Recently in Controversies Category

At the religious freedom rally in San Francisco on Friday, Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S., spoke as follows:

In every age Christians have been challenged to stand up for what they believe. I would like to share with you the story of a little-known Saint. His name is Gaspar del Bufalo. It was 1810. He was only 24 years old, and had been ordained a priest just a short time. But now he was under arrest. Napoleon had conquered Rome and had imprisoned the pope. His intention was to close the churches and to force all the priests to swear allegiance to him.

So there Gaspar stood in front of the prefect. The prefect was a kind old gentleman, who did everything to minimize the event, downplaying it and reducing everything to a mere formality. It was just a harmless bureaucratic exercise.

The important thing was that Gaspar be put at ease, that he should not realize the seriousness of the choice to which he was being called. After all, many priests had already acquiesced and signed the oath of allegiance.

But Gaspar was not listening to the prefect, he was thinking of the blood which Napoleon had already caused to be shed. He was thinking of the imprisonment of the Holy Father, and he was thinking of the violation of liberty and the suppression of independence for the church.

So his response to the prefect was clear and decisive:

I cannot, I must not, I will not!

Just 200 years later, It is a different country and it is a different government. This time it is an American President. He has taken it upon himself to determine what is and is not religious. He has taken it upon himself to determine how I should live my faith in this time and in this place. Should I acquiesce to his demands?

I cannot, I must not, I will not!

The world health organization classifies oral contraceptives as a class one carcinogen right up there with tobacco. And the government wants me to provide this free with healthcare.

I cannot, I must not, I will not!

Women who use oral contraceptives for four years prior to their first full-term pregnancy have a 52% increased risk of developing breast cancer. And the government calls this health care and wants me to provide this for free, well...

I cannot, I must not, I will not!

Oral contraceptives do horrific damage to a woman's body, and should we call this health-care? Abortion destroys human life and is it reasonable or intelligent for us to call that healthcare?

I cannot, I must not, I will not!

The president proposed a compromise that would allow insurance companies to pay for the contraceptives rather than the church institution. My question, what if I belong to a church institution that is self-insured? I would then be required to pay for this.

I cannot, I must not, I will not!

What if I'm a Catholic business person who is required by my government to provide insurance that violates my conscience?

I cannot, I must not, I will not!

What will it be next and who will it be next? The New Mexico Court of Appeals has ruled that it is illegal for a photography business owned by Christians to refuse to photograph a same-sex wedding ceremony even though New Mexico law does not permit same-sex marriage. What will they say next? Will they say that it is illegal for me to refuse to do a same-sex marriage. Would we as Catholics allow the state to change one of our sacraments.

I cannot, I must not, I will not!

Saint Gaspar del Bufalo spent four years in prison for his profession of faith. We must pray too, that we have the strength to be firm in our faith.

We are not imposing our values on anyone. The government has dictated that employees at Catholic institutions are provided with free contraception, and that is the imposition on our faith and on our conscience. The government doesn't want so much to advance the cause of women's health, but rather, they seek to demonize a faith group that has the "audacity of hope," that they might live their faith free from government interference and intrusion.

I know it is just a mere formality, just a harmless bureaucratic exercise. I know that the important thing is that we should not realize the seriousness of the choice to which we are being called. After all everybody else is doing it. But let me be perfectly clear:

I cannot, I must not, I will not!

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.]

The posh Montreal borough of Outremont is dealing with noise complaints against the IMG_4690.jpgHasidic community by forbidding all outdoor processions -- thereby suppressing religious freedom across the board. Next Sunday the Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city will be denied the freedom to carry out its midnight Easter liturgy, which starts with a procession around the church.

Report from Radio Canada International.

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!

New York Times Smears (2)

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UPDATE (4/6): Please note the correction to this story added below.

It just wouldn't be Holy Week without a media attack on the Church, would it?

First, a recap for those who haven't seen much of the story yet: a March 25 NY Times article accused Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) of shielding a pervert priest from punishment under Church law in 1998.

As John Schultz cited below, a piece for National Review Online by Canadian priest and writer Fr. Raymond de Souza compared the Times' shoddy article with the documentation it offered as evidence, and showed that the paperwork contradicts the Times' claims. Moreover, the primary source for Laurie Goodstein's so-called reporting, the disgraced former Archbishop of Milwaukee Rembert Weakland, has more axes to grind than the crew on American Loggers.

Now an authoritative eyewitness to the case has joined the controversy directly.

Canon-law judge Fr. Thomas Brundage, JCL, who conducted the trial against Fr. Lawrence Murphy, states that neither the Times nor any other media outlet has bothered to contact him to verify any of the facts, or even the statements which the Times presented as quotations from Brundage.

He says that the basic premise of the Times story is wrong: Murphy's trial was never actually stopped, even up to the day of his death. Without that, the whole trumped-up accusation against Cdl. Ratzinger collapses.

Since the website of the Catholic Anchor newspaper has been swamped with readers today and is currently unable to function, here's a link to Brundage's article, reproduced in full in Damien Thompson's weblog at the Daily Telegraph.

CORRECTION (4/6): Fr. Thomas Brundage has issued a correction about a statement he made in the article cited above. Based on documents, he acknowledges that the trial was indeed stopped by Abp. Weakland, shortly before Fr. Murphy's death. The point that CDF did not stop the case remains valid.

New York Times Smears

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From Father Raymond J. de Souza, a response to the New York Times.

The story is false. It is unsupported by its own documentation. Indeed, it gives every indication of being part of a coordinated campaign against Pope Benedict, rather than responsible journalism.

Read the whole thing.

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).

[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.

Despite the inconsistent talk of Bishop Roger Morin at the USCCB session this week, CCHD has not screened grant applicants thoroughly enough yet, and some of the groups exposed by CCHD critics for abortion advocacy are still receiving CCHD grant money.

More info at American Life League.

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 don't normally respond to anonymous commentators who leave false email addresses while engaging in whisper campaigns. However, Anonyman (aka "Nothanks@youdonotcare.atall") provides me with an opportunity to re-visit a piece Jacqui Rapp and I co-authored after the marriage breakdown of several celebrity Catholic couples. Anonyman writes, in response to my post asking whether LC/RC can repent, the following:

The adulterous "professional" never will have to repent. He can divorce his wife with the blessing of the Church, knock up his little baby girl and stay with her for the good of the children and even apply for nullity, which some canonist quack like Vere or his ilk can't wait to grant. [cut]

I know this to be true. I am living it. Pete knows this to be true as well, but I am sure has some lame excuse. All canonists do.

This story is stupid.

I'm on record several places as to why the surge of annulments among Catholics who did not practice Church teaching in Humanae Vitae: it's the consequences of theCulture of Death. For instance, see this Catholic Light post from 2003.

But what about the breakdown (or major strain) in marriages among Catholics who accept Church teaching in Humanae Vitae? What about the breakdown in marriages between couples who practice NFP and are active in pro-life and Catholic apostolate (Which I imagine describes most of you reading this blog)?

Some whisperers will find it lame, but here's my excuse: It's taken from my experiences watching the breakdown of such marriages... As married laypeople, some people lose sight of the fact God called them to the married state, and not the consecrated or clerical state.

It's that simple. It's also tempting to overlook when one believes oneself engaged in God's work. Yet it's the reason I've dropped off the Catholic circuit and slowed down my writing apostolate since God blessed us with child number four last year. It's the reason I will blog two or three times a day for a month, then stop for months at a time. As much as I love you, dear readers, my first duty is toward my wife and children.

A couple years ago, Jacqui Rapp - who often co-authors with me on issues concerning marriage, family life, and annulments - and I, noting the breakdown of marriages involving several people in high-profile Catholic and/or pro-life apostolates, wrote the following article: Family Before Apostolate: Pro-Life Activism Begins at Home.

