Part Two of Three Part Series
Vittorio Guerrero, Jr.
Toward the latter part of January 1983, Fr. Radogost Grafanauer, S.J., who is described as being an expert in the discernment of spirits, went to Mostar. He listened to about twenty tapes on Medjugorje and concluded Our Lady was not appearing there and he decided not to go. However, prompted by the Bishop to go there, he went. He spent two days interviewing the "seers" and examining the situation and again was convinced Our Lady was not appearing there and decided to go home. Before leaving he met and spoke with Fr. Tomislav Vlasic who gave him a copy of the "Chronicle of Apparitions," which he had written, and the diary of the apparitions by Vicka Ivankovic. As a result, Fr. Grafanauer became a believer and proponent of the apparitions.
Upon returning to the Bishop, Fr. Grafanauer handed him extracts from the "Chronicle" and from Vicka's diary. This was the first time the Bishop was made aware of the alleged messages concerning him which were given slightly over one year. On February 9, 1983, Fr. Vlasic went to meet the Bishop and on that day the Bishop personally requested the diary. The Franciscans did not cooperate and an official letter from the Bishop was sent on April 12, 1983. Again, the Franciscans did not comply. The Bishop wrote a second letter on May 17, 1983, asking for Vicka's diary. On May 27th, Vicka went to see the Bishop and brought with her a diary which contained accounts of supposed apparitions from February—March 1982. The Bishop was not satisfied and specifically asked to see the diary concerning him. Vicka emphatically said she only had that particular diary.
On June 16, 1983, the Bishop sent a third letter requesting the parish priest of Medjugorje to bring the "Chronicle of the Apparitions" along with Vicka's diary. They brought neither the "Chronicle" nor the diary of the apparitions and from this point on they began to deny the existence of any other diary. Three days later, June 19, 1983, the "Virgin" gave this message to Ivan, Jakov, Marija, and Vicka concerning the Bishop:
Tell the Father Bishop that I request his urgent conversion to the events of the Medjugorje parish before it is too late... I desire that he place no disunion between priests and that he should not emphasize their negative sides... I ask for his conversion to these events. I am sending him the ultimate warning. If he is not converted or will not be corrected, my judgment as well as that of my Son Jesus will strike him. If he does not put into effect what I am giving him to know, please tell him that he has not found the path of my Son Jesus.
Ivan sent this message to the Bishop on June 21, 1983, who in turn, sent it to the Holy See. These vicious remarks which supposedly come from the mouth of the Blessed Virgin Mary are not characteristic of Her.
Bishop Zanic went to Medjugorje on October 3, 1983, with the hope of meeting with Fr. Vlasic. It so happened Fr. Vlasic was in Rome. The Bishop met with the parish priest, Fr. Tomislav Pervan, and requested the "Chronicle" and Vicka's diary. Fr. Pervan responded by saying he was instructed by Fr. Vlasic not to hand the Bishop the "Chronicle" because he had adopted a hostile attitude toward Medjugorje and might publish extracts out of context.
The following month, on November 16, 1983, the Bishop went to Medjugorje to ask once again for the "Chronicle" and diary. Fr. Tomislav Vlasic insisted the diary did not exist and had never had such a diary in his possession. This is a lie since he himself mentions the diary in his "Chronicle" of March 16!
Fr. Rene Laurentin, who has become a prolific writer regarding the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje, has mentioned that Vicka had in fact written four diaries! The first he states was of July 1981; the second diary encompasses the events from October 12 to December 13, 1981; the third was given to Vicka by Fr. Bubbalo (who has published unedited interviews with Vicka) for her to make a note of each apparition. The fourth diary was a composite of three large notebooks in which Vicka wrote the life of the "Virgin" as related to her daily from the end of 1983. It is amazing how Fr. Laurentin failed to mention the notebooks containing the following entries against the Bishop: December 19, 1981; January 20, 1982; April 19, and September 29, 1982.
