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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Economy of Images & Catholic Devotions

This is the fifth of several posts in a rebuttal of an anti-Catholic on the faith.  Picollo is not particularly bright but his poison is no less deadly.

PICOLLO:

There are many doctrines held by Catholics that need to be examined. These include such things as setting up images in the church, setting up grottos where people may go and kneel before idols and especially pray to Mary, another man’s wife. It totally negates the will of God as commanded in Deuteronomy 16:22. “Thou shall not set up images nor worship them.” Do they think that going to Rome is going to heaven? Never! Peter says in Acts 5, it is better to obey God than to obey man. It is very painful to me how the African nations have been dogmatically enslaved again by this falsehood, in complete disregard to the will of God in the Bible.

FATHER JOE:

Fundamentalists fail to make a distinction between the veneration and the worship of images. It upsets them that the Pope himself bows before statues of Mary. Similarly, they condemn our worship of Christ in the Eucharist. Indeed, they object to almost all of our sacramentals: statues, votive candles, and other such religious objects in their homes and churches.

They quote a portion of the Decalogue in Scripture to make their case:

[The fashioning and veneration of images is forbidden as idolatry]

“You shall not carve idols [any graven image] for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God …” (Exodus 20:4-5).

No, Catholics do not “worship” images. Veneration is different from the kind of exclusive worship and adoration owed to God alone. Rather, we honor and treat with respect those things which remind us of God and those in whom the Lord has done wondrous things. The honor we show the Blessed Virgin Mary is particularly pronounced; however, even here it is not the same kind of worship which we render to God. Unlike the ancient idol worshippers, the honor is paid not to the physical representation, but to the one who is signified. Definitions are very important. Holy objects often serve the same function as mementos and photographs in our homes; they remind us of our friends and family. Similarly, religious statues, pictures, and all the rest bring to mind our spiritual family of faith and our identity as part of it. Candles are symbolic of Jesus himself. The smoke rises as prayer is taken into heaven. They give off light and Jesus is the Light of the World, dispelling the darkness of sin and death. They give off heat, and Jesus gave the warmth of healing and forgiveness to others. Like the candle which exhausts itself for our benefit, Jesus surrenders his life that we might be redeemed. Turning to the Eucharist, Jesus himself told us that it was his flesh and blood, the living sacrament of his presence. We can worship this divine mystery because it is Jesus and Jesus is God. Fundamentalist anti-Catholics are not consistent on this score about graven images. Come Christmas, they usually have statuary nativity scenes like everyone else. Also, if they were to be consistent in their strict observance of this commandment, it would also include the toy dolls they buy their children. Some cults actually do this! The Catholic view of images is based on the permissible symbolic use of them in the Old Testament and the fact that Christ himself through the incarnation reveals the transcendent God. God allowed images which symbolically pointed to our ultimate salvation in the Lord. The very historical fact of the God-Man, Christ, ushers in a new “economy” of images [CCC #2131].

[To be healed from the poisonous bites of serpents]

“So Moses prayed for the people, and the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks at it, he will recover.’ Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he recovered” (Numbers 21:7-9). {See also Wisdom 16:6-8}

[Jesus’ humanity is a healing image of God]

“‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting’” (John 3:14).

[Regarding the Ark of the Covenant]

“‘Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends of the propitiatory, fastening them so that one cherub springs direct from each end. The cherubim shall have their wings spread out above, covering the propitiatory with them; they shall be turned toward each other, but with their faces looking toward the propitiatory’” (Exodus 25:18-20). {See also 1 Kings 6:2328}.

PICOLLO:

I was a child brought up in Catholic schools and I never read the Bible until I was lead by the spirit to do so. I left the church and I have never regretted the decision. God bless you, though the truth is bitter— it must be told. Only the TRUTH can set one free!

FATHER JOE:

You would do well to read these other topics here before seeking refutation. I have transferred some information here for convenience of argument. Otherwise, I would have to delete your comments. I cannot allow heresy and error an uncontested presence on this Blog. May the Holy Spirit bring you to a true friendship with Christ and acknowledgment of the Church he founded and the truths he taught. Peace!

Priestly Celibacy & the Value of Virginity

This is the fourth of several posts in a rebuttal of an anti-Catholic on the faith.  Picollo is not particularly bright but his poison is no less deadly.

PICOLLO:

God is not a respecter of man and He has nothing to hide as far as the Scriptures are concerned. Jesus entered the house of Peter and met his sick mother-in law. He was approached for help. Who approached him? The Bible is silent as to whether it was Peter or his wife. This incident, in my humble mind, was not accidental. Rather, it was to initiate the grace of God in Peter and to strengthen his belief. The Bible in 1 Timothy 3:24 says that if any man desires to be a bishop (not POPE), he must be a husband of one wife, Also, in verse 5 we read this for deacons and “priests.” He now asks a very fundamental question: if a man does not have a family to rule, how can he control the bigger house of God which is the church? It is unwise to discuss this issue because anybody who is supposedly a Christian and disputes what is in the Bible is an unbeliever.

FATHER JOE:

That is a neat trick, disagree with your interpretation of certain biblical texts and you then regard your antagonist as “an unbeliever.” Sorry friend, you may believe in Christ but you also attack him and his Church him through your ignorance and prejudice.

Anti-Catholic fundamentalists often misconstrue the following Scripture:

[Contention that it is from the devil to prohibit the good of marriage]

“Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions, through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences. They forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the invocation of God in prayer” (1 Timothy 14:1-4).

These words refer to a false asceticism and not to the practices of Catholic Christianity. The early Church and well into the Patristic period, had to deal with cults and movements which made all sorts of exaggerated claims and required various austere practices. Some urged a return to Jewish dietary laws. Others wanted to go further with fasting and abstinence, perpetually destroying joy in the goods of creation. There were even movements which urged strict celibacy upon all the members as the only way to enlightenment and salvation. The Catholic position is quite different. Our use of fasting and abstinence is not perpetual and it is not a rejection of certain foods as unclean or unworthy of man. Rather, their absence, to coin a cliché, is to make the heart grow fonder. It is precisely because something like meat is good that we might temporarily abstain. Jesus himself fasted and prayed in the desert and alluded to it in the future as something his followers would do. As for marriage, Catholics believe that Christ raised it up to a level of a sacrament, a special sacred sign of his relationship as the bridegroom to his bride, the Church. It is a mysterious means of encountering the Lord himself and receiving grace. Obviously, if such is the Catholic view, we would not be seeking to degrade it by our practice of celibacy. Priests and religious vow celibacy freely, not because marriage is bad, but because it is so good. Celibacy becomes a wonderful gift, freely embraced, as a sacrifice for God and his holy people. Jesus was celibate. St. Paul not only practiced it but encouraged it. The celibate priest becomes a sign of contradiction of the kingdom of Christ to a hedonistic world. It is not a rejection of love, but a selfless abandonment to divine love as manifested in service to God’s people, the Church. It is not a calling for everyone, just as not everyone is called to priesthood or consecrated life. The majority of people seek holiness in marriage and family life.

Here are more Scriptures misunderstood by anti-Catholic bigots:

[Peter was married; an apostolic line through Peter?]

“And when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed, sick with a fever” (Matthew 8:14).

“Now Simon’s mother-in-law was keeping her bed sick with fever, and they immediately told him about her” (Mark 1:30).

“But he rose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a great fever, and they besought him for her” (Luke 4:38).

These references to Peter’s mother-in-law do indicate that Peter was married; although her absence from these texts might lend one to think that she experienced some mishap and was out of the picture. Be this as it may, the Catholic Church has never hidden the fact that Peter and other religious leaders of the Church were married. Indeed, the Catholic Church had a married clergy all the way up to the 12th century. The Fourth Lateran Council was quite decisive in mandating compulsory celibacy for any who would be priests of the Roman or Western Rite. The Eastern rites of the Catholic Church, to this very day (in Europe and the Far East) have an optional married clergy. These priests are in full union with Rome. Also, in our own nation many Protestant clergy, Lutheran and Episcopal, have entered into the Roman Catholic priesthood, even though they are married and have families. Those who are raised in the Western rite realize that celibacy is a special gift and a particular charism of our priestly experience. It is a sign of a wondrous single-hearted love. One of the fruits of this sacrifice is the availability that a priest can give to his prayers, study, and service. Any indication that Peter’s married state would affect apostolic succession is a low blow. Those who followed Peter had a spiritual and not a physical affinity to the great apostle. While the Church has known nepotism, such is the exception and not the rule. No one forces a young man to become a priest or brother. There is no coercion for a woman to become a nun. They know that vows of poverty, obedience, and celibacy are part of the package. If God gives a person a vocation in the Catholic Church, we believe that he will give them the graces and gifts to follow this life. The majority of men who leave the priesthood to get married ultimately have failed marriages. Promises are made to be kept. The problem is not the Church or God; the dilemma is people who are unwilling to surrender their lives fully to Christ. Marriage is also a sacrifice, amidst the joys. However, if we trust God and walk with him, he will guide our path.

Anti-Catholic apologists also distort the following and read too much into it:

[Paul was single but thought we should have the freedom to marry]

“Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and brothers of the Lord, and Kephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5).

The Catholic Church also recognizes the right of people to get married. However, the Church has a right of her own to regulate her ministries. Permanent deacons, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Catechists, Readers, Lectors, Acolytes, and Lay Evangelists and Ministers all serve the Church a may be married. Would the anti-Catholic demand compulsory matrimony? I hope not. Those who opt for priesthood in the Roman Rite also freely embrace celibacy. This is no less than what St. Paul did. After listing all the various rights that a follower in Jesus possesses, he acknowledges that he has chosen not to use these rights for himself.

