Monday, January 18, 2010

Medjugorje: Filial reverence, or lack thereof....

click image to enlarge

In my posts here and in comments in various comboxes on the subject of Medjugorje, I have often used the expression "filial reverence".   I have used this expression in reference to the manner in which the Medjugorje bishop is treated.  Filial reverence is often lacking within the movement in general. 

This means there is no respect for the bishop when he has done nothing wrong other than to oppose the authenticity of the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje with objective data - much of it from the contradictory writings of promoter-writers and the seers themselves (seeing an unfiltered transcript through diocesan records is rather eye-opening in contrast to the sanitized versions found in the books of authors promoting Medjugorje).  Being that it is in his diocese, and being that he is a bishop in good standing, he is owed a certain amount of respect or reverence as an apostolic successor.

Faithful Catholics would do well to at least study and ponder what he says and what he writes.  His objections are reasonable (except to profit-making promoters), and are in alignment with Church teaching. Even if he is later proven wrong on the many reasonable objections, the Blessed Mother would expect nothing less than filial reverence for him.  Lack of filial reverence, like lack of obedience, is a fruit.  in the end, the Church will not discount it the way the "movement" does.

I witness this lack of filial reverence in two forms (and at one time engaged in them myself):  1) Unwillingness to read anything the local bishop has to say, or indifference to his words, and 2) outward hostility towards anything he has to say, even when those words are backed with strong proofs.

Interior contempt for local authority
Interior contempt for the local bishop, sometimes visible exteriorly through conversations with others and in writings, is a manifestation of this lack of filial reverence. Many of us who now try to get people to read the diocesan documents, are experienced at having interior contempt for the Medjugorje bishop when we once supported the phenomena to varying degrees.  It causes spirital damage to the soul because love - caritas - for the Medjugorje bishop cannot co-exist with contempt - they are incompatible.  

I was once a persecutor of the local bishop until I saw the manipulation of data by authors I once respected like Fr. Laurentin, Fr. Rupcic and Fr. Bubalo.  The un-Franciscan activities now known to me, of certain Franciscans I once knew and respected, were also enlightening. These are well documented at the diocese and if anyone wants examples, I'll add the references in the combox later.

Case in point (of a lack of filial reverence) is seen in a condescending title given to us by Michael H. Brown, owner of the well-trafficked site, Spirit Daily.  He is an über-promoter of Medjugorje.  I'm actually pleased that he at least shared the link to the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno website containing a JPG of a conciliatory fax sent by Cardinal Schonborn on the same day as his private audience with Pope Benedict.  He didn't fax it from Vienna before or after he was in Rome.  He sent it from Rome on the day of the private audience.  Draw your own conclusions.

What is saddening in Michael H. Brown's presentation of the news, is found in the title:
"Cardinal writes note to 'miffed' bishop". 
Would the Blessed Virgin Mary be pleased with such a title leading to the bishop's website?  What is a "miffed bishop" anyway and why is he "miffed"?  Did he have a right to be "miffed"? Why not a title such as "Cardinal writes note to Medjugorje Bishop". Then again, it would not be as undignified as being labeled "miffed" - which is the point - to make the Medjugorje bishop come across as a buffoon, and further undermine his credibility and authority among readers.  I've called out Michael before for this and he promptly changed his headline, which was highly inaccurate (and it is why I always take a snapshot before posting!). 

A Case of Injustice
Bishop Peric was on the receiving end of a great deal of injustice at the hands of Cardinal Schonborn when he entered his "house" without asking if he could come in.  Cardinal Saraiva Martins recently offered his thoughts on this very subject:
"Far be it from me to think of judging the conduct of Cardinal Schönborn, but I, considering the morbid attention which is concentrated on Medjugorje, and as I always do every time I go out from Rome, would have spoken beforehand with Monsignor Peric: when we Cardinals enter into a Diocese, we are entering into the "house" of the Bishop of the place and we must have the good manners and good sense to announce ourselves."

Indeed. And Cardinal Schonborn has a number of problems in his own "house" (see here, here and here).  Hence, it is mind-boggling that he would meddle in the affairs of another bishop under the guise of a "private" pilgrimage (and ti was "meddling" because the Cardinal wouldn't have offered so many post-visit interviews cutting deeper into the wound he made).

No. The visit itself wasn't enough... first, some background

In his 2006 Confirmation homily, to which the Bishops of Tuscany were referred in 2007 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during their ad limina visit, the bishop re-iterated his call for silence out of the "seers" - a move that is not unique to Medjugorje, but common with any alleged private revelation not yet deemed worthy of belief.  Hence, his order is not out of the ordinary, nor is it unreasonable. 
Therefore I responsibly call upon those who claim themselves to be “seers”, as well as those persons behind the “messages”, to demonstrate ecclesiastical obedience and to cease with these public manifestations and messages in this parish. In this fashion they shall show their necessary adherence to the Church, by neither placing private “apparitions” nor private sayings before the official position of the Church.

