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Friday, April 9, 2010

Apparitions at Medjugorje and Ramifications for NT Claims of Resurrection

In the comments section of yesterday's post a gentlemen who calls himself Pilgrim described some of his experiences at Medjugorje. He has visited the location 35 times in the last 10 years. I appreciate him sharing his thoughts. The phenomena happening at Medjugorje is fascinating and relevant to the discussion of the reported post-mortem appearances of Jesus in the NT.

Hector Avalos wrote the following to me in an email yesterday:

I argue that the Medjugorje apparitions are an excellent laboratory for testing claims about the Jesus stories. There you have all the elements that are usually used to argue for the historicity of Jesus:

1. Witnesses that have little social standing.

2. Claimed physical contact with a person otherwise regarded as dead.

3. Creation of "gospels" within a short span of time, as opposed to the claim that legends need long periods of time to form.

4. Disavowal of the witnesses by main authorities, and yet popular support growing enormously.

5. No recantations of the witnesses despite opposition and persecution.

6. The Medjugorje witnesses were subjected to more scientific tests than anything we have for the Jesus witnesses.

There are many others, too. In short, I don't think the that historical Jesus can be discussed again without thorough acquaintance with events such as those at Medjugorje.

I am not aware of any in-depth study of this phenomena by evangelical Christians. As Steve pointed out in the comment section, Craig and other apologists constantly say that people in NT times would have checked out the disciple's claim that Jesus was risen. Yet, I don't see Craig or any other apologist checking out these apparitions at Medjugorje. I wonder why not? Could it be that they just dismiss it as emotionalism fueled by superstition? Perhaps, that is what the people in NT times thought when they heard the disciples' claim and so they didn't bother to check it out either.

There have been studies of the phenomena at Medjugorje by others, however. A book published in 1987 by Rene Laurentin and Henri Joyeux, entitled: Scientific and Medical Studies on the Apparitions at Medjugorje . Joyeux, a medical doctor, was the Professor of Oncology in the Faculty of Medicine at Montpellier, France at the time of the study. Laurentin, a priest, a Marian apologist and historian, synthesized the research and co-authored the book with Joyeux. I have not personally read the book but I have it on order. However, Hector Avalos, wrote an article in 1994 for Free Inquiry in which he examined the evidence presented by Joyeux and Laurentin. The article is entitled: Mary at Medjugorje: A Critical Inquiry .

Avalos writes:
Joyeux concluded that the visionaries had no mental illness of any sort. The apparitions are not sleep or dream or hallucination in
the medical or pathological sense of the word. This is scientifically excluded by the electro-encephalogram and by clinical observation. He also excludes "any element of deceit." Since Joyeux could not find any condition that he would label "pathological," he concludes, "We are dealing with a perception which is essentially objective both in its causality and in its scope." As to the cause of the youngsters' experience, he says, "The most obvious answer is that given by the visionaries who claim to meet the Virgin Mary, Mother of God." In sum, Laurentin and Joyeux conclude that there is no scientific or natural explanation available to account for the reports of the visionaries. More important, they conclude that the absence of any condition labeled as "pathological" is evidence that the reported experience of the visionaries is authentically supernatural.

So, the doctor and the priest conclude that the visionaries were (1) not mentally ill, (2) not hallucinating nor dreaming, and (3) not lying. Their conclusion was that the phenomena was indeed supernatural.

Avalos points out that studies have shown that hallucinations are not necessarily due to mental illness. There is a misconception that hallucinations are either caused by psychosis or by drugs. Instead, there is evidence that otherwise perfectly normal and sober people do experience hallucinations. An article in the Scientific American, Ghost Stories: Visits from the Deceased, cites a research study that concluded that 80% of elderly people experience hallucinations of their deceased spouse. A third of those studied heard their recently departed partner speak to them. One of the most thorough studies of hallucinations, Sensory Deception: A Scientific Analysis of Hallucination, written by Peter Slade and Richard Bentall, estimates that 7 to 14% of people have experienced an hallucination. In the article, Hallucinations, in the Encylopedia of Psychology (ed. R. J. Corsini), it is reported that anywhere from 1/8 to 2/3 of the normal population experience hallucinations.

