Thursday, April 15, 2010

Vatican's Medjugorje commission meets

The Vatican commission studying the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina held its first meeting in late March.

While the Vatican press office provided no details about the meeting, it published the names of the commission members April 13.

The Vatican had announced March 17 that at the request of the bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had established an international commission to investigate the claims of six young people who said Mary appeared to them daily beginning in 1981.

Although the apparitions apparently are continuing and thousands of people travel to the small town each month to meet the alleged seers and to pray, the Catholic Church has never made a formal declaration about the authenticity of the apparitions.

The doctrinal congregation appointed retired Cardinal Camillo Ruini, former papal vicar of Rome, to head the commission.

The Vatican said the commission members include: Slovakian Cardinal Jozef Tomko, retired prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, retired president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts; and Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes and former secretary of the doctrinal congregation.

The other commission members are: French Msgr. Tony Anatrella, a psychoanalyst; Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, a theology professor in Milan, Italy; Franciscan Father David Jaeger, a canon lawyer; Conventual Franciscan Father Zdzislaw Jozef Kijas, an official at the Congregation for Saints' Causes; Marianist Father Salvatore M. Perrella, a professor of Mariology in Rome; and Father Achim Schutz, a professor of theological anthropology in Rome.

Polish Msgr. Krzysztof Nykiel, an official at the doctrinal congregation, was named secretary of the commission.

The four consultants assisting the commission are: Father Franjo Topic, a professor of theology in Sarajevo; Jesuit Father Mijo Nikic, professor of psychology at the Jesuit university in Zagreb, Croatia; Jesuit Father Mihaly Szentmartoni, a professor of spirituality in Rome; and Sister Veronika Nela Gaspar, a professor of theology in Rijeka, Croatia, and a member of the Daughters of Divine Charity.


  1. While patrick madrid,catholic answers, and the rest of the ave maria radio radio staff has already made up its mind on medjugorje,the vatican and the pope has not.The way rabid anti-catholic protestants attack catholics,is the way catholics attack catholics who believe in the peaceful message of medjugorje..rob

  2. Dear Rob,
    Thanks for posting. To clarify: Patrick and Catholic Answers are not part of the Ave Maria Radio staff. I am personal friends with Patrick, Karl Keating, Jimmy Akin, Tim Staples, Patrick Coffin and many of the Catholic Answers staff. I don't remember this topic ever coming up in our discussions.

    So I don't even know the position of Catholic Answers on Medjugorje. I do know that they generally stay away from private revelation before it is approved by the teaching authority of the Church. If they've done programming on Medjugorje before, I missed it.

    I didn't know Patrick's position until I read an Our Sunday Visitor article on the new Vatican Commission. He described himself in the article as "Skeptical, not critical."

    I had never heard of Fr. Buechlein before the morning of the program and assumed that he was more favorable to the apparitions because of his website and quotes I had read.

    My position on Medjugorje has always been accepting but not championing. I've never polled our staff to see where they stand. I know some are favorable and I suspect some are critical. Close friends and family have been positively influenced by their visits to Medjugorje. E.g., Tom Monahghan, Mark Miravalle, Keith Fournier, Ralph Martin, Sr. Ann Shields, etc. I know, at least, two men who entered into full communion with the Catholic Church after visiting.

    So your sense that Ave Maria Radio is opposed to or has made up its mind on Medjugorge is way off base. If anything we have been accepting but not championing - basically accepting the good reports we've received and holding at arm's lengths the criticism that have emerged by people like E. Michael Jones and now Patrick Madrid.

    We need critical analysis and that is what the Vatican commission is doing. Take a look at the roster and you'll see theologians, social psychologists, canon lawyers, etc. Believe me they will be doing their best to unearth any unsavory details.

    I heard nothing rabid in Patrick's skepticism, although his claim that one of the visionaries had made a blasphemous joke about Christ surprised me. I had never heard it. But I was surprised he brought it up given how recently he had been made aware of it. Other than the introduction of this story I thought his manner was excellent.

    Over the last fifteen years I've done at least three lengthy interviews/debates on Medjugorje, and, if anything hostile to the visionaries or the Franciscans is said, I am accused of being anti-Medjugorje. This is beginning to make me suspicious of the security of those who claim the Blessed Mother is appearing. Every purported apparition generates criticism. This was true of Lourdes, it was true of Fatima and it is true of Medjugorje.

    We all want the truth to prevail and it doesn't serve the interest of truth to suppress honest criticism and questioning. Patrick is a serious Catholic and entitled to offer the best of his thinking on this. Fr. Buechlein has years of experience as a spiritual director and lead of pilgrimages to Medjugorje, he is a rich resource to help us think and pray through this matter.

    Hope this helps clear things up.

  3. Would love to hear from others on the Program discussion and Medujorge in general.

  4. Al,

    I thought you did a great job facilitating the discussion. The topic is an emotional one and any radio station that takes on the subject in a way that offers both sides a chance to air their views is going to take a great deal of flak. Yet, I think dialogue is important. People should be able to share both good and bad fruits; positive and negative experiences, etc.

