Medjugorje. Almost all Catholics heard of this small village in Herzegovina: a small village that causes quite a stir in the universal Church. I have seen Catholic families, priests, religious, even atheists heatedly arguing about it. Everyone has an opinion on Medjugorje. And everyone defends their position on Medjugorje. Me included. That is why I will say it right at the beginning: I do not believe Our Lady has been appearing to Medjugorje “seers”. I stand with the local bishop on this matter.
I have come to this conclusion after researching this phenomenon for some time now. It wasn’t a full scientific research like Marco Corvaglia’s or Louis Belanger’s. But I’ve examined almost everything available on the matter and came to a conclusion that it is all just a big hoax. As hard as it is to believe that. In his (in)famous address at the Regensburg university the great Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the relationship of faith and reason; the reasonableness of faith. “Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God” he said. There has to be a dose of reason in our faith. Likewise, we have to reasonably examine the authenticity of alleged apparitions.
We are only months away from Pope Francis’ statement on Medjugorje. Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (later in text CDF) finished their examination on apparition matters and Archbishop Hoser will end his mission and submit his opinion on pastoral matters by the beginning of summer. The Pope will probably choose a major Marian feast like the Assumption or a Saturday (dedicated to Our Lady), like he does with all his major nominations and decisions, to publish it. I think we are in for a big surprise. Why? Because media is doing to Medjugorje what it did to Trump. Major media are so pro-Medjugorje that when the Pope publishes his decision, which I believe will be negative, the whole Church and the world will be stunned. (More on Medjugorje and the media.)
Why am I sure the statement will be negative? There are a lot of reasons. The local bishop and his predecessor said Our Lady isn’t appearing there. Local bishops’ conference also published its negative statement. It should be emphasised here that non constat de supernaturalitate is not a neutral position some Medjugorje supporters would like you to believe, but a negative one. In the Norms Regarding The Manner Of Proceeding In The Discernment Of Presumed Apparitions Or Revelations, document issued by the CDF in 1978 while the Prefect was Croatian cardinal Franjo Šeper, there are only two criteria: negative (non constat de supernaturalitate) and positive (constat de supernaturalitate). Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in an interview for Avvenire, the magazine of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, in July 2008, confirmed the same. Although it was sometimes used in past, constat de non supernaturalitate is non-existent in official church documents.
Furthermore, the norms state that, “above all, the duty of vigilance and intervention falls to the Ordinary of the place” and, if the bishop asks, conference and Holy See may intervene. Francis, a pope dedicated to decentralisation and giving bishops more responsibility, will not go against the local bishop and bishops’ conference (who are the first authority in addressing these matters).
Above mentioned CDF document states some negative and positive criteria for judging the presumed apparitions. Three out of four (even the fourth may be, but there’s no public data on that) are present in Medjugorje case: manifesting error concerning the fact (one of the examples is that “seers” still, after 36 years, lie about the day alleged apparition first appeared), doctrinal errors (see this article by Richard Chonak), evidence of a search for profit or gain strictly connected to the fact (see this), gravely immoral acts committed by the subject or his or her followers when the fact occurred or in connection with it (case of Tomislav Vlašić, the one who Gospa made a spiritual director of the “seers”, and chaplain Vego, who was fiercely defended by Gospa, fathering a child to nuns).
Father Jean Galot SJ, a well-known mariologist, added to this two more criteria (in Italian): rarity and fruits. When it comes to the rarity of the apparitions he says the more frequent are the apparitions the more we should doubt it. Our Lady appears only in extraordinary moments. In these 36 years the Medjugorje “seers” claim that they’ve seen Gospa 47 000 times! Here we come to one of the presumptions of media and Medjugorje supporters: the “apparitions” are still happening so the Church will not go against it. No, the Church, in the person of the local bishop and bishops’ conference already made their judgement. Since the “pilgrimages” continued (without the permission of the local ordinary) and the things got out of hand, they had to call in the Holy See.
Another commonly mentioned reason Medjugorje “must be authentic” are the fruits. Yes, there are good fruits in the parish of Medjugorje and no one denies that. Good fruits that happened because of the faith of the people. But there are bad fruits of Medjugorje too. First and foremost: disobedience. Medjugorje “seers” and Franciscans that accompanied them have for years been disobedient to their local bishop. And not just them. More religious communities have their houses and organizations in Medjugorje without the permission of the local ordinary. Parishes and priests (especially Italian) organize pilgrimages, receive “seers”, have “apparitions” in their churches (like Cardinal Schonborn) without the permission of the Church… Then there is the case of the already mentioned Tomislav Vlašić, who now runs some sort of New Age movement that combines private revelation and theology with pseudoscience and astrology called the Central Nucleus along with some woman named Stefania Caterina. They claim Our Lady of Medjugorje appeared to them too and said that Medjugorje “apparitions” “led to the birth of the Central Nucleus“. Does that mean we have the seventh and eight Medjugorje “seer”?
For all of this and much more, the Holy Father is prudent and very cautious with Medjugorje. He’s sending his special envoy to not just assess the pastoral situation but also to figure out how to deal with the people who will still come after he declares his decision. In the meantime, we should all pray for the success of his mission. And when the Pope declares his position, we can only obey.