I. The Facts of Medjugorje
A CHARISMATIC APPARITION
IT is now well known that the events of Medjugorje began before the apparitions of “the Virgin.” These apparitions had been announced in advance by Fr. Heribert Mühlen, responsible for the Charismatic Movement in Germany, and then prophesised in Mai 1981 to Fr. Vlasic by Fr Tardif and Sr. Briege McKenna in Rome, during the International Congress of the leaders of the Charismatic Renewal.
The propagandists on behalf of Medjugorje have themselves stressed the importance of these strange prophecies. Laurentin had spoken of a “ pre-established harmony between the apparitions and the Charismatic Renewal.” This collusion of the two causes has never been denied on either side: the Apparition in its messages has never ceased to give discreet approval, without any possible doubt, to the Charismatic Renewal, its doctrine, practices and leaders. The Franciscans who have succeeded one another as directors of the parish, the pilgrimage and of the seers are all charismatics. To the first two, Fr. Zovko and Fr. Vlasic, “the Virgin of Medjugorje” had herself appeared. Archbishop Franic, who protected them, was passionately charismatic. The seers themselves have set up charismatic prayer groups. The most zealous propagandists of Medjugorje were all charismatics or became so before long. So much so that it is now no longer possible to ignore this unbreakable link or to deny the reciprocal recognition between the Charismatic Movement and the Yugoslav Apparition, as they mutually support each other.
THE SEERS: SIX BOYS AND GIRLS
WHO ARE “NEITHER BETTER NOR WORSE THAN OTHERS.”
Five of them are born in Bijakovici, one of the four villages of the district of Medjugorje, an important market town of 3400 inhabitants, located about twenty kilometres from Mostar, in the province of Herzegovina.
On June 24, 1981, date of the first apparition, litte Jakov Colo alone, who was ten years old, was still a child. The five other seers were teenagers: Vicka Ivankovic, the eldest girl was almost seventeen of age; Mirjana Dragicevic, Marija Pavlovic and Ivan Dragicevic were sixteen years old ; Ivanka Ivankovic was just fifteen. All the future seers were linked by ties of kinship, friendship or neighbourhood.
The region of Medjugorje with its Croat population, is a bastion of traditional Catholicism. Religious practice is still intense there. In this preserved milieu, however, none of the future seers was conspicuous by a regular and fervent piety. Fr. Jozo Zovko, appointed parish priest in October 1980, attested in June 1981 that he did not know them. Mirjana attended a high school in Sarajevo. Vicka, Marija and Ivanka studied in Mostar; Vicka in a textile school, Marija in a hairdressing school and Ivanka in a high school. They wore trendy clothes and they all had the external appearance of quite emancipated young, modern city dwellers. “It has been discovered in the hamlet,” noted Fr. Laurentin, “that Ivanka, tall and beautiful already has a suitor.”
THE LOCAL ORDINARY: BISHOP PAVAO ZANIC.
Bishop Pavao Zanic of Mostar had a reputation of being an intelligent, supernatural and moderate man who had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin. It was incumbent on him to make an investigation and to judge the veracity of the apparitions.
He was first benevolent and reflected that “if the scandalous ‘case of Herzegovina’ (relative to the Franciscans’ disobedience to the decrees of the Holy See concerning parishes), which had been lasting for years in the region, had not been resolved by men, maybe God had been pleased to send the Blessed Virgin there to urge the rebels to return to obedience and love for the Church.”
THE FIRST TEN APPARITIONS.
The circumstances of the first apparition of the “Virgin” – of the Gospa, we will say henceforth, using the Croat word that the seers themselves habitually use – are obviously of very particular interest for interpreting the event.
