Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Some notes on recent Medjugorje news...

There are some items on the web and in news circles that have those with an interest in Medjugorje - one way or another - in discussion. I talk about three of them here.

Pope Francis to visit Bosnia

Pope Francis boards a flight to Manila
(AP Photo/Saurabh Das)
First, it was recently announced that the Holy Father would make a trip to Bosnia this June.  Whenever the Holy Father is mentioned in the same sentence as Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH), people automatically think: Medjugorje.  Yet, this tiny nation still suffers from the wounds of war and ethnic tensions.  I wonder: Will journalists around the world make that the center of their stories when he goes there, or will it play second fiddle to the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje? I can tell you, we need to know about the deep suffering taking place there, and what challenges face the bishops and priests of that nation.

I doubt the Pope is going there to tip his hand one way or another on Medjugorje.  Might he make known his final discernment in the matter before then?  Perhaps. The bishops of BiH are due for their ad limina visit this spring and it's hard to fathom it won't be discussed, at least privately.  I would imagine the bishops would like resolution so they could move forward rather than have Medjugorje as a continuing question mark that draws attention from other, very serious matters we know little about.

Aside from the ethnic issues in that region, the Holy See wants resolution of a schism-like situation taking place in the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno which began in the years prior to the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje.  In fact, there is a belief amongst critics and skeptics that the situation in Medjugorje has given very good cover to that problem.  It is hard for some to fathom how the Blessed Virgin Mary could be appearing to people in a diocese where sacrilege has taken place in the form of invalid Sacraments; where dozens of priests remain suspended; where a number of priests and brothers were removed from the Franciscan order, with some still presenting themselves as Franciscan pastors of parishes usurped - yet, astonishingly, the lady of Medjugorje says nothing about this in any of her daily messages.

Did Bishop Komarica say the Pope will recognize Medjugorje?

I've cautioned in the past, with examples, that news from Medjugorje websites needs to be validated very carefully.  This is especially true of the translations themselves. With a report showing up on Medjugorje Today suggesting a bishop tipped the Pope's hand toward's "recognition"and the mega-portal, Spirit Daily linking to it, I turned to Richard Chonak for translation of the German-language interview with Bishop Komarica (KOH-mar-eetza) of Banja Luka (BAH-nyah LOOH-kah).  That interview was in the German language Vatican Radio website and if you put that link into an auto-translator you will see many other things were discussed.  Richard isolated that part of the discussion focusing on Medjugorje and I use his rough translation here.

The interview with Vatican Radio was conducted in German (the audio is on the VR page). Q: "Was there never any discussion that the Pope might visit Medjugorje to form his own impression of it?"

Bp. Komarica: "Yes, actually, Medjugorje is a fact, since '91 [sic], and very many people went there from near and far. The Church has her preconditions, in regard to recognizing a place of pilgrimage. As for any visions there, we're leaving that to the Holy See, as is known. And it's necessary that the Church, the responsible Church officials continue to carefully accompany and evaluate the developments in Medjugorje. One should keep an eye on good fruits, and if there are also any negative fruits, one should isolate them so that one stops them. Thanks be to God, one doesn't hear so much about negative fruits. When Medjugorje is going to be recognized: we're leaving that to the Holy Father. It's his decision ... ["as far as I know"? difficult phone audio]."

Q: So there was never any discussion of a papal visit to Medjugorje?

Bp. Komarica: "As far as I know, no. If the decision might have been otherwise, certainly the Pope could have wanted to decide, and [pauses] the Pope decided as he decided, and he had corresponding reasons to do so, and I'm not able to comment much on that."

After reading that, notice the headline at Medjugorje Today. I would link to the article, but unless you pay the $19/month, you can't read any more than I am showing here (for comparison, a monthly subscription to the e-edition of the Miami Herald is just $6.95/month).  The websites this is taken from is shown at top.

While they quote things Bishop Komarica actually said, it's the way they are arranged, coupled with the headline, and omissions, that takes the reader beyond what was really said.  Aside from that, there are inconsistencies. First, he said it began in 1991 when it actually began in 1981.  Secondly, he acknowledges there are negative fruits, even if he himself is unaware of too many.  But, recognition of authenticity by the Church, or negation thereof, is not based on fruits, but on the events themselves using certain criteria provided by the Holy See years prior to Medjugorje.  Fruits of any kind are secondary to that.  The birth of a baby can never be a bad fruit, even if that baby is conceived in a sinful way.  The birth of the baby to a mother out of wedlock does not change the objectively grave matter involved with illicit sex outside of Sacramental marriage; or, in the case of rape, the assault against the mother.  In other words, illicit sex is discouraged on the basis that it is sinful, not on encouraged because of the goodness of a new life.  Likewise, the good taste and nutritional value of a mushroom does not tell us whether it has an objective poison that can have harmful, if not lethal, effects.  That is why events or facts surrounding the alleged apparitions are studied first, and fruits second.  Noting good fruits augments good facts, and bad fruits are not disregarded. In fact, it is not the good fruits in followers that are examined, but the fruits in the visionaries and their spiritual directors and others who might guide them that the Church examines.  Far down the list is when fruits in followers are considered.  The Holy See has the fullest list of good and bad fruits in the alleged visionaries of Medjugorje and to my knowledge, they have not shared their findings with anyone yet.