Here are some other useful Scriptures:

[After listing the right to marry among many other freedoms, St. Paul says]

“Yet we have not used this right. On the contrary, we endure everything, so as not to place an obstacle to the Gospel of Christ. … I have not used any of these rights …” (1 Corinthians 9:12,15).

[After speaking about marriage]

“This I say by way of concession, however, not as a command. Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. Now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: It is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do …” (1 Corinthians 7:6-8).

[Advice to Virgins and Widows]

“Now in regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. So this is what I think best because of the present distress: that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek a separation. Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife. If you marry, however, you do not sin, nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries; but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life, and I would like to spare you that. I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:25-31).

[More on virginity]

“So then, the one who marries his virgin does well; the one who does not marry her will do better” (1 Corinthians 7:38).

[About a widow]

“She is more blessed, though, in my opinion, if she remains as she is, and I think that I too have the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 7:40).

[Celibacy is a sign of the kingdom!]

“His disciples said to him, ‘If the case of a man with his wife is so, it is not expedient to marry.’ And he said, ‘Not all can accept this teaching; but those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born so from their mother’s womb; and there are eunichs who were made so by men; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let him accept it who can’” (Matthew 19:10-12).

Mary Was a Perpetual Virgin

This is the third of several posts in a rebuttal of an anti-Catholic on the faith.  Picollo is not particularly bright but his poison is no less deadly.

PICOLLO:

[Regarding the VIRGIN MARY]

 The Bible says in Matthew 13:51-54 and in Mark 6:1-7, when Jesus came into his own country, started to perform miracles and preached the gospel— the people became astonished. They said, is this not the son of the carpenter (referring to Joseph)? Is not his mother Mary? Are not his brothers, James, Joses, Judas, Simon, and his sisters here with us? (This means that the girls from Mary could be more than one. Jesus felt bad because they despised him. They knew his family. He left them with a popular parable. In Galatians 1:17-19, the apostle Paul said that after three years, “I went to Jerusalem.” He stayed 15 days. “I stayed in Peter’s house.” He did not stay at the Vatican! “I did not see any of the apostles except James, our Lord’s brother.” Father Joe, who is this Lord referred to here by Paul? Mathew 27:56 says that Mary Magdalene and another Mary, the mother of James and John (the sons of Zebedee) followed him as they were going to the Cross, even before his mother came. Mathew 28:10 has Jesus telling the Madgalene to go and “tell my brothers/brethren that I am risen. Tell them to meet me in Galilee.”

FATHER JOE:

Fundamentalists often misinterpret the following Scriptures:

[Argues that Mary and Joseph had children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus]

“‘Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brethren James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Then where did he get all this?’” (Matthew 13:55-56).

“‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, Joses, Jude, and Simon? And are not also his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3).

Mathew’s quoted text itself intimates that the people speaking do not know what they are talking about. They cannot fathom where Jesus has received his special authority and wisdom; indeed, by designating him as “the carpenter’s son,” they are even in the dark about his virgin birth as the incarnate Son of God. If they can be wrong about St. Joseph being the father of Jesus, then a cursory reading of these Scriptures may lead us into a similar error regarding Mary and the other family members. Note that they are listed as kin to Christ, cousins perhaps, as nothing more can be certainly determined from the Oriental custom of calling all such, brothers and sisters. Not once is Mary called their mother. Actually, the phrasing is quite careful to separate Mary, as the mother of Jesus, from these other brethren. Another point of interest is that Jesus on the Cross entrusts Mary to his apostle John, rather than to these kin. If they were actually half brothers and sisters, such would have been understood as a great insult to the family. It just was not done. Another point of correction is the presence of Mary as the beloved matriarch of the early Church. She was protected and cherished by the believing community. This same family of faith, who knew Mary so intimately, would transmit as part of our living tradition the truth that Mary remained a perpetual virgin. Also, such virginity was befitting the dignity of Jesus Christ as the unique God-Man and Savior. Looking at the Scriptural citations, there are certain practical problems to the use of these bible passages in the anti-Catholic’s arsenal. Look at the names of the brethren here; Mark 15:40 informs us that James the younger and Joses (Joseph) were the sons of another Mary who was related to the Virgin Mary. As for the others, they may have been cousins, or if a second century work entitled The Protevangelium of James is to be trusted, the children of Joseph from a previous marriage. The image of a widower would collaborate the tradition that Joseph was much older than Mary. Such a view was also supported by other ancient authorities: Origen, Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, and Epiphanius. St. Jerome, knowledgeable in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, argued that they were cousins. He contended that Mary (a sister to the Virgin Mary?), the wife of Clopas (also known as Alphaeus), was the actual mother of the brothers and sisters of Christ.

Here are some other interesting Bible citations:

[Two of the brethren of Christ are listed as children of another Mary]

“And some women were also there, looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses (Joseph), and Salome. They used to accompany him and minister to him when he was in Galilee— besides many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:40-41).

[Semitic usage of brother and sister applied also to nephews, nieces, cousins, and others]

“He recovered all the possessions, besides bringing back his kinsman [BROTHER] Lot and his possessions, along with the women and the other captives” (Genesis 14:16).

“Laban said to him: ‘Should you serve me for nothing just because you are a relative [BROTHER] of mine?’” (Genesis 29:15).

“Then Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, with the order, “Come, remove your kinsmen [BROTHERS] from the sanctuary and carry them to a place outside the camp” (Leviticus 10:4).

Christ Instituted the Papacy & Catholic Church

This is the second of several posts in a rebuttal of an anti-Catholic on the faith.  Picollo is not particularly bright but his poison is no less deadly.

PICOLLO:

There is nowhere that a pope is mentioned in the Bible. If it is, show me. True Christainity was restored thanks to the role of Martin Luther.  We had the Reformation (which started in Germany) and he left the Catholic church. The so-called successor to lead the Roman Catholic church was named papal or pope by the pagan Romans. It was at the orders of Caesar that he should lead the Roman Catholic church. I stand to be corrected. There was nothing like the Catholic church during the ministrations of Jesus or of the apostles— NO POPE.

I am happy that the present pope Benedict has come out to decry sexual abuse in the Catholic church of Ireland. 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 says it is better to marry than to burn. In Matthew 26:58, Jesus was taken away; all his disciples left him and fled except Peter, playing the role of a leader of the disciples, and not as a pope to any church.

FATHER JOE:

I doubt that you will stand to be corrected. The papacy was instituted by Christ. There was almost a millennium and a half between the Caesars and Luther. Popes ministered and died with the other early Christian martyrs.  Your timetable is way off and after several centuries of pain, the papacy would be recognized by the emperor Constantine who was sympathetic to the Christians. Catholicism was made a legal religion and eventually Christianity became the faith of the state.  The Bible says as much about the papacy’s institution and tradition affirms the rest. The terms or words used developed or changed in history to express the designation. The Catholic Church was established directly by Christ. She is the Mother Church, the true Church. The foundation stone of the Church is Peter.

The fundamentalist or anti-Catholic will argue that Jesus Christ alone is the foundation of the Church. They insist that Peter was a mere man like us and that he was not even the best of men. Fundamentalists are quick to note that the Lord declared Peter to be “Satan” (Matthew 16:23) when he rebuked Jesus’ prospect of betrayal and death. As for honors, it is noted that Peter rejected Cornelius’ effort to worship him, saying, “Get up. I myself am also a human being” (Acts 10:26). Opponents of the Church become almost hysterical in lamenting that the Pope should pay heed to this admonition when people bow to him and kiss his ring. Other Scriptures often cited are these two: “…for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, name, Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). “Jesus said to them, ‘Did you never read in the Scriptures?’” (Matthew 21:42).

A more full reading of 1 Corinthians gives us the truth of the passage. Let us look at the previous verse of which 11 is a part:

“According to the grace of God given to me [St. Paul], like a wise master builder I laid a foundation and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it …” (1 Corinthians 3:10).

Catholics would agree that Jesus is the center of our Christian faith; however, this passage is about the accountability of those in God’s service. It is in this sense that it refers to Peter, Paul, and any and all of the other shepherds of the Church. Peter is only a rock in a secondary sense to Christ who is the true foundation stone. The Pope is the visible head of the entire Church, the Vicar of Christ. Christ is the invisible head. Peter and his successors have been given a privileged place in the Church to care for the Lord’s flock. He is to be trustworthy and steadfast like a rock against the storms of sin, of flesh, and of the world. Peter’s failure in appreciating the saving task which Jesus had to undergo would earn him a rebuke; later his denial of Christ would earn him shame. However, despite his weaknesses, he is the one selected out by Christ as the head of the Apostles and the “rock” upon which Christ would build his Church. Note that the roles of the builder and the rock seem to blur or to be interchanged in the Scriptural texts. Something of this becomes understandable if we appreciate the incarnation of Christ by grace in his followers. The Church is holy because Christ is holy. The ministries and works of the Church are also Christs. He identifies himself and his authority especially in his Apostles and in their successors. Note later in 1 Corinthains 3:16: “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Later, in chapter 4, verse 1, St. Paul says something which wonderfully resonates with the Pope as the Servant of the Servants of God: “Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries (sacraments) of God.” The business about worship is hardly worthy of a response. We do not worship the Pope. We respect and honor him as an important and holy personage, but no more. Is a man on one knee proposing marriage to his beloved stealing the worship proper to God? No. Is the custom of a man kissing a lady’s hand blasphemous? No. Is the bow rendered to royalty a violation of God’s due? I sure hope not. Again, the anti-Catholic bigot proves he is silly and stumbles over himself in bearing false witness against Catholicism.

