Response to the critical article by Daniel Klimek
on Understanding Medjugorje: Heavenly
Visions or Religious Illusion?

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New (1 Feb 2012): I have been contacted by Dr Hector Avalos, who wrote the critical article on Medjugorje entitled “Mary at Medjugorje: A Critical Inquiry,” which Klimek took exception to. In this Dr Avalos says that he received a letter from prominent Medjugorje supporter Prof Henri Joyeux in 1995.

In this letter, Prof Joyeux said, "Thanks a lot for your excellent paper (Scientific one) "Mary at Medjugorje: A Critical Inquiry."

So, this paper, which Klimek was so critical of, is according to Prof Joyeux an "excellent paper." A pdf of the letter can be seen here ...


This document is a response to the critical article by Daniel Klimek, concerning my book, Understanding Medjugorje: Heavenly Visions or Religious Illusion? , as posted on the Ministry Values website on 29 December 2010 – the site is devoted to, amongst other things, Medjugorje.

Despite numerous requests, the Ministry Values site has refused to have a link to this rebuttal in a prominent place next to Klimek's article, thus indicating a lack of good faith on their part and also a lack of concern for honest debate - rather they just seem to be intersted in pro-Medjugorje propaganda.


Update 12 February 2011: Klimek has now responded to my article, but there is still no direct link from his original article to my response. I will be responding to Klimek's further response (!) in due course, but a quick perusal seems to indicate that all he has done is return to his original points, so it seems quite pointless.


Daniel Klimek’s article focuses narrowly on a few aspects of the book, but it is over the top, ignorant, insulting and unscholarly. It belies the author’s claim, speaking in the plural, that “we plan to pursue our objective with the most serious scholarly rigor and erudition.”

Klimek claims that my book is:

“full of distortions, half-truths, specious logic, unsubstantiated rumors, dubious conclusions, highly selective (often out-of-context) quoting, contradictory claims, creative conspiracy theories and, at times, downright falsehoods.”

But when you actually look at the evidence he brings forward to support these claims, you can see that he has allowed himself to be carried away by the force of his own rhetoric. In doing this, he has failed to understand what the book is really about: a critical investigation of the transcripts of the original tapes of the Medjugorje visionaries, as recorded during the first week or so of the visions.

Klimek quotes Denis Nolan, (a well-known Medjugorje supporter), who has written of the book, as follows:

"It deploys a Da Vinci Code strategy in its polemics, creating a mosaic of half-truths and outright falsehoods that appears plausible to the ignorant and the innocent. There are no new facts, discoveries or insights in the book. It is a rerun of previous devious assaults [on Medjugorje]."

It hard to see how anyone—except a person who is fanatically and uncritically committed to Medjugorje—could make such an overwrought statement, which bears no relationship to reality.

This is what Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins, a Mariologist who is also a Vatican official, wrote of the book in Miles Immaculatae, (January-June 2009).

"It has long seemed to me that a balanced and authoritative response would require a team of experts fluent in Croatian in order to untangle the complex phenomenon of Medjugorje … I am now fairly convinced that Donal Foley has done a great deal of that necessary work in assembling, untangling and sorting out the studies already carried out by experts and then weighing and evaluating them."

In support of this view, there are other positive reviews which can be seen at:

http://www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/books/medjbook/medjcomm.html

“Distorting other authors”?

Klimek argues that I have distorted the work of other authors, and that I have selectively quoted from Randall Sullivan's The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions.

This is how I phrased the Sullivan quote:

"Sullivan, in investigating accounts of alleged cures at Medjugorje, was forced to admit that he ‘could not help but notice how many of them involved either MS [multiple sclerosis] or some other disease that attacked the nervous system. Difficult to diagnose and impossible to cure, such illnesses also are remarkably resistant to scientific study, making it very difficult to prove that a healing has been miraculous’."

Klimek protests that I didn't quote the next paragraph, which he considers more favourable to his case:

"Many of the cases in the files at Medjugorje involved injuries and diseases more suitable to scientific certification. At least two of those who claimed miraculous healings were themselves medical doctors."

I’ve italicized the word many in these two quotes, because it indicates how vague Sullivan is, and that here he is effectively contradicting himself. It’s like saying: “Many of the pieces of fruit in that bowl are apples and many are oranges.” Are there more apples than oranges in the bowl? We just don’t know, and Sullivan’s terminology is likewise vague and uncertain.

In contrasting two quotes from Sullivan, and claiming that I have deliberately distorted his meaning, Klimek is actually illustrating the fact that it is Sullivan who effectively contradicted himself.

Also, as any author knows, there is a need to be selective in quoting from other books: otherwise your own book will become unwieldy. Books such as Sullivan’s, giving a totally uncritical view of Medjugorje, are commonplace, whereas critical books are still quite rare, and they have to necessarily to focus on Medjugorje's negative aspects: that is all part of the cut and thrust of genuine debate.

But I would argue that I have not deliberately misrepresented anyone in the book. For the most part, I have just quoted their own words to show how what they are saying is illogical, factually wrong, etc.

Klimek describes Sullivan's work as “an exhaustively researched book on Medjugorje.”

I reviewed this book for the Wanderer in 2004, in a review available at

http://www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/breviews/dfoley/miracled.html and it is basically pro-Medjugorje propaganda, with no understanding of what a serious investigation of a complex religious phenomenon such as Medjugorje really involves. The other thing about the Sullivan book, is that although he provides a list of the books he consulted at the end, there are no references or footnotes, and so it is just not a scholarly book.

It is also clear from the text that Sullivan was in large part ignorant of Catholicism, as I will demonstrate further on.

Moreover, I quoted Sullivan in the context of a discussion, on the preceding pages, of Diane Basile, a woman allegedly cured of multiple sclerosis, whose cure, according to the Medjugorje promoter Fr Rupcic, was “the one that has been most thoroughly examined” and “the most important among the healings in Medjugorje.”

