Private Revelation: Unravelling Medjugorje
"If any man shall say to you: Lo, here is Christ... do not believe him.
Behold, I have told you beforehand"
By Carey Winters
PART I: ON PRIVATE REVELATION
"The faithful repair in vast crowds to places where visions and wonders are supposed to have taken place... People who are ignorant of the first words of the Creed set themselves up as ardent apostles of religious belief and practice." Such was Cardinal Ottaviani’s view of the situation in 1951; since then, it has steadily worsened. While God has always favored a few individuals with His direct communication, pseudo-mystics abound in our day. Many Catholics, often ignorant of Magisterial teaching on the subject, subscribe uncritically to their ‘messages.’ As a consequence, the elect are, as Our Lord warned, in grave danger of being deceived.
Public Revelation: The Deposit of Faith
"Public revelation concerns the Church and reveals to all men that which is necessary for salvation," wrote Fr. Jean Violette. "Public revelation is also called ‘The Deposit of Faith,’ and it contains both Holy Scripture and Tradition, which have been entrusted to the Catholic Church for interpretation. This is the Catholic Faith which must be believed by all men to be saved.
"Christ entrusted His revelation to His Apostles who had the duty to reveal it to the rest of humanity and interpret it. And so with the death of St. John, the last of the Apostles, the public revelation ceased, ended, closed. All that is necessary for salvation has been revealed and there is nothing else to be added" (cited in Private Revelation: A Critical Analysis, by Peter Valde-Magnus). Therefore, as Cardinal Ottaviani noted, "even the most accredited visions can ... furnish us with new motives for fervor but not with new elements of life or doctrine" ("Signs and Wonders: A Warning," L’Osservatore Romano, 14 Feb. 1951).
Fr. William T. Welsh’s article "Traditional Teaching on Apparitions" appeared in the April 1986 issue of Catholic, and it is quote at length by Valde-Magnus. "All Catholic theologians concur that private revelations, visions, and locations must be approached with great caution, always keeping in mind the strong possibility of human illusion, self-deception, diabolical influence, and even outright fraud," notes Fr. Welsh. "For 350 years, since the decree of Pope Urban VIII in 1625, the Church has severely forbidden any publication of the accounts of private revelation and visions without special ecclesiastical approbation... Thus, the Christian people were protected from the dangers inherent in ‘apparition enthusiasm,’ dangers of attachment, curiosity, delusion, etc. Above all these laws enshrine the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church on exercising judicious reserve with respect to all reports of private revelation" (p. 22).
* What Church approval means
Pope Benedict XIV explained that when the Church approves private revelation, she "simply permits them to be published for the instruction and edification of the faithful. The assent to be given to them is not therefore an act of Catholic Faith but of human faith, based on the fact that these revelations are probable and worthy of credence" As Fr. Augustin Poulain, S.J., further qualifies: "When the Church approves private revelations, she declares only that there is nothing in them contrary faith or good morals, and that they may be read without danger or even with profit; no obligation is thereby imposed on the faithful to believe them. Speaking of such revelations as (e.g.) Those of St. Hildegard (approved in part by Eugenius III), St. Bridget (by Boniface IX), and St. Catherine of Siena (by Gregory XI) Benedict XIV says: ‘It is not obligatory nor even possible to give them the assent of Catholic faith, but only of human faith, in conformity with the dictates of prudence, which presents them to us as probable and worthy of pious believe’ (De canon., III, liii, xxii, II)" ("Private Revelations," The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia).
"Everyone knows that we are fully at liberty to believe or not in private revelations, even those most worthy of credence," noted Cardinal Pitra. "Even when the Church approves them, they are merely received as probable and not as indubitable. They are not to be used as deciding questions of history, natural philosophy, philosophy, or theology which are matters of controversy between the Doctors...." (Cited in Benedict Groeshel’s A Still Small Voice, p. 32) (1)
Church approval therefore does not mandate belie on the part of the faithful – and the belief that it permits in no way equates to the assent that must be given to public revelation.
*Errors in authentic revelations
"For centuries," notes Groeshel, "it has been clear papal teaching that even a canonized saint who has reported a private revelation which has ben approved by the Church for acceptance by the faithful may have introduced some personal element that is subject to error or distortion" (A Still Small Voice, p. 27). Poulain cited five reasons for such errors within authentic revelations. There may have been faulty interpretation by the recipient or others; a symbolic revelation may be incorrectly interpreted as historical; the visionary will tend to mix subjective expectations and preconceived ideas with the action of divine grace; there may have ben subsequent alteration or amplification; and there may be errors made in good faith by those who record the revelation (cited in A Still Small Voice, p. 51).
Poulain explains therefore that "the revelation can be regarded as Divine in its broad outlines, but doubtful in minor details. Concerning the revelations of Marie de Agreda and Anne Catherine Emmerich, for example, contradictory opinions have been expressed; some believe unhesitatingly everything they contain, and are annoyed when anyone does not share their confidence; others give the revelations no credence whatsoever (generally on a priori grounds); finally there are many who are sympathetic, but do not know what to reply when asked what degree of credibility is to be is to be attributed t the writings of these two ecstatics. The truth seems to be between the two extreme opinions indicated first. If there is question of a particular fact related in these books and not mentioned elsewhere, we cannot be certain that it is true, especially in minor details. In particular instances, these visionaries have been mistaken: thus Marie de Agreda teaches, like her contemporaries, the existence of crystal heavens, and declares that one must believe everything she says, although such an obligation exists only in the case of the Holy Scriptures. In 1771 Clement XIV forbade the continuation of her process of beatification ‘on account of the book’.
"Catherine Emmerich has likewise given expression to false or unlikely opinions: she regards the writings of the pseudo-Dionysius as due to the Areopagite, and says strange things about the terrestrial Paradise, which, according to her, exists on an inaccessible Mountain towards Tibet. If there be question of the general statement of facts given in these works, we can admit with probability that many of them are true. For these two visionaries lid lives that were regarded as very holy. Competent authorities have judged their ecstasies as divine. It is therefore prudent to admit that they received a special assistance from God, preserving them not absolutely, but in the main, from error" (ibid). Fr. Groeshel notes, as further example, the time given for Our Lady’s death by various mystics. Catherine Emmerich maintained that Mary died 13 years after our Lord, St. Bridget said 14 years, and Marie de Agreda 21.
Errors of interpretation are also common. St. Joan of Arc, while imprisoned, asked her ‘voices’ whether she would be burned. They told her not to fear because of her martyrdom, and that she would have a ‘great victory.’ She interpreted this to mean she would not die; in fact, her ‘great victory’ rested in the posthumously reversed court decision and the sainthood bestowed upon her. Similarly, St. Francis of Assisi, told by Our Lord to "rebuild My Church," began by repairing the dilapidated stone structure in which the vision had taken place. Only later did he understand that his mission was to fortify the Church Militant.
Fr. John O’Connor describes the apparently supernatural events surrounding an Irishman earlier this century. The man in question would enter churches with his large metal Rosary, an the feet of the crucifix would begin to bleed. The gentleman was unmasked when the blood was analyzed – and found to be contaminated with saliva. The man was simply able to spit very accurately.
Fr. Groeschel cites the case of the Franciscan nun, Magdalena of the Cross, who had been "three times abbess of her monastery at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Complete with self-inflicted stigmata and the ability to levitate above the earth, with ecstasies and the gift of prophesy, she even convinced others that she had lived without food. She enjoyed a reputation for extraordinary holiness for several decades. Bishops, clergy, great nobles, and even inquisitors flocked to her. She succeeded in deluding a large number of Spanish theologians who prided themselves on not being easily taken in. However, in danger of death, she confessed that the whole thing was a fabrication and that in fact she inflicted the stigmata on herself. By her own admission she had sold her soul to Satan in return for all of these deceptive gifts, and she actually had to be subjected to exorcism" (A Still Small Voice, pp. 45-46). Rallying rom her illness, the nun attempted to stage a "come-back," and spent her remaining years in the care of the Inquisition.
At about the same time, Michael de Notredame, a Jewish physician in France, emerged onto the world stage. An astrologer, Nostradamus made a number of very accurate prophesies. He predicted that a humble Franciscan would become Pope – and Sixtus V did. In a letter to King Henry II in 1558 he foretold the 1792 French Revolution, complete with its date and anti-clericalism. He foresaw the World Wars, Hitler’s death in his Berlin bunker, the collapse of the Maginot Line, the 1956 Hungarian revolution, and an English king who would lose his throne over a divorcee.
Nostradamus attributed his uncannily accurate prophecies to "God the Creator," who he said used him as a spokesman. Although he was able to quote the Bible in his own defense, "his nocturnal methods of divination were based largely on an ancient book called De Mysteriis Egyptorum [whose author] stressed the importance of dressing in robes and using a wand and a three-legged stool" (Angus hall & Francis King, Mysteries of Prediction, p. 110). The work of Nostradamus was not officially condemned by the Church until it was put on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1781; by then he had a considerable following among both clerics and the Catholic laity.
