Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Medjugorje and Situational Collegiality Among Bishops

In light of the scheduled, televised, and highly advertised "apparition" with Medjugorje visionaries taking place in the Vienna Cathedral Cathedral tomorrow (Nov 17), I thought I would just raise a few questions and offer some thoughts.  It's all happening with the explicit approval of Cardinal Schonborn, who will be participating to some extent.  So, I ask, is this yet another slap from Vienna for the Bishop of Mostar, and his brother bishops in Bosnia & Herzegovina, as well as Croatia, who do not permit the Medjugorje visionaries to have "apparitions" on church property?

Just to clarify: I commonly put the word, apparition, in quotes when discussing Medjugorje because at this point, they are merely alleged apparitions.

Setting aside any question of authenticity of Medjugorje, which is currently in the care of Cardinal Ruini and his commission, I would like to focus on a peripheral issue: Church hierarchy hosting, in their parishes and cathedrals, visionaries of apparitions not yet deemed worthy of belief at any level of the Church.

Repeating a point I made in my opener: There is not a diocese you can go to in the whole of Bosnia & Herzegovina, or anywhere in the former Yugoslavia, and observe the visionaries of Medjugorje having "apparitions" on Church property. Yet, you can go to Vienna, Chicago, Boston, and a number of other cities throughout the world where cardinals and bishops are bringing, or permitting, public manifestations of unapproved "apparitions" to take place in parishes and the diocesan cathedrals. While sometimes noting that the phenomena of Medjugorje are still be examined, websites for parishes and cathedrals hosting these events feature advertisements referring to the lady of Medjugorje as the Blessed Virgin Mary.   Diocesan staff, including vocations directors are actively participating, offering their own testimonies on church property, lending further credibility to the unapproved apparition. 

The event being publicized for November 17th at the cathedral in Vienna features the following (emphasis mine in bold):

4:00 PM Vienna (10:00 AM USA-EST): Testimonies, including Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder of MARY's MEALS
5:00 PM Vienna (11:00 AM USA-EST): Ivan's Testimony6:00 PM Vienna (12:00 PM USA-EST): Rosary
6:40 PM Vienna (12:40 PM USA-EST): Apparition
7:00 PM Vienna (1:00 PM USA-EST): Holy Mass - Presider and Homilist, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn
8:00 PM Vienna (2:00 PM USA-EST): Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
9:00 PM Vienna (3:00 PM USA-EST): Adoration ends

The Archdiocese of Vienna website has the above on it's official website, but omits 6:40 pm SAT (Standard Apparition Time).  The testimony of Ivan is publicized.

There are some other oddities with this event. For example, from Medjugorje Today in an article entitled: "Mary will bless apparition viewers online"

“Ivan told us that those connected through the internet are prayed over by Our Lady the same as those kneeling right next to him during the apparition. And the religious items they have with them that they would like Our Lady to bless are blessed the same as the religious items placed right in front of her during the apparition” MaryTV President Denis Nolan recalls

I'm so dumb-founded that such things are taking place in a diocesan cathedral, especially ahead of the question of authenticity being answered, I got off track.....

What does this say about collegiality when a bishops permit visionaries from another diocese to do things they are not permitted to do in their home diocese, and what are it's fruits?   What message does it convey to the faithful, if not to create confusion and pit one bishop against another, if only in their hearts?  What feelings does it cause towards the local ordinary, if not contempt and disdain because he does not permit these things?  He, and the other bishops of the region are following the 1991 Zadar Declaration, which remains in effect until a new pronouncement is made.  In part, it states (emphasis mine in bold; added emphasis underlined):

Yet the gathering of the faithful from various parts of the world to Medjugorje, inspired by reasons of faith or other motives, require the pastoral attention and care, first of all, of the local Bishop and then of the other bishops with him, so that in Medjugorje and all connected with it, a healthy devotion towards the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the teachings of the Church may be promoted. The Bishops will also provide special liturgical and pastoral directives corresponding to this aim. At the same time, they will continue to study all the events of Medjugorje through the commissions.

Let me re-quote: ".... and then of the other bishops with him,"

Are the other bishops with him when they let these visionaries have apparitions in their cathedrals and give their testimonies on church property?

Even if a bishop disagrees with Bishop Peric of Mostar - and his predecessor, Bishop Zanic - there is a certain level of episcopal etiquette that has caused bishops throughout the history of the Church to not lend credibility to any phenomena from another diocese where it does not enjoy, at the least, the lowest level of approval.  Medjugorje has never been given ecclesial approval at any level.

How can I possibly reconcile the thought that the Blessed Virgin Mary would cooperate with other bishops in the world by appearing to visionaries in their cathedrals when those visionaries are not permitted to do so by their own bishops in the diocese or country of origin?   In fact, that this behavior takes place at all flies in the face of authenticity.  Pardon me for mentioning that when I said I would set it aside, but it is a very difficult thing to grasp. I regret if my words sound redundant in this post, but I'm trying to drive a point home: Disagreement between bishops doesn't belong in the public domain, in words or in deed. 

