“The Courage to Reveal”

The chairman of the German Society for Mariology, Manfred Hauke, looking at the Bosnian pilgrimage site Medjugorje, calls first for a clarification on the question of the phenomenon’s authenticity and then for pastoral answers. By Regina Einig

Q. Professor Hauke, the new Apostolic Visitator to Medjugorje, Archbishop Hoser, has recently determined that the pilgrimage activity in that town in Bosnia-Herzegovina corresponds to the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council. How do you interpret this statement, and how can we place it in context?
Hauke: In his first homily as Apostolic Visitator to Medjugorje on July 22, Archbishop Hoser mentioned that the Marian devotion carried out in the parish places Christ at the center and therefore corresponds to the Second Vatican Council. It really does not belong to his assignment as papal emissary to make a statement about the authenticity of the reported Marian apparitions. In his interview on August 18, 2017, he emphasized that he had not involved himself with the content of the “apparitions”, as that was not his assignment. Such a separation between the truth of the messages and pastoral care cannot be reassuring: the question of authenticity needs to be posed first, and only then can the pastoral answer follow, and that includes concern about those who visit Medjugorje.

Q. Why must the question of authenticity be posed first?
Hauke: According to the Council, forms of Marian devotion that are “recommended by the Magisterium” (Lumen gentium 67) should be encouraged. Certainly that does not include celebrating a youth festival again on this August 5, based on the message that the Mother of God had celebrated her 2000th birthday on August 5, 1984 (and would therefore have been born in the year 16 B.C., which would mean that in the historical year of Jesus’ birth, that is, circa 7 B.C., she would have been about nine years old). This absurd message was spread by Fr. Tomislav Vlasić OFM, who was laicized in 2009, whom the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith accused of dubious mysticism and transgressions against the sixth commandment, among other things. That the real Mother of God is suggesting to change the liturgical date of her September 8 birthday feast and correspondingly also the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, is ridiculous. The Second Vatican Council, moreover, emphasizes very clearly the responsibility of the bishop for his diocese and the obedience owed to him on the part of the faithful (Lumen gentium, ch. 3). The local bishop has complained against the establishment of houses by religious communities in Medjugorje without his written permission.

Q. For more than thirty years people have been streaming to Medjugorje. Archbishop Hoser points to the search for Christ as a theme of the pilgrims. Does this make the question of the authenticity of the apparitions superfluous? What good will it do to publish the results of the commission’s investigation now, if the Church is certifying de facto that there’s no problem?
Hauke: The current handling of the problem should be turned around completely: the Holy See should publish a statement, supported with historical facts and theological explanations, that takes a position on the phenomenon of the reported apparitions; the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would have the competence to do this. After that, it should rule on the pastoral issues, which would probably be resolved gradually after a disclosure of the facts and the scandals at the root of the case.

Q. The Pope wants the Visitator to give the pilgrims and those who provide pastoral care stability and guidance. Why is this needed at all, if religious practice in Medjugorje, in regard to prayer and the reception of the sacraments, is substantially more intensive than in most parishes?
Hauke: Perhaps the need for direction is due in part to the problem of five Franciscan parishes in Bosnia, which Archbishop Hoser himself mentioned in August 2017. The disobedience of the Franciscans toward the bishop can be traced in fact to the “Gospa”, who, according to the seers’ assertions, spoke more than once against the removal of two Franciscan parochial vicars and thereby criticized the bishop.

Q. Bishop Ratko Perić of Mostar-Duvno considers the apparitions thoroughly implausible—including those that took place in June 1981, which were evaluated positively by a Vatican commission in 2015. How do you interpret this assessment? What reasons are there for or against the position of the Bishop of Mostar?
Hauke: Bishop Perić has known the events connected with the “apparitions” since the beginning, including numerous details that are not known to the public. After it was reported by the press, and not denied by the Vatican, that the Ruini commission had judged the first seven apparitions on the first ten days as genuine, the bishop made his own investigation known to the public (2017). The result reflects the examination undertaken of several scholarly studies, on the basis of tape-recorded interviews made by Franciscans from June 27 to 30, 1981. Apparently the Ruini Commission did not study these interviews, which so far have been available in print only in English and French translation, at all. The very delineation of “seven” initial apparitions in “ten” days, of which a member of the commission spoke, contradicts the historical events. Depending on how you count them, there were 17-18 “apparitions” in the first ten days with quite unusual happenings. To “overlook” these facts for the benefit of the pilgrimage industry is as weighty as the mantle of silence over the moral scandals that are connected with the “apparitions”. These scandalous facts are thoroughly comparable with the abuses in Chile: the Holy See only intervened (2018), when the truth could no longer be hidden, because the secular press worldwide was showing interest. In order to prevent something similar in the case of Medjugorje, courage is needed to reveal countless facts that are uncomfortable for the Church.