My purpose in quoting from Sullivan was to point out that this supposed “wonder cure” actually involved a disease that can go into spontaneous remission. That was the context for quoting him, a context which Klimek has misunderstood.

Klimek then says:

"If Foley would’ve done better research he could have found out that the Franciscans of St. James Parish in Medjugorje kept records of over 500 reportedly miraculous healings, copiously documented. This led to Dr. Antonino Antonacci, an Italian physician, to establish the Bureau of Verification of Extraordinary Healings in 1987 since so many of these cases were so remarkable."

What Klimek does not seem to understand in the above quote is how the process of
investigating alleged miraculous cures works in the Church. Had he understood, Klimek
would have realized these claimed healings need to be submitted to the proper judgment
of the Church. Until this is done, the claims have no validity. My remarks in Understanding Medjugorje should be seen within that context. Since this “Bureau of Verification of Extraordinary Healings,” did not come under ecclesiastical authority, none of its conclusions are of any value.

Klimek then accuses me of distorting the words of Denis Nolan in his Medjugorje: A Time for Truth, a Time for Action and “purposely ignoring Nolan’s main argument by using his words very selectively.”

But this is not so. After describing how the prevalence of so many questionable claims of recent visions, and particularly Medjugorje, has led to an unhealthy focus on “signs and wonders” rather than on the authentic message given at, for example, Fatima, I quoted Nolan as follows:

"Denis Nolan effectively admits that there have been problems in this area, saying, ‘it may be true that some have gone to Medjugorje seeking some kind of supernatural titillation. There may be pilgrims who seek signs and wonders and who are disappointed if they do not end up with gold rosaries and a private apparition’."(p. 182)

I could actually have gone further and quoted some of the information in the paragraphs preceding this one, but as in the case of the Sullivan quote, there is a need for brevity, and if one quote sums up what an author is saying then it is sufficient to use that. In fact, previous to this Nolan admitted that:

“It is unfortunate but true that perhaps the worst enemies of Medjugorje are sometimes proponents of the apparition themselves.”

He then went on to list Charismatic elements, and those who have disparaged Fatima and Lourdes at the expense of Medjugorje, as examples of this. In fact, he actually uses the words: “Other excesses abound.”(pp 181-82, Nolan, Medjugorje: A Time for Truth, a Time for Action).

So I have not distorted Nolan’s thinking at all, and could actually have quoted much more if space had allowed.

Klimek accuses me of ignoring Nolan’s conclusion, but I was not obliged to accept his opinions since they are clearly mistaken. And on page 164 of my book, I point out that Nolan’s understanding of this intense thirst for “signs and wonders,” as found amongst pilgrims at Medjugorje, is in opposition to the teaching of St John of the Cross. Nolan said, “it would be foolish to conclude … that apparitions and supernatural phenomena exist merely because this thirst exists.” (p. 182, Nolan, Medjugorje: A Time for Truth, a Time for Action).

But, as St John of the Cross makes clear, apparitions and other apparently supernatural phenomena can very definitely occur if a sufficient desire for them is present. The Saint taught that:

“the devil rejoices greatly when a soul desires to receive revelations, and when he sees it inclined to them, for he has then a great occasion and opportunity to insinuate errors and to detract from the faith in so far as he can, for … he renders the soul that desires them very gross, and at times even leads it into many temptations and unseemly ways.” (St John of the Cross, “Ascent of Mount Carmel,” in Complete Works, Vol. I, pp. 106–108)

In other words, desiring visions and revelations leaves an opening for the devil to act, to influence the soul in a negative way. And elsewhere, St John said that:

“Those who now desire to question God or receive some vision or revelation are guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him by not fixing their eyes entirely on Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty.” (St John of the Cross, “Ascent of Mount Carmel,” in Collected Works, p. 230).

St Teresa of Avila also spoke about the dangers for those who desire spiritual favors, saying:

“The devil makes good use of the imagination in practising his surprises and deceptions, and there are many such things which he can practise upon women, or on unlettered persons, because we do not understand the difference between the faculties and the imagination, and thousands of other things belonging to the interior life.” (St Teresa of Avila, “Interior Castle,” in The Complete Works of St Teresa of Jesus, Vol. II, trans., E. Allison Peers, (Sheed & Ward, London, 1946), p. 262).

One can either accept Nolan’s ideas or the teachings of St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila, but either way, I have not distorted what Nolan said.

Klimek further states:

“All that seeking signs and wonders reflects in such cases [Lourdes and Fatima], as in the case of Medjugorje, is the weakness of human nature and not whether a phenomenon by itself is authentic or not. This is a fact that Foley systematically distorts throughout his book when considering the phenomenon at Medjugorje: he claims that the presence of miracle seekers traveling to the Bosnian village hints at foul-play at the site, whether a diabolical deception or a religious illusion, completely neglecting how the same trend occasionally found at Medjugorje was present at approved apparition sites like Lourdes and Fatima, not to mention in Palestine during the time of Christ—a fact that more honest authors, like Denis Nolan, openly acknowledge (in making these obvious connections).”

There is however, for the most part, a clear difference in the attitude displayed by people at Lourdes and Fatima formerly, and that displayed in recent times at Medjugorje—where “miracle seeking” is certainly more than an “occasional” pastime.

Yes, people did want cures and so forth at Lourdes, but for the most part, they did not display this unhealthy fascination with signs and wonders, or a desire to see rosaries changing color, or to spend time staring at the sun—with subsequent permanent eye damage for some people—which we find associated with Medjugorje. The majority of people going to Lourdes were satisfied with the miracles arising from the spring which Our Lady revealed to St Bernadette, or which took place during the Eucharistic processions. And regarding the miracle of the sun at Fatima, this was actually predicted 3 months in advance by Our Lady, so the people were not acting inappropriately in their expectation of a miracle.

