Monday, October 25, 2010

St. Francis of Assisi and the Bishop of Imola; a Franciscan of Medjugorje and the Bishop of Mostar

St. Francis and Reverence for Authority

Archbishp Fulton J. Sheen once said: “Obedience is servility only to those who have not understood the spontaneity of love.”

I want to demonstrate the "spontaneity of love" with which St. Francis treated bishops with this example. 

Respect shown to the Bishop of Imola
(from the Life of St. Francis by St. Bonaventure; ch 6:8)
One day St. Francis arrived at Imola where he went to the bishop and humbly asked him for permission to summon the people and preach to them.  "It is enough, brother, that I should preach to my own flock," the bishop replied abruptly. Francis bowed his head in genuine humility and took his leave.  Less than an hour later, however, he returned once more.  The bishop was annoyed and he asked him what he was looking for this time.  Then Francis replied respectfully and without the slightest arrogance, "My lord, when a father throws his son out one door, he must come in by another." The bishop was disarmed by his humility; he smiled and put his arm around him and said, "Henceforth you and all your friars have general permission to preach in my diocese. Holy humility deserves that."
In this case, St. Francis won the bishop over through humility and simplicity.  While Francis was perfectly suited to preaching, and his preaching was good for the people, the works on his life leave us no doubt he would have left the second time as humbly as he did the first, had he been denied again.  He would  not have called the bishop, "unprofessional", acted in defiance, or spoke irreverently of the local bishop to others.
Next... a contrast.

A Franciscan in Medjugorje "disses" the bishop

Below is a clip from a 1985 CBC video which includes an interview of Bishop Pavao Zanic in Mostar, and Fr. Svetozar Kraljevic, OFM while he was in Medjugorje. Kraljevic is a key protagonist of the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje. 

First, an introduction to this 1985 video clip: It comes to us in a blogpost by retired University of Montreal researcher Louis Bélanger at Medjupedia who has studied Medjugorje for decades. He visited there in 1985, which included some filming of the visionaries, and he met with Bishop Pavao Zanic, twice.  His postings are very analytical and detailed, often containing video, photos, document scans and information with much of it coming from the protagonists themselves. He is the editor of The Hidden Side of Medjugorje which was authored by Fr. Ivo Sivric, OFM - a man born in Medjugorje, who studied with interest the phenomena happening in his native village.  Louis has much to share.  I wanted to blog on this video some weeks ago when I saw it in his post: The Construction of the "Lady of Medjugorje"

We have to look at this video through the lens of the status of Medjugorje in 1985.  In March of 1985, Bishop Pavao Zanic clamped down, ordering an end to public veneration of "Our Lady of Medjugorje" which stands to this day.   As an aside, the 1991 Zadar Declaration remains in effect even as the new commission works.  That declaration did not authorize public veneration of "Our Lady of Medjugorje". To the contrary, it states that the local bishop is to see that Marian devotion and liturigcal activities are carried out in accordance with the teachings of the Church.  It authorizes unofficial pilgrimages which are not organized by dioceses or parishes and which do not presuppose the supernaturality of the alleged apparitions.  In the context of the status in 1985, let us watch this short clip:

Thanks to Kevin Symonds at Desiderium, we have a transcript which might be helpful, especially to international readers using auto-translators. Kevin, who holds a B.A. and M.A. in Theology, offers his own commentary on why this is so disturbing. Here is just a partial transcript of what Fr. Svet says:

Reporter: [speaking in English to Fr. Kraljevic] "The Bishop of Mostar is...unequivocal. He says the Virgin Mary is not appearing in Medjugorje."

Fr. Kraljevic: [pauses, thinks and gives a passive gesture as if shrugging off the Bishop's opinion] "That is the opinion of a person who has a right to say so but if you talk to the..."

Reporter: [interjects] "This is not just a person, this is the Bishop you're speaking about."

Fr. Kraljevic: "His judgments, what I would like to say, are not 'professional' and his judgments come from his inner disbelief that, uh, the children don't see, uh, the Blessed Virgin Mary."

My Commentary

In a word:  Un-Franciscan!

Keep in mind that Bishop Pavao Zanic gave reasonable objections for his disbelief in authenticity, which were best compiled later in, the Truth about Medjugorje.

What is so perplexing is that Fr. Svet could say such a thing about his bishop, in such a public way.  It is anti-ecclesial to treat a bishop in this fashion over an alleged apparition. If he said this publicly for the world to hear, what has he been saying to pilgrims and others about the bishop all these years?

This casual dismissiveness of the local bishop is something which was once contained in Herzegovina.  Now, this same attitude towards the Bishop of Mostar has spread internationally through Medjugorje devotees. There has always been this parallel of good fruits in the form of people converting and the spread of an attitude towards the local bishop which is foreign to any authentic Marian apparition - a truly bad fruit.   In fact, some of the information you find online has progressed from dismissiveness to calumny. See an example explained by Italian researcher and professor, Marco Corvaglia, in his post on Medjugorje, the communists, and the bishop

I look forward to what the Holy Father has to say on "a question for which he feels responsible as the supreme head of the Church to pronounce a clear message" (words of Archbishop Alessandro D'Errico, Papal Nuncio in Bosnia & Herzegovina)

If you have not visited my Medjugorje Documents and FAQ's blog, you should find the site update much easier to navigate, and packed with much more information for serious discerners.

