in such cases. Anyway, Cardinal Ratzinger had refuted the negative judgment of Bishop Zanic (in 1986), the first bishop in a position to confront the question of the apparitions. I am only an expert and I have no magisterium. And I never allow myself to give an opinion on the apparitions which I study. I only examine the facts, the reasons in favor and those against. I discern them, I explain them as clearly as possible, but I don't give any judgment. If I had done that, I would have made greater difficulties for myself, which are already great enough, from the moment I involve myself so assiduously in this controversial phenomenon."

Father Laurentin, what you are saying seems to be a step backward: you have written books upholding the thesis of the authenticity of the apparitions of Medjugorje...

"I say it again: I have never expressed judgments on the authenticity, at least of the apparitions; my studies are merely a small contribution to the Church and to the faithful..."

Staying with Medjugorje: particularly in that place, but also in other parts of the world, many Catholics put Mary before Christ. Many of the clergy do the same, in whose churches the presence of images of the Virgin predominates over those of the Crucified even on the facade of the rectory. Don't you believe that the Madonna herself is not happy with all this?

"I think that the problem is the opposite of what you describe: Mary has become more undervalued than appreciated. Let's try to think of all the Catholics who do not appreciate or recognize her as their mother."

Father Laurentin, in conclusion, who should Mary be for us and who are we for her?

"I don't like to repeat myself, but Mary is our Mother and our Queen: 'More mother than queen', St. Therese of Lisieux used to say, and rightly so. And as a consequence, we are 'simply' the children of the best, the most holy, and the most marvelous of mothers."

(Thanks to Gianluca Barile for the permission to share his interview here, and a hat tip to Mark Waterinckx and for alerting me to it.)

not-mary-springfield.jpgNo, our Lady is not appearing on the window of a hospital in Springfield, Mass.

Allow me to translate: when the church spokesman says that the Church is "very, very cautious and careful", that means: "No. No Flipping Way. This is nuts." Unfortunately, church spokesman are polite to a fault, and it gets in the way in cases like this.

By the way, Boston-area faithful may remember the similar case at a hospital in Milton in 2003. There the "image" was traced to some chemicals that penetrated a leaking double-paned window.

[Update: For information on the subsequent laicization of Fr. Vlasic, see this post from July 2009. --RC]

Slowly, the corruptions surrounding the Medjugorje case are being dealt with.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has investigated charges and imposed sanctions against Fr. Tomislav Vlasic, OFM. Perhaps you've never heard of him.

Here's the background. In 1981, Fr. Vlasic, a friar and parish priest in Yugoslavia, was distressed at having fathered a child by a Franciscan sister and having sent the mother away from Herzegovina to live and work in Germany. Struggling with his conflicting duties, he attended a Charismatic conference in Rome. There he was given a consoling "prophecy" of a Marian visitation. When he got home to Herzegovina and found that a bunch of teenagers was claiming an apparition, he stepped into the role of their spiritual advisor, got himself assigned to their parish, and shortly became an international religious celebrity.

Undeterred by his earlier co-ed religious experience, he felt inspired to try another one in 1987: together with a German laywoman, he founded a would-be religious community in Italy for young men and women all living together, called "Queen of Peace, we are totally yours". He claimed that our Lady had approved the idea, and he kept it going even after the bishops of the place had rejected it and the Medjugorje seer who supported him confessed publicly that the heavenly endorsement was a falsehood.

Coming forward to 2008, it seems he's been continuing the group all these years, as the CDF's sanctions order Fr. Vlasic to have no contact with it or its members. Complaints to the CDF have accused him of "the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspected mysticism, disobedience towards legitimately issued orders and charges contra sextum."

Perhaps it is the last point, charges of violating the sixth commandment, that caused CDF to take up the case, as particularly grave offenses against the sixth commandment -- involving the abuse of minors or involving the misuse of the sacrament of penance -- are reserved to CDF for judgment.

In perhaps the easiest matter to adjudicate, Fr. Vlasic has apparently incurred the penalty of interdict because of his refusal to return to the Franciscans and reside with them.

Moreover, CDF indicates there is a "suspicion of heresy and schism, as well as scandalous acts contra sextum, aggravated by mystical motivations" -- so CDF has forbidden him to hear confessions, to preach, to conduct financial business; and has ordered him to undergo some theological training and be evaluated on his teaching.

At the request of CDF, the diocese of Mostar has published the Congregation's statement on the case, and it follows here.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

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