But in neither case do we have the well-known phenomenon found at Medjugorje, and other alleged places of visions, of people deliberately seeking out signs and wonders, and traveling around from place to place to satisfy this desire. (See Mark Garvey, Searching for Mary, Penguin, New York, 1998, for details of this type of thing in the US).

Thus, in the light of the above, Klimek is actually the one who is guilty of distorting the facts.

Using Discredited Authors?

Klimek then focuses on what he claims is my use of discredited authors as sources for material in my book, and in particular he names Fr Ivo Sivric and E. Michael Jones.

Regarding Jones, Klimek claims that his first work on Medjugorje, Medjugorje: The Untold Story, “has been largely discredited, most notoriously by a former supporter of Jones,” that is Fr. Robert Fox. But the fact that Fr Fox withdrew his support for Jones’ first book on Medjugorje does not necessarily mean that the facts in the book are wrong. In order to determine that, we would need to have precise details of exactly what points Fr Fox was making, but these are not indicated by Klimek, who just gives some general reasons given by Fr Fox, including “the integrity of methodology and [his] journalistic responsibility.” According to Klimek, Fr Fox also said that Jones frequently published material “without facts and too often with misinformation” and he was uncharitable in putting forward “false accusations.”

Those are serious charges but Fr Fox did not substantiate them (or at least Klimek provides no evidence of this), and so they have no real weight. Just because one person, Fr Fox, withdrew his support for the book, that doesn’t “discredit” it—there have to be precise reasons, supported by clear evidence, for making such a charge.

In fact, the charges that Jones made against Fr Vlasic, of sexual misconduct amongst other things, which is what Fr Fox was presumably referring to, seem to have been substantiated. Bishop Peric received a letter, dated 30 May 2008, from the secretary of the CDF, Archbishop Angelo Amato, asking him to make public the canonical status of the Fr Vlasic, whose actions had led to him being reported to the Congregation “for the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspected mysticism, disobedience toward legitimately issued orders,” and charges “contra sextum,” that is in connection with the Sixth Commandment, and thus relating to sexual matters.

And to make it clear that there was a definite Medjugorje link here—which some of its supporters were denying—the letter also stated that it was: “Within the context of the phenomenon [of] Medjugorje, [that] this Dicastery is studying the case of Father Tomislav Vlasic OFM.” (Letter from CDF: prot. 144/1985-27164. The original text from
Bishop Peric is at: www.cbismo.com/index.php?mod=vijest&vijest=228)

Klimek then accuses me of inconsistency in using material from Fr Fox in my book in making a statement about Fatima, but the point is that Fr Fox was an authority on Fatima, but not on Medjugorje.

Rather than making such accusations of books being “discredited” Klimek needs to provide precise information, and proof, as to exactly which parts of the material in the books by Jones which I have referenced—the second one is The Medjugorje Deception, published in 1998—are false. If he can do that then I will be happy to amend the revised edition of my book accordingly.

Moreover, if Jones is discredited as an author on Medjugorje, Klimek should bring forward evidence of this, such as cases where Jones has been successfully sued for publishing such false information. However, there is no evidence of such prosecutions, which is surprising given that over 20 years has elapsed since his first book was published.

But, as I point out in my book, there is evidence of people making death threats against those opposed to Medjugorje. Fr Sivric did not return to Medjugorje in later years because of such threats, while E. Michael Jones reported that he “got a call from a man in England warning me that if I went back to Bosnia, the Franciscans were going to have me killed.” (Understanding Medjugorje, pp. 223, 286) And given the violence which has taken place in Bosnia-Herzegovina in recent times these were certainly threats which had to be taken seriously.

In sum, E. Michael Jones is discredited only in the minds of people like Klimek, who do not want to face up to the evidence provided by him about Medjugorje.

Klimek then moves on to criticize the work of Fr Ivo Sivric, and in order to do this, he quotes Randall Sullivan’s criticism of The Hidden Side of Medjugorje. But the problem with this is Sullivan’s limited knowledge of Catholicism. In fact, in my review of Sullivan’s book, this is what I wrote about that point:

‘The basic problem is that Sullivan is not a Catholic, and indeed he displays an, at times, astonishing ignorance about the Catholic Faith and basic Catholic terminology. For example, he talks of priests who “take” rather than “hear” confessions (p. 119), and also doesn’t seem to realize that friars and monks are quite different (p. 137). As he himself admits, “most of what I knew of the Catholic Church …had been learned through my liaisons with women who were fallen from the faith” (p. 22). Clearly, this is not likely to be the most reliable source of catechesis.’

Klimek then quotes Sullivan as follows on Fr Sivric’s book, The Hidden Side of Medjugorje:

“The volume was an astonishingly shoddy compendium of rumor, gossip, and outright falsehoods that concluded the apparitions had been produced by a combination of imagination and fabrication, and clearly were ‘a copy of Lourdes’.” (The Miracle Detective, p. 210).

In saying this, Sullivan was simply repeating the views of his contacts in Medjugorje, since he was not in a position to pass judgment on Fr Sivric’s book. Yet Klimek uncritically accepts Sullivan’s uninformed opinion about the book.

And this is despite the fact that Fr Rene Laurentin, the foremost clerical supporter of Medjugorje, acknowledged that the sources for The Hidden Side of Medjugorje “… are fundamental. … the numerous translated Croatian documents are a service to specialists. …Thus, one can only congratulate him for having so carefully decoded and edited these probing interviews,” (Understanding Medjugorje, p. 177).

