Nedjelja, 28 veljače

A Response to Fr. Karlo Lovrić on Medjugorje

Review of the text The Fictitious Gospa is an Excellent Pastorizer
(Izmišljena Gospa odličan pastorizator)

The Diocese of Mostar-Duvno has its own Diocesan magazine entitled Crkva na Kamenu (The Church on the Rock). Its website recently published an article in English by Snježana Majdandžić-Gladić entitled On the Medjugorje Zealots or how the ‘Gospa’ Contradicts the Madonna, originally published by Vjera i djela (Faith and Deeds, website of Catholic theologians) in Croatian and English. It is a very strong article against the alleged apparitions in Medjugorje. Pope Francis recently spoke about Medjugorje and the present article seems to be continuing the discussion. Fr. Karlo Lovrić, parish vicar in Medjugorje (župni vikar u Međugorju), issued a response and I want to respond to his criticism.

Entitled “The Fictitious Gospa is an Excellent Pastorizer”[1] (Izmišljena Gospa odličan pastorizator), Fr. Lovrić’s article is, for the most part, standard “boiler-plate” apologia for Medjugorje. In other words, “look at its fruits” and “look at all the important people who support it.” Negative aspects, such as the disobedience to ecclesiastical authority, are not discussed or downplayed. Lovrić also shifts from the doctrinal aspects (while paying lip-service to them) of the case in order to focus on pastoral issues – which are identified as being the pastoral care of people going to Medjugorje.[2] Lovrić makes some specific points to which I want to respond.

The first point is that Lovrić admits that the ‘Gospa’ of Medjugorje “says nothing new” and that there is repetition in the alleged messages.[3] He, however, makes the analogy that people “forget” and he appeals to this common human experience to explain away the continual “visits” of the ‘Gospa’.[4] This interpretation is questionable. Private revelation simply does not work this way. Never in the history of the Church has such daily apparitions occurred for over 36 years –never. It is a phenomenon completely foreign to her theology, which does not view Mary as being a “chatty-cahty” who continually leaves the splendors of heaven to chat with people on earth.

Secondly, Lovrić recognizes the theological problem of continual “apparitions.” In defense of Medjugorje, he cites the case of Laus in France. Laus is another private revelation approved in 2008. There were many apparitions to Laus’ visionary (Benoite Rencurel) over the course of 50+ years. Around the time of Laus’ approval, I wrote to the Laus Shrine to ask for a clarification of the number and duration of the apparitions. A Shrine official clarified that the apparitions to Rencurel were not a daily occurrence for 50+ years. What, then, is the comparison between Laus and Medjugorje? None, it is a false comparison.

Thirdly, Lovrić says “there is no heresy in Our Lady’s messages”.[5] Lovrić does not address the statement of the ‘Gospa’ of Medjugorje that “the body, drawn from the earth, decomposes after death. It never comes back to life again. Man receives a transfigured body” (message to Marija Pavlović on July 24, 1982). To speak as if there are two separate bodies in relation to the resurrection at the end of time is a direct contradiction of the Gospel (Jesus arose with the same body, only glorified) and the Fourth Lateran Council.[6] Lovrić has to explain why the ‘Gospa’ would say such a thing. He does, after all, state further down that Medjugorje “accepts all the dogmas of the Catholic Church”.[7] He also admits that the Church’s pastoral care cannot be based upon lies.[8] I wonder how he reconciles these admissions with all of the questions surrounding the Medjugorje phenomenon?

Lovrić’s attempt to defend Medjugorje is limited as it does not address the major problems with Medjugorje. Instead, it attempts to side-step the issues and observations in Majdandžić-Gladić’s original article. His “look at the fruits and all the people” apologia for Medjugorje is, quite frankly, old, tired and rapidly becoming theologically suspect. Pastoral intervention is quite necessary with Medjugorje, if for nothing else than to dispel the delusions and illusions imparted to otherwise innocent people so often challenged by Medjugorje apologists like Lovrić to “go and see for yourself.”[9]

Finally, if the recent statement of Pope Francis is any indication of the position he will take on Medjugorje, to what is Fr. Lovrić inviting his readers? If only the first seven apparitions will be approved, that is 36 years of events that are excised from Medjugorje’s history. Indeed, the whole phenomenon will have to be reinvented. Fr. Lovrić is inviting people to a veritable mess and people need to consider seriously this fact in their own examination of the facts.

Kevin J. Symonds, M.A.