Wednesday, June 24, 1981: First apparition. How could the sight of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the true Virgin radiating beauty, gentleness and motherly mercy, arouse not only an initial movement of fear, as with Her authentic manifestations, but the terror and mad panic which the seers afterwards said that they had then felt? “ What’s up? Is there a snake?” shouted Vicka. “ No, not a snake!” Vicka ran up, but the sight of the apparition frightened her so much that, seized with fear, she slipped off her shoes and fled.” She met Ivan Dragicevic, she told him with a sob that the Gospa was appearing and she asked him to accompany her. When Ivan saw the apparition, he fled immediately, jumping over a barred gate “ The first day, Vicka was to say later, we all shouted and pulled faces.”
Let us also mention that this first day of the “apparitions,” the future seers had gone to the hill… to smoke on the sly. When Bishop Zanic questioned them, rather than admit this not so brilliant reason, they first told him that they had gone “to collect the sheep,” then “to pick flowers.”
Thursday, June 25: Let us pass over the faintings and over the tearful crises of the seers: “ Mirjana,” it was Vicka herself who related this, “ asked the Gospa to leave us a sign so that people would not say anything they like about us. And the hands of Mirjana’s watch turned.” Concerning this “sign from Heaven” Laurentin admitted in Brussels on February 21, 1981 that he “ did not know what to make of it”!
Friday, June 26: Third apparition; it was the most important, being when the essential message of Medjugorje was revealed. Here are the circumstances. It was Vicka herself who related the event to Fr. Bubalo. After the end of the apparition, they went back to the village: “Marija who always walks quickly, was a little ahead of us, alone. Suddenly she found herself on the side of the road as though she had been pushed by someone... Something had as it were either pulled or pushed her to the left side. And there the Gospa appeared to her. The Gospa was very sad, Marija told us. It held a big cross in its hands and weeping it said: ‘Peace, peace, peace, nothing but peace!’ Marija was so frightened that her legs gave way.” It was at that moment, explained Fr. Bubalo, “that the Gospa communicated the essential point of its message.”
Saturday, June 27: For the fourth apparition Marija was violently and mysteriously propelled to the top of the hill. The seers stated that “the Gospa” disappeared several times because people had “ trod on its veil”!
Sunday, June 28: The dialogue was recorded. It is of a quite disarming vulgarity and banality. Yet when the seers asked the Gospa to give a sign to “ convince all these people that we are not liars, and that we are not joking around with you?” The apparition replied: “ Go in the peace of God,” then it immediately went away without adding anything further.
This request for a sign to which the Blessed Virgin has always acquiesced in Her previous and principal apparitions in Lourdes and in Fatima, seemed to put the Gospa of Medjugorje in a predicament. It would always remain powerless to provide the great sign that it had promised.
Monday, June 29: On this day the seers underwent a psychiatric examination. Mirjana stated: “ Behind the Gospa’s head I saw the head of Jesus. It was during our examination by the lady doctor Dzudza at Mostar.”
Tuesday, June 30: The seers were not at the meeting place. They had agreed to go for a car ride with two nurses from Citluk. That same evening they told the parish priest, Zovko – the recording still exists – that it was to see whether Our Lady would appear to them at some other place.”
In December 1983, Vicka could not remember having said that, but she added: “If it is recorded, then we must have said such a mad thing. But no one understands us! It is true we wanted to go out and relax a little.” The apparition took place, therefore at Cerno during the car ride.
“That day,” reported Fr. Kraljevic, “the seers also declared that the Gospa had promised to return only three more days, up to Friday.”
Wednesday, July 1: The Gospa appeared… in the police van: “It was strange, even so,” noted Fr. Bubalo. “Marija and Ivanka – Vicka replied – were terribly frightened, […] they were petrified. It was for that reason that our guards treated them as witches.”
Thursday, July 2: Foundation of the pilgrimage. Yes, so soon! That evening, at the request of the charismatic parish priest, Jozo Zovko, who was already convinced of the authenticity of the apparitions – through intimate revelations! – Vicka and Jakov made a public declaration in the parish church. The parish priest announced to his flock: “At the end of this Mass, the children who have had the vision and who have met Our Lady [sic] are going to pray for you and for your families.” Only one week after the beginning of the events the parish priest was organising the pilgrimage and was thus inviting the crowds to believe in and to come to Medjugorje! Such a thing had never before been seen in the entire history of the Church!