In fact, as Fr Laurentin was forced to acknowledge, The Hidden Side of Medjugorje, is a painstaking work, approximately half of which is devoted to transcripts of the original tapes of the Medjugorje visionaries made during the first week or so of the visions. Daria Klanac, a Canadian citizen of Croatian origin, and a Medjugorje supporter, has also published transcripts of the original tapes in her book Aux Sources de Medjugorje. When these two versions of the transcripts are compared—one by a critic and the other by a pro-Medjugorje writer—they are found to be substantially the same.

I have included the above information in my book, but Klimek, who is claiming to critically analyze the book, makes absolutely no mention of these tapes. Perhaps this is because when these transcripts are studied, they make it clear that Medjugorje cannot possibly be regarded as a supernatural event.

Klimek describes his approach to my book and his knowledge of Medjugorje as follows:

“After years of researching and writing about Medjugorje, including being fortunate enough to present a paper on the subject at a conference at Yale Divinity School last year, I took the task of reading Foley's book very seriously for it is a subject which I take very seriously.”

Klimek is thus claiming to have extensive knowledge of Medjugorje, yet he has apparently not read the seminal text on the visions, that is Fr Sivric’s book, rather being content to accept Sullivan’s opinion.

So it is a distortion of fact for Klimek to argue that Fr Sivric’s book is discredited, and he brings forward no evidence to support this position, apart from one quote from Sullivan, whose knowledge of the subject is very questionable.

If any book is discredited, it is Sullivan’s, so Klimek has done the very thing he accuses me of, that is of using a discredited source. And so, in the light of the above, Klimek’s conclusion to his section on the “discredited” works of Jones and Fr Sivric should be rejected: Klimek writes:

“Regrettably, Sivric's shoddy compendium of “rumor, gossip, and outright falsehoods” about Medjugorje is cited in Foley's book over 60 times! That means that over 100 footnotes in “Understanding Medjugorje”—forming the basis of the book's narrative—come from two highly discredited authors whose hostile and distortive books on Medjugorje have already been exposed for their errors and falsehoods. It is clear that, notwithstanding the title of his book, Foley's work—relying as heavily as it does on such dubious sources—does not give readers a better understanding of Medjugorje but, on the contrary, paints a very deceptive and dishonest portrayal of what Medjugorje truly is.”

The truth is that Klimek has produced no hard evidence to back up his claim that these books are discredited or dubious, and so he should withdraw such allegations or substantiate them.

Using Satanic material?

Next, Klimek focuses on my use of material from a secularist website, which has an E-zine entitled, “Lucifer’s Echo,” which describes itself as the “E-zine of Atheistic Secular Humanism and Freethought.” He tries to make out that this is a specifically “Satanic magazine,” but as the information below the title makes clear, this isn’t the case. This information states that:

“In the mythology and symbolism of our name, ‘Lucifer’ is not to be confused with ha-Satan, the mythological source of evil.”

In other words it’s just a name and doesn’t mean that they are devil worshippers—in fact they are secular atheists who don’t believe in anything beyond the material world, and that includes the devil; further on they state that:

“We are atheistic as we do not believe in the actual existence of any supernatural beings or any transcendental reality.”

Obviously I don’t share their point of view, and regret this choice of name, but I used this source in discussing the alleged visions at Medjugorje because in one of the articles it contained, (“Mary at Medjugorje: A Critical Inquiry,” by Hector Avalos), some valuable critical points were made, which I hadn’t seen elsewhere. See: http://skepticfiles.org/think/lucifer1.htm)

In using this source material, I had a number of options. Firstly, I could have pretended that they were my own ideas and not acknowledged Avalos at all, or secondly, because of its secularist source, I could have decided not to use the material, or thirdly, I could have done what I actually did, that is use it, and freely acknowledge its source. To me this seemed to be the best way to act.

Also, I used it because the author was using his God-given reasoning powers to analyze Medjugorje, and he rightly concluded that the claims that the visionaries ecstatic experiences were beyond nature were very much open to question.

Klimek is also guilty of misrepresentation in linking me directly with “Lucifer’s Echo” in several sentences, as though I share their general point of view, when actually all I did was quote their material. It’s an attempt to smear me through “guilt by association.”

The essential difference between Sullivan’s work and the article by Avalos is that the latter is actually looking to find out the truth about some aspects of Medjugorje, and presenting a reasoned analysis of what took place, whereas Sullivan’s book is lacking in any serious analysis of Medjugorje.

Klimek then assumes, wrongly, that I haven’t been to Medjugorje—I have, in 1988, but something about the place seemed wrong to me. However, it was only after I had completed my volume on the role of Marian apparitions in history, Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World, that I was in a position to properly compare Medjugorje with the apparitions approved by the Church, and realized that the hard evidence indicated that Medjugorje was false.

Distorting Scientific Statements/Findings?

In a section headed, "Distorting Scientific Statements/Findings", Klimek then makes the following assertion:

“The content that Foley and the editors of “Lucifer’s Echo” provide to deny the supernatural appearances of the Virgin Mary at Medjugorje is also highly questionable, revealing more of a motivation based on personal ideology rather than the present empirical evidence.”

This statement doesn't make sense, since the whole thrust of Chapter 13 of the book is to look at the allegedly scientific evidence for these visions being genuine. I refer readers to this chapter where any unbiased person can see this for themselves.

However, having said that, it is necessary to deal with some of the allegations which Klimek makes in connection with this section of the book: He asserts that,

“…in chapter 13 of his book Foley examines the medical and scientific investigations that have been performed on the visionaries throughout the years. Since these investigations eliminated any pathological conditions or signs of deception on the part of the visionaries, showing that they are in fact experiencing something scientifically inexplicable during their daily ecstasies, Foley tries his best – though without making a convincing argument – to allege that the ecstasies are self-induced. Interestingly, in order to do this, Foley once again distorts the writing of another person who had a positive experience at Medjugorje – this time, a doctor.”