The article was written (originally for Catholics United for the Faith) as a conversation between Jacqui and me. One of Jacqui's more important points is the following:

As our Lord teaches in the Gospels, "The harvest is bountiful but the workers are few." It is not unusual for the few to find themselves overworked. Given the persecution of marriage and family within modern society, we can become so committed to combating the culture of death that we lose sight of our own marriages and families. This is one of the reasons the Roman Church has traditionally required her clergy to remain celibate.

Now, this is not to say that the married state is incompatible with ministry or apostolate. Personally, having a family has helped me become more compassionate, while at the same time remaining faithful to the Church's teaching in my work as a lay canonist. Being married and having children often opens us to graces and personal discoveries not previously experienced. As lay judges, both Pete and I understand certain nuances of marriage and family life that can easily be overlooked by our peers in the world of canon law who are celibate priests..

To which I responded:

In contrast, as married laymen we cannot devote the same time and effort to spreading the Gospel as that devoted by our ordained colleagues. Spouses have needs, as do children. Each of us undertakes these responsibilities toward our respective spouses and future children when we get married. The legitimate needs of spouse and children must come before the needs of our apostolic work.

Coincidentally, given that it just arrived back from the printer yesterday and is being shipped out to bookstores this week, Jacqui and I expanded this essay into the last chapter of our new book on marriage and annulments, which you can order from publisher Saint Anthony Messenger Press here.

So yes, changing diapers and plunging a toilet after my three-year-old flushed his rubber dolphin is rather lame when compared to the cloak-and-dagger excitement of taking on a codename and engaging in whisper campaigns for the Kingdom of God. But as lame as it is, it's my vocation as one called to the married state.

[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:

New apparition news! :-)


Oh, man! Here's another one! Fortunately, America's Finest News Source is on hand to cover it.

(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.]

What's that smell?

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It's... an Apostolic Visitation!

U.S. nuns join seminaries in the U.S. as well as the Legionaries of Christ for the full on review of if they are living up to the rules of their orders, their mission and their commitments to the Church.

In other words, the shepherd is watching out for the sheep.

Here's the laugh outloud line of the day:

But the investigation of American nuns surprised many because there was no obvious precipitating cause.

In his first interview since the Legion announced its apostolic visitation , Archbishop O'Brien of Baltimore speaks the truth in charity. Basically, this visitation is a chance for the Legion to gets its act together, but they need to cooperate fully with the Holy See.

Are you confident the Legionaries are ready to cooperate?

I hope so. I'll put it that way: I really do hope so. It depends on so many individuals being open, because it just takes a few to try to block it and to mislead. I hope that the Legionaries will realize that in the long run, this is going to help them.

You're recently had talks in Rome with Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, the superior of the Legionaries. Are you confident he's ready to cooperate?

I can't say. I'm quite sure he would want to see this thing cleared up, and I hope he'll realize that the best way is to encourage everyone to cooperate.

What are the issues that the visitation should consider?

In the first place, they have to look at Maciel himself. What are the facts, who knew them, when did they know them, and why did it take so long for them to become public? They should look at the financial dimension. They also need to examine who the victims are, and what's being done to meet the needs of those victims.

Then, they need to look at the structure that Maciel created. There was a good deal of secrecy in his own life, and there's secrecy in the structures he created. It would be helpful to know why there is such secrecy. For example, why is there such an effort with their seminarians to limit their exposure to the real world out there? What are their recruiting strategies for vocations to the priesthood? How above board are they? What are the numbers involved, how many priests have been ordained and how many are still active in the priesthood with the Legionaries?

The whole interview is worth reading by clicking here.

[UPDATE: I have updated part 6 below for a second time. My initial understanding of the time-frame for RC promises now appears to have been incorrect. There may also be other updates as I am now receiving more information from LC sources. - Pete]

With the Holy See having announced an apostolic visitation of the Legion of Christ, a modest discussion is taking place in the canon law world over a number of canonical and pastoral issues relating to the Legion and its lay affiliate Regnum Christi (LC/RC). I've formed my own reflections, some of which I share below.

Before I begin, there are three things I feel the LC must do to restore credibility and regain the trust of orthodox Catholics outside the movement (and many on the inside) who are both angered and hurt by this crisis. That is, besides accept and implement what reforms the apostolic visitors may reccomend.

The first is a clear and sincere apology to Fr. Maciel's alleged victims. The second is to speak the truth plainly about the current situation. And the third is to stop playing hardball with its critics.

In the recent past the LC/RC has sued ReGAIN, as well as that involving the Sellors, who founded the Familia programme before falling out with RC (click here). Now there are reports, from the same sources that helped convince the CDF to reopen the investigation against Fr. Maciel that led to his 2006 invitation to retire, of a Legion priest mentioning a lawsuit against a parent of a Legion seminarian who showed up at a Legion apostolate and persuaded his son to come home with him.

While I haven't heard the Legion's side of the story - I've been unable to get a contact number for Legion spokesman Jim Fair [Update: a reader emailed me his number late Monday evening] - my communication with sources close to the family tell me the son came voluntarily, albeit somewhat grudgingly. So I haven't seen any evidence of kidnapping.

You can read more about the incident here. If one believes the father acted criminally, then call the police and press criminal charges. Otherwise, if what was allegedly said by the LC priest is true, then parents may think twice before allowing their sons to go off to Legion seminaries in the future.

Besides, with the Legion currently asking everyone's patience and understanding, the alleged content of the priest's phone call reminds me an awful lot of what Christ warned against in Matthew 18:28-34. Specifically, "I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?"

On to my other points:

1 - How does a diocese find out what LC/RC apostolates are taking place within their diocesan boundaries?

I'm far from being an expert on this point, but my understanding is that many RC apostolates in North America are incorporated under the Mission Network. A list of their apostolates can be found by clicking here.

Personally, I see a lot of good ideas there being implemented by a lot of good laity who are simply trying to carry out lay apostolate in fidelity to the Church. No matter what happens, I hope the RC can be salvaged, especially since most RC with whom I have corresponded are very open to reform. What I think would be helpful is if bishops and pastors provided stronger oversight over RC, or at least closer collaboration. In fact, this crisis has really taught me to respect the role of the diocesan bishop in the life of Church ministry, as both a successor to the Apostles and as the legitimate hierarchical authority within his diocese.

2 - Additionally, Archbishop O'Brien in Baltimore has been a model for demanding transparency from the LC/RC in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He has also prohibited LC/RC from giving spiritual direction to minors in the Archdiocese. I believe this to be a wise and prudent decision on his part, and think that other dioceses should take a good look at the Archbishop's reasons for doing so.

3 - Along the same lines (and this comes more from being a pro-family journalist than a canon lawyer) the LC operates minor seminary-type boarding schools for boys as young as twelve. Some of my friends attended these schools during their teens. I hardly saw my them after they went off to these schools.

Several parents have told me the boys are limited to approximately two weeks during the summer, and a short Christmas and Easter break. The rest of the time is spent at the minor seminary, where contact with parents is extremely limited, and reportedly monitored.

I really question how healthy it is in today's society and culture to separate young people from their families, especially in light of Pope John Paul the Great's Familiaris Consortio. I know many older churchmen who I admire, including the current pope, attended minor seminaries of youth. But today is a different age. And besides, as far as we know, Our Lord received his religious education from the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph.

In today's society, where our greatest ministerial need is to the family and family structure. So shouldn't we be encouraging as much formation in the family as possible?

As a pro-family journalist, God has blessed me with the opportunity to interview many great bishops, priests and religious about their vocation. With one exception, all have stressed how essential their family was to fostering their vocation, as well as how their experience with family life while growing up greatly aided them in pastoral ministry within today's context.