    In the end, everyone should desire one thing: Truth.

    Like Patrick I feel that if it is authentic, then those of us who are skeptical or critical can re-evaluate our positions based on any new light the Holy See can shed. The CCC teaches us that we are not obligated to believe even if it is someday approved. On the other hand, if the Holy See believes it has enough evidence that this is not the Mother of God appearing to these people, then as a matter of justice and charity, we need to know. People have developed deep attachments to this phenomena and the Church always urges caution because there are dangers with these kinds of attachments, in particular if a negative judgment comes forth.

    People probably label me a critic. But, like Patrick, I do not discount positive experiences and conversions. That is wonderful. However, where supporters attribute these things to an apparition which has not been deemed worthy of belief, others like myself believe there are alternate explanations for these things.

    Consider that for a period of about 40 years, there was a sanitization of Marian and Eucharistic devotion taking place, especially in the west. The same could be said of the Sacrament of Penance, and the role of mortification in the spiritual life. This was like taboo. How many experienced Adoration? How many felt comfortable walking into Church with a Rosary in their hand? Why did people stop going to confession if it wasn't because priests stopped talking about sin and didn't encourage it?

    Along comes Medjugorje. I lived there from Nov of 1980 to Feb of 1983, discerning a vocation with the order of Franciscan sisters who serve St. James. I was there when it began. I was broken up to have to leave due to illness.

    I can tell you this much. Even before Medjugorje, the Catholic culture there was very different than it was here. The priests and people were very devoted to Mary and the Eucharist. Confession was valued, as was the concept of sacrifice. Once the alleged apparitions began, of course these things would be encouraged.

    Now, take people from cultures where they were starved of those distinctly Catholic things I mentioned, and put them in Medjugorje and here is what they experience: Massive lines of confession (believe me, God's grace works on people just by seeing others in line for the sacrament because it happens to me at my own parish when I see a confession line); people freely walking around with Rosaries, singing Marian hymns and venerating the Mother of God in an apparition they believe to be authentic (why wouldn't she respond to those heartfelt prayers whether she is appearing there or not?); some experience Eucharistic Adoration for the first time (especially in the 80's when it all started); appreciation for the Eucharist leads to a better appreciation for the Mass and unlike what they hear in some of their parishes - someone actually talks about sin! They begin to see the value of mortification when encouraged to practice it.

    What happens next? They attribute their spiritual conversions and vocations not to the sacraments and devotions, but to an apparition that has not been affirmed as supernatural at any level (not to mention objectively contrary indicators).

    I know several former "Baysiders" who came back to the faith because of it, yet they know now that it is false. If it was false, how did they convert, if not for grace through prayers and devotions?

  5. What caused me to become a skeptic and then a critic?

    When I left that convent in 1983, I left about 75% convinced that it was authentic and considered myself cautiously optimistic. Why? The good fruits so often cited. I saw them first hand. Hidden to me then, were the bad fruits.

    When I returned stateside, I lost all contact with my former community aside from an occasional postal letter (internet had not come of age yet). I integrated back into secular life and as I went to school, then work, Medjugorje began to fade. Now and then someone would ask me about it. I gave people pieces of a large Rock I brought back, as well as, medals that were stamped with "Our Lady of Medjugorje" (without the bishop's approval unbeknownst to me). I remember taking a jab at the local bishop in conversation without blinking an eye (attitudes in general there were not friendly toward's the bishop).

    In 2005 as Pope John Paul II was dying, after years of lukewarm practice of my faith, I had a serious conversion of heart. I turned to the internet and immediately became interested in Medjugorje. I naturally stumbled into pro-Medjugorje sites which come up first. I developed contempt in my heart for the local bishop based on what I read at these sites, and spread it.

    For a couple of weeks I talked enthusiastically about it in forums. One day, a man said something about a priest I knew there and I really let him have it. I set out to prove him wrong, and proved him right after days of research. I began to hunt down more objective information and diocesan docs to hear the other side of the story. I was mortified to realize that I had participated in spreading calumnies about the local Bishop (such as the one about him being motivated by fear of the communists - Italian researcher, Prof Marco Corvaglia explains this fallacy here).

    Once I took a serious look at why the bishops were objecting, I felt their reservations and doubts about authenticity were reasonable. Later, I discovered that only favorable parts of transcripts of audio with visionaries from the early days were shared by promoting authors, and in one case outright manipulation of data. Anything critical has been systematically suppressed, and it is unpopular to discuss these things with any objectivity.

    I felt dirty having trashed a bishop in good standing the way I did (and couldn't get to a confessional fast enough). One of my key objections today is that the movement in general has a disdain for the local bishop - so much so, that anything he has to say is treated with hostility or indifference. That is also a fruit!

    Here are some others who have recently come out as skeptics:

    Cardinal Saraiva Martins: Medjugorje and Fatima - no comparison

    Rev. Dr. Manfred Hauke
    - Fr. Hauke's initial interview on Feb 2, 2010
    - Fr. Hauke's public response to transitional deacon who accused him of spreading half-truths and lies; adds more details on his main points.
    - Fr. Hauke responds with even more details, including response from a doctor whom he asked to review an alleged miracle.