Nostradamus’ rhymed "Quatrains" predicted the rise of three antiChrists. The first two, napoleon and Hitler, are easily identifiable from his writings. The third, a Moslem, would be defeated, he said, when the two world powers laid aside their differences and joined together against their common enemy. His highly accurate predictions (he misspelled ‘Hitler’ by one letter) prepared those who believed to accept the Luciferian one-world plan. Fr. John O’Connor has pointed out that such is often Satan’s method; he is perfectly willing to make 99% of his story orthodox, if it allows him to introduce 1% error into the thinking of those he dupes. (Is It Mary Who IS Speaking? Audiotape).
Thus it becomes very obvious that not only can authentic private revelations contain errors, but Satanic prophecy can be startlingly accurate. An archangelic intelligence is quite capable of accurate prediction – and, for that matter, of stage-managing those who do his bidding. "This power of the evil spirit reaches very far," cautioned St. John of the Cross "He can foretell pestilence, earthquakes, divine punishments, death, all with at least a high degree of probability. From the fact that sometimes the predictions are actually fulfilled, however, we must not hold that their divine origin is thereby proved. Often such are nothing but diabolical divination" (Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book 2, Ch. 21). It is precisely because of such possibilities that the Church has insisted upon ecclesiastical approbation before private revelations can be disseminated to the faithful.
*Where Rome Stands
As Fr. Welsh pointed out, since 1625 the Church has severely forbidden any publication of the accounts of private revelation and visions without special ecclesiastical approbation. Although such technically remains the case today, the waters were considerably muddied by Paul Vi’s decision to abolish the Index of Forbidden Books in 1966. Alleged seers and their publishers now cite his decision as their permission to publish, without ecclesiastical approval, accounts of what they maintain are private revelations. The congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been attempting to stamp out some of the ensuing brushfires. A CDF statement regarding ‘seer’ Vassula Ryden, (excerpted, right) restates the Church’s position.
Furthermore, Rick Salbato notes that "Canon 823 applies to all private revelation. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that even though the Index has been abolished there are still eight categories of books that require an Imprimatur. Category Six is private revelation" (The Marian Movement of Priests, p. 26).
Fr. Welsh notes: "Wherever a change in disciplinary law causes danger to faith or morals, Catholics should recognize this as an abuse of authority, and retain the old practices, holding fast to tradition. Catholics who truly understand what it means to uphold Catholic Tradition in every aspect of life will never publish, read, or pass on any accounts of alleged visions or supernatural messages. He... will prefer to follow the good and saintly Popes for the last 350 years rather than any recent liberal one who has passed laws contrary to Tradition" (Private Revelation, p. 22).
*What should our attitude be?
Our attitude toward private revelation must be that of the traditional Church: extreme caution. We have, in the first place, a grave responsibility to avoid false worship, which is a violation of the first Commandment. To that sin, rash Catholics who follow private revelation without sufficient forethought may add imprudence and presumption. It is, Our Lord said, a wicked and adulterous generation that seeks a sign.
Fr. O’Connor further noted that some alleged seers are simply mediums – and Leviticus prescribed the death penalty for both mediums and those who consult with them. Such behavior is, we are told in Deut. 18, "an abomination before the Lord."
"Christianity is not diffused in the world by means of apparitions, visions and other similar supernatural phenomena. Men receive the message of salvation, not through a direct and miraculous intervention of God, who presents it to them from on high, but through an indirect attestation of witnesses who guarantee the truth that they preach..." (Fr. Jean Galot, SJ, quoted in "Medjugorje: The Untold Story I," Fidelity, Sept. 1988).
*A form of neoGnosticism
E. Michael Jones explains that "Private revelation, by its very nature, always threatens to preempt the authority of the Church. Living by faith is difficult even in the best of times. The danger is that those who are bewildered by confusion in the Church or world at large will... go off seeking solace in signs and wonders, which by definition are always more tangible" ("Untold Story I," p. 29).
According to Laurent Valkon, "Seeking after visions and revelations and especially being attached to them and building one’s spiritual life upon them is also a form of neo-gnosticism because it is seeking salvation in the knowledge gained in ways essentially outside the order of divine public revelation, of the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, especially Faith" (Revelations and the Church, quoted in Peter Valde-Magnus’ Private Revelation, p. 12). Valde-Magnus explains that all the guidance we need is "contained in Faith, in Scripture, in the Church’s Teachings and in our own properly enlightened reason... Therefore to place one’s confidence and joy in visions and revelations is to depart from the narrow way of Faith, and those who follow apparitions instead of reason and the Catholic Faith, dogmatically defined by previous Popes and Councils, are falling into the Gnostic temptation of seeking knowledge outside the Will of God" (p. 13).
Those who succumb to such a temptation often find themselves "under the spell of a captivating personality who favors himself a mystic with inside information, and with a ‘hotline to heaven,’" wrote Marlene Moloney, in her Battle for the Mystical Mind. "The blind devotee gives allegiance to a master who he feels has special illumination... and puts him above all other authorities" (quoted in Private Revelation, p. 24).
Fr. Welsh cites Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s statement that the desire for revelations is at least a venial sin, even when the soul has a good end in view. Eagerness to hear ‘what Our Lady said’ has turned some apparitions sites into oracles, and "people are frequenting them and turning to them as the surest source on earth for knowing God’s Will. Such pagan practice is unheard of in the history of Christianity. Jesus Christ established a visible Church... Catholics must remain attached, not to oracles as in pagan Romans and Greeks, but to Catholic Rome – the 200 years of teaching under the Infallible Magisterium established by Jesus Christ. We can never go back to the darkness of Delphi" (Private Revelation, p. 23).
Satan, of course, advances the opposite argument. Valde-Magnus’ book contains a lengthy quote from a traditional priest on private revelation that effectively sums up the situation. "Satan," he notes, "can use so-called ‘apparitions’ to seduce pious people who carry in their soul the latent virus of pride... The hidden thought in their souls tells them that Public Revelation is truly for everybody; but they are not just everybody – they are special, chosen souls entitled to special treatment by God....
"Satan’s greatest success in our days in the subversion of the Catholic Church, and bringing forth the ‘Conciliar’ church. He achieved this unbelievable victory by entrapping both the intellectual and the simple Catholic with new ideas! He induced the intellectuals to accept science as the source of Faith rather than Revelation. Thus the way was paved for the Modernist heresy... The desire of simple Catholic people was satisfied with the proliferation of new apparitions, new devotions. Both classes of people have detached themselves from the Rock, from the Cornerstone, (Luke 20:18) from the Sacred Tradition of the Church; thus they give an opening to the allurements of Satan" (Private Revelation, p. 17).
Jones concurs: "If [Satan] can get certain people to ascribe to their favorite private revelation the authority which belongs to; the Church, then he will have succeeded admirably. The devil could care less if people say the Rosary, as long as they are willing to do so in devotion to their own para-church" ("Untold Story I," p. 30).
Part II: On Medjugorje
"All Catholic theologians concur," wrote Fr. Welsh, "that private revelations, visions, and locutions must be approached with great caution, always keeping in mind the strong possibility of human illusion, self-deception, diabolical influence, and even outright fraud." Such has historically been the approach of the Church – with demonstrably good reason. Only three of the hundreds of reported apparitions of Our Lady in this century have received unreserved approval of validity by the proper ecclesiastical authorities – Fatima (1917), Beauraing (1932) and Banneaux (1933). In the last 50-60 years alone, the Church has deemed some 230 Marian ‘apparitions’ unworthy of belief.
The unapproved apparitions at Medjugorje have drawn 26 million people in last 16 years – and spawned a worldwide network of auxiliary ‘seers.’ Our Lady has reportedly spoken to the Medjugorje ‘seers’ some 27,000 times – and continues to do so on a virtually daily basis. Medjugorje, therefore, merits particularly close scrutiny.
Suzanne Rini referred to her September, 1988 article, to the nearly six-centuries old struggle for power in Bosnia-Hercegovena, between the Franciscans and the secular clergy ("the Hidden Side of Medjugorje," Fidelity, p. 43). A brief summary of the conflict is necessary in order to interpret current relations between the two factions, and the role the alleged apparitions play in the drama.
Michael Davies explains that "during the Turkish occupation of Bosnia-Hercegovina, the Franciscans were the only priests who remained to care for the Catholic people. They were admired for their courage and devotion, even by the Turks. Bosnia-Hercegovena was occupied by the Austrians in 1878, which resulted in full religious liberty for the Catholic population. Relations between the Franciscan and diocesan clergy regarding pastoral duties in the parishes of Hercegovina were established by a Decision of the Holy See in 1899, at the suggestion of the Franciscans themselves and Bishop Paskal Buconjic, OFM. According to this Decision, the parishes were to be divided equally between the diocesan clergy and the Franciscans....
"Since there were no diocesan clergy at the time, the parishes that rightfully belonged to them were, in 1923, left to the Franciscans ad nutum S. Sedes" ("A Medjugorje Update," The Remnant, 2/28/98, p. 5). Bishop Cule, the first diocesan bishop of Mostar-Duvno, was imprisoned for 8 years by the Communist regime, but after his release the number of diocesan clergy began to rise. "in 1968, the Holy See ordered the Franciscans to hand over five parishes to the diocesan clergy. They barely gave two parishes. In 1975, after many years of talks and consultations, a Decree of the Holy See was issued regarding the division of parishes in Hercegovina (Romanis Pontificibus of 6 June 1975).
