Saturday, December 29, 2012

Večernji list, Medjugorje, and Pope Benedict XVI - a Co-Worker of Truth

Church in medjugorje

I try not to comment on Medjugorje unless there is something else out there causing a stir.  When a British tabloid apparently used osmosis to get into the Holy Father's head on Medjugorje (proclaiming boldly that a full blown approval is in the works), it was hard not to comment late last night.

It's interesting that the moment a skeptic ponders something publicly, they are reprimanded by followers who say they are suppose to, "wait-and-see" and let the Commission finish it's work.  Yet, it is the Medjugorje movement that is unwilling to cease it's endless promotion, sometimes building hope in followers that, to my mind, is cruel, given that a negative judgment is among the possibilities.

I would like to address some other things that came floating out in English language sites on Medjugorje. The source of those reports is the Croatian daily, Večernji list, which says the following (and I give you this crude google translation, which made a mess of the translation after the "nor will...")

Our source dismissed claims by some foreign media have reported that the upcoming Vatican statement acknowledged supernatural happenings in Medjugorje, nor will, in turn expects Some representatives, fully crossed 31-year old phenomenon.
Here is the original Croatian (see Google translate here)

Naš je izvor odbacio navode nekih stranih medija koji su objavili da će kroz predstojeću izjavu Sveta Stolica priznati nadnaravna događanja u Međugorju, niti će, kako pak očekuje dio predstavnika, potpuno prekrižiti 31-godišnji fenomen

With what little Croatian I can remember, it looks to me like it is basically saying the 31 year old phenomenon will not be fully crossed-out, either. In other words, it appears Večernji list is suggesting a sort of compromise is forthcoming.

The same Croatian paper also said that Bishop Peric, and Fr. Jozo Zovko were both interviewed/examined by the Commission. And, their source is claiming the commission is needing about another 6 months.

As a general rule, I don't always trust sources who openly promote the phenomenon and often treat the local bishop in a condescending way. Sometimes it's subtle.  See a very blatant example of an untruth found on what is considered the official website of the Medjugorje phenomenon to understand how far some will stretch the truth.  Authentic apparitions have no need of such nonsense to get approved.

I believe authentic apparitions prompt respect for ecclesial authority even when they are in error.  With most approved apparitions, we see visionaries seriously challenged by local Church authority, but never do we see the Blessed Virgin Mary prompt the kind of disdain for a bishop in followers as we have seen with Medjugorje. With what you read on some sites, you would think the bishop is an enemy of the Church!

Speculation alert

Let us ponder for a moment that the report from Večernji list is accurate and that our understanding is they are suggesting some sort of compromise is forthcoming.

The Pope can't sort of..., kind of..., pronounce a clear message on the question of Medjugorje (the Nuncio's words in March 2010).  I think the Holy Father will do exactly what Archbishop Alessandro D'Errico said back then and, on the question of Medjugorje, pronounce a clear message.

But, what is "the question" on which the Holy Father will pronounce a clear message?

I think the biggest question on the mind of most Catholics is (A)  is there sufficient evidence to affirm that nothing supernatural is happening with regards to the visions themselves?  Or,  (B) is there sufficient evidence to suggest the alleged apparitions may some day be approved as authentic (private revelations would not be approved if they are ongoing as it could harm the credibility of the Church if, after approval, clear evidence emerges to the contrary).

You can't compromise on those two things, folks.  Some suggest there is, (C) which is to say that the Pope could maintain status quo in the context that everybody keeps doing what they are doing from the visionaries to devotees, with some clarifications issued (pro-Medjugorje sources believe the Pope will clamp down on skeptics and critics;  and critics and skeptics believe the Pope will clamp down on the activities of the visionaries, devotees and others enabling them).  The only problem I have digesting (C) is that there would have been no need for a commission and, to my mind, it is a solution which contradicts the Nuncio's words in 2010.  In other words, how do you pronounce a clear message on the question of Medjugorje leaving things as they are?

I have other reasons for not entertaining (C) so much myself.

Pope Benedict XVI is a co-worker of truth

The Holy Father is a man who has fought tooth and nail against relativism - where everyone gets to choose their own convenient "truth."  Either there is something happening with these visionaries that is worthy of belief, or worthy of a "wait and see," or not worthy of belief at all.

His Holiness has also fought against consequentialism where the ends justifies the means (such as engaging in evil for the sake of a good outcome). So, if Holy Church has evidence that nothing supernatural is happening with regards to the visions (for speaking purposes only), that leaves either fraud, diabolical involvement (preternatural), or some other explanation that is not supernatural. With fraud, there is lying and lying is a form of evil. Diabolical involvement is evil.  Setting aside possible medical or psychiatric problems, charity would demand that all connected with it, especially visionaries, be given an opportunity to deal with the consequences here in this life, rather than in the next. 