  6. Subjectively good experiences are not equivalent to validation of truth. This is so clear to likely readers of this blog that I will not even offer examples.

    I was quite surprised Fr. Buechlein stated so clearly that it does not really matter whether the alleged apparitions are declared to be true. He suggests what matters is whether lives have been changed. Everyone should pause at the suggestion that it is really moot what the Commission decides about the objective validity of the alleged apparitions.

    I think he is making a fundamental mistake. None of us know, and he admitted this, how strong supporters of Medjugorje will fare if a negative verdict is rendered. I would not be surprised under such a scenario if such people underwent a crisis of faith, a temptation to ignore the Church, a reversion to prior apathy or vice, bitterness, and any number of fruitless reactions.

    I would not expect a peaceful resignation to the authority of the Church if you have been totally immersed in the phenomenon and you have convinced yourself that these alleged apparitions are closely linked psychologically to your conversion.

    As Catholics, we must think with the Church, and the Church is ALWAYS about the business of truth. Truth matters, and our only hope of happiness is to follow that path. Beware of forming ideas solely on the basis of good experience!

  7. My original interest in Medjugorje was largely fed by my interest in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement and vice-versa. My interest peaked at one Charismatic Conference that included Karl Keating of Catholic Answers and Father Benedict Groeschel as speakers, despite the fact that neither claimed to be part of the movement personally. I felt that was the direction the Charismatic movement should take, while distancing itself from Medjugorje (which dominated the conference bookstore). Unfortunately it seemed to me that the two movements were nearly inseparable, and were based almost entirely upon emotionalism.
    It seems that EWTN had early ties to both movements in its early days, but fortunately evolved to become more doctrinal. I think Franciscan University somewhat made that same transition as they became more known for Dr. Scott Hahn, though I'm not sure that they still don't have some close ties to both Medjugorje and the Charismatic Movement.
    It seems to me that Ralph Martin has steered Renewal Ministries away from Medjugorje, even though he might personally be supportive. I am still of the opinion that at the grass-roots level, Charismatics tend to be into emotional phenomena and therefore believers in Medjugorje. I'd like to hear you have a discussion with Ralph about this if he is willing.

  8. I wish here to point out some interesting things
    i learned from Servant of God Father John A Hardon SJ 1) One of the reasons he was skeptical about the Medjugorje Phenomon was,according to his sources, 'announced' in advance at a Charismastic Renewal Conference in Rome shortly prior to the Phenomon taking place And Members of Franciscan Order that were from Medjugorje region were present and then returned to the area.
    2) The Phenomenon could be explained by Pychological and other reasons (The Servant of God had a graduate degree in Pychology)
    3 The People promoting the Medjugorje Phenomenon were often not giving accurate information about what the Pope and Cardinal Ratzingers view was on the subject!Often frabricating Statements. Father Hardon Was in regular contact with the Holy See almost daily if not in the very least weekly. As Vowed studied student of Pope and the Papacy he was not going to contradict his vow of Obedience of Mind and Heart to God's authorities
    In my own case i too was a supporter of the Medjugorje Phenomenon Until meeting the holy Priest and now Servant of God Father Hardon. He was remarkable for his keen discernment and wisdom concerning many things going on in The Church and The World. He was highly sought after by many Bishops in need of Objective Judgement about Private Revealations Yet in my experience with him he had pure simple Faith!
    In subsequent experience of things conerning the Spiritual Life i can say it is often a very easy thing to be blinded by ones own subjectivism or fall into what one author has called illummanism
    If people wish to have some very good reading on discernment of Spiritual Phenomena
    i recommmend "A Still Small Voice' By Father Benidict Groschel CFR AND "Authenticity" By Father Dubay both are available from Ignatius Press

  9. While my view towards Medjugorje has turned to negativee, I haven't quite figured out the Charismatic Renewal. I feel comfortable with Ralph Martin, but it seems a number of the leading figures have wound up leaving or being discipllined by the Church. For instance: Father Ken Roberts, Fr. John Bertolucci, former Father Francis McNutt, the Linn brothers, etc. From what I have been able to tell, at the grass roots many members of the Charismatic Renewal are also followers of Medjugorje along with all of the various other apparitions/locutions that have followed from it. Since Ralph Martin seems to be quite sensible, I am wondering what his own assessment of what has become of things is.

  10. By the way, I'm not sure if you may know that the picture that comes up when Fr. Neil Buchlein is speaking (with his name) during your webcast seems to be a picture of Fr. Jozo Zovko rather than of Fr. Buchlein himself.

  11. I think that what is going on with some people involved in the Charismatic Renewal is that, once they have felt the consolations showered upon them from the Holy Spirit (Gifts of the Holy Spirit) perhaps instead of becoming humble they are overtaken by spiritual avarice and pride which in turn is self-love.