Here are some pertinent Scriptures:

[Christ’s promise to St. Peter that he will be the head of the Apostles and visible foundation the Church together with him]

“Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to thee, but my Father in heaven. And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’” (Matthew 16:16-19).

[Our Lord healed Peter from his thrice denial and makes him shepherd of his entire flock]

“When, therefore, they had breakfasted, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, Son of John, dost thou love me more than these do?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, dost thou love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A third time he said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, dost thou love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him for the third time, ‘Dost thou love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my sheep’” (John 21:15-17).

[Peter confirms the faith of the other Apostles, alludes to papal infallibility in faith]

“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).

Arguing with Picollo about Catholicism

This is the first of several posts in a rebuttal of an anti-Catholic on the faith.  Picollo is not particularly bright but his poison is no less deadly.

PICOLLO:

It is really very pertinent and worrisome that in this present 20th century the Catholics can still persistently oppose and contradict the facts in the Bible, claiming that the apostle Peter was the first pope and that Mary the mother of OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST remained a virgin after the birth of his first born son/child according to Matthew 2:24-26 and Luke 1:5-7.

FATHER JOE:

I would urge you to examine how your ignorance fuels your prejudice against Catholic teachings and practices. The claims of Catholicism are more impressive and clearly reasoned today than ever before. The preaching and teaching Church even preceded the canon of the Bible and the composition of New Testament Scriptures. I mention this because it is the surest evidence for the enduring value of Sacred Tradition. Your disavowal of such Tradition as a source for revelation betrays an entirely different methodology and starting point. This is why debates are so very difficult because fundamentalists and Catholic Christians are not even on the same page. Catholicism represents genuine and historical Christianity. Protestant fundamentalism is the manifestation of a modern aberration. Despite such problems, I will briefly respond to your hostile remarks, which constitute almost a kind of spam against this Blog.

Married Out of the Church

MARIA:

I would like to know if a person married in civil rites to a non-Catholic 40 years ago, then separated after five years of marriage and with 3 children needs an absolution from the Pope even if the person after separating confessed her sin and received absolution from a priest?

FATHER JOE:

It may be that you are confusing “absolution” with “annulment” but in either instance the Pope would not normally enter the picture. Given that the person who married a non-Catholic is a Catholic, the civil marriage ceremony would have no standing in the Church. A simple declaration of nullity would be all that is required should that person want to marry in the Church. The amount of time that has passed since the attempted marriage and separation, even the instance and number of children, would be inconsequential to the ecclesiastical grounds against it being licit. Church law requires that Catholics have their marriages witnessed by a deacon or priest unless the appropriate dispensations have been granted. The absolution of a priest after a divorce or separation is a separate matter; however, if a Catholic should cohabitate with a civil law spouse, absolution could not be given.

If the person who married a non-Catholic were also a non-Catholic at the time of the civil ceremony, then the Church would consider that marriage as lawful and binding. If there were a divorce and either party wanted to marry in the Catholic Church, a formal annulment case would have to be entered and adjudicated by a Church Tribunal to determine the true validity of the prior bond. If the first marriage is shown to be binding and genuine, no second marriage could be permitted until the death of one of the spouses.

MARIA:

Further to my question, since you said that the Catholic/non-Catholic couple who entered into marriage through civil rites and have separated, only requires nullification, who will perform this then? The Catholic woman has no intentions of getting married but is guilty of the mortal sin she committed against God so wants to have an absolution from the Pope if possible.

FATHER JOE:

A declaration of nullity comes from the Tribunal and the Bishop. The application and supporting documentation is sent to the Chancery. A copy of the civil license, divorce decree and the baptismal certificate is part of the package. There is little other documentation because a civil union of a Catholic outside the Church is NO MARRIAGE. The declaration of nullity is NOT an annulment strictly speaking. A formal case ANNULMENT regards a bond that fulfills the external norms of the law: two witnesses, before a priest and deacon, proper dispensations, and jurisdiction. If a Catholic marries in the Church then the presumption is that the marriage is genuine. A formal case requires testimony by people who saw problems early on and an essay by the petitioner.

If the person you are talking about does not intend to get married (again), she should simply see a priest and receive absolution. The Pope has nothing to do with her case. There is nothing more to be done. As for the previous marriage, if it were out of the Church, then forget about it. As far as the Church is concerned, it never happened… sacramentally, that is.

MATT:

Indeed Father Joe is correct, making a good confession and receiving absolution is all that is required. Sure, it would be great to see the Holy Father, but make that trip after you have seen your parish priest. Make it a joyous trip rather than an act of penance. See a priest, make a good confession and allow the joy and peace of Christ to return to your heart. Know too that my prayers are with you.

JULIA:

Father Joe, thanks for your insights.

I am dealing with a marriage related situation, too, but not of me.

My sister is being married at 54 for the first time. She has cohabitated with the gentleman she is marrying (whom I know) for about 15 years. They even bought a house together about 7 years ago. The man is divorced. No decree of nullity is being sought. They are being married at a facility which has set ups for both a wedding ceremony and a reception. A minister (not sure who or the denomination or if they are of a mainline denomination or one of the more flexible type) is presiding. To top it all off the whole matter is happening on Holy Saturday. They consider themselves proud to be Catholic but not in agreement with all parts of the Church’s law. For example, they are as outraged as are the majority of us re: the President’s ongoing smackdown on religious freedoms. I love my sister, but am really torn. There are so many situations here where I feel I will be witnessing to illegality if I go to the ceremony or the reception. “Keeping the peace” is not my main concern, as there are many young nieces and nephews whom I feel are subtly “taught” in this situation (that one just does what one wants). Do you have thoughts on this matter? Ugh, to put it colloquially!

FATHER JOE:

I have sometimes urged participation for family peace. But there are way too many elements that are wrong in this situation. She is not proud enough to be a Catholic given that she spurns basic Catholic values and practice. Marriages are NOT permitted on Holy Saturday. Of course, her attempted marriage will not be in the Church. Let us call the situation what it really is: after years of fornication, cohabitation and adultery, she now wants a piece of worthless paper to say they are married. Tell her you love her but let her know that you are exercising your RELIGIOUS LIBERTY in not participating in such a farce.

A Conversation about Medjugorje

This post is the result of an extended online conversation and debate about various elements in the Medjugorje phenomenon. The focus is very narrow. The discussion increasingly centered upon the conduct of the Franciscan priests involved and the Church’s authority over both the clergy and the validation of purported supernatural intervention. The messages themselves are not really analyzed and the visionaries are not detailed.

JEFF:

Father, I’m suspicious of anyone who has any association with the evil fraud known as “Medjugorje.” IMO, we have yet to see the full negative effects of this sad charade.

FATHER JOE:

I have always done my best to reserve judgment on Medjugorje but have long had serious reservations.

The messages themselves have been repetitive but sometimes problematical. Of course, there was often the possibility of translation errors. I was troubled by such things as the approval of a Franciscan priest as saintly and good who later married and abandoned his ministry and by religious indifferentism, as when Mary purportedly said the holiest woman of the village was an elderly Moslem lady. The real Mary would certainly know the state of the priest’s soul and would not so quickly discount the value of faith in her Son and the grace that God grants the saintly. My other concern is the length of the apparitions and how they continue. The apparitions are haphazard and no longer strictly localized.  Religious vocations failed to materialize.  The principal visionary had a serious brain tumor raising the logical possibility of hallucinations. An indeterminate number have purported inner locutions. Might the apparitions have started out as genuine and then stopped, leaving the visionaries uncertain as to what to do next? Could there be demonic deception? Where is the permanent sign that Mary promised there? And yet the local fruits (as with people returning to the faith) seem positive.  Given the local bishop’s opposition to the purported apparitions, or at least to the pilgrims, I have never gone there. I saw one video that upset me. It showed the priests hearing confessions outside. This practice is okay by me, but it should not be recorded. Even with the sound inaudible, it violates confidentiality and given lip-readers, breeches the sacramental seal. This is quite serious.

However, while I give voice to my concerns, I just do not know. It is all private revelation if genuine, and thus is not necessary for salvation. I have known people moved and brought back to faith by it. I have also met people more fascinated by rosaries that changed colors than by the need to reconcile the messages with Catholic teaching.

GIO:

Isn’t Medjugorje in Russia? Marian apparitions only happen to Catholics; if it was really her, as in Fatima, she would make it known that it was her.

FATHER JOE:

When they started it was Yugoslavia and the nation was still run by the Communists.

GIO:

If Mary purported said that the most holy woman was a Muslim then Mary didn’t appear there.  Muslims deny that Christ is the Son of God.  They think he was just a Prophet.  They trump the fake prophet Muhammad over Jesus, Lord God.  This means that the apparitions are a lie or by the devil. St. Pio had apparitions like this; they were fake apparitions of the Lord, Mary and of his spiritual director.

ANITA MOORE, OPL:

I have always been skeptical of Medjugorje and think the opinion of the local ordinary ought to be given more weight than it has been given by some: as the man on the ground, he’s surely in the best position to know.

In my opinion, the good fruits do not weigh in favor of the genuineness of the apparitions. I think it more likely that the credit for the good fruits should go to the Sacraments.

My understanding is that a formal investigation of an apparition does not usually begin until after it has ended. If they are fraudulent, then this would provide a motive for the “seers” to spin them out for as long as humanly possible.

