First, it is important to point out that Medjugorje supporters will often claim that the bishop was "relieved of the dossier", which is false. It is the first way in which they attempt to discredit his legitimate authority as Ordinary of the place. In a press release by Cardinal Kuharic in January 1987 in Glas Koncila, His Eminence explains why the decision was taken to the level of bishop's conference (and, I might add, Bishop Zanic was involved in the process! If he were truly "relieved", he would not be deeply engaged):
"During the inquiry these events under investigation have appeared to go much beyond the limits of the diocese. Therefore, on the basis of the said regulations, it became fitting to continue the work at the level of the Bishops' Conference, and thus to form a new Commission for that purpose."The cause of the change in who will get final discernment then is clear in the statement offered by Cardinal Kuharic: It affects more than just the diocese of Mostar-Duvno. With this now understood it is clear that the bishop alone will no longer be responsible for a final judgment on Medjugorje. Rather, it will be up to another commission, or some other body determined by the CDF. If you look carefully at each commission thus far, it always included the local bishop, and future commissions will undoubtedly do the same. This is protocol and is also proof that His Excellency is not in some kind of "negative light" at the Holy See on account of his now constant negative position as is alleged on many promoter sites. The case had developed such global reach by 1987 that it needed to be elevated. It's that simple.
Now we get to the actual letter by Bishop Peric to which Cardinal Bertone will later refer when he speaks about the bishop's "personal opinion".
"...my conviction and position is not only non constat de supernaturalitate [the supernaturality is not proven] but also the other formula constat de non supernaturalitate [the non-supernaturality is proven] of the apparitions or revelations of Medjugorje.
5) Nevertheless I am open to a study that the Holy See would undertake, as the supreme court of the Catholic Church, to speak the supreme and definitive judgment on the case, and that as soon as possible, for the good of souls and for the honor of the Church and of Our Lady.So, at no point did Bishop Ratko Peric attempt to pass a final judgment; rather, he communicated with great clarity, a change in his personal position. While it was not a final judgment, in the minds of many Catholics, it was a weighty opinion.
Now we can get into the letter by then Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone (now a Cardinal and the Vatican Secretary of State) which contains a line that has been taken grossly out of context by some supporters of Medjugorje and projected in all kinds of ways which undermine the credibility of the bishop of Mostar. You will find around the web ridiculous claims that "Bishop Peric was silenced", or that "Bishop Peric is being disobedient for speaking about the apparitions" because of what +Bertone said. Let's look at the relevant excerpt from the letter:
In 1998, Archbishop Bertone, responding to Mons. Gilbert Aubry (Pr. No 154/81-05922), was clarifying the Church's position on pilgrimages. In one paragraph, he refers to that statement above by Bishop Peric and writes:
What Bishop Peric said in his letter to the Secretary General of "Famille Chretienne", declaring: "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", 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.Note: All of these communications on pilgrimages are in a single post where you can scroll and read here later: Are pilgrimages to Medjugorje permitted or not???
Why does Cardinal Bertone say this? It's simple. Bishop Peric no longer has jurisdiction to make a definitive final judgment because it belongs to a greater body now that it has such a global presence. In no way is Cardinal Bertone saying that Bishop Peric should not state his personal opinion, nor shepherd his diocese. Rather, he says he has a right to express it. In fact, +Bertone reasserts the authority held by the local bishop in pastoral matters in the same letter:
However, the numerous gatherings of the faithful from different parts of the world, who are coming to Medjugorje prompted both by motives of belief and certain other motives, require the attention and pastoral care in the first place of the bishop of the diocese and of the other bishops with him so that in Medjugorje, and everything related to it, a healthy devotion toward the Blessed Virgin Mary would be promoted in conformity with the teaching of the Church.
IMPACT OF THESE COMMUNICATIONS ON THE WEB
People use that statement by Cardinal Bertone to say that Bishop Peric is "disobedient" for speaking out against the apparitions, and even that "Bishop Peric has been silenced by the Vatican". These are common allegations rooted in that communication by Cardinal Bertone and they are disingenuous. Those making such claims need to re-examine their position and consider that they are making false claims against the apostolic successor of that diocese.
IMPACT OF THESE COMMUNICATIONS ON THE FAITHFUL
People, innocently seeking information about Medjugorje stumble upon pro-Medjugorje sites and in blog comment boxes which proliferate these false claims against the local bishop. It is sometimes taken at face value by those who do not take the time to examine all of the letters in context before they tell others. The damage to the Church is significant and it has caused great division. On the one side you have the Apostolic Successor (the Church), on the other side, the promoters and supporters who are pitted against him using disinformation.