The only sins that matter for our personal salvation is the sins we personally commit. The only penitence we are responsible for is our own personal penitence. The only apocalypse that we should have our eye on is our own, personal apocalypse.
The vast majority of phenomena at Medjugorje can not be said to be of supernatural origin, according to most votes cast this week by the official commission on Medjugorje.
The Commission, established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, was asked to evaluate separately the first seven apparitions, which allegedly occurred in the summer of 1981, and the tens of thousands of subsequent apparitions, which allegedly continue to this day. The commission includes five cardinals, two psychologists, four theologians, a Mariologist, anthropologist, a canonist, and an official of the Doctrine of the Faith. According to La Stampa, the commission
met 17 times and screened all documents filed in the Vatican, the parish of Medjugorje and the archives of the secret services of the former Yugoslavia. The commission heard all the seers and witnesses involved, and in April 2012, they carried out an inspection in the village of Herzegovina.
Most members of the commission voted that the first seven apparitions were supernatural in nature, and not a hoax or demonic [note that the quotations from La Stampa have been translated from Italian, which accounts for the somewhat clumsy language]:
Members and experts came out with 13 votes in favor of recognizing the supernatural nature of the first visions. A member voted against and an expert expressed a suspensive vote. The committee argues that the six young seers were psychically normal and were caught by surprise by the apparition, and that nothing of what they had seen was influenced by either the Franciscans of the parish or any other subjects. They showed resistance in telling what happened despite the police arrested them and death threating [sic] them. The commission also rejected the hypothesis of a demonic origin of the apparitions.
The commission was much more doubtful about the supernatural origin of subsequent apparitions, though. Regarding the circumstances and nature of the subsequent apparitions themselves,
the commission took note of the heavy interference caused by the conflict between the bishop and the Franciscans of the parish, as well as the fact that the apparitions, pre-announced and programmed individually for each seer continued with repetitive messages. These visions continued despite the youngsters had said they would end, however that actually has never happened. There is then the issue of the “secrets” of the somewhat apocalyptic flavor that the seers claim to have been revealed from the apparition.
Based on the “behavior of the seers,” the commission reports
eight members and four experts believe that an opinion cannot be expressed, while two other members have voted against the supernatural nature of the phenomenon.
Regarding the much-touted “spiritual fruits” of the phenomena, “but leaving aside the behaviors of the seers,” La Stampa reports
3 members and 3 experts say there are positive outcomes, 4 members and 3 experts say they are mixed, with a majority of positive, effects and the remaining 3 experts claim there are mixed positive and negative effects.
Thirteen of the fourteen commission members have voted to put Medjugorje directly under the authority of the Vatican. The establishment of an authority that answers to the Vatican “would not imply the recognition of the supernatural nature of the apparitions,” but would aid the Church in overseeing the pastoral care of the millions of pilgrims who visit the region every year.
These pastoral developments would also provide “clarity on economic issues.” Commerce related to Medjugorje has become a global industry, producing steady income for some of the alleged visionaries.
On his way home from Fatima, Pope Francis told reporters Saturday that he had “worse” than doubts about the authenticity of the phenomena at Medjugorje. The Pope said:
The report has its doubts, but personally, I am a little worse. I prefer Our Lady as mother, our mother, and not Our Lady as head of the post office who sends a message at a stated time.
This isn’t Jesus’ mother. And these alleged apparitions don’t have much value. I say this as a personal opinion, but it is clear. Who thinks that Our Lady says, ‘Come, because tomorrow at this time I will give a message to that seer?’ No!
For an extensive explanation of the many concerns and alarms surrounding the alleged apparitions, see my essay in The Catholic Weekly, The Lady of Medjugorje Is Not Your Mother.
NOTE: This post was edited at 10:55 AM eastern on 5/17/17. The first sentence originally read: “The vast majority of phenomena at Medjugorje are not of supernatural origin, according to most votes cast this week by the official commission on Medjugorje.” I do not believe this statement is inaccurate, but the edited version is more clear.
In the Gospels, she says, “Do whatever He tells you.” In Medjugorje, she snickers and says, “You do you.”
Forty-seven thousand times.
So the Italian media was wrong! Dun dun dunnnnn. I said I would acknowledge it if yesterday’s report turned out not to be true, so here I is. According to an interview in the Register with Father Ciro Benedettini in the Vatican Press Office
The Vatican said Friday that contrary to reports in Italian media, no decision has been made regarding certain doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje.
The CDF is slated review a report made after three years of investigation of the alleged apparitions, but they have not reviewed it or made a statement about it yet. According to the Register:
Vatican Insider reported Friday that the CDF did hold a feria quarta meeting but that took place on June 17, and the issue of Medjugorje was not discussed.
So, we’re still in a holding pattern. I’m content to wait weeks, months, or years until the CDF and Pope Francis speak definitively. While the alleged apparitions are ongoing (as they have been for over thirty years), the Holy See will not say, “Yes, this is a true apparition” — because what if they gave it the green light, and then Mary suddenly started saying “Everybody wear your underwear on the outside and go kill the Pope”? That’s-a no good.
But while the alleged apparitions are ongoing, they may certainly say, “There is no supernatural activity here, so you may not behave as if there is.” This is what I expect them to say.