Salt was poured into the wound with subsequent interviews given by Cardinal Schonborn which openly opposed the position of the local bishop on the subject of Medjugorje.  In this interview (German), he said:
"It is not the seers duty to convince; it is their duty to communicate ["duty"? Even after being silenced by the Medjugorje bishop? What about duty to obedience?]. Regardless of the future final judgment on these phenomena [huh?], one thing is evident: the messages are simply evangelical, they have common sense: prayer, peace, reconciliation with God and amongst us, and we always, always have to remember that there is no greater miracle than Eucharist itself; the coming of Jesus amongst us, in the poorest village, in the most beautiful cathedral, in St. Peter's dome in Rome.." [translation source]
So, it doesn't seem to matter to Cardinal Schonborn whether the alleged apparitions from which these "messages" come is worthy of belief, as long as those "messages" are of an "ok" banality and say the right things most of the time,. 

A "Message" Missed by Cardinal Schonborn:

On June 19, 1982, the Virgin stated:

"Tell the Father Bishop that I request his urgent conversion to the events of the Medjugorje parish before it is too late. Let him begin by informing himself about all the events with great understanding, love and responsibility. I desire that he place no disunion between priests and that he should not emphasize their negative sides. I ask for his conversion to these events. I am sending him the ultimate warning [!?!?!]. if he is not converted he will be corrected. My judgement, as well as that of my son, Jesus, will strike him. If he does not put into effect what I am giving him to know, please tell him that he has not found the path of my Son, Jesus."

I don't know what entity would say such a thing, but this particular "message" could not have come from a heavenly being.  Is this why the Medjugorje Movement has such a lack of filial reverence for the Bishops of Mostar ? I think "messages" of this nature are precisely the reason for the widespread irreverence for the Medjugorje bishop. Are we to believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary would coerce, by threat, one of her sons into believing that she is appearing in his diocese?  This is so grossly misaligned - in several ways - from Catholic teaching, that it should give any reasonable person pause about the whole affair.

I've long contended that some are using relativism and consquentialism in their defense of Medjugorje.  With these arguments, there is no concern about alignment with truth.  Unity subsists in truth and if there is a misalignment with truth, there will be dissent, disunity and division.  In other words, you can't have it both ways.  We see that division with Medjugorje at every level - in parishes, in dioceses (see comment at top without scrolling), in religious orders and secular orders, in apostolates, and in households.   At the heart of the division the "Medjugorje movement" sows contempt for the local bishop, or creates a dismissiveness towards him (and Cardinal Schonborn just joined the action).

Making profits from Cdl Schonborn's Visit
So "private" was the Cardinal's visit, that - a site which profits from Medjugorje in Austria and is a chief promoter of the alleged apparitions which have not yet been deemed worthy of belief, is marketing a number of videos from the whole affair.  Are the Medjugorje bishop's directives being respected with the production and sale of these videos? The Cardinal allowed himself to be photographed with one of the "seers" on "apparition hill".  Cardinal Schonborn in late 2009 (see this video) and in 2008 welcomed  "visionaries" into his Cathedral which was also exploited leading up to his trip to Medjugorje.  All of this, along with the address and homily he made are all being exploited to the "nth" degree, even after the fax.  A German site - has called out for their outrageous conspiracy theory on the story about the fax (I take issue with the stridency at Kreuz and use of derogatory expressions, as well as some other issues, but their argument on this is sound).  With it's ridiculous use of an unnamed Austrian "churchman", sows further the seeds of filial irreverence among it's readers for Bishop Peric (it's never enough to kick the embattled bishop just once).

More Fruits of Medjugorje
Cardinal Schonborn, by his actions in the last two years, was dismissive of Bishop Peric's authority and of the pastoral directives he laid out - pastoral authority which was authorized by the 1991 Zadar Declaration, and subsequent communications by the CDF.  This too, is a fruit.  The chasm widened as division between a bishop in his rightful place was escalated by another. The ultimate fruit of the Cardinal's visit was to deepen the divide among the faithful over Medjugorje.

Let me embolden some key words; comments bracketed in red:
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 [not the local bishop with the other bishops, but 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 [that which has not yet been deemed "worthy of belief" is not for promotion]. The Bishops [remember now, this is the local bishop, and the other bishops with him] will also provide special liturgical and pastoral directives corresponding to this aim [pastoral directives given above]. At the same time, they will continue to study all the events of Medjugorje through the commissions [yes, the study is ongoing and it is not in keeping with the mind of the Church that something is promoted by Catholics before it is deemed worthy of belief].

Reverence is, as the reverent do
People should at least be mindful of his directives.  They should also take the time, even if they don't think they will agree with the bishop, to read what he has to say and ask themselves if his objections are reasonable based on the information he is providing.  If you come to a different conclusion in the face of that material that's one thing, but at least give the bishop the courtesy of reading what he puts out. 

A final word from Cardinal Saraiva bears re-printing. He was asked about the subject of disobedience in the context of Medjugorje.  His reply:

"The Madonna could not, in any case at all, be anti-hierarchical and incite disobedience, even if the Bishop of Mostar were wrong. This is another element on which to reflect."
If Our Lady isn't anti-hierarchical - in this context, "against the bishop", then you have to wonder what the Blessed Virgin Mary must think about the contempt that is within the Medjugorje movement for the local Bishop.

One more piece well worth reading was put together by Marco Corvaglia.  The lack of filial reverence is readily visible in this example:  Medjugorje, the Communists, and the Bishop


- Medjugorje and the Battle for Souls
- Medjugorje: Analysis of Spirit Daily Article

  • Updated with sub-titles for easier reading;  paragraph added on and articles, with links on January 19, 2010 at 5:55am

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