Much confusion regarding the status of the Medjugorje phenomenon has been the result of a Vatican letter that, ironically, was allegedly intended to “avoid confusion.”
On November 7th, 2013, it was reported that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops received a letter from Apostolic Nuncio Carlo Maria Vigano which stated that upon the request of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Gerhard Ludwig Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the American Bishops were to be reminded that “The Congregation has affirmed that, with regard to the credibility of the ‘apparitions’ [of Medjugorje], all should accept the declaration, dated 10 April 1991, from the Bishops of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, which asserts: ‘On the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.’ It follows, therefore, that clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such ‘apparitions’ would be taken for granted.”
The above assertion, meant to serve as a “clarification,” has proven quite difficult to interpret. Supporters of the Medjugorje phenomenon, such as the famed Jesuit theologian, Fr. Robert Faricy, have taken the stance that the statement made in the Apostolic Nuncio’s letter to the US Bishops has been misinterpreted, and are maintaining that Medjugorje-related meetings, events, conferences and even pilgrimages may continue on, provided that there is a clear understanding amongst all persons involved that the Medjugorje “apparitions” have not been approved by the Chuch. More specifically, Faricy has stated, “the simple statement suffices, ‘These apparitions are not formally approved by the Church.’ Ivan, therefore, is free along with parishes, clerics and the faithful to have meetings, conferences and public celebrations as long as the above ‘not formally approved’ statement is made so that the credibility of the apparitions not be taken for granted. The apparitions have not been proven or disproven. It is perfectly okay to believe in these apparitions, and to attend these events” (cf. http://bit.ly/18bGNwU ). Faricy’s reasoning certainly reflects the pastoral approach of previous pontificates, particularly, that of John Paul II.
Yet, EWTN theologian Colin B. Donovan, STL seems to believe that the Church’s pastoral stance on Medjugorje has shifted, and he bases this belief on the emergence of this most recent letter. In an effort to provide further “clarification” on the issue, Mr. Donovan has stated the following:
“While the earlier statements permitted Catholics to go to Medjugorje, and even include priests acting as chaplains, the 2013 statements raise serious questions about the possibility of doing so. It was already inherent in the earlier statements that the valid basis for a pilgrimage must be a balanced Marian devotion. Practically speaking, how does one go on a pilgrimage to a destination whose fame depends on an alleged apparition and not presume it to be authentic? It seems unlikely that such pilgrimages are simply a matter of tourism and not organized with encounters, conferences and other activities to satisfy a presumption of authenticity” (cf. http://bit.ly/9kc48p ).
Yet, in his book, “Introduction to Mary: The Heart of Marian Doctrine and Devotion,” Professor Mark Miravalle, S.T.D., one of the most well-respected and erudite of Marian scholars – and tenured faculty member at the prestigious Franciscan University of Steubenville – makes the following assertion: “The faithful are free to believe in a reported apparition if nothing in the message or the concurring phenomena are contrary to faith and morals as taught by the Church” (Miravalle, 149).
Clearly, had any of the messages, which are made public and available to the entire world twice each month, contained anything whatsoever contrary to Catholic teaching in the areas of faith or morals (Marijana’s messages, allegedly received on the 2nd of each month, and Marija’s messages, allegedly received on the 25th of each month, not including the daily messages allegedly received by Ivan, who claims to receive Marian apparitions on a daily basis), Medjugorje would already have been condemned and suppressed by the Church.
Thus, according to this author, nothing has changed regarding the Church’s stance on Medjugorje: provided that both clergy and the laity are not promoting Medjugorje as though it is an apparition site which has already been approved by the Church, the faithful are free to gather, have meetings, and go on pilgrimages to the site.
For a much deeper insight into what may be occurring, I encourage my readers, especially those consecrated to Mary’s Immaculate Heart and in support of the apparitions, to read the article, “You Cannot Spread Medjugorje?,” which was originally published just over one month ago, and has been re-printed on http://www.medjugorje.com. Seems quite prophetic to this author…