Saturday, November 21, 2009

Medjugorje Rumblings

There has been a lot of rumblings about Medjugorje this fall from many different sources and on an amazingly broad spectrum: some of pro-Medjugorje crowd have been claiming that the (non)pilgrimage site is about to get a big endorsement from a visit by Cardinal Schönborn this December. On the other hand, there have been rumors in the Vatican that a very high level pronouncement about Medjugorje is about to be issued - before the end of 2009 - and that this pronouncement will probably be a condemnation of the alleged apparitions (this would make logical sense since every action the CDF and the Vatican has taken with regards to Medjurgoje connected issues in the past few years has been negative, as in here and here).

First, Cardinal Schönborn's visit. This news originally broke about ten days ago, and Medjugorje supporters immediately began trumpeting it as a victory for the cause of the apparitions. Schonborn has apparently supported them, even hosting one of the "seers" in his cathedral. It was reported (as here) that Schönborn was supposed to visit from December 8th to January 4th (a month long visit?). All the old quotations from Cardinal Ratzinger allegedly supporting Medjugorje were also brought back out, quotations which Ratzinger has said are "freely invented."

This has become somewhat embarassing for the Cardinal, who apparently was making the trip as a private individual and was a little chagrined that the news was leaked to the public, who immediately started taking it as a sign of support for the apparitions. The Cardinal's secretary, Fr. Johannes Fürnkranz, told CNA:

"It was supposed to be a completely private visit, it was not supposed to go out to the internet...The cardinal's visit was supposed to be absolutely personal and not public, but since it has been leaked, I can only confirm that it will take place. There is no statement whatsoever involved in the visit" (source).

In my opinion it is extraordinarily naive of the Cardinal to think that such a high-ranking ecclesiastic as himself could pull off a visit like this and have it kept private - he is also naive for thinking that a visit by such a high ranking member of the hierarchy would not be construed as support for the apparitions, especially since the Medjugorje movement has shown itself unscrupulous in the past when attempting the dredge up alleged support for itself from the Vatican (see here). At any rate, Schönborn probably shouldn't have arranged his visit in this manner anyway - there is protocol that must be followed when one bishop visits another bishop's territory, and at least it seems that Schönborn planned and announced this visit without notifying or consulting the Bishop of Mostar, Ratko Peric. This is just speculation, but this seems to be one reason why Schönborn got so upset when this was made public - Peric had not yet been informed or involved. It would be interesting to get Peric's opinion on the matter, since he has specifically stated that Medjugorje is not a shrine and has no business acting like one (see here). The announcement of Schönborn's visit, even if private, is an admission that the Cardinal is violating protocol. I personally have been suspicious of the prudential judgment of the Cardinal since this episode.

The controversy over the visit apparently prompted a leak from the CDF, in which an unnamed official reported the following, which was published by CNA on 11/11/09:

Speaking on background, an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told CNA that the Roman dicastery remains behind the bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"The local bishops have the ultimate authority on this matter, and their arguments against the alleged apparitions are doctrinally solid," the official said.

Asked if Medjugorje should not be judged by its fruits of many conversions and vocations to the Church, the official responded: "It is not the duty of this Dicastery to make a pastoral assessment, but a doctrinal one. But regarding the argument, it can equally be argued that God can write straight with crooked lines, just as it has been proven in several previous occasions with patently false apparitions"

By making the comparison between the fruits of Medjugorje and other "patently false apparitions" is the CDF making an allusion to the Vatican's mind in the matter? This brings us to our next news item regarding Medjurgorje: the rumors that the Vatican will issue a ruling on Medjugorje before the end of 2009. This I think is more than a rumor, for it was stated quite categorically by Cardinal Vinco Puljic, head of the Bosnian bishops' council (their UCSSB). He stated on October 7th, 2009:

"We are now awaiting a new directive on this issue. I don’t think we must wait for a long time, I think it will be this year, but that is not clear… I am going to Rome in November and we must discuss this (source).

This is exciting news, indeed. I wouldn't be surprised if there is some statement upon the issue on one of the major Marian feast days coming up - perhaps Immaculate Conception, Guadalupe (which would eb especially fitting since Guadalupe is a true Marian apparition as opposed to these false ones, and it would send the signal that the Bosnian bishops are not against Marian apparitions per se, as is often claimed), or maybe January 1st.

Let's hope this is more than just rumors - and if so, given the actions of the CDF with regards to Fr. Vlasic, the new directives on Medjugorje from Mostar and the unswerving support of the Vatican for the local Bosnian bishops, I think we can safely say what way a ruling would fall.


Vincenzo said...


Timothy said...

In an interview with ZENIT, Cardinal Puljic had this to say about Medjugorje (auto translated from Italian to English):
"It's a reality that the phenomenon of Medjugorje continues to attract thousands of pilgrims", recognizes Cardinal Puljic. "Praying is not a sin", the Cardinal said with a smile. "There are many good observations that have generated even conversions and vocations to the priesthood or religious. There are fruits of prayer where men pray with faith, God gives the fruits of his grace. "
"Praying in Marian shrines", explained Cardinal Puljić, "is part of the identity of our Catholic faithful. In the course of events issues of history, our people have been found in various sanctuaries in the region to seek comfort, light, hope, and Madonna is a mark for our faith. "
The entire interview can be found at

Boniface said...

A portion of the Zenit article, translated from the Italian and found on Fr. Z-

What is happening in Medjugorje – said Cardinal Pulji? – is the responsibility of the Bishop of Mostar, Monsignor Ratko Peric, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. We look forward to suggestions and proposals on how to accompany this phenomenon as Bishops and the Episcopal Conference, and I think that the Holy See wants to work in this area.

I think Bishop Puljic can be partially blamed for speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He did in fact say, quote, "We are now awaiting a new directive on this issue. I don’t think we must wait for a long time, I think it will be this year, but that is not clear… I am going to Rome in November and we must discuss this”, and now for him to deny it seems to say that he is going a little bit ahead of the Holy See in his words and is now compelled to take some of them back.

It is worth noting that he did not say the Vatican was not going to do anything, but that there was no working document or commission being set up, as far as he knows. His original statement, that we would see action before the new year, is now modified to "I think that the Holy See wants to work in this area."

We probably should no longer put much stock in what this Cardinal says, since he seems to jump the gun.