Friday, July 3: Tenth and last apparition. “At this last apparition, which took place at the presbytery of Medjugorje,” reported Bishop Zanic, “a few priests were also present. When the apparition had ended, the seers declared: ‘That is the last apparition!’ ” And yet it carried on, it is still going on, and the end is not yet in sight!
MEDJUGORJE IN THE LIGHT
OF THE CATHOLIC DOCTRINE AND MORALITY.
Even though these apparitions and the seers seem strange and surprising, to say the least, we are not going to rush to a conclusion before having analysed the facts and the persons in the light of Catholic faith, discipline and morality.
1. THE ORTHODOXY OF THE MESSAGES OF MEDJUGORJE.
The words of the Apparition of Medjugorje teem with ambiguities, errors and marked heresies. The accusation was too grave for Laurentin to continue ignoring it. He admitted: “One of the difficulties against the exemplary [?!] message of Medjugorje concerns ecumenism. For the now dissolved diocesan commission that was one of the main objections, and Rome received it with the greatest attention. The substance of the offence was the answer given by the Gospa to a written question handed to the seers on October 1, 1981: “Are all religions good?” – “ All religions are equal before God ”. If this reply attributed to all religions the same truth or the same value [which is indeed its obvious and incontestable meaning, confirmed by the context of ten or fifteen similar answers of the Apparition, and no answer has yet corrected or attenuated this patent heresy!] the Apparition would be disqualified in accordance with saint Paul’s criterion: “Even if an angel from Heaven were to announce another Gospel to you, let him be anathema” (Ga 1:8): it could not be an angel of God.”
Fr. Laurentin maintained that the seers could be mistaken, for “they relate messages globally, from memory, after a considerable delay, which leaves room for simplifications, approximations and transpositions.”
How can one believe that the Blessed Virgin could have chosen six messengers who are so stupid and feeble as to be incapable of reporting Her words faithfully?! What is more, it is claimed that She appears every evening, and since 1981 has had more than two thousand opportunities to make the necessary correction. No correction, however, has ever been made!
Relativist ecumenism was not the only heresy of the Apparition of Medjugorje: there was erroneous doctrine on the resurrection of the body, on Hell where the damned were presented as still being “God’s children,” and where, according to Mirjana “people begin to feel comfortable,” on the universal mediation of the Blessed Virgin which was insistently denied by the Gospa: “I do not dispose of all graces. I receive from God what I obtain through prayer.” “Jesus prefers that you address your petitions directly to Him, rather than through an intermediary.”
2. MEDJUGORJE: KINGDOM OF LIES.
I weigh my words carefully, aware of the gravity of such accusations, but to unmask impostors is a duty of charity towards the multitudes who are abused by their fallacious allegations.
From the beginning, the Apparition lied by announcing on June 30, 1981, without the slightest ambiguity, that it would appear only three more times.
It lied on several occasions by promising forthcoming and precise dates for the appearance of a great sign.
It lied by making people believe that it would rapidly appease the Herzegovina problem whereby the Franciscans are opposed to their bishops.
Bishop Zanic “affirmed that he caught out all the seers lying” and he provided proof of this. Mirjana and Ivanka lied from the beginning when they concealed that on June 24, 1981, the day of the first apparition, they had gone to the hill, with cigarettes in pocket to smoke on the sly. They admitted it to Bishop Zanic in July 1981, then they obstinately denied it to Laurentin who preferred to believe them rather than the bishop, and accused the latter of calumniating them. On the June 25, 1986, Ivanka, however, ended by confessing it to Laurentin himself! Jakov lied or distorted the facts in his accounts from June 30, 1981.
The seers lied and contradicted themselves on the subject of the great sign. Vicka lied on January 14, 1985 when she related that she had seen “the Virgin let the Infant Jesus slip out of her arms”. She lied ten or twenty times on the subject of her famous diaries, the very existence of which she began by denying. Vicka even went so far as to justify her behaviour by claiming that it is normal and permissible to lie: “No one,” she stated, “says everything that comes to his mind all the time. Everyone takes it for granted that one can lie on occasions”!