Avalos asks:
Why do otherwise normal people come to believe that they are witnessing non-occurring entities and events? The Barber and Calverley experiment [Toward a Theory of "Hypnotic" Behavior] as well as a host of recent research, indicates that human acts of perception always involve interpretations and inferences that may be held in common by large groups of people. Raw visual and auditory data are combined with inferences about what was thought to be seen and heard. We often select out of the large raw input of visual and auditory data those that we regard as important and that confirm expectations, especially if they are desirable.

Many recent experiments show that the human mind is biologically wired to interpolate many expected images or portions thereof, even if such images are not objectively present. People often form mental images of all types of objects, real and unreal.

He continues:
Once a believer is convinced that an inference is valid, then the conclusion may be considered sufficiently certain to contradict or suppress raw visual data. Any further disconfirmation of their interpretation may be either ignored or disregarded in favor of the inference. This type of avoidance of disconfirming data among Marian devotees is clearly manifested in the oft-repeated dictum: "To those who believe, no proof is necessary; to those who doubt,
no proof is sufficient."

Avalos argues:
If, as in the Barber and Calverley experiments, an average of at least 33 percent of people with no obvious pathology can report clearly seeing or hearing events that are not occurring, then it would not be extraordinary to find 333 "normal" people in a parish of at least one thousand believers who could report seeing or hearing non-occurring events, especially when, as is the case with supposed Marian apparitions, the events in question are believed to be not only possible but desirable as well.

If, as in the Barber and Calverley experiment, at least 2.5 percent believe what they are seeing or hearing is actually present, then it would not be extraordinary to find at least twenty-five people in a parish of one thousand members who actually believe what they are seeing and hearing is present in real time and space.

Avalos believes that the social setting in which many of these visions takes place is very conducive to such claims. He writes: Imagine living in a subculture that constantly and repeatedly suggests to its members the desirability of experiencing a Marian apparition. Imagine living in a subculture where young people who have claimed to have seen Marian apparitions at Lourdes, Fatima, and other places also are beloved role models.

In addition, other cues within in the subculture can influence the nature of the visions. . . .it also provides detailed and coherent imagery of how the Virgin Mary ought to look and speak. According to P. and I. Rodgers, a picture of Mary supported by a cloud rising above Medjugorje has been present in the church of the visionaries since about 1971. Not surprisingly, the youngsters' description of the Virgin is quite consistent with the picture to which they were exposed for years.

So, it seems to me that we are justified in being skeptical of these visions. Many within the Catholic Church are themselves skeptical. Bishop Pavao Zanic, the former bishop for the diocese which includes Medjugorje, denies the validity of the visions. He even maintains that it is a conspiracy of the Franciscans. Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (the group that recommends individuals for sainthood, a requirement of which is to have worked miracles), as recently as January of this year expressed his strong doubts about the authenticity of the visions.

I do not question the sincerity of those who claim to have experienced miraculous phenomena in Medjugorge but I do question the reality of it. Pilgrim, the individual who commented on yesterday's post, says he saw the sun "spinning" in the sky on many occasions and on one occasion he saw it "dancing." He describes what he saw:
The sun seemed to descend towards me. In fact, I thought it about to crash to the earth. It then receded, and then moved to my right across the sky to a two o’clock position before returning to its starting point. From there it again started to descend towards me and once more receded. Its next move was to my left and a 10 o’clock position. When this happened I literally had to turn my head to follow its movement. Once more it moved back to its starting point before descending towards me. Finally, it settled back to its original position, pulsating and spinning. The whole event probably lasted between five and ten minutes
.
Once again, I do not doubt Pilgrim's sincerity but I do deny the objective reality of what he saw. If the sun had literally moved around in the sky in the fashion he describes, it would have caused enormous consequences on the earth. It would have been reported by every observatory in the world. It just could not have happened in any objective sense.

What are the ramifications of all of this for the claims in the NT that Jesus was seen alive after his death? I think we can conclude that at least some of those who claimed to see him probably did see something. What they saw, however, was not, in my opinion, objective reality. They were not crazy. They were not lying. They were not on drugs. They experienced a phenomena that was not unique to them or their time in history. Such visions have been reported almost since the invention of writing. We don't understand everything involved in this phenomena but I don't believe there is any need to conclude they are supernatural.

24 comments:

  1. Ken wrote: “Once again, I do not doubt Pilgrim's sincerity but I do deny the objective reality of what he saw. If the sun had literally moved around in the sky in the fashion he describes, it would have caused enormous consequences on the earth. It would have been reported by every observatory in the world. It just could not have happened in any objective sense.”