JEFF:

It is up to the local ordinary to rule on the validity of apparitions. The local ordinary’s ruling over the parish in question has definitively ruled against it, and in fact, the Church forbids formal pilgrimages to the place:

His Eminence Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, President of the Yugoslav Episcopal Conference, and H.E. Most Rev. Pavao Zanic, Bishop of Mostar-Duvno forbid organized pilgrimages (1987).

Pavao Zanic, Bishop forbids visiting priests from saying Mass (1987).

Bishop Zanic gives reasons for denial of supernatural at Medjugorje (1990).

Negative verdict from the Yugoslavia Bishops’ Conference (1990).

Bishop Peric also insists that the Medjugorje apparitions are not authentic (1997).

Bishop Peric’s repeats negative stance against Medjugorje (2009).

ANNE:

Dear fellow Catholics, Pope John Paul II said if he could go to Medjugorje he would. I have been there twice. Both times I have been touched by Mary’s presence. If you have not yet gone, please reserve your opinions.

FATHER JOE:

Actually, one does not have to go to Medjugorje for an opinion. Part of the discernment process involves the reputation of the visionaries, the various clergy involved (the legitimate bishop’s verdict and the tension between the secular and religious clergy), the possible fruit of the proposed apparitions, and an analysis of the doctrinal content in the messages themselves. One may very well have a positive personal experience; however, the Church’s ultimate verdict will be not be based upon this subjective element.

ANNE:

As I understand it, the “Church” has not forbidden anyone from going there.

FATHER JOE:

The Church is not in the business of telling the laity what churches they can and cannot visit. Church officials can ask obedient priests not to encourage a fascination with certain private revelations or to lead pilgrimages to certain sites.

ANNE:

As for declaring it a “holy place,” they cannot until Mary ends her visits. The visionaries still receive her visits.  When it is time, she will allow them to tell the messages.

FATHER JOE:

I have a whole book of the messages. The problem is not secret messages but some of the things said in the ones made public. However, there is the possibility of translation errors. I take it that Our Lady is apparently speaking in Croatian? We must be humble enough to allow that the universal Church might give the local bishop the last word, even if it is a negative one. While it is possible that a positive verdict could be granted in the future, the longer the messages continue, the less likely this becomes. They are also no longer strictly located in one place.

ANNE:

The Devil never stops trying to reduce our Blessed Mother to nothing. Say the Rosary often and remember to pray for each other.

FATHER JOE:

I am not sure about Medjugorje, but one can still love Mary and say the rosary. Peace!

SUSAN:

My sister and my friend have both visited Medjugorje. They witnessed a healing and a conversion to Catholicism. They were dumbfounded at how untouched the city was by the war. I believe we need to pray the rosary every day. I am not sure about Medjugorje, but from what I have heard and witnessed, it has been good. I do think if we pray the rosary we can experience the peace of Mary without having to travel halfway around the world.

WI CATHOLIC:

As for Medjugorje, I have not been comfortable for many years with the repetition of the messages and apparent disobedience of some of the well known people involved, etc. While some have said “NO vocations have come out of this,” I have reminded them that Marriage is a vocation, as is Single Life. I am glad that you specified no RELIGIOUS vocations have resulted, for that is true, and is also a smaller concern of mine.

PJ:

For Anne Gilmartin—

“I can only say that the statements on Medjugorje that have been attributed to the Holy Father (John Paul II) and to me have been made up out of thin air” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger [now Pope Benedict XVI], interview in Der Speigel magazine, July 22, 1998.

For everyone who “feels” the alleged apparitions are true and don’t promote indifference or heresy:

“How wonderful it was to see those of the Jewish faith come to Medjugorje. Some would convert to Christianity; others would return home more devout in their Jewish faith. The same was true of many nonbelievers, Muslims and Protestants.” (The Final Harvest by Wayne Weible, page 121).

These are the words of Weible himself – probably the most prominent promoter of Medjugorje in the U.S. His take-it-or-leave-it attitude about the Catholic Faith is dumbfounding!  He gleefully declares how “wonderful it is” to see THE [alleged] BLESSED MOTHER SENDING PEOPLE HOME MORE DEVOUT IN THEIR REJECTION OF HER SON CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH!

OH PLEASE! WAKE UP PEOPLE! If it’s not promoting Catholicism – just Catholicism and ONLY Catholicism – it is not Our Lady and it definitely is NOT Catholic! 95% okay is not good enough! It is either 100% Catholic or it is not Catholic at all— period. Therefore it’s not worthy of belief!

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel…there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (1 Gal. 1:6-8.)

SEAN:

Regarding Medjugorje – I have been there numerous times over the years. I have read numerous responses here complaining of the repetitive nature of the messages. We must not forget that Our Blessed Mother is just that…OUR MOTHER! And like any mother telling her children how to be safe and act correctly…she has to repeat this to her children. I often find myself saying to my own children “…how many times must I tell you….”  Yes, the visions of Our Blessed Mother are repetitive. You could say the same for the Gospel readings at Mass. Should we stop going to Mass because the readings repeat themselves after a while?  I believe not.

The Vatican allows people to go to Medjugorje (it does not encourage it but it neither discourages). The official stance resulting from the Zadar declaration of 1991 (Yugoslav bishops re Medjugorje) is that … “it has not yet been established that anything supernatural has taken place there.” Remember, it says not yet. When I first went to Medjugorje in 1987, I found a lot of people were over-emphasizing the importance of the apparitions, signs and chastisements. I have found that over the years the priests and visionaries seem to be speaking less and less of this and more on the importance of the sacraments. This disappointed many of the pilgrims from the early years as they were expecting some imminent sign or worldwide calamity (most probably before 2000, though timeframes were never implied by the visionaries).

I believe the visions to be worthy of belief. After all, if they were demonic then it was indeed a huge “own goal” on the part of demonic forces. If the messages are manmade then I would have thought the messages could be made juicier to appeal to the human desire for new information. But no, the messages are simple and clear.

It should be noted that the ONLY messages that are considered “official” are the ones given to the visionary Maria on the 25th of each month.

You do not have to go to Medjugorje to feel peace. Peace starts in our hearts (something Our Lady has said). If prayer or messages do not bring you closer to Jesus then I would be worried about that. I think that is why Our Lady’s messages are so clear about the need for prayer from the heart.

Finally, while I do not share Fr. Joe’s skepticism I do welcome his caution regarding Medjugorje. After all he is only being prudent. God Bless you all.

CATHY:

I believed in Mary’s apparitions in Medjugorje from the first time I heard of them from 1986-90.  I visited there three times. I am still a firm believer in the apparitions and am a better person and better Catholic as a result of having believed in the apparitions and the messages. While I am quite aware of the repetition in so many of the messages, I was always aware the repetitions from my biological mother as she tried to teach me.  She repeated over and over the same instructions until I finally ‘got it right’ and/or obeyed her.  I believe that the Blessed Mother teaches and repeats herself as every good mother does.  I appreciate that!

JOE:

I know many people who have visited Medjugorje, and everyone who I have spoken with, has been drawn closer to Christ. In fact, my sister and brother in law have visited four times each, and the change in them was dramatic.

As far as the bishop is concerned, if you read the lives of many saints, it was the bishops and the Vatican who were the thorns in their sides. The human side of the Church is the problem; the divine side is just that.

I cannot believe you would allow someone to accuse St. Pio of having fake apparitions.

FATHER JOE:

No one denies that pilgrims who traveled to Medjugorje have often grown in faith and devotion. Besides the purported apparitions, innerlocutions, and signs, the people have gone to Confession and participated at Mass. The sacraments always nurture faith and grant us grace. The question is whether they were changed by something there that was singularly supernatural or whether it was the faith they brought with them that transformed the experience and gave it heightened meaning.

First, Catholics are not obliged to give personal credence to private revelation and particular apparitions.

Second, all salvation truth and the fullness of revelation that constitutes the deposit of faith conclude with the death of the last apostle, John.

Third, the living Church is composed of both shepherds and flocks who cooperate with each other according to the charisms and roles given by Christ; they do not stand in opposition to each other.

The Vatican (Holy See) and the bishops are not thorns in the side of holy men and women. Indeed, the shepherds of the Church are commanded to exhibit oversight in caring for Christ’s sheep. Many apparitions are judged as not supernatural and are thus false. These are dangerous and can lead God’s people astray. (A case in point was Veronica in Bayside, New York or the events in Garabandal, Spain.) The ultimate verdict about Medjugorje is still out, although the opposition from the local bishop and certain problematical messages will necessarily be considered. Indeed, recriminations against the hierarchy as you propose here will also weigh against it. Protestants might reject the Magisterium, but it is unseemly for those who claim to be faithful Catholics to ridicule it.

The bishops and Holy See rightly tested apparitions like Guadalupe, Lourdes and Fatima, eventually finding them safe for the faithful. What was done for Juan Diego, St. Bernadette and Sister Lucia should not be short-circuited or dismissed regarding Medjugorje and its visionaries. The bishops and Vatican are not merely the human elements of the Church. The bishops in union with the Pope were established by Peter to guide the Church. As our shepherds, they constitute the living teaching authority which interprets and teaches the deposit of faith. The Holy Spirit watches over them and preserves them in the truth. Only some sort of confused congregationalism would narrowly focus the divine upon the laity or a few pious saints and ignore and deny the Pope, bishops and priests.

