Part 6: The Seers’ Credibility: The "Real Problem" Admitted (Even) by the Commission
by Marco Corvaglia
Go to Part 1: An Inadequate Commission
Go to the full index of the study: Who Will Judge the Judges? The Unresolvable Contradictions of the Commission of Inquiry on Medjugorje
As we have seen, the commission isolated the problematic elements, setting them apart from the first week and, based on psychological theories, elaborated reasons for the credibility of the first "apparitions".
As soon as this was done, they made a debatable choice: they decided to vote immediately on the supernaturality of the "originary event".
The voting took place in the thirteenth session, that of 22 February 2013 [cf. D. Murgia, Processo a Medjugorje, Rubbettino, 2021, p. 182]. As we know, 13 out of 15 votes were in favor (one abstention and one dissenting vote).
Methodologically, it would seem to have been a mistake. The commission had yet to reflect and express an official judgment on the behavior and credibility of the visionaries in the decades following the "first seven apparitions" (this vote would take place only in the fifteenth session, on 11 October 2013), but the point of no return had been reached. It is clear that the commissioners were tying their hands: what use could these reflections have, except to look for mitigating circumstances that diminish the contrast between the seers’ behavior and the decision already taken?
It is not just a risk. This is exactly what, based on the documents in hand, seems to have happened.
Among the major critical aspects identified by the commission is the issue of the visionaries’ relationship with money. The investigations carried out, including those made with the study trip to Medjugorje, fully confirmed the existence of the problem.
Well, it is very interesting to note the difference between the position of the commission in February 2013, immediately before the resolution on the supernaturality of the first days, and the one immediately following.
In fact, in a study drawn up by two members, dated 8 February 2013 and attached to the proceedings of the session of the following 22 February, we read:
CDF’s protocol [...] requires us to take the "evident seeking of profit, closely connected to the event" as a negative element.
In the case of the "seers" of Medjugorje it can certainly be said that this presents itself as the most critical aspect, which imparts a sense of profound unease.
It is impossible to deny [...] that the direct involvement of the "visionaries" in pilgrimage-excursion packages, in high-profile stays in the context of conventions with the attendant exhibition of ecstasies, in the building and ownership of infrastructure intended for hotel hospitality, is very disturbing. The exhibition of the charism appears to be set within an intrusive commercial organization, rather than a sober context of ecclesial life.
The relationship between the unfolding of the event and the seers’ increase in personal household properties and the raising of their standard of living is well established. The gratitude and generosity of the pilgrims, of course, is possible and even likely. But this is precisely the issue: to what other personal or professional resources could the conspicuous achieved benefits of well-being be linked, if not to the usage of the event? In a relatively poor area, the overall level of the housing and goods at the seers’ disposition would be considered upper-middle class even in a rich urban context. The overall picture of the tenor and lifestyle of some members of the group, then, offers an image that is not congruent with the responsibility of guarding and administering such an exceptional charisma as this one, which has been presented as enduring. [...]
Perhaps we do not have all the certainty one could desire regarding an evident seeking of profit closely connected with the event. However, the event is conspicuously connected with elements of profit. The uncertainty on this specific point absolutely must be resolved.
[Appendix II - 22 February 2013 Proceedings - International Commission of Inquiry on Medjugorje, in David Murgia, Processo a Medjugorje, Rubbettino, 2021, pp. 178-179]
In these words we read embarrassment but essentially also honesty. The situation is recognized for what it is, but a convincing solution is not found. If anything, they hope to find it.
A few months later, in the Final Report, the problem is still there. Despite what the two members had hoped, the uncertainty on this specific point has not in fact been resolved. Profit remains undeniably linked to the event.
However, attempts at justification appear, abstract and paradoxical, and again based on psychologisms, which in reality stand to demonstrate that no objective and better argument has been found.
The Report states that developments of the story that are attributable to the behavior of the visionaries "present various problematic aspects" [Final Report: Gaeta, p. 70; Murgia, p. 49].
In the paragraph of the Report titled “Present credibility of the alleged visionaries” (I, 2.4), we read:
What the International Commission has been able to ascertain, in regard to the accusation of a possible seeking of profit, is that the witnesses of the supernatural sign originally addressed to them now effectively have a relation, ambiguous in certain aspects, with money (and with what in general can be called a preoccupation with their own “wellbeing”). This ambiguity, however, rather than being located as on the side of immorality, is located as on the side of the structure of the person, who is often lacking a solid discernment and a coherent orientation, and also because an available and steady spiritual guide has been lacking to them in the course of these thirty years. If anything, there have been many signs exhibited of spiritual self-promotion and of a lack of pastoral relationships. [...]
This lack of spiritual and human accompaniment is surely among the causes of certain ambivalences and ambiguities that have appeared among the protagonists of the ongoing phenomenon. This negative dynamic reaches its peak in the case of Ivan Dragičević, whose continuing meetings and conferences on the Medjugorje phenomenon seem to constitute his only work and support. In addition, he has lied multiple times and is also less credible in the way he speaks about his experiences with the Gospa.
The International Commission notes, in any case, that the events subsequent to the first seven apparitions constitute a real problem, which makes very difficult an evaluation in conformity to what can be recognized in the original sign.
[Final Report: Gaeta, pp. 81-83; Murgia, pp. 57-58. NB: Murgia chose to omit all the names in the Report.]