    Ken, your denial is not an argument. The condition you introduce to support your denial is invalid.

    And when you attempt to flatter by saying you do not deny my sincerity, I am aware that this approach is often used in place of evidence for accepting a claim.

    peace.

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  2. Pilgrim,

    I am not attempting to offer flattery. I have no doubt that you believe that you saw "dancing" in the sky. However, I have to deny the objective reality of it because if the sun did what you say it did, then everyone across the planet would have seen it--not just some people in Medjugorje.

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  3. I once saw a pair of body-less pants running through a forest. My cousin was with me and he saw what was really there, a deer. My mind just saw something that it didn't quite recognize and filled in the gaps. Now should I claim that I saw a ghost or some magical pants?

    Should I also mention that we were near a site that several kids were murdered at and their bodies never found? Does that make it seem more like a saw a ghost? If I was inclined to believe that, I might think I did see a ghost.

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  4. @ Ken - I would suggest a slight change of phrasing: rather than saying Pilgrim "believes" he saw the sun dancing, I would say that he "saw" the sun dancing. The issue is not whether he saw the dancing - we're taking that as given - but what caused him to see it.

    Yes, I'm picking nits. It's just that your current choice of words sounds like you're saying that his experience can't actually have been his experience. This is basically the same dynamic as the commenters who were saying that Ken Daniels could never have truly been Saved (a few threads back).

    We can agree that Pilgrim saw the sun dancing without conceding that the sun actually danced in any physical sense, or that his perception had any sort of supernatural cause.

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  5. ---

    Even if the occurences that pilgrim and others have seen were in some sense real (whether natural or supernatural), those of us who did not experience have absolutely no OBLIGATION to believe that it's real, and are quite justified in being skeptical.

    Ken is right, that if this occurence of the sun dancing was completely objective, the phenomenon would have been witnessed by many people all over that part of the world, documented, critically examined and so forth. Supposing, though, that pilgrim (or others) witnessed something external to themselves (that is, it wasn't caused by something within their psyche/brain); if others can't/don't witness this happening, than how do we distinguish between this "miracle" and purely subjective hallucinations, especially when we have so many documented cases of hallucinations, and, so far, zero certified miracle claims being documented and verified.

    Skepticism is rightly warranted.

    Nobody speaks to this issue with more lucidity than the incomparable Thomas Paine:

    "No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a [revelation] if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only and hearsay to every other, and, consequently, they are not obliged to believe it."

    Thanks for this series of articles, Ken. Very intelligently written and very objective.

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  6. Ken, it seems to me that all this is completely pointless. You addressed the most important argument a few posts ago, which is that none of these theories are even worth talking about unless you make the assumption that these gospels, filled with all kinds of extraordinary supernatural events, are factually accurate historical accounts of real events. But if you treat it with the same skepticism you treat any other supernatural claims, there's absolutely no justification for regarding it as such.

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  7. Let me preface these comments by saying that I've read all of the hallucination posts (At least I think I have. I'm not sure now. I could be hallucinating.) Sorry, just had to get the facetious dig out of the way up front. It's been building up for the past couple of days. I wanted to wait to post until the series is complete and it now appears that way. And I had to break my comments into 3 posts because of the length. My apologies dear readers.

    In response to these excerpts:

    "...human acts of perception always involve interpretations and inferences that may be held in common by large groups of people. Raw visual and auditory data are combined with inferences about what was thought to be seen and heard. We often select out of the large raw input of visual and auditory data those that we regard as important and that confirm expectations, especially if they are desirable."

    "...especially when, as is the case with supposed Marian apparitions, the events in question are believed to be not only possible but desirable as well."

    "Avalos believes that the social setting in which many of these visions takes place is very conducive to such claims. He writes: Imagine living in a subculture that constantly and repeatedly suggests to its members the desirability of experiencing a Marian apparition. Imagine living in a subculture where young people who have claimed to have seen Marian apparitions at Lourdes, Fatima, and other places also are beloved role models."

    "Since Jesus would have been viewed by his followers as a martyr, it would have been natural for them to think that he would be resurrected."

