In 1981, six children in Medjugorje claimed not only that Our Lady had appeared to them, but that she was continuing to appear to them on a daily basis. They reported numerous messages. Medjugorje subsequently became a major pilgrimage destination with strong ties to the charismatic movement, despite the condemnation of the local bishop.
Medjugorje: The Case
Bishop Ratko Perić, Bishop of Mostar-Duvno and Trebinje-Mrkan in Bosnia-Herzegovina, has issued a statement on February 27, 2017 quoted by Total Croatia News to the effect that “there have been no apparitions of Our Lady in Medjugorje,” a village within his diocese. (See DICI no. 351, March 17, 2017.)
The Alleged Apparitions
In 1981, six children in Medjugorje claimed not only that Our Lady had appeared to them, but that she was continuing to appear to them on a daily basis. They reported numerous messages that they claimed to have received from Our Lady, and Medjugorje subsequently became a major pilgrimage destination with strong ties to the charismatic movement, despite an explicit ban on pilgrimages from the Church and the condemnation of the local bishop, who considered the apparitions to be a hoax.
Opposition from the Local Ordinary
The alleged apparitions have been opposed by the local bishop since they were first reported in 1981. According to the information gathered by Michael Davies in his work Medjugorje: A Warning, Bishop Pavao Žanić, bishop of Mostar-Duvno from 1980 to 1993, who himself had a great devotion to Our Lady, investigated the case and was adamant that “Our Lady has not appeared in Medjugorje!” In 1991, the bishops of what was then Yugoslavia determined that “on the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”
His successor, Bishop Ratko Perić, issued a statement on February 27, 2017 quoted by Total Croatia News, saying:
Considering everything that this diocesan chancery has so far researched and studied, including the first seven days of alleged apparitions, we can say: there have been no apparitions of Our Lady in Medjugorje.”
He says that the visionaries’ accounts of events are contradictory and totally lacking in credibility. He also points out “ambiguous phenomena” connected with the apparitions, including strange behaviour of the “woman who appears,” and concludes, “This really is not Our Lady from the Gospel.”
Who is Competent to Judge Private Apparitions?
Reports of private apparitions are traditionally examined and judged at the level of the local diocese as:
- constat de supernaturalitate (established as supernatural);
- constat de non supernaturalitate (established as not supernatural);
- non constat de supernaturalitate (not established as supernatural).
In the case of Medjugorje, the 1991 decision of the bishops of then-Yugoslavia put the apparitions in the third category, non constat de supernaturalitate, which would leave the case open for further observation and collection of evidence.
Bishop Perić stated in a 1998 letter to the Secretary General of French publication Famille Chretienne:
My conviction and my position is not only non constat de supernaturalitate, but likewise, constat de non supernaturalitate of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje."
If Bishop Perić’s was the final word on the matter, the case would be closed: the apparitions at Medjugorje would be definitively condemned.
Ambiguity from Rome
However, the Secretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) then-Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, wrote that Bishop Perić’s statement:
should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion.”
He stated furthermore:
As for the credibility of the "apparitions" in question, this Dicastery respects what was decided by the bishops of the former Yugoslavia in the Declaration of Zadar, April 10, 1991: ‘On the basis of the investigations so far, it cannot be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.’ Since the division of Yugoslavia into different independent nations it would now pertain to the members of the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina to eventually reopen the examination of this case, and to make any new pronouncements that might be called for.”
In light of these events, it appears that although traditionally the final word would belong to the local bishop, the CDF considered that the decision belongs to the national bishops’ conference.
In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI established a commission to study the case of Medjugorje. Pope Francis told reporters in 2015 that the inquiry had been completed, and a final decision was imminent. However, no public declaration on the authenticity of the apparitions has yet been forthcoming.
According to DICI, on February 11, 2017 Pope Francis appointed a “special envoy from the Holy See” for the shrine in Medjugorje, Abp. Henryk Hoser, Archbishop of Warszawa-Praga (Poland). His mission, between now and next summer, is:
to gain and in-depth knowledge about the pastoral situation of this institution and above all about the needs of the faithful who travel to it on pilgrimage and, based on it, to suggest possible pastoral initiatives for the future”.
Judging by Their Fruits
Among the criteria used to evaluate the authenticity of private revelations is a close examination of the conformity of the message with the doctrine and the fruits of the apparitions, both in the soul of the seer and in the effects on the Church at large.
Michael Davies points out that some of the supposed messages promote ecumenism and a syncretistic approach to religion. One such message states that Catholics, Moslems and Orthodox all share the same God, and that:
you are not a believer if you do not respect other religions….Keep your own for yourselves and your children.”
Some have claimed that the apparitions at Medjugorje promote Marian devotion and Confession. However, Dan Burke at the National Catholic Register points out that although God can bring good out of evil if He chooses, among the evil fruits of Medjugorje are disobedience and disrespect of the local bishop in a matter clearly within the purview of his authority. It is concerning that this disobedience supported and encouraged by the supposed messages of Our Lady through the “seers.”
Moreover, the personal lives of a number of the disobedient clerics involved with the apparitions do not stand up to scrutiny.
Sources: Total Croatio News, Famille Chretienne, National Catholic Register, DICI - March 2017