Actually, while the investigations may have eliminated “pathological conditions,” they certainly did not eliminate “signs of deception on the part of the visionaries,” as I make clear in the book. But to continue with Klimek’s quotation regarding this particular doctor:

‘Foley writes: “An Italian doctor, Dr Marco Margnelli, in an interview given in 1988, following his investigations, stated that the visionaries ‘pass into another state of consciousness—a condition that one can also reach through meditation techniques, such as auto-training, though not as profoundly’ ” (p. 147). On the very next page Foley distorts Dr. Margnelli’s report by explaining: “But it is interesting that he [Dr. Margnelli] can describe the ecstasies of the visionaries in terms of a self-induced state of alternative consciousness” (p. 148). This is a clear distortion of what Dr. Margnelli actually said. As we just saw, Dr. Margnelli explained that the state of consciousness – the ecstasy – that the visionaries enter into reflects “a condition that one can also reach through meditation techniques, such as auto-training, though not as profoundly” (emphasis mine). Thus, Dr. Margnelli makes clear that the profundity of the ecstatic state that the visionaries enter into during their apparitions cannot be reached by self-induced meditation techniques like auto-training.’

I'm not sure what Klimek is getting at in pursuing this line of argument. Dr Margnelli agrees that people can pass into another state of consciousness via meditation techniques, but qualifies this by saying that in his opinion they cannot do this in so profound a way.

Surely, though, it's legitimate to ask whether Dr Margnelli was justified in being so certain that people cannot do this.

He is described as a “neurophysiologist” that is someone concerned with diagnosing problems with the functioning of the nervous system. He is usually dealing, presumably, with people with various abnormal conditions, and so trying to analyze exactly what is behind the Medjugorje visions is something really beyond his experience. If the visions are supernatural (which I would deny), this is certainly the case, but if they are preternatural or diabolical, (or even just fabricated), then likewise they are beyond his previous experience. Ultimately, the exact nature of such alleged visions can only be judged via a process of spiritual discernment.

In any event, all I was saying in the second quote was that Dr Margnelli was, in general terms, describing the ecstasies of the visionaries in terms of a self-induced state of alternative consciousness. So it's hard to see the point of Klimek's criticism. The second remark is almost an aside, and I qualify it by then saying: “Certainly if one can enter a self-induced trance, then presumably with practice this process could be refined to produce a much deeper state of mental and bodily abstraction.” (Understanding Medjugorje, p. 148).

It’s like any technique—the more you practice, the better you become at it. But Klimek leaves out this qualifying quote.

He also asks why I have not included Margnelli’s positive experiences regarding Medjugorje in my book, but as indicated above, personal, but subjective, material of this kind is available in all the pro-Medjugorje books already available, and given the limited space at my disposal, I had to concentrate on getting over the material which has been mostly ignored in the past. No one book can contain all the material on a particular phenomenon as complex and diverse as Medjugorje, especially as it has been going on for nearly 30 years now.

Klimek then states that:

“Foley goes to great lengths in his book trying to portray some of the visionaries as psychologically unstable – in the process, he's neglecting the importance of the clinical tests that have been performed on the visionaries showing them to be perfectly normal and psychologically stable.”

Actually, in my book (p. 145), I quite clearly state that:

“… on 29 June [1981], they were again taken for a medical examination, firstly to Citluk, and then to Mostar. Here they saw a Dr Dzudza, a female psychiatrist, who, according to Ivanka, apparently threatened them with incarceration in a psychiatric ward if they continued to go to Podbrdo; but she could find no definite grounds for detaining them. They were also examined by various doctors including Dr Ludvik Stopar. His conclusion was that they were not suffering from mental illness, and this seems to have been the position of those doctors who did examine them in the early years.

A little further on Klimek says:

‘Foley cites an interview that Mirjana once gave wherein she acknowledged that she felt very depressed after she no longer experienced daily apparitions of the Virgin (p. 179). Interestingly, from this logic—that Mirjana felt deeply sad over no longer experiencing daily apparitions of the Mother of God—Foley jumps to the conclusion that “it is perhaps worth noting that Fr. Jordan Aumann lists '[c]onfusion, anxiety, and deep depression,' as being amongst the recognized 'signs of the diabolical spirit'” (p. 179).’ ”

Actually, here Klimek misunderstands what I quoted, since it is clear from that interview that Mirjana was arguably more than “deeply sad.” This is what she actually said:

“Terribly sad. At school … everybody told me I’d gone mad. They laughed at me. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. … I’ve just wanted to sit by myself, alone. … I start to cry, without knowing why.”

Arguably, these symptoms indicate someone who was more than just “deeply sad,” they possibly indicate someone with serious psychological problems, and so it was appropriate to quote the remarks from Fr Aumann.

Klimek then cites the work of the work of Drs Ludvik Stopar, Henri Joyeux, and Philippe Loron, to the effect that the visionaries were not suffering from psychological problems—which of course may well have been the case when they were examined, but not necessarily later on—before concluding:

“Conveniently, Foley's book downplays these essential clinical findings while highlighting the importance of unreliable rumors about the visionaries' psychological state. And, of course, he has the audacity to title his book “Understanding Medjugorje,” leading innocent readers who would like to know more about Medjugorje astray with such a dishonest portrayal.”

Actually, Klimek has only supplied evidence for one “unreliable rumor” that is the incident above concerning Mirjana, which was not a “rumor” at all, but an interview given by her! So he makes his flawed assertions with no real evidence to back them up.

Outright Falsehoods?

The next section of Klimek’s work is entitled "Outright Falsehoods." He begins by dealing with the question of whether or not the visionaries actually bless people’s religious objects, denying that this takes place. He describes this idea as an “outrageous conspiracy theory from Foley.”

