Sunday, October 04, 2009

Schism and Feigned Sacraments in Mostar

Many of my priest friends have visited Medjugorje. If it wasn't for the fact that the Bishop of Mostar has forbidden it I would be tempted to go. My friends speak of the ardent devotion of the pilgrims, the long lines of people waiting for confession, stories of young people keeping long vigils before the Blessed Sacrament and profound attendance at not very well organised Euchartistic Liturgies.

These are things that one would expect at a place where the Mother of God was present. Prayer, devotion, ultimately holiness ratify an apparition. For Catholics there is an element of believing the message because we believe the messenger. Even the Lord himself is believed in because the Apostles were and the Church is a credible witness. Lourdes, Fatima, the revelations of the Sacred Heart, of the Divine Mercy are worthy belief by the fruit they produce, first of all in the primary witness of the Apparition and in their followers. It is perhaps very significant that none of the visionaries have received or accepted a religious vocation.

In a document issued by the Bishop of Mostar, the bishop speaks of schism in his diocese, of violence, of feigned sacraments, I know the document is now 5 years old, but it is still relevant. There is one account of the friars inviting an "Old Catholic bishop", that is not some one in communion with the Holy See to administer Confirmation, he gave the "sacrament" to 800 individuals in three parishes, later it transpired he was not even a bishop.
This I find is actually the most shocking revelation of all, and seems directly related to general sense of disorder and disobedience in the diocese of Mostar.


Catholic Mom of 10 said...

As far as I know priests were/are forbidden to go in an official capacity ie leading a Pilgrimage. I didn't know they were forbidden privately.

Anonymous said...

Glad you published this,Father, now sit back and wait for some blinded Medjorge fanatics to attack you!

Fr Ray Blake said...

I have never understood that distinction between "private" and "official" capacities.

A priest is a priest is a priest, even in the bath I'm a priest!

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

Fr. Blake said: I have never understood that distinction between "private" and "official" capacities.

Neither did Msgr. Henri Brincard who wrote on behalf of the French Bishops (Jan 7, 2000) one of the most compelling pieces overall about Medjugorje:

Let us recognise that it is not easy to apply faithfully this recommendation. How, in fact, to organise a private pilgrimage without it being motivated by the conviction that the events of Medjugorje are of a supernatural origin? Since this conviction is at the origin of the pilgrimage, does not this latter not become de facto "an authentication of events in course which still necessitate an examination by the Church"?

It is just this difficulty which Cardinal Kuharic and Bishop Zanic foresaw in their joint declaration of 9th January 1987.(7)

Footnote 7 is from L'Osservatore Romano, 14th February 1987.

shadowlands said...

I still maintain that our reactions to this situation and statements being given by the Church are a gauge as to how obedient we are to the Magisterium. The bigger the resistance within,the bigger the conflict going on in our will,in general,to God's Authority.As laity,our opinions remain just that,opinions.

Catholic Mom of 10 said...

EF it's usually the other way round! Remember I am NOT pro- Medjugorje! Fr Ray YIKES! The very thought!

Michael Petek said...

The distinction between private and official capacity is straightforward.

When, Father, you are in the bath you are there in a private capacity, as you would be even if you were a High Court judge. Having a bath is something anyone can do and is not reserved to a public authority.

When you administer a sacrament, conduct a liturgical celebration or carry out an act of teaching, representation or governance according to (and arguably even in excess of) the mandate given you by the Bishop, then you are acting in an official capacity because you are exercising the sovereign powers of the Church.

You might find it useful to apply, by analogy, the International Law Commission's Draft Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, 2001(Chapter II - Attribution of Conduct to a State - especially Article 4) downloadable from the United Nations website.

(Don't get put off by the use of the term "wrongful": the part I refer to is the one that defines what is and is not an act of State).

For Diane: "Conviction" presupposes certainty, but not probability. The latter can legitimately be entertained,the former not.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Michael, I hope you are not denying the ontological chang that takes place at ordination - sounds a bit heretical to me.

Michael Petek said...

Father, I'm certainly not denying it at all. The ontological change which takes place in a man at ordination to make him a priest, or in a baptizand or confirmand for that matter, is not intelligible to the senses. It can be detected only by faith because it belongs to the revealed mystery of the Christian religion.

A man remains ontologically a priest even if he loses the clerical state. But if he validly administers a sacrament while laicised quaere whether this is an official act of the Church or solely an act of Christ in whom (because a divine Person) there is no distinction of public and private.

Official acts of public authority are not like this. They are - and are meant to be - intelligible to reason and to the senses, in that they can be distinguished from private acts without the intervention of divine grace.