    1) It is my understanding that the common rabbinical teachings of that time did not teach to expect a resurrected Messiah simply because they didn't expect a crucified one. They were anticipating an earthly king to assume the throne of David and restore the majesty of God's nation. Jesus routinely chides the Pharisees and Sadducees for misinterpreting Moses, the prophets and the Psalms regarding this concept.

    2) Jesus' followers didn't even really get that He was the promised Messiah until after his ascension. That is clear from the questions they ask while he's with them, and from all of Jesus' rebukes to the disciples. It is also clear in the record of the 2 travelers on the Emmaus road. They were devastated by the death of Jesus; there is no reason to conclude that they would have been expecting to "see" a resurrected Jesus then or anytime afterward.

    3) Before Jesus came on the scene contemporary resurrections weren't exactly common place. The Jews would have been familiar with the account of Elisha and the Shumanite woman's son but outside of that resurrection wasn't on their radar, especially not resurrections that they would witness. This is evident from Martha's response to Jesus over the death of her brother Lazarus. When Jesus tells her that Lazarus will rise again she says "Ya. I know. On the last day." She was thinking of the after-life not the now-life.

    So while a resurrected Jesus would have been desirable (Hey, who doesn't want a dead loved-one to live again?) I don't believe it is reasonable to state with any certainty that it was expected. It just wasn't in the forefront of the thoughts of the typical Jew at the time, even those who might have had some inkling that Jesus might be The Deliverer.
    (continued in next post)

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  8. (con't)

    Next I want to address the comparison of the appearances of the resurrected Jesus and the visions of Medjugorje. They are vastly different in a variety of ways and therefore faulty as a comparison test:

    1. The Medjugorie apparitions proper of Mary are limited to just 6 visionaries. While others have reported seeing other mysterious things none of them have the same apparitions of Mary that those exclusive 6 have. In contrast Jesus appeared not to just a select few but to many different people: 2 Marys, the 11 disciples, the 2 on the road to Emmaus, a group of about 500 people and Saul/Paul.
    (continued in next post)

    2. The visions of Medjugorie are isolated; Mary appears and speaks only in Medjugorie. Whereas with Jesus, he appeared in many different places and under different circumstances: at the tomb site; on the shores of the Sea of Galilee; in the upper room; to a group of about 500 people; to the 2 on the road to Emmaus; and finally to Saul/Paul (who wasn't a believer) on his way to persecute Christians.

    3. The Medjugorie apparitions are on a schedule. Some daily; some yearly. The sightings of the post-resurrection Jesus were neither predicted nor predictable on any timetable with one exception: when Jesus told both Marys to tell the disciples to meet him in Galilee.

    4. The Medjugorie sightings of Mary are visions only. At the very least Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Thomas touched the resurrected Jesus. And the 2 on the Emmaus road ate with Jesus post-resurrection.
    (continued in next post)

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  9. (final post)

    Finally I'd like to comment in general on this whole idea of attempting to discover and explain the supernatural using natural methods and means. By definition supernatural things are those that occur/exist above or outside of the natural. If you can explain/prove a "supernatural" event by naturalistic means then by definition it is not supernatural. The Venn diagram of things "Natural" just keeps including more of what was "Supernatural." This occurred to me while viewing one of the diagrams of one of your professor friends that you linked to in one of your recent posts (sorry I'm not finding it right now). But I can describe it. The picture was divided in half horizontally; on top were things that were so-called "supernatural" and on the bottom was the "natural." As I recall the goal was to move all things from the top to the bottom of the diagram through naturalistic explanations thus nullifying (at least in theory) the supernatural realm. As each thing in the upper half is explained by naturalistic means and methods it is no longer supernatural and now becomes subsumed by the sphere of what is natural. The fault with that should be obvious. If it can be explained naturally then of course by definition it is not supernatural and it never was. However this activity dis/proves nothing about the existence or non-existence of the supernatural. This approach does nothing to eliminate the concept of the supernatural or the fact that there really might be things in this universe that cannot be explained by naturalistic means no matter how hard we try. Isn't it possible?

    The other obvious fault in your position is the same one you lay at the feet of those who believe in the supernatural: presuppositionalism. I know you'd like to think that you are totally objective and unaffected by anything other than science, logic and reason. But I hope you can see that you too have a presuppositional starting point. You presuppose there is no god and that "naturalism" -- comprised of the trinity of science, logic and reason -- is the means by which all things can be explained. While I admit some forms of naturalism into my understanding of the universe ultimately I believe the Christian God of the Bible is the over-arching schema by which to understand all things. So we both have a presupposition about how the universe works; we just have vastly different presuppositions.