It is understandable that a bishop is overjoyed to see hundreds or thousands pack a parish or cathedral for an evening of spiritual devotion.  But, this raises another question for those permitting this:  Do the people come truly for the devotions, or do they come to see the side show - the advertised "apparitions"?  Here is a simple test:  Schedule an evening with all of the same things - the Mass, the Rosary, the Adoration - and get the head of the diocese to lead it, and offer his personal testimony about the faith.   Give it the same level of advertisement.  Would they come by the thousands, or would just a handful show up?  Would Mary TV stream it live to the world on the internet; or, is that just for pre-announced, unapproved "apparitions"?

Something is terribly wrong with the approach to bringing back devotion or increasing vocations when an unapproved apparition is used as a crutch to do so.  That is what makes it situation dependent.  A bishop believes Medjugorje is bringing vocations and devotion to his local Church, so he proceeds as if it is already approved, doing what historically was only done to signal approval!  That's right... for visionaries to be allowed on Church property to promote their private revelations and apparitions by the responsible authorities is seen as a sign of approval.  The highest sign of approval is when it involves the Holy Father, such as when Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI visited Fatima.

When the Holy Father answers the question of Medjugorje, I hope it comes with a number of guidelines, including notes for how bishops should treat phenomena originating from other dioceses before approval.  Prior to Medjugorje it seemed like reason prevailed and such things were not necessary.  Now, some bishops, carried away by the wave of enthusiasm, seem to set aside reason and generations of tradition. This is what makes collegiality situational or, or perhaps relativistic (I'm ok; you're ok).  Why wait for the Church when you can do your own thing, regardless of how bishops in the diocese and country of origin treat the matter.  They don't give visionaries of the unapproved apparitions of Medjugorje a platform, but bishops in other parts of the world do give them a platform.  Go figure.

It's just disappointing to observe all the way around: The lack of respect for brother bishops; and, the potential to lead people into deeper belief in a phenomena that has no guarantee of ever being approved, and could still be condemned as not supernatural.


Catholic Culture news service now has an article up on this: Cardinal Sch├Ânborn again hosts Medjugorje 'seers' in Vienna cathedral

Father Z discusses this news and his combox is always quite lively.

In a related matter, Kevin Symonds looks at Vicka, Public Ministry & Profane Novelty of Words

Sidenote: I have some other "Medjugorje" items on my plate to clear, but they will have to wait for another day. This post, and comments moderated will be limited in scope to what is discussed here.

For interesting news items I don't have time to blog on, check out my Twitter Feed: @TeDeumBlog

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Veronica said...

The whole bogus apparition is a disgrace and a scandal and should have been scotched twenty-five years ago.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall that PBXVI had a conversation w/Cardinal Schonbon after his last foray into the "mysticisim" of Medjugorje. Wonder what transpired - except that right around that time a committee was established to investigate the situation. This Cardinal seems to believe he has superior powers not even given to the Holy See.

Veronica said...

Maybe the "Gospa" told him to. She has done that before, encouraging disobedience to higher authority.

Anonymous said...

I am dumbfounded by you critics of Medjujorie. Two POPES, JPII and Benedict repeatedly have praised and supported what the Blessed Mother is doing there. The fruit is enormous, over 30 million visitors, thousands of vocations, untold number of conversions and healings have occurred. Have you even been there? Have you attended the Euhartisic Adoration there with usually 10,000 people present? There are many bishops who support gay marriage, womens ordination even abortion, even caught commtting sex abuse or covering it up.. ARe we supposed to listen to them as well? Not all bishops teaching authority can be trusted. The Holy Father set up this present commission because of the prejudice of the local bishop. The Cardinal of Medjuorie diocese supports it 100%. I think two Popes and one Cardinal involved intimately with the situation trump a local bishop. Checkmate!
YOu will know them by there fruit Jesus told us. I guess it just doesn't fit you paradiym of how God works.

Veronica said...

Lies. Disobedience. Undermining of Church authority.

Some fruits.

Greg said...

It amazes me when Medjugorje proponents purportedly semi-quote either Blessed John Paul II or Benedict XVI on their endorsement of the alleged apparitions, yet there are no authenticated quotes that can be validated. The latest one is attributed to the late Sr. Lucia of Fatima, and even 'revealing' that Our Lady of Medjugorje had even appeared to her! Methinks something smells fishy in the state of Denmark...

Anonymous said...