Q. Are the apparitions of June 1981 formally recognized by the Commission’s reported evaluation?
Hauke: The Ruini Commission presented its report as requested by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the responsible body; according to the interview of the Pope on May 13, 2017, it asked for further study and does not share the assessment of the Commission. Pope Francis himself expressed his very personal, very negative evaluation of the “apparitions” of Medjugorje in May 2017 on the return flight from Fatima, but at the same time he took the dossier away from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This seems to be a “pastoral” way, at the expense of the question of truth, full of deep-reaching contradictions. Such an approach seriously hurts the credibility of the Church and of doubtlessly authentic Marian apparitions (Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima).


(My unofficial translation from the German Catholic newspaper Die TagespostAugust 1; I edited a few words for clarity on August 11.)

Has CDF decided?

Vatican-watcher Gianluca Barile says that CDF has held a meeting and reached conclusions about the Medjugorje case, to be presented to Pope Francis. How reliable this is: we don’t know yet. (The translation is mine.)

Medjugorje: the Vatican rejects the apparitions and isolates the seers
by Gianluca Barile

The only concession, for Medjugorje, recognized as a place of prayer, is because God knows how to reap where he does not sow, explained the Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, during the Plenary of the Congregation which met yesterday to express itself on the alleged apparitions of our Lady to the six “seers” of this little locality in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who say they have received messages periodically from the “Gospa” for 34 years in a row. As for the remainder, the judgment of the former Holy Office, which expressed itself on the basis of the final report of the “Ruini Commission”, established by Benedict XVI to shed light precisely on this phenomenon, was absolutely negative. For the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, indeed the “apparitions” do not consist of anything supernatural, so the faithful have been forbidden to take part in the “ecstasies” of the six “seers” and the latter have been prohibited to disclose the texts of the messages which they might receive from our Lady. Another NO regards the parish of Medjugorje, under the title of St. James, which will not become a Marian shrine, as the six “seers” themselves apparently had wished. But that’s not all: Bishops may not welcome the “seers” into their dioceses for public meetings and testimonies, as has happened up to today, but are limited to providing accompaniment, by a priest, for pilgrims who travel to Medjugorje. Pilgrims themselves who go to Medjugorje, will not be permitted to recognize, by their presence, the authenticity of the apparitions and are to avoid any contact with the “seers”, concentrating only on prayer and approaching the Sacraments. But why so much severity on the Vatican’s part? First of all, due to the theological inconsistency of the messages, then because of the economic interest of the “seers” who have invested in inns and travel agencies, and hence due to the rivalry which has divided some of them, and for the disobedience shown both toward the bishop of Mostar, their Diocese, and toward the Pope who, by means of the “Ruini Commission”, ordered them in vain to present the ten secrets which they allegedly received from the “Gospa”. One of the key aspects which impelled the Vatican to use the iron fist, is precisely that of money: true seers have never been seen making money from their own apparitions. On this point, it’s only right to ask: do the six “seers” of Medjugorje maintain that they see and speak with our Lady because the alleged apparitions are real, or only to attract a greater number of pilgrims to travel with their agencies and make reservations in their inns? The last word is waiting for Pope Francis, who will shortly issue an appropriate decree, but it is hard to think that the Pontiff could change the conclusions of CDF, especially because he himself, several times, has shown, more or less evidently, his own scepticism about the goodness of what is happening at Medjugorje. So things are headed toward a noisy signal of black smoke.

Drawing closer to a decision on Medjugorje?

After visiting Sarajevo today, Pope Francis took questions from reporters during the flight. Here’s one:

There is a big interest surrounding the phenomenon of the Medjugorje apparitions. What can you tell us about this?
“When Benedict XVI was Pope, he set up a commission on Medjugorje that was headed by Cardinal Ruini and composed of other cardinals and theologians. They prepared a study and Ruini delivered it to me after a few years of work. They did a good job. Cardinal Müller (Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ed.) told me that he was going to hold a dicastery meeting on this; I think it was held on the last Wednesday of the month. We are about to take some decisions and these will then be communicated. For now, bishops are just being given some indications.”

