Catholic Church response to the Medjugorje apparitions
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Medjugorje (Croatian: Međugorje) has been the site of reported apparitions of Our Lady of Medjugorje since June 24, 1981. This article describes the Catholic Church's discernment of the Marian apparitions.
Official position of the Church
The Norms regarding the manner of proceeding in the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1978 speaks of two alternative judgments that may be passed on claims of private revelation: constat de supernaturalitate ("It is confirmed to be of supernatural origin"), or non constat de supernaturalitate ("It is undetermined at this time if it is of supernatural origin"). The possible third judgement, constat de non supernaturalitate ("It is confirmed to NOT be of supernatural origin"), is not mentioned in this document.
While the view of the local bishop the Medjurgorje events is that constat de non supernaturalitate, i.e., "clearly not supernatural", the judgment of the competent episcopal conference on is: non constat de supernaturalitate, and the Holy See considers this judgement still operative and has forbidden Catholics to take part in conferences and public celebrations that take for granted that the events are of supernatural origin.
Of the view of the events expressed by Bishop Perić, namely, that "constat de non supernaturalitate" (it is confirmed that they are not of supernatural origin), the Congregation of the Faith has stated that this "should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion".
Further Church statements
Bishop Žanić of the diocese of Mostar-Duvno, in which Medjugorje is situated, is reported on the diocesan website to have responded in November 1983 to a request from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by sending a study on Medjugorje, in which he said the apparition could not be from God because of the "disorder and disarray" it caused, and that it was probably a hoax because "from the outset one can notice that the children have sometimes lied".
The same website reports that Bishop Ratko Perić, the successor of Žanić, stated in Međugorje: Secrets, messages, vocations, prayers, confessions, commissions that he came to definitively disbelieve in the Medjugorje apparitions when the alleged visionaries claimed Our Lady was against the papal decree Romanis Pontificibus.
Again, the same website says that, in 1985, 1995 and 1998, the Holy See forbade official pilgrimages to Medjugorje: "pilgrimages, whether private or public, are not allowed if they presuppose the authenticity of the apparitions, since this would be in contradiction to the declaration of the Bishops’ Conference of Yugoslavia". and that, in 1998, Cardinal Ratzinger said, "The only thing I can say regarding statements on Medjugorje ascribed to the Holy Father and myself is that they are complete invention" – frei erfunden.
On 10 April 1991, the Yugoslav Episcopal Conference issued at Zadar a declaration that states: "It cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations." This is still the only official declaration of the Catholic Church on the events of Medjurgorje, for even the 2013 prohibition of meetings and public celebrations taking the credibility of the events for granted was presented as a consequence of the Zadar Declaration.
On 21 August 1996 Vatican Press Office spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, commenting on press interpretations of a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to a French bishop, declared that Catholic parishes and dioceses may not organize official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, but that, as long as the supposed apparitions have not been shown to be false, Catholics may go there and, since they are entitled there, as anywhere else, to spiritual care, priests may accompany them. Navarro-Valls declared:
You cannot say people cannot go there until it has been proven false. This has not been said, so anyone can go if they want.
...When one reads what Archbishop Bertone wrote, one could get the impression that from now on everything is forbidden, no possibility [for Catholics to travel to Medjugorje] ... nothing has changed, nothing new has been said.
...The problem is if you systematically organize pilgrimages, organize them with the bishop and the church, you are giving a canonical sanction to the facts of Medjugorje. This is different from people going in a group who bring a priest with them in order to go to confession.
...The difference, in the terms of canon law, is that an official pilgrimage, organized by the diocese with the bishop, is a way of giving a juridical sanction to the facts; you are saying this is true.
On 2 October 1997, Perić wrote: "On the basis of the serious study of the case by 30 of our 'studiosi', on my episcopal experience of five years in the Diocese, on the scandalous disobedience that surrounds the phenomenon, on the lies that are at times put into the mouth of the 'Madonna', on the unusual repetition of "messages" of over 16 years, on the strange way that the 'spiritual directors' of the so-called 'visionaries' accompany them through the world making propaganda of them, on the practice that the 'Madonna' appears at the 'fiat' of the 'visionaries', my conviction and position is not only non constat de supernaturalitate [the supernaturality is not proven] but also the other formula constat de non supernaturalitate [the non-supernaturality is proven] of the apparitions or revelations of Medjugorje."
