The CDF has done something about Medjugorje – finally!

Cardinal Gerhard Muller (CNS)

The latest news about Medjugorje has caught my attention. Archbishop Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has asked the US Papal Nuncio to instruct clergy and laity not to participate in any meetings, conferences or public celebrations in which the authenticity of the apparitions are taken for granted. It seems that the proposed visit of one of the “seers”, Ivan Dragicevic, is the impetus behind the intervention of the CDF.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the US Papal Nuncio, has written to all the US bishops: “His Excellency wishes to inform the Bishops that one of the so-called visionaries of Medjugorje, Mr Ivan Dragicevic, is scheduled to appear at certain parishes around the country, during which time he will make presentations regarding the phenomenon of Medjugorje. It is anticipated, moreover, that Mr Dragicevic will be receiving “apparitions” during these scheduled appearances.”

The instruction continues: “As you are well aware, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is in the process of investigating certain doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the phenomenon of Medjugorje. For this reason, the Congregation has affirmed that, with regard to the credibility of the “apparitions” in question, 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.”

The Papal Nuncio concludes, “In order, therefore, to avoid scandal and confusion, Archbishop Muller asks that the Bishops be informed of this matter as soon as possible.”

I will only make a few comments about this because there has been an enormous amount written about Medjugorje over the years and I don’t want to add to it.

I think it is a pity that the CDF has waited so long to send this directive, which might have avoided much confusion and scandal had it been issued years ago. I don’t say it is a case of closing the gate after the horse has bolted; just that the CDF has rather dragged its feet in the matter. The careful wording of the Papal Nuncio’s letter is also significant, with the phrase “so-called visionaries” and the inverted commas around the word “apparitions.” Readers will make what they will of the subtext here.

Vatican Insider reports the Holy Father’s homily during Mass at St Martha’s on November 14, which also has relevance to this subject: discussing the reading about the Spirit of Wisdom, Pope Francis commented, “Curiosity …leads us to say “But I know a visionary who receives letters from Our Lady, messages from Our Lady.” He added in the homely imagery for which he is noted, “But look, Our Lady… is not a postmistress, sending messages every day.” He warned the faithful not to seek “strange things” or “novelties with worldly curiosity.”

The article in Christian Order referred to above cites many examples of recent alleged “apparitions” around the world, most of which I had never heard of. One of them refers to the “Divine Innocence” promulgated by Mrs Patricia Menenez in Surbiton in the 1980s, which was investigated and rejected at the time by the then Archbishop of Southwark, Michael Bowen. I had a brief brush with this cult in the 1990s: I was editing a small Catholic quarterly newspaper and cult members were extremely keen for me to advertise their supernatural “messages”, devotions, processions and so on. I wrote back very politely, saying it was my editorial policy always to wait until Rome had given its approval to such phenomena, as in the case of shrines like Lourdes and Fatima.

To my surprise, I received a very angry letter in reply, criticising my editorial decision in no uncertain terms. It was the anger and arrogance of this reply that convinced me the events at Surbiton were not of supernatural origin.