Medjugorje and the upcoming judgement of the Church -A reason for concern?
By: Glenn Dallaire
(Before I begin this article I would like to emphatically state that I remain neutral in what concerns the alleged apparitions of Medjugorge. In seeking to obey the Church, while at the same time awaiting the definitive judgment by the Vatican, I do recognise and give assent to the local Bishops opposition to the apparitions, and I also give assent to the 1991 "Zadar" decision from the Commission formed by the Yugoslavian Bishops conference which concluded "non constat de supernaturalitate" [the supernaturality is not proven] .
I do feel very strongly that the local Bishops opposition must be respected, and that it, along with the Zadar decision represents the position of the Church for now, until the official judgement from Rome is promulgated. At the same time it must be understood that Medjugorje has never been officially condemned, and that thusfar the Church has left the faithful free to carefully discern and to come to one's own conclusions concerning the alleged heavenly events that are said to be occurring there. Additionally, it is not in the scope of this article to give an opinion either way as to whether the alleged supernatural events that are said to be occuring in Medjugorje are authentic or fake.
-If the Church sees the apparitions as being positive thus far:
Since the alleged apparitions are ongoing, most observers believe that the Pope will not issue an outright decision unless it is negative decision, however if it is decided that things are positive thus far, then it is expected that the Pope will release some additional "guidelines for the faithful" concerning Medjugorje pilgrimages, conferences etc.
A decision that will be wrought with great consequences
Having said this, there are some who strongly think there is a very serious concern looming with such a decision, regardless of whether it be in support of the supernatural nature of the apparitions and messages, or against them.
Ramifications of a positive decision in favor of the supernatural authenticity of the Medjugorje apparitions
Those who follow or have studied Medjugorje know that the the local Ordinary, that is, the local Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, both past and present, have for many years been against the apparitions, and have made many public explanations over the years concerning their opposition to the apparitions and the alleged heavenly messages.
Now, many have remarked that IF the Commission and/or the Pope concludes in favor of the supernatural authenticity of the alleged apparitions, such a decision would directly contradict the opinion of the local Bishop, and also his predecessor, both of whom over the years have continually publicly opposed the alleged apparitions and messages of the Gospa. To my knowledge, the Vatican has never come to a judgment concerning an apparition that has contradicted the opinion of the local Bishop. In fact, normally speaking it is the Ordinary alone, and not the Vatican (or even the Pope), who is the sole judge in matters of private revelation that is occurring within the jurisdiction of his diocese. However in very special cases such as Medjugorje, because of its worldwide significance and following, a regional Commission or even (as presently in this case) a Vatican Commission can be formed to judge the matter for the Church as a whole. So a favorable decision by Rome would contradict the opinion of the local Bishop in a matter that is normally rightfully his alone to judge, as a successor to the apostles.
And then there are the numerous legitimate issues---some call them “red flags”---concerning the apparitions and visionaries at Medjugorje that have been brought forth by not only the local Bishop, but also from various religious and lay persons who have studied and experienced the apparitions firsthand. One can go onto the local Bishops website for an extensive treatment of many of the concerns or red flags that have been raised. Apart from the Bishops opposition, one surprising example of a red flag would be the damaging 3 minute video of Vicka who is caught on camera by Professor Louis Belanger obviously feigning an ecstasy, and then trying to cover up afterwards with an explanation that is, quite honestly, simply fraudulant.
The accusation of "Apparitions on demand"
Another very questionable ongoing practice surrounding the events of Medjugorje that those who are opposed to Medjugorje often criticize is the so called "apparitions on demand" that (allegedly) occur during the many speaking conferences throughout the world that several of the visionaries have held over the years. Many times the apparition of the Gospa to the visionaries is announced before such events--Here are some very recent examples from three of the alleged seers:.
"Ivan will have an apparition on apparition hill at 22:00" (June 17, 2013)
Or again announcing a week beforehand that "Her [Vicka's] apparition will take place in Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation" (August 20, 2013)
"We find out a day beforehand when and where the apparitions will be" according to Ruth McDonald, one of the residents of the religious commuinity at Caritas of Birmington, Alabama who have hosted Marija on a number of occasions over recent years.(June 23, 2012).
And it was precisely at the site of Caritas of Birmingham that the main promoter allegedly one day declared "Someday Marija will have an apparition at this pine tree. I haven't figured it out yet how I'm going to do it, but I will..." -And so it came to pass....
These are just a few recent examples of such announcements. Understandably many religious and laity have serious reservations and concern in regards to such so called "apparitions on demand".