"The Franciscans publicly and collectively denounced this Decree, even though they administer to over 80% of the faithful in the diocese of Mostar. In 1976, due to disobedience, the hierarchy of the Franciscan Province, along with then-provincial Sialic, lost their authority, and since then the Province has been without its independence...." (Ibid). The Order’s General rules directly over the Province ad instar, and area Franciscans were not permitted to vote in the election of the General. Since that time the Franciscan defenders of Medjugorje have managed to topple their own ad instar superiors, who had, according to Davies, "developed good relations with the bishop."
At the beginning.....
According to Wayne Weible’s supportive account, on June 24, 1981 several teenages reported seeing "the Gospa," Our Lady, in the outlying area of Medjugorje, a small farming community of some 400 Croatian families in the former Yugoslavia. Those teens were Ivanka Ivankovic (15), Mirjana Dragicevic (16), Vicka Ivankovic (17), and Ivan Dragicevic (16). The following day, Mirija Pavlovik (17) and her ten year old cousin, Jakov Colo, were added to the group. (Thus most of the ‘seers’ were not, as is frequently stated, children, but young adults, when the phenomena began.)
Fr. Jozo Zovko, then Pastor of St. James Church, returned to Medjugorje from a retreat three days into the apparitions. He was stunned by the size of the crowds that had gathered, and began, on June 27, to interview the alleged seers.
According to the video Visions on Demand I, Fr. Zovko’s early interviews with Mirjana may indicate substance abuse. E. Michael Jones had made the same observation: "Zovko, it seems suspected that hallucinogenic drugs might have played a role in what was going on. The crowds were making the same sort of accusation and were especially suspicious of Mirjana, who came from the big city, Sarajevo...." ("Untold Story II," Fidelity, Oct. 1988, p. 29). The teens, and Mirjana in particular, represented Medjugorje’s version of that counterculture, and the locals called them by a term that loosely translates "punker." No one was tested for drug use.
Fr. Zovko’s recorded interviews with the teens lasted for three days. A number of contradictions and inconsistencies are evident in the transcripts, many pointed out by Zovko. By the 30th, their dialog was frequently punctuated by the teens’ laughter, and, according to Visions on Demand, Zovko seemed about to return the ‘seers’ to their parents with a stern warning; he tells the teens that "it is a terrible thing to play with religion."
E. Michael Jones described what happened next. "Instead of calling the whole thing off, [Zovko] decides to take it over. He starts insisting over and over again that the children should ask the Virgin to appear in the church, a request they fulfill with some strange results...." The ‘Virgin’ agreed to the change of venue, and on July 2, 1981 pilgrims crowded into St. James Church. After Mass, the children gave their testimony to the assembly. Zovko, a longtime charismatic, announced: "The Gospa is here! Here is where you must come to meet her...." "Zovko’s afternoon service on July 2 was the crucial turning point in the history of the so-called apparitions. From this point on the children were spiritual hostages to the priests. From now on the apparitions would take place in the church, and it would be impossible to separate their alleged claims from the oftentimes genuine piety which surrounded them... Zovko suppressed the visionaries’ claim that the last apparition took place on July 3, as Mirjana had predicted on a tape of Jun 30. This caused one priest to withdraw from the ministry at the apparitions in disgust" ("Untold Story II," p. 31)
The Orthodoxy of the messages
if there is one overriding theme to the Medjugorje messages, it is that of religious indifferentism. Wayne Weible, the divorced and remarried then-Protestant newspaperman and Medjugorje enthusiast, wrote in his book, Medjugorje: The Message in 1989. (Completely lacking in ecclesiastical approbation, it was in its sixth printing by July of 1990). Beginning on page one of the Forward, Svetozar Kraljevic, O.F.M., informs the reader that God "creates every human as an equal. My friendship with Wayne Weible has led me to new and very special steps in my awareness of the universal brotherhood of every human being on earth... This is the real experience of conversion at Medjugorje."
The ‘seers’ verify that indifferentism is, indeed, the main message. Weible quotes verbatim some of the interviews with the alleged seers, found in Fr. Kraljevic’s book, The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medjugorje. In the first, Fr. Vlasic is interviewing Mirjana – who has just explained that "most people go to Purgatory."
Mirjana: The Madonna always stresses that there is but one God, and that people have enforced unnatural separation. One cannot truly believe, be a true Christian, if he does not respect other religions as well. You do not really believe in God if you make fun of other religions.
Vlasic: What, then, is the role of Jesus Christ, if the Moslem religion is a good religion?
Mirjana: We did not discuss that. She merely explained, and deplored, the lack of religious unity... She said that everybody’s religion should be respected, and, of course, one’s own.
Ivanka Ivankovic confirmed this teaching to Fr. Svetozar:
Ivanka: The Madonna said that religions are separated in the earth, but the people of all religions are accepted by her Son.
Fr. S: Does that mean that all people go to Heaven?
Ivanka: It depends on what they deserve.
Fr. S: Yes, but many have never heard about Jesus.
Ivanka: Jesus knows all about that; I don’t. The Madonna said, basically, religions are similar; but many people have separated themselves, because of religion, and become enemies of each other.
Catholics do, in fact, owe proper respect to nonbelievers – but the Church has consistently taught that error itself has not rights! Furthermore, there are several ex cathedra statements which tech that outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation. St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross all taught the same dogma. Cantate Domino specifically states that "not only pagans, but also Jews, heretics and schismatics" will go "into the eternal fire" unless, before they die, they are joined with the Catholic Church. Christ does not, then, accept those adhering to false religions – and to misinform them on the subject is to risk being party to their damnation.
Salbato cites an interview conducted by Fr. Slavko Barbaric, the new spiritual director, with the ‘seers,’ in which the Franciscan posed questions for the ‘Gospa’ to answer. The questions and the answers provided by the ‘seers’ were translated and signed by John T. Shindler. According to this document, the ‘Gospa’ told the teens that UFOs are real, that a baby receives a living soul at age four and a half months, that Hitler, Tito and Pope Paul VI were "good men replaced by evil red doubles," and that Mary did in fact appear at Necedah, WI (Medjugorje Apparitions, pp. 29-30).
The ‘evil double’ theory was advanced by Veronica Leuken, of Bayside, NY fame – and Veronica’s teachings were determined to contain statements contrary to the teachings of the Church. Among the doctrinal errors in her ‘messages’ is the curious statement that humans are conceived by the Holy Ghost. Before her ‘visions’ began, Leuken had supplemented the family income by reading fortunes and tarot cards. With a mailing list of some 400,000 readers, Bayside reportedly grosses over $5 million annually (Private Revelation, pp. 9-10).
The Credibility of the ‘seers’
Vicka Ivankovic, is, according to Bishop Zanic, "the main ‘seer’ from the beginning." Davies cites her "alternate denials and admissions that she was keeping a day-to-day chronicle of the events, and her concealment of large sections of it from the bishop’s commission" as a reason for grave doubt (Medjugorje, A Warning, p. 9).
According to Salbato, "Vicka was recorded as saying that the apparitions would end after three more visits. When the apparitions did not end, she denied saying it. When presented with proof, she stated, ‘I don’t remember, but if it is recorded then we must have said such a crazy thing’" (The Medjugorje Apparitions, p. 8).
E. Michael Jones quotes verbatim from transcripts of the interviews conducted by Croatian priest Janko Bubalo, published in A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje. Vicak, 21 years old at the time of the interview, clearly does not know what the Annunciation is.
Vicka: [Our Lady] told me something about that day, but I don’t remember....
Janko: And it’s not clear to you what is commemorated on that day?
Vica: It is and isn’t. Don’t let me jump off the deep end on that one.
The same book maintains that Our Lady had spent 825 days narrating the story of her life to Vicka. In Jones’ words, "here we have a 21-year-old young lady who has been getting daily personal instruction on the life of the Blessed Virgin for almost three years who cannot explain what the Annunciation is, even though she supposedly meditates on it every time she prays the joyful mysteries" ("Untold Story, I," p. 21).
The ‘seers’ were said to be in ‘ecstasy’ during the apparitions – a state in which they were oblivious to sensation and the events around them. On January 14, 1985, while the ‘seers’ were allegedly in this state, Frenchman Jean-Louis Martin approached Vicka "and made as if he were going to poke her in the eyes with his two fingers. Vicka jumped back instinctively and was quickly led out of the room by Fr. Vego. A little while later she returned and explained that while she had been watching the Blessed Virgin, the infant Jesus looked as if He were slipping out of her arms. The reaction that Martin saw as her avoiding being pocked in the eye was in reality her attempt to catch falling Baby Jesus, at least according to Vicka’s explanation" ("Untold Story II," p. 24). The incident was filmed on camera – and two weeks later, the priests closed the apparitions to the outside public.