[Andrea Tornielli at La Stampa‘s Vatican Insider site]

UPDATE: Now that I’ve seen a video clip (alas, only partial) and some other reporters’ versions of the Pope’s words, here’s a more detailed rendition:

“On the problem of Medjugorje, Pope Benedict XVI, in his time, set up a commission, presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini. There were other cardinals, theologians, specialists, who made a study. Ruini came to me and presented the study, which took three or four years; they did a good job. Cardinal Gerhard Müller told me he would be doing a ‘feria quarta’ at that time: I think it took place the last Wednesday of the month, but I’m not sure. But we’re ready to make decisions, and then they’ll be stated. Only a few directives are being given to bishops about the direction we’re taking.”

[Note: ‘feria quarta’ (Latin for “Wednesday”) refers to a meeting of the full CDF membership.]

[Additional sources: RAI, L’Avvenire, Twitter]

Bishop Ratko Perić at Medjugorje: Unity is more important than charisms

Bishop Ratko Perić recently performed the rite of confirmation at St. James parish in the town of Medjugorje, notorious as a site of so-called apparitions. His visits to the parish to perform the rite of Confirmation are often an occasion for him to remind the people of the town that the Catholic faith does not depend on unreliable claims of visions, but on the revelation Christ entrusted to the Church.

Here is the homily from his most recent visit, in May 2015. I’m impressed with it. As a church musician, I hear confirmation homilies a few times a year and am usually disappointed in them for their disorganization and lack of content. Not so this one.

Medjugorje: Keeping unity in the truth of God
Bishop Perić, 16 May 2015

Homily during confirmation in the parish at Medjugorje

Before us is one of the remarkable proclaimers of the Gospel in the apostolic Church, one of the most notable of apostolic times, St. Apollos of Egypt. A passage from today’s reading tells us about him (Acts 18:23-28).

A Preacher. “Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24). St. Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, presents him in this formal way, which notes his two traits: he is eloquent and versed in the Scriptures. He knows how to express himself in words since he knows how to say something and since he knows the Holy Scriptures, which contain divine words. He is an orator by nature, and moreover has completed the necessary philosophical and biblical studies. He speaks both Hebrew and Greek. He is an orator of the first rank. He doesn’t just win over individual intellectuals, but crowds of people rush to hear him. He explains with liveliness, demonstrates with conviction, and concentrates effectively on the Messiah, the Christ, who would be coming, when he did not know that Jesus had already come. There he is at Ephesus, in the Jewish community, every Saturday in the synagogue, in the pulpit. Each time, the faithful are multiplying and grow more enthusiastic about him.

A Biblicist. Versed in the Scriptures, says the sacred author Luke: in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, especially in the Prophets who are difficult to interpret. Apollos is an expert interpreter, eloquent and knowledgeable. He explains old things in a new way, remains faithful to their content, but has recourse to a new way of speaking. Through Apollos’ mouth the Bible speaks, and says everything about Christ who is to come.

To study the Bible is a gift of God, a talent, like every other spiritual talent. If you work on this talent, if you are teachable, if you study and teach others, then you’ll be able to perfect this gift to an enviable degree. The faithful respect a good preacher. They go out of Church, pleased with his message, and shaken and repentant about their moral situation. Dear candidates for confirmation, perhaps God is inviting you too to attend some ecclesiastical school and prepare yourself to announce the Word of God: maybe as a priest or as a religious? Whoever has ears, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to him! Only the courageous respond to the invitation!

A Disciple of John the Baptist. Apollos “had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25). He did not go beyond the baptism and the preaching of John, having been instructed, probably, by some disciple of John. He spoke full of fervor, zealous and magnificent, like John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan. He understands that his preaching also points to Christ, like that of the Baptist. But it is evident that he had not yet encountered the teaching and the sacrifice of Christ, the Spirit of Jesus, and the baptism of fire. Both he and the other Christians of Ephesus (with all due respect to the exceptions) were Christians more according to catechumenal desire than according to the Christian faith. Did it not happen that the Apostle Paul, having crossed the upper country, after Apollos left Corinth, reached Ephesus and found there a group of twelve disciples who “have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” but had received the baptism of John? And “when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them” (Acts 19:1-7) in his seven gifts.

This is an obvious biblical example of the fact that Confirmation was conferred separately from Baptism and that Confirmation was conferred only by the Apostles, while later their successors, the bishops, conferred it.

A Christian. Aquila and Priscilla were also at Ephesus, a husband and wife who had been taught Christianity. Apollos “began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). Neither Aquila nor Priscilla could resist the desire to invite him to their house to explain to him more profoundly and accurately “the way of God”, that is, Jesus, martyred and risen, as Way, Truth, and Life, which for Apollos was something absolutely new. It was the first time he had heard anyone speak of this and of Jesus, dead and arisen twenty years before. It is possible that only then was Apollos really baptized: in the name of the Most Holy Trinity.

