Many of you have heard of the Medjugorje phenomenon: Medjugorje is a town in Bosnia-Herzegovina (formerly part of Yugoslavia), where the Blessed Mother has allegedly been appearing on a regular basis for over 30 years now. I know many people who have traveled there on pilgrimage.
Those of us in the Diocese of Birmingham may also know of an organization in our own territory – Caritas of Birmingham – that annually “imports” one of the alleged seers in order to have “apparitions” on-demand right in Alabama. I won’t link to their web site, but I did see on there that they were even advertising, back in July, “Our Lady to Appear Second Time Tonight 10:30 PM!”.
(Some folks have told me that Our Lady was once delayed, when the alleged seer’s flight was delayed. But I digress.)
A few years back I remember driving down I-65 from Huntsville to Birmingham and seeing a billboard with a big image of Our Lady on it and the words, “Apparitions of Mary”, followed by a link to Caritas’ web site. Whenever I saw it I used to think that they might as well have made a billboard that said –
Catholics are crazy, y’all!
– because I wondered how the “Apparitions” billboard could ever be of much benefit to the Church’s mission of evangelization in the South. Some Protestants already think that we worship Mary; when they find out that we go to fields in the middle of nowhere to see her appear, they will consider us completely laughable.
But the point of this post is to speak about a serious matter: the alleged apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Medjugorje have never been approved by any Church authority. In fact, quite the contrary: they have been specifically disapproved. Various bishops over the years, legitimately exercising their power of governance, have issued decrees forbidding the faithful to take part in pilgrimages and other public manifestations of support of what is, in truth, a dubious phenomenon.
These directives have been widely ignored, and I am sure that many people do not even know of their existence.
Moreover, there are those who have thought, cynically, that while these types of negative directives were issued under popes like John Paul II and Benedict XVI, yet Pope Francis would surely have a more lenient and permissive approach and, in the end, the “apparitions” would be approved and the last 30+ years will have been vindicated. Therefore, what’s a little disobedience to legitimate authority?
Well, the big news is that today another letter has come out of the Vatican, by way of the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, once again repeating what has been said numerous times. And I quote:
“…the Congregation [for the Doctrine of the Faith] 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.’ 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.” (emphasis added)
This would certainly preclude taking a trip down to Caritas of Birmingham or any other place which promotes the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje. I am, therefore, posting this letter as a public service announcement.
It is interesting to note that this is not the first letter to come out this year to the Bishops of the United States. The Apostolic Nuncio makes reference to another letter along the same lines issued on February 27, 2013 – i.e., the day before the end of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate. So it appears that there are a lot of people asking them, if they felt the need to write about it twice in the same year.
I conclude with a rhetorical question: Would Our Lady, the sinless Blessed Virgin Mary, ever, in any way, encourage disobedience to legitimately-exercised Church authority?