I normally don't write much about apparitions--particularly ones that have not been either approved by the Church or specifically condemned as incompatible with the faith, but there is currently going around the blogosphere a statement by Bishop Peric of Mostar-Duvno regarding the apparitions reported at Medjugorje, which is in his diocese.
I'm not going to address the question of whether the apparitions reported at Medjugorje are real or not. I haven't yet done the kind of research I would need to in order to satisfy myself on that question. But it's worth noting the way that the topic is presently being handled on the official level.
Poking around the Mostar website, I also discovered
NOTE: Both the homily and the backgrounder are translations and so it should not be assumed that everything they say has the same force in the original language as it does in English. Things in the original may be stronger or weaker than they come across in translation.
Here is the nut of what the bishop said in the homily:
The judgements of the bishops, after all the canonical investigations made thus far, can be summarized in these following points:
1 - Medjugorje is a catholic parish in which liturgical and pastoral activities are carried out, just as in all the other parishes of this diocese of Mostar-Duvno. No-one except the official Church authorities is then authorized to attribute the formal title of “shrine” to this place.
2 - On the basis of Church investigations of the events of Medjugorje, it cannot be determined that these events involve supernatural apparitions or revelations. This means that till now the Church has not accepted, neither as supernatural nor as Marian, any of the apparitions.
3 - Priests who canonically administer this parish of Medjugorje or those who come as visitors, are not authorised to express their private views contrary to the official position of the Church on the so-called “apparitions” and “messages”, during celebrations of the sacraments, neither during other common acts of piety, nor in the Catholic media.
4 - The Catholic faithful are not only free from any obligation to believe in the authenticity of the “apparitions” but they must also know that church pilgrimages are not allowed, whether official or private, individual or group, or from other parishes, if they presuppose the authenticity of the “apparitions” or if by undertaking them attempt to certify these “apparitions”.
5 - As the local Bishop, I maintain that regarding the events of Medjugorje, on the basis of the investigations and experience gained thus far, throughout these last 25 years, the Church has not confirmed a single “apparition” as authentically being the Madonna.
He then makes the following dramatic appeal:
Therefore I responsibly call upon those who claim themselves to be “seers”, as well as those persons behind the “messages”, to demonstrate ecclesiastical obedience and to cease with these public manifestations and messages in this parish. In this fashion they shall show their necessary adherence to the Church, by neither placing private “apparitions” nor private sayings before the official position of the Church.
I can't help wondering if that's also tied to something else he said:
The fact that during these 25 years there has been talk of tens of thousands of “apparitions” does not contribute any authenticity to these events, which according to the words of our current Pope, who I encountered during an audience on 24 February this year, commented that at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith they always questioned how all these “apparitions” could be considered authentic for the Catholic faithful.
This sets off my spider sense a little bit. I'm thinking that there may be a connection between these two events.
In his pontificate, B16 has been quietly (or not so quietly) dealing with issues that appeared to drift during the pontificate of John Paul II. He reined in the Franciscans in Assisi; he reined in the Neocatechumenal Way; he dealt with the Fr. Maciel matter. I'm wondering if the discussion he had with Bishop Peric included an initiative to clarify where the Church is regarding the subject of Medjugorje.
If it didn't then I'd say that Bishop Peric made a big mistake repeating what B16 told him in private. This is a sensitive matter, and if the pope hasn't authorized you to disclose his private views on a matter then it is a big mistake to do so.
He also would be making a mistake to call on the seers to cease their public activities in the parish unless he had reasonable assurances that he would be backed up on this point if he were challenged on it.
I don't have any proof here--I'm just speculating--but I'm wondering if his discussion with B16 didn't involve the subject of a new iniative to more forcefully clarify the Medjugorje situation and seek greater pastoral control over it since, as the bishop reports:
[I]n this local Church of Mostar-Duvno, there exists something similar to a schism. A number of priests that have been expelled from the Franciscan OFM Order by the Generalate of the Order, due to their disobedience to the Holy Father, for years now have been forcefully keeping a few parish churches and rectories along with church inventory. They have not only been illegally active in these parishes, but they have also administered the sacraments profanely, while others invalidly, such as Confession and Confirmation, or they have assisted at invalid marriages. This type of anti-ecclesial behaviour is shocking to all of us. At the same time, this scandal of sacrilegiously administering the sacraments, especially of the Most Holy Body of Christ, must shock all the faithful as well who invalidly confess their sins to these priests and participate in sacrilegious liturgies. We pray to the Lord that this scandal and schism be uprooted as soon as possible from our midst.
If I were B16, that's the kind of situation I would want to get sorted out.