    Ken, I hope I haven't been offensive in these posts. I tried really hard not to be overly emotional or defensive on your blog. I've tried to respect the open dialogue and discussion attitude that you have here. I don't know if I'll ever post here again but I had to give it this one shot. And let me leave you with this: if you haven't read Isaiah 55 in a while please give it a read. Soon.

    Respectfully and Prayfully,

    Scott Ferguson

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  10. Hi Ken,

    Full disclosure: I am a Catholic and a skeptic of Medjugorje. Pilgrim and I are well known to one another on the net and take opposing views. When I make a claim, I back it up with documentation - objective documentation which is often rejected by supporters for whatever reasons.

    Fr. Laurentin became favorably disposed early on, to the point of promoting the phenomena (such mariologist are suppose to remain objective, even unto playing "devil's advocate"). He was found manipulating data. He was called out by the diocese for making claims about a document he could not have possibly had.

    I can offer you some sites that I hope you will visit and study with interest. Hopefully it has the kind of depth of analysis and hard data you would want to see.

    Here is the English section of the website of Italian researcher and author, Professor Marco Corvaglia which is well documented. If it is scientific stuides you are interested in, read the sections on "Science Mortified".

    Another site is coming online very soon by Louis Belanger in the Montreal area called Medjugorje-Artifice. He is a retired researcher from the University of Montreal who studied the paranormal and spent time in Medjugorje doing studies. He teamed up with a Franciscan priest, Fr. Ivo Sivric, who was born and raised in Medjugorje. Sivric was given access to audio recordings of conversations with the visionaries in the early days. His book, "The Hidden Side of Medjugorje" which was edited by Belanger, contains unedited transcripts, unlike the filtered ones found in the material of Laurentin and other promoters. Things which were theologically problematic were omitted for some reason in the books of certain promoting authors.

    Here is one example of a collaborative piece between professor Corvaglia and Louis Belanger (the last video seen is in English and explanations are provided by Louis Belanger himself who did the filming that day).

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  11. continued...

    Here are other sites you may want to balance out with anything "Pilgrim" may offer. I understand that because we are not working from the same faith point of view (Catholic versus Evangelical), we may disagree on certain points. That's ok. We have to start someplace, and at least understand how the Catholic Church discerns apparitions, even if you may not agree with some of it based on these differences.

    First, how does the Catholic Church discern apparitions and is it a reasonable process?

    Here is more information on the discernment of spirits in the Catholic Church.

    Here are many documents at the home page for the diocese where this is happening. The local bishop has been releasing much in recent months, mostly in Croatian and Italian (the official language of the commission is in Italian).

    I have more to offer if you are wanting to look at arguments from Catholics on both sides.

    After years of prayer, study, and actually having lived in the region from 1980-1983 as I discerned a vocation in a Franciscan convent there, I cannot accept these as authentic.

    We would attribute the conversion experiences and vocations to what we call in Catholicism, the flow of grace stemming from the genuine prayers of the faithful and to the sacraments.

    Once again, I understand we are coming from different theological viewpoints, so some of this may or may not be helpful.

    Just know, there are two sides to Medjugorje and Catholics are deeply divided. I stand with the two successive bishops, who are orthodox in their Catholicisim, and with the commissions who have said consistently, "it cannot be affirmed that the phenomena is of supernatural origin".

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  12. Ken,

    I would also like to point out one other thing about the experiences had by Pilgrim and other such claims (Rosaries turning to gold, lights, visions, etc.).

    Even if it is true that someone experienced such a thing, did not the sorcerers duplicate many of the acts performed by God through the hand of Moses? That which came through Moses, was indeed from God. But, we know that there can be other explanations for such things.

    There are many other skeptics. We are devout Catholics and Christians, not "unbelievers" as some would label us.

    The Catholic Church does not require us to believe even in approved apparitions (catechism of the Catholic Church #67), but some in the "movement" speak as if it is necessary for salvation - a negative sign.

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  13. That which came through Moses, was indeed from God. But, we know that there can be other explanations for such things.

    Clarification on: "...other explanations for such things."

    As in, not all phenomena are heavenly, though they take place in a place of piety.