Ramifications of a proposed negative decision
I think that it is safe to say that the worldwide number of those who follow and support Medjugorje would have to be in the tens of millions, and over the past 30 years there have been many extraordinary and beautiful testimonies of conversion and renewal at Medjugorje. Without a doubt there has been very much good fruit over the years that has come forth from it. But in all truthfulness there nevertheless has been some unfavorable fruit also, most especially the disobedience to some of the directives of the local Bishop, which I will not delve into, because it is beyond the scope of this article.
However the fact remains that those who currently publicly promote the apparitions and messages of Medjugorje do so contrary to directives of the local Bishop, who has asked that the alleged messages of the Gospa not be promoted. In fact, to publicly support Medjugorje one would be openly contradicting the long held opposition and negative opinion of the local Bishop(s), both past and present. But what if the Vatican were to formally decide against the apparitions at Medjugorje---would the millions who currently follow Medjugorje obey the decision of the Church? And here is precisely where I think there is a enormous concern if the Church was to in fact come to a negative decision concerning the apparitions.
Is there a real possibility of a false "Marian” schism?
And here I must now interject my own personal experiences, which have nothing to do with current situation of Medjugorje, at this current moment. A number of years ago I was a member of a large Marian group that was led by a mystic. The movement was eventually first condemned by the local Bishop, and then later by Rome itself. I decided to obey the rightful judgment of the Church, who alone has the authority of Christ to judge such matters. The vast majority of the members however chose to remain in the movement, contrary to the negative judgment of the Church.
Condemned apparitions and disobedience to the Church
And this is not in the least bit an isolated case. We see this happening right at this moment in the USA and abroad with numerous followers of alleged visionaries and apparitions such as Maureen Sweeney-Kyle and the "Holy Love" apparitions, Gianna Talone-Sullivan and "Our Lady of Emmitsburg", Vassula Ryden and "True Life in God", Veronica Lueken at Bayside, NY., Julia Kim and "Our Lady of Naju", Christina Gallagher and the “Queen of Peace” –just to mention a few. All of these have received a negative judgments from the local Bishop, and several of these negative judgments have also been validated, that is, confirmed by the Vatican (which in fact is not necessary under most circumstances, as mentioned earlier).
The fact remains that even after the negative judgment from the local Ordinary and in some cases even with a validation from the Vatican, there are still a very large number of followers in the examples above who continue to support these condemned visionaries and apparitions, despite the Church's negative judgment. Sadly by doing so such persons setup Christ (and the Virgin Mary) against His Church.
And so the question is—what would happen if Medjugorje actually received a negative judgement from the Vatican? Would the majority of the millions of Catholics who are currenly following Medjugorje obey? Or would a negative decision on the part of Rome lead to a sort of false "Marian" apostasy or schism? No one knows what the upcoming decision of the Commission will be, but from the many recent examples above we can see that this is a reasonable and legitimate grave concern.
The example of St John Vianney, the holy 'Cure of Ars"
Within regards to cautious discernment concerning visionaries and apparitions, we can recall how the holy 'Cure of Ars' , St John Vianney, for eight years became very skeptical of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at La Salette prior to the Bishops approval. The apparitions had occurred not far from Ars, and there was an extraordinary amount of interest among the faithful. Because of his reputation for holiness, people would frequently visit him and ask his opinion. He would suddenly get very serious, yet remain silent. Himself a recepient of some extraordinary graces from God, he had met Maximin (one of the visionaries) in 1850, nevertheless he was very cautious and reserved. But he did at least on one occasion voice a certain opposition, which apparently stemmed from his meeting with Maximin, and this 'negative' opinion of the holy Cure spread across the newspapers in France.
While the local Bishop, and later Rome, eventually fully approved the appearences of the Virgin Mary at LaSalette, Saint John Vianney's reservation, I think, is a lesson in not accepting alleged apparitions too quickly; that one should always be prudent and cautious concerning them, until they are approved by the local Bishop (or in the special case of Medjugorje, the possible approval of Rome, in whose judgement we are all awaiting).
It remains for the Church alone to decide as to the authenticity of the alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Medjugorje. I pray that the Holy Spirit may guide the Church in this matter, and may all Catholics give assent to the judgement of the Church, whatever it may be. And may our Blessed Mother cover us under Her mantle, and lead us ever closer to Her beloved Son, Jesus.
-Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen. +
Click here for an article exploring private revelations and mystics & visionaries in the world today.
Additionally, those interested in getting a better understanding on discerning and judging visionaries and apparitions will benefit from this article on judging private revelations and obedience to the Catholic church.