The Franciscans of Medjugorje, the Seers’ directors and confidants have practised the same morality. Fr. Vlasic was not afraid to lie and to perjure himself concerning Vicka’s diary, the irrefutable proofs of which were provided by Bishop Zanic. Laurentin took care not to publish the little work he had promised to bring out to exonerate his charismatic friend of this dishonourable perjury. Fr. Zovko was not to be outdone. To be convinced of this, it is enough to read his conference to the pilgrims of “ Pour l’Unité” of April 12, 1988. In relating the first apparitions, he reconstituted events to please himself, he invented out of thin air messages never mentioned by the seers, and he odiously calumniated his bishop, whilst lying about his own attitude which is well known to us through the recordings of interviews!
Finally, the Medjugorje propagandists have lied on page after page, Laurentin more than any other.
I shall give just one example: he stated that he knew and made use of the recordings of the seers’ first interviews. Not foreseeing, however, that Fr. Sivric allowed himself to present the announcement of the end of the apparitions on June 30, 1981 thus: “On that day, Mirjana thought she understood that the Gospa would return only three more times, up to Friday. But that is only her interpretation ”! In reality the recording of the interview of June 30, which took place immediately after the apparition, leaves no room for doubt: Mirjana and all the seers unanimously stated on several occasions that the Gospa itself announced that the apparitions would last “only three more days.”
Omissions and tampering with the texts were still insufficient to render the ridiculously poor message of Medjugorje credible. Laurentin, therefore, surreptitiously enriched the text, doubtless expecting no one to see so much as a drop amid such a torrent of idle words. Thus he made the Gospa say: “Humbly fulfil your human and Christian duty to make yourselves worthy of Heaven” Pure invention!
3. AN APPARITION THAT PREACHES REBELLION AGAINST THE CHURCH AUTHORITIES
Since December 19, 1981, the Gospa has constantly supported the indiscipline and revolt of the Franciscans against the Bishop of Mostar’s legitimate authority, encouraging them to pay no attention to the justifiable sanctions with which he has had to punish them. For the first time, in his “Corpus Chronologique”, Laurentin had at last published a series of its subversive messages, and the texts showed that the extracts published by Bishop Zanic were perfectly exact. Yet contravening the most elementary laws of criticism, he “deliberately” decided to present this “very particular series of texts” “in an appendix separate from the Corpus”. And why, for Heaven’s sake? Because they “do not belong to the message ”! All the seers, Fr. Vlasic and the Franciscans state the opposite. The texts are unambiguous but, so what, Laurentin decided otherwise: “The words attributed to the Virgin on the famous question of Herzegovina are both an unfortunate interference and the cause of obscuration. This affair has nothing to do with the apparitions themselves. People have been eager [who? other than the seers themselves!] to mix them in with the message unduly.”
Let us listen to what Bishop Zanic himself said: “Marina B., a tourist guide for Atlas Travel, brought a priest from Panama to my office in August 1989. Marina presented herself as a tour-guide, translator for English and a convert of Medjugorje. The priest asked me for the reasons why I do not believe in the ‘apparitions.’ I told him that I have at least 20 reasons not to believe, of which only one is necessary for those who are sober and well-instructed in the Faith to come to the conclusion that the apparitions are not of the supernatural. He asked me to please tell him at least one reason.”
SCANDALOUS PRIESTS: VEGO AND VLASIC
I told him about the case of the ex-Franciscan priest Ivica Vego. Due to his disobedience, and by an order of our Holy Father the Pope, he was thrown out of his Franciscan religious order (OFM) by his General, dispensed from his vows and suspended “ a divinis”. He did not obey this order and he continued to celebrate Mass, distribute the sacraments and spend his time with his mistress. It is unpleasant to write about this, yet it is necessary in order to realise about whom the Gospa is speaking. According to the diary of Vicka and the statements of the “seers,” The Gospa mentioned 13 times that he is innocent and that the bishops is wrong. When his mistress, Sr. Leopolda, a nun, became pregnant, both of them left the religious life and began to live together near Medjugorje where their child was born. Now they have two children. His prayer book is still sold in Medjugorje and beyond in hundreds of thousands of copies.