This post is not really about Padre Pio.  Padre Pio struggled with just authority but his life was essentially marked by holy obedience, even when it was difficult. As a priest and religious, it was not his place to question his superiors. The stigmata itself does not mean that a man is perfect or all holy. Indeed, his long-suffering with the wounds of Christ might have been the feature that made him the saint that he would become. The revelations or messages received by saints are regarded as personal and may not always be in perfect sync with every article of Church teaching. Saints are holy; they are not always right in their opinions. I have no reason to doubt the supernatural events around Padre Pio; but neither can I fault the Church in being scrutinizing and careful about such things. You should not deride that authority to which the great saint vowed submission of intellect and will.

PATRICK:

I would like to say that I converted back to Catholicism, through Medjugorje. I discovered it on its anniversary (June 24, 1995). I know this, because I took out the book, “Visions of the Children” in a library. After reading this book, I needed more information, because I had a really hard time believing that this was happening. After flying through my fifth book on the place, many coincidences started happening to me, pointing to Medjugorje. There are just too many to mention; but I can say that many of my friends, (that made fun of me for reading these books), are now converted.

I can say that the coincidences in my life that led me towards Medjugorje became really apparent, and it started leading me to confusion. This last (I will say coincidence, but I now realize God just pushed me along, until I listened to him) happened on the way to work. One morning I woke up an hour late and realized that I could be terminated because my record was getting worse and I was extremely worried (for some reason, I just had a hard time getting up for work back then). I decided to just get dressed and go in to see what would happen. On the way into work, I realized that after all those books I read, not once did I think to pray. I was 30 years old and had not prayed since I was 15. I said a prayer and with tears in my eyes, I asked God to forgive me for all my sins. I then asked him to show me one more sign to let me know if Medjugorje came from him and not from the Devil. I begged him not to lead me astray and that if it was from him to show me a sign; I promised him I would go there even during the war.

I arrived at work to find that my Boss just happened to be at the door getting some fresh air. He had a quick talk with me and told me he covered me and to go home and relax, before anyone saw me. I was shocked! I was driving home praising God, not even knowing what was to come. I arrived home around 8:30 AM.  Sitting in my house alone, wondering what I was going to do, one of my good friends, (who actually teased me the most about Medjugorje), happened to take the day off as well. He saw my car and decided to call me to see if I wanted to go fishing with him at the Detroit River. I have never fished there and curiosity made me go.

We arrived at the Detroit River, took out our poles and drinks and sat their fishing while making small talk. I didn’t want to bring up anything about Medjugorje, but decided I should. Of course he didn’t want to listen and scolded me into changing the subject. I ended it by telling him that I prayed for a sign, asking God to show me a sign, just one more coincidence and I was going to go. He thought I was going crazy and kept trying to discourage me. It wasn’t 5 minutes later that it happened and we became quiet. My friend looked up at this huge oil tanker coming down the river and said, Oh My God! Pat, there is your sign! I looked up to see that this ship that was coming down the river was named, “The Bosnia-Herzegovina.” It was the name of the place where Medjugorje was located. I looked at my friend and he was in tears. I was shocked at his reaction, but knew that God was telling me something. This was the last sign God gave me.  I have many stories that took place in such a short time (two months) that I could share, but the last one was the one that made me go.

I can say that Medjugorje is a mystery to us and the Visionaries. The Visionaries don’t even know the extent of Gods plan from this event. If you have never been there, it is an experience you will never forget, a life changing experience! Growing up on the streets of Detroit, I know a B.S.er a mile away. I found these visionaries to be very humble and family oriented. You don’t see them on talk shows or showing pride about who they are. I believe that their sufferings are much worse then we can imagine for what they know. It seems as if their “free will” is gone. I would not want to be them.

I wish the best for everyone who is searching for truth; I will keep you in my prayers always!  God Bless Everyone.

ANNE:

Medjugorje is in fact real, believe it or not.  I find your blog very disrespectful to Mary (the Mother of GOD) and to those who have been there and part of the apparitions.

FATHER JOE:

There is nothing here disrespectful of our Blessed Mother and to authentic apparitions.

ANNIE:

If you don’t believe in it so be it but I myself am one of the many who found joy in returning to active participation in Church activities.

FATHER JOE:

That is good for you, but what right does this give you to challenge a priest in good standing with the Church?

ANNIE:

I also gave a Nun her Rosaries back, after they had changed from aluminum to GOLD. This can be a game from the Devil but I doubt it.

FATHER JOE:

My faith is based upon more than rosaries that change color.

ANNIE:

Why don’t you all have a little FAITH?

FATHER JOE:

I believe in a great deal… the CREED… the CATECHISM… the SCRIPTURES… the Eucharist… the POPE.

ANNIE:

Mary is real and you all should look into all the mysterious things that have happened since the Apparitions.

FATHER JOE:

Of course Mary is real. As for apparitions, I would especially recommend Fatima, Lourdes and Guadalupe.

ANNIE:

Also, before you claim that you doubt any of this, look up a map and find out where exactly Medjugorje is. Then, find out about Fr. Jozo, a priest who like yourself did not believe until Mary (the Mother of GOD) came to him while he suffered in prison. There are many good stories. Just have FAITH— prayers to all.

FATHER JOE:

Ah, you are pushing Medjugorje. The verdict is still out on that one and the local bishop has claimed that nothing supernatural happened. There are problems that sensible Catholics must admit. But I have not yet made up my mind. Father Jozo was suspended as a priest for disobedience although the Franciscans gave him safe harbor from the local bishop. There are also public allegations of sexual offenses with women. Father Ken Roberts was suspended for child molestation. The news gets worse and worse. Have you heard about Father Vlasic?

IRISH EXAMINER (September 9, 2008):

Pope orders disciplinary measures on priest over sex scandal

ALL hell is breaking loose in Medjugorje following the Pope’s crackdown on the world’s largest illicit Catholic shrine.

Pope Benedict XVI has authorized severe cautionary and disciplinary measures against Fr Tomislav Vlasic, the former spiritual director to six children who said Our Lady was appearing to them at the site in Bosnia.

The Franciscan priest was suspended after he refused to co-operate with a Vatican probe of scandalous sexual immorality “aggravated by mystical motivations.”

Fr Vlasic, who fathered a child with a nun, was a central figure in promoting the apparitions that allegedly began in 1981 and continue to this day. The seers say they have seen Our Lady more than 40,000 times in the past 27 years.

Three Church commissions failed to support the claims and the bishops of the former Yugoslavia declared in 1991 that “it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations.”

In a statement posted on the website of the diocese which includes Medjugorje, Bishop Ratko Peric explained that Fr Vlasic was being investigated “for the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspicious mysticism, disobedience toward legitimately issued orders” and charges that he violated the sixth commandment.

In 1985 the Pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, banned official, diocesan or parish-sponsored pilgrimages to the shrine.

Fr. Vlasic is the second spiritual adviser to the visionaries to be suspended from ministry. Similar action was taken against Fr Jozo Zovko in 2004. Fr Vlasic has been confined to a monastery in Italy and banned from contact with the Queen of Peace community he founded, or with his lawyers without permission.

He is also banned from making public appearances, preaching and hearing confessions, and will be required to make a solemn profession of the Catholic faith.

The Vatican has warned the priest he will be excommunicated if he violates any of the prohibitions.

In 1984 he wrote to Pope John Paul II to say that he was the one “who through divine providence guides the seers of Medjugorje.”

Four years later, when it was revealed he had fathered a child, he moved to Parma where he set up the Queen of Peace community which is dedicated to the Medjugorje apparitions.

FATHER JOE:

The Canonical status of Rev. Father Tomislav Vlašić, OFM
The Bishop, 2008-08-31

The CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH with its letter prot. 144/1985-27164 of 30 May 2008, has authorized me as the local Bishop of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno to inform the diocesan community of the canonical status of Fr. Tomislav Vlašić, the founder of the association “Kraljice mira potpuno Tvoji – po Mariji k Isusu” – (Queen of Peace, totally Yours – Through Mary to Jesus).

The letter signed by the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato, states the following:

“Within the context of the phenomenon Medjugorje, this Dicastery is studying the case of Father Tomislav VLASIC OFM, originally from that region and the founder of the association ‘Kraljice mira potpuno Tvoji – po Mariji k Isusu.’”

On 25 January 2008, through a properly issued Decree, this Dicastery imposed severe cautionary and disciplinary measures on Fr. Vlasic.

The non-groundless news that reached this Congregation reveals that the religious priest in question did not respond, even partially, to the demands of ecclesiastical obedience required by the very delicate situation he finds himself in, justifying himself by citing his zealous activity in the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno and surrounding territories, in initiating religious activities, buildings, etc.

Since Fr. Vlasic has fallen into a censure of interdict latae sententiae reserved to this Dicastery, I kindly ask Your Excellency, for the good of the faithful, to inform the community of the canonical status of Fr. Vlasic and at the same time to report on the situation in question….”

*****

This regards the fact that the same Congregation of the Holy See applied ecclesiastical sanctions against Rev. Father Tomislav Vlašić, through a Decree of the Congregation (prot. 144/1985) of 25 January 2008, signed by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect, and by Archbishop Angelo Amato, Secretary of the Congregation along with the “Concordat cum originali” of 30 January 2008, verified by Msgr. John Kennedy, Official of the Congregation.

The Decree was handed over to Rev. Fr. Tomislav Vlašić in the General Curia of the OFM in Rome on 16 February 2008 and the notification was co-signed by the Minister General of the Franciscan Minor Order, Father José R. Carballo, the Ordinary of Fr. Vlašić.