Bishop Zanic's Declarations
In April 1984, Bishop Zanic related to a Canadian journalist, Larry Henderson, of The Catholic Register (May 12, p. 5): "The dissident Franciscans have created Medjugorje to justify their disobedience." Six months later, on October 30, 1984, the Bishop denounced the chicanery of Medjugorje. Excerpts from the declaration are as follows:
In its last press communiqué dated 24 March 1984, this Commission had asked priests and the Catholic faithful: 1. Not to lead organized pilgrimages to Medjugorje. 2. Not to make the seers appear in public until the Church had pronounced on the authenticity of the apparitions. 3. The seers, as well as those responsible for the pastoral care of Medjugorje, were requested, in writing, not to make any public declarations or to the press concerning the content of the visions or the miraculous cures alleged.
It is well known that despite this declaration, enthusiasts of Medjugorje have continued to publish books, cast medals, statues, and have added confusion among the faithful. Addressing this very issue in front of St. James Church on July 25, 1987, Bishop Zanic warned: "To preach to the faithful untruths about God, Jesus Christ, and Our Lady is deserving of the bottom most depths of Hell."
On March 21, 1988, Bishop Zanic replied to a letter by an American Salesian Father stating:
Dear Brother James,
You are one of those rare persons who clearly see this fraud, these diabolical lies!... During the work of my Commission, I was always in contact with the Congregation, personally with Cardinal Ratzinger. Having finished the work, we spoke about publishing a final judgment. The Cardinal told me that the defenders of Medjugorje were too strong that it would be better to continue the work under a Commission nominated by the Yugoslavian Bishop's Conference. Everything I have read on Medjugorje tells me that Satan wants to gather a big number of faithful to give to the Church a great fall.
(Signed) Devotedly yours in Christ, Pavao Zanic, Bishop of Mostar.
Shortly after visiting Pope John Paul II in early 1989, the London "Universe" of January 27 quoted Bishop Zanic as being confident that the Vatican will not approve the events at Medjugorje. It has long been the policy of the Church to wait and see the developments of alleged apparitions. The reason being, if it truly is the Blessed Mother, the Church would certainly not want to oppose Her. The fact the Holy See has not issued an official pronouncement does not mean it approves.
Criteria For Discernment
- Does the seer suffer from pathological disturbances? In this realm one needs to be cautious because some form of neurosis does not automatically imply the visionary is not holy or a reliable witness. Some of the saints who experienced supernatural phenomena would be considered as having psychological disorders by today's standards.
- Are the messages from the apparitions in conformity with Catholic doctrine? In the words of St. Paul: "But though we, or an angel from Heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema" (Gal. 1:8).
- Has the seer sought spiritual advice?
- Is there progress in virtue in the seer?
- Supernatural signs are beneficial for confirming the apparitions but are not necessary.
- Does the seer express a sense of humility? Does the seer draw people's attention to the message or him/her (self)?
- Is the seer obedient to ecclesiastical authorities?
- If the messages speak of divine chastisements, are they balanced with the Mercy of God?
- The age, sex, status, and education are unimportant. God can choose whomever He wills to transmit Heavenly messages as has been demonstrated throughout history.
- Is the language used by Jesus and Mary similar to the Gospel?
Aspects of Inauthentic Apparitions
- A genuine visionary is not one to predict natural or economic disasters.
- An authentic seer is not involved with astrology, occult, spiritism (a form of Pentecostalism), etc. The Holy See condemned spiritism as a heretical deception on June 25, 1840, July 28, 1847, and again on July 30, 1856. In the U.S., the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore, in 1866, stated that some manifestations of spiritism are Satanic and warned the faithful against going to these meetings (Decreta, nos. 33,41).
- The true seer is more concerned with the spiritual good of mankind than politics, albeit some mention of political and worldly events can be made.
- Apparitions are not under the seer's control. Visions and other supernatural phenomena which are scheduled for months or a year at a time are to be treated with suspicion. God is free to manifest Himself whenever He so desires and is not bound to schedules.
- Not all signs can be taken as proof of Heavenly apparitions. "For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect" (Mt. 24;24). Now the Spirit manifestly saith, that in the last times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to spirits of error, and doctrines of devils" (1 Tim 4:1). "Dearly beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits if they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 Jn 4;1). The Devil cannot perform miracles per se, only God can. The Devil, however, can make predictions which come true because he is going to make them happen.
- One must be cautious of seers who appear to be "too Catholic" or "holier than the Pope." Such individuals usually are proponents of viewpoints not held by the Magisterium of the Church.