Additionally, this raises another pastoral concern that I keep hearing about from many RC parents. They discern the need to take some time away from the movement while the Holy See sorts things out, but are not sure how to pull their sons (who they seldom see anymore) from the Legion's minor seminary-type schools. This further complicates the pastoral process of spiritual healing, in my opinion.

4 - There has been a lot of speculation and debate - among canonists, pastors and laypeople - about the content of LC/RC constitutions. I cannot comment authoritatively because I have been unable to obtain a copy from LC/RC sources, despite multiple requests in the past. However, the following on wiki-leaks purports to be sections of their contents.

To the best of my recollection they match those that were previously available from the ReGAIN Network (a loose association of concerned former LC/RC members) prior to the 2007 or 2008 legal settlement that forced ReGAIN to remove LC constitutions from their website. (ReGAIN ran out of money and could no longer afford the legal fees).

As an interesting side note, my understanding is that the LC did not contest their content, but rather the Legion reportedly argued theft of intellectual property. (See WaPo write-up here).

5 - As far as leaving Regnum Christi, I understand that RC members make private promises (or vows, depending upon who you talk to in the movement) when they join. These can be dispensed by the local ordinary (diocesan Bishop, vicar general, or episcopal vicar) in accordance with canon 1196. The process in most dioceses is pretty simple. Simply approach your parish priest or bishop, explain the situation, and request a dispensation from the promises or vows. Many bishops and priests are concerned with what's happening, and will gladly assist you. It's a pretty simple process in most dioceses.

A - For purely pastoral reasons, I suggest you meet with your pastor (or if possible the local ordinary) after the dispensation is granted, should you decide God is calling you to pursue one. I feel that pastoral followup is important because several former LC allege (and have told me, both publicly and personally) that the expression "Lost vocation, sure damnation" was repeated to them in the past.

Many who leave the movement purport to continue struggling with this thought after their departure, some for years. I'm not sure how credible this claim is - except to say the individuals who told me this also proved credible in other allegations they made against the Legion - nor am I sure whether it carried over to the RC. However, if this was shared with you or you personally struggle with this issue, bring it to your pastor or local Ordinary.

B - Whether one discerns God is calling him/her to stay and reform the movement from within, or to leave, I have strongly suggested to every RC member seeking my advice that he or she write the diocesan bishop, expressing both the positives and negatives. This goes back to what I believe to be one of the fundamental problems of the movement, namely, that in many dioceses the LC/RC appear to have limited contact with diocesan authorities.

6 - Along these lines I hope the Apostolic Visitors won't be limited to the LC, but that they will also be given the mandate to visit and make recommendations about the LC. My biggest concern is the apparent lack of stability of Third Degree members. If I understand correctly, they make a commitment to the movement that are renewable every two years. (Again, making their constitutions available would help clarify discrepancies that have arisen over this point.) This strikes me as the ecclesiastical equivalent of living together without the benefit of marriage (minus the sin of fornication, of course!).

[Update 2: I have deleted a section here that noted contradictory claims over whether the commitment to RC Third Degree was one or two years, vows or promises, after coming across the following article on the RC website. As of April 7, 2009 at 1:20 p.m. Eastern, it appears to be promises renewable every two years. That being said, the problem here, in my opinion, is not whether they are vows or promises, for one year or two, but whether RC Third Degree receive adequate health care coverage and other benefits while dedicating themselves to full-time RC apostolate.]

With all the caveats that come when one hears from former members who don't recall the most positive of experiences, several former Third Degree RC members allege that they were without health insurance and other basic benefits during their time as Third Degree, having been told to trust God. Some also claim to have been suddenly sent home when they developed medical issues.

Again, I haven't heard the LC/RC side of the story, but there are enough former members making this claim publicly that it's being added to the allegations swirling about the Legion. Thus bishops and parents of potential Third Degree members may want to ask questions, and the RC may want to take a proactive approach, to ensure that the LC/RC is meeting the Church's social justice obligations.

7 - I have heard similar complaints (again without getting the LC/RC side of the story) from former LC about LC seminarians, also called brothers. Additionally, I have heard - both from LC and former LC sources - that their seminarians are not given a specific time frame for ordination, but that it just kinda happens when the LC feel a brother is ready. If true, I am reminded of Fr. Frank Morrisey's classes on religious law. Fr. Morrisey is one of the Church's foremost experts in this area and he always stressed the importance of having a specific time-frame (albeit with some flexibility) toward ordination or permanent incorporation into an institute of consecrated life. This is another area that I hope the apostolic visitors will look at.

8 - For some reason, more than any other institute, comparisons to Jesuits or Opus Dei keep popping up when discussing the LC/RC. Other people who interact with the movement report the same phenomena.

With apologies to Jesuit and Opus Dei readers, I tend to hear variations of: "I thought RC was just like Opus Dei, but more active and connected to a priestly apostolate," or "I thought the Legion was the new Jesuits, practicing obedience the way the Jesuits use to."

On the surface, there appears to be some similarities. This in itself is not problematical in that an institute's charism belongs to the Church, and so institutes throughout the Church's history have borrowed from institutes that came before. Thus as a Catholic journalist much wiser than me noted, the problem does not appear to be what LC/RC borrowed from the Jesuits and Opus Dei, but rather what they may have forgotten to borrow.

With regards to the Opus Dei comparison, I believe the spiritualities are quite different. For RC members who are curious why, I recommend reading St. Josemarie Escriva's The Way and/or Frances Fernadez's In Conversations with God to gain a better understanding in Opus Dei spirituality. I assume RC individuals raising these questions are already familiar with RC spirituality.

As far as the Jesuit comparison, Nathan O'Halloran, a Jesuit scholastic and Franciscan University of Steubenville alumni, who prior to entering the Jesuits was encouraged to consider the Legion as an alternative, has blogged an excellent reflection. In it he contrasts the Jesuit understanding of obedience with what he believes to be the Legion practice of obedience. Although I found a few of his comments to be a tad polemical, he offers some excellent insights on how Jesuit obedience is sensitive to a person's conscience when asking for religious obedience. You can read the article here.

9 - All of us, both inside and outside the RC/LC, need to take refuge in St. Joseph, patriarch and protector of the universal Church.

The Caritas debacle, part 2

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To pick up where I left off a few days ago: Cardinal O'Malley is having the National Catholic Bioethics Center review a deal that the Catholic hospital system Caritas Christi has made with the state government here in Massachusetts.

On the face of it, the plan is a scandal. Still, I'm hoping the immoral aspects of the deal can be corrected, so that for the sake of everyone involved, Caritas could participate in the state program on a legitimate basis.

I'm figuring that the moral problems with the situation are in these areas:

(1) Did Caritas solicit Centene (the company joining them in the project) to set up an abortion-providing insurance plan? If so, that appears to be plainly wrong. Would it be a personal fault by Caritas officials or would it vitiate the plan totally, so that it would remain morally tainted even if other aspects are "corrected"?

(2) Caritas is willingly a part-owner of the new CFHP (joint venture with Centene's subsidiary Celtic Insurance), which will administer the plan and provide abortion coverage as the state contract requires. I doubt that this ownership can be justified under any circumstances. Can Caritas "correct" this aspect by divesting itself of its share in CFHP?

(3) Caritas is, according to its statements in the press, already complying with state rules in a related matter: they give out "Department of Public Health information" on "emergency contraception" to rape victims, as required by law. Does that distinction reflect a difference that makes it morally tolerable?

(4) Can Caritas hospitals and physicians, as a subcontractor to CFHP, comply with the state-imposed contractual requirement to give abortion info? Do their contracts with other insurance companies have the same requirement? Are the hospitals already complying? Can the compliance be fulfilled in some minimalistic way that doesn't violate moral norms? If all the insurance contracts require it, and there is no morally licit way to fulfill the requirement, then I don't see how Caritas can continue to operate.