The Decree of the Congregation mentions that Rev. Fr. Tomislav Vlašić, a cleric of the Franciscan Minor Order – the founder of the association ‘Kraljice mira potpuno Tvoji – po Mariji k Isusu’ and who is involved in the “phenomenon Medjugorje” – has been reported to the Congregation “for the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspected mysticism, disobedience towards legitimately issued orders and charges contra sextum.”

“Having studied the case, the Congregation during its special Congress decreed the following sanctions against Rev. Fr. Tomislav Vlasic:

1. Mandatory residence in one of the houses of the Order in the region of Lombardy (Italy) to be determined by the Minister General of the Order and to be realized within thirty days from the time of the legitimate notification of this decree;

2. All contacts with the ‘Kraljice Mira…’ community and with its members are prohibited;

3. Any actions involving juridical contracts and administrative organizations, whether canonical or civil, effected without the written permission ad actum of the Minister General of the Order and under his responsibility are prohibited;

4. A mandatory course of theological-spiritual formation, with a final evaluation along with a prior recognitio of this Congregation, and a solemn professio fidei;

5. The following are also prohibited: activities involving the ‘care of souls’, preaching, public appearances, while the faculty to hear confessions is also revoked up until the conclusion of the terms described in the previous number, barring an evaluation of the case.

An additional sanction of a latae sententiae interdict (can. 1332) reserved to the Apostolic See is adjoined in the case of the violation of the mandatory residence (n. 1) and the other prohibited acts mentioned in n. 3 and n. 5.

Fr. Vlasic is forewarned that in the case of stubbornness a juridical penal process will begin with the aim of still harsher sanctions, not excluding dismissal, having in mind the suspicion of heresy and schism, as well as scandalous acts contra sextum, aggravated by mystical motivations.

Fr. Vlasic remains under the direct jurisdiction of the Minister General of the Order of Minor Franciscans, who shall see to his vigilance through the local Superior or another Delegate.”

ANNE:

Dear Fr. Joe, I have read your blog and ask you, Isn’t it just a little strange that the very priests who are so heavy into Medjugorje are the very ones (according to everyone) who have SINNED BIGTIME? Well I do! Do you all really believe that the DEVIL is going to stand still and allow the BVM to have all these people saved? Nonsense! He is going to battle her as she is according to our faith and the Bible— that she will crush his head. Remember?

I’m sorry if I irritate some but I have a very strong faith in our Mother, and I believe in her visitations in Bosnia-Herzogovina. The way I initially went was also irregular. I had a friend who went and who wanted me to go. I could not get her to understand I couldn’t afford it. So I told her to tell the BVM if she wanted me to go there, she (Mary) had better get me the money. After I hung up the phone I apologized to Mary for being fresh, as she understood what a pickle I was in. I was in Medjugorje on June 24, 1988 (two months later). Tell me that wasn’t weird. As I told you the place is a land of PEACE. I had dreams of going back and I did in 1999. Before and after I have been ill; realize I am praying as well.  Keep the Faith and continue praying the Rosary.

SEAN:

As for Medjugorje, I am a believer in the apparitions. I have been to Medjugorje many times over the last 20 years. In the early years of going there on pilgrimage I must admit I was caught up in the supernatural aspect of the place and the celebrity status of the visionaries. I found this initially strengthened my faith but did not last. It was only later on that I started to actually listen to the messages from Our Lady, which did not differ at all from the Gospels. None of the official messages (mainly given on 25th of the month) have been in contradiction to the Gospels. I know people have questions and problems with some other comments attributed to Our Lady, such as references to other faiths. Some of these are taken out of context. Most people’s misgivings in relation to this area are based on pre-Vatican II teachings, such as salvation not been attainable outside of the Catholic Church. I am not for one second implying that all faiths are the same.

There is also a lot of inaccurate information regarding Medjugorje in relation to some of the priests. Firstly, Fr. Jozo was never guilty of misconduct towards women. It was alleged but never proven after investigation. Fr. Vlasij never fathered a child with a nun. This was a Fr. Ivica Vego who was working in Medjugorje in a gift shop with the nun in question. At the time he was suspended from duties by the bishop of Mostar and was never carrying out pastoral work or saying Mass publicly. However, it is nonetheless a sad story but should not be mixed up with Fr. Vlisij.

Fr. Vlasic was never a spiritual director to the visionaries though he did claim to be so himself. He has not worked in Medjugorje in over 15 years. He set up a community in Italy which is in no way affiliated with Medjugorje. The shrine of Medjugorje cannot control how other people promote Medjugorje or how they interpret the messages from Our Lady. It was Fr. Vlasij actions and teachings that has got him into trouble with the Vatican. Unfortunately but not surprisingly the media have tried to imply that this is linked to Medjugorje in some way.

FATHER JOE:  (Corrections)

The Facts about Ivica Vego

Mr. Vego was once Fr. Vego.  He was dispensed from his vows and expelled from the Franciscans back in the 1990’s.  His removal was by direct order of Pope John Paul II.  There is no questioning the truth of the charges.  His immoral actions included a sexual relationship with Sister Leopolda and her impregnation.  They both left religious life and moved in together and continued to enlarge their number of offspring.  Prior to his removal, he fought his expulsion and administered the sacraments without faculties to do so.

The Facts about Tomislav Vlasic

The former spiritual director and pastor to the parish of the visionaries is now an ex-Franciscan Catholic priest.  A few years prior to coming to Medjugorje, he impregnated Franciscan Sister Rufina and had her sent to Germany in 1976 with the false promise of joining her.  Their correspondence was provided to the Holy See as evidence of his disobedience.  Heavily involved with the Charismatic renewal, he presumed that the Virgin Mary had chosen him to be the leader of a new movement.  His preaching and teaching became increasingly suspect.  The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2008 informed him that he was under formal investigation for spreading “dubious doctrine,” “manipulation of consciences,” “suspected false mysticism,” disobedience to legitimate authority and charges of “contra sextum” or fornication.  He was laicized in 2009.  If he tried to continue with any ministry in the Church he was told that he would be excommunicated.  He has since left the Church anyway for a New Age cult centered on distorted Catholic doctrine, private revelation (Medjugorje), pseudo-science and astrology.

The Facts about Fr. Jozo Zovco, OFM

Of the three priests often associated with Medjugorje, Fr. Zovco is the only one who still functions, albeit in a truncated fashion, as a priest.  Originally sceptical, he protected the visionaries and was imprisoned by the Communist authorities.  His story should be the most inspiring; however, subsequent events have also tarnished his witness.  Various women charged him with sexual misconduct.  Of course, charges are not proof and he may be innocent.  The bishop suspended him in 1989.  He appealed to Rome which reaffirmed his suspension and ordered his seclusion to a distant monastic setting.  He refused (1990).  Despite having his faculties removed, he disobediently continued to offer the sacraments.  The next bishop reaffirmed the suspension and Rome notified the Franciscans that his faculties and now that of three additional priests had been removed.  Any Mass that a suspended priest offered was illicit.  Any marriage they witnessed was null-and-void.  The Franciscan Providence continued to fight with the bishop and even made Fr. Zovco the administrator (pastor by another name) in Siroki Brijeg.  Another notice of suspension was sent (1994) but was again ignored.  He offered Mass, heard Confessions and gave retreats.  He went on a world tour giving talks and retreats, even scheduling a visit to the United States.  Scandal and protests erupted in 2002 when his participation was cancelled (two days before the event) at the Marian Mass and prayer vigil scheduled at the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington, DC.  The Archdiocese was notified that Fr. Zovko had no faculties to publicly function as a priest and that he was under ecclesial censure.  Canon Law made his involvement impossible.  Bishop Peric would suspend him a third time in 2004 in response to his persistent disobedience.  The bishop called him for a meeting so that his status might be regularized.  He spurned the piles of testimony against him and the record of his insubordination.  He refused any compromise or reconciliation.  Rome initiated a new investigation (2009) and he was ordered confined to a convent far from Medjugorje; supporters were informed that this was “against his own will.”  Finally, the Franciscans gave in and stopped protecting him.   

SEAN:

Imagine if you will the following headlines from 2000 years ago:  “Main Follower of Jesus Denied Knowing Him,” “Internal Disagreements between Jesus’ Disciples,” “Jesus’ Followers Nowhere to be seen during Trial.”

FATHER JOE:

You would compare reprobates to Jesus and the Apostles?

SEAN:

My point is that even those close to Jesus had failings and disagreements. My point is that people will believe what they want to believe. This is not helped by inaccurate reporting by the media.

FATHER JOE: 

But your facts are inaccurate, too.  Further, the challenge is not coming from the media but people of faith who love the Church.

SEAN:

I do not believe that you or your blog is anti-Medjugorje or disrespectful to Our Lady. As Catholics we are not required to believe in apparitions. However, many of us do.  Many of us believe the Mother of God to be appearing in Medjugorje. Personally I have found Medjugorje to have strengthened my faith. It is easy when in Medjugorje to be prayerful. It is harder when you come home. That is why we are always encouraged by the visionaries and priests in Medjugorje to pray the Rosary, read Scripture and attend Mass. There is nothing new in this requirement.

I agree with Fr. Joe when he says that you don’t have to go to Medjugorje to have an opinion on it. I would suggest he does not rule out going there at some stage. If he feels that he does not need to or want to go then I am okay with that. I enjoy reading this blog and thank Fr. Joe for setting it up. Peace to all of you and God Bless.

LADY GODLESS:

Sean O’Shaughnessy said, “As for Medjugorje, I am a believer in the apparitions. I have been to Medjugorje many times over the last 20 years.”

