14

Sabotaging the Medjugorje Commission?

From June, 1981 to the present, six people from Medjugorje (Bosnia-Hercegovina) have been claiming to see the Virgin Mary.  Over these 31 or so years, much controversy has arisen concerning the origin of these claims.  Lies, scandal, slander, disobedience and accusations that the alleged visionaries are being handled by the local Franciscans form a forgotten (and covered-up) side of Medjugorje’s history.

From the local Ordinary to the Episcopal Conference, the authority of the Church has never established a supernatural character for Medjugorje.  In fact, negative judgments have been rendered by the competent ecclesiastical authorities.  Despite this, people continue to go to Medjugorje, attributing to it their own subjective judgment that events associated with it and with the alleged visionaries’ messages are of a supernatural character.

Out of concern for a matter that can be said to affect a broad portion of the Church, the Holy See intervened and established a commission in March, 2010 to investigate the claims.  This commission will investigate the facts and submit its findings to the Holy Father, who, in turn, will render a final and authoritative judgment.

Recent events coming out of or related to Medjugorje have prompted me to ask a very serious question: Is pressure being applied to the commission by the alleged Medjugorje visionaries and their promoters?

Just prior to the announcement of the Holy See’s commission, there appears to be what Jakob Marschner of Medjugorje Today calls a “Medjugorje boom” in Italy.  In the same article, Marschner attributes this to a Paolo Brosio, who claims to have renounced a lifestyle of sin in favor of Medjugorje and from 2009 onwards has been promoting Medjugorje.

Marschner’s remarks are largely about Italians travelling to Medjugorje but this does not exclude the many appearances and talks for the visionaries in Italy.  According to the news archive on Marschner’s web site, from 20112012, there were no less than 17 such appearances.[i]  Other trips were made to Ireland and the United States.  It is such that the local economy has been boosted by Medjugorje pilgrimages from Italy with a new traffic venue for Italian pilgrims.  A new road system is also expected to benefit from the flow of Medjugorje pilgrims.

Now it has been released a further initiative entitled “Maranatha” has begun, this time in the Holy Land and involving Archbishop André Léonard of Brussels, Belgium and alleged visionary Vicka Ivankovic-Mijatovic.  This event is slated to take place in the latter half of August, 2013.

The timeline of events indicates the initial spike in pilgrimages and speaking engagements appears to be coincidental.  However, it is the continued spike after the announcement of the commission that leaves me pondering what effect this could have upon the commission and/or its decision.  Most notably, it could be argued that pressure (especially media pressure) is being applied.

One may attempt to refute the above observation on the grounds that the appearances of the alleged visionaries are consistent with the past 30 or so years.  However, this argument does not consider that the playing field has changed.  There is a commission—centered in Italy—investigating whether or not Medjugorje is supernatural.

Spreading and promoting alleged messages and secrets in the very region where they will be definitively judged can be seen as most unwise.  It looks dangerously close to politicking and stirring up support for the cause at a decisive moment in Medjugorje’s history.  What are the faithful to think if a negative judgment were to be rendered?  The timing of events could very well provide a ripe opportunity for confusion and disillusionment among the faithful.[ii]

Another observation concerns recent remarks made by a priest associated with Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo.  Marschner reports that Fr. Petar Ljubicic (the priest to whom Mirjana has charged with the revealing of each “secret”) has alleged the first two or three alleged secrets will take place in Medjugorje.  Furthermore, they will be of “paramount importance” for the Church to recognize the alleged apparitions.

For years a sign in Medjugorje has been promised  and the “secrets” of Medjugorje have continually been cited to this effect.  One cannot help but get the impression while reading the Medjugorje literature that these alleged secrets are touted as an ultimate weapon that will silence Medjugorje’s critics.  For nearly 30 years, the alleged secrets have been continuously dangled like a carrot on a stick for those who sincerely believe in Medjugorje and the “secrets” are now being used in the context of the commission.

For 30 years, Medjugorje has hung its hat on these alleged secrets and their fulfillment.  Can Medjugorje produce evidence of Medjugorje’s authenticity apart from sensationalistic secrets?  In response to such questions, Medjugorje apologists will cite numerous conversions.  This, too, does not consider the fact that the local Ordinary has already addressed the theological underpinnings of this argument.

Given that promises of signs and wonders continue without fulfillment, is it possible that Medjugorje is stringing people along in an effort to make the claims continue indefinitely?  In posing this question, we need to remember a basic tenet of the Church’s theology of private revelation.  The Church cannot rule positively while an alleged apparition is still happening, however, it can rule negatively with on-going claims.[iii]

Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti stated the Church will not approve Medjugorje until all the Medjugorje “visionaries” are dead.[iv]  If a prophetic character can be ascribed to her claim, then the Holy See’s commission may have a long road ahead of some 30-40 years.  This figure is based upon the age of the alleged visionaries and barring any sort of unexpected deaths.  Given this projection, the theory that the faithful are being strung along may have some merit.