This is what I actually said, as quoted by Klimek: “With regard to activities such as these blessings, what seems to have happened is that in wake of the Medjugorje visions, some strange and indeed superstitious practices became popular. The visionaries became a kind of 'folk doctors' or 'priests' of this new type of religion, whose heavenly powers could be accessed by touching them, or by a laying on of their hands” (Foley, p. 158).

In saying this, I was basing myself on the evidence witnessed by Mart Bax, a professor of political anthropology at Vrije University in Amsterdam, who published the results of his research in Medjugorje: Religion, Politics, and Violence in Rural Bosnia. He spent more than a decade doing research in and around Medjugorje, which involved him spending several weeks there each year. This is what Bax himself said about the activities of the visionaries:

“Almost every day the seers prayed, healed people by touching them with their hands, and passed on special messages from Gospa to persons who had asked for them. They also had to devote a great deal of time to “blessing” crosses, rosaries, water from the well near the church and earth and stones from apparition hill. By way of these objects, ever-growing members of pilgrims wanted to partake of the ‘heavenly powers’ they imagined were flowing down to earth through the seers.”

I understood Bax as saying that the visionaries were blessing religious objects in the same way that a priest blesses such objects, that is with the sign of the cross. However, looking at his text now, it seems that he was using this word “blessing” in a wider sense, which is like someone saying, “God bless you,” or simply touching an object.

So I will need to revise the text on page 157 of the book to reflect this. But this was an honest misunderstanding on my part, and certainly not any attempt to distort matters.

So on this point, Klimek’s criticism has some value, and in fact, I welcome constructive criticism as being the best way to get to the truth of these matters.

Apart from that, there is actually video evidence to back up what Bax says about the visionaries laying hands on people, which can be seen at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwvHzE_aeck

Here we can see Vicka “laying on hands,” which in a sense is worse than blessing objects, since while this is the prerogative of priests, it could be said that a lay person laying hands on individuals is akin to impersonating a bishop. I realize that this sort of thing goes on in Charismatic circles, but does that make it right?

Klimek then goes on to say:

“These ‘blessings’ which Foley speaks of, he has never even witnessed. One reason is that Foley's book suggest that he's never been to Medjugorje—after all, there are no personal interviews with anyone from Medjugorje in his book. Another reason is, these blessings do not exist. The truth is that if Foley would have traveled to Medjugorje he would not even see these ‘blessings’ which he speaks of since they do not exist. It is true that pilgrims bring their religious objects to the visionaries so they could be blessed by the Virgin Mary during their apparitions; however, Foley (once again) distorts this reality to portray the visionaries as if they are personally blessing the objects, not the Marian apparition.”

As indicated above, I have been to Medjugorje, but saw no need to go back, since attempting to interview the visionaries—something which has been done many times—is effectively pointless now, particularly as some of the claims they have later made do not tally with what is found on the original tapes.

Klimek then moves on to make the following assertion:

“More serious falsehoods that Foley spreads about Medjugorje refer to the Church's official position on the apparitions. Here is a very serious falsification that Foley promulgates in chapter 19 of his book: ‘Ultimately, it seems that many Medjugorje supporters have come to believe the mistaken position that what counts is their personal opinion, rather than an objective discernment of the true facts. This would appear to be the only rational way of explaining why otherwise sensible Catholics can completely disregard the consistent stance of the Bishop of Mostar—a stance which has been implicitly upheld by the Apostolic See’ ” (p. 218).

In fact, the stance of the successive Bishops of Mostar has been implicitly upheld, since at most the Vatican has officially given only a guarded toleration to Medjugorje—allowing pilgrimages, for example, but only under specific conditions, so as to make sure the pastoral needs of pilgrims are adequately dealt with.

Klimek points to the statement from the then Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone on this question and this is what I wrote in my book on this particular point:

‘In May 1998, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, responded to an enquiry from Bishop Gilbert Aubry of Saint-Denis de la Réunion, on the question of Medjugorje. This response has been taken by many adherents of Medjugorje as providing support for their position, but on examination it will be seen that this is certainly not the case.

‘The first point to make is that this was a purely personal letter, addressed to one bishop, and not meant as a general response for the whole Church; despite this, Archbishop Bertone speaks of the “so-called apparitions of Medjugorje,” thus indicating that the Holy See has not in any way approved of the claimed visions. Furthermore, the Archbishop says that it is impossible for him to answer all the questions put by Bishop Aubry on matters such as pilgrimages and the “pastoral care of the faithful who go there,” because “the Holy See does not ordinarily take a position of its own regarding supposed supernatural phenomena as a court of first instance.”

‘This is a very important point, because it confirms that the Holy See is not going to override the authority of the local bishop in these matters unless there are very good reasons for doing so. And clearly, with regard to Medjugorje, no such reasons for overriding Bishop Peric exist—otherwise they would have been indicated. Neither has the Congregation overridden the essentially negative judgment on Medjugorje by the Yugoslav Bishops’ Conference at Zadar in April 1991.

‘Archbishop Bertone then went on to speak about the “credibility” of the “apparitions” in question, stating that the Congregation accepts the Zadar declaration made by the Yugoslavian bishops in April 1991, that is, that supernatural events at Medjugorje cannot
be affirmed. The Archbishop then indicated that if the case were to be re-examined this would be under the aegis of the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and it would be for this body “to make any pronouncements that might be called for.”

‘The Archbishop indicated that Bishop Peric’s statement to Thierry Boutet, as detailed above, [in the book] that is, that the “non-supernaturality” of the visions or revelations of Medjugorje is “proven,” was the “personal conviction” of Bishop Peric. But this does not mean that he was dismissing or contradicting the latter—he was merely stating a fact, while at the same time acknowledging that Bishop Peric was perfectly entitled to express such a conviction. Finally, with regard to pilgrimages to Medjugorje, Archbishop Bertone reiterated the fact that “private” pilgrimages were allowed, providing “they are not regarded as an authentication of events still taking place.” (Understanding Medjugorje, pp. 206-208 ).