Two Volumes
Learn more about authentic Franciscan behavior

Back when I was discerning a Franciscan vocation in the early 80's, a friend who was in the seminary with the OFM, had given me a going-away present that I read through, over and again, in the years that followed in that convent in Herzegovina.  It was a book which was composed of key, collected works on the famous friar, called Saint Francis of Assisi: Omnibus of Sources.  It contains the writings of St. Francis, including his rules and testament, books on his life by Thomas of Celano, St. Bonaventure, and other works like the Mirror of Perfection, the Three Companions, Little Flowers of St. Francis, and more. Older copies can be found in a single volume, but the newer version I have (2008), is split into two volumes with some very helpful charts in the back.  The charts will list a topic, then guide you to the appropriate volume, chapter, and sometimes, right to a numbered paragraph.  It even shows when the same topic comes up in other works. Shop around because the prices really vary and perhaps there is a used one out there. This is a must-have for any Franciscan or devotee of St. Francis

Te Deum Laudamus! Home
The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!
Note: The recommended links below are automatically generated by the tool, so they are not necessarily related content.


Nick said...

Three things to consider, Diane.

1) The Franciscan was only saying what is correct: The Bishop was of the opinion the apparition is not Mary, the Bishop was not giving a "professional judgment" on the apparition.

2) The Franciscan could have been more charitable, the same as Saint Paul could have been more charitable to Saint Peter when he was caught in hypocrisy.

3) It would be a good idea to see if any canon lawyer can clarify on whether or not religious can speak their opinions on apparitions if their opinions are contrary to the Bishops'.

We know by Church documents and by the Code of Canon Law that religious must treat their Ordinaries as vicars of Jesus Christ, but it would be interesting to see if this would include their personal opinions.

Now certainly Saint Francis might agree, as might other saints, but there are also saints who wouldn't agree, and so this leads to the issue that I have been seeing a lot recently, though it might not be recent: Namely, various saints act differently, so which saint do you follow? For example, Dominic Savio kept silent when attacked, yet Saint Paul answered those who attacked him. I think it comes down this: Not following opinion of some saints but following the Holy Spirit, and so the Truth, and in this way imitating the saints as they imitated Christ, rather than imitating their faults in addition to their imitation of Christ, for the Lord cannot fault nor lead anyone else into faults.

The same goes for private revelations. We must stick with Public Revelation, not center our lives on private revelation. Even if two revelations agree on a theological matter - for example, if two different revelations from two different saints stated that each soul has an angel and a demon by his side, one to guide him and the other to test him - no one has to accept those revelations under pain of sin, and the matter itself is outside the Faith, though perhaps not contrary to, whereby it is even less an obligation to accept it under pain of sin: Ergo, Public Revelation is what every Christian ought to be busying about and living, for he is after all a Christian, not a member of those religions and sects which let revelations correct, improve, or complete their revelations.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...


Let's put this in context again, in terms of when this happened.

The interview is dated September of 1985. This would have been as the second extended commission headed by Bishop Zanic was underway.

This was prior to the third commission which resulted in the 1991 Zadar Declaration.

The 1978 Criteria for Discernment of Apparitions (using the updated translation)

We read:

When the ecclesiastical Authority is informed of some alleged apparition or revelation, it will be his task:

a) First, to judge the event according to positive and negative criteria (cf. below, part I);

b) Then, if that examination has a favorable outcome, to allow some public manifestations of veneration and devotion, and at the same time, watch over them with great prudence (this is equivalent to the formula «nothing to oppose for now»);

What Bishop Zanic did in his March 1985 letter to the pastor of St. James in Medjugorje (linked in my main post), based on his negative judgment was to put an end to (B) above, because his judgment was not favorable.

He has the charism for discernment and should not be so casually, and smugly dismissed as if he is joe-bag-of-donuts at the corner coffee shop.

Further, the point of the post was to contrast his behavior with the founder of his order. When we examine the life of St. Francis and understand the manner in which he showed reverence to bishops, it makes the behavior all the more shocking.

Have you read the commentary I recommended by Kevin Symonds? Find the link in the main post near the typed transcript (and comment there on his post). He offers some perspective on it, as well.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...


I meant to also point out that Fr. Svet studied in the US, and was ordained in Chicago in 1977. He then spent several more years in the US before heading back to Herzegovina.

This is a man who is fluent in English after having lived in the US for many years.

When he said that the bishop's opinion was "unprofessional", I don't see how it can be taken as in, "not his professional opinion" as ordinary of the place, if that is what you meant.

To say the bishop's opinion is "not professional" (with the kind of body language used simultaneously) is very degrading, especially after elaborating on the point that it stems from the bishop's judgment that the children were not seeing the BVM.

That's just a ridiculous thing to say on it's face.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

Correction to my comment above:

Kraljevic stated "not professional", not "unprofessional".

