By Snježana Majdandžić-Gladić, on 28 August 2017, translated from Croatian.
The Bishop of Warsaw-Prague Archbishop Henryk Hoser, the Pope’s special envoy for Medjugorje, recently gave an interesting and somewhat strange interview to the Polish Catholic Information Agency (KAI), which we wish to critically reflect upon and point out what we find problematic, since one is left with the impression that the archbishop’s visit was somewhat staged and in this sense that it was neither impartial nor objective.
Introduction or the relation between horizontal and vertical Christianity
If it were possible to count and systematically present all the good that emerged from the various initiatives that the Catholic Church has undertaken in the social, charitable and cultural fields over the past two thousand years, it would surely be an immensely large treasure, probably much greater than that which was carried out in the same areas by any other Church, religious community or secular institution throughout history. This is her humanitarian dimension established upon the second Commandment of love: Love your neighbor as yourself, which is constantly applied daily in organized and regular life situations, far more than we can comprehend and much more than others are willing to admit.
However, if we were to only look at the charitable and social side of the Church, regardless of their importance, and were to ignore and reject the theological, the Catholic Church would become just one amongst many organizations, while Catholicism and Christianity would be one of the many ideologies in the world. In other words, no matter how important it is to develop solidarity, understanding, to strive towards building peace and do great works here on earth, without the message of resurrection and without the awareness of our redemption through the Cross of Christ, Christianity in fact would be nothing. Or more precisely, it would be just something coming out of something else. Therefore, the first Commandment of Love states: Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and only then the second, directed towards mankind, comes forth as a logical result of the knowledge of the value of the first commandment.
If we compare the above to today’s endeavors, it seems that this natural order of the Creator and Christ is often distorted, which is to say, that the emphasis on horizontal Christianity is unparalleled today, while the vertical is seriously neglected and we even dare to say endangered. In this sense, it is quite common that more and more “Christian leaders” are appearing, who are gathering towards themselves large crowds of people and are constantly offering them social actions, to preserve some kind of connection with vertical Christianity, that are however permeated with light theology.
There is no need to doubt that such superficial theology shapes the spirituality of today’s man, or rather how it leads him away from healthy spirituality and destabilizes him in orthodoxy. The young are especially affected, because they are fed predominantly with internet light theology and often do not have enough opportunities to learn the magnificent depth of the doctrine of the Catholic Church, for it demands much greater intellectual, spiritual and physical effort than the social action and spirituality that is offered into their hands.
We want to say, therefore, what is already quite evident – that today the teachings of the Catholic Church are seriously threatened, but also to point out what is less noticeable – that in this a greater danger exists with the promoters of horizontal Christianity than with secularism. The promoters of light theology with their one-sided approach, overemphasize the importance of mercy, love, and understanding for each human being, yet lose sight of the divine and natural law. This relates to many concrete circumstances that are making today’s Church a divided and insecure one, hence, it is no wonder, for example, that a Cardinal of the Catholic Church while meeting with an Islamic Representative removes his pectoral cross, that nuns remove the statues of saints from their own Catholic school or that Catholic hospitals advocate euthanasia or abortion.
All of this leads us to the conclusion that it is important to restore the proper order of values proclaimed in the two Commandments of Love, emphasizing doctrine and the Law above all, as that which leads us towards building a true relationship with God and then towards mankind. Thus, the two commandments in a sense melt into one, and we then look upon one another as ourselves, for the sake of God himself, while the over-emphasizing of the second Commandment necessarily leads to a neglection of God and with time of mankind. Any momentary, external or encouraging fruits, no matter how great they may be, will not have the power to change this path.
Or let us repeat what has already been said: no matter how much Christianity can contribute to the social, cultural and spiritual field, it is worthless if it does not proclaim the original and complete gospel, unless it proclaims to the world the truth of redemption and does not offer the hope of the resurrection. In this case, it would have no justified reason to be called Christianity, and would be worthy of being equated with other religions and organizations advocating social justice. Likewise, any day-to-day efforts within the Church, which would give precedence to the social instead of the dogmatic, becomes, in that supreme sense of the Truth, weak in value and in certain cases dangerous. The same applies to a spirituality that would neglect doctrine. And this fact cannot be changed by any fruits, no matter what their worldly value and their wealth.