[Note: I know this is a hot-button topic, so commenters should be on notice. Comments that in my opinion cross the line will be removed. --RC]

The Caritas debacle, part 1

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Lately here in Boston we've had an uproar over the Catholic hospital system Caritas Christi. It's trying to set up an organization to provide health care for low-income people on the state's subsidized insurance plan, Commonwealth Care. At present, there are four relatively small HMOs offering services for Commonwealth Care subscribers, and Caritas' would be a fifth.

There's a serious ethical problem involved, though, because the state requires all the insurance companies administering the Commonwealth Care program to include abortion and contraception coverage.

Understandably pro-life Catholics are -- shall we say -- concerned and want to make sure that Caritas doesn't compromise on medical ethics, or come under state pressure to cooperate with abortions: for example, by referring patients to abortion providers, since it was plain that Caritas would not do them itself.

Caritas teamed up with a for-profit health company called Centene and is forming a joint venture company for the project. When the plan was briefed to state regulators, though, the Centene rep told them that yes, abortions would be provided. The plan would even provide transportation.

Did Caritas think that this would absolve it of responsibility? The arrangement -- at least as it has been reported in the press and in the state government website -- would seem to make Caritas part-owner of a company that provides abortion coverage.

To put it mildly, this didn't give lay pro-lifers much confidence in the ethical competence of the decision makers here in Boston.

It's especially shocking, since the board of directors of Caritas includes several appointees from the Archdiocese, and the priest J. Bryan Hehir, known formerly as a prominent USCC foreign-policy official in the 1980s, is the Archdiocesan liaison to Caritas Christi. Did these worthies know and approve of this disturbing arrangement? Maybe some knew, but apparently some important people didn't know: cited an "informed source" that claimed that the whole deal was a surprise to Cardinal O'Malley.

Well, thanks be to God, good pro-life folks sounded off at the Mass. Citizens for Life and the Mass. Catholic League; and Cardinal O'Malley stepped up to say that the Archdiocese was going to exercise its right to supervise medical ethics issues for Caritas and would veto the deal if it doesn't stay within ethical limits. To assist in making his decision, he'd get the proposal reviewed by the National Catholic Bioethics Center, an organization well trusted among pro-lifers for its strong commitment to Catholic medical ethics.

On Thursday, the state, for their part, approved the deal, and the Cardinal reiterated that unless and until he approved it, it would not go into effect.

And I figured that's about the best one can expect.

But that hasn't been enough for everybody. Some grossly exaggerated rumors have been flying about this case: that within weeks hospital employees would soon be pressured into cooperating with abortions; that the Archdiocese was selling out the Catholic hospital system; that the Cardinal wasn't pro-life even!

Oh, man! More later....

Qualifications for a Bishop

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Scranton's bishop Joseph Martino has been doing a great job lately of communicating the Catholic faith in public in spite of opposition, instructing Catholic institutions and public officials, and through them, the faithful at large. He's shown a commitment to prevent Church events from being used to honor reprehensible politicians. He's reminded a Catholic college to show its commitment to Catholic moral teaching and distance itself from any endorsement of immorality. He's taught politicians publicly about such as the injustice of government tolerance for abortion, let alone subsidy of it, and

When I read the Bishop's letter to the misguided Senator Bob Casey Jr., whose voting record is not worthy of the Casey name, I noticed that Bp. Martino is the holder of an earned doctorate in Church history. Now that's not a common accomplishment among bishops. The most prominent bishop I know of with a similar background is the estimable George Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, who made his studies at Oxford.

We certainly need more such bishops like these: able to stand against the fashions of the moment and teach Christian doctrine. Perhaps we can start looking for bishops among other priests with a background in Church history, and with reason: men with enough interest in Church history to study it in depth are likely to have particular qualities of temperament that the Church needs, such as an admiration for sacred tradition. That is an important quality in this time, when Pope Benedict wants to promote a correct understanding of the Second Vatican Council as a development in continuity with the preceding 1962 years of Church life, and not a breach from it.

Furthermore, bishops with a knowledge of past relations between society, the state, and the teaching Church can have a realistic understanding about what is possible and what is not: that pleasing everyone and leaving problems unattended is not the pathway to peace.

Ed Peters has put together another response to the Legionaries of Christ / Regnum Christi (LC/RC) crisis, which is well worth reading. You can check it out here. Since I'm likely to be asked for a response, here's a line-by-line:

I think that Fr. Alvaro Corcuera's apparent claim that he knows nothing about Maciel's behavior, except that Maciel sired a daughter, is utterly unbelievable. I have nothing else to say about this kind of stone-walling. I will simply re-endorse Dr. Germain Grisez's and Mr. George Weigel's proposals for direct intervention by the Holy See.

Out of Christian charity I will assume Fr. Alvaro is telling the truth. The Holy See should intervene anyway. Directly.

The situation is so muddled that I cannot see how the LC/RC can fix it without outside help and expertise. Of course I'm just one canonist out of thousands in the Church. But given how the LC/RC have maintained Fr. Maciel's innocence for years, the severity of the allegations against him - both proven and unproven, and other structural problems within the movement, how the initial response has been bungled, it will be difficult for the LC/RC to regain the trust of orthodox Catholics without assurances that Rome has performed a thorough housecleaning of the movement.

Apologists for the LC/RC are already stating that Fr. Alvaro and the LC/RC are following Rome's instructions. And Rome has stated it has no immediate plans to step in, but would do so if requested by the Legion. So it might be best is the Legion simply go through the official step of asking Rome to step in directly.

Moving on Peters's rebuttal of the "reform-from-within" assertion and the "carry-on-the-charism" assertion:

Assertion 1. Because the Legion and Regnum Christi have within their ranks many obviously good and faithful Catholics, they should be allowed to try a reform from within. Response: the presence of good and faithful Catholics within an organization, particularly when the organization (in terms of Church history, if nothing else) is so young, says almost nothing about whether the organization itself is sound and/or salvageable.

Here is where I think Peters needs to make a distinction. Those making the "reform from within" suggestion (like myself) are not a unified camp. Some maintain the LC/RC should be permitted to reform from within, without any direct outside intervention. Very unlikely to work, as proven by the fact Fr. Maciel got away with his misdeeds for so long. And even if it were possible, there's still the problem of restoring the RC/LC's credibility.

Like Peters, I believe the LC/RC's current structure is deeply flawed, and have for some time, according to criteria developed with Fr. Frank Morrisey - one of the Church's foremost canonical experts on religious law and structures of institutes of consecrated life - and cult expert Michael Langone. You can read a summary of the criteria here. (Please note: I am not claiming that all of these criteria apply to the LC/RC, but those that do need to be rooted out if the LC/RC is to reform.)

Having said that, given that the majority of LC/RC members are orthodox Catholics faithful to Rome, I believe a "reform from within" is possible if the Holy See intervenes directly and appoints someone credible from outside the LC/RC to do a thorough investigation of LC/RC practices, and oversee their reform. It needs to be someone known for prayer and orthodoxy, experienced in religious life, and highly respected within the Church. For example, Cardinal Francis George from Chicago or Archbishop Seán O'Malley from Boston. Of course this assumes LC/RC members cooperate - not only in letter, but in spirit - with the reform.

Such a reform must begin with a sincere apology to Fr. Maciel's victims, followed by restitution. Also, no more excuses suggesting Fr. Maciel's innocence, or trying to dampen the severity of his sins. Of course the structural weaknesses that allowed Fr. Maciel to get away with his double-life for so long must also be fixed. Good faith only gets one so far. Peters identifies the question many canonists are asking, namely whether there are structural problems to the Legion, expressing them as only he can, when he states in response to the second assertion:

There is, I think, at least as much reason to wonder whether Maciel set up an institute in order to assure himself of ample access to sexual targets and unaccountable funds, or whether he suffered from some warped psycho-emotional condition that enabled him to compartmentalize pious devotional practices and sexual predation for decades on end...