That long quote says all that needs to be said on this particular point. The fact is that the word implicit means something “implied or understood though not directly expressed.” So it is perfectly accurate to say that the Holy See has implicitly upheld the position of the successive Bishops of Mostar, because there has been no explicit move to declare the alleged visions genuine in the intervening period.

What is interesting is to see how Cardinal Bertone has adopted quite a different tone about Medjugorje in recent years. In 2007, the Italian edition of a book-length interview with him was published, and this was translated into English and published, in 2008, as The Last Secret of Fatima. In this book there is a short chapter dealing with Medjugorje, in which the Cardinal made the following statement about the alleged visions when he was specifically asked whether Our Lady had appeared there or not:

“The opinion of Tarcisio Bertone is that [Medjugorje] is a very big question mark. Medjugorje is to some extent an anomaly that doesn’t completely square with other apparitions. It doesn’t entirely follow the traditio, or tradition, of apparitions. Between 1981 and the present, Mary is supposed to have appeared tens of thousands of times. The volume of Our Lady’s alleged messages does not reflect the usual pattern of Marian apparitions, which, like meteors from heaven, tend to have a clear beginning and a clear end. The counterargument, of course, is that the extraordinary times we’re living in demand this kind of extraordinary response from Mary. When I say ‘the counterargument is,’ I’m speaking in a roundabout way in order to highlight a certain disagreement I have with this position, which is put forward by [those] who want the Church to go in a certain direction.”

Klimek then goes on to say that:

‘[T]he Holy See had such little confidence in the Bishop of Mostar's judgment on Medjugorje that, in 2010, the Vatican decided to take jurisdiction of Medjugorje away from Bishop Ratko Peric and form an international commission, led by the CDF, to investigate the phenomenon objectively. We cannot fully blame Foley here, of course, since his book came out a few years before the international commission was formed. However, taking the jurisdiction of Medjugorje's authenticity away from the local bishop makes evident that the Apostolic See has not “implicitly upheld” (Foley, p. 218) the bishop's position, as Archbishop Bertone made clear years ago in his letter.’

This whole theme that jurisdiction over Medjugorje has been taken out of the hands of the Bishop of Mostar is repeatedly found in pro-Medjugorje literature, and it is true that this is a complex issue, but it is also clear that such a simplistic view of the situation is inadequate as a way of explaining what has actually taken place.

What has actually happened is in accord with what is found in Normae Congregationis, the document issued in 1978 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the discernment of claims of private revelations. (There is an unofficial translation available here: http://d-rium.blogspot.com/p/normae-s-congregationis.html)

After detailing positive and negative criteria for apparition discernment, this document goes on to deal with those authorities able to judge the alleged event, beginning with the local Ordinary, who has a serious obligation to investigate it if a spontaneous devotion arises. The Bishop can authorize various devotions if the above-mentioned positive criteria are present, but it must be made clear that this does not indicate approval by the Church. And if it is a question of the alleged phenomenon giving rise to serious abuses of devotion or false doctrines, or signs of a false mysticism, then the local Bishop is obliged to intervene.

The local Ordinary can request that the regional or national Bishop’s Conference intervene so that the event can be studied more fully, and these higher bodies can intervene if the phenomenon assumes regional or national importance. The Vatican can intervene at the request of the local bishop or of a qualified group of the faithful, or by means of its own universal authority.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can also intervene in consultation with the Ordinary, after he has carried out his own investigation. In serious cases the Congregation can intervene on its own authority, particularly if the event affects a broad portion of the Church—but always in consultation with the Bishop, and the Episcopal conference, where this is necessary.

It is clear that the way the question of Medjugorje has been dealt with, initially by the local Bishop, and then by the Bishops’ Conferences of first ex-Yugoslavia, and then Bosnia-Herzegovina, accords with the above provisions, and that the oft-repeated claim that Bishop Zanic was relieved of the Medjugorje “dossier” is incorrect. It would be more accurate to say that the CDF has been assisting the successive bishops of Mostar in trying to find the best way to deal with Medjugorje.

Finally, the Congregation has the authority to discern and approve the actions of the Ordinary, or alternatively, should it prove necessary, to carry out a new examination of the event, done either by itself, or by a specially established commission. And this is actually what has now happened, with the announcement of the CDF Commission to study Medjugorje, which was made in March 2010.

So there is no real basis for Klimek to make disparaging remarks such as the following:

“Interestingly, the Holy See has had a history of intervening with poorly conducted investigations of the apparitions on the diocesan level. For years, influential Church officials in Rome have not been proud of how ineptly the events in Medjugorje have been scrutinized by Mostar's local bishops, both Ratko Peric and his predecessor Pavao Zanic. Therefore, even Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger himself, before becoming the current Pope, once played a crucial role in saving Medjugorje from incompetent and distorted investigations on the diocesan level, guiding the proceedings toward the more reliable hands of the Holy See.”

That is a version of events for which Klimek provides no supporting evidence, and he
makes further allegations against Bishop Zanic, for which he likewise provides no supporting evidence—and by that I mean independent evidence rather than just the opinions of other pro-Medjugorje writers.

Medjugorje in relation to Fatima

Finally, Klimek deals with Medjugorje in relation to Fatima, and makes the claim that just as, “In Fatima, Our Lady prophecized [sic] the end of Communism in the Soviet Union if Russia is consecrated. … [so]Likewise, in Medjugorje Our Lady prophecized [sic] the end of Communism in Yugoslavia.”