- We must also be careful of alleged apparitions which excessively condemn members of the hierarchy by name. Granted that sin and corruption can exist in high places, it does not appear to be typical of the Blessed Mother to circulate names.
- Alleged supernatural messages which are typed in the same format and comprise three or four pages and mailed regularly, are strong indicators that there is more of the human element than the divine involved. Jesus and Mary are free to say whatever They desire and are not compelled to stop once there is enough information to fit on three or four pages.
- One must also be cautious of false seers who try to discredit authentic visionaries. On Her last apparition to St. Bernadette of Lourdes, Our Lady said: "Do not come back here, for I will not return again." Bernadette obeyed and did not return. There were a number of false claimants who started to go there and said they saw Mary. This was clearly the work of the Devil to sow confusion.
- Finally, one is to be attuned to what the messages DO NOT say rather than what they say, for example, are the traditional teachings of the Church ignored, etc.
Fruits of Medjugorje
If a seer is truly receiving Heavenly messages, one would expect the individual to be honest and sincere. These virtues are clearly lacking at Medjugorje. They denied they had ever announced the end of the apparitions. They denied having prophesied about the exact dates of the promised great sign. They also lied about having received messages which accused the Bishop of having ill-treated the dissident Franciscans. Are these the characteristics one would expect from seers who claim to be recipients of supernatural messages? Proponents of Medjugorje would counter the above examples by citing the numerous conversions which have taken place as a result of Medjugorje. Conversions are not a seal confirming the authenticity of the apparitions. There are other plausible reasons which can explain true conversions. First, the people of Croatia are known to be devout Catholics long before the apparitions began. Traditional practices such as the Stations of the Cross, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the rosary, First Saturday Devotions, confession, along with other pious exercises, have always been a part of the Croatians' Catholic life. This demonstration of faith can inspire faith in others. A second reason is God can bring good out of evil. Pope Urban VIII, who reigned from 1623 to 1644, related the following with regard to apparitions: "If you believe it to be true." This does not mean we can attend any site of alleged apparitions with the hopes of obtaining God's blessings. We have Our Lord's own admonitions against this. Does this mean that people who attend places of alleged apparitions are bad-willed? I do not believe so. The majority of people who flock to Medjugorje are anxious to honor Our Lady. They hunger for Marian devotion and are being starved in most parishes. God, in His infinite love, can bless a person in a special way even at phony apparitions because of the faith exhibited by the individual. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to have an informed faith and not blindly follow anyone who claims to be receiving messages from Heaven. The safest rule to follow with regard to any alleged apparition is to await the official pronouncement of the Church. Many will contest by saying they will only refrain from going to reputed apparition sites when they hear the Pope condemn it. The Holy Father is a very busy man and does not have the time to travel to all the alleged apparition areas of the world. There have been about forty "seers" in Mostar alone! According to the document, "Christus Dominus" of Vatican II: "The bishops also have been designated by the Holy Spirit to take the place of the apostles as pastors of souls and, together with the Supreme Pontiff and subject to his authority, they are commissioned to perpetuate the work of Christ, the eternal Pastor, (par.2) Therefore, the local bishop must be obeyed. Individuals who become attached to alleged apparitions will look to the "seers" for authority instead of the Magisterium of the Church. The Church has 2,000 years of wisdom and has experienced many charlatans and is consequently prudent in dealing with such matters. Only a supernatural organization can judge a supernatural apparition. One may insist Catholic practices such as praying the rosary and going to confession are being stressed in the apparitions of Medjugorje, therefore, it cannot be the work of the Devil. Not so. Remember the Devil can disguise himself as an angel of light (see 2 Cor 11:14). If he is going to appear as Jesus or Mary he will naturally encourage some works of piety. It is difficult to fathom the Devil appearing as Mary without mentioning the rosary. The Devil is willing to concede a little to gain a lot. He will even encourage us to pray many rosaries and drive us to extremes. He can recommend we make frequent use of confession and other pious practices. The Devil can also tell the truth, but when he does so it is a lie because his purpose is to deceive us. If the Devil were to speak only untruths we would clearly see his lies. "For he is a liar, and the father thereof" (Jn 8:44).