Here is where I take a somewhat harder line than Peters. I don't wonder. In fact, I'm pretty sure Fr. Maciel set up the LC/RC to, as I put it in the following interview, acquire, maintain and protect his access to victims.

I won't comment on funds, except to say well-placed sources within and outside the LC/RC told me that Fr. Maciel was frequently given thousands of dollars in cash without any questions being asked. I haven't looked into the issue deeply enough to give it much thought; it's entirely possible the financial irregularities came after, as a by-product of the sexual irregularities. Of course, none of the above excludes the possibility Fr. Maciel also had a serious psychological condition.

But I've skipped ahead a bit. Here's how Peters begins his response to the second assertion:

Assertion 2. Maciel's canonical crime spree was a grave personal failing, but it does not negate the L/RC 'charism', and they should be allowed to continue their work. Response: This argument misses the key question, namely, whether in fact Maciel ever bequeathed an authentic charism to the L/RC...

This, then, is what separates our positions at the moment. If one believes the LC/RC lack a true charism, then Peters is right in suggesting Rome may have to shut down the movement completely and reconstitute it. (Without a true charism, there is nothing to reform.)

On the other hand, if one believes the LC/RC possess a true charism from Christ, but that it has become seriously clouded by Fr. Maciel's sexual vice, then it may still be possible to rescue the charism. Of course it will still require delicate surgery on Rome's part. It's possible the movement is so far gone that the necessary reform is no longer possible. The LC/RC will have to show they are capable of true reform.

Peters then says (skipping over the part I had quoted earlier, out-of-sequence):

I do not know whether the L/RC can (following a complete leadership replacement!) reform itself from within, although I am almost certain that they cannot;

A complete leadership change may be the only thing that can save the LC/RC at this point. Certainly this is how I feel, humanly speaking, although the Holy Spirit could intervene in a way that canonists haven't imagined. But, assuming most of the current leadership was honestly in dark about Fr. Maciel's double-life, this speaks to a weakness in LC/RC formation that so many clergy suspected so little for so long. This is not to say they were bad people or terrible priests - only that they appear to lack a certain skill-set needed to exercise prudent governance over a large religious institute.

This is not uncommon among young institutes of consecrated life where one is dealing with leadership known for its holiness (let alone living a double-life). I've experienced this at least twice in my career as a canon lawyer. A young institute and its young superior come up with some grandiose ideas, or overlook the obvious. An older priest, with several years of priestly experience before joining the institute, jumps in points out what's being overlooked, or otherwise brings some common sense to the discussion. Older priests can help guide a young superior of a young institute through sensitive pastoral issues, temper and focus the zeal of younger newly-ordained priests, and put bishops as ease knowing there is someone with experience keeping an eye on the new institute.

The problem with the current LC/RC superiors is that none of them kept an eye on Fr. Maciel. This is not surprising. Abusers cannot bear close scrutiny, which would threaten their access to victims. Fr. Maciel reportedly handpicked his superiors. Not surprisingly, he often named young priests who lacked practical pastoral experience. Which is why most Catholics would feel more confident about a reform of the LC/RC if Rome stepped in directly.

and I do not know whether Maciel developed an authentic charism for clerical, religious, and lay life, but I have serious doubts that he did.

And now the question of charism. The reason orthodox Catholics have struggled so deeply with the crisis, in fact the reason there are such strong feelings of anger and betrayal, is that the LC/RC's good works have been visible to us for so long. But looking back in retrospect, so too have the institutional signs of Fr. Maciel's double-life. How does one reconcile such a stark contrast?

Normally, an institute's charism is tied to its founder and its good works. However, the two don't match in this case. Some argue that the LC/RC's founding charism was fraudulent from the start. Others argue that God used Fr. Maciel as His imperfect human instrument. In reflecting upon this dilemma, attempting to reconcile these questions in my own mind, I stumbled across the biography of Saint Rafael Guízar Valencia.

Saint Rafael was Fr. Maciel's uncle and the bishop who oversaw most of Fr. Maciel's seminary formation prior to dismissing his nephew from the seminary. Saint Rafael exemplified many of the Christian virtues LC/RC attempt to emulate as members of their movement. In fact, his life story reads like a blueprint for the LC/RC's good works, and LC/RC members in past have recognized his influence in the founding of their movement.

Perhaps - and this is highly speculative on my part - Saint Rafael is the true spiritual founder of the LC/RC movement, and the instrument used by God to transmit its charism. It's something for LC/RC members to pray about.

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.

Not looking forward to January 18


Some of my friends are getting geared up already for the sad anniversary of the Roe decision, hoping that their pastors will give the new administration's pro-abortion policies the sound thrashing they deserve on January 18.

Oddly enough, I can't be very upbeat about the prospect.

I'm glad that the bishops are encouraging the Catholic people to send a strong message against FOCA, the proposed pro-abortion law that would fund abortions with tax dollars and abolish the few existing legal limitations on procuring abortion, all of them democratically enacted by state legislatures, and all of them having already passed court challenges to their constitutionality.

And I hope that the Catholic people will send a strong message against FOCA. What I don't look forward to is homilies against it.

In part, it's because of my personal temperament: I find redundant talk rather annoying. And at least for me, preaching about the wrongness of FOCA is redundant. I'm not confused about the immorality of abortion, and most Catholics who attend Mass regularly are not confused about it either. At least according to surveys, churchgoing Catholics hold pro-life views, much more than do Catholics who don't attend church, or non-churchgoers in general. So is this going to benefit the congregation?

Also, I'm not looking forward to the sort of sermon that my friends seem to like: I think it's unfitting for the holiness of the Mass. They want to hear priests denouncing the sins so widely justified in elite secular society: immorality in marriage, unchastity, and the killing of the unborn; they want to hear their outrage expressed, and hear about the fire and brimstone; and some of the priests I know are happy to provide that. But in order to denounce these evils, they think they have to be rather blunt and rather angry; and the result is that the ugliness of these sins ends up invading the sacred liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There's something bad about that.

Some of my friends complain that their priests don't preach enough against sin, and they feel cheered when they hear a real barn-burner -- at least when Father is denouncing sins that other people commit. But I think that our priests don't preach enough about God.

In a sense, preaching about the moral law and thinking about the moral law come relatively easy to us; after all, people speak and reason and argue about right conduct all the time in private life and public life and even in secular society. But thinking about God and communicating to people about God are not so easy, and we don't get a lot of that in our interactions with people in the secular world. So when we go to Mass and find in it the same sort of discourse that we get from secular voices, we're missing something. The priest is missing an opportunity to feed souls with a word about God and the things of God.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is more important than the evils of the world, and the holiness of the Mass, offered to God and made visible before man, does more good for the world than the finest words of moral instruction or correction.

Of course, the homily is a fitting place for moral instruction, but when the Mass is largely centered on the evils of society or of the state, a sort of profanation has happened. The Mass must never be instrumentalized, becoming primarily a means to accomplish a secular good, even a high good such as respect for life or some other grave matter of justice.

So I welcome announcements in church about the campaign against FOCA, and bulletin messages, and invitations to sign postcards; yet do not let the liturgy itself be profaned by excess.

"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.)

Proof of evolution!

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Members of the species bishop are developing functioning spines in front of our very eyes:

Portland (OR) archbishop chastens governor for hosting pro-abort gala

Sacramento coadjutor presents Church teaching on homosexuality to conference of diocesan gay ministries; organizers apologize for it.

(HT to

[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.

For those who have been following Canada's human rights tribunals and their decisions against Christians who express moral opposition to homosexual activism and same-sex marriage, the name Stephen Boissoin should be familiar to you. I won't go into the whole history of his case, however, the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal recently ordered him to stop talking about homosexuality from the perspective of his evangelical Christian faith. Moreover, the government tribunal ordered him to apologize for his previous expressions on this topic as a Christian, and has prohibited him from criticizing the government process to which he had been subjected.