Vicka’s propensity for lying has not improved with time. In the Feb. 28, 1998 Remnant Davies wrote an article concerning recent happenings, entitled A Medjugorje Update. In it, he describes the plans for the building of a Pastoral Center in Medjugorje with 100 bed hotel, chapel and an ‘inn for pilgrims.’ On March 19, 1995 Vicka sent a signed letter to one of the families involved noting that "when the Madonna, the Mother of God, approves and insists upon the commencement of the building works, then I do not understand why you have doubts... The Madonna, the Mother of God, has given her approval for the building works through me..." Fr. Slavko Barbaric, unaware of Vicka’s letter, wrote one of his own to the Dutch community providing the financing – contradicting her claim that Mary had approved the project. The Dutch responded the following day, asking him to explain the lies or inconsistencies. Fr. Slavko’s 3 April 1995 response explained that, in a hurry to leave for Rome, Vicka had simply signed the text presented to her by the family in question.
The 28 April response from the Dutch asked how Vicka, who had been "educated" by Our Lady for 14 years, could lie. They wondered whether one of the effects of apparitions wouldn’t be to restrain Vicka from this type of sin.
on June 30, 1981 at 6:30 pm Fr. Zovko conducted a taped interview with Mirjana, and asked her how long the apparitions would continue. "I asked her how many more days she would appear to us, exactly how many more days," Mirjana replied, "and she said, ‘Three more days’... Three more days, that means up until Friday" ("The Untold Story II," P., 28). The messages, therefore, were scheduled to end on July 3, 1981. They continue.
Bishop Pavao Zanic, of Mostar, made a lengthy 1990 statement on Medjugorje, in which he too cited a conversation with Mirjana. "One month after the beginning of the ‘apparitions’ I went to Medjugorje to question the ‘seers.’ I asked each of them to take an oath on the cross and demanded that them must speak the truth. (This conversation was recorded on tape.) The first was Mirjana: ‘We went to look for our sheep when at once..." (The associate pastor in the parish interrupted and told me that they actually went out to smoke, which habit they hid from their parents.) ‘Wait a minute, Mirjana, you are under oath, did you go out to look for your sheep?’ She put her hand over her mouth and said, ‘Forgive me, we went out to smoke.’"
Fr. Vlasic interviewed Mirjana on January 10, 1983, and a transcription of that interview was later printed in severely edited form in books by Svetozar Kraljevic and Robert Faricy/Lucy Rooney. Jones notes that "Sivric summarizes the profile of the seer which emerges from the interview: ‘Reading the interview with Mirjana, it is evident that she hears voices. Mirjana is quite frank in her conduct and about her interior disposition; at one time or another, she has suffered ‘terribly depressive moods,’ she has behaved so strangely at school in Sarajevo that her peers considered her crazy. She is seized by sudden... tears... ‘unexpected laughter’; she ‘cries for no reason,’ she ‘is too sensitive,’ etc.’" ("The Ghosts of Surmanci," Culture Wars, Feb. 1998)
Jones has also updated Mirjana’s story. "In February of 1997, 15 years after the Blessed Mother told her that her apparitions had ceased, the Blessed Mother apparently had a change of heart and decided to reappear to Mirjana monthly. Now that Mirjana had that big house she could also take in pilgrims, insuring herself a steady income by skimming the cream off the top of an ever-dwindling number of credulous spiritual tourists. The mysterious re-appearance of the Blessed Virgin is best explained by one of the tour guides who got to know Mirjana personally: ‘Marko [Soldo],’ he explained, ‘chased away Mirjana’s boyfriend and married her. He then built a house, got into financial trouble, and needed cash so she started having apparitions again. Now he’s selling diesel cars from Italy. He’s on the radio in Croatia, with radio ads selling used cars.’
"As of June 1997, it looks as if Mirjana is planning to weather the chastisement – now a bit long in coming – in style. Mirjana now lives in a German mansion right across the street from Ivan’s german Mansion" (ibid).
Fr. Tomislav Vlasic and a German woman founded a bizarre religious community in Parma, Italy – in which men and women lived and worked together. It is an arrangement that Bishop Zanic noted as "unheard of in the history of the Church" (1990 Statement: The Truth about Medjugorje). Michael Davies notes that the founding of the community "was a cause of scandal even to some devotees of Medjugorje. Father Vlasic decided that his critics would be silenced if it could be shown that he had acted in obedience to a command from Our Lady. On 21 April, 1988 Our Lady duly ‘revealed’ the fact that the community had been established at her express command to Marija Pavlovic. Her statement was published in deposition form, in Fr. Vlasic’s "An invitation to the Marian Year."
"In July of the same year great consternation was caused among the Medjugorists when, possibly as a result of jealousy... Pavlovic swore before the Blessed Sacrament that her previous statement had been false, and that the Vlasic/Heupel community was in no way endorsed by Our Lady" (Medjugorje, A Warning, p. 24). Davies’ book contains Marija’s statement, which says, in part, "I now declare that I never asked Our Lady for any confirmation whatsoever of this work... My first statement in its published form in Croatian and Italian does not correspond to the truth..." (Ibid, p. 25). In the end, the Vatican ordered Vlasic back to the former Yugoslavia, and disbanded the community.
Michael Davies’ Medjugorje, A Warning recounts the adventures of Marija in Alabama in the late ‘80s, where she had come to donate a kidney to her brother. "During her stay, Miss Pavlovic stayed with a Mr. Terry Colafrancesco who, it appears, works full time for a non-profit organization called Caritas, which he established in 1986 to promote Medjugorje... Mr. Colafrancesco purchased a 90-acre field adjacent to his property for $400,000. In that field there is a pine tree. Mr. Colafrancesco mowed a path from his home to the tree, and placed a crucifix and a Madonna on the site. He asked Miss Pavlovic to have a vision under the tree, and she duly obliged" (page 22). Cyril Auboyneau, Miss Pavlovic’s translator, explained that "Terry wanted a vision in the field under that tree – he prayed about that. So we asked Marija to ask Our Lady if she would appear in the field on Thanksgiving Day. Our Lady said she would..." Colafrancesco was in the enviable position of being able to announce, in advance, the date, time and place of the vision. According to Davies, thousands of pilgrims are now visiting the field, "much to the delight of the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel."
Marija lives in Italy today, and transmits her messages to Medjugorje electronically, for world-wide dissemination. According to Salbato, the April 1996 Caritas newsletter called her the greatest saint in history, based on a ‘message’ in which Our lady reportedly said: "No one in the world has received the grace which you, your brothers and sisters have received" (Apparitions, p. 11).
The coming "great sign" has figured prominently in Medjugorje messages. Bishop Zanic suggested to the ‘seers’ that they write down, sign and seal what Our lady had told them about the sign, so that, when it occurred, their predictions could be opened and compared with actual events. Fr. Tomislav Vlasic "told the ‘seers’; to say that Our Lady said not to write anything down for anybody, and so they didn’t." Ivan was then in the Franciscan minor seminary, and, in Bishop Zanic’s words, "he wasn’t informed of this on time." Therefore, when members of the first Commission arrived and spoke with him, he obligingly wrote, dated and signed a statement in their presence, on the greenish paper they provided, and sealed it in an envelope.
A few years later, Rene Laurentin "wrote that Ivan told him personally that he wrote absolutely nothing down on that sheet of paper and that he tricked the two members of the Commission" (1990 statement). On March 7, 1985 Ivan confirmed this to three Commission members, inviting them to open the envelope in the Chancery office – they would find blank paper. The envelope was opened in the presence of all the Commission members, and found to contain Ivan’s signed prediction that "there will be a great shrine in Medjugorje in honor of [Our Lady’s] apparitions, a shrine to my image... The sign will occur in June." The letter was dated May 9, 1982.
Ivan also said that Our lady told him he would be a priest. According to the Visions on Demand I video, however, he has been expelled from two seminaries for poor scholarship, and in 1994 married Lareen Murphy, the former Miss Massachusetts. EWTN’s Mother Angelic, long vocal on behalf of Medjugorje, recently canceled an appearance by Ivan because of "inconsistencies." His current lifestyle involves a BMW, a German-style mansion and elevator shoes. E. Michael Jones noted in the February Culture Wars that "Ivan is a lot heavier than he was in 1986, which indicates either that he is not following the three-day-a-week bread and water fast that he prescribed for the rest of the world (allegedly at the Blessed Mother’s request) or that he is in urgent need of diuretics to alleviate water retention."
*Comparison with approved seers
The teens at Medjugorje had just been given a book on Lourdes when their ‘apparitions’ began; while some superficial similarities are observable, there are differences worth remarking upon. Bernadette, in ecstasy, was unaware of a hatpin thrust through her hand; Vicka must invent a preposterous story to justify flinching when allegedly in the same state. Bernadette found that her brother had accepted a small toy from a pilgrim and, horrified at the prospect of gain, made him promise to return it. Picture, if you can, Bernadette behind the wheel of Ivan’s BMW. Bernadette and Fatima’s Lucia lived out their lives in obscurity, as religious; the ‘seers’ of Medjugorje have erected mansions, and one has married a beauty queen. Some have moved abroad, and travel on paid speaking tours. The children of Fatima were never known to tell a lie; those of Medjugorje seem to specialize in it. Obedience characterized the behavior of Lucia, Bernadette, Melanie... and, for that matter, Padre Pio. Disobedience is so rampant at Medjugorje that it could be called the predominant characteristic.
