Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Misleading Title at Spirit Daily puts Bishop of Medjugorje in Negative Light

EDIT: Spirit Daily has changed the misleading title sometime on September 4. I applaud the change. The original title is found below in a snapshot.

I don't like to knock spiritual news outlets, and ordinarily, I just ignore those that have a sensationalist focus or spend too much time and effort promoting apparitions not yet approved. Some of these sites will get people all charged up because someone claims to see the Blessed Virgin Mary in their $4.00 cup of capuccino.

Don't get me wrong. I have a deep devotion to Mary as you will find in my many blogposts and photos.

People I know, including my own father now deceased, have cautioned me to never put much stock into any private revelation before the bishop allows a cult following - the first step in the approval process. It basically means that a bishop has not found any reason to prevent a cult following, such as conflicts with doctrine, or behaviors inconsistent with the level of grace that would guide such souls. The cult following was never authorized at Medjugorje. In fact, the bishop actually informed the parish priest - Fr. Tomislav Pervan - otherwise in 1985 after finding conflicts which did not sit well with him.

Fr. Eduard Perrone of Assumption Grotto takes the same approach as my father. You will not find any material from apparitions or other private revelations in church vestibules or the giftshop which have not gone through a certain level of approval. In fact, there are notes hanging on the racks in the back of Church instructing people to clear material with the pastor before putting it out.

Yesterday, I posted the news release out of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno, the home diocese of Medjugorje, that Fr. Tomislav Vlasic, OFM incurred canonical penalities from the CDF the for ongoing disobedience and some rather odd behavior for a priest, cited in the CDF document (and found throughout the 1990 document by Bishop Pavao Zanic, the previous bishop, now deceased).

The Bishop of Mostar-Duvno has known about this status since the beginning of the year, but did not publicize it. Bishop Peric was recently asked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican to share the canonical status of Fr. Vlasic with the community, which he did on his website. Why? People have a right to know that if this priest is availing himself for confession, Mass or other sacraments, that he is not authorized (and faces excommunication if he defies the penalties). Penalties handed down by the Vatican.

I was really disappointed to see the title which was used on a very popular website, Spirit Daily. There is no exclusive article....yet, but it leads directly to an article on Catholic Culture. Incidently, Catholic Culture, which reviews Catholic websites on a set of criteria has given Spirit Daily a yellow status for a number of good reasons, with examples cited.

I took a snapshot to show how ridulous this title is. Look carefully at the red title in the left column that I highlighted with a blue rectangle (click to enlarge). It reads: Bishop at Odds with Franciscans says ex-Medjugorje priest disciplined.

Let's look closer at this title:

  1. The Bishop at Odds with Franciscans;
  2. [says] ex-Medjugorje priest disciplined.

1) It's not the bishop who is at odds with the Franciscans!

It has been a number of Franciscans from the Hercegovina Province that are at odds with not only the Bishop, but the Church (in all fairness, there are many good and loyal friars in that province caught in the middle who are humble and obedient to the bishop and the Father General in Rome). This began long before the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje started and resulted in Vatican involvment, as well as the Order of Friars Minor in Rome (see "The decree 'Romanis Pontificibus' definitively implemented" at the website of the General Curia of the Friars Minor in Rome).

You will find some writings on promoter websites for Medjugorje about this decree, typically under headings that make the bishop seem like some kind of villian. This is a great time to re-evaluate how badly you need to frequent such sites as people are regularly scandalized into having harsh, and even sinful feelings, towards an eccesiastical leader who is in full communion with Rome.

If you really think the Vatican is against this bishop as they claim, please write the CDF and ask for his status (keep in mind Rome had no problem asking HIM to let the community know about the status of Fr. Vlasic). These folks are real good at subjective speculation and presenting them as fact, especially when it comes to the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno. They will even attempt to use the Blessed Virgin Mary herself to get you turn on the bishop with contempt, even if only in the silence of your heart (a great time to look for a Marian confessor who is devoted to approved apparitions). These same sources will elevate disobedient Franciscans, some of them disciplined by Rome, in ways that lead you to believe they are headed for canonization and that Rome was somehow duped. In the next breath, they call the bishop disobedient. Once again, write the CDF and ask them if they agree with such accusations and be sure to include the name and url of the website, the owner, and author of the article.

Back to the decree: Those arguments you may find against it may seem compelling in isolation and some were written with good intentions by very smart people. However, the Holy See had context of those arguments, along with other things. We have to trust that the Church acted appropriately because if you argue against this decree which went into effect in 1999, then your beef is not with the bishop, but with Holy Mother Church who issued it. We may all struggle with Church decisions and speculate as to whether those responsible had all of the information they needed. I always tell people, it's a matter of trusting God - that all things needed for that decision were present.

One day, I will go deeper into this decree and the history of the Franciscan order in that territory with some hard to find books that I have on this topic.

2) Is it Bishop Peric who says the priest was disciplined?

No. it was the Vatican. Also, why is he called an "ex-Medjugorje priest". Sure, he's distanced himself from Medjugorje. But, he is well known as a promoter of Medjugorje and considered the "spiritual father" of the Medjugorje apparitions. His writings can be found all over pro-Medjugorje sites where he is deeply, spiritually connected to Medjugorje. Why else would the Vatican ask Bishop Peric - the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, home diocese of Medjugorje - to share his unfortunate canonical status with the community? He can't be separated from Medjugorje any more than Bugs Bunny can be separated from Warner Bros.

You have to wonder about motives here - that is, why not just say it as it is, rather than use it as an opportunity to slam the apostolic successor of a diocese who is doing what the CDF asked him to do? We'll leave judgment for God. However, I will call out a lack of objectivity. Some will go to great lengths to protect Medjugorje, even to the point of attacking the local Bishop. You see something wrong with this picture? Would Mary approve?

Even if a bishop is wrong about his judgment on an authentic private revelation, the Blessed Mother - a model of humility and obedience, would expect nothing but respect for his office and for his person.

I would think twice before spending time at sites that attack the Church in this fashion because it simply encourages these people in their ways. Please don't kid yourself. It is an attack against the Church, no matter how nicely it's dressed. And, there is often money (advertisements, speaking engagements, tours, etc) at stake in protecting at all costs, the very thing being promoted.

Please pray for Fr. Tomislav Vlasic. The Church is not punishing him, but using tough love to try to bring him home. May God grace him with humility and obedience through Our Lady.

NOTE: I have turned comments off for this post. Typically these posts draw voluminous responses out of promoters and supporters who use cookie-cutter responses from promoter sites. Their views are out there in abundance.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!