If the above is not enough, the faithful are told theological ditties like “God’s time is not our time” or “I do not know Our Lady’s plan.”  Another excuse is, “this is an extraordinary period in human history and God is extending the period of mercy.”  Is this anything less than an abuse of faith and advantage-taking of people’s good will?

One can only wonder why people continue to believe in Medjugorje after being treated like this.  I submit that it proves the power the alleged visionaries have over their followers and demonstrates a sensationalistic moniker has been given to their alleged secrets.  Indeed, if a negative judgment were to be rendered on Medjugorje by the Holy See’s commission, two roads stand before the faithful: dissent or obedience.  There is no middle ground.


[i] This is especially seen in “visionary” Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti who lives in Italy.  However, other “visionaries” have made appearances as well.

[ii] It must be borne in mind these putative visionaries are people who, after 30 years, have had ample time to perfect their craft.  To understand this better, Donal Anthony Foley’s book Medjugorje Revisited is very helpful For our purposes here, the “visionaries” are not so good at their craft that they do not occasionally slip-up and demonstrate they are influenced by popular interpretations and opinions instead of well-reasoned logic and established facts.  For one such example, please see endnote 4.

[iii] If the Medjugorje commission is going to issue a ruling soon, as Marschner indicates, then it seems likely that such a verdict cannot be positive.

[iv] The “prophetic” nature of this statement is certainly under question as Lunetti seems to have mistaken her facts.  She says the following, “The act of forming the Commission was a positive act. The Church is often not interested in the sensations. It has its own position and is not in a hurry. It took decades until the official recognition of the shrine in Lourdes or Fatima. So it is with Medjugorje. I am convinced that the Vatican recognizes the authenticity of the apparitions, but only when they stop and when we visionaries have died.”

Fátima was declared to be supernatural in origin on October, 1930—13 years after Our Lady’s last appearance and the Miracle of the Sun.  Lourdes was approved 4 years after it ended in 1858 and its basilica was consecrated in 1876.  While Lunetti does not speak to this fact, it is also to be noted that both Fátima and Lourdes were approved while their respective visionaries, Sr. Lúcia dos Santos and St. Bernadette, were still living.


Kevin Symonds writes from South Carolina.  He received his B.A. and M.A. in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and is the author of the book, Private Revelation: What Does the Catholic Church Teach?


  • GuitarGramma

    Mr. Symonds,
    I am the mother of a soul who was lost, but who turned her life around because of a visit to Medjugorje. As such, I admit, I am subject to look at Medjugorje with a positive attitude.
    My overarching view, however, is that we must all wait to see what the Vatican says after investigations are complete. I would ask that you, too, do so. Instead, I have read many articles from you which have a negative tone.
    You seem to be quite certain that the Vatican will declare the alleged apparitions to be not of supernatural origin. The Vatican may, in fact, do so! And if they do, I will, with all my heart, embrace what they say. In the meantime, I ask that you, too, patiently wait for official word from Rome. After all, if the Vatican declares the so-called apparitions of Medjugrje to be of supernatural origin, you will have done a great disservice to people by being so consistently negative.

    • Kevin Symonds

      Dear GuitarGramma,

      Hello. Thank you for your comment and the forthrightness of telling me where you stand. I hope to respond in kind and charitably.

      It is impolite to tell someone to withhold their negative opinion on Medjugorje, only to turn around and promote a “positive” opinion.

      While I admit that I do not know your activities with respect to Medjugorje, will you deny that you promote Medjugorje by telling the story you have herein referenced?

      There is more going on here than you may think. I encourage you to start researching.

      • GuitarGramma

        Dear Kevin,

        I thank you for your response. I am sorry, so very sorry, that something in my initial post sounded as if I think you are “somehow being unfaithful by questioning Medjugorje.” That would be a horrible thing for me to think. Please, I beg you, cite what made me sound as if I meant that, because the thought that you are unfaithful never entered my head.

        You call my actions impolite. I’ll accept that from you. Again, I apologize.

        As for my “activities with respect to Medjugorje,” this is precisely the second time I have posted comments on a public forum asking people to keep an open mind. I am by no means a huge advocate of Medjugorje.

        Will I “deny that [I] promote Medjugorje by telling the story” herein referenced? I don’t know quite how to respond. I thought you ought to know that this mother’s heart was broken until my daughter went to Medjugorje. I will expand upon that now: This daughter of mine has since faced breast cancer at the tender age of twenty-seven and she did so with complete faith in God’s will for her life or death. I am grateful to God that her faith became so strong, and I am grateful to God that she came back to Jesus Christ and His Church because someone asked her to be their nanny when they traveled to Medjugorje. It was a profound conversion. If you’ve ever had a child fight such a pernicious disease as cancer, then I’m sure that you understand that I am glad my daughter had come back to the Church and goes to daily Mass.