[1] There does not appear to be an exact English equivalent of this word. However, it seems to mean that the ‘Gospa’ of Medjugorje is good at being “pastoral.”

[2] S. Majdandžić-Gladić says: “Međutim, tijekom godina međugorski je fenomen prilično potisnuo doktrinarnu, a nametnuo pastoralnu stranu, prema kojoj proizlazi da se valja s velikom odgovornošću i osjetljivošću skrbiti za one mnogobrojne vjernike koji u dobroj vjeri dolaze u Međugorje tražeći duhovnu snagu, te da bi u tom smislu izrečen negativan sud o autentičnosti ukazanja donio više duhovne štete nego koristi.”

Concerning the pastoral matters at Medjugorje, why do these concerns exist in the first place? Pastoral concerns are present in Medjugorje, at least in part, because of how long Medjugorje has been permitted to promote itself and thereby attract so many people to itself. It is a compounded problem, one that has permitted much propaganda in favor of Medjugorje to be disseminated almost without objection. The local ecclesiastical authorities intervened swiftly in the case as per its responsibilities as given in the Vatican’s norms for presumed private revelations. Then the war happened and there were too many issues present to deal effectively with Medjugorje after 1991. It is hoped that the results of the Holy See’s examination of the facts will address these matters.

[3] “Da, točno je, ona ne kaže ništa novo. Ona se ponavlja u svojim porukama, kao što se i svaka majka ponavlja kad s ljubavlju savjetuje svoju djecu, želi ih izvesti na pravi put.”

[4] “Točno je, Gospa ponavlja ono što su djeca učila na vjeronauku. Kako su djeca brzo naučila, još su brže i zaboravila. Mi koji druge učimo, mi ne zaboravljamo? Znamo da moramo postiti, moliti, ispovijedati se, opraštati… A je li uvijek tako?”

[5] “Nema hereza u Gospinim porukama.” Heresy, as defined by the 1983 Code of Canon Law (750), is the “obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith.”

[6] Cf. Donal Anthony Foley, Medjugorje Revisited. (Nottingham, England: Theotokos Books, 2011), 106. The source of the statement is taken from the Medjugorje enthusiast Fr. René Laurentin in his 1988 book Messages and Teachings of Mary at Medjugorje: Chronological Corpus of the Messages (p. 189). This book was co-authored with René Lejeune. Whether or not one can speak of this statement as “heresy” (as defined above by Canon Law) is not determined at this time. The statement is certainly erroneous and not something Our Lady could have done. Perhaps the statement was mistranslated? If so, I stand corrected, but if not, there is some explaining to do from Medjugorje’s apologists.

[7] “Slušamo Papu, mjesnog Ordinarija, prihvaćamo sve dogme Katoličke Crkve, zapravo, ovdje se žive dogme koje Crkva naučava….”

[8] “Itekako smo svjesni da se pastoral Katoličke Crkve ne može graditi na laži, ni bez potpunog zajedništva s Crkvom.”

[9] Medjugorje apologists commonly argue that one cannot criticize Medjugorje until he or she goes there. I myself have received this criticism countless times. Lovrić indicates such a challenge at the end of his response:

Gospođo Majdandžić, ovo Vam ne napisah da biste promijenili svoj stav prema Međugorju. Zadržite ga, ali ga potkrijepite ne čitanjem knjiga koje je netko napisao o vidiocima, a s njima nikada nije progovorio ni jedne riječi (sve je bilo po onoj: rekla-kazala!) i nikada nije došao u Međugorje, da ga doživi prigodom Obljetnice, Mladi-festa, Križevca… kad ljudi stoje pred ispovjedaonicama, ili što kažu hodočasnici. Ja u ovoj župi živim i radim više od 12 godina i mogao sam “Međugorje“ pobliže upoznati. Da sam se prvi puta susreo s „Međugorjem“ (stavljam pod navodnike, jer ne mislim topografski na Međugorje), i da nisam član Hercegovačke franjevačke provincije (došao sam u sjemenište 1957.!) i da iz Švicarske nisam nikada došao u Međugorje (tamo sam proveo pune 32 godine!) ja bih objeručke prihvatio Vaše tumačenje. Ima logike, ali samo za one koji zbilja ne poznaju situaciju i ne žele je pomno istražiti. To su oni kojima se diže kosa na glavi, kad se spomene „Međugorje“.

The Pastors of the Church have indicated that people cannot go to Medjugorje with the belief that it is supernatural in origin. Thus, Lovrić’s statement is, in fact, dangerously close to the disobedience mentioned above.