In response to inquiries about Bishop Perić's non constat de supernaturalitate comment, then-Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, as Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote that the comment of Bishop Perić "should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion."
In the same letter, Archbishop Bertone stressed that "it is not the practice of the Holy See to assume, in the first instance, a position of its own regarding supposed supernatural phenomena". Accordingly the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith limited itself to what the Yugoslav bishops had stated in their 1991 Zadar declaration: "On the basis of the investigations conducted to this point, it is not possible to affirm that it is a case of apparitions or of supernatural revelations".
The same letter and similar statements of various dates reiterated what the Zadar declaration laid down regarding pilgrimages to Medjugorje: they are permitted conditionally, but are not to be "organized by any bishop, diocese, parish, or other group and on condition they do not give authentication to the events at Medjugorje".
Bishop Perić says that on his 2006 ad limina visit to Rome, Pope Benedict XVI (formerly Cardinal Ratzinger) said regarding Medjugorje: "We at the Congregation always asked ourselves how a believer could possibly accept as authentic, apparitions that occur every day for so many years?"
In February 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith informed Tomislav Vlašić, the spiritual director and pastor of Medjugorje, that he was under investigation "for the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspect mysticism, disobedience towards legitimately issued orders, and charges contra sextum" (i.e., of sexual misconduct), and ordered him to stay at a Franciscan convent in Lombardy, take a course of theological and spiritual formation, not have contact with the "Queen of Peace..." association, not get involved in juridical contracts or acts of administration, and not engage in preaching, spiritual direction, public statements. His faculties to hear sacramental confession were withdrawn, and breach of these instructions would involve automatic interdict. In May 2008, the Congregation informed Bishop Perić that Vlašić had in fact incurred the penalty of automatic interdict. In July 2009, Vlašić, who was unwilling to accept the sanctions imposed on him, was laicized at his own request.
In 2009, Bishop Perić stated the alleged visionaries not only lied about when the Great Sign was going to be given, but were now downplaying its importance to Medjugorje, even lying about having received messages of a Great Sign.
On 17 March 2010, the Holy See announced that, at the request of the bishops of Bosnia Herzegovina, it had established a commission, headed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, to examine the Medjugorje phenomenon.
On 21 October 2013, the Apostolic Nunciature to the United States communicated, on behalf of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that, in the light of the 1991 Zadar declaration about the Medjugorje events, Catholics, whether clergy or laypeople, "are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such 'apparitions' would be taken for granted".
On the basis of this letter of 21 October 2013, which refers to another of February 2013, Colin B. Donovan of EWTN remarked: "These 2013 letters clearly represent a change of pastoral attitude on the part of the Holy See, one which began before the end of the pontificate of Pope Benedict and which has now been affirmed by Pope Francis. An attitude of seeming tolerance has been replaced with a firm call for acceptance of the ecclesiastical judgments made to date, or at least publicly acting in accordance with them." He added: "Catholics on both sides of the issue should exercise prudence and charity in speaking of it. Medjugorje is not a litmus test of orthodoxy, though every Catholic will have a moral obligation to accept the judgment of Rome, in the manner Pope Benedict XVI explained, when it is rendered."
Also regarding the October 2013 letter, Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers, when asked "what does this tell us about how the Church is likely to rule on Medjugorje?" replied, "Not a great deal. It certainly is not an encouraging sign for those who would want to see Medjugorje approved. On the other hand, sticking with the existing policy and applying its logic more rigorously is not a change of substance and does not tell us anything in particular about what the ultimate ruling is likely to be. The current Medjugorje commission is expected to deliver its findings to the CDF for evaluation, and, after the CDF has had a chance to study them, the results will be presented to the pope. It will be the pope who makes the final decision. Sticking with the current policy at the present time does not tell us anything, one way or another, about what that decision will be." 
The Vatican commission set up in 2010 to study the Medjugorje question was reported on 18 January 2014 to have completed its work, the results of which it would communicate to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
- Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Normae de modo procedendi in diiudicandis apparitionibus ac revelationibus
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- Vatican Warns U.S. Bishops on Medjugorje
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