In the meantime, Jimmy Akin assembles some facts, including several comments by Pope Francis indicating that he is skeptical at best about the validity of apparitions in Medjugorje.
And Howard Kainz, back in 2012, wrote a crushing summary of the various bizarre and disconcerting details that have surrounded Medjugorje since the beginning. A thorough and enlightening read.
It couldn’t hurt to say this one more time:
Have there been good fruits from Medjugorje? Absolutely. Absolutely. People have had profound and sincere spiritual experiences, including messages of consolation, miraculous healing, and conversion. If the Pope comes out on his balcony wearing a “Medjawhoosis stinks!” t-shirt tomorrow, none of that will change. Good fruits are good fruits, and nobody’s trying to take that away (even while pointing out the myriad bad fruits that also have grown).
But good fruits can come from . . . anywhere. The Holy Spirit is ready, willing, able, and ridiculously eager to come to us when we do things like go to confession, pray the rosary, receive communion, go to adoration, and open our hearts sincerely to God. That’s just what the Holy Spirit is like: not picky! My parents used to go to the Community Bible Chapel, where many of the holy people there spoke in tongues and even prophesied, because they loved the Lord and gave their lives to Him. Does this mean it was the one true Church? Nope. Once they realized the fullness of truth was elsewhere, they left, and sheltered themselves in the arms of the Catholic Church and her magisterium.
So, wait and see. And once again: pray for everyone who will be wounded and confused when the Holy See speaks. It’s not something I look forward to with glee; but I do anticipate it the way you anticipate a doctor lancing an infected wound. You know it’s going to hurt, but it has to happen eventually.
Catholic World News says (emphasis mine):
According to several Italian journalists—notably Vatican-watch Gianluca Barile—the CDF agreed with [a special papal] commission’s finding that there is no evidence of supernatural activity at Medjugorje.
The only direct news reports about the CDF’s findings I can find so far are in Italian, so we will have to wait for more details. So far, nothing I’ve read surprises me.
If these initial reports are true, the next step is for Pope Francis to give the final word. He has given no indication that he sees the devotion to the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje in a favorable light, and has given many hints that he is suspicious at best.
I’ve written about the many red flags warning faithful Catholics away from behaving as if there are ongoing apparitions of Mary in Medjugorje — the reddest flag being the widespread disobedience to legitimate authority that so many Catholics display.
The CDF, according to the Italian media reports, has essentially supported the judgment rendered in 1991 by the bishops of what was then Yugoslavia. The CDF will reportedly recommend that pastors should not sponsor or support events that presume the reality of the visions claimed by the Medjugorje “seers.”
However, the CDF will reportedly urge recognition of Medjugorje as a special “place of prayer,” in light of the numerous reports of intense spiritual experiences enjoyed by visitors there. Pilgrimages to Medjugorje will not be forbidden, provided that they do not center on the alleged apparitions.
Sounds reasonable to me. It’s easy to become frustrated with the Church’s slow response to this and other matters. Why not just swat it down, we wonder? And the answer is that, like any good mother, the Church never wants to shut any of her children out in the cold. A bruised reed she will not break, and a smoldering wick she will not quench.
As I’ve said many times, I fully believe that hundreds or thousands of Catholics have had genuine spiritual experiences at Medjugorje. I’ve said many times that this “good fruit” is no proof that Mary is appearing to Ivan & co. every day on schedule like a performing puppet. Instead, it’s proof that God loves us and wants to be with us, and is willing to meet us where we are.
So, we’ll see where we are with Medjugorje. I hope and pray that there will be no division or defection from the Church when (okay, fine, if) Pope Francis agrees that there is no supernatural activity there. Catholics who are extremely devoted to “Our Lady of Medjugorje” would do well to prepare themselves to obey the Pope, no matter what he says.
I would say that Mary, my mother in heaven who knows me and loves me, would not be happy to see her children duped into following around a sock puppet that looks like her, even if it makes them say the rosary and go to Mass more often. I would say that, as the eternal queen of Heaven and earth, Mary can work to convert the hearts of sinners without the help of a tour guide agency. I would say that no one should dare muscle past my Holy Mother and say, “Looks like you need some help with these pesky kids, little lady. You sit back, and I’ll put on a really convincing show, and we’ll have them peaceful and docile in no time!” I would say that no one must dare to lie to Mary’s children, especially in her name. There are some things you don’t mess around with.
Spirit Daily has posted the following letter:
I was seeing confusion and varying interpretations about what this letter actually signifies or implies. Scott P.Richert of About.com’s Catholicism page gave me this background explanation:
[A] bishop (singular) initially thought that there was something to the apparitions, but as he investigated it more deeply, he came to see otherwise. Since then, the bishops with the authority to investigate and determine the validity of the apparitions have all said, as the letter itself states, that “On the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.” As a consequence, those bishops have forbidden pilgrimages, etc., to the site of the alleged apparitions.
Yes, the letter is a specific warning addressed to the bishops of the United States. But the substance of the warning is that clerics and faithful should not participate in these events in the United States for the same reason that they should not participate in them in Medjugorje.
Scott has written this article to clarify what the bishops have said in the past, and how the process of evaluating a purported vision actually proceeds: An Exorcist Looks at Medjugorje.