Perhaps those conversions needed a pilgrimage, a heaven sent message, or a soul disturbing event of some sort. Has anyone recorded stories of people who had a "bad trip?" Years ago I spoke with a nun about my wish to go to Arizona to experience a "supernatural" occurrence. She listened patiently then replied, " Why go to Arizona to see ordinary people when you can go into any church and be with Jesus in person in the tabernacle?
Since that conversation, I know I don't need such things in my life, but others might.

Jim Hamel said...

There is no doubt that Holy Mother Church will have the last word on these alleged apparitions.
Until she does, the faithful, including Bishops etc. are free to act as they see fit.
There are no explicit condemnations forbidding the visionnaries from discussing their belifs outside the confines of the Dioceese that places restrictions on them.
In the meantime I do believe that many people have benefitted from the belief and I have not read of one instance where it drove people from Holy Mother Church.
Be patient and let the chips fall where they may.

Elizabeth said...

Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI did not endorse the Medjugorje phenomenon. Benedict has been cautious. If you read his excellent theological commentary of the Third Secret of Fatima (prepared by request of JPII) you can understand why he would have profound reservations about Medjugorje. The way the Church judges the authenticity of these things, Medj simply does not add up.

The commission currently studying Medjugorje was not created because there was some kind of problem with the local bishop--who has the primary jurisdiction to make a decision on the matter. Rather, the local bishop together with all the bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina (who all seem to be pretty skeptical of Medj) requested it, and because the phenomenon is worldwide now and the "seers" now globetrot having "apparitions" at special events in various places, neither devotion to it nor occurrence of it is confined to the diocese now. It was clearly time for the Holy See (the Pope Himself even) to take this on and give an authoritative answer.

Schonborn is terribly wrong in what he is doing. He's wrong even if it's for real.

Anonymous said...

I did not know that there was going to be a special apparition in Vienna and that Cardinal Shonborn was the host.

I can't believe how can Catholics buy the idea of this supposed blessing over the internet! It's a scandal! God does not need the WWW to send graces or blessings.

Please people open your eyes and ears and be sober (not dreaming, not drunk with consolations, not under a spiritual avarice, not under a dilusion of signs and wonders) so that you are wide awake for the day of the Lord!

Millions of people can convert and be merry, enjoy the momentum while it lasts, because if the ultimate goal is to undermine the authority of the Church and its shepherds, those millions of people will be scattered all over as sheep without a shepherd. It will not matter in the first place if they converted or not in the end the big fish is what the target is and the big fish is the Catholic Church, the keeper of the faith and Truth, the Body of Christ, who is Its Head. Strike the shepherds and the sheep will scatter!


Anonymous said...

I have never had any confidence in the "seers". Not one vocation from the group, but lots of attention for all. Wish the farce would go away..

Nick Childers said...

Why Medjugorje, of all the apparitions to feature at a Cathedral? Why not another unapproved revelation? Or is there a history at the Cathedral?

Anonymous said...

"The blessing of people and items by an apparition over the internet is a farce so ridiculous it cannot be compared. To pervert the Most Holy Blessed Virgin Mary in such a way is a crime most foul. Any person with an ounce of little grey cells would easily dismiss this as the, how do you say, rotten worms in the can." These are the words I would imagine my favorite Catholic, Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, would say regarding this whole absurd affair!


TNP said...

Oh, Diane, you write so well! You articulate all the concerns and all the details of this mess exactly as I've experienced inside myself perfectly. I must say, however, that one of the personal fruits of this is that I've learned to bear it all quietly and offer up my personal anguish when those close to me continue to introduce Medjugorje into conversation. It's made me stronger in my faith and intensified my prayer life, not just in praying for souls afflicted with apparition fever, but in thanksgiving for God working through Holy Mother Church and people like you. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Those Apostoles were so rebellious eating those grains of wheat on the Sabbath. What a scandal. And that Jesus healing that poor cripple and the Sabbath! What disobedience to the Law and the Prohpents.

Timothy said...

Everyone needs to take a collective breath. Everyone is passionate for the truth of Christ. While it is important to share our views and opinions, we must remember that when it comes to this issue, it is only personal opinions at this point. No one can speak for the Church on this matter except for the Vatican. Some personally detest the Medjugorje issue. Some detest those that rail against Medjugorje. The negative components clearly show through in the words. I would admonish all to do an honest examination of conscience and if there is anything lacking in love, you must seriously question the source of of your motives. God bless you all!

OCDS Novice said...