Salbato cites a newsletter published by Br. Michael of the Holy Trinity in St. Parres-Les-Vaudes, France, in which it was reported that Sr. Lucy of Fatima told one of her relatives that it is not Our Lady appearing in Medjugorje. (Sr. Lucy should know; she’s met her.) Salbato spoke with Fr. Coeher, Sr. Lucy’s spiritual director, who confirmed her opinion, and who gave out her address for first-hand confirmation (Apparitions, p. 38).
The Credibility of the Fanciscans
*The issue of obedience
Paul Likoudis explained that "the administration of the Franciscan Province of hercegovina has been in a state of rebellion against the bishops of the region since 1976, and more than 40 Franciscan priests, including ten Franciscans working in Medjugorje, are working without authorization and faculties from the bishops in the region. These Franciscans are celebrating Mass, hearing the Confessions of pilgrims, and performing marriages in defiace of the local bishop, who has ordered them to stop. The Franciscans are also publishing a newsletter, Glas Mira, and issuing a Press Bulletin in defiance of Church authority; those publications proclaim the authenticity of the ‘messages’" ("Film probes Underside of Medjugorje Industry," The Wanderer, 3/26/98, p. 8).
According to E. Michael Jones, Mostar’s Bishop Peric granted an interview to Yves Chiron of the French magazine Present, "in which he admitted that Medjugorje was plagued with ecclesial disorders, which included Franciscans ministering at Medjugorje with no canonical mission; religious communities established without his permission, buildings erected without ecclesial approval, and the fact that the parishes continued to organize pilgrimages to a place where it had been determined there had been no apparitions. ‘Medjugorje,’ Peric concluded, ‘does not promote peace and unity but creates confusion and division, not simply in its own diocese.’" (Present, 25 January 1997, cited in Culture Wars, Feb. 1998).
The disobedience is individual, as well as corporate, Bishop Zanic cited "the case of the ex-Franciscan priest, Ivica Vego. Due to his disobedience, by an order of the Holy Father, the Pope, he was expelled from the Franciscan religious order, OFM, by his Father General, dispensed from his vows and suspended ‘a divinis.’ He did not obey this order and he continued to celebrate Mass, distribute the sacraments and pass the time with his mistress.... According to the diary of Vicka and the statements of the ‘seers,’ Our lady mentioned 13 times that he is innocent and that the Bishop is wrong. When his mistress, Sister Leopolda, a nun, became pregnant, both of them left Medjugorje and the religious life, and began to live together near Medjugorje where their child was born. Now they have two little children. His prayer book is still sold in Medjugorje and beyond in hundreds of thousands of copies" (1990 Statement). (Visions on Demand notes that Vego has since married his mistress; together with their five children, they live in Italy, where he works for a Medjugorje Center.)
*A few more sexual problems....
Vego was not the only Franciscan to father a child by a nun. E. Michael Jones chronicled the investigation into Fr. Tomislav Vlasic’s fatherhood, in Medjugorje: The Untold Story, Parts I and II (Fidelity magazine, Sept. & Oct. 1988).
While they were living in a coed monastery in Zagreb, Vlasic, whom Bishop Zanic dubbed "the creator of Medjugorje," impregnated Sister Rufina (nee Manda). Manda fled the country in late 1976, and gave birth the following January. She lived for 7 years in Bavaria, with an elderly man, Herr Ott, who was known to have befriended the Franciscans. Ott found correspondence between a very unhappy Manda and Vlasic, in which the Franciscan repeatedly implored her not to reveal his name. "You will have more blessings than if you live as a nun" he wrote, "You will really be like Mary, who accepted her particular destiny and went with her child wherever she had to..." Fr. Vlasic offered her $300 and a dictionary.
Fr. Vlasic arrived at St. James Church, Medjugorje, on June 29, 1981, fresh from a charismatic conference in Rome where it had been prophesied that "God would send His mother" to him. The apparitions had allegedly begun on June 24th. In short order, Fr. Vlasic became a world celebrity as the spiritual advisor to the ‘seers’ of Medjugorje.
By November of 1984, Manda had evidently reached the end of her endurance. An unwed mother, she was keeping house for a 90-year-old man, in a country whose language she never mastered. She sent Zanic a letter, detailing her need for support. Although she signed only her first name, Ott had forwarded the Vlasic/Manda correspondence to Cardinal Ratzinger, who in turn sent it, too, to Bishop Zanic. "When confronted by Bishop Zanic, Vlasic did not deny being the father of the child, but by 1985 when the confrontation took place, he had already become a world-famous religious figure. He was, in a sense, beyond the bishop’s power" ("Untold Story II," p. 33).
This same Fr. Valsic issued his March 1988 "Appeal in the Marian Year," announcing that God had asked him and another female friend to form the aforementioned mixed gender religious community in Italy.
According to Visions on Demand I, Fr. Jozo Zovko, former pastor of St. James Church, has not had faculties in Medjugorje since 1989, when he was ordered to leave for allegedly molesting female pilgrims. In 1995 he was relieved of his appointment at Siroki Brijeg, and now raises funds for war orphans.
Bishop Zanic wrote that "there have been mentioned 50 miraculous healings, then 150, 200, 300 and so on. Laurentin chose 56 dossiers and sent them to the Bureau medical de lourdes. Dr. Mangiapan responded in his Bulletin of April 1984 that these dossiers have no practical value" (1990 Statement). Not one healing has been authenticated. On the other hand, Visions on Demand points out that the injuries and deaths resulting when elderly and unwell pilgrims are urged to climb the mile-high, rock strewn Mount Krizevac remain unreported.
The ‘great sign’
Rick Salbato notes that "a major test of any apparition is ‘prophesy’.... since God sees the future, it is one way He proves the authenticity of the seer... Almost all true apparitions of God have some short term prophesies and some of long duration... In Fatima, 29 of 30 prophesies have already come to pass...." (The Medjugorje Apparitions, p. 12).
According to Bishop Zanic’s 1990 statement, a ‘great sign’ is mentioned 13 times in Vicka’s diaries, 14 times in the Parish chronicle, 52 times on the interview tape cassettes, and on numerous occasions in talks with the Bishop. Salbato notes that the "Virgin" promised a sign on July 3, 1981 – saying that "It would be permanent... It will not be possible to annihilate... It will be visible for everybody." He notes that on August 27, 1981 the ‘seers’ were told "it will come soon." On August 29, 1981, "A little more patience." Then, "It will be on December 8, 1981," "It will be on Christmas," and "It will be January 1982." Ivan’s signed letter states May 9, 1982. There has been no sign.
Openings for the Satanic
"The Holy Ghost can indeed work miracles, but here isn’t just one spirit operating in the world. And when the door to the mind is left purposely open, there is no guarantee which spirit will answer the invitation" (Catholic Encyclopedia). No guarantee – but the odds favor the enemy. By Poulin’s estimate, there are 75 false revelations for each approved one. "The Devil rejoices greatly when a soul seeks after revelations and is ready to accept them; for such conduct furnishes him with many opportunities of insinuating delusions" (St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mt. Carmel, Book 2, Ch. 11).
"The Devil’s power is immense in the sphere of extraordinary supernatural phenomena," wrote Lethielleaux. "With God’s permission, the Devils has the power to disguise as ‘an Angel of Light,’ and even appear under the outward form of Our Lord or Our Lady, as he did at Lourdes to about fifty seers after the genuine apparitions to Bernadette" (Mystical Phenomena, quoted in Private Revelation, p. 11). Our Lady had warned Bernadette on April 10th that that was to be her last contact. During the next 6 years there were 200 additional phenomena at Lourdes – none of which were approved. The Satanic mimicry is impressive; St. Catherine of Sienna, a Doctor of the Church, whose visions began at the age of 3, still found herself duped by Satan, disguised as Christ. (When she betted Our Lord for some means of distinguishing His true appearances, He told her that, if her first reaction was joy, euphoria, it was Satan. His appearance would first inspire fear. It’s a point worth remembering.)
Fr. Zovko, according to Jones, "was experimenting with an explosive mixture of charismatic prayer and sensitivity training" ("Untold Story II," p. 26). Marijan Pehar had attended such meetings led by Zovko, and maintains that the latter had become famous for them throughout Hercegovina.
To the charismatic emphasis on signs and wonders and direct contact with the beyond, Zovko added the powerful techniques known as sensitivity training. Already subjectively and experientially oriented, charismatic young people in Zovko’s groups were subjected to techniques developed at Esalen to restructure perception. The encounter groups Jones described open the participant to manipulation – human and angelic. The subject becomes highly suggestible. "The normal barriers between people fall in this artificial environment and a synthetic euphoria which is much like being in love follows" ("Untold Story II," p. 26). Will Schutz, "who made encounter groups a household word," described the encounter movement as ‘a new religion,’ during which one comes to the following realization: "You know that you are God" ("Untold Story II," p. 26).