But he doesn’t provide any source for this claim that the end of Communism was prophesied in Yugoslavia, nor for his further claim that: “Our Lady prophecized [sic] the wars in the former Yugoslavia.”

Exactly which alleged messages is he referring to? This is quite apart from the fact that the provenance of these alleged messages is very much open to question anyway.

In any event, if there was such a prediction about communism, it doesn’t prove a great deal. The downfall of communism was an event subject to human influences and political dynamics that were already underway and visible in 1981: workers in Poland had already gone on strike in 1980 and formed the Solidarity trade union in 1981. In fact, a number of people correctly predicted the collapse of Communism in advance.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predictions_of_Soviet_collapse

Also, anyone familiar with the message of Fatima could logically predict the fall of Communism on a religious basis, with no new apparition required. Similarly, given the violent history of the Balkans, it wouldn’t have been difficult to foresee that the end of communism in Yugoslavia would almost certainly lead to bloodshed and war. In fact, by the mid 1980s, Bishop Zanic was very concerned about the way the whole phenomenon of the visions was developing, and the wider effect they were having. He wrote a prophetic letter to this effect to Fr Laurentin on 25 January 1985, arguing that a:

“fierce frenzy has taken hold of many faithful who were good until now; they have become excessive and peculiar penitents … One can look forward to a religious war here.” (Understanding Medjugorje, p. 174)

And, in any event, it is up to Klimek to provide proof for his assertions about these prophecies.

He then goes on to speak about miracles of the sun at Medjugorje as evidence of a link to the Miracle of the sun at Fatima, claiming that videos of these can be seen on YouTube. There is certainly one such video, parts of which can be viewed on the internet, and this is the documentary I veggenti di Medjugorje sulbanco di prova della scienza (“The Visionaries from Medjugorje tried by Science”), which has scenes relating to one of the alleged miracles of the sun that occurred at Medjugorje.

These scenes show people looking at the sun, while a “miracle” is supposedly happening, but the camera focuses on these individuals and not the sun itself. During these scenes, people are obviously reacting to “something,” with one woman clasping her hands together, close to tears, and a young boy actually weeping. But at the end of the scene we finally see that the sun, as recorded by the camera, and apart from the sort of “flaring” which happens when a video camera is turned towards the sun, is absolutely normal. The only rational conclusion is that they were the victims of some sort of mass-hallucination, if not a diabolical episode, in accordance with the teaching of St John of the Cross, as discussed above.

This can be seen at:

http://www.marcocorvaglia.com/medjugorje-en/i-saw-it-with-my-own-eyes-then-it-is-false-miracles-of-the-sun-and-more-part-1.html

Klimek also states that: “Of course, most important are the spiritual connections between Fatima and Medjugorje. In Fatima, Our Lady emphasized the need for prayer, penance, conversion, and especially the daily devotion of the Rosary. Identically, in Medjugorje Our Lady has emphasized prayer, fasting, conversion, the Mass, the Eucharist, monthly confession and daily devotion to the Rosary.”

This is all true, but of course “messages” to suit every occasion can easily be made up. However, as I point out in the book, as far as concrete details of the Fatima message, such as the Five First Saturdays devotion, are concerned, there is little practical emphasis on these in the Medjugorje literature.

This is Klimek’s final paragraph:

‘Given all of these facts, we see once again how dubious and unsubstantial one of Foley's main arguments against Medjugorje is. Pope John Paul II famously said, “Medjugorje is the fulfillment of Fatima.” The fact that the two apparition sites have so much in common, such an abundant connection, is obvious to any objective observer. Regrettably, Foley's book has no interest in objectivity. While promising to revolutionize our understanding of Medjugorje, Foley's book offers no such reality. It is a deeply impoverished work formed with distortions and falsehoods, as observed above. Unfortunately, Foley's book is drastically mistitled in being called “Understanding Medjugorje” - it is mistitled for, as anyone who's been studying Medjugorje diligently can point out, Foley's book does not offer the reader an understanding of the phenomenon but, inversely, shows a very partial and fallacious picture of the facts surrounding the apparitions and their history. It will not lead the knowledgeable reader astray. But, regrettably, this deceptive work can lead those without any previous knowledge of Medjugorje astray, painting for them an image that, with its deceptive shadow, distorts reality.’

Klimek fails to provide an authoritative, public and official source for the claimed quote from Pope John Paul II given here.

As demonstrated above, apart from the question of Professor Bax’s claims about the visionaries blessing religious objects, Klimek has provided no hard evidence to substantiate any of his assertions of there being distortions or falsehoods in my book. In reality, it is Klimek who is himself guilty of distortion in making such accusations against me, and in this he is sadly a victim of the prevalent cult-like Medjugorje mentality which has afflicted a number of prominent supporters of the alleged visions

Conclusion

In sum, this article of Klimek’s attacking my book is almost totally without value. He has focused on a few aspects of the book, such as alleged distortions, none of which he has been able to substantiate, while ignoring the real message, which is concerned principally with the transcripts of the original Medjugorje tapes.

Klimek claimed that my book was “full of distortions, half-truths, specious logic, unsubstantiated rumors, dubious conclusions, highly selective (often out-of-context) quoting, contradictory claims, creative conspiracy theories and, at times, downright falsehoods.”

That word full is clearly totally unwarranted. I have demonstrated that Klimek has at most brought forward one of two examples of these categories to support this statement, and of these, apart from the question of Mart Bax and the visionaries giving blessings, he has not been able to prove any of them. So Klimek should withdraw these allegations and apologize.

I would argue, then, that there has still not been any cogent criticism of my book, and this is essentially because I have tried to let the truth about Medjugorje speak for itself, by using those sources which can take us right back to the origins of the visions - but as long as Medjugorje supporters insist on ignoring these tapes, the present confusion in the Church on this point will continue.

© 2011 Donal Anthony Foley

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