The Value and Worthlessness of “The fruits of Medjugorje”
All of the above mentioned leads us to ponder upon the so-called fruits of Medjugorje, or upon the fact that many of the proponents of the Medjugorje “Gospa” (Croatian term for Madonna) emphasize the value of the fruits, which according to them are immense, yet who ignore the doctrinal side and do not reflect at all upon the numerous remarks made regarding the authenticity of Medjugorje, even to the extent that oftentimes it is no longer important to them whether or not Our Lady has appeared. Therefore, before we point out the problematic points, we want to repeat for a third time that, hypothetically speaking, Christianity would be completely meaningless if, for example, someone succeeded with absolute certainty to prove that Christ did not rise from the dead, because its essence is based on this Truth and all the good social and spiritual works that have been done over the past two thousand would have lost their objective value because they are closely related to this Truth. No matter how valuable they are. Likewise, no matter how great the fruits of Medjugorje may be, they are objectively worthless if the Madonna has not appeared and everything is based on false foundations. And that everything is based on false foundations has been clearly argued and proven by the bishops of Mostar-Duvno, bishops Žanić and Perić, and their associates, which we summarized in the text: On the Medjugorje Zelots or how the “Gospa” contradicts the Madonna.
Despite such irrefutable evidence, it is with disbelief that we can see a strange fanaticism that has taken over the masses, that is, that there are more and more people who are so enthusiastic about the fruits of Medjugorje that they simply ignore common-sense, and then they themselves present such meaningless and completely unconvincing arguments in defense of Medjugorje.
It is with the deep sadness but also with a deep awareness that things should be called by their proper name, that this observation regarding ignorance towards common-sense and the presenting of unconvincing arguments can and conscientiously must be attributed to the papal envoy to Medjugorje, the Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser. We must emphasize that his words on Medjugorje and his actions appear to be a departure from the mission entrusted to him, which by its nature should have been objective, discreet, impartial and comprehensive, and according to the purpose of the investigation, exclusively directed towards the pastoral aspects. This however, does not seem to be have been the case here.
Was Archbishop Hoser’s visit objective, impartial, discreet, comprehensive and truly pastoral?
Judging by the aforementioned interview recently given to the Polish Catholic Information Agency, the Archbishop’s actions appear to be a direct and deliberate pressure tactic on the Holy See and an attempt to force the recognition of Medjugorje as an authentic place of apparitions. Hence, we would say, his biased and almost indiscreet public statements on Medjugorje before the Holy See’s ruling, raises the question of the purpose and justification of such visits and casts doubt on the good intentions of his entire research.
Considering that Hoser, as some claim, is among the proponents of the Medjugorje phenomenon, he was welcomed as a “spiritual Euro-jackpot”. One gets the impression that the Holy See, motivated by pastoral reasons and by the fruits of Medjugorje, concluded that it was best to accept the proposal of Cardinal Camillo Ruini’s commission, according to which only the first seven days of the apparitions would be recognized, and that in this sense sought the best way of implementing this (in itself a strange and suspicious) proposal, and therefore found a Solomon’s solution in the person of Archbishop Hoser.
We are aware that our insinuations are also serious accusations and that perhaps because of the danger of possibly scandalizing, especially when it comes to the ignorant yet good-willed believers, it would be better to keep this to ourselves than publicly pronounce them. Yet on the other hand, we are also aware that any silence on Medjugorje can be dangerous and given that it is a global phenomenon, this could lead to huge frictions and division in the Church. Precisely because of such danger which could easily become a reality if Medjugorje is fully or partially recognized, it is necessary to argue and publicly pose questions, regardless of the fact that the general climate is such that the majority will shut their ears and reject even the least and especially any sharp criticism of Medjugorje.
Archbishop Hoser is not impartial and is forcing the recognition of Medjugorje
Medjugorje’s fanaticism is a very interesting phenomenon and anyone affected by it begins to show, (mildly stated) strange behavior, most often manifested in direct or indirect disobedience, impatience, ignorance of discretion, subordination of the objective to the subjective, as well as the need to impose one’s own opinion upon others and to force the recognition of Medjugorje as a shrine as soon as possible. In this regard, the main and practically only argument of the proponents of the phenomenon is the emphasizing of the fruits of Medjugorje. The Archbishop’s interview clearly shows that he has also fallen into this trap, or rather that it seems that instead of being a neutral and objective analyst of the situation, he has become a biased and rather impatient advocate of Medjugorje, who now with his authority is forcing its recognition.
And the argument of the “fruits of Medjugorje” requires no further explanation, except to repeat that it is completely worthless if it is all based on lies.
The discretion of the proceedings and the Archbishop’s Public Statements
The most problematic aspect of Archbishop Hoser was that he had spoken out to the public at all during the proceedings and ignored the necessary discretion, because the nature of the investigation as such, and common-sense demands, that everything that entered the scope of the investigation should be protected by silence. This lack of discretion is by no means justified by the assertion that this is the archbishop’s personal opinion, because in this case he has no right to make his own personal opinion public, since this can greatly influence and does influence the general climate and possibly the final decision.