Jones also recounts a Jan. 16, 1985 episode described by Louis Belanger in a letter that year to Laurentin. "Fr. Slavko Barbaric showed him a video of Ivica Vego and the young inhabitants of a village near Medjugorje who were pretending to see the Virgin... ‘In the sequences I saw [Vego] encouraging them to think that. For example, one scene shows two children on their knees in prayer. Ivica’s insistent voice off camera asks a number of times, ‘Do you see her? Do you see the Virgin?’ In another sequence one of the children is lying motionless on his stomach. Ivica approaches him, feeling his legs and arms, then slips into his hand a paper and pencil so that he can write down the messages of the Gospa. It is in the purest tradition of the occult. We know that those who induce automatic writing in young people can cause them more or less permanent damage in their identity formation’" ("Untold Story II," p. 23).
Jones had originally viewed the Medjugorje ‘apparitions’ as a prank gone awry. Both he and the producers of Visions on Demand now seem to be of the opinion that the ‘seers’ see.... something. "Mirjana once described a vision in which she saw the Virgin Mary appear, only to be replaced by a second virgin, who told her in a different voice, ‘You see even the devil can come dressed as me,’" Jones notes. "In a second encounter, Mirjana saw a beautiful young man standing in the doorway to her room who told her that even the devil can come as a beautiful being" ("Ghosts of Surmanci").
In the same article, Jones recounts a conversation between Croatian emigre Joe Tolaich and Ivan. "Joe’s attitude toward the Blessed Mother had a distinctly practical bent. Faced with the prospect of having a seer who had daily contact with the Blessed Mother in his own home, Joe asked Ivan if the Virgin Mary might divulge... her favorite six numbers, so that Joe could put them to good use in the state lottery. Joe also asked whether Ivan was really seeing the Blessed Mother. "Ivan’s answer was something less than reassurng to the pious. ‘Joe,’ Ivan replied after taking a drag on his cigarette, ‘I’m seeing something.’"
*New Age of influences
Jones wrote of "a priest who has been associated with the apparitions for over ten years and during that period has gone from an being avid believe and promoter to a confirmed skeptic. After years of hearing confessions and assembling a library of New Age material from penitents, it became clear to him that Medjugorje was a major stop in the New Age circuit. Before long, the Blessed Virgin even started talking like a New Age guru. The first message to issue from the lips of ‘Our Lady of Medjugorje’ after the bishops’ condemnation was that her devotees should turn ‘negatives into positives,’ a turn of phrase which struck [him] as totally unbiblical, a feeling which received dramatic confirmation when he found exactly the same phrase coming form the lips of New Age guru, Sanaya Roman, ‘Channel for Orin.’ ‘Or,’ the priest remembered, was the Hebrew word for light. The Latin word is Lux, whose genitive is lucis, which is the root of the name light-bearer, or Lucifer. The passage about changing negatives into positives, which Marija Pavlovic cited verbatim as the first message from the Gospa after the Bishops’ declaration of April 1991, is the title of Chapter Five of Sanaya Roman’s book, Living with Joy: Keys to Personal Power and Spiritual Transformation...." ("The Ghosts of Surmanci," Fidelity, Feb., 1998).
As already noted, the ‘Gospa’ of Medjugorje confirmed that Necedah was also one of her appearances, and that Bayside’s ‘evil double’ theories were correct. Both of the alleged seers at those locations had occult backgrounds – one having indulged in fortune and tarot readings, and the other in seances.
*Gold Rosaries and alchemy
Rosaries which "turn to gold" were reported at both the sites of the condemned "visions" of Necedah and Bayside, although such observations are virtually unheard of at Fatima or Lourdes. The phenomenon is also so common at Medjugorje that it is mentioned in tour operator’s brochures.
Satan, of course, can do anything man can – and more impressively. Alchemists for hundreds of years strove to convert base metals into Gold – just as, on the larger scale, they sought what, in their occult view, would be the purification and transformation of humanity. They met with some, limited success; European museums contain small lumps of alchemic gold. The explosion of scientific knowledge in this century, and the concomitant ability to manipulate molecular structure, has provided greater success. Modern alchemists in lab coats have succeeded in the transmutation, though the costs involved are so prohibitive that the process has no commercial feasibility. Tales of gold rosaries are more reminiscent of such occult transformation than of any authentic miracle from God.
*The subversion of Fatima
Peter Valde-Magnus noted that "Medjugorje... diabolically substitute[s] Fatima’s authentic and salutary prophetic messages with modern apostasy under its latest form, that of Pentecostalism and Charismatic antics, even more dangerous for the Catholic faith than the Protestant and Modernist heresy from which they flow. Medjugorje is a blatant outbidding of Fatima!" (Private Revelation, p. 12).
"I know it was the view of the late Harnish Fraser," wrote Davies, "that Medjugorje was a means being utilized by Satan to subvert the message of Fatima" (Warning, p. 3). Geoffrey Lawman echoes that view: "Medjugorje weakens the message of Fatima, with its cardinal insistence on the conversion of Russia and of Communists a prerequisite for any peace and progress. Medjugorje talks airily of peace, but ignores the very precise recommendations that Our Lady of Fatima and the disastrous consequences that will follow if these are not complied with." In fact, in Lawman’s view, Medjugorje "discredits the cult of Mary, and thus robs modern Catholicism of its finest spiritual flower. How do we expect Marian devotion to survive a ‘Lady’ of interminable verbosity who submits to indiscriminate ‘patting,’ incites her hearers to disobedience, and even stages a pantomime ‘transformation-scene’ between herself and Satan?" ("Medjugorje: The Other Side of the Coin," quoted in Warning, p. 13). It would be quite a victory to so devalue the one destined to crush Satan’s head.
A word of the ‘fruits’
Davies notes that "supporters point to the devotional and spiritual impact of the occurances on both villagers and pilgrims, and it is true that the apparitions have repeatedly urged greater assiduity in prayer and fasting and regular confessions.... However welcome this is, we should remember that it is not in itself any guarantee of holiness or even orthodoxy, let alone evidence that the apparitions are authentic. The Church’s history shows numerous cases of heretical groups noteworthy for intents devotion, prayer, and fasting...." (Warning, p. 8). But Satan wouldn’t ask us to pray, would he? "Yes, he would," responds a Traditional priest. "And he would employ every means which might serve his purpose. Remember, when he was tempting Our Lord in the desert, he was using the words of Holy Scripture..." (Private Revelation, p. 18). Apparitions that are not from God cover over their errors with a flurry of pious utterances. Satan is cunning, the Deceiver; he counterfeits God’s work, and Catholics are duped because they perceive only the similarities with the authentic article.
Nor are the conversions and the genuine piety in evidence at Medjugorje sufficient to validate the apparitions themselves those are the fruits of grace, everywhere available. Jones quotes Fr. Jean Galot, SJ "It is not sufficient to use spiritual fruits alone as the criterion to judge the authenticity of the apparitions. Cases are known in which conversions have been substantiated in which the pretended apparitions have later been rejected by the authority of the Church" ("Untold Story I," p. 41).
"Here lies the heart of the matter," writes Fr. William Welsh. "The most precious thing we have to offer God is our will. Thus God asks our obedience, the conformity of our will to His Will. If Satan can gain our obedience, even by asking us to pray the Rosary at the place and at the hour that he determines, then Satan obtains the victory; for he thus succeeds in stopping our conformity to the Divine will. Hence the old saying: ‘Satan can even inspire us to do something good, in order to prevent us from doing something better’" ("Private Revelation, p. iv).
*Kidnaping the Bishop Jones quips that Mostar’s new Bishop Peric "found out first-hand just how bellicose the ‘Queen of peace’ and her supporters can be. In April of 1995 the bishop was attacked by a mob in his chancery, and his pectoral cross was ripped from his person. He was then beaten up, forced into a waiting car and driven to an illicit chapel run by the Medjugorje Franciscans and held hostage for 10 hours. It was only when the mayor of Mostar showed up with UN troops that the bishop was released" ("Ghosts of Surmanci").
*Illicit Sacraments? The August 15, 1997 Remnant reported that the Franciscans had seized the parish of Capljina, near Medjugorje in the Mostar diocese, establishing their own schismatic parish in defiance of the bishop. The front doors have been bricked up, and the Feb. 28, 1998 Remnant story tells of a ‘Confirmation’ held behind those bricked-up doors last October – by "an anonymous so-called bishop, from an anonymous country, anonymous diocese, and of anonymous origin..."
*A tale of two films The film ‘Gospa’ was released in the Spring of 1995. It starred Martin Sheen – in Jones’ words, "Central Casting’s answer to a troubled apostolate," and purports to give an accurate portrayal of the events surrounding the ‘apparitions.’ The Diocese of Mostar condemned the film as slanderous, since it misrepresents the bishop as a coward who collaborated with the Communists. It is shown in churches throughout America.
A new set of films will tell a very different story. Likoudis detailed events surrounding the filming of the Visions on Demand series of videos, in the 3/26/98 Wanderer. The second two, he writes, "will expose Medjugorje as a money-smuggling scheme involving renegade Bishop Paulo Hnilica (whom some suspect to have been a KGB plant), who was involved with Roberto Calvi and the Banco Ambrosiano scandal and later arrested by Italian police for his involvement with the Mafia. They will also reveal how pilgrims’ money has built a ‘visionaries’ millionaire’s row’... how the Franciscans have been supplied with enough money to create banks they control in Croatia to fund an independent church; and how the Croat army and police have been financed. In summary, the films will expose how the Medjugorje cult is a religious ‘fraud of the century.’" a film crew this February filmed "death camps in Capljina, Ljubuski, Citluk and Mostar – sites pilgrims to Medjugorje never see – and a grenade factory and a land mine warehouse."
