21 July 2012

Our Lady of Medjugorje?

Medjugorje is a village located (since the crack-up of Yugoslavia) in Bosnia and Herzegovina but populated almost totally by Croats. Since June 1981, a small group of villagers have claimed that the Blessed Virgin Mary regularly appears to them with messages from heaven, and despite the constant warnings of the local bishop that there is no basis to believe these claims, Medjugorje has become the third most visited pilgrimage site in Europe. Many Catholics of undoubted orthodoxy have been to Medjugorje and reported that they saw there only abundant signs of grace at work in the thousands of pilgrims who come there to pray. And yet ... and yet there are very serious counter-signs also at work in Medjugorje. 

The most serious of these counter-signs is the man who was once the spiritual director of the self-proclaimed visionaries and a champion of the alleged apparitions. His name is Tomislav Vlašić, and he was once a Franciscan priest. He is now a disgraced ex-Catholic and laicized former priest who has taken to shilling New Age nonsense to pay the bills. It turns out that one of the main promoters of belief in the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje is a heretic, a degenerate and probably a sociopath. In 1976, for example, he impregnated a Franciscan sister, whom he convinced to flee to Germany to hide the child. And this was the man who assisted the alleged seers in telling the world that they were receiving messages from the Mother of God.

The partisans of the Medjugorje devotion invariably rebut all objections to these alleged apparitions with an appeal to the abundant spiritual fruits which come to those who make pilgrimage there. But this is not sufficient. Many Muslims and Mormons lead lives of great goodness, but their religions are false. Many Calvinists and Lutherans shame too many Catholics in their devotion to the Lord Jesus, their knowledge of Holy Scripture, and their holiness of life, but much of their doctrine is heretical and they live in separation from the Church of Christ fully and rightly ordered in history. The apparent fruit of holiness in the lives of pilgrims to Medjugorje is simply not evidence that the claims being made by the alleged seers are true, and until and unless the Holy Father makes a definitive judgment on this matter, the only certain guidance we have are the decrees of the Bishop of Mostar, the diocese in which Medjugorje is located. Two successive local bishops have asked that there be no pilgrimages to Medjugorje, and any Catholic who goes there to give credence to the claim of Marian apparitions is doing so against the legitimate authority of the local diocesan pastor.

In March 2010, Pope Benedict XVI created a special commission to investigate everything about Medjugorje and submit a report to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. No further public statements about this matter have been made, so we must assume that the work of this commission is not yet complete. Until the Bishop of Rome makes a determination about this matter, no Catholic should promote devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the presently illicit and presumptuous title of "Our Lady of Medjugorje". 

And beyond that, let us remember that the Christian faith cannot be based upon or guided by visions, locutions, apparitions, or so-called "private revelations" of any kind. When the Church approves locutions or apparitions and only when the Church approves them, these devotions can be useful to some of the faithful as an optional means of enriching their spiritual life, but our faith is given only to the Word of God -- the Word of God Eternal (God the Father's Only-begotten Son), the Word of God Incarnate (the Lord Jesus Christ), and the Word of God Written (the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments). The age of revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, and no new word will be spoken to the human race because the final and full revelation of the Father's eternal plan of salvation has already been made in and by the Lord Jesus Christ.