Thursday, October 15, 2009

Medjugorje: Analysis of Spirit Daily article on "new direction" reported by Cardinal Puljic - Part 1

There is an article on Spirit Daily (unsigned) that I feel the need to analyze because of the many distortions which jumped out at me.  It comes on the heels of the three-part statement by Bishop Ratko Peric and the news that a "new direction" is forthcoming from the Holy See on Medjugorje - according to Vinko Cardinal Puljic - the head of the BiH Bishops Conference.

I have no choice but to break this up into segments because the original article is so long. As I find a little time during the coming week, I'll continue to publish further analysis on the same article.

Let's get right into it.  My emphases in bold, comments bracketed in red when inline:

The article starts out...

There is no question that Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno, Bosnia-Hercegoivina, has jurisdiction over church property and liturgical issues in his diocese, which includes the famed apparition site of Medjugorje, and also no question that the bishop -- while disallowed by the Vatican from ruling on the apparitions themselves -- should be obeyed in matters that involve use of church property and presentation of the sacraments.
"Disallowed" is one of several inappropriate and inaccurate ways of explaining what actually happened when the decision was elevated to the Bishop's Conference.  Medjugorje had already become a world wide phenomenon and the 1978 Criteria for Discernment of Apparitions offers an option at this point:

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. [Note: Medjugorje already had international 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). [I'm sure there have been people on both sides of this situation begging for intervention of the Holy Father]
Further, we have documented proof that that the true reason it was elevated to the bishop's conference was (2b) above, in a press release made by Cardinal Kuharic in 1987 when it happened:

During the inquiry these events under investigation have appeared to go much beyond the limits of the diocese. Therefore, on the basis of the said regulations, it became fitting to continue the work at the level of the Bishops' Conference, and thus to form a new Commission for that purpose.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been informed about it. It has expressed its recognition of the Diocesan Commission's work done under the responsibility of the local Ordinary [this recognition is an affirmation that the bishop is not out of favor with the Holy See], and it urged that that work be continued at the level of the National Conference of Bishops. [Hence, the Holy See went for option 3 in the 1978 Criteria, for intervention and everything points to it's international status, not the negative position of the bishop as is alleged on many promoter sites]
At that point, the final discernment on Medjugorje would have to come from a greater body - a fact which even Bishop Peric himself acknowledged (Prot 1267/97 - October 2, 1997) when he said: 

5) Nevertheless I am open to a study that the Holy See would undertake, as the supreme court of the Catholic Church, to speak the supreme and definitive judgment on the case, and that as soon as possible, for the good of souls and for the honor of the Church and of Our Lady.
Using language like, "disallowed" or "prohibited" from making a final discernment on Medjugorje, or saying that Bishop Peric was "removed from the dossier" is completely disingenuous and not aligned with objective facts.  Such language is used to discredit the bishop or to make him seem as if he is out of favor with the Holy See.  In fact, some promoter sites will actually make such bold claims.  These are not just subtle attacks against Bishop Peric himself, they are subtle attacks against the Church. It is disinformation intended to pit the people against the bishop.

The Spirit Daily article continues...

Of late, the bishop has exercised that authority with increased vigor, imposing new restrictions as regards the parish of St. James and adjacent Catholic communities. [Yes.  They were dated June 12, 2009: Prot. 648/2009 - 649/2009: Letters from Bishop Peric to Pastor and Parochial Vicar at St. James in Medjugorje]

Those restrictions -- pertinent to the sacraments and use of parish facilities -- must be obeyed.
The question: is his imposition of more stringent guidelines simply the bishop's way of exerting what authority he does have in making a statement about the apparitions [in other words, the bishop is being a bully], and if so, is this renewed vigor -- which has included a prohibition against the parish distributing the monthly Medjugorje message -- simply one in a long series of such actions by the diocese, or is it a precursor to stricter actions by the Vatican itself? [I personally believe it is the latter and the bishop's increased "vigor" could very well be prompted by the Holy See.  Much of what he says has been said before, but he is making it more visible - exposing the disobedience, disorder and disunity involved. I believe in it's forthcoming statement, the Holy See will link to certain, recent documents on the Diocese of Mostar website, or at least refer to them. Of course, time will tell.]
First, let's understand why the bishop does not permit messages from the alleged apparition of Medjugorje to be disseminated.  We have to go back to the 1978 Criteria for Discernment of Apparitions, which Bishop Peric is clearly following.  As Colin Donovan - the Vice President of Theology at EWTN explained,

What the Church has forbidden. From the statements given to date by ecclesiastical authorities it is clear that no one holding an office in the Church (bishop, pastor, rector, chaplain or other) may by virtue of that office lend official sanction to activities which tend to assert the supernaturality of Medjugorje, that is, to contradict the decisions made by competent local authority. Those statements speak only of pilgrimages organized under official auspices; however, common sense tells us that a conference or other activity sponsored by a diocese, parish or other Catholic institution would also be prohibited. Likewise, there could not be public veneration (cultus) of the Blessed Virgin under the title of Our Lady of Medjugorje, since this would suggest the certainty of her appearing there. The title Queen of Peace, however, is already part of the patrimony of the Church.
It's all about the cultus, or the public veneration.  You cannot spread "messages" before a cultus has been authorized or the thing can take off and get away from the Church, which has happened in Medjugorje with the aid of disobedient players.  The real question is - when does the Church permit the cultus?  It's clear that Mr. Donovan doesn't feel it has been authorized and he is quite solid.  Let's look closer at  the 1978 Criteria for Discernment of Apparitions:
a) Initially, to judge the facts according to positive and negative criteria (cf. below, n.1). [This is ongoing by the commission and the some of the most important facts are those closest to initiation - or to the beginning. Facts may be more visible years later when they can be put into context with other facts which is what we are seeing laid out by Bishop Peric in his September 26, 2009, three-part statement.  Part 1 and Part 2 are facts from the early years concerning two key figures - Tomislav Vlasic and Slavko Barbaric).  If you read the criteria in the link above, see the positive and negative criteria that is considered.]
b) Then, if this examination appears favorable, to allow certain public demonstrations of cult and devotion [the cultus] while continuing to investigate the facts with extreme prudence (which is equivalent to the formula: “for the moment, nothing is opposed to it”). [The interesting thing is that we have never left (a) above.  It continues to be investigated, but the cultus was never authorized.  Not only was the cultus not approved, but it was explicitly prohibited in 1985It has been repeatedly prohibited since then by ordering "messages" be kept private, not allowing statues, medals, hymns etc., to "Our Lady of Medjugorje".  Not even the Zadar Declaration authorized the cultus, nor any subsequent communications which were limited to discussion of pilgrimages that were not intending to authenticate what was happening in Medjugorje. 
c) Finally, after a certain time, and in the light of experience, (starting from a particular study of the spiritual fruits generated by the new devotion), to give a judgement on the authenticity of the supernatural character, if the case requires this.
Consider now that the parish has been referred to as a "shrine", and it was one of the prohibitions re-iterated by the bishop. There have been unauthorized chapels built, religious communities initiated, all without the permission of the local bishop! Shrine status would not be given until after a positive final judgment on authenticity.  It is the most basic protocol to seek the approval of the local bishop for any of these other things which have found their way into existence illicitly. 

What is clearly happened with Medjugorje is that those promoting it have attempted to win authenticity through popularity.  This is not  how the Church works.  She is concerned ultimately with Truth.  Truth is not based on good fruits alone. It is concerned first, and foremost, with facts surrounding the events themselves.  The fruits are secondary.

We will continue with analysis of the Spirit Daily article when I find time again.
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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!