“Don’t let the devotees fall into the void”
By Richard Chonak
Particularly in the early period of the phenomenon there were several very unusual messages.According to a tape-recording transcript from June 30,1981, the seers reported, according to the assertion of the “Gospa”, the end of the appearances would be in three days (on July 3), but they then went on. At the sixth apparition ( June 29, 1981), the “Gospa” announced the healing of a four-year-old boy, but it never happened. Furthermore, the “Gospa” informed them (May 25,1984) that her two-thousandth birthday would fall on August 5, 1984.Would the real Mother of God propagate a birthday celebration for herself, that sets itself apart from the date of the liturgical feast (September 8)? If the given date were to be correct historically, then Mary would have been born in the year 16 B.C. Since, because of the historical data known to us (census,astronomical conjunction), the birth of Christ is to be set at 7 B.C., then Mary would be about 9 years old at the birth of Christ. Besides untruths and ridiculous things, some erroneous teachings are also presented alongside them: Fr. Vlasic wrote on May 8, 1982, in the Chronicle he authored, that according to the utterance of the “Gospa” the Saints in Heaven are present there not only with the soul, but also with the body.Here on display is the erroneous teaching, widely spread today, but condemned by the Church, of “resurrection in death”, in which awaiting the future resurrection at the Second Coming of Christ is rendered nugatory. In other words: alongside plenty of catechetical platitudes that are found with notably more substance in the Bible and the Catechism, the messages contain elements that speak clearly against a supernatural origin of the phenomenon.
Devotees and critics of Medjugorje both claim the duration of the phenomenon as an argument for their position. With reason?
The duration of the phenomenon, considered by itself,speaks neither for nor against the authenticity of the apparitions. In 2008 the bishop of Gap and Embrun recognized the supernatural character of the Marian
apparitions of Notre-Dame du Laus (southeastern France), which took place from 1664 to 1718, and thus comprised a time-span of 54 years. The seer, 17 years old at the beginning of the events, saw the apparitions daily for four months. Later she had mystical encounters with Christ or with the Mother of God only from time to time. In any case, apart from the four months in 1664, there was no regularity of the visionary phenomenon as at Medjugorje. Where the extraordinary event of visions becomes regular, even a daily normal case, and “monthly messages” of the Mother of God are announced in advance on radio programs, that brings on skepticism. A plethora of messages is typical of spiritistic phenomena, as, for example, the thirteen volumes of the Canadian seer Marie-Paule Giguere, which the French theologian Rene Laurentin, a great promoter of Medjugorje, wellmeaningly found worthy (in them the seer, who drew her insights from a crystal ball, presents herself as the reincarnation of the Mother of God, who crushes the Serpent’s head and would be canonized in her own lifetime; one of her sons would become Pope, and another “Teacher of the Nations”; the movement founded by Marie-Paule,in the meantime, was condemned by the Church; cf. J.Boufflet, Faussaires de Dieu, 2000, pp. 562-570). In this earthly pilgrimage, the believer does not live by seeing,but by hearing the Word of God. Only in the joy of Heaven will faith be replaced by sight.
In evaluating a phenomenon so multifaceted as Medjugorje,does the Church balance pastoral aspects and issues of Church law against one another? Or is there in the end a dogmatic resolution above all else?
As long as it is not unambiguously determined from the aspect of Church law, that the “Marian apparitions” connected with Medjugorje are not of a supernatural character (constat de non supernaturalitate),pilgrimage activity is tolerated on the private level. Only public pilgrimages conducted by Church institutions are forbidden. At present the verdict of the Yugoslav bishops’ conference from 1991 is still valid, according to which a supernatural origin is not established (non constat de supernaturalitate). This means that the “proofs” advanced by many devotees of Medjugorje for its credibility (light phenomena, healings, conversions) were not considered convincing. Besides that, Bishop Ratko Peric stated on September 1, 2007:“The Church, from the local level to the highest, from the beginnings to the present day, has repeated clearly and consistently: Non constat de supernaturalitate!
This means in practice: no pilgrimages are allowed, because they would presume the supernatural origin of the apparitions; there is no shrine of the Madonna and there are no authentic messages, revelations, or true
visions! This is the state of things today. What will be tomorrow? We will leave that in the hands of God and under the protection of our dear Lady.” Thus the bishop.Purely theoretically judgment is open for a future recognition (constat de supernaturalitate) or a final rejection (constat de non supernaturalitate).
But until then, what the bishop said in a sermon in Medjugorje on June 6, 2009, and which he has documented on his internet site, remains valid: “The Church has not recognized the “apparitions of Medjugorje” (http://cbismo.com/index.php?mod=vijest&vijest=416; Il fenomeno di Medjugorje, 3a parte, Službeni vjesnik,2/2009, pp. 190-194).
For pastoral care it is important, to lead the renewal of faith created by the stream of pilgrims to Medjugorje into the roads of the Church, and not let the devotees of the phenomenon fall into the void. Marian devotees would be well advised to concentrate on trustworthy prophetic revelations, approved and well accepted by the whole Church, so that they would deal with, say, Guadalupe, Lourdes, or Fatima.
Questionable and unequivocally false phenomena should be presented as such. Therefore it is not sufficient, in my estimation, to pragmatically recognize Medjugorje as a “place of prayer”, without reaching a judgment on the events that lie at its basis. German bishops also reacted against this approach: non-recognition of alleged “apparitions” along with simultaneous recognition of the place as an official “shrine” (for example, with respect to Heroldsbach and Marienfried).If a new investigative commission reaches a recognition that certain characteristics indissolubly connected with the phenomenon of the apparitions speak against their authenticity, then the love of truth demands that this be made known with all clarity and that Catholic Christians be warned expressly against “pilgrimages”. The principle is valid here: “bonum ex integra causa; malum ex quovis defectu” (“Good comes from an undamaged cause; bad from some kind of defect”).
If a drink is mixed with rat poison, it’s not sufficient to point out that it contains only two percent strychnine with 98 percent water: the whole drink has to be poured out. If the Church does not, herself, finally lance the boil that is connected with Medjugorje, then anti-Catholic groups will do the job and with pleasure.And then the patience extended to the enthusiasm of Medjugorje could become a boomerang that attacks the
Church from inside, if the groups previously connected with the Bosnian “place of pilgrimage”, finally disillusioned,should turn against the Faith and the Church.
And that could also explain that the devil takes “good fruits” as part of doing his business in Medjugorje: if he can bring forth a vastly greater harm to the Church in the end. Pastoral love must not be separated from the love of truth.
[A hat tip to kreuz.net, whose story based on this interview led me to look up the original.]