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  14. Diane,

    Thank you very much for your comments and links. I do have a question for you since you have some connection with the Franciscans. Bishop Zanic is reported to have said: "In my opinion Medjugorje is the greatest deceit and swindle in the history of the Church." In particular, Zanic complained that the apparition stories were part of a conspiracy instigated by a group of popular Franciscans who have protested efforts to replace them with secular clergy in the parish of Medjugorje.

    What do you think of that assertion?

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  15. Hi Ken,

    With regards to your question, I must break this up into more than one comment. As long as my response to your question is, that which is in books, is much longer. It is quite complex.

    It is very difficult to summarize in any short way the depth of what is referred to as "The Herzegovina Case". Leading up the decree "Romanis Pontificibus" issued by the Holy See in 1975, is a history which goes back to at least the 14th century. What I write here is based on content in two books by Fr. Ivo Sivric, OFM who was born and raised in Medjugorje ("The Hidden Side of Medjugorje" and "The Peasant Culture of Bosnia & Herzegovina"), and by the book, Understanding Medjugorje by Donal Anthony Foley. Consider that each of these authors took several pages to explain the situation and I do not have that luxury in a combox.

    This decree concerned the distribution of parishes between Franciscans and diocesan priests. It has only been available in Croatian and Latin. I finally snagged the Latin and am working to get a translation on it. It provides some important background from the perspective of the Holy See.

    Going back to the 14th century, the Holy See sent Franciscans to the territory because the Catholic peasants had strayed from authentic Catholicism into a hybrid brand which included influence of the Bogomils (it had spread from Bulgaria). Many of the rituals they were engaging in where not Catholic. Medjugorje just so happens to be one of the areas that was heavily influenced. Originally, these priests were foreigners, but eventually native sons joined the Franciscans and engaged in the evangelization and in parish work.

    Missionary priest typically complete their work, then move on to another mission, putting an area into the hands of the diocese.

    Diocesan priests were there, but when the Ottoman Turks invaded in the 15th century, they fled, but the Franciscans remained. For the next 400 years, the people had only the Franciscans ministering to them. The people became so close to the Franciscans, that they considered them as family - specifically referring to them as "uncles".

    .

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  16. They were liberated from the Turks in 1878. In 1881 Pope Leo XIII issued a "papal bull", which gave authority back to the secular (diocesan) clergy. More than 30 parishes were handed over to the diocesan clergy (not sure out of how many total). Oddly, there were few diocesan priests to handle this, so the Franciscans continued to minister in these parishes. In 1923, an agreement was reached between the local bishop and Franciscans (in Herzegovina, the bishops had always been Franciscan until 1942).

    In 1942, the secular bishop, Msgr. Petar Cule petitioned the Holy See to revoke this agreement, and it complied. The Franciscans apparently claim to have no knowledge of this until Romanis Pontificibus was declared in 1975.

    In that decree, 7 additional parishes were to be turned over to the secular clergy, and others at the discretion of the local bishop. You figure, by the 1950's, the numbers of diocesan clergy were growing and there was no place for them to go. But the same challenge remained for the Franciscans: Where would they go? The situation is truly an anomaly within the Church with regards to Franciscans. It is not the norm for Franciscans to run parishes.

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  17. Stepping back a little, Donal Foley sheds a little light on something. He writes:

    "Regrettably, the Franciscans did not cooperate with the hierarchy installed by Rome, and their example was followed by many of the ordinary faithful. Thus, the Catholic Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina was not able to mature properly, and the area remained in many respects, a missionary territory. Instead of a proper Catholic sacramental life, religious rituals in the area, in a throwback to the past, revolved around ancestor veneration and various superstitious practices, with minimal Catholic content. The authorities in Rome put pressure on the Franciscans to remedy this situation, but even in the 1920's, orthodox Catholic Church services were still being performed in conjuction with traditional clan rituals at local cemeteries.

    You figure, that if these things were still happening in the 1920's, and most parishes were in Franciscan control, then over those hundreds of years, these superstitious practices (which included animal sacrifices aimed at pleasing "Gromovnik" - the "spirit of thunder"). As I mentioned specifically, some of these clans were in Medjugorje and nearby Bijakovici, which is where some of the visionaries are from.

    We further learn from Foley, that the now famous, cross "Krizevac" (Mount of the Cross) was built in 1933 on what was then called Mount Sipevac with funds and encouragement of the Holy See for the 1900th anniversary of the crucifixion. Foley writes: "Thus, it was reclaimed from 'Gromovnik'".

