Monday, June 02, 2008

Most Unfortunate Medjugorje Article

I'm decidedly skeptical about Medjugorje, and with all due respect for the sincere and holy devotees to this place, I don't mind folk knowing that I doubt the authenticity of the visions and have grave reservations about the seers and the Franciscans of that place. However, I realise that this is a personal conclusion, albeit one founded on what I believe to be solid reasoning, and recognise that other Catholics of good will could reach the opposite conclusion.
That's why I find this article by the Daily Mail most objectionable:
Vatican denounces group's claim of seeing the Virgin Mary more than 40,000 times as 'work of the devil'
The Vatican has denounced a group who claim to have seen the Virgin Mary more than 40,000 times in the past 27 years.
The six Bosnian 'seers' attract five million pilgrims a year to their home town of Medjugorje, providing a lucrative trade for local businesses.
Hundreds of thousands travel there each year from Britain alone.
But now one of the most respected voices in the Roman Catholic church has accused the visionaries of perpetuating a 'diabolical deceit'.
Andrea Gemma, 77, a bishop and once the Vatican's top exorcist, told a magazine in Italy: 'In Medjugorje everything happens in function of money: Pilgrimages, lodging houses, sale of trinkets.
'This whole sham is the work of the Devil. It is a scandal.' He said the Vatican would soon crack down on the group.
The Medjugorje phenomenon began on June 25, 1981, when six children told a priest they had seen the Virgin on a hillside near their town.
A church investigation dismissed the vision, and the Vatican banned pilgrimages to the site in 1985. But many Catholics ignored the ban.
Today, the seers own smart houses with security gates and tennis courts and expensive cars. One is married to a former U.S. beauty queen.
Catholic officials in the U.S. have recently banned the group from speaking on church property during their world tours, on which they allegedly take the Virgin with them.
It's the usual media blunder - a retired Italian bishop says something, and the press present it as being an authoritative Church or Papal statement. Whenever the press reports 'The Vatican' saying or doing something, one needs to ask the question, who really said this, and in what context? Are we dealing with a Papal encyclical or (as we see in this case) a magazine interview with a retired bishop. Of course, what will happen is that many sincere and devout Catholics will be very shaken by this article. It will raise in them a genuine distrust of the Holy See. It may be that in the future the Church will formally say some very negative things about the alleged visions - then devotees of Medjugorje may have a difficult time accepting this, but I'm sure the vast majority have a love for the Holy Father and will listen to the voice of Peter. However, the Holy See has not decided that that Medjugorje is a diabolical deceit, and this article will be the source of much upset and confusion.

Edited to add:
Here's what seems to be the original interview
- in Italian. I don't have time to translate, but Bishop Gemma certainly doesn't pull any punches.

3 comments:

Pilgrim said...

Question to ask: Who is the “Catholic” writer that gave the story to the Daily Mail in the first place? I see there is no by-line.

Augustine said...

Bishop Gemma? Sounds like a new head for US Anglicans. It'll be Bishop Susan next...

Castor said...

In the current nomenclature (since the early 20th century) HOLY SEE is used for diplomatic relations ad extra and APOSTOLIC SEE for matterns ad intra, concerning the Church and the Churches. Theoretically, its both: Sancta Sedes Apostolica.