Mariologist Hauke on Medjugorje: PART II

“Don’t let the devotees fall into the void”

By Richard Chonak

Closely connected with the beginning of the Medjugorje phenomenon, were disciplined by the Church: Jozo Zovko (the pastor during the first months of the apparition, June-August 1981) was forbidden by his superiors to have any contact with Medjugorje; Tomislav Vlasic, who worked in Medjugorje from 1981-1988, was released from his priestly duties by the Holy See in 2008. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave the reason, among other things, of offenses against the sixth
commandment, exacerbated by alleged “mystical motivations”. The friar had in fact, at the direction of the “Gospa”and the seer Marija Pavlovic, conducted a “mystical marriage” with a lady from Germany in the framework of a mixed religious community. This unusual connection between personal tendencies and mysticism has a longer back-story: in 1976, and therefore before his involvement in Medjugorje, the friar impregnated a religious sister in a mixed “Franciscan community”, sent her with pious exhortations to Germany and denied his paternity. This case became known to Bishop Zanic and Cardinal Ratzinger in 1984. Vlasic himself brought the “word of wisdom” spoken to him at a charismatic conference in Rome (May 6, 1981) with him to Medjugorje: “Fear not, I will send you my Mother.” An Irish Charismatic woman [Sr. Briege McKenna, O.S.C. --RC] asserted that from Vlasic streams of living water would flow. The influence of such a figure on the beginning period of the Medjugorje phenomenon poses a great number of critical questions. Grave moral accusations are also placed against Zovko, the pastor in the early months, and long-time spiritual confidant of the group of seers (E.M. Jones, The Medjugorje Deception,2001).

Medjugorje is often cited as an “oasis of peace” during the civil war at the beginning of the ‘90s. Yet there are also uncomfortable facts that disturb the harmonious view.When revenue from the pilgrimage industry went down in 1992, there were press reports in the wake of a violent conflict among three family clans that served pilgrimage businesses. In a “cleansing action” about 140 inhabitants of Medjugorje were killed, while 600 others had to flee. “This was all kept secret from the the outside world, since it naturally could not be brought into accord with belief in the Queen of Peace” (R. Franken, “A Journey to Medjugorje”, 2000, p, 45). Thus there are not only good fruits to the Medjugorje phenomenon. Do you see the grace of God at work in Medjugorje? When people convert, pray rightly, receive the sacraments, and renew their Christian life, without a doubt the grace of God is at work. This is valid for every place in the world and certainly also for Medjugorje.

Which criteria play a decisive role from the Church’s point of view for the recognition of the supernatural character of apparitions?

An apparition can only be evaluated as supernatural, when it is ruled out securely that natural influences or the interference of the devil are responsible for it. These things must be investigated: 

(1) The seers: are they mentally healthy? Are illusion, suggestion, and hallucination ruled out? Are the seers upright and morally straightforward?Do they show a greater zeal in their life of faith than before the visionary event? Are they obedient and humble with respect to the competent representatives of the Church?
Mental illness, lying, immoral acts in connection with the
visions and lack of humility are extremely negative criteria.

Other questions pose themselves:

(2) about the content of the phenomena: do they correspond to the Catholic faith? Are any of the utterances ridiculous or unworthy of God?
Prophecies must, in order to be proven supernatural,refer to future events that depend on human freedom, or respectively, on the mysterious workings of God. Another positive criterion is the disclosure of secrets of the human heart. 

Also important are  :

(3) the fruits of the events, in which the goodness of their origin unfolds (cf. Mt. 7: 15- 20). Genuine apparitions strengthen the seer in virtue, above all in humility and patience, while false revelations produce pride and disobedience.

The decisive criterion :

(4) is the miracle, which must have an unequivocal connection with the apparition.

Can the devil also work miracles?

A miracle, understood as the unmediated intervention of God in the empirical world, is provable as such, when it surpasses the powers of creatures. Among the clearest examples of these is the resurrection of the dead. It is not simple to distinguish them from the “miracles” of evil spirits, whose power surpasses human ability. As created beings, it is simply impossible for them to bring about a creation out of nothing (which pertains to an infinite power). They also cannot make predictions that depend on the inner freedom of man, because the devil has no power over the innermost part of man. This is made clear in cases of possession: the demons can overpower the body of the possessed person, but when they speak out of him during the crisis invoked by exorcism, the consciousness of the human being is normally “turned off ”. God, in contrast, knows how to draw the human will toward Himself from the inside, without forcing it.For the devil there is no problem, for example, in making statues cry, calling forth ecstasies and stigmata, to manipulate cameras, to make people speak in tongues, or produce marvelous scents. Because of his surpassing knowledge of the natural world he can also, to a limited degree, make assertions about the future, in cases when the influences of the already recognizable factors is extrapolated. He can also reveal hidden things that are unknown to a person (with the exception of secrets of the innermost part of man).

 A known example for the working of the devil in pseudo-mystical phenomena is, say, in Spain in the 16th century, the life of the religious sister Magdalena of the Cross (1487-1560). From the age of five she had plenty of ecstasies and visions. She tells the story that Saints Dominic and Francis had prepared her for receiving her first Communion. Three months before being granted permission to receive the Eucharist, she is receiving Communion daily “in a mystical manner”, in which every time she emits a scream. At the age of 17 she enters a convent of the Poor Clares in Cordoba. She receives stigmata and clairvoyantly knows how to find hidden objects. At her perpetual profession the nuns are surprised at the lengthy presence of a dove, which is taken to be a sign of the Holy Spirit. Karl I, the king of Spain, has Magdalena bless, among other things, the royal standard and the clothing of his son Philip. Cardinal Cisneros and numerous other princes of the Church are also impressed. Even the Holy Father personally asked the Spanish Poor Clare for her intercession. Only a few reflective contemporaries such as St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. John of Avila remain skeptical. Their doubts are confirmed when the Poor Clares start to wonder about the lax leadership of their superior and elect a successor. 

The “miracle nun”was then visited with convulsions. When the exorcism undertaken thereafter exposes a demonic presence, the Inquisition undertakes a trial against Magdalena. In it she testifies that in the year 1504 she made a forty-year pact with the devil, which had reached its end in 1544. Her paranormal abilities ceased. After she abjured her errors, she does penance for several years, she can no longer be elected to any offices in the Order, and lives an exemplary life until her death. In other words: the devil can succeed to make fools of the highest princes of the Church for decades long. Such an example warns us to caution in the face of present-day happenings.

How do you evaluate the “messages” of the “Gospa”?

According to the study of a Croatian psychologist and theologian the published “messages” are “mostly...simple texts, exhortations to peace, prayer, penance, and conversion, in which the mind and the environment of the seers are clearly reflected” (I. Zeljko, Marian apparitions...,2004, p. 315). Among the so-called ten secrets, of which the seers only give hints, they specify as confirmation for the Marian apparitions a permanent and visible sign on the hill of the first apparition. The fulfillment of this sign, announced in 1981, is still outstanding after nearly thirty years, quite in contrast to Guadalupe and Fatima, where an obvious sign appeared in the year of the apparitions itself (the image of the Mother of God on the“tilma”, or respectively, the miracle of the sun). From that penetrating research, the filtering of the “messages” by the seers or by the priests connected with them was named as a problem. The problematic assertions are often only known to critical source research through obscure publications(in part only in Croatian, English, and French),and are withheld from the broader public.
... to be completed.


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