    The bottom line is that the Holy See, and the bishop's it has elevated, may have had reasons for it's actions which were not necessarily

    Fast forward now to 1980 - one year before these "visions" began in Medjugorje. Bishop Zanic decides to build a Cathedral parish in Mostar. There was already a Franciscan parish, and this meant boundaries would change.

    It didn't go over very well and the rebellion heightened. On December 11, 1981 the Superior General of the Franciscan Order (OFM) sent a letter to all of the OFM provincials worldwide notifying them of the situation in the Herzegovina province. In his letter he pointed out that the Holy Father was aware of the situation and wanted the Decree Romanis Pontificibus implemented without delay. He stated that, "this must be obeyed, even if that means using canonical penalties, since other means have proven useless."

    Two Franciscans, Ivica Vego and Ivan Prusina, were thought to be singled out. Some felt it was unjust as they were not the only priests acting disobediently. However, all they had to do was to go to Makarska as ordered, and the canonical penalties would have been lifted. Even the lone Medjugorje proponent among the ~20 members of the bishop's conference, Archbishop Frane Franic, tried to convince the two friars to submit in obedience and go to the monastery as they were ordered. Instead, they continued to go about where they wanted, celebrating the Sacraments, including in Medjugorje (the visions began 6 months earlier in June).

    It's interesting to note that just 8 days after that December 11 letter from the Superior General in Rome, the "gospa" defended Ivica Vego and faulted the bishop for the problems in the diocese (December 19, 1981). From there, several other defenses came and even a threatening message to the bishop.

    In the history of approved apparitions, we do not see a heavenly being meddling in the administrative affairs of a diocese as we do in the case of Medjugorje. Bishop Zanic goes through some 28 problems including these things in his document of 1990: The Truth about Medjugorje

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  18. On October 24, 1997, the diocesan chancellor countered what he called "disinformations" by Medjugorje promoting priest and author, Fr. Rene Laurentin, about the case. Medjugorje supporters hold the belief that the case was "overturned" by the Aposotlic Signatura (the Church's "supreme court"). Laurentin did not have the document from the Holy See, but the diocese did. The Chancellor explains:

    2. The two Franciscans are not rehabilitated as regards the abuses they commited, but one simply notes the error by omission of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life. Also the interdict passed by Bishop Zanic on Brother Ivan Prusin retains all its validity, and he has no jurisdiction whatever nor canonical mission in the diocese of Mostar-Duvno. We published it in our official bulletin (Vrhbosna, 2/1996, p142). The other Franciscan, Brother Ivica Vego, left the Order and the priesthood in 1988.

    Fast foward one last time to 1999. The Holy See and the OFM Superior General in Rome took the Franciscans to the woodshed. Habits went flying so to speak. See: Romanis Pontificibus Definitively Implemented

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  19. In January 2010, Bishop Peric wrote about some of the chaos he has in his diocese surrounding "the Herzegovina Case":

    7) As the diocesan bishop I wish to cite and repeat some painful facts:

    - First of all I refer to the regrettable “Herzegovina Affair” regarding the allocation of parishes which has been associated with the “phenomenon of Medjugorje” from the very beginning when the alleged apparition in Medjugorje sided decisively with some disobedient Franciscans. One of them subsequently left the Order and then the priesthood, yet the diocesan bishop was accused for the disorder.

    - We now have in the Diocese nine former Franciscans, expelled from the Order of Friars Minor by the Superior General, and the Holy See has confirmed the expulsions. Although suspended a divinis, they act as lawful priests in the usurped parishes. While the supposed apparition of Medjugorje gives answers to the most trivial questions of curious people, not a word has been heard from the same on the serious abuses that strike at the unity of this local Church.

    - We had a tragic occurrence in 2001 in which some Franciscans - some already suspended from the Order and others not yet suspended, invited a deacon from the Old Catholic Church who identified himself as an ”Archbishop”. More than 700 young people were “confirmed” in seized parishes. All of these were invalid and sacrilegious. This same deacon celebrated invalid Masses as well in some parishes. Yet the phenomenon of Medjugorje utters not a word about the abuse of the Eucharist and of the Holy Spirit!

