Saturday, September 25, 2010

Should bishops allow "seers" of Medjugorje to speak in their dioceses?

Note: In 2013, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent a letter to US Bishops reminding them not to permit visionaries to speak on Church property while the investigation is ongoing.

Below this line is the original post.

We need to break this question down.  

The second question, with it's many parts, needs to be answered first, in order to comprehend the answer to the first question.  Here are the two questions together:

1) If public speaking engagements by Medjugorje "seers", along with public "visions", and devotions, medals, statues based on "Our Lady of Medjugorje", etc. are prohibited by the Ordinary of Mostar-Duvno, should bishops in other dioceses permit these things in their territory?

2) Multi-part question:
a)Does Bishop Peric have authority to prohibit those things stated above?
b)If "yes", what gives him that authority?
c)Has Bishop Peric issued prohibitions/directives?
d) If so, is there proof that the Holy See supports him in these prohibitions/directives and are they meant to be honored in other dioceses?

Now I will answer these starting with #2 - the question of Bishop Peric's authority to make certain prohibitions/directives:

2a) Does Bishop Peric have authority to prohibit those things listed in question 1, above?

Yes. Bishop Peric has this authority on these pastoral matters in Medjugorje.  He also has responsibility to ensure that liturgical activity in Medjugorje is in harmony with the teachings of the Church on liturgy. 


2b) What gives him this authority?

The 1991 Zadar Declaration which remains in effect (Nota Bene: The announcement of a new commission does not abolish this declaration).

It states,
"....Yet the gathering of the faithful from various parts of the world to Medjugorje, inspired by reasons of faith or other motives, require the pastoral attention and care, first of all, of the local Bishop and then of the other bishops with him, so that in Medjugorje and all connected with it, a healthy devotion towards the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the teachings of the Church may be promoted. The Bishops will also provide special liturgical and pastoral directives corresponding to this aim...."

A few notes on the above:

- While subsidiarity - driving decision-making down to the lowest level of authority - is often discussed in context of the Church's social teachings, we can also see it at work here.  The bishop's authority was not stripped by the 1991 Zadar Declaration, but reinforced.  The declaration says, "first and foremost" with regards to the local bishop.

- Subsequent communications, such as those concerning pilgrimages, have all referred back to the 1991 Zadar Declaration. 

- The 1991 Zadar Declaration then encourages collegiality when it says "and the other bishop's with him".

- It gives him authority over what happens pastorally not only in Medjugorje, but in all connected with it.

- The declaration makes clear that it wants a healthy devotion to the BVM according to the teachings of the Church. The teachings of the Church on Mary, specifically referencing Marialis Cultus, encourages time-tested, approved devotions. Above all, it does not include devotions based on unapproved private revelations.

- It is illicit, and a form of liturgical abuse, to promote unapproved private revelations, during liturgical activities.  The 1991 Zadar Declaration merely reinforces what is proper in the liturgy when it says, "The Bishops will also provide special liturgical and pastoral directives corresponding to this aim..."


2c)Has Bishop Peric issued prohibitions and directives?

Yes. Most notably are those which came at the end of his 1996 homily in Medjugorje. It's too much to quote in full here, but in part, he said:

Therefore I responsibly call upon those who claim themselves to be “seers”, as well as those persons behind the “messages”, to demonstrate ecclesiastical obedience and to cease with these public manifestations and messages in this parish. In this fashion they shall show their necessary adherence to the Church, by neither placing private “apparitions” nor private sayings before the official position of the Church. Our faith is a serious and responsible matter. The Church is also a serious and responsible institution!

So, he explicitly prohibits these things in the parish of St. James.

If they cannot do these things in the parish of St. James, common sense would dictate that he is not going to permit them to have them in any other parish in the diocese.

In fact, isn't it interesting that you don't see the Medjugorje "seers" given a platform in any parish or cathedral in the entire country of Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH)? What you see demonstrated here are, "the other bishops with him". This includes not only BiH, but Croatia, which makes up a large part of the former Yugoslavia. So, in 29 years, the "seers" of Medjugorje have not been given public speaking engagements, nor have they been allowed to have "visions" on Church property in the former Yugslavia, or in BiH and Croatia today.  More on that in a moment...

Bishop Peric also re-iterated more formally his directives, which he is authorized to give, and added some, in 2009 (see part 3 here).

With regards to statues and devotions, that was was denied in 1985 by Bishop Zanic when he explicitly ordered these things to be put away, as well as called for the "messages" to cease and the "seers" head off into privacy.  This was the first real evidence that the cult-following was not only not approved, but denied!