Admittedly, given the stridency of his letter that brought about the original complaint, as well as the way he was characterized in the mainstream media, I expected a sort of Fred Phelps light.

This impression was wrong.

I realized how wrong it was within seconds of speaking to him last week for the first time.

Stephen struck me as anything but hateful. He came across as gentle, albeit fervent like most evangelicals (although he doesn't admit the label, calling himself a simple Bible Christian). Moreover, he expressed genuinely felt concern for the emotional, spiritual and physical welfare of those who practice the homosexual lifestyle. I think part of the problem was the fact that the theological vocabulary between Catholics and Protestants has evolved differently since the Reformation. So quite often things that are understood or interpreted one way by one, are misinterpreted another way by the other.

However, there is one thing Catholics and evangelicals share besides their faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. And that is a 100 percent conviction rate before Canada's human rights tribunals on Section 13.1 cases. The legal persecution makes no distinction among Christians.

Which is why I felt it important that others see this side of Stephen Boissoin - the side many have neither seen nor heard because their impressions of him are drawn from secondary sources. These sources are not always sympathetic or balanced. I am grateful to Stephen for graciously accepting the invitation for an audio interview and podcast.

It lasted for a little over half-an-hour. I am currently breaking it down to four parts, converting to video so that I can upload it to YouTube, and will be posting it to Catholic Light as it is uploaded.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Many Americans are familiar with Mark Steyn's current run-in with the British Columbia Human Rights Commission. One of the most fascinating commentators on this controversy has been Tarek Fatah, a Muslim-Canadian author, activist and one of the founders of the Muslim Canadian Congress. He is well-known to Canadians who follow this controversy as a civil libertarian and a leading voice of Muslim moderates in Canada. He is also known to journalists as a candid interview.

Fatah's position on the Steyn case is unique to many who have expressed strong opinions. He disagrees vehemently with Steyn and his book America Alone, against which the Muslim author has leveled some pointed criticisms. However, Fatah also publicly defends Steyn's right to voice his opinions. As a best-selling Canadian author himself, Fatah has spared no criticism of the Muslim activists who denounced Steyn before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

While I may not agree with everything Fatah says in this interview, I felt it was important to offer his words unedited (except for a brief exchange in the middle, where a friend or family member chances in on the interview without realizing it). He offers some excellent insights and definitely lives up to his reputation for candor. That, and a fine sense of humor as he compares Canada's human rights commissioners to angry mall cops and dares Canadian Islam's more fundamentalist elements to drag him before the tribunal.

Please note that while the following is audio only.

Interview with Tarek Fatah, part 1

Interview with Tarek Fatah, part 2

Hooray for Cdl. Mahony!


No, it's not April 1. I really am cheering for the Archbishop of L.A. who has barred dissident Australian bishop Geoffrey Robinson from speaking in the Cardinal's diocese during his book tour.

Thank you, Eminence, for joining the Australian bishops in their particular effort to spread sound teaching of the Catholic faith.

aaron-ginsburg-framingham.jpgAcross the street from Framingham's "Shoppers World", a disused computer store has become the site for an exploitative exhibit of human remains from China. Y'know, China, already notorious for its human-rights abuses?

The exhibit started a little before Halloween -- oh, no, that's not exploitative -- and it sounds like just the place to drop in for a little break from Christmas shopping.

Thanks be to God, there is somebody with the guts to stand up and state publicly that this shouldn't be going on: a Jewish pharmacist from a few towns away. God bless him for telling it as it is.

(Photo credit: Globe staff)

There must be something malfunctioning over at the Rorate Coeli blog. I posted a comment there yesterday, but today it's gone.

The story "New Catholic" posted is a typical bit of fodder for the disgruntled: show a picture of a bishop at some event sponsored by a non-Christian religion, use the caption to put some words into his mouth, and accuse him of committing idolatry.

Now, as with most of these scandal-stories, there's less to it than meets the eye, so we shouldn't exaggerate it. The event wasn't a religious rite, it was an award ceremony, and it wasn't held at a Hindu temple, but at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in DC. And whatever Abp. Sambi meant to do by lighting some lamp, you can be confident that he had no intention of offering adoration to some non-Christian god.

That's what my comment on the story said, but it's disappeared now. I do hope it wasn't censored for casting cold water on the overheated mood of the other readers.

Publisher Charlene Cothran of Venus magazine, once a "card carrying lesbian", shares her testimony and encourages others to let Christ lead them out of homosexuality to chastity.

(HT: David Virtue)

Episcopal Spine Alert!


Bravo to the French bishops who called their country's Muscular Dystrophy organization on the carpet, just days before its national telethon, for spending donors' contributions on destructive embryo research.

Merry Christmas, Governor Blunt

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Missouri Governor Matt Blunt has told state employees that it's okay to use the C-word this month:

To ensure that there is no confusion regarding our state policy I am directing that each of you inform all members of your department that they should feel at ease using traditional holiday phrases, including "Merry Christmas" and they should have no fear of official reprisal.

I will never understand why some people get offended when other people wish them a Merry Christmas. If somebody wished me a Happy Hannukah or a Submissive Ramadan or whatever, I'd just smile and say, "Thanks." I might not celebrate those holidays, but I'm glad to have people wish me well, whatever the occasion.

I'm shocked, shocked


A few weeks ago, a friend forwarded a promotional copy of lawyer Christopher Ferrara's book about EWTN. Since then I've browsed through it, but it doesn't seem worth spending the time to read it in full. Wherever I dip into the book, I find over-the-top complaints such as these:

  1. Masses on EWTN follow the new rite!
  2. When the Bishop ordered them to present only Masses said versus populum, they actually obeyed him!
  3. Their Masses actually use the approved English version of Mass, with the words "for all" in place of pro multis!
  4. Speakers on EWTN and writers on their website reject hard-line interpretations of Extra ecclesiam nulla salus!
  5. Their Q&A "experts" say that Communion in the hand is actually legal, whether we personally like it or not!
  6. Various speakers on EWTN promote "Theology of the Body" and -- good Heavens -- NFP!
  7. They don't support the suspended priest Nicholas Gruner and don't promote his opinions about Fatima!

Well, can you believe it?

Anyway, when Ferrara has the nerve to talk about Benedict Groeschel as having a "haughty, know-it-all tone", well, that's pretty rich.

"Draw them unto thy Sacred Heart"

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Don Marco reminds us of Pope St. Leo XIII's prayer consecrating the Muslims and all the erring people of the world, along with all the faithful, to the Heart of Jesus.

Disjointed thoughts on Muslim outrage


I'm still jet-lagged from a trip, and there's not enough time to write more thoroughly, so here are some fragments:

The full text of the Pope's apology reveals that the Pope has not recanted that part of his speech -- that "for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality." If journalists had bothered to read the full text -- well, they wouldn't have understood it anyway, so the point is moot. But assuming they weren't so lazy, or so ignorant of the philosophical context of the Pope's remarks, that is far more pointed than an intemperate quotation from a Byzantine emperor. It says that Islam downplays the intellect of God in favor of the will of God, while Greek philosophy and Christian philosophy acknowledge the importance of both. That is a crucial departure between the two religions, and it is telling that no Muslims, so far as I can tell, have objected to it.

• At a protest outside Westminster Cathedral in London, Muslims issued veiled threats against Pope Benedict's life, and spouted blasphemies against Jesus. (So much for "respectful dialogue.")

TigerHawk sounds one of my regular themes, that "liberals, such as the editors of the New York Times, refuse to condemn them because they believe that Muslims are incapable of choices. I may deplore the choices of these rioting Muslims, but the New York Times holds them in contempt, regarding them as nothing more than wild animals." TigerHawk refers to the New York Times editorial chastising the Holy Father for "sow[ing] pain" among tender-hearted Muslims.

