Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New rules for judging Marian apparitions

Thanks to the Hermeneutic of Continuity for the link to the article about a proposed set of new rules for judging the validity of Marian apparitions of which their seem to be a huge number. I think I have said before I am no fan of Medjugorje as it strikes me as lacking credibility but if the Church judges it to be authentic I`m happy to accept it. I`ve met some impressive people who believe in it and I would rather talk with a follower of Medjugorje than a Tabletista.

What struck me in the article was the following:

The bishops, having set up a commission of psychiatrists, psychologists, theologians and educators, should impose silence on the pseudo-visionaries. This will be a first test: history teaches, from Lourdes to Fatima, from Guadalupe in La Salette, that those who really have the gift of being in direct contact with the Madonna, follow the directives of the local Church, even in the face of enormous sufferings. Therefore, one who will not remain silent but causes the news of these alleged apparitions to circulate freely, attracting around themselves the presence of the curious, journalists and the faithful in search of a particular grace will have already given a sign that shows the falseness of their mysticism. Mary herself, in fact, would never validate an act of disobedience against a bishop, even if they were in error.
I know this has been the tradition of recent centuries in assessing the validity of visions. It`s the kind of criterion St Teresa of Avila would set for visions: that they cannot go against the teaching of the local bishop.
However it was not always thus. One of the things that does appeal to me about Medjugorje is the idea of the Blessed Virgin intervening on the side of the Franciscans against the decrees of the local bishop. It sounds very medieval. As an example here is an extract from that hugely popular thirteenth century book of piety, The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine.
A certain parish priest, a man of upright life, knew no other Mass than the Mass of the Blessed Virgin, which he constantly chanted in her honour. Being accused thereof to the bishop, he was forthwith arraigned before him. When he avowed that he knew no other Mass, the bishop harshly upbraided him as an imposter, suspended him from his cure and forbade him to chant the said Mass hereafter. The following night the Blessed Mary appeared to the bishop, belaboured him with reproaches and demanded the reason of his ill treatment of her servant; and she further said that the bishop would die within thirty days unless he restored the priest to his office. All atremble, the bishop summoned the priest and begged his forgiveness, commanding him to celebrate no other Mass than that of the Blessed Virgin. (From the chapter on the birth of the Virgin).
It seems to me that this is where Medjugorje falls down: the Blessed Virgin should appear to the bishop and defend the visionaries. Her failure to do this is surely a weak point in the credibility of the whole thing given that she seems so willing to appear to her followers so often. However I do feel sorry for the parishioners of the parish priest in the story who enjoyed less than the fullness of the liturgical cycle!


bg said...

Fr Michael, as I understand, there are no “new” rules being proposed for evaluating apparitions. Benedict’s booklet is simply a reminder of the existing guidelines set by the CDF in February 1978.

The recent report is not “news” either. “News” of the proposed booklet appeared in L’Osservatore Roman in an interview with Salvatore M. Perrella over six months ago.

It is possible that your own bishop may already have a copy of this booklet for his own guidance.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Ok Pilgrim, I didn`t read the report that closely but while the interview with Salvatore Perella may have passed me by, does this part not indicate that there is something newsworthy?

`The answers to these and other questions are contained in a ‘directory’ Benedict XVI has made to instruct the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and that will soon be made public and sent to the diocesan bishops of the whole world. With this document, which integrates the Instructions already issued in 1978 by the Vatican, the Pope calls for the greatest severity in the verifications related to the establishment of the truthfulness Marian apparitions`

I have had my doubts about the reliability of the Petrus site before. We`ll just have to wait and see.

bg said...

The Petrus site used as it source an Italian website. Interestingly, the “amateur” English translation is by Fr Philip Pavic OFM, who spent some years as a priest in Medjugorje assisting English-speaking pilgrims. He later announced that he no longer believed in the Medjugorje apparitions. I don’t know if this is still his stance.

The story was picked up by Simon Caldwell, news editor of the Catholic Herald, who also writes religious stories for the Daily Mail, The Times and The Independent among others. He is a known opponent of Medjugorje.

His Daily Mail story was picked up by Fox News and I understand from friends that other news channels are carrying the report.

My own assessment is that this story will also be used in this weekend’s Catholic Herald, also known opponents of the claims made from Medjugorje. My sincere hope is that the CH will not use this story as a stick against Medjugorje and will act responsibly and fairly if it carries the report.

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

You might find my review of Donal Foley's book on Medjugorje interesting..

bg said...

Donal Foley writes a critical book on Medjugorje without ever having visited the place. Nuff said.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Donal that`s a fair point but Jackie`s review is worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Nothing to do with this post, but what has happened to "Life Begins at Oxford Circus?" Was it not just under your photo, Father? It's not there now.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Anonymous, I`ve made a private blog for the time being. I`m in two minds about it and those minds keep changing. I`m not sure if it is a good idea or not. This morning I woke up and thought it wasn`t so good. Thanks for asking anyway. It may re-appear depending on what I think.

Ben Trovato said...

For me, one of the most implausible things about the Medjugorje phenomenon is the amount the Gospa speaks.

Our Lady is always a woman of few words: few and to the point (both in Scripture and in approved visions). How different is the Gospa of Medjugorje!

(I liked Oxford Circus - hope you reinstate it!)

Fr Michael Brown said...

I quite agree BT. I reinstated the Circus yesteday afternoon: it`s a bit further down the page.

bg said...

I guess we could pose the same question about our priests. How often must they preach the same Gospel? Once, twice, three times, a lifetime?

We should never tire of hearing the word of God – because that is what the messages of Medjugorje are – simply an echo of the gospel message.

“Do whatever he tells you” said Our Lady to the servants at the Wedding Feast, but how many of us are listening?

And which mother doesn’t repeat her words to her child until it accepts and understands?

And what sort of mother stays quiet when her children are unreconciled?

As a priest, Fr Brown will be aware of the many mothers that speak to him about their concerns for their children who have drifted from the Church.

No Ben, we should listen to our Mother, because she speaks only to bring us all to her Son, Jesus.

We are her children. We were given to her by Jesus at the foot of the Cross. She is the Mother of the Church and needs to be listened to and not dismissed so lightly.


bg said...

One other point to consider, Ben, is that Scripture is just but a small part of all that happened in the ministry of Jesus.

It was John who wrote: “There were many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not hold all the books that would have to be written. ” Jn 21 : 25

Even today, Jesus goes on speaking. Why not his Mother?


bg said...

Here’s an update on the Simon Caldwell “new rules for apparitions” story widely circulated around the world. Seems he failed to check his sources with the CDF or Vatican press office.

This denial by a CDF spokesperson was published on the Amercian Catholic weekly.

• A Vatican official has denied a document is being prepared about how to deal with alleged Marian apparitions and visions, such as those at Medjugorje.

According to some reports that have circulated in the last few days, Pope Benedict has instructed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to prepare a vademecum, or handbook, on the matter. It reportedly would require individuals who said they have experienced appearances or visions of the Virgin Mary to remain silent while their claims are investigated carefully by Church authorities.

The document was also rumored to specify that local bishops should set up commissions composed of psychiatrists, psychologists, theologians and priests to investigate the claimed apparitions.

But according to a Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith official who spoke with Register correspondent Edward Pentin, there is no truth to these reports. The official stated emphatically that no work is underway on a vademecum or on any other type of document regarding the question of how to handle claims of apparitions.