    - We have another sad fact: Two of those priests went to a bishop of the Old Catholic Church in Switzerland with a request to be ordained bishops, in an effort to create a formal schism from Mostar and Rome. The bishop of the Old Catholic Church declined their request.


    It is truly amazing that the "gospa" is not the least bit concerned in her 40,000+ messages about the invalid sacraments taking place in the diocese.

    Much of what you find from those in the Church who support Medjugorje on this matter will state that the Franciscans never had a chance to be heard by the Holy See over the allocation of parishes. They were excluded. This may be true, but this is kind of like handling a teenager who refuses to cut the grass, and when he is grounded pouts about the fact that no one will listen to him. Sometimes, things happen in families that may seem unfair to one sibling or another, and that's just the way it is. The Catholic Church is one family and disputes happen.

    However, I cannot get past the notion that while St. Francis would have given the very cloak off of his back if asked for the rope around his waist, we have Franciscans today usurping parishes and not wanting to give to the bishop what the Holy See ordered. If the bishop had asked for 7 parishes, a truly Franciscan spirit would lead them to ask, "and would you like 7 additional parishes?". I'm speaking figuratively, but hopefully you get my point.

    I now rest, literally - heading off to bed

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  20. Diane,

    Thanks. I have a couple of additonal questions.

    1) Who receives the messages from Mary and then reports on what she has said in Medjugorje?

    2) Is it your opinion, that the Franciscans somehow have manipulated this phenomena in an attempt to "go over the head" of the Catholic authorities?

    3) Is it your opinion, that the apparitions and messages in Medjugorje are not genuine?

    4) Do you believe there are any genuine apparitions of Mary in the last 50 years?

    I appreciate your knowledge and insight into this matter. As an outsider, its difficult to see things clearly.

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  21. It is my understanding that the common rabbinical teachings of that time did not teach to expect a resurrected Messiah simply because they didn't expect a crucified one. They were anticipating an earthly king to assume the throne of David and restore the majesty of God's nation. Jesus routinely chides the Pharisees and Sadducees for misinterpreting Moses, the prophets and the Psalms regarding this concept.

    Although I am an atheist, as a person of Jewish ancestry, I always take exception to this. It is the height of hubris for Christians to have spent the past 2,000 years telling us that we've misunderstood and misinterpreted books that we wrote in the first place.

    As far as resurrection is concerned - it was a common theme in ancient Near Eastern mythology. Judea was a crossroad; it was exposed to representatives of belief systems from across the Roman Empire.

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  22. Ken asks me:
    1) Who receives the messages from Mary and then reports on what she has said in Medjugorje?

    When all visionaries were present, I am not sure who conveyed what "message" they got. But, it went through one of the Franciscans (which some view as having the potential to filter them).

    Rev. Dr. Manfred Hauke addressed this in an article he recently wrote (translated by Richard Chonak at Catholic Light):

    "...From that penetrating research, the filtering of the "messages" by the seers or by the priests connected with them was named as a problem...

    2) Is it your opinion, that the Franciscans somehow have manipulated this phenomena in an attempt to "go over the head" of the Catholic authorities?

    My personal belief is that some members of the Herzegovina Province of Franciscans seized the opportunity once it presented itself. The timing was impeccable with regards to the Herzegovina Case.

    3) Is it your opinion, that the apparitions and messages in Medjugorje are not genuine?

    My personal position and conviction are that these visions are not supernatural. This does not exclude the diabolical, or it could simply be made up out of thin air.

    I will, however, be open to any new light the Church can shed on the phenomena after the new commission studies it. But, I am free to disbelieve even if the Church does not give it the constat de non supernaturalitate (it is established as not supernatural) status which I currently hold personally.

    4) Do you believe there are any genuine apparitions of Mary in the last 50 years?

    Truth be told, I am not familiar with every apparition claim made. I believe Fatima, Lourdes, and Guadlupe were real, among others which took place more than 50 years ago. My interest in Medjugorje stems from having lived in the region when all of this began.

    I believe there are some apparitions which have gained at least the early levels of approval, such as that which is associated with Kibeho.

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  23. To go along with what Cipher said, I submit Gabriel's Revelation. A pre-New Testament Jewish Tablet discussing the resurrection of a 1st Century Jewish rebel named Simon. He was killed by Romans in 4 BCE. Gabriel commands him to rise from the grave in 3 days. So the idea was not new or revolutionary as you would claim, Write@titude.

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