There are a good number of the faithful throughout the world who strive for the purity of the faith, respecting the Church's magisterium and bearing witness to the spuriousness of the "visions" at Medjugorje. One of them is Michael Davies of London. When I assumed responsibility for the diocese of Mostar, I came to know Mr Davies, who is Welsh, and his wife Maria, who is Croatian. They were friends of my predecessor, the late Bishop Pavao Zanic, who died on 11th November 2000. I must thank Michael for the efforts that he has made to follow and criticise the unbelievable claims made about the events at Medjugorje, a theme that he develops in this book, Medjugorje after 21 Years.
Why do I as the local bishop not accept the "visions" at Medjugorje as worthy of credence? I begin from the premise that I would truly like to believe that the "visions" are authentic, and that Our Lady truly appeared there. Indeed, not only there. Yet the truth both frees us and binds us! As I followed the events at Medjugorje in recent years, I was driven to the following conclusions.
Firstly, the story dating back to 1981 of the so-called "visions" of the six "seers" of Medjugorje, half of whom still see visions on a daily basis, while the other half only see them once a year, has long since spread beyond the borders of the parish and the diocese both by rumour and by reason of the travels through the world of the "seers" and their supporters.
There can be no doubt that the "visions" have made converts in the ranks of commercial travellers, who had a "vision" of very tangible benefits for themselves, whence they spread to the ranks of religious enthusiasts, who travel thousands of miles to make their confessions and say the rosary at Medjugorje! The "visions" have not however been recognized by the Church, so no-one is any way bound to believe in them.
Secondly, some Franciscans in Herzegovina as well as a number of priests throughout the world promote the concept of Medjugorje as the site of "supernatural visions and messages". A number of the faithful moreover persist in visiting Medjugorje, not only so as to bear witness to how "Our Lady appears" despite the Church's cautious stance, but also to bring pressure to bear on the Church authorities, not excluding even the very highest, to recognise the events at Medjugorje as visions worthy of credence.
I have to ask how the Christ's Church could on the basis of such pilgrimages to a single parish, motivated by a range of emotions from mere curiosity to fanatical zeal, proclaim such "visions" to be supernatural, when three ecclesiastical commissions of inquiry into the events at Medjugorje lawfully constituted on the direction of Bishop Zanic, the local bishop, and the Conference of Bishops [of the former Yugoslavia] in 1991 confirmed that they could find no proof that there had been "supernatural visions and messages"? How could the Church, which is the pillar and support of the truth, recognize such more than questionable "visions" under pressure from such petitioners?
Thirdly, it is most puzzling why such priests and faithful as really thirst for visions and messages do not drink their fill from the sources of visions that have been recognized as authentic, for example, Lourdes and Fatima, though there are others besides, but instead turn to the unrecognised "visions" at Medjugorje, where "Our Lady" supposedly "appears" sine fine. The Church recognized some of the seers of Lourdes and Fatima as saints or as blessed after their deaths, but the champions of Medjugorje seem to be in competition with one another to see who can go the most times to a place where the Church has not merely declined to recognize the authenticity of the "visions" but has even forbidden private or public pilgrimages if they are based on the authenticity of the unrecognised "visions".
If indeed some bishops from other parts of the world come and stay at Medjugorje (some twenty kilometres from Mostar) for several days, yet do not even feel the need to make themselves known to their local counterpart, whether during or after the war [between Croatia and Serbia] then such servants of the Church show neither episcopal collegiality nor solicitude for the universal Church (1 Cor. 11, 28) but rather a strange curiosity to see what "visions" there might be to be seen on the stony hillsides of Herzegovina. Yet we bishops and priests constantly pray to God in the Canon of the Mass to confirm his Church in faith and charity on its way through this world.
Fourthly, the mere fact that many people, though they are believers, hold something to be true does not make it true, perhaps even the contrary. Christ the Lord stood alone, but for his Mother and one disciple, at Gabbatha and on Golgotha. He was the only Truth opposed by the nameless masses, the superior and inferior clergy, and the national and international establishment in Jerusalem.
When Christ proclaimed that He was the truth, Pilate gave their jesting answer "What is truth?" (John, 18, 38), which is to say, that for them personal advantage, political position and a temporary triumph were more important than any truth, human or divine!
Though the Truth died on that Good Friday, it rose again on the third day. Truth is not therefore necessarily in the greater number. So all the valid confessions, communions and rosary prayers at Medjugorje, though they confer grace as efficaciously as in other parishes, no more and no less, do not of themselves in any sense demonstrate the truth of the "supernatural apparitions" in that parish.
Fifthly, the "seers" who see visions on a daily basis and the endless apparitions themselves (33,333 to date, nor it there any risk of my being mistaken, for there is no end to the numbers or the "visions") are more in the nature of a religious show and a spectacle for the world than a true and faithful witness to the peace and unity of the Faith and love for the Church. Who can fail to see that these endlessly multiplying numbers should not be taken seriously? Shall we change our Catholic orthodoxy for fantastical superstition?
Sixthly, the many "messages" pronounced in the early years by the mouths of the so-called "seers", especially those that praised the disobedience of some Franciscan priests in Mostar, and berated the local bishop who conscientiously abided by Canon law, that belittled the highest decisions of the Church regarding the administration of the diocese, which as such were obviously inspired by worldly considerations and not by heaven, brought far greater disorder and conflict than true peace and order to the Church. This is a very particular chapter in the history of the diocese of Mostar and Duvno.