When Priscilla told him about the Church in Corinth, abundant in the spiritual life, awakened by Paul to unforeseeable heights, Apollos desired to return to Greece: to see the Spirit at work in the pagan world. He could no longer stay at Ephesus.

The faction of Apollos. “When he wished to cross to Achaia [Greece], the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully confuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (Acts 18:27-28). There he was at Corinth. Every Jewish intellectual, especially a missionary and visionary as Apollos was, wanted to travel to Greece to face the Greek philosophers and his fellow Jews. Paul went there too! So Apollos wants to visit Greece, but does not know anyone in that country. A friendly recommendation would be so helpful to him! Aquila and Priscilla voluntarily offer him a written recommendation to some Christian families at Corinth – divine Providence!

Apollos arrived at Corinth. The Acts tell how Apollos, with his fervent preaching, was most helpful to the brethren at Corinth. The Christians were especially pleased by the fact that Apollos vigorously confuted the Jews, demonstrating publicly, by means of Sacred Scripture – the Psalms and the Prophets – that Jesus of Nazareth, incarnate, dead, risen, and ascended to Heaven, is the true Christ – Messiah. St. Paul will confirm this praise in his Letter: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor 3:6). Perhaps this image of Paul’s, according to which Apollos had “watered”, says in the best way how this disciple of Christ preached: as if someone were watering, with a full bucket, a vineyard, fig trees, or tomatoes.

Some faithful at Corinth, superficially enthusiastic about the wise preaching of Apollos, started to set one apostle against another. Thus certain groups of faithful said they were “of Apollos”, others “of Paul”, a third group, “of Peter”, and a fourth group, even, “of Christ”. Four parties with their slogans and flags, with their apostles leading and with Christ the Lord. Some didn’t know which “party” they belonged to at all. They only knew that in the Church of Corinth a factional schism has torn the seamless garment of Christ. Probably there were not even fifty of them, and look at the chaos! This fact profoundly struck Apollos, and he, saddened, left Corinth for Ephesus, never to return to Greece.

Among us human beings disputes are easily born. And the wounds leave a mark. The man of God will seek to make peace and not stir up conflict. And all in truth and in charity. Truth must unite everyone, while lies and injustice make us quarrel and divide.

Collaborators of God. Paul describes the partisanship at Corinth in a very dramatic way. “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each” (1 Cor 3:5). Paul does not scorn the labor of God’s workers, especially not that of Apollos. God is in all and above all. He has given the apostles the ability to be ministers, but only ministers and not proprietors of human souls. And they must be respected as ministers and collaborators. “So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas [Peter] or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor 3:21-23). A magnificent gradation of work, of growth, and of joyful life in God.

Still, after the great Paul’s attempts at friendly persuasion, Apollos did not want to return to Greece, in order not to get involved in some “party”, least of all his “own”! He was afraid of factionalism and even worse disorder. He declined Paul’s fraternal offer with respect (1 Cor 16:12). He knew that there were hotheads, on fire with fanaticism, who did not accept any reason or proof. When they claim to be “charismatics” and collect a group of “charismatic” followers around themselves, there’s no apostle who can lead them back to reason! They would abuse Apollos and oppose Paul all the more. In such a case, he deemed it wiser not to return, but left everything to divine Providence and to time which heals all wounds. Thus he remained a friend of Paul and an admirer of the Corinthians.

And he makes us see that the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace is more important than any personal talent, more than untamable charisms, more than locutions in unknown tongues, more than falling on the ground, more than messages twice a month and more than tenfold secrets. Our faith is based on the foundation of the Bible and Tradition, interpreted by the living Magisterium of the Church, and not on private visions that are all the more inauthentic, the more they claim to appear three times a day.

Conclusion. The apostolic preacher Apollos, from this short biblical passage, appears to us first, as a faithful Jew, and sufficiently open to the Greek and Roman world: a great soul! Second, as able to interpret Sacred Scripture, versed in philosophy, expert in rhetoric: a great intellect! Third, he has set all his talents in the service of discipleship: first of the Baptist, then of Christ: a distinguished disciple, a student of his times! Fourth, he was not culpable for the divisions at Corinth; he knew wisely how to make peace for a community threatened by dissension: an eminent teacher! Fifth, God gave His Spirit to Apollos, who obeyed Him, because he had all seven of the gifts in fullness and abundance, when he collaborated earnestly with every gift.