Sean, if I may ask… Did any of these apparitions occur while you were there? Did you see them or hear them? What were they like?

SEAN:

To Lady Godless—

In response to your comments, no I have not seen Our Lady. Science cannot prove or disprove that the visionaries are seeing anything. I accept that. Countless tests have been carried out on the visionaries by scientists, doctors and psychiatrists from all over the world. Some of these were atheists, agnostics and non-Christians.

Psychiatric tests have shown that the visionaries are not delusional. The scientific tests i.e., brainwaves, pupil dilation tests have shown that as far as the visionaries brains are concerned…they are seeing something. Neither Science nor faith can prove what exactly they are seeing.

I simply say that I find the visionaries testimony worthy of belief when I say I believe them. Do I belief them 100%? I would be foolish to say yes because I have not seen with my own eyes. My faith is not based on visionaries and mystics. It is on the Gospels.

The fruits of Medjugorje are positive. Millions have returned to their faith and a deeper relationship with God.

One of my best friends is an atheist and nothing anyone says will convince him that God exists. On the other hand nothing atheists will say to believers will convince them that God does not exist.

It is good that people question faith, apparitions, etc. Humans are programmed to question who we are and what we are doing here. There comes a point when you make a decision to accept, not accept or remain indifferent. I have accepted.

FATHER JOE:

Actually, weak believers can be swayed by atheists and certain atheists may come to believe on account of rational arguments, often based on philosophy and elements of science. Faith is a gift from God, but it does not have to be blind faith. Unlike certain forms of Protestant fundamentalism, Catholics stress faith seeking understanding. We do not “believe” in spite of reason. Scientific discoveries are not false trails established by the devil but are rather the fingerprints of the Creator. As Christians we need a sober respect for all truth and a healthy appreciation of the divine mystery.

MICHAEL:

Sean and Lady Godless, I had a friend who visited Medjugorje. He was also very weak in his faith until he witnessed the cross beam on a concrete crucifix move up and down on its concrete post while there. This is a true story. Think of all of the conversions that took place without anyone experiencing any physical manifestations. Happy are we who believe without seeing.

SEAN:

Fr. Joe, you are correct in your response to my comments. People can certainly change their minds on reflection and in the presence of certain information. I am sincere in my expression of appreciation for your clarification and wisdom. May God bless you and your pastoral work for His Glory.

FATHER JOE:

I did not intend to detract from your words, just to amplify them with a few more details. Peace!

SHANNON:

Father Joe, your reasoning is unbelievably dumb. The Muslim lady is holy. God judges us by what we know and not on whether we are Catholic or not.

FATHER JOE:

Then you would favor the heresy of religious relativism. I do not. Further, salvation is not something we can merit apart from Christ. We cannot save ourselves. We are not saved simply because we exhibit good behavior. In any case, even if God has a place in heaven for the old Moslem woman, no doubt because of her ignorance of Christ as God and Savior, this does not mean that she would possess more grace than a faithful Christian believer.

SHANNON:

“Where is the permanent sign that Mary promised there?” Oh you want your chastisement NOW it appears. Ever heard of mercy? Isn’t that what Mary has been saying, that she is holding back the arm of her son? You are completely ignorant. I didn’t say stupid here just ignorant.

FATHER JOE:

You are now mixing your private revelations. The so-called permanent sign and the proposed chastisement are not the same thing. If I am ignorant then I suppose you would similarly condemn the local bishop, too. Marian apparitions are supposed to build unity in the Church, not cause ridicule of her priests and disdain for her bishops.

SHANNON:

You should stop making any comments about Medjugorje because you haven’t taken the time to discern it.

FATHER JOE:

Evidently, you would silence me in regard to Catholic teaching as well. In any case, I have made no final or absolute verdict against Medjugorje. Is it the fear of a negative verdict that upsets you or is it that a few of the pro-Medjugorje priests were found to be unworthy of trust and scandalous in their personal behavior? Would you listen to bad rogue priests before giving respect and a listening ear to priests who keep their promises?

SHANNON: 

It probably takes more time than you have but please just be quiet and say you don’t now and stop giving stupid reasons why it MAY be false like some of these other people.

FATHER JOE:

I will not stop “reasoning” for you or anyone. We must be critical of matters like Medjugorje. That is the way the Church deals with such things. It would be “stupid” and “dumb” just to accept apparitions at face value. You must be humble enough to accept whatever the Church decides. Your current attitude is not from God or reflective of how Our Lady would have you talk to me.

SHANNON:

I know Mary isn’t happy with my scolding of you but I am sick of stupid reasons.

FATHER JOE:

You have said it yourself, Mary is not happy with you. Forget the rest, it is that which should make you go to Confession and move you to accept what the Church ultimately says about Medjugorje. Even if certain purported supernatural elements are not given approbation; that does not in any way subtract from the authenticity of faith which so many pilgrims brought to Medjugorje. The verdict against Garabandal Spain was negative, and yet the faith grows there even despite false apparitions and inner locutions.

SHANNON:

I am also worried about the loss of information that the school of Mary imparts and the possible loss of souls to Hell because they don’t follow her advice. Why?  It is because they aren’t sure or they are waiting for the Church to make a ruling. So they die and are judged because the messages are going on for 28 years and thanks be to God may go on for another long period while we get our act together to meet Jesus. Ignoring the messages is Satan’s joy.

FATHER JOE:

But, we must make sure that it is really Mary speaking. It would be foolish or “ignorant” to be presumptive about this fact in Medjugorje. Satan can also pretend to be an angel of light. Private revelation cannot displace the public revelation which ended with the death of the last apostle, John. The Church does not require her children to believe in apparitions and private revelation. She does have the authority to judge as to whether such things are in accordance with the deposit of faith or in opposition. I have only echoed the voices of people higher up in the Church. These men are part of the Magisterium, protected by the Holy Spirit. You and I, apart from their guidance, are not so safeguarded. One does not have to believe in private revelation to be a good Catholic or to know salvation.

SHANNON:

I absolutely KNOW it is real. This is a gift to me like the gift of Faith in God. I get really tired of hearing stupid reasons why people don’t believe. Bishop Zanic got his ego involved. Pope John Paul overrode his opinion more than once. That was never done before where a Pope overrode the local Bishop. I trust Pope John Paul over Zanic.

FATHER JOE:

Pope John Paul never gave a final verdict to Medjugorje. Pope Benedict XVI remarked than many attributions to the late Pope in favor of the apparitions are fiction.  He deferred to the local bishop; however, he did ask that the diocese make provision to assist pilgrims with the sacraments. The Pope himself did not go to Medjugorje. It is not your place to second-guess a bishop. Neither was it the place of the Franciscans. If you place your personal faith in this apparition ahead of any allegiance to the Church and her teachings then you are falling into a type of “private faith” as espoused by certain Protestant denominations. This is further evidence that the fruits of Medjugorje are not everything they should be.

SHANNON: 

He saved Faustina’s reputation because he was a great Pope who didn’t listen to stupidity but made them examine it thoroughly. Satan is involved and doing all he can to mess up the work of Mary to save us from Hell.

FATHER JOE:

Are you calling Pope Pius XII stupid for his caution? Are you saying that the Church’s reluctance to promulgate the Divine Mercy was Satanic? The late Pope John Paul II only said that the time of deliberation was over. He never chastised the Church or the previous Pope as you seem to do.

SHANNON:

“…principal visionary had a serious brain tumor. ”

Since you haven’t spent the time to know what you are talking about you should know this was at the request of Mary that she suffer for a cause. Vicka immediately said YES but Mary said to pray for 3 days before deciding. She was also cured at a date she (Vicka) put in an envelope to prove it was from Mary. You obviously don’t know that.

FATHER JOE:

You have only her word I suppose for the tumor and cure? Again, I am not saying that Mary did not speak to the young woman; however, I would never place blind faith in an apparition like Medjugorje. I believe in the Catholic Church and everything she teaches to be true. That is enough for me.

SHANNON:

You are incredibly ignorant about Medjugorje so you should just be quiet and stop dissuading people from listening to Mary.

FATHER JOE:

I have a whole library about Medjugorje. I have read the messages from the very beginning. I have noted the purported supernatural events. Yes, I am not convinced. But I am not ignorant.

SHANNON:

It is real.

FATHER JOE:

It is your choice to regard it as such. I am not so sure. You have no authority and no right to compel others to accept it.

SHANNON:

You either need to spend more time on it or keep quiet because you are a priest and can affect people in a way Satan loves. Not listening to Mary’s messages, not discerning is not an option as we only have so many years on the earth. We can’t wait for the Church to discern. The question here is if Mary is appearing, are you and others ignoring her? As she says, living the messages is why she is here speaking and that ain’t easy.

FATHER JOE:

Maybe Satan is using you to silence one of God’s servants? Were you ordained to preach and teach? Were you ordained to forgive sins? Were you ordained to confect the Eucharist and to make Christ’s sacrifice present to the community? Pope Benedict XVI is arguably more critical. Will you try to silence him as well? Given that your comments are filled with heresy, would it not be better for you to return to the flock as one of the sheep and stop trying to be one of the shepherds?

SHANNON:

I am in two prayer groups and go to daily Mass and monthly Confession but priests like you who give dumb reasons on why Medjugorje just may be a hoax makes me lose my religion. See what you have done. Now I have to go to Confession for writing this attack on your character. But you deserve it because you have not done what you are called to do. Spend the time to discern. It is hard work but the fruits are worth it. As a priest it’s your job.