“I asked Marina to translate this in English. Marina cannot be blamed for having fallen into a community which is concealing the truth. She spontaneously responded according to the practice in Medjugorje: ‘Do we have to tell them these ugly things?’ I responded by saying that if you had not held back and covered these ‘ugly events’ these people from Panama would have found out earlier and they would not have had to travel to Medjugorje for nothing. It is an injustice and a sin to hide this truth; even though it be unpleasant, it must be told.”
Another ugly thing, this time concerning Fr. Vlasic. Hans Hurs von Balthasar, the famous intellectual leader of the Second Vatican Council’s theologians and periti, considered the director of the Medjugorje pilgrimage to be a saint. His opinion made a deep impression in Rome and Bishop Zanic was discredited accordingly.
In October 1985, however, Cardinal Ratzinger and Bishop Zanic had access to all the proof concerning a scandal that Fr. Vlasic had perpetrated with a nun of his order. Vlasic was in the same concubinary situation as Vego, but he had taken great care to conceal it. To face this charge, the Charismatic lobby, in the person of Laurentin, tried to exculpate Vlasic. They thought that they had succeeded and took advantage of this to calumniate Bishop Zanic until the day when the investigation of an American journalist substantiated the Bishop of Mostar’s accusations, making the version of the facts presented by the friends of Vlasic untenable.
4. VULGARITIES, DISTURBING QUIRKS
Each day brought further scandalous facts, and new attitudes of the Apparition that are unquestionably vulgar, murky or unwholesome. These attitudes prompted a Croatian bishop to say: “Everything is all right at Medjugorje, except the Madonna.”
The interviews for June 1981 teem with hitherto unmentioned oddities such as the swallows and the “black butterfly” that accompany the Apparition “beautiful like an actress” according to Jakov; the trembling of its hands, without mentioning that the seers unexpectedly faint when they throw holy water in its direction; the fact that the seers have repeated at least twenty times that the Apparition’s feet cannot be seen, etc.
I have quoted testimonies relating how “ the ‘Virgin’ allowed all those who desired it to come and touch her,” how the seers guided them saying: ‘Now, you are touching her veil, her head, her hand, her dress…” Accounts of these intolerable touching and hugging sessions are numbered by the dozen. I have reproached Fr. Laurentin for saying nothing about them. To which he replied: “Where it is said that Fr. Laurentin fails to quote such and such a word or deed, and why does he hide it (through what dishonesty or subterfuge, etc.)? Generally, it is because I have discarded it as unfounded or purely accessory...” Unfounded or negligible, all these disturbing and scandalous facts? They are now guaranteed by Vicka herself, who related them to Fr. Bubalo without any embarrassment.
Do we need a few specimens? In the autumn of 1981, the Gospa sent for Marinko, the garage mechanic, in the middle of making his firewater; to give him a kiss! He “ did not exactly feel the kiss, but a kind of current.” At about midnight, up on the hill, the Apparition invited all those who wished to come and touch it. They, however, “ trampled on its dress, and others on its veil,” so it left. On August 2, a further session. Vicka related: “ It was strange. Where some people touched Our Lady, there remained as though a stain, so much so that in the end she seemed dirty and full of stains.” On September 2, in the course of an apparition to Ivan, the Gospa “ gave a kiss to the big picture of Pope John Paul II.” In November 1981, Vicka related, it gave another kiss to the picture of the Pope during an apparition to the seers. More recently, in the “chapel of the apparitions” a doctor asked Vicka to circumscribe the Virgin’s silhouette. She took his hand and guided it around and then behind, thus showing the third dimension”. Our Charismatic expert found nothing surprising or shocking in all this.