• Speaking of the NYT, their contemptible editorial deserves a little more attention. "The Vatican issued a statement saying that Benedict meant no offense and in fact desired dialogue," the editors intone. "But this is not the first time the pope has fomented discord between Christians and Muslims." According to Merriam-Webster, foment means "to promote the growth or development of: ROUSE, INCITE; 'foment a rebellion'." The editors are thus plainly stating that the Holy Father deliberately promoted discord ("active quarreling or conflict"). By misinterpreting the Pope's words as deliberately offensive, aren't the editors guilty of the same crime?

• If you have not already done it, read the Pope's original speech so you can see it in context.

The terrorists have won


From Power Line:

The bottom line is, Hezbollah went the distance and was still standing--firing rockets--at the end. It emerges with its stature enhanced.

That's an understatement -- Hezbollah has just won its brief war with Israel. To the Arab mind, if a challenger tries to displace the ruler, and the ruler remains in power, the ruler is the winner. That's why Saddam claimed to be the winner in the first Gulf War, because he remained president of Iraq even though his military forces were demolished. In turn, the challenger might gain in status if he lives to fight another day, but if he is utterly defeated, he is despised and forgotten.

By that logic, Hezbollah was the power in southern Lebanon, and Israel tried to displace it. Hezbollah is still in power, ergo they won. As the challenger, Israel is now despised because it is seen as the greater power in the region -- yet it did not use its full force to defeat Hezbollah. Now other Arab (and Persian) rulers will seek to take advantage of this victory.

You think this is "ethnic stereotyping"? I tell you that this description can be confirmed by anyone who has studied Middle Eastern politics without ideological blinders. Displays of compassion or restraint are interpreted as weakness. Shows of strength, even when they are untethered to anything resembling morality, are always respected even coming from hated enemies.

The State of Israel has known this since its inception, and has chosen its tactics accordingly. That explains why in the Palestinian areas under its control, Israel has chosen to treat the Palestinians with high-handed disdain, giving them daily, visible reminders of their material inferiority and powerlessness. This fuels the nihilistic rage of the Palestinians, who strike back with increasing desperation; from this shame, suicide bombers are born.

Looking at it from the other side, though, what choice does Israel have? "Treat the Palestinians with love and respect," you reply. That will only invite more attacks, as when the odious murderer Arafat launched a suicide-bombing campaign in 2000 after Israel offered 97% of the Palestinian territories in exchange for peace. In this decade, Israel evacuated southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, and in return it got rockets launched against its population centers. What would happen if it gave up the Golan Heights and the West Bank? Likely it would get more of the same, and twice as bad.

I sympathize with the Israelis' plight, but ultimately, agreeing to this cease-fire does not mean "the fighting will stop." It will simply postpone the fighting until a later time, when Hezbollah has replenished its weapons and men, and is newly motivated to spill fresh Jewish blood. The State of Israel will have two choices: 1) suffer another defeat, and concede its eventual dissolution at the hands; or 2) respond with devastating force. This will almost certainly kill far more people tomorrow, innocent and otherwise, than defeating Hezbollah today.

That is what Michael Ledeen was getting at in his latest NRO column: "If we do not do the logical and sensible things, if we do not deploy the massive political weapons at our disposal, we will end by doing terrible things." Hitler could have been stopped when he invaded the Rhineland -- his generals agreed that if the French showed the slightest resistance, they would turn their troops around and depose the government. But France did nothing, and a war that could have been stopped with a few minor skirmishes ended with the wholesale destruction of entire cities.

False peace is the hallmark of our time, and our descendants will rightly despise us for believing in it -- assuming they will still teach history in their schools, along with memorizing the Koran.

Here are a couple of pictures of pro-terrorist demonstrators on Saturday, August 13, 2006. These lads were on their way to Lafayette Park, right across the street from the White House. I was eating a picnic lunch with my older three kids in front of the Reagan Building's fountain on 13th Street.


The sign is from International ANSWER, a communist front group that constantly organizes marches and demonstrations.


That's a Palestinian flag, as you probably know already. When the flag guy saw me snapping a picture, he asked if he could tell me why he was there.

"Oh, I know why you're here," I said. "You're here to defend the terrorists of Hezbollah."

"We are here to protest the illegal Israeli invasion of Lebanon...."

"Who started it?" I interrupted.

Flag guy looked startled for a moment, then continued. "The Israelis occupied Lebanon for 18 years...."

"Yeah, but they left six years ago. Who started firing the rockets?"

Not listening, he continued his rote speech. "They are killing civilians..."

"Who fired the rockets?"

"...acting as occupiers..."

"Who fired the rockets?"

"...illegal war..."

"You can't even answer a straight question," I said, getting more frustrated. "Why did the Israelis invade Lebanon?"

"Israel has been killing women and children in Lebanon...."

"No." Looking back to make sure my kids were still out of earshot, I replied, "They have been killing Hezbollah. And I hope they kill every single one of them. Every single one of those bastard terrorists."

Flag guy continued to spew the same lines he memorized on the trip from Detroit. (That's a guess, but his friend was wearing a Detroit Tigers cap.) I shook my head and walked back to the fountain, convinced that no meaningful dialogue was possible.

Later, I heard that the demonstration had attracted 30,000 people. That's a risible falsehood, unless the demonstration spilled over from Lafayette Park to the adjoining streets, or maybe the Ellipse. The park just isn't big enough. When I worked around the corner, my Web development team used to have meetings in the park when the weather was nice. (It wasn't a big team -- we only needed a couple of park benches.) You'd have to stack people like cordwood to get 30,000 protesters in there. Check out this satellite map to get an idea of the park's scale.

In my last entry, I made a (very brief) argument for referring to Islamist radicals as "Islamic fascists." Han, an astute commenter who has obviously thought through this issue, demurred: he thinks "Islamic fascism" is an attempt to cram their non-Western ideology into our own Western categories.

Below is a response to his objection -- not a refutation, because I don't think we disagree about the nature of Islam, or the threat that Islamic radicalism poses to the West. Han's words are in italics.

I define historical fascism as a theory of organising society premised on supreme authority invested in one leader,

Al Qaeda's avowed goal is to re-establish an Islamic caliph, ruling all Muslims around the world. Bin Laden probably saw himself in that role of supreme leader; we have to assume that it remains one of their objectives.

regulation of industry,

Point well taken: besides oil, the Muslim world (particularly the Arab part of it) has little industry worth mentioning. But presumably the economic sphere would not fall outside the caliph's authority.

a generous welfare programme,

Hamas and Hezbollah have extensive welfare infrastructures. To a lesser extent, Al Qaeda was known for its almsgiving until it was forced to keep a much lower profile.

cross-class solidarity based upon nationalism,

Islamic radicalism fits the bill here, too -- they just have a different idea of what constitutes a "nation." More on that in a bit.

and nationalisation/single party control of civic organisations.

Again, it's difficult to imagine that a caliph (or any Islamist religious authority) would consider civic organizations to fall outside his purview.

The universalist aspirations of the Islamists just doesn't fit the bill. They are not nationalists, and they seem generally unconcerned with the problems of industrial society that Fascism (along with Communism, Social Democracy, &c.) was attempting to solve.

Islamism is very much a reaction to modern industrial (and information-age) society. In part, it derives its legitimacy among the Muslim masses because it poses as the defender of traditional values and family structures, much as Mussolini and Hitler clothed their radical intentions in conservative garb.

Unlike the fascists, who believed in control of church by the state, the Islamists seem to believe in control of the state by the mosque.

