I recently read "Understanding Medjugorje Heavenly Vision or Religious Illusions" by Donal Foley. After my last post on this subject the Author sent me a copy of this book to review.
It was quite an interesting read and whatever you feelings are on this subject it is quite informative. The book is definitely in the critical camp on these alleged apparitions and I am in the same camp. There have been a lot of pro-Medjugorje books and very few that take a more skeptical view. During my conversion I had read a few books that supported these visions and even attended a talk by one of the "seers" Ivan Dragicevic. The information in Foley’s book presents both things I have read in the past and a lot of information that was totally skipped in book sympathetic to the "seers."
His book is broader though than just an examination of the seers. He places the events at Medjugorje firmly on historical background and gives an overall view of both the political and social climate surrounding the area. The dispute between the diocesan bishop and the Franciscans goes back hundreds of years. There has been a climate of disobedience by these Franciscans for quite a while and has been addressed multiple times by the Vatican with little result. The apparitions have done nothing to change this pattern. The author also gives the background of the individual seers and their family life.
One of the pieces of evidences he uses is a series of tapes that were recorded between the parish priest and the seers during the first week of these apparitions. That such tapes existed were something that I had never read in a pro-Medjugorje book. There is a very good reason for this. The information recorded and transcribed on these tapes contains a bit of odd information that supporters never allude to. For example the original visions happened after the group of seers had swiped some cigarettes and went off to listen to rock music. It was while smoking that the Gospa first appeared to them. One of the seers reports that Mary’s hand was shaking during this first vision. The interviews show the fact that during the first week of these so-called visions that the Gospa never spoke to them and in fact just did a lot of laughing. There were no messages at all.
The author throughout the book uses references from solid theologians on mystical experiences to contrast what was said by the seers. He compares authorized Marian apparitions, especially Fatima, with Medjugorje. He also gives a history of some apparitions that have been condemned by their local bishop. The contrasts really shine a negative light on Medjugorje. The only modern apparition that has similar points is Garabandal which has also been condemned by the local ordinary. Many people speak of the fruits of Medjugorje, especially of conversions. He describes the case of one visionary in the U.S. that also had many conversion with people going to confession and returning to the sacraments. This visionary had also been condemned by the local bishop, because not only did the messages go against Church teaching, but the Visionary didn’t even go to Mass and was rather anti-Catholic. I would think that people who become interested in supernatural apparitions are already favorable to conversion and when the sacrament are available there will always be good fruits.
The history of more than 25 years with 33,000 plus visions that have never been supported by both bishops of Mostar-Duvno or the Yugoslavian Bishop’s conference is filled with odd stories and outright disobedience. The book is worth reading just for the details of all these stories and how in the world did Medjugorje ever become a major pilgrimage site. Donal Foley details some of the reasons of how this happened and the context of which they happened. My jaw dropped repeatedly throughout the book of stories that some of the seers told. One that floored me though was that the Gospa had told one of the seers to read "The Poem of the Man-God." A book that use to be on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list that still carries "moral weight" as then-Cardinal Ratzinger said.
I could go on and on about these stories and you just have to read the find the details of when the bishop was attacked and kidnapped by the local Franciscans there. The biggest fruit of Medjugorje is disobedience by just about everybody involved. The messages have also been messaged at times. For example in one instance the Gospa called somebody a Judas for not believing in the apparitions. This message was later edited to say Doubting Thomas instead. But just the idea of Mary calling someone a Judas for not believing in a alleged private revelation is just not credible.
Fairly recently Bishop Ratko Peric of Medjugorje of said:
Therefore I responsibly call upon those who claim themselves to be “seers”, as well as those persons behind the “messages”, to demonstrate ecclesiastical obedience and to cease with these public manifestations and messages in this parish. In this fashion they shall show their necessary adherence to the Church, by neither placing private “apparitions” nor private sayings before the official position of the Church.
This has not stopped the public release of new messages since then. Rank disobedience is plainly not a sign of authentic seers. It is bad enough that promoters have time and again been disobedient and have spun and just plain lied about the apparitions and what the Church has spoken on the subject. The idea of disobedient visionaries who drive BMW’s, own large houses, and who go on speaking circuits and live off the apparitions is quite ridiculous.