Saturday, March 20, 2010

Medjugorje - the commission

A Proper Enquiry at Last?

It seems that at last we may find some thoroughly official assessment from the Vatican as to what has been going on in Medjugorje since 1981.

However, we must be careful to understand exactly what is being done. The amount of obfuscation, and misinformation and misdirection around the subject has been massive over the years ... and that is probably an understatement!

The new situation appears to be as follows: the Archbishop and Bishops in Bosnia and Herzegovina had been tasked with the assessment of it all and, perhaps in view of the strong feelings around on all sides, decided to ask the Vatican to take over this work. The Vatican has accepted and appointed Cardinal Camillo Ruini to head the enquiry. Cardinal Ruini was a close advisor to the late Pope John Paul II, and no doubt well acquainted with that pontiff's views on the matter, views reported as being very supportive of the work done in Medjugorje since the apparitions began to be reported.

The mainstay of detractors of the apparitions and the work around them has been the reported views of the local Bishop, Ratko Peric and his predecessor Pavao Zanic. We do need to take care when reading these opinions and the pastoral advice given by these two Bishops. In particular we should remember that the whole matter was taken out of their hands by the Vatican leaving them in a position most of us would wish to avoid, having distinct personal opinions but not being able to make official pronouncements in the matter while remaining pastorally responsible for the parish..

Bishop Peric has been in charge of the Mostar-Duvno diocese for many years now. I happened to be present when he gave his first guidelines over the apparitions and the management of the pilgrims drawn to the parish by their reported occurence. His private judgement is that the phenomena are not of supernatural origin. It must be stressed that this is a private opinion. Many commentators take it as being in some way or other the official view of the Catholic Church at large ... and rush to condemn everything about Medjugorje.

Regrettably these detractors fail often to take into consideration the rest of the Bishop's opinions. He is reported as being pleased in the general way the local clergy deal with the pilgrims whilst carrying out their normal parochial ministry. He has commented positively about the visionaries finding them normal, healthy, and properly devout catholic men and women. He has said that the fact that someone has visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary does not mean they are mentally ill. Most pertinently of all he has commented that a healthy devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is an essential element in catholic life.

It is this, the last comment I mention, that lies at the core of the matter, surely? It comes from a Bishop with a solid scholarly knowledge of Marian theology and personal experience of Lourdes.

Perhaps we should hope and pray that the questions answered most directly by the commission will be those about the way in which the experiences found in Medjugorje can help develop such a healthy devotion. Entrenched positions over supernatural origin v. non-supernatural origin, or heavenly intervention v. demonic incursion are not going to help. We do need some clarification even while new apparitions continue to be reported.

My best wishes to all,