As long time readers of CMR are aware, we discuss almost every thing on this blog. Almost. There is one topic not to be discussed here, until now. The M-word. Yes, Medjugorje.

Our general policy is that there is not much to be gained by discussing it as most people’s perceptions of the claims are set and dialogue between the two camps tends toward civil war. This coupled with the fact that there is little actual “news” out of Medjugorje these days leads us to the prudent decision to leave this topic alone.

But now, we actually have some news coming out of Medjugorje. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and member of the CDF spent the last five days in Medjugorje. Medjugorje supporters have steadily hinted in advance of the visit that the Cardinal coming was a tacit endorsement of Medjugorje while detractors said that is no such thing since this is merely a “private visit”.

Of course, a private visit in and of itself is no endorsement, tacit or otherwise. However, while in Medjugorje the Cardinal said Mass in the Church and gave a public speech. While careful to note that the status of Medjugorje has not changed (neither approved or disapproved) and that a final decision on the phenomena will not be reached until the alleged apparitions end, it is hard to view some of his comments as anything other than tacit (if personal) approval. Emphases mine.

“I know about Medjugorje for many years, not personally because I have never been here before, but in our Diocese and even farther, I do experience fruits of Medjugorje. I always used to say what Jesus has said in the Gospel: “You will recognise the tree by its fruits.” When I see the fruits of Medjugorje back at home I can only say that the tree is surely good.

Speaking, furthermore, about Medjugorje in the Church, the Cardinal added: “Supreme authority in the Church is the Holy See, the Holy Father and his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and that is the highest authority in all of the issues of faith and morality. Supreme authority of the Church gave us clear guidelines, not directly from Holy Father himself, but from Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith that had clearly confirmed what the bishops from Yugoslavia once said, and that undoubtedly is applicable in Medjugorje. I have always repeated that. Those texts are very much known. There are three elements that are valid still today, and I can place my visit to Medjugorje within those guidelines. In that sense, my visit is not something that is unusual at all. The Holy See, in accordance with the Statement of Bishops from 1991, says the following:

“First: Non constat de supernaturalitatae. [HERE HE DESCRIBES WHAT THAT MEANS – SEE Transcript for complete text]

“Second: no official pilgrimages are to be organised, which means that I can not organise pilgrimage of my diocese to Medjugorje. That is logically related to what was mentioned in the previous point. So, there is no official recognition yet, but in that formulation it is also said that supernaturality is not excluded. The Church has clearly said it is not excluded. It is not confirmed, but it is not excluded.

“Third thing that church doctrine clearly states is also in accordance to the statement of Yugoslavian Bishops, that the faithful journeying to Medjugorje require attention and pastoral care. …

I would advise for patience. The Mother of God is so patient with us that for nearly 29 years here, in a very direct way. She is showing Her vicinity and care for the parish of Medjugorje and numerous pilgrims. We can peacefully wait and have patience! Twenty nine years is a long period of time for us, but not such a long period to our God!”

While not a ringing endorsement, it is arguably a tacit and very surprising one and I am not the only one who thinks so. Bishop Peric, Bishop of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno, is not happy with the Cardinal. While emphasizing that his visit, in and of itself is no endorsement, he confronts the Cardinal in a direct way for what has transpired and the obvious impression it will leave with many. Bishop Peric, after listing the events and communication that led up to the Cardinal’s visit, says this:

On December 29th, the Cardinal arrived in Medjugorje. He was followed by the media over the next few days. Reports say that he gave a speech in the church of St. James the Apostle, and noting the mercy of God, said: “Who could make these things up? Who could invent this thing? Man? No, this is not a human act.” On December 31st a journalist [blogger] wrote: “While some had expected the cardinal’s visit to Medjugorje to be private, he has instead surprised the town by being very visible. He has spent his time concelebrating Mass at St James Church, climbing Apparition Hill with visionary Marija Lunetti, praying in silence at Adoration, and, perhaps most notably, giving his talk today in the parish church with the Franciscan friars at his side”

5)In all this I have to admit that I personally, as diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno, remain surprised. I understand that the Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church enjoys the right to profess and preach the Gospel throughout the Catholic Church. But with regard to public appearances outside their own diocese there also exists a certain etiquette in the Church: the bishop or cardinal who intends to come to another diocese publicly, first informs the local bishop, which is encouraged by the Church and by prudence. This understanding in the church and specific caution should be applied especially in this case.

6)I am surprised because Cardinal Schonborn’s office to the publication of this statement, no one has reported, and assuming that the Cardinal knows the position of the Church, based on the results of the commission’s research that no one can say that these are “supernatural apparitions or private revelations.” His visit to Cenacolo and with Sr. Elvira, who, by the way, as a religious nun with no permission to reside and operate in the territory of this diocese, could be interpreted as supportive. And, not only her, but a growing number of new communities and disobedient associations of the faithful in Medjugorje, which can be read as an encouragement for their ecclesiastical disobedience.

…[Here he lists his complaints about Medjugorje and the local Franciscans and then finishes]

8)The Cardinal is excited by the many confession s in Medjugorje, where the Father’s mercy is manifested. We believe that the mercy of the heavenly Father, as reflected in Medjugorje is also in each and every parish of his diocese, both before and after the phenomenon of Medjugorje. Just look at the long lines of faithful before the confessional in all the parishes, especially for Christmas, for Easter, for holidays, or for Confirmation. Many say these confessions in Medjugorje are strong evidence that the Lady “appears”. According to this conclusion on the numbers making confessions, Our Lady would appear in all our parishes, not just those three people once a year in Medjugorje and the other three every day, in fact most outside of Medjugorje, and apparently in the cathedral in Vienna! All together now: about 40,000 “apparitions”! Indeed, one gets the impression that some “visionaries” determine where and when the Lady “comes” since the appearance happens when and where they want. Is this not an inadmissible manipulation of Our Lady and the Sacred in general?

As the diocesan bishop with this statement I want to inform the faithful that the visit of Cardinal Christoph Schonborn does not imply any recognition of the authenticity of the “apparitions” related to Medjugorje. I regret that the Cardinal, with his visit, appearance, and statements, brings something new to the present suffering of the local Church which does not contribute to peace and unity so necessary.

This episode is quite remarkable. The Cardinal’s comments and actions in and on Medjugorje are very surprising. While they are certainly nothing approaching official endorsement, they are sure to excite Medjugorje supporters and infuriate Medjugorje detractors. This is so clearly the case that Bishop Peric has publicly called out Cardinal Christoph Schönborn for his words and deeds.

Did the Cardinal really do all this without talking with Bishop Peric? Wow!

We don’t take sides on this blog on Medjugorje, but since they added mud-wrestling to the attraction, we just couldn’t stay away!

Note: Please try not to destroy the furniture here at CMR discussing this one.