Filming of that sort is not without its hazards, particularly when a multimillion dollar industry is at stake. The crew was arrested by Croat authorities, and interrogated over several days by 15 plainclothes people, "including two wanted for war crimes." Two were later severely beaten by armed men on "apparition hill," suffering broken ribs and trashed equipment. Jones, involved in the project, has received death threats.
The Church’s position
Generally speaking the Holy See waits until alleged supernatural phenomena end before passing definitive judgment – and the apparitions at Medjugorje continue unabated after 17 years. As has been shown, however, the initial responsibility for a determination rests with the local Ordinary. Neither Bishop Zanic nor his successor, Bishop Peric, have been reticent in stating that there is nothing of a supernatural character at Medjugorje.
Chronology of disapprovals
*Jan. 13, 1984: Cardinal Kuharic, Archbishop of Zagreb, stated "If the Virgin said such words against the Bishop in favor of the suspended Franciscans, then it is not the Virgin who spoke" (cited by Salbato, Medjugorje Apparitions, p. 20)
*March 1984: An expanded 15 member Commission is formed, now including theologians and psychologists. 11 found nothing supernatural, 2 Franciscans claimed the events were authentic, one member thought that there had been something in the beginning, and one abstained. Bishop Zanic stated in the commission’s final press communique’ that: "The commission disapproves of religious or lay groups which organize Church pilgrimages (i.e. to Medjugorje)."
*July 24, 1984: L’Osservatore Romano published Bishop Zanic’s Communique forbidding all further publication of Medjugorje messages. Salbato notes that in spite of his statement, 8 books have been published and distributed world-wide. The ‘seers’ said Our Lady commanded: "Make the priests read... Laurentin’s book, and spread it!" (Apparitions, p. 21)
*Nov. 12, 1984: The Bishops of Yugoslavia declared that no pilgrimages should go to Medjugorje, and no outside priest was to say Mass without Zanic’s permission. Laurentin wrote in response in a major Catholic newspaper: "People must continue going to Medjugorje. It will be necessary to speak of ‘spiritual journeys’ instead of pilgrimages" (Apparitions, p. 2)
*June 1985: Then-Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Alberto Bovone wrote a letter to the Italian Bishops’ Conference urging them to "publicly discourage the organization of pilgrimages to Medjugorje."
*March 25, 1986: Bishop Zanic publishes a decree forbidding apparitions in the parish church, and requiring the removal of the unapproved statue based on the apparitions, an end to the divulging of ‘messages,’ and the sale of souvenirs and literature propagating the apparitions. He prohibited outside priests from preaching or saying Mass. On April 6 the Franciscans responded in writing, refusing to obey.
*May 23, 1986: Bishop Bovone, Secretary of the CDF, sent the Italian Episcopal Conference a reminder that pilgrimages and publicity are prohibited.
*January, 1987: Mostar’s Bishop Pavao Zanic and Archbishop Kuharic issued a joint statement forbidding pilgrimages.
*17 August 1987: Bishop Zanic, in a letter to Fr. Hugh Thwaites, states bluntly that Our Lady does not appear at Medjugorje, that the messages are "the fruit of a fabrication, fraud and disobedience to the Church."
*1990: Bishop Zanic published a long, detailed Statement, "The Truth About Medjugorje," citing the lies, disobedience, immorality and faulty doctrine associated with the apparitions. He stated there in that "of the 100 diocesan priests in the dioceses of Hercegovina, not one believes in the apparitions. Of the 42 Bishops of Yugoslavia, only one has been outspoken in declaring his belief...."
*12 June, 1990: The Irish Bishops’ Conference issued a statement on Medjugorje, noting that "the Church does not approve pilgrimages and other manifestations organized on the presumption that supernatural character can be attributed to the facts of Medjugorje"
*Nov. 1990/April 1991: The Yugoslavian Bishops’ Conference declared that: "On the basis of studies, it cannot be affirmed that supernatural apparitions or revelations are occuring."
*June 1994: CDF’s Archbishop Bertone responded to an inquiry by a French Bishop that "official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, understood as a place of authentic Marian apparitions, should not be organized either on a parish or diocesan level because it would be in contradiction with what the bishops of the ex-Yugoslavia said in their  declaration..."
Yet Rome equivocates...
Catholic News Service stories appearing in August of 1996 indicate that Laurentine’s method of dealing with forbidden pilgrimages has been adopted by the Vatican’s spokesman. "Individuals Permitted to Visit Medjugorje," one headline read. Cindy Wooden’s CNS story quoted Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls: "You cannot say people cannot go there until it has been proven false. This has not been said, so anyone can go if they want’... In addition, he said, when Catholic faithful go anywhere, they are entitled to spiritual care, so the church does not forbid priests to accompany lay-organized trips to Medjugorje... just as it would not forbid them from accompanying a group of Catholics visiting South Africa."
Navarro-Valls said he commented because "I was worried that what Archbishop Bertone said [to the French Bishop] could be interpreted in too restrictive a way. Has the church or the Vatican said no (to Catholics visiting Medjugorje)? No.... The difference, in the terms of canon law, is that an official pilgrimage, organized by the diocese with the bishop, is a way of giving a juridical sanction to the facts; you are saying this is true." Navarro-Valls failed to explain precisely why Catholics would take a second mortgage on the house and pay $950-$2000 to say Rosary in Bosnia unless they had been led to believe that Mary was really appearing there.
For that matter, Jones points out that the Yugoslavian Bishops Conference’s April 1991 statement had been equally compromised. "It stated that there was nothing supernatural about the occurences at Medjugorje, but then that went on to add that the pilgrims should be taken care of, which prompted the Franciscans to claim that Medjugorje had been officially recognized as a shrine for pilgrims without specifying why anyone should go there since officially nothing supernatural had ever happened there. Pilgrims to what, one is tempted to ask. Eventually, Rome stepped in and said, in effect, no, Medjugorje had not been recognized as a shrine." ("Ghosts of Surmanci").
We’ve come a long way from Our Lord’s admonition to "let your yes be yes,"and equivocation has clearly had its impact. In 1994 there were 579,420 Communions distributed at Medjugorje, and 12,201 concelebrations the previous year. In 1997 there were 1,021,000 Communions, with 25,762 concelebrations. In March 1998 alone, 46,000 Communions. Not bad for a 400-family community to which pilgrimages have been forbidden since 1984. One is forced to wonder how many Communions there were among the Catholic pilgrim population in South Africa. (Data: Medjugorje web page.)
The Medjugorje Industry thrives
The ongoing Medjugorje phenomena have spawned a rapidly growing, multimillion dollar industry spanning the globe. Davies notes that "many of the so-called Medjugorje centers are, in reality, quasi travel agencies," whose take on the one million pilgrimages/year is difficult to calculate. Davies examined the supplement to the August 1993 National Catholic register, and found no less than 177 Medjugorje Centers in the U.S. alone. Australia has over 500 Medjugorje prayer groups.
"There are now many Medjugorje newsletters serving the needs of the industry, including the Medjugorje News, which is circulated throughout Canada" (Warning, p. 55). Colafrancesco’s Caritas organization has a circulation in excess of 150,000 – and Davies described their "pitch" for $1,600,000 to build a "Tabernacle of Our Lady’s Messages." Huge crowds come, listen and spend wherever ‘seers’ appear. In 1993, 20,000 people came to see Ivan in Ontario, and he drew 5000 at Aylesford, in Kent the same year. Unauthorized books, taps, videos and statuary up the ante further. All in violation of Canon law, all in defiance of Church authorities, all for apparitions that Bishop Zanic has said are "the fruit of fabrication, fraud and disobedience."
In Bosnia-Hercogovenia, some 85% of Roman Catholics remain under the direction of the rebellious Franciscans, who derive both spiritual approval and financial support from the alleged apparitions. Bishop Peric, interviewed in Visions on Demand, has not accounting whatsoever for the multiple millions of dollars that have flooded his diocese.
Others who should know better
Bishop Zanic explained that Laurentin "came to visit me around Christmas in 1983, and I offered him dinner. He asked me why I do not believe in the apparitions. I told him that according to the diary of Vicka, and the words of the other ‘seers,’ this ‘Lady’ has been speaking against the Bishop. Laurentin quickly responded: ‘Don’t publish that, because there are many pilgrims and converts here.’ I was scandalized at this statement of this well known Mariologist! Unfortunately this has remained Laurentin’s position: to hide the truth, and defend falsehoods. He has written about 10 books on the topic of Medjugorje, and in almost all of them, the truth and Bishop Zanic are under fire. He knows well what people like to hear...." (1990 Statement).
