Medjugorje: A Clarification & Disobedience

Originally published at Catholic Stand on February 18, 2015.

Within the past couple of weeks there have been some news reports on Medjugorje. These reports are creating some expectation among the faithful that Medjugorje is soon to be approved by the Holy Father. I would like to clarify these reports for the sake of truth and proper communion among the faithful.

Medjugorje is a village in Bosnia-Hercegovina (former Yugoslavia) where, since 1981, six people have been claiming that the Virgin Mary appears to them on a regular (“timed”) basis.[i] Much controversy exists over these claims—too much, in fact, for this article. Instead, I defer the reader to Donal Foley’s book Medjugorje Revisited which has a good summary of the Medjugorje phenomenon and the controversies behind it.

The recent news on Medjugorje has been sparked by an upcoming trip to Sarajevo (which is not too far from Medjugorje) by Pope Francis. There is media buzz about this because last year a Vatican commission that examined the facts of the Medjugorje phenomenon finished its work. Its report was sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome and its current status and/or contents are unknown. This lack of knowledge of this report’s contents and the Holy Father’s pending Sarajevo trip are causing speculation among those supportive of Medjugorje.[ii]

Adding to the media buzz is a recent statement by Bishop Franjo Komarica—the President of the Bosnian Conference of Catholic Bishops. In an interview published by Vatican Radio—in German—Bishop Komarica made statements about Medjugorje and the Pope’s visit to Croatia. In a rough translation of the relevant portion of the interview, Bishop Komarica defers the matter to the Pope.[iii] He says nothing about the Pope approving Medjugorje. Komarica also remarks about good and bad fruits, saying that the bad ones need to stop, and the good ones be watched.

Compounding the news reports is an upcoming visit of Medjugorje “seer” Ivan Dragicevic. Dragicevic spends six months of the year in Massachusetts (where his wife is from). Because of his connection to these United States, Ivan gave talks and other functions that promoted Medjugorje. These came to a screeching halt in 2013 when the CDF ordered the Papal Nuncio (Archbishop Viganò) to notify the American Bishops that clerics and the faithful could not participate in such functions.

Ivan’s talks appear to have ended, but a recent report has come out advertising a new talk in Missouri. This is in apparent defiance of the CDF/Nuncio’s directive that “clerics and faithful” were “not permitted” to attend gatherings that “promote” Medjugorje. There has been as of yet no public announcement that the CDF/ Viganò order was rescinded for Ivan to stop speaking in the United States, leading one to wonder whether or not Ivan is acting in disobedience to the Holy See.

A representative of the organization hosting Dragicevic’s speaking event informed this author in a phone conversation that Viganò [privately] clarified his earlier order. The representative maintained that the Nuncio stated Dragicevic cannot speak on church property, nor is the presentation to be supportive of Medjugorje. It must be billed as a “form your own opinion” event.[iv]

Meanwhile, taglines for the event include “Come hear Ivan share the messages of our Blessed Mother!” and “An Evening with Our Lady and Ivan Dragicevic.”

In his discussion of the “fruits” of Medjugorje, Bishop Komarica remarked, “Thanks be to God one doesn’t hear so much about negative fruits [with Medjugorje].” Perhaps the public should start asking questions.

[i] “Regular basis” means that the alleged visionaries claim to see Our Lady at various intervals. Some claim to see her daily, while others once or twice a year.

[ii] As of this time, there has been no judgment rendered by the Holy Father on Medjugorje. His trip to Sarajevo has raised the question of whether or not he will make known his judgment on the case while in that country.

[iii] The translation was done by Richard Chonak and it reads:

Q: “Was there never any discussion that the Pope might visit Medjugorje to form his own impression of it?”

Bp. Komarica: “Yes, actually, Medjugorje is a fact, since ’91 [sic], and very many people went there from near and far. The Church has her preconditions, in regard to recognizing a place of pilgrimage. As for any visions there, we’re leaving that to the Holy See, as is known. And it’s necessary that the Church, the responsible Church officials continue to carefully accompany and evaluate the developments in Medjugorje. One should keep an eye on good fruits, and if there are also any negative fruits, one should isolate them so that one stops them. Thanks be to God, one doesn’t hear so much about negative fruits. When Medjugorje is going to be recognized: we’re leaving that to the Holy Father. It’s his decision … [“as far as I know”? difficult phone audio].”

Q: So there was never any discussion of a papal visit to Medjugorje?

Bp. Komarica: “As far as I know, no. If the decision might have been otherwise, certainly the Pope could have wanted to decide, and [pauses] the Pope decided as he decided, and he had corresponding reasons to do so, and I’m not able to comment much on that.”

[iv] Moreover, the host organization is “not affiliated with [any] Diocese” said the representative.