It is precisely this kind of “jumping the gun” that has been characteristic of Medjugorje since the very beginning, that is, had there been no disrespect towards the required discretion and ignoring of the legitimate authority of the bishop, and had there been no unjustified media propaganda, Medjugorje would never have been the subject of any dogmatic, pastoral or even journalistic discussions.
Archbishop Hoser prejudges the decision of the Holy See
Archbishop Hoser goes a step further and literally prejudges the decision of the Holy See, by asserting that everything indicates that the apparitions will be recognized, perhaps even this year. We truly cannot understand this diversely than as a direct attempt at forcing the recognition of Medjugorje beyond all honest and unbiased criteria, which would as such, be unjust even within purely civil interactions, while within the Church it would be simply scandalous.
What is the purpose of such a mission if, judging by Hoser, the outcome is known beforehand and he has no scruples in making this public? Here too, we cannot conclude differently than to say that there is no reason, that is, that Hoser was appointed only to give the Medjugorje show a kind of meaningful tale. But if everything has been decided in advance, then it should be taken into account that after the possible recognition of Medjugorje the same questions will remain, i.e., that they will not go away by just looking at the pastoral side and emphasizing the significance of the fruits, but they can only go away if the proponents succeed in dogmatically confirming what they believe. Yet this they cannot do, so they are avoiding any discussion on this matter.
The archbishop in his interview argues that a different decision of the Holy See can hardly be made from the suggestion made by Cardinal Ruini’s commission, and to confirm this he states that it is impossible that the “visionaries” have been lying for 36 years. This is another superficial argument that is constantly being put forth by the Franciscan kitchen, because on the one hand we do not see why anyone could not lie for 36 years (moreover, many lies were revealed and listed in the books: Mirror of Justice and The Truth will set you Free), while on the other hand, this raises the question of why only the first seven days will be acknowledged and not all the years of the apparitions, and does this really mean that the visionaries did not lie only in the first seven days or did not lie for 36 years? Or perhaps the visionaries had visions of Our Lady the first seven days and for the other 36 years of the devil? Whatever the case may be, it seems to us that the Archbishop owes us an explanation to resolve this enigma, for as much as we are trying, we cannot see even a bit of logic in all of this.
Archbishop Hoser obscures the margins between dogmatic and pastoral questions
The Archbishop stresses (and thereby shifts the water towards the Franciscan mill), that Medjugorje has been a Franciscan parish for centuries, without mentioning the objective problem of the Herzegovinian affair. This problem, which is purely pastoral and not dogmatic – hence one would have expected that it would enter his research – he does not show any interested in at all, from the point of view of the Truth. Thus, in the interview he states that the entire Balkans were once Franciscan, but the Franciscans had to hand over their parishes after this period, which he considers unjust, while there are still five parishes today which the bishop is in conflict with the Franciscans. The real truth is a little different and he says that the Herzegovinian Franciscans had to return what did not belong to them after the Turkish period, which due to the circumstances of the time was temporarily under their administration. We conclude therefore, that the Archbishop has embarked on a one-sided interpretation of the historical reality and thereby indirectly accused the bishop, that is, he has fully accepted the side of the story served by the Franciscans.
Hoser likewise, without sufficient knowledge of things, regards the sacrament of reconciliation as a special fruit of Medjugorje, and yet does not know, or remains silent regarding the fact that many priests who confess in Medjugorje have no canonical faculties for hearing confessions, because they are under Church sanctions due to disobedience, and hence administer the sacrament invalidly. This is a sign that Hoser, we repeat once again, as the source of his conclusions, has only considered what the Franciscans in their loquaciousness and two-week performance served him, while he showed no concern at all for the other side of the medal facing bishop Perić.
Furthermore, the Archbishop speaks of a volcano of love coming out of Medjugorje, and in this regard particularly mentions the late Father Slavko Barbarić OFM as the one who initiated all the activities of Medjugorje, ignoring the fact that this same Slavko Barbarić was in fact a disobedient priest who without the bishop’s approval or knowledge, through his own initiative, appointed himself as the administrator of the parish of Medjugorje. We have no doubt that Archbishop Hoser would not look so kindly upon a priest of his own archdiocese who would ignore his appointment and who instead of becoming a parish priest of the parish assigned to him, would proclaim himself as pastor of a different parish of his own choice. We seriously doubt that he would call this type of priest the source of a volcano of love.