It carries the same meaning.

The body language says alot. It's very dismissive.

Nick said...

"second extended commission headed by Bishop Zanic"

Aha! So this was while the Bishop was still investigating the event. I mistakenly thought this interview was, like, brand-new or something.

That changes my response than: The Franciscan should have not said what he said, because it could appear as disobedience to the Bishop, who, as investigator of the events, has the duty and the right to judge the events, and so whatever Bishop Zanic found that convinced him the apparitions were false ought to not be dismissed, nor treated lightly, because just as a doctor who finds the symptoms of an illness in his patient should be listened to, so ought the Bishop who finds the signs of falsehood in an event should be listened to.

I suppose people from both sides on Medjugorje might bring up different apparitions to convince the other of their opinions on the issue, like supporters bringing up Laus to convince skeptics that confusion can be afoot and skeptics bringing up Bayside to convince supports that disobedience can be afoot. But truth is truth! God will vindicate the just, in time, if He wills it, and at Judgment Day, as He so wills it - the latter we know by faith.

Louis Bélanger said...


Nick is writing: “The Franciscan was only saying what is correct: The Bishop was of the opinion the apparition is not Mary…”

Fr. Kraljevic says: “That is the opinion of a person who has a right to say so but if you talk to the [...] His judgments, what I would like to say, are not professional and his judgments come from his inner disbelief that the children don't see the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Interviewer, Hanna Gartner, says: The bishop cited the evidence of the University of Montreal’s psychologist that Franciscans are manipulating the youngsters. “Do you believe that the Virgin Mary is appearing at Medjugorje?”

Bishop Pavao Zanic says: “No, I don’t believe it. Men do make mistakes, but so far, from my investigations, I have come to the conclusion that She is not appearing.

Nick, may I disagree respectfully with your statement that “The Bishop was of the opinion the apparition is not Mary…

Let us consider the facts.

First, Mgr Zanic answers directly: No, I don’t believe it. That could be in the category of a “simple personal opinion” and you would be right, if he had stopped there.

But he continues: “Men do make mistakes, but so far, from my investigations, I have come to the conclusion that She is not appearing.

That belongs no more to the category of a “simple personal opinion”. His conclusion is based not only on his personal investigations but also on the deliberations of the experts of the second enlarged Commission who help him, “so far”, to have an enlightened and qualified “conclusion”.

Considering that the majority of the 15 experts chosen from different Yugoslavian dioceses (see the official list) have voted for the non constat de supernaturalitate eight months after that interview, one must admit that Mgr Zanic’s conclusion represents faithfully the “professional judgements” of experts and not a personal opinion based on an “inner disbelief that the children don't see the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Moreover, I would say that Fr. Kraljevic was not the most competent person to judge the “professionalism” of his Bishop on that particular case.


Louis Bélanger said...


When he gave that interview, he had already published The Apparitions Of Our Lady At Medjugorje (1984). Right at the beginning of his book, in his “Declaration of the author”, he wrote that “This book presents a truthful historical account of the extraordinary events that have occurred at and near Medjugorje, in Hercegovina, Yugoslavia during the years 1981-1983.

The facts reveal that his historical account of the seventh day, June 30th, 1981, and of the “last day of the apparitions”, July 3rd, 1981, has not been truthful.

While publishing (p. 35-39) some excerpts of the interview conducted by the parish priest on the evening of June 30th, he conceals the most important segments, as René Laurentin did, that would permit the readers to judge for themselves that all witnesses: the five attending visionaries (Ivan is absent), separately and in unison, the parish priest who conducts the interview, his two colleagues who intervene occasionally, the two ladies who accompany the youngsters, all of the ten persons have said or understood, without ambiguity, that the Lady of Medjugorje would only return for three more days, until Friday. (see my last editorial)

Moreover, Fr. Kraljevic conceals completely the historical account of what happened on the tenth and “last” day.

One of the precious qualities of a “professional” is his or her intellectual integrity. I dare say that Fr. Kraljevic was ill-advised to tell his Bishop what to do in his appreciation of the case of Medjugorje.


Louis Bélanger

Nick said...

Thanks Louis!

Your links don't work, but that was a good reply :)

Louis Bélanger said...


Apparently, there is a problem of communication berween and WordPress. Blogger does not "like" the html references to some files on my WordPress blog.

As Diane cannot edit my comments in blogger, I am sending the references between brackets that you may paste on your navigator.

1. Considering that the majority of the 15 experts chosen from different Yugoslavian dioceses (see the official list) = [] (This communiqué with the list of the Commission's members had been sent to me by Mgr Zanic.)

2. have voted [] for the non constat de supernaturalitate (that reference is from the diocesan web site of Mostar)

3. [...] all of the ten persons have said or understood, without ambiguity, that the Lady of Medjugorje would only return for three more days, until Friday. (see my last editorial)= []

4. Moreover, Fr. Kraljevic conceals completely the historical account of what happened on the tenth and “last” day. (page 67 from The Hidden Side of Medjugorje) = []

With my cordial greetings,