A revised and expanded version of the most important book dealing with the alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin taking place in Medjugorje in the Diocese of Mostar in Croatia has been published by author Donal Anthony Foley, a well-known British author on Marian apparitions. His "Medjugorje Revisited: 30 Years of Visions or Religious Fraud" (Theotokos Books, Nottingham, England, 2011; 439 pp.) constitutes a veritable 'Summa' dealing with all the complex aspects of the alleged apparitions and can be ordered on line from www.theotokos.org.uk or from a local Catholic book store.
In his Foreword to the volume, the well-known theologian Prof. Dr. Manfred Hauke of the Theological Faculty, Lugano, Switzerland, noted that the last official declaration of the Church, from the Yugoslavian bishops in 1991, had declared that no supernatural origin ("non constat de supernaturalitate") could be affirmed for the alleged visions of the "Gospa" (the Blessed Virgin). As the faithful await a definitive decision of the special Commission established by the Vatican by order of Pope Benedict XVI, it would be difficult, if not impossible, in view of the massive evidence accumulated in this volume, to expect any other conclusion than a clear rejection by the Church of the authenticity of the apparitions at Medjugorje. Fr. Hauke observes that Donal Foley's volume is:
"a rich source of information" that explains many of the problematic, puzzling, and even disturbing aspects of the Medjugorje phenomenon while avoiding polemics. It offers the necessary specialist information required for an accurate theological understanding of Medjugorje, and could also be important in comprehending the future evaluation of the Holy See."
The bibliography of the author is extensive and includes the major books and articles and Internet blogs (pro and con) dealing with Medjugorje. He particularly pays attention to the fact that the Medjugorje phenomenon begun in 1981 would not have reached such massive proportions with over 30 million of pilgrims were it not for its promotion by leaders of the Charismatic Movement and "the subsequent publicity campaign conducted primarily by Fr Rene Laurentin. More than anyone else, he has been responsible for the world-wide fame of Medjugorje".
Every form of modern mass communications (print, DVD's, travel agent brochures to foster pilgrimages, conferences etc.) was enlisted to popularize the latest "sign and wonder" given by the Blessed Virgin to an exhausted world where secularists declared God dead.
Foley points out that the similarity of the exaggerations in the Charismatic Movement with those of heretical Montanism in the early Church. It shows "how a charismatic movement can have a negative influence on the Church" as seen in Medjugorje's outburst of rampant disobedience to Church authority among Franciscan friars led by Fr. Thomas Zovko, the seers, and their fanatical devotees and supporters.
Moreover, the historical background described by Foley of a Croatia subjected to Nazi and Communist persecution and violent civil war with Serbs is pertinent to understanding the troubled cultural and social context in which the six young visionaries lived and the influences resulting in their sometimes bizarre behavior. They did not benefit from "a normal Catholic culture". The visionaries were rather "to a greater or lesser extent emotionally vulnerable and therefore susceptible to the risk of things going wrong in any encounter with the preternatural, to say nothing of the diabolical".
A key chapter of the volume deals with 17 tape recordings of interviews with the visionaries that took place immediately after their alleged visions, and which contain serious inconsistencies and contradictions on their part and which differ from later interviews. These original tapes reveal some bizarre aspects of the Gospa's appearance and behavior to the seers, and strongly indicate the influence of the demonic, for the visionaries indeed saw "Something" in their visions.
The absurd contents of the Gospa's messages combined with the seers' own lies, false prophecies and theologically suspect messages, add to the questionable nature of the apparitions. What has proved profoundly embarrassing, moreover, was the testimony of the visionaries that their visions were to end within "three more days". This was stated less than two weeks after the visions began on June 24, 1981. Since then, there have been tens of thousands of further visions, and, according to the visionaries themselves, they are still going on, even daily!
An interesting feature of the author's book is the sharp contrasting of Medjugorje phenomena with the authentic apparitions of Our Lady at Guadaloupe, Lourdes, Pontmain, Knock,and Fatima, etc. Nor did he neglect certain similarities with false apparitions rejected by the Church. Credibility in Medjugorje's authenticity is not enhanced by the political realities of the period. The astonishing appearance of Medjugorje's "Queen of Peace" in 1981 occurred as "a prelude to partition, war, and genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina" with some of the disobedient Herzegovina Franciscans "acting as macabre cheerleaders to the terrible events" [of ethnic cleansing].
It cannot be emphasized sufficiently that the two bishops of Mostar who had responsibility to safeguard the faith of their people were unambiguous in their opposition to Medjugorje's as a supernatural event. At the beginning of the reputed apparitions, Bishop Pavao Zanic who was at first sympathetic, became adamant in declaring:
"I am sure that Our Lady does not appear...the 'Messages' cannot be of our Virgin. They are the fruit of a fabrication, fraud, and disobedience to the Church."
The present Bishop of Mostar, Ratko Peric, has deplored the negative fruits of Medjugorje in his diocese, including the emergence of a schism on the part of pro-Medjugorje Franciscans refusing to obey the Bishop's rulings regarding the distribution of parishes between diocesan and religious order priests. In the clear judgment of Bishop Peric:
"The numerous absurd messages, insincerities, falsehoods and disobedience associated with the events and 'apparitions' of Medjugorje from the very outset, all disprove any claims of authenticity... Medjuigorje does not promote peace and unity but creates confusion and division, and not simply in its own diocese"
Since there is always the danger of illusion or deception regarding Marian apparitions, assuredly the discernment and judgment of the local Ordinary who has the primary and competent responsibility in such a matter should not have been so easily dismissed by priests and laity adding to the post-conciliar troubles in the Church.
A brief review can not do justice to the richness of documentation and information found in this volume. The "dark side" of Medjugorje with the occurrence of certain diabolic incidents, is exposed. Donal Foley makes a convincing case that there are pathological elements involved in the religious phenomena of Medjugorje which has duped millions with the complicity of Catholic Media. His book is valuable for its identification of specific priests, religious, and lay supporters of the propaganda promoting Medjugorje's questionable apparitions and visions.
A distressing consequence of the infatuation by many Catholics with Medjugorje has been the sorry eclipse of devotion to Our Lady of Fatima in the post-conciliar years precisely during the period when her Message calling for prayer and penance and the conversion of sinners was most needed. There are two final chapters on the importance of Fatima amidst the present Crisis in the Church and which sharply contrast Fatima and Medjugorje.
The author's conclusion: the latter is "an enormous religious fraud".
There will hopefully be soon a definitive resolution by the Pope's Commission concerning Medjugorje. In the meantime, readers will find Donal Foley's book a fascinating read.