Nowhere does Bishop Komarica indicate the Holy Father will recognize the authenticity of the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje.  Even I have recognized in past writings that there have been real conversions among some who visit there.  But, where supporters would point to the appearance of the lady of Medjugorje, I point to the Sacraments and prayer - especially Adoration and the Rosary.  Many can be motivated to use Sacramental Confession when seeing big lines waiting for a multitude of priests.  I know because I was motivated to go frequently at Assumption Grotto where the sight of lines stirred my conscience and my will to be cleansed.  I also know that when I go to daily Mass, pray my Divine Office and Rosary, go to Adoration, and do regular spiritual reading, I get graces that help me to avoid sin and strength to practice virtue.

What often puzzles me is that if a diocesan bishop were to hold a public Rosary with Adoration on an ordinary Friday night, there would probably be sparse attendance.  But if the same bishop, in all the same circumstances, invited an alleged visionary like Ivan Dragicevic to come, there would be standing room only.  This is a serious, collective, spiritual impurity that would only come out for the sideshow of an apparition - real or not - and not to give of oneself in prayer with nothing in return.

Might the Holy Father recognize that people who visit Medjugorje for the Sacraments, and who take time to deepen their prayer life can see good fruits in their lives?  Sure.  Might he recognize the authenticity of alleged apparitions in Medjugorje? That's highly doubtful since some of the seers have ongoing visions.  The Holy See has not recognize alleged apparitions that are ongoing for the simple reason that if they say today, "nothing opposes it" and tomorrow a presumed visionary claims the Blessed Virgin declared herself the fourth person of the Trinity, that error would negate authenticity. It would hurt the credibility of the Church, as well.  On the other hand, if anything is signaling a lack of authenticity, then a negative decision can come down while the phenomena are ongoing.

Pope Francis did say in one of his daily homilettes:

Curiosity, the Pope continued, impels us to want to feel that the Lord is here or rather there, or leads us to say: “But I know a visionary, who receives letters from Our Lady, messages from Our Lady”. And the Pope commented: “But, look, Our Lady is the Mother of everyone! And she loves all of us. She is not a postmaster, sending messages every day.”

Ivan returns to the USA despite Apostolic Nuncio's admonition?

Word leaked out in 2013 that the CDF had twice admonished US bishops to cease giving alleged visionaries of Medjugorje a podium on Church property since this can lend credibility to the claims still being investigated by the Holy See.  Today, I see at Medjugorje Today, this news:

To be clear, the prohibition involves Church property - parishes, Cathedrals, shrines, etc.  Private groups can still host an alleged visionary of Medjugorje on private property, so the arranger is not "challenging" the Vatican on anything.  But, the group hosting it seem to be disrespectful of logic used by the Holy See.  EDIT: Something was brought to my attention last night. It had been a while since I carefully read that letter to to U.S. Bishops which came from the CDF through the Apostolic Nuncio.  After pointing out that the phenomena are being investigated yet by the Holy See, it reads:

It follows, therefore, that clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such "apparitions" would be taken for granted.   
In order, therefore, to avoid scandal and confusion, Archbishop Müller asks that the Bishops be informed of this matter as soon as possible.  
I have not seen any other letters made public at this level countering that.

So who is hosting this and where?  The Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich Foundation is hosting it at a center on the campus of a Presbyterian college in the greater St. Louis area.  I'm not sure why a foundation devoted to her writings would involve themselves in something which carries the risk of a negative decision.  But many are in denial of this possibility.  There is no risk in not hosting an alleged visionary if such a thing were later approved.  When the Holy See is investigating, people need to open themselves for all possibilities.  The fact that the CDF admonished US bishops for hosting visionaries should make any organization pause and follow the same logic. Why take a chance of involving their cause with potential scandal?  That is why the Church traditionally has never allowed alleged visionaries to do their thing or give their testimony on Church property.  It makes me wonder if the Archdiocese of St. Louis will discourage it's priests from attending.

While pilgrimages are prohibited on the basis of authenticity (1991 Zadar Declaration), people can make a private pilgrimage to St. James in Medjugorje for the sacraments, prayer, etc.  They may bring a priest with them.  But this which is happening at the BACE Foundation is not a group of people getting together for the sacraments and prayer, but taking part in a pilgrimage brought to them from Medjugorje, complete with the alleged apparition (also mentioned in that letter to U.S. Bishops). This thumbs it's nose at the 1991 Zadar Declaration, as well as the CDF, in light of the letter mentioned.

Just a side note: Notice how the Blessed Ann Catherine Emmerich Foundation has already stepped ahead of the Holy See in declaring that it is Our Lady who will appear to Ivan. And, as noted, it is at the Standard Apparition Time™ of 6:40 PM.  Not even Bernadette, who was proven to have seen the Blessed Mother later, would refer to her as Our Lady.  She called her, "the lady" and left discernment of who this lady was to the Church.

Also, as just pointed out to me, there is admission being charged of $7.  While this may be for the rental of the center, it's just unbecoming to have whom people believe is the Blessed Virgin Mary show up "on demand" with any kind of fee involved.


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