And, here is another big question associated with Medjugorje:  With regards to the good things we see like conversions, vocations, and strong devotion - are they fruits of the alleged phenomenon, or are they something else?

Let us consider that Pope Benedict has shown he is willing to make tough decisions for the sake of truth, even when there are overwhelming, supposed "good fruits" to be cited, and serious withdrawal symptoms to be experienced by members of the Church.

Marcel Maciel's behavior was condemned in the firmest way by the Holy See and Pope Benedict XVI cut through the smoke. Yet no one would argue that the many vocations in the Legion of Christ were bad or inauthentic. They were, in fact, good. But, were they good fruits of Maciel's work or something else? I believe the answer is found in Scripture, specifically, Romans 5:20, which teaches us that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.  Good does not flow from evil, as it can only flow from another good.  Rather, good rises above evil for the benefit of the Church. This is pretty much what Cardinal Saraiva Martins was saying in his interview on Medjugore when asked questions some years ago about the case.  He held the top spot on the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, so he is not a novice when it comes to discernment.

If there is a compromise on anything, could it be on what to do with the place of Medjugorje, in the wake of a negative judgment; or, if the Holy Father wants the visionaries to cease with public manifestations of their visions, and wants an end to promotion of "messages," publications, etc.?  He is the ultimate arbiter of whether anything these visionaries say or do is needed by the faithful.

Consider that the larger, approved apparitions, did not involve a parish Church the way Medjugorje has (Lourdes apparitions happened in a filthy grotto; Fatima in a field; Guadalupe on a path). It initially began on a hill, but ended up in the parish church, and it is the parish church that most associate with the phenomenon.  If a negative judgment were to come, what would the Church do about the popular destination of Medjugorje?  Historically, the Church has discouraged pilgrimages to sites where apparitions were said to be not supernatural.  But, how do you tell people not to visit a parish church or an area that has become a sort of retreat center, especially for youth?  I often wonder if this is where such a compromise could arise. Yet, it seems unlikely that people will not persist as if it was approved in such a scenario.

I have no idea what kind of clear message the Holy Father will pronounce about Medjugorje, but I trust that truth will not be compromised.  I also trust his prudence more than mine on how to handle the millions who have become very attached to this phenomenon.  One thing I think we can all look forward to is a great deal of catechesis on all of these things, for people at every level of the Church.  This would be a real act of mercy given that we are in an age where alleged apparitions are a dime a dozen. It has become an industry in itself.  Many modern day private revelation claims and alleged apparitions also have their roots in Medjugorje, and from them, more sales of books and other items. How can the Church address these before Medjugorje itself is addressed? And, what becomes of them if Medjugorje goes down?

I most especially hope more clear guidelines will be laid out for bishops on what to permit or not permit when a phenomenon has not been approved.  It seems like common sense that no parish, cathedral or shrine should host visionaries before their visions are fully discerned (especially ruling out diabolical involvement).  It lends credibility to something that could some day end up with a negative judgment.  When bishops allow visionaries from other dioceses to have manifestations of these things in their own area of responsibility, all the while the local bishop and local bishops' conference does not permit these things, it reveals division at an ecclesial level.  What else can we expect but further division among the laity? The fact that such division exists, should lead us to question the origins of such an entity.  Satan loves to divide the Church in an effort to conquer (but we know Who wins in the end).

Many have written me in recent weeks frustrated by the wait.  To each of them I have said the same: I trust the Holy Father who has a much bigger task than simply pronouncing a clear message on the question of Medjugorje.  Pope Benedict XVI needs to do this in a way that will keep as many people in the fold as possible. I have already seen people publicly say in forums that if it comes down to "gospa" or the Church, they will choose "gospa." This is no laughing matter.  The Church let it go on this long and only the Church can resolve the great division. I hope we won't have to wait too much longer, but I do trust that the Pope is being very careful so that his message is very clear and will not leave the Church divided for another 30 years.  My suggestion: Be patient yet.  In the meanwhile, pray for all concerned.

Comments are open. I am allowing anonymous comments, but you must enter a name somewhere.  I suggest signing your comment first, then typing above the signature so you don't forget.  The most contemptuous comments come from those who hide behind anonymity where they say things they would never say using their real name, or in such a vile tone.  Say what you will, feel free to disagree, but be respectful if you want your comment to appear.  Don't say anything in any comment box you wouldn't say to someone's face or with your real name assigned.

Comment moderation is on and I am not at my computer constantly, so please be patient.

Edit at 3:55 PM: Grammatical redundancies, and errors, have been cleaned up.

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