Church authority must keep watch over the economic activities of the alleged visionaries connected with the Medjugorje phenomenon, especially in the case of Ivan Dragičević.
[Final report: Gaeta, p. 119; Murgia, p. 72]
In essence, it is acknowledged that the relationship of the “visionaries” with money and the search for profit is ambiguous, but, incredibly, the Report manages to say that this is attributable not to any fault of theirs but to the lack of a spiritual guide. Therefore, according to the Pontifical International Commission, people who for decades have said that they are spiritually guided by Our Lady, need an earthly spiritual guide to teach them what the Madonna evidently does not succeed in teaching (for example, concepts such as: you must not toy with the faithful—asking them for money for the construction of a “spirituality center,” when, instead, a private 120-bed hotel called Magnificat is being built).
Moreover, how can one say that the visionaries did not have a spiritual guide? There is an explicit message from February 1982 in which the Gospa tells the children: "Thank Tomislav very much, who is guiding you so well" (see: Praised by Our Lady of Medjugorje and Then Excommunicated: Tomislav Vlašić).
Since the mid-1980s, they were followed by Father Slavko Barbarić (so close to the visionaries that Marija, on November 25, 2000, the day after his death, gave the famous message of the Gospa : "I desire to tell you that your brother Slavko has been born into Heaven and intercedes for you").
Father Slavko even checked the messages before their publication (see, for example, the testimony of Wayne Weible, writer and Medjugorje apologist, a close friend of Marija, in his book The Final Harvest . Medjugorje at the End of the Century, Paraclete Press, 1999, pp. 98 and 164). That is, he did exactly what the commission, incredibly, envisions be done today:
The linguistic formulation of the alleged messages of the Madonna should take place in the presence of the priest in charge of the spiritual accompaniment of the alleged visionary.
[Final Report: Gaeta, p. 119; Murgia, pp. 71-72]
Other reasons for concern, mentioned by the commission, beyond the question of money [italics in the original]:
From the original documents made available to the International Commission, it appears that the then adolescents had declared that the phenomenon would end. But as we know, this has not happened.
[Final Report: Gaeta, pp. 83-84; Murgia, p. 58]
Also [parentheses and exclamation marks in the original]:
The International Commission has had to consider the repetitive banality of some of the communications which the witnesses declare they received from the Gospa [...]. Above all, however, this sector concerns:
• the alleged Life of Mary, of which Vicka Ivanković claims to be the custodian, because it was dictated by the Gospa herself (!);
• the “great sign” (not yet realized!);
• the so-called ten “secrets” (with the question of the “trusted friar”).
[Final Report: Gaeta, pp. 77-78; Murgia, p. 54. Murgia chose to omit all the names in the Report.]
Further on, the Report reads [italics in the original]:
Among the many problematic and ambiguous elements, the one that undoubtedly assumes a greater weight, in the light of past events, is the typical form of the “secret”; the alleged visionaries not having developed particular intellectual qualities and introspection, and having likewise remained without accompaniment and a human and spiritual education worthy of what was happening, the need to refer to behavior patterns that could allow them to integrate the particular experiences that they claimed they were living may have oriented them to take up forms and roles already present in ecclesial life (to be similar to) [...];
[Final Report: Gaeta, pp. 79-80; Murgia, pp. 55-56]
In effect, in a style that often becomes murky when the Commission tries to present mitigating circumstances and justifications in favor of the “seers”, the Report says the following: the commission considers it probable that the ten secrets (such as the Life of the Madonna and the very continuation of the apparitions after the first days) are an invention of the "visionaries", who have been inspired by the stories of other alleged visionaries of the past. But once again, according to the Pontifical International Commission, the fault of this deception is not theirs but due to their lack of a spiritual education.
The attempt to reduce as much as possible the inconsistency between the judgment relating to the "first seven apparitions" and that relating to the following decades becomes particularly open when, after having repeatedly admitted the existence of "many problematic and ambiguous elements", it is explicitly stated that this would not place in question the "subjective good faith" of the visionaries (except for the "scapegoat" Ivan, as usual):
[...] the alleged visionaries have appeared substantially credible in their witness of the first seven apparitions, and also through the succeeding alleged apparitions, it does not seem possible to deny their subjective good faith, independent of judgment on the reality of the event. This positive evaluation, however, does not extend to Ivan Dragičević, on whose credibility serious and demonstrated reservations have emerged. Also, as regards moral conduct and in particular the question of the quaestus lucri, the position of Ivan Dragičević is more compromised than that of the other alleged visionaries.
[Final Report: Gaeta, p. 115; Murgia, pp. 69-70]
It is as if the commission itself were officially granting the seers the "license to invent".
And on what basis?
On the basis, once again, of abstract, unproven and paradoxical psychological theories.
And here is the outcome of the vote "on the developments subsequent to the beginnings that directly concern and involve the alleged visionaries”:
Out of 14 present and voting (10 members and 4 experts):
• 8 members and 4 experts: nondum decernendum [suspension of judgment];
• 2 Members: constat de non supernaturalitate [the non-supernaturality is evident].
[Final Report: Gaeta, p. 87; Murgia, p. 60]
Subsequant parts will follow
English linguistic revision by Richard Chonak
Copyright © Marco Corvaglia. All rights reserved