FATHER JOE:

You may have already lost your religion; and if that is the case, then it will be further testimony against the validity of Medjugorje. There is no true Church other than the Catholic Church. Leave the Church and you will be lost in the sea of lies and sin. Your Catholic faith and Medjugorje are not the same thing. Focus on the power of the Eucharist and say your daily Rosary. Let the real Jesus and Mary speak to your mind and heart.

SHANNON:

Mary once “spanked my hand” when she said I should treat people who don’t get it better. She said in a message, “You know the messages are true,” they don’t so how dare you be so insolent toward those who don’t know? I paraphrase but that’s what she said. Your reasoning is so ridiculous though I can’t hold back. Too many messages is the dumbest reason of all. Too much love is what you are saying.

FATHER JOE:

You think you are in getting inner locutions of your own? Such things can be very dangerous if you do not know how to discern spirits. Remember, anything which conflicts with the dogmatic teachings of the Church or which would disparage the apostolic ministry is by definition from the evil one. Know the difference, before it is too late.

GLEN:

Fr. Joe, I wouldn’t want to come out against something Mary was trying to accomplish, i.e. Medjugorje and have it turn out to be real. I would much rather believe something was real and have it turn out to be false. May God show you truth in all the decisions you have to make in your priestly vocation.  Your responsibility is overwhelming!  You have the power to bring almighty God to the altar! Thank you for that. I will pray for you, please pray for me and my family.

JENNY:

Fr. Joe, I have gone to Medjugorje twice (1994 and 2000), and I truly felt my relationship with God was greatly strengthened by my pilgrimages there. I was blessed to see the supernatural event of “The Miracle of the Sun,” not only there, but on a near-daily basis for 4 years after returning.

Having said this, I absolutely agree with you that as faithful Catholics we must be obedient to the Magisterium of the Church in all matters of Faith and Morals. I don’t understand how the people that comment on this blog can criticize your God-given authority as a priest and spiritual adviser! Everything you have said is exactly true! Until the Church declares the apparitions as authentic, we should be extremely cautious about what is going on there. I have often cautioned myself that the “miracle” I witnessed.  Could it possibly be a “trick of the devil”?  I have prayed for Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother to guide me in Truth. Since no evil has come out of my particular experience, and since I have drawn closer to God, I do believe that the apparitions are authentic and will eventually be declared as such by the Church; but even so, as you stated, private revelations are NOT necessary for our salvation. For people commenting here to act as though this unapproved apparition is absolutely authentic and anyone opposing it must be working for the devil, is very upsetting. We should thank God that the Church often takes many years to discern and approve of supernatural happenings, lest scandal sneak in and discredit the authority of the Church! A good example is that upon the death of Mother Teresa, the secular press thought the Church would immediately declare her a saint since everyone thinks she is anyway! The Church takes her time in these matters for good reason. The Church does not base her findings on public opinion (God help us if it did!); but through the guidance of the Holy Spirit! Yes, Mother Teresa was very saintly in her lifetime, and her cause for sainthood is underway, but until the Church canonizes her, we cannot presume upon where her soul is! She may be in Purgatory, awaiting the prayers of the Faithful! In conclusion, we MUST, as faithful Catholics, submit ourselves to the authority given to the Magisterium of the Church by Christ himself— and woe to anyone who criticizes a priest, bishop, cardinal or the Pope! We should be praying constantly for all of our priests, nuns and religious, since Satan particularly enjoys attacking them! God bless you, Fr. Joe!

RON:

After first learning about the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje, back in 1983, I’ve continued to monitor the events and pick up on any references. Especially throughout the 80’s, I recorded a number of TV programs, including an episode of the CBC documentary, “The Fifth Estate,” and an episode of the Shirley Show, a talk show on the Canadian network, CTV, not to mention an episode of Mysteries of the Unexplained. Considering that these programs could all be categorized as “secular”; especially the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) documentary, arguments against the veracity of the apparitions were weak indeed. These facts, coupled with getting to hear one of the visionaries speak live, in Edmonton, Alberta, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Fatima, and the reality that the six visionaries attended the apparition site to pray daily for 15 years, to me is very persuasive. If the Medjugorje phenomenon is from the devil, then either the devil himself has been converted or there is no hope for salvation for any of us, because it is impossible to discern the truth from a lie.

PAUL:

Concerning Medjugorje, and reading some of the comments made about this place, with some people making comments about demonic forces being involved, i.e. Satan and company— well Satan must be making the biggest mistake ever because he is leading numerous souls back to God with people being converted back to the faith every day.  If some of these people would just read a small bit more on Medjugorje maybe they might get converted without even going there at all?  These are people who want to believe but are a bit cool to faith, so please show restraint and don’t fall into Satan’s trap.  Our lady is appearing there without a doubt, and there will be a sign left on apparition hill for the non-believers in God’s own time and choosing.  Our Lady’s main message is the call for sinners to repent of their sins and conversion.  I can tell you it is surely happening in Medjugorje; so all can say is Satan must be getting a bit soft in his old age.

CHARLES:

I am writing a book about Medjugorje and am trying to work through the positive and negative input that is both out there in cyberspace and from discussions from all folks involved. The one area that seems so controversial is the lack of support from the Mostar Diocese and Bishop, the conflicting stories out of Rome whether Pope John Paul II and our present Pontiff ever had given positive statements about Medjugorje that can be documented. I am also in touch with Vatican resources on this matter, as well as approaching the present Bishop of Mostar for his input. Lest you think I am negative I am not. I have been to Medjugorje twelve times, been in Ivan’s house during Our Lady’s appearance and in St. James choir loft also during an apparition. I know Jelena Vasilj personally, I have met all of the visionaries, know Fr. Svet, and many of the top tour guides. That has made it difficult to be objective, but after reading so many negative web sites and issues surrounding Medjugorje I felt someone must try and research this from a non-biased point of view and try if it be possible to put this to rest, or at least present the facts, fiction, history etc. in a well researched way. So I am contacting as many of the websites that look legitimate both from a positive and negative standpoint for their input into my research. So if you are willing I’d like your preliminary thoughts on why you believe or don’t believe in Medjugorje and permission to follow up at a later date for more in depth research.

FATHER JOE:

I do not know if it is supernatural or not. I will leave the verdict to Church authorities. You are right; it is hard to be objective. Have there not been enough books about it? People have repented and come back to God. Those instances would be positive. But are the messages, visitations, and inner-locutions objectively genuine? Why have they lasted so long? And why are there a few statements hard to reconcile with the truth about the characters involved and certain Catholic teachings? My speculation is not worth much and I doubt you will get much cooperation from authorities. The business is so popular among devout people that I suspect that Church leaders are frightened by possible schism and/or religious riot if a formal negative verdict is issued. So far, the local bishop has taken the heat. A lot of weight has to be given his appraisal. Some have spoken quite rudely about the bishop(s) and have dismissed the very real tension between the diocese and the Franciscans. In any case, if it is real I suspect that our Blessed Mother will do something spectacular to verify it. Such a miracle was promised. We are still waiting.

TIM:

Fr. Joe, I am saddened to see all the people who write such horrible things to you on this page. I would certainly delete some of them. Thank you for your service to our Lord and His Church! God bless you. (and to all of you who are so agitated about his comments on Medjugorje, take a deep breath and relax— you need to read them slooooooowly and then you will see they are not so bad).  God bless!

FATHER JOE:

Here is an extended BBC documentary of a pilgrimage group to Medjugorje in 2009.  The narrator is listed as Bernard Hill but older listeners will probably note that it sounds very much like Ken Roberts who was himself removed from priestly ministry.

A Vatican Commission was instituted in 2010 to officially study Medjugorje for possible recognition.  Out of respect for their work, the local bishop no longer speaks about the subject.   

News Stories of Interest

Parents Reject Baby Girl, Want a Boy Instead

I vote that this selfish, sick couple receive NEITHER child. Their little girl should be adopted out to a couple that will love and cherish her. Every year there are around 11 million abortions in India and most of these poor babies are female. It got so bad that sex-selection tests were recently outlawed.

Man Who Became Woman Competes in Miss Canada

Okay, what is next? DNA tests for applicants for the seminary and priesthood to insure male gender? She was born a boy. Her DNA says she is male. But surgery and hormone therapy gave her the outward appearance of a female. This reminds me of the silliness on Oprah a few years ago about a man having a baby. It was not a man but a woman altered to look like a man (with her reproductive organs still intact). As for the Olympics, is it fair that so-called women can now compete even though they may have muscles which reflect their true male biological identity? I may imagine myself as a gazelle, but no wishful thinking will make me one. Oh well, this is all just a new variation on the secular lie that “you can be anything you want to be.” We are not the final arbiters; rather it is nature and it’s God.

86 Year Old Gymnast

Okay, maybe you can be what you want to be? My back hurts just watching her. Amazing!

Choking Dog Dials Emergency Services

My cat would have eaten through the cord, called pizza delivery and have bitten the delivery boy! But this news story is not bad… the dog dialed emergency services on a rotary phone. They still make rotary phones?

The Soap Sisters of New Jersey

Go, Sisters, go! Contemplative and practical, great!

Cardinal Dolan, Right Man in the Right Place

Cardinal Dolan is the right man in the right place at the right time.

Anti-Catholicism in Politics & Against Santorum

Not funny, just anti-Catholic bigotry in the Huffington Post.

9 Year Old Gives Birth in China

Somebody should go to jail! And yet this is not even the youngest. A five year old child gave birth in Peru back in 1939.

Vatican Approves a Blessing of the Unborn Child

Excellent!