Another way of approaching the question is this. Our motive for submitting to the Pope as the supreme authority on earth in matters of religion is the revealed command of Christ. That submission creates the social and public fact, naturally intelligible, that the Pope effectively exercises supreme authority over a stable human society. It is on that basis that nations recognise him as a Sovereign with full capacity under international law of passive and active legation, and to be bound by international agreements.

When the Pope or a bishop does an act of teaching and governance, he typically does it in writing and places the diocesan seal on the document. That distinguishes it as official. A sacrament administered by a priest in the clerical state is likewise official.

When an unbeliever enters a Catholic church during divine worship he can see what he can recognise by sense-perception as an act of public worship, and he might accept - once it is explained to him - that this is an exercise of an official capacity.

If he then goes on to visit an Anglican church he will see and recognise the same thing, save that he has not the faith to distinguish between a Catholic priest and an Anglican minister.

Fr Ray Blake said...

MP, You are rambling and miss the point of the doctrine!

The point of sacramental character is that everything a priest is or does is marked by the charism of priesthood.
For the most part a priest or bishop teaches not by decree but by his actions both sacramental and non-sacramental. Hence his lifestyle is of paramount importance and has an impact on Christ and his Church.

St Francis says: Preach the Gospel everywhere, and if you must, use words.
Any priest/bishop going to Medj. is teaching its acceptability.

Michael Petek said...

I agree entirely with what you say, Father. As someone else said (I forget who): sanctify a priest and you sancify a parish.

The point of a sacramental character is as you say it is, but I should add that it is no less pertinent to the sacramental character of baptism, and that of confirmation in what concerns the role of all the Catholic faithful. In that respect the distinction between official and private acts is meaningless.

But in another respect, the Church has an official capacity which has the following significance, among much else that could be mentioned: the Church has the mission to make disciples of all nations as such, for the Gospel is addressed as much to civil authorities as to private individuals.

This is where her external forum is particularly important, including her Magisterium exercised with respect to moral principles governing the social order (See Can. 747(2))

Catholic Mom of 10 said...

As they say in AA (although I'm a lifetime total abstinence Pioneer!) " You could be right Fr Ray! "

Bernadette said...

"It is perhaps very significant that none of the visionaries have received or accepted a religious vocation."

I had understood that a Catholic marriage is a religious vocation, Fr Blake.

I know marriage between a man and a woman is much maligned and undermined these days, with divorce rates being so high and Gay marriage being so championed, but I know that I and my Catholic married friends take the vocation of marriage and its purpose very seriously.

I am sure this is the same for the Medjugorje visionaries.

It is good in times of such betrayal of the vocation of marriage to see people responding to this calling. It is a positive witness to a world which rejects the holiness of the vocation of marriage.

Of the two visionaries I know, the family rosary and Daily Mass are at the heart of their marriage and family life. I call this good fruit.

JoannaB said...

I would welcome some clarification on Medjugoje; as it appears there are some graces coming out of there and maybe it is too soon to tell either way. Some things in the Catholic Church take a long time before they are accepted officially; they need the time to be tested.

Richard said...

Feigned sacraments - "he gave the "sacrament" to 800 individuals in three parishes, later it transpired he was not even a bishop"

Unfortunately that isn't just a problem in Medjugorje; I have heard of several Anglican priests who have been allowed to concelebrate in France, with the full knowledge of the French Catholic priest.

Fr Ray Blake said...


The normal Catholic way is that we follow the local Bishop until a higher authority, the Holy See, clearly over rules him.

In this case the Bishop of Mostar has spoken with great clarity - see the earlier posts on this blog - there is nothing supernatural behind the phenonoma!

Laurence England said...

Fr Ray makes a good point. The Priest, by virtue of his ordination acts in person Christi. Therefore if a Priest goes to Medjugorje then he is giving Christ and His Church's blessing to the shrine, even though the Bishop has not recognised it as being a holy site of pilgrimmage. That causes confusion, dissent and conflict within the Church, and whether, in time, the Church changes Her mind on it or not, confusion, dissent and conflict within the Church is NOT FROM GOD.

John Kearney said...

I am so glad Father you spoke of the pilgrims experience in a good light. Yes, they do receive graces in Medgugorye whatever the deceit of the visions. Does this not mean they are not getting these experiences in their own parishes or countries? That is the question to be addressed. Telling people they should not be there, it is forbidden, the Church has disapproved does not meet their spiritual hunger. When I believed in Medgorye calling me a blinded Medgugory fanatic was just insulting and put my back up.

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

It occurs to me that there is a difficulty with my position that we should simply follow the Bishop of Mostar's guidance on this matter and leave it at that. The difficulty is that several of the Medjugorje visionaries have settled abroad and are now under the jurisdiction of other bishops: Medjurgorje has "gone global."