In a similarly subjective way, Hoser praises a series of Medjugorje initiatives and projects, as well as the various religious communities operating there, and does not see the fact that they are all working independently, without the approval of the local bishop, and that everything they are doing is being done predominantly or totally by rejecting the bishop’s authority. We ask ourselves and others in this regard, why Archbishop Hoser, as the one responsible for the evaluation of only the spiritual questions in Medjugorje, does not mention a word on these exclusively pastoral matters? If he did not see the problem, then why did he not notice it? And if he did, why has he remained silent? We seriously doubt that in a similar case in his Archdiocese, he would have looked so good-naturedly upon the sprouting up of all sorts of religious communities and various initiatives, without his knowledge and without his approval, and that it would then mean little to him if someone were to say that they give good fruits.
The Archbishop argues that Medjugorje in essence does not have any doctrinal errors, but this statement is incorrect because the Medjugorje phenomenon is boiling with heretical statements, which the Chancery Office in Mostar has been consistently cautioning about for almost 36 years. These relate to the supposed words of the Madonna and the communities that work there and the initiatives that are being implemented there. Again, we ask why the archbishop did not perceive these things? And if he did notice them, why does he not acknowledge them?
All this shows that Archbishop Hoser has approached his appointed task very superficially and very prejudicially, and that he has been caught in the network of Medjugorje fanaticism. In his subjugation to the Franciscans he has made a series of omissions by obscuring the margins between pastoral and dogmatic questions.
In lieu of a Conclusion
The need to understand the importance of the doctrine of the Catholic Church today seems to be one of the most important issues within the framework of its own identity and search for solid foundations in its overall activities. Unfortunately, her doctrine is seriously threatened, predominantly by the unsanctioned semblances of light theology based on an inverted order of love for God and man, rather than by any extra-ecclesial and non-ecclesial attacks. The consequences of such superficiality are no longer visible only on the periphery, but have deeply affected those ecclesiastical structures which, by their nature, one would expect the protection of orthodoxy and fidelity to the complete Gospel message. This is difficult to carry for anyone who wishes the Church well, but still looks a little further away from his own field of vision, because he realizes that there no longer exists a solid base to rely on, to the extent that he starts to wonder if there is still any (healthy) faith on earth.
The phenomenon of Medjugorje falls into this context, which without the manipulative propaganda would never reach its existing limits, because it is immersed in lies and disobedience, and through its fanaticism that attracts the masses and inspires individuals, is far more damaging than beneficial for the Church, no matter how many people are unable to see this.
To the multitude of those who so far have contributed to the negative blossoming of Medjugorje fanaticism, one can certainly add the Polish archbishop Henryk Hoser, as one who, unfortunately, did not completely and objectively fulfill the task entrusted to him, but fell under the influence of the Franciscans of Medjugorje, to the point that he completely ignored the other side. We hope he has done this in good faith and with a clear conscience, but this still does not relieve him of his responsibility, nor diminish his bias.
What Hoser did and what he publicly stated, leads to the conclusion that Medjugorje will indeed be recognized as a place of apparitions, according to the suggestion of the Commission of Cardinal Ruini, in which the first seven days of the apparitions will be considered authentic, while the other 36 years might be true, perhaps a lie, or maybe something quite different altogether. This is not clear to anyone yet, but with time it will probably be given a rational or at least a relatively rational explanation.
The main and in essence the only argument are the so-called fruits of Medjugorje, the source and confluence of blinding fanaticism, before which all arguments fall into the water and common-sense is lost.
However, if the Pope acknowledges the findings of Archbishop Hoser’s study and recognizes the Medjugorje apparitions as authentic, we believe that he will soon regret it, because this will then open a Pandora’s box in which not even hope will be found. For if he wants to remain faithful to the Truth, the Medjugorje phenomenon cannot and should not be approached from the pastoral, but solely from the dogmatic perspective, as was beautifully, reasonably and righteously explained by the now former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who argued that pastoral activity cannot be founded upon false foundations. In this sense, the solution can solely be found in evidence of doctrinal nature and this is where Medjugorje experiences its capitulation.
If it turns out as Hoser predicts or more precisely as he has announced, it will surely be a millstone around the neck of the whole Church, because the recognition of Medjugorje will not wipe out the questions and will not close the mouths of those who publicly pose these questions.
It remains to be concluded that the complexity of Medjugorje’s fanaticism and its flourishing, leaves one to think that this is not just a question of human lies and deceptions, but that we must battle against the Supremacies and Authorities. We know however, who we believe in, we know who has redeemed us at the price of his blood, and we know that the Supremacies and Authorities cannot do anything to those who trust in God with full confidence. And in all of this, we have the Blessed Virgin Mary as the most faithful Advocate – the One who crushed the head of the old Serpent.