Diane, Thanks so much for covering this. Even though since being a little girl I have loved this aspect of our Faith -- the appearances of our Blessed Mother at Lourdes, Fatima, to St. Therese, etc. -- I have never felt comfortable with "Our Lady of Medjugorie" but I didn't have any data to back up that discomfort, aside from the fact that these occurrences did not seem to follow the pattern of any previous ones. In the past,it seemed that whenever a visionary was known to be one before his or her death, that visionary was either in religious life already or was poor like Blessed Anna Maria Taigi; there was no personal gain from the encounter. Now, thanks to your work, I know more background and can articulate my visceral discomfort with some facts, such as the children's stories changing at the outset and that bizarre incident of one of the seers trying to "catch" the Baby Jesus during a "vision" when she thought He was going to be dropped. Also, I, too, have found the continual messages being banal, and for that reason alone I have to say I hope they are not approved. I have had a friend go over who, while seeing two suns and those turn pink no less, has come back disquieted and with a longstanding relationship wounded. Furthermore, I know of a solid Franciscan who has been to most Marian shrines around the world who says he has not felt compelled to go to Medjugorie and I think is just waiting to see the final judgment of the Church. How blessed we are to have the Magesterium!If they approve these events, I promptly retract my statement that the messages are banal and apologize to the Blessed Mother.

Brad said...

"Mary will bless apparition viewers online...Ivan told us that those connected through the internet are prayed over by Our Lady the same as those kneeling right next to him during the apparition. And the religious items they have with them that they would like Our Lady to bless are blessed the same as the religious items placed right in front of her during the apparition”

The Immaculate Conception, while being Queen of Heaven and Earth, would not bless anyone or anything. Her humility and self-knowledge that she is a creature prevents her from attempting to usurp power that is wielded by the Holy Trinity alone (she is not ordained and never in persona Christi, lest we ponder her role vs a humble priest). It is just this wise restraint, humility and self-knowledge that proves the beauty of the Theotokos and the fact that God's favor is utterly deserved.

Her intercessory prayers are par excellence, but she does not bless. She has no need to. Her Father, Son and Spouse will joyfully do what she asks of them. She says, "May God bless you", but those four words are a world away from "I Bless you".

Howard said...

Over 35,000 apparitions to these seers! It seems Our Lady is undergoing a personality change.

Veronica said...

Diane, I am not registered on Fr. Z's blog so I cannot ask you there, but that link you provided for Ivan's schedule...I followed it. Is that a picture of Ivan? If so, what happened to him? He looks like nothing that I remember!!

Can you tell how long it has been since I have kept up on this nonsense?

Stephen said...

Thanks for your insight. Ivan is a hoax. He slanders Our Blessed Mother on cue.

Anonymous said...

Veronica said...
Lies. Disobedience. Undermining of Church authority.

Some fruits.

Thu Nov 17, 03:31:00 PM 2011

Unfortunately you are not stating the current condition of what the Church permits. Since you are actively attempting to discourage the faithful from abiding by what the Church permits and trying to teach otherwise without authority, you are the one who is being disobedient. I haven't seen ANY reprimand of the good Cardinal whatsoever to cause hesitation or discouragement after his same former concelebration which now involves 78 good and holy priests.

I should think you ought to take your "tisk tisking" to the proper authorities and get on with the lawful condemnation of all those involved as you see fit...or else you would be neglecting your own ethical guidance...and then we'll all witness the great hammer that you all have convinced us as obviously being ready to stike. I mean, it's only any day now, no? I'm frightened....I mean it's only been now 30 years!!!!

Anonymous said...

As stated GKC, "To the humble man, and to the humble man alone, the sun is really a sun; to the humble man, and to the humble man alone, the sea is really a sea". I could only add: to the humble man, and to the humble man alone, good fruit grow out of good tree.

Seraphina said...

My friend has gone there, and she affirms that there was a scent of Roses walking among them, she witnessed the miracle of the sun, and on one of the disbelieving people's pictures, we can see the Virgin Mary (although the picture was of smthg else...) so I don't know what to think of it!

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

My regrets that several comments were still caught up in moderation after I thought I had published them. Sometimes, when publishing from my iPhone, they appear to publish, then I find them still in moderation when I go into blogger.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...


You really should study up on the subject of discernment of spirits.

Here is an excellent piece, which does not speak about Medjugorje and is more general. Fr. Most uses the teachings of the Church and looks closely at how the saints have responded.

As Scripture says, even Satan can come as an angel of light. Satan can bring about all kinds of phenomena and I'm not saying Medjugorje involves Satan. Just because you experience a phenomena does not mean it is of God. It can have other sources. That is why the Church always tests spirits.

Anne said...

I personally no longer believe in the authenticity of Medjugorje and have been there three times. I think it is always better to stay close to our Church and listen to what it says and carefully. Always be obedient to the Bishops also no matter how difficult that may be. This is a sure test for any visionary. There is alot of confusion about the obedience of visionaries here towards their Priests and Bishops. It would be great to get that fully clarified. We have our Church, we have the presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, the Sacraments, Scripture, the lives of the many treasures in our faith. I have grave doubts about Medjugorje because it creates an unhealthy spirituality that is dependent on 'experience' rather than on faith which we must question...