My understanding is that some or all of these Medjugorje 'emigrants' continue to report visions and messages from their new bases overseas. So presumably the responsibility for determining authenticity in these cases is no longer in the hands of the Bishop of Mostar.

The dispersal of the visionaries raises a further issue: what if their new local ordinary is pro-Medjugorje? Many bishops are strong supporters. For example, the emeritus bishop of the Canadian diocese where I live is a firm believer in Medjugorje and regularly gives lectures on the subject.

Just think of what would happen if a pro-Medjugorje bishop with a Medjugorje 'emigrant' living in his diocese issued a "constat de supernaturalitate" determination in relation to the messages being delivered in his locality. No-one would ever listen to Mostar again.

I have always thought that the Church has not really been able to handle Medjugorje because of the traditional practice of delaying final decisions until a reported private revelation has finished -- a practice developed when apparitions went on for a few days, weeks or months but not three decades. Now the traditional subsidiarity principle (the local ordinary decides) has broken down because of the geographical dispersal of the seers. Over to the CDF to restore order, I think.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...


Responsibility does not shift based on where "visionaries" are living.

However, bishops from those dioceses, as a matter of collegiality, should not permit any alleged visionary to promote something which is prohibited in the diocese of origin. This is precisely what happened in the diocese of Joliet, Illinois when Bishop Peter Sartain wrote to his clergy explaining the confusion that comes from hosting "seers" of unapproved apparitions and promoting them - in particular Medjugorje which was noted (see PDF of Bp Sartain's memo). It came after he learned about one of the Medjugorje "seers" promoting the apparitions in his diocese.

This is how Medjugorje got away from the Church to begin with. Priests and bishops voicing their personal opinions which oppose the local bishop is a negative fruit of Medjugorje because it sows the seeds of division. Since the cultus was never permitted, any bishop or priest promoting it, is participating in building an illicit cultus.

Further, the final judgment will not come from the local Bishop, but in some form or other, from the Holy See. Keep in mind that the current non constat de supernaturalite is not entirely neutral, but slanted more negative because it means that after decades, nothing supernatural can be affirmed.

Some say that "the local bishop was removed from the dossier", but this is not the case.

Read more here at my blogpot, "What Arcbishop Bertone Really said about Bishop Peric"

Michael Petek said...

Diane, Francis raises an interesting point. If a person claims to receive apparitions wherever he or she is, then it seems that the Bishop with jurisdiction is whoever has it according to the canon law of domicile.

As far as I know, only Marija has a domicile elsewhere than in Mostar-Duvno (she has lived in Monza for longer than five years, as she is married to an Italian).

I understand that Ivan lives for part of the year in the United States (his wife is an American), but as far as I know this would give him a quasi-domicile there after three months' residence, while his full domicile in Mostar-Duvno persists.

Here's a question for Father Ray: what's a person's status of he has a domicile in one place and a quasi-domicile in the other?

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think the domicile is immaterial in this case. The visions began and continued in the diocese of Mostar, that is what the bishop judges. Bishops elsewhere have to make their own judgements but based on the judgement of the Bishop of Mostar.

No judgement has been made on the individual "visionaries" only on the "vision".

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

I keep coming back to collegiality. When Cardinal Schonborn welcomed Marija into his Cathedral on September 15, 2009, it went against collegiality. It also gave the impression to people that the Church itself gives authenticity to the alleged apparitions.

When someone who is allegedly receiving private revelations is prohibited from having public manifestations by the original local bishop, it only stands to reason that bishops of other dioceses would not give them a platform.

Not only are the laity and priests in need of catechesis, but so are the bishops.

It's unfortunate that the rumored vadamecum, or handbook, on apparitions has been denied. Something of this nature is firmly needed to end such madness.

Michael Petek said...

Father Ray and Diane, I think the following comment is called for.

Father may be right when he says that domicile isn't an issue. Save that it is pertinent for determining which Catholic must obey which Bishop. In Marija's case this is Cardinal Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan. Canons 1407-1416 might apply for deciding conflicts of competence.

So Cardinal Schonborn it seems was within his rights to invite Marija, there being no adverse judgement from Cardinal Tettamanzi. For Ivanka, Vicka, Mirjana and Jakov the matter would have to be assesed differently, as they are subjects of the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno. In any event, that Bishop's territorial jurisdiction to put ecclesiastical premises out of bounds to them is unimpaired.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

I tried leaving this earlier from my mobile, but it wasn't working. I don't know if my email go thru, tho that seemed to be working.

Reuters is reporting on an interview with Cardinal Vinko Puljic - the head of the BiH Bishops Conference.

Puljic says that he is expecting the Holy See to give new directives on Medjugorje, possibly before the end of the year.

Reuters: Vatican ruling on disputed Medjugorje shrine expected soon