By the light of the true Catholic Faith only, free of all passionate a priori which blinds those who are connected with the world-wide Charismatic Movement, it appears that beyond the fumes of its noisy propaganda, the fruits of Medjugorje as a whole are not good.
5. A VAST FINANCIAL OPERATION
Medjugorje, encouraged by the world-wide Charismatic Movement and also with the support of the whole apparatus of the Conciliar Church, would likewise become a big, lucrative financial operation. Millions of pilgrims, millions of readers! Bishop Zanic expressed it thusly: “Laurentin and the others are very wealthy liars. All those who have written and published books, who have filmed and reproduced video cassettes, who diffuse souvenirs, etc. They have all made themselves very, very rich. For money plays a very important role in this whole affair. Money, money! The Franciscans have dollars, Deutsche marks, lira, francs… It is outrageous!”
MEDJUGORJE, 18 YEARS AFTER THE APPARITIONS.
What have become the seers after their daily ecstasies, now numbering one or two thousand? Joachim Bouflet told us about them in his book: “ Medjugorje or the Counterfeit of the Supernatural.”
“ They have also given themselves over to the glamour of Americano-Italo-French stardom, multiplying journeys and conferences throughout the world as the business representatives of their apparitions, even to the extent of having apparitions in the countries visited. One cannot imagine a more effective propaganda, nor one that is more lucrative.
“More than the apparitions, it is money that transforms the visionaries’ existence. They live in wholly enviable material conditions, which to some seems in peculiar contrast to the asceticism they advocate. The extravagant lifestyle of Ivan, who comes from one of the poorest families in one of the most disadvantaged villages of Medjugorje, is, if not an example, at least an illustration of what the apparitions of the Gospa produce. The whole district is taken over by this fever for money, the beneficial effects of which anyone can observe in the visionaries’ own homes. ‘Even devout families have been affected by this fever. They have built one house after another. I am not talking of Communist families! They build one house, then a second, and then they buy the land nearby and build yet another one. I have seen this. Thus, in a few years, the people have become extremely rich. They buy Mercedes cars… along with all the extras. It has become a veritable frenzy.’”
The visionaries Ivan, Ivanka, Jakov, Marija, Mirjana, Marijana are now all married. “They have all set up shop together, as the saying goes: “Mirjana, the mother of two children, runs a guesthouse for pilgrims, very close to where Ivan and Jakov live.” The Medjugorje locals, who have been wise to things for a long time – but they also benefit from the pilgrimages – have derisively nicknamed the street where the houses of the visionaries stand Millionaire Street.”
MEDJUGORJE: A DIABOLICAL DISORIENTATION
In an “open Letter” dated September 22, 1987 Fr. Dugandzig, the incumbent of Medjugorje at that time, addressed the following reproach to Bishop Zanic: “ At this moment, you are actually working to prove that it is Satan in person who is at work and that, since the time of Jesus Christ, this is his greatest deception.” How can one fail to subscribe to such a tragic observation, when one knows that heresy, lies, rebellion and unseemly peculiarities are precisely the usual marks that allow the presence and action of the Evil One to be detected with certainty?
With its ever more disguised but nevertheless constant and irrevocable support for the Charismatic Renewal, the apparition has contributed with unprecedented efficacy to many priests, bishops and cardinals lowering their guard and their supernatural prudence, which still proved an obstacle to it, thus favouring its phenomenal expansion since the 1980s.
As Fr de Nantes often explained, Charismatism succeeds Modernism and progressivism as the third phase of Satan’s infiltration of the Church for her self-destruction and for the ruin of souls. Thereafter, one understands that the Devil is prepared to lose a little in order to gain much more before long, and so is scarcely bothered by the few “good fruits” accidentally occasioned by Medjugorje.
Extracts from CCR no 191, June-July 1986, CCR no 211, June 1988, CCR no 230, June 1990, CCR no 319, Mai 1999; and Medjugorje en toute vérité, 519 pages.