2d) Does the Holy See support him in these directives and prohibitions. Is there proof? And should it be taken seriously by other bishops with regards to their having a platform in other dioceses?

The Holy See supports him in all that was said in his 2006 homily with regards to Medjugorje. In fact, we see that the CDF interprets it in a way that makes it applicable in other dioceses.

What is the proof?

This 2007 fax from the Bishops of Tuscany to the priests of the diocese concerning Medjugorje instructing them to read that same 2006 homily by Bishop Peric.

What does the fax say? (crude google translate version here)

During the visit "ad Limina" of the Bishops of the Region of Tuscany, in the period 16/20 April 2007, we had a meeting at the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Secretary Monsignor Angelo Amato, who speaks to us of apparitions of Medjugorje, has invited us to make public the homily the Bishop of Mostar, in order to clarify the religious phenomenon linked to this site.

In compliance with this invitation to make known, and pray, especially priests, to read it carefully and to learn the lessons necessary for the proper lighting of our faithful.

In a 2009 homily, Bishop Peric stated publicly, that Cardinal Levada told him that this is how all inquiries are handled on Medjugore by the CDF now.

Now we turn to Question #1:

1) If public speaking engagements by Medjugorje "seers", along with public "visions", and devotions, medals, statues based on "Our Lady of Medjugorje", etc. are prohibited by the Ordinary of Mostar-Duvno, should bishops in other dioceses permit these things in their territory?
But not before looking at the subject of pilgrimages, which reverse.

We all know that pilgrimages are permitted. However, there are conditions attached though - very specific conditions. They are not permitted to be organized at the parish or diocesan level. In chronological order we have this explained by Vatican officials.

In Prot. No. 154/81-01985, dated March 23, 1996, then Archbishop Bertone stated....

official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, understood as a place of authentic Marian apparitions, are not permitted to be organized either on the parish or on the diocesan level, because that would be in contradiction to what the Bishops of former Yugoslavia affirmed in their fore mentioned Declaration

Then Vatican Spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls added in August of 1996:

The problem is if you systematically organize pilgrimages, organize them with the bishop and the church, you are giving a canonical sanction to the facts of Medjugorje ... This is different from people going in a group who bring a priest with them in order to go to confession...

And, finally in Pr. No 154/81-05922, dated May 26, 1998, then Archbishop Bertone again responds, this time to Msgr. Gilbert Aubry:

Finally, as regards pilgrimages to Medjugorje, which are conducted privately, this Congregation points out that they are permitted on condition that they are not regarded as an authentification of events still taking place and which still call for an examination by the Church.

(All of these communications are collected in one blogpost here: Are pilgrimages permitted to Medjugorje or not?

One last thing we need to understand is what it means when +Bertone stated with regards to private pilgrimages where are permitted...,

"...on condition that they are not regarded as an authentification of events"

This means that even if giga-billions of people visit Medjugorje each year, they are not considered/regarded as a sign of authenticity of "events". No matter how much people want to force the issue with large number of people, large numbers of vocations, and conversions, this is not how the Church discerns authenticity of private revelations.  This word "events" is used to basically describe the who, what, where, when and how of the actual "apparitions" and all related to it. That comes first in discernment.

In other words, if a giga-billion people showed up to watch a woman sawed in half in a box by a magician, the giga-billion people being there does not make what appears to be true, an objective reality.  


It is reasonable to conclude that if pilgrimages are not permitted to be organized on a diocesan or parish level, then the parish or diocese ought not be bringing the pilgrimage to the people. It has the same effect on people that an organized pilgrimage would have: It lends credibility to the unapproved "apparitions", in the minds of the faithful.

It's a break with tradition and it is against collegiality.  Are there any other private revelation in the history of the Church where bishops around the world simply decided to host "seers" in parishes, shrines and cathedrals who are forbidden to have public events on Church property in the diocese of origin?

How is it, that when the "seers" of Medjugorje are given a platform, outside of Mostar-Duvno, at a diocesan cathedral, or a parish, or a popular shrine, these priests and bishops are not, " a canonical sanction to the facts of Medjugorje"?  (referencing what Joaquin Navarro-Valls said earlier on pilgrimages)

It is relativistic to make exceptions for Medjugorje because of the wave of enthusiasm.

I'm afraid the same wave of enthusiasm has led to consequentialism, as well, whereby certain Church leaders believe it is inauthentic, but want to squeeze every vocation and conversion they can out of it. That is noble. But it is also justifying the means to gain an end.

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