Seventhly, our Croatian Franciscans, who accept Medjugorje as a place of "supernatural apparitions" have never, alas, distanced themselves publicly from this bad and untruthful message to the Church in Herzegovina.
Some Franciscan fathers have performed many invalid confirmations. One of them, who falsely purported to confirm with a mitre on his head in the parish of Capljina in 1997, claimed to come from Medjugorje and openly supported schism in that community by his sacrilegious and invalid confirmations. Now that he has been expelled from the Franciscan order, he has forcibly occupied the parish of Grude, where, two days ago, on the feast of Whitsun, 2004, according to a photograph which appeared in the daily papers, he once again carried out invalid confirmations, but this time without a mitre.
If the "seers" with their "visions" tolerate such schismatic scandals, without in any way admonishing those involved, and likewise those who support the "seers" and act as their public relations men, without ever distancing themselves from or condemning such local schisms, then in the name of the Mother of God, the Queen of Peace, yea, in the name of the Holy Trinity, one God, might that not be a sign that those involved in propagandizing in support of the supposed credibility of such "visions" do not have the Divine will at the forefront of their thoughts?
A group of Franciscans (nine living, one deceased) who have been expelled from their Order for their notorious disobedience to the decisions both of their own superiors and of the Holy See with regard to matters of ecclesiastical administration in the diocese, have forcibly taken over a number of parishes in which for some years now they have been administering invalid confessions, and officiating at invalid marriages, some even carrying out invalid confirmations, and generally carrying on in defiance of Canon Law, all in the immediate or general neighbourhood of Medjugorje, as the place where tens of thousands of "visions" have occurred.
It is indeed astonishing that the "apparition", which has passed on messages to thousands of the curious, even including American President Ronald Reagan, and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, and its supporters, have not yet expressed concern, whether about the blasphemy perpetrated against Christ's sacraments, or the damage to the unity of the Church in the diocese of Mostar-Duvno. It is certainly remarkable that people come from all over the world to make their confessions in Medjugorje, but the expelled Franciscans and a few others who are in a state of disobedience to the Holy See, their Order and the local Church authorities, give thousands of invalid absolutions in the very neighbourhood of Medjugorje.
When this group of Franciscans, who even now wear Franciscan habits even though they have been canonically expelled from the Order of Friars Minor in 2001, blasphemously and sacrilegiously sinned against the sacraments of the Eucharist and of confirmation by summoning an Old Catholic deacon (!) a schismatic not in communion with the Catholic Church, to celebrate an invalid Eucharist and to "confirm" hundreds of candidates in three parishes, Grude, Capljina and Ploce-Tepcici, that deacon falsely held himself out to be a bishop, saying "both the friars and I believe in the Marian apparitions at Medjugorje".
Alas, we heard not a word and saw not a sign of disapproval of such pronouncements. On the contrary, some still defend the visitation of the uncatholic deacon who proclaimed himself to be a bishop. One of his colleagues, who lived in the same community for some time, tells how this deacon celebrated "mass" in honour of the BVM in a church in Switzerland on the feast of the Assumption, all dressed in black! A requiem for the Mother of God on the day of her Assumption into heaven! What folly! A man who cannot celebrate mass at all, since he is not a priest, so insults Our Lady, who reached a higher state of holiness than any other human being, yet he claims to "believe in the Marian apparitions at Medjugorje", and comes along to "confirm" Catholic children in Herzegovina. Yet that same colleague of his has given written testimony that this "bishop" does not recognize the sacrament of confirmation administered according to the Catholic rite, so he "confirmed" his friend a second time!
The scandal of disobedience, concerning which we have not heard a word of criticism from the "oasis of peace" at Medjugorje, has grown to such a level that some of the above-mentioned former Franciscans asked an Old Catholic bishop in Switzerland to consecrate one of them as bishop! So that the schism in the diocese should deepen?
The Holy Father John Paul II, who has never mentioned Medjugorje in any of his allocutions, has frequently summoned the superiors of the OFM to resolve the Herzegovinian question.
So, for example, on 16th June 2003, the Pope once again asked the members of the General Chapter of the Franciscan Order to carry into effect the decision of his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, going back to 1975:
"Your missionary activity will prove fruitful in so far as it is fulfilled in harmony with the lawful pastors to whom Our Lord has entrusted responsibility for his flock. Bearing that well in mind, I once again warmly remind you of the efforts that have been made to overcome the difficulties that have long existed in certain areas. It is my heartfelt wish that, with co-operation on every side, that understanding with the diocesan authorities sought by my worthy predecessor, Pope Paul VI, should be fully attained. It has become apparent that such an understanding is a prerequisite for effective evangelisation."
It would be desirable to have an unambiguous response from the Franciscan side to this exhortation by the Pope.
For my part, I have never publicized the immorality or the financial scandals associated with Medjugorje. There are other well publicized disorders and evidence that sufficiently disprove the supposedly supernatural nature of the "visions" and lead to the conclusion that it would be better to conclude "constat de non supernaturalitate" rather than "non constat de supernaturalitate".
This book seeks to describe chronologically, analyse logically, and explain faithfully the many facts connected with the more than questionable "visions" at Medjugorje. May the true Queen of Peace help the author by her intercession with the most Holy Trinity.
Mostar, on the feast of the BVM, Mother of the Church, 31st May 2004.
+ Ratko Peric, Bishop