I respectfully disagree with this statement, for the same reason that I believe the Islamists are nationalists. Their conception of national identity is based, not on blood, language, or soil, but solely on whether an individual accepts their interpretation of the Koran. They do not believe in "state sovereignty" because God alone is sovereign and does not delegate that authority to earthly powers, contrary to what St. Paul said about the role of the state as God's inperfect instrument of justice on earth.

Further, they make no distinction between "state" and "mosque" because the Koran makes no distinction between divine law and civil law. Jesus said that we owe ultimate allegiance to God, but we have temporal duties to the state as long as we are living. As Pryce-Jones points out, the Koran sanctions Islam and the family as the only two divinely-blessed institutions. There's no room for "civic institutions" such as unions, associations, corporations, etc. They might exist, but to a Muslim they have no real meaning or value in themselves, and they all must be ultimately subsumed by religious authorities or families.

...[W]e ought to accept the Islamists' claims that they represent true Islam....The left likes to imagine that despite what they say, the Islamists are really just doing some class struggle, and the right likes to imagine that it is fighting the Cold War again.

Correct on all counts. The secular Left is completely incapable of understanding radical Islam, because of its cramped and inadequate view of what human beings are. The Right would like to recast Islamism as Marxism because 1) it was a recent enemy and the public remembers it; 2) right-wingers are sensitive to the charge that they are trying to start a "religious war"; and 3) we eventually beat the commies, so it's comforting to think that by applying similar strategies, we can beat the Islamists.

As to whether the Islamic radicals represent "true Islam," Han may well be correct to agree with them. We might be disagreeing about nothing more than ideological forensics: he thinks the tendencies which I describe as "fascist" are intrinsic to Islam, and contain no imported ideas because they were there from the beginning. I think the tendencies were there from the start, but they were mixed with Western fascist ideas in the first half of the twentieth century, making the nasty brew that has wreaked its vile mayhem around the world.

Ultimately, we do agree on one thing, unless I'm misreading Han -- that Islamic radicalism, by whatever name, is a totalizing movement that represents an existential threat to the West.

Mel's Alleged Anti-Semitism


You know, if Mel became a Muslim, Hollywood would probably be fine with his alleged anti-semitism.

Once again, the question of the "legality" of the Iraq War has reared itself on Catholic Light. I am so tired of debating this subject that it actually makes me a bit queasy to type this, but here goes.

As you probably know, there is a war going on in Iraq. But it isn't the same war as the 2003 war to remove Saddam Hussein and dismantle his regime. If you want to argue about U.N. resolutions and "BUSH LIED!!!!!!!" and all that stuff, go ahead. But that's history. That war is over. Saddam is on trial for his life, and nobody, not even the most committed Bush-hater, is arguing that his regime should be restored.

The war today is being played for a much different set of objectives.
It might be useful to think of this second war as a sports contest, so here is a list of the players, the objectives of the game, and the rules of play:


Side #1:
1. The democratically elected Iraqi government
2. The overwhelming majority of Kurds
3. The overwhelming majority of Shiites
4. Some Sunnis
5. The allied military coalition led by the U.S.

Side #2:
1. The majority of Sunnis (though this is shifting)
2. al Qaeda terrorists
3. Native Sunni terrorists


Side #1:
1. Deter or destroy international terrorist groups.
2. Deter or destroy illegal combatants (a.k.a. "insurgents").
3. Protect ordinary Iraqis from being murdered.
4. Support and sustain the Iraqi state so it can keep public order.

Side #2:
1. Create a Taliban-style theocratic state.
2. Kill as many Kurds and Shiites as possible, including women and children.
3. Humiliate the United States by forcing it to leave Iraq.


Side #1:
1. Follow the laws of war.
2. Avoid civilian casualties.
3. Spare mosques, schools, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure unless they are receiving fire from those buildings.
4. Prosecute anyone on side #1 who does not follow the laws of war.

Side #2:
1. Ignore the laws of war.
2. Use your opponent's observance of the laws of war against him.
3. Murder civilians, including (and, often, especially) women and children.
4. Bomb mosques, schools, and hospitals.
5. Store ammunition in mosques, schools, and hospitals.
6. Shoot from mosques, schools, and hospitals.
7. Use your allies in the U.S. Democratic Party and the Western media to assist you with objective #3.

If you want to argue that the present war in Iraq is "illegal," go ahead. But you will have an extremely difficult time doing so, since secular law isn't with you. There is a sovereign government in Iraq, which was democratically elected by the Iraqi people. This government is recognized by the United Nations, and by its member states, as the competent authority in that country.

As a sovereign nation, Iraq has the right to determine whether foreign armies may station troops within its borders. Its government not only permits allied troops to remain, it actively encourages those troops to carry out anti-terrorist campaigns, either alone or in coordination with Iraqi security forces.

Therefore, if you want to say that the present war is "illegal," you have to say that the Iraqi government is acting illegally by rooting out murderous thugs and letting its allies assist. Does anyone seriously want to argue that point -- that Iraq has no right to seek outside assistance when it cannot secure the peace within its borders? And that the U.S. and other nations are acting illegally in coming to the defense of this legitimate, sovereign government?

Because they don't want to look at the present moral questions of the present war, anti-war activists want to elide the difference between the two wars (or, if you like, the two distinct phases of the same war). They apparently think that since the war did not meet their standards at its commencement, the United States cannot do anything of any value in Iraq, ever. It wouldn't matter if the "insurgents" put nuclear warheads on ICBMs and prepared to incinerate the Eastern seaboard of the United States. All the moonbats would still screech "Where are the WMDs?" and demand an immediate pullout.

A challenge for you anti-war folks: come up with an international law that says the U.S. and other nations can't fight on the Iraqi government's behalf.

Bonus question: Find a church document that prohibits a nation from intervening militarily on the behalf of another nation, when the object is to restore justice and protect human lives.

In the mental Wonderland of the Left, refusing to serve your country is "patriotism." Their latest "patriot" hero is Lieutenant Ehren Watada, who received his commission after the Iraq War commenced, and is now refusing to deploy to Iraq with his unit.

Lieutenant Watada is not a hero, although he is not a coward (he will be punished under military law, unlike those who fled the country to avoid their sworn service to this country.) He abandoned the troops he was supposed to lead, and betrayed the country he pledged to defend.

He also needs to brush up on the law: being ordered to Iraq with his unit is lawful order by a legitimate authority, and he disobeyed it. If he was ordered to deliberately kill noncombatants, that's an illegal order, and he would have a moral duty to disobey it. His self-righteous moonbat nonsense about "the deception used to wage this war, and the lawlessness that has pervaded every aspect of our civilian leadership" is beside the point. Going to war is a decision for elected officials, and an officer who receives his commission from the President of the United States does not have the authority to override it.

Where is the document?

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On June 6, the Pontifical Council for the Family published a new document on Family and Human Procreation, but so far, a week later, the document is only offered on paper in Italian:

Famiglia e procreazione umana
Autori: Pontificio Consiglio per la Famiglia
Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Data di pubblicazione: 8 giugno 2006
Formato: Paperback
Codice ISBN: 8820978342
EUR 2.5

No translations? No web release? Why the delay? Don't they know the press and the propagandists have been out there distorting this thing from the word Go?


I need to take a breath here. Back in the '80s, I'd be thrilled if a new document showed up in English at the Daughters of St. Paul store two months after publication. Now I'm getting cranky 'cause it's not available for free on the 'net within a week.

I guess the delay really doesn't mean much, except that the folks at the Vatican didn't consider this such an important and newsworthy document that they would go to the extra trouble of holding up the release until the major translations were all done.

Oh, well, if you want it ASAP, go ahead and get the Italian. You can even put the text on-line, and we'll all try to work out what it means. :-)

Update: In response to my e-mail query, a member of the Pontifical Council wrote on Thursday that he has the Italian version, but has heard nothing about the publishing of translations.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

You write, we post
unless you state otherwise.


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