        But, by telling *you* this, albeit in a public forum, I am not trying to claim that the alleged apparitions are real. I am asking that we wait to hear what Rome says.

        Thank you for the offer to make arrangements for us to have a debate. I must decline because I am totally unqualified to “defend” Medjugorje. I am unqualified precisely because I am waiting to hear what Rome says.

        I am surprised at the vehemence with which you have addressed me. Perhaps you thought I was someone other than who I stated, a grateful mother. I invite you to write to Mary Kochan to learn my real name. (I would tell you here, but I would like to maintain my daughter’s privacy regarding her health history). Then Google to see if I have been an apologist for Medjugorje. I have not.

        I will ask one favor of you. In your next article for Catholic Lane, will you tell us your opinion of Document 154/81-06419 from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the comments of Christoph Cardinal Schonborn from July 18, 1998 which I referenced above?
        I thank you for this dialogue, and I again apologize for writing things which were so hurtful to you.

        • Kevin Symonds

          My comment was not written in in vehemence.

        • Kevin Symonds

          I think I understand better what is happening here.

          Please know that I do not mean to accuse you of characterizing my remarks as being unfaithful. I spoke in terms of “impression” because one could see how things could be construed that way.

          I apologize for any misunderstanding.

          • GuitarGramma

            Dear Kevin, This morning at Mass I heard these words in the first reading:

            Strive for peace with everyone,
            and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
            See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God,
            that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble,

            I felt an overwhelming need to pray for you and for our discussion. My prayer took place at perhaps the exact moment you wrote this. I thank you with all my heart.

  • GuitarGramma,

    We must always keep in mind that even when the Church “approves” an apparition, the faithful are free to dismiss it, even publicly. Apparitions are private revelation, and it is never required that the faithful assent to them. They are not doctrinal.

    I am often disturbed by the attitude that comes from believers of [fill in the apparition here] who act as if those who dismiss it are somehow less faithful or in dissent from the Church. There are very holy souls who will have nothing to do with apparitions. Sometimes that can be the most prudent path.

    I am also very disturbed by simple souls who are hoodwinked by the latest thing to come down the pike. This is much more dangerous than dismissing a true appearance.

    • Kevin Symonds

      John, I could not have put it better myself. Thank you.

  • GuitarGramma

    Dear John — You are absolutely right! The faithful are given the choice to assent or ignore an approved apparition. On the other hand, I would find it distateful to hear truly negative commentary on Fatima or Lourdes. All I am asking is that people keep an open mind until Rome speaks.

    Debate, of course, is a good thing. But I am often distrubed when someone quotes the Bishop of Mostar (alluded to in the article, though not directly quoted) yet fails to quote the Congregation For The Doctrine of the Faith (Document#154/81-06419) which says in part, “What Bishop Peric said in his letter to the Secretary General of “Famille Chretienne”, declaring: “My conviction and my position is not only ‘non constat de supernaturalitate,’ but likewise, ‘constat de non supernaturalitate’ of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje”, should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion.” and “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.”
    So again, I admit to having a postive outlook on Medjugorje. But I did not mean to say — nor even hint — that Kevin Symonds was “less faithful or in dissent from the church.” I am merely calling for a more balanced discussion. After all, if the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith permits private pilgrimages to Mejugorje, if no less than Cardinal Schonborn says, “…I can only say that it is these fruits [Medjugorje-related graces of conversion, vocations, healings, etc.] which enable me, as bishop, to pass a moral judgment…. I am obliged to say that the tree is good” (Lourdes, July 18, 1998), then there are two sides in this debate.
    Ultimately — and this is critical — we, you and I, can debate all we want. Nothing we say will matter once Rome speaks. I continue to await that day. And I will hope for balanced debates until that day.

    • Kevin Symonds

      GuitarGramma,

      Unfortunately, your earlier post does give the impression that I am somehow being unfaithful by questioning Medjugorje, or telling my personal opinion of it.

      If you wish to have a balanced debate, by all means, set the date and I’ll gladly accede to the request. I will gladly make the arrangements.

  • Please read the article, “The Truth About Medjugorje” by Bishop Zanic. Google it. It reveals the error, scandal, disobedience and absurdities associated with the alleged apparitions.

  • john konnor
  • nuovogesu

    The beauty of Medjugoje is that any believer that believes in Christ can ask for miracles. It only requires to be faithful to Christ in the way He operates and to try to understand his works. In some countries, like Italy such miracles are not welcome and it’s not so good to try to make it happen. However it’s important to be focus on healing of the sick people.

  • Eimeara Volodchenko

    Medjugorje is the biggest load of bull ever. Just because people have conversions doesn’t mean the Madonna is appearing there. God can give the grace of repentance anywhere. Apparitions on demand and those visionaries are show offs..