Bishop Zanic appears to have accurately grasped Laurentin’s pattern of behavior. As already stated, Laurentin wrote a response to the Yugoslavia Bishops’ prohibition of pilgrimages in a major Catholic newspaper. "People must continue going to Medjugorje," he said. "It will be necessary to speak of ‘spiritual journeys’ instead of pilgrimages" (cited by Salbato, Medjugorje Apparitions, p. 21). One hand washes the other. On page 27 of his book Demieres Novelles 3, Laurentin describes a situation in which a certain Monsignor asked Marija to pray for a message from Our Lady. Marija answered, "Our Lady said that they should read Laurentin’s book and spread it around!" (cited by Davies, Warning, p. 37)
When Fr. Vlasic, spiritual advisor to the ‘seers,’ tacitly admitted to fathering Sr. Rufina’s child, Laurentin became involved in the Franciscan disinformation campaign. "In his book La prolongation des apparitions de Medjugorje Rene Laurentin floated the rumor publicly, purged of all the names, making it impossible to either confirm or deny the story. According to the account in the French edition of Laurentin’s book... ‘The presumed father of the child quit the order and went to the United States, where he is married after being reduced to the lay state’" ("Untold Story II," p. 21). There was only one man who fit the description – Marijan Pehar, who had in fact shared coed quarters with Sr. Rufina and Vlasic in Zagreb. According to Jones, "pinning the rap of Pehar was a clever move" but it was based on the assumption that no one would actually contact him. Jones did – and Pehar categorically denied the charges, accusing Laurentin of lying. Laurentin apparently also suggested that Ott, a 90 year old, near-blind German, forged the Croatian correspondence between Sr. Rufina and Vlasic. In two different handwritings.
Laurentin’s other ‘sanitizations’ of Medjugorje events cast serious doubt on his credibility. In Is It the Virgin Mary Appearing at Medjugorje? he asserted that "Father Zovko was only named pastor a few days before the first apparition. He did not know the parish nor did he know the children at all." Jones points out that "This is simply not true. Zovko was named pastor at St. James Parish in October of 1980, which is to say 9 months before the apparitions started" ("Untold Story II," p. 25).
Of even more interest, however, is Laurentin’s handling of a major gaffe in the early transcripts of the ‘seers’ interviews. On June 30, 1981, Ivanka told Fr. Zovko of the ‘Gospa’s’ response when a pilgrim asked to touch her.
Ivanka: The Gospa said that there would always be incredulous Judases who would come to her.
Zovko: Judas wasn’t incredulous.
Ivanka: Incredulous. That means a trator.
Zovko: A traitor is only an unbeliver if he hasn’t received the gift of faith. Thomas was incredulous. How did you come to say Judas?...
Ivanka: She said it. I didn’t... I heard it, we all heard it.
According to Jones, Laurentin "changed Judas to Thomas in his so-called definitive edition of the messages. Apparently he, like Zovko, considers it significant as well as damaging to their case" ("Untold Story II," p. 28). The same volume, Corpus Chronologique de messages, entirely omits the embarrassing ‘bloody handkerchief’ story, though Vicka’s diary includes it.
Laurentin is clearly privy to many of the serious problems associated with the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje. Yet, as Suzanne Rini noted, "Assiduous and prolific, he has retold the Medjugorje story over and over until it has taken on the hypnotic characteristic of a mantra – or a drug. Thus, lit has been mainly Laurentin who has enlarged the image of the apparitions’ veracity and helped keep the turnstile oiled and whirring ("The Hidden Face of Medjugorje," Fidelity, Sept. 1988, p. 42). He has also sold a great many books.
*Catholic Bishops, Catholic Press
When examining the Catholic position on an apparitions, one should be able to trust both the Church’s "leading Mariologist" and one’s local clerics. Perhaps this is why Visions on Demand I is rather hard on Catholic priests and bishops who continue to lead pilgrimages to Medjugorje, in defiance of the clear wishes of the Ordinary there. The screen flashes a print ad for a Medjugorje Peace Tour led by the Rt. Rev. Augustine Harris, and the voice-over explains the great financial benefits to be had by clerical participation. Visions cites one unnamed American bishop who has been able to purchase his own television station.
Nor has the Catholic press informed the faithful of the problems at Medjugorje. Davies explains on the video that Catholic media make too much money from Medjugorje advertisements to print articles critical of the apparitions. Paul Likoudis mentions that "one of the major promoters of Medjugorje is Yugoslavia Airlines, which paid for four-color tabloid inserts in the National Catholic Register each week" ("Film Probes Underside of Medjugorje Industry," The Wanderer, 3/26/98, p. 8).
To satisfy the escalating thirst for novelty, the Medjugorje ‘circuit’ fields other ‘seers’ who ‘got their spirit’ in Bosnia. Still more crop up in local Charismatic prayer groups, dividing parishes and spreading error. Pseudo-mystics appear with such frequency that even an accurate count is impossible – preying upon those Jones calls ‘the little ones.’ By way of example:
*Theresa Lopez put Colorado on the apparition map, forcing Archbishop Stafford to declare in 1991 that there was nothing of supernatural nature transpiring. "Between 1987-1990 Lopez had been married and divorced 4 times, had three children (one by a man she was not married to), was heavily into drugs and alcohol, and had a growing credit card problem, which later led to a charge of second-degree forgery and check fraud charges. Fortunately for Lopez, the Virgin Mary was about to bail her out" ("Behind the Scam," The Wanderer, 3/26/98, p. 8). In 1990 she visited Medjugorje, began reporting locutions, and set up shop in suburban Denver. Soon she was traveling around this country as a major Medjugorje booster; her "Mary said" book sold 60,000 copies through Queenship Publishing. The article notes that she is now living in Rome with one of the priests illicitly ordained by Mafia-connected Bishop Paulo Hnilica – who has been convicted of smuggling money from Yugoslavia into Italy. Lopez is currently a fugitive from the FBI, Social Security, and assorted police agencies. According to one former husband, she spent her evenings transcribing the works of Mary of Agreda to pass off as her own messages.
*Vassula Ryden, like Lopez, was a large draw on the Medjugorje circuit; she gained access to countless Catholic pulpits, though she herself is Greek Orthodox. Vassula claimed her messages were handwritten by Jesus, but nonetheless they were demonstrably subjected to correction and editing. Central to her message is the call for the Catholic and Orthodox Churches to ‘bend’; "it is not that Orthodox people will change to become Roman Catholic..." Fr. Brian Harrison provided a lengthy examination of Vassula in the May, 1994 Fidelity, establishing, among other things, the falsification of certain ‘messages.’ Fr. Harrison found markers of the demonic in her trance state and extraordinary heaviness during her ‘experience of the Passion...’ Vassula is divorced and civilly remarried; her messages indicated that Jesus doesn’t mind. Once again it was Fr. Laurentin who attempted to soothe Catholic consciences with misinformation, insinuating that Vassula’s first marriage bond had been found defective, when in fact it had not even been investigated.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a 10.6/95 Notification regarding some of her doctrinal errors, noting she foretold "a Chruch which would be a kind of pan-Christian community, contrary to Catholic doctrine... [B]y habitually sharing in the sacraments of the Catholic Church [she] appears to be putting herself above all ecclesiastical jurisdiction and every canonical norm, and in effect, is creating an ecumenical disorder...."
*Fr. John Spaulding/Gianna Bianchi
In 1987 Medjugorje’s ‘Gospa’ told Fr. Spaulding she was ‘going home with him’ to Scottsdale. Since that time 9 of his charismatic prayer group members have also become ‘seers’ – and one claims to have seen God the Father. Salbato notes that "the main theme is the same as Medjugorje (11/88): ‘My child, know that I love my people of all religions....’" (Apparitions, p. 4). Parishioners were divided. The Bishop ruled that there was nothing supernatural, but allowed the prayer group to continue. Fr. Spaulding, since transferred to another parish, still ‘receives locutions.’
Scottsdale ‘seer’ Gianna Bianchi’s first volume of material, I am your Jesus of Mercy, contains the alleged words of Our Lady on the Bianchis’ wedding anniversary: "Your marriage, one to be representative to the world, is one of purity and gentle humbleness." Riehle Foundations Our Lady Comes to Scottsdale, however, mentions that Michael Bianchi left Gianna in early 1991, and that the marriage has been annulled by the Church. Gianna has moved to Emmittsburg (MD), and married Medjugorje promoter Dr. Michael Sullivan. Crowds flock to her each Thursday, to hear ‘Our Lady’s’ weekly message.
* * *
Satan’s shell game is a fairly obvious one. In lieu of real mystics, he offers us false ones, with sufficient apparent piety to mislead the marginally informed. Mirjana replaces Sr. Lucy, Fr. Gobbi stands in for Padre Pio. Those pseudo-mystics in turn provide access to Satan’s counterfeit Mary – a banal, verbose individual whose only charm seems to be her ready availability. And the counterfeit Mary? She presents to the world a Christ indifferent to religious error, a Christ who welcomes all comers without insisting upon the inconvenience of conversion, or the discipline of subjecting oneself to Magisterial teaching. Satan’s ‘Christ’ will usher in his one world church.
This is not to say that every false mystic knowingly serves Satan... but he does not require their conscious assent. History is replete with cases in which the naive, the proud and the self-absorbed have served his purposes just as well.
1. Citation of works by Fr. Groeschel, E. Michael Jones, Michael Davies and Rick Salbato on the subject at hand is in no way intended to imply this writer’s agreement with those authors on matters other than private revelation.