[This is my translation into English from an Italian text published on the website of the diocese of Mostar. Updated May 27, 2015. Scripture quotations in English are taken from the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. Thanks to biblegateway.com for making it available.]



Verdict Watch for Medjugorje

The jury has finished its deliberations and submitted its judgment to a higher authority. Now we’re on verdict watch. What will it be?

I refer, of course, to the disputed apparition case of Medjugorje.

It’s A Wrap!

What has the Holy See said?

2014-01-18 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, confirmed on Saturday that the international commission investigating the events in Medjugorje held its last meeting on 17 January. The commission, created by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is presided by Cardinal Camillo Ruini.
The commission has reportedly completed its work and will submit the outcomes of its study to the Congregation. (source)

And we don’t know much more than that about the process.

Who Will Speak?

The decision, when it comes, could be issued by one of three sources. First, CDF could make an announcement itself, since CDF’s ordinary authority delegated from the Pope allows it to do so.

The Pope might make a pronouncement directly, in order to eliminate any talk of appealing a CDF decision to the Pope personally.

Or CDF might encourage the local bishop to make the statement, as they did with Bishop Lennon in the Cleveland diocese’s “Holy Love Ministries” case.

No Change?

Speculation in the Croatian press says that the Commission might recommend a verdict of non constat de supernaturalitate and might recommend a policy that visits to the place not be impeded; which is to say, they’re speculating that the current judgment and policy of the bishops’ conference remain in place.

That’s the “best” apparition supporters can hope for; the Church is not going to give a positive endorsement to an apparition while it’s underway. But I doubt that the Church would want a commission to work for four years and then issue a report that says nothing new and proposes no change to the situation. And Church authorities are tired of the issue: at least Cdl. Puljic has said so.

What Are The Options?

First, when no judgment has been made by the Church, the Church’s “customary prudence” is to act with reserve: to withhold acceptance of supernatural claims.

The classic three options for a judgment are these:

Favorable: constat de supernaturalitate: The supernatural nature of the event is confirmed, according to the human testimonies of the event and the criteria of the Church.

Most negative: constat de non supernaturalitate: a non-supernatural cause has been identified, such as mental illness or deception.

The more common negative verdict: non constat de supernaturalitate: the event has not been confirmed as supernatural in nature, but a cause has not been identified.

Implications Of The Judgments

In the case of a negative decision, the judgment is normally accompanied by pastoral directives warning the faithful not to engage in devotional activity (pilgrimages, prayers, etc.) based on a presumed belief in the alleged apparition.

In the case of a positive decision, the faithful are permitted to believe in the apparition on the basis of human testimony, including any verified miracles. The Church deems the story credible, but does not put her authority behind it, so the faithful are not obliged to believe in it.

Limits Of A Positive Decision

Did you notice the different effects of the two decisions? A negative decision comes with a warning, while a positive decision comes with a permission.

That is, a negative decision comes with directives which are authoritative, while a favorable decision, a permission, is not binding on the faithful.

We might wonder: why doesn’t the Church make a positive decision binding?

The difference has to do with when the events happened, and how we know them. The Church holds that every doctrine revealed by God comes from the time of Christ and from the apostolic era. These are the doctrines we profess in our baptismal vows, and we believe them (and are obliged to believe them) because God revealed them. These doctrines revealed in the apostolic age are the “Deposit of Faith”, and this revelation is infallible, because God cannot err or deceive.

In contrast, an apparition event that took place after the death of the apostles is not directly revealed by God; we know it through human testimonies, so it is later than the Deposit of Faith and it is believed on a human basis. This human faith is fallible, and the Church does not have authority to impose it. Thus positive verdicts only create a permission.

An Opinion: What Would I Like To See?

I think it is not possible to identify the specific cause of the initial events, whether it was psychological or perhaps diabolical, but it’s one or both; so I think there is enough demonstration of falsehood in the initial events to produce a judgment of constat de non supernaturalitate: the event is proven not supernatural.

Along with that judgment, there should be a ban on promoting the apparition claims or messages, and a ban on pilgrimages, conferences, and other devotional events based on a claim of supernatural origin. The seers should be prohibited from making public statements on religious matters for five years. Unauthorized religious communities operating in the area should be rebuked by the Holy See and directed to comply with the local bishop. Foreign priests and religious should be forbidden to conduct ministry within the diocese without the bishop’s permission.

Do I expect all that to happen? No.

A Good Commentary

Lastly, let me recommend Diane Korzeniewski’s fine column on why it has taken so long for Church authorities to make a decision on the Medjugorje case.