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

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This document is a response to the critical article by Denis Nolan, concerning my book, Understanding Medjugorje: Heavenly Visions or Religious Illusion? , as posted on the as posted on the Mary TV website - the site is focused on having a TV station in Medjugorje.

Update 12 February: Nolan has made a further response to mine, so I will be commenting on that shortly, but he doesn't appear to have raised any new points of substance.

Misunderstanding Reality: a reply to Misunderstanding Medjugorje, by Denis Nolan

Denis Nolan has responded to my article defending my book, Understanding Medjugorje, and launched a further critical attack against it. However, he gets off to a bad start in describing Daniel Klimek’s original article as having: “erudite and analytically precise arguments.” I’m not sure what to say about that except it is evidence of someone who has lost touch with reality as far as Medjugorje goes.

The tone of my article was anything but “shrill” or “hysterical,” as Nolan claimed in his opening argument – rather those were attributes of Klimek’s article as any unbiased observer would surely acknowledge.

Nolan says:

“I feel compelled here to respond to Foley’s latest salvo for three reasons, the third being the most important: (a) he has taken issue with some of my own arguments in two books (b) he has misrepresented Klimek’s case for Medjugorje and, (c) more important than the first two considerations, he continues to poison the well of grace that is Medjugorje by turning believers away from the truth underlying a phenomenon that has drawn not just tens of millions of believers and non-believers but such spiritual giants as Blessed Mother Teresa and the soon-to-be-beatified John Paul II. Medjugorje is a spiritual tidal wave that has now washed ashore in Rome – so undeniable is its impact that the Vatican had to rescue it from the petty politics of the very ecclesiastical official that Foley still seeks to defend.”

I deny Nolan’s above accusations, and think it would be more accurate to describe Medjugorje as a “spiritual tsunami” which has erupted from the depths of hell and caused disruption and disunity in the Church to an unprecedented degree for an unapproved series of visions. And I don’t say that lightly, but only after very carefully examining the facts about Medjugorje.

I also deny Nolan’s arguments about the Bishops of Mostar, and point to what I wrote in my original response to Klimek, that what has happened regarding them and Medjugorje is in line with the provisions of Normae Congregationis, that is, that as Medjugorje has had an increasing impact on the Church, so there has been a widening of the response of the Church to it, as represented by the involvement of the respective Bishops’ Conferences, and now the new International Commission.

Fr Sivric’s The Hidden Side of Medjugorje

Nolan then goes on to claim that Fr Sivric, the author of the seminal work, (The Hidden Side of Medjugorje), on the original tapes of the conversations of the Medjugorje visionaries with Fr Zovko, the parish priest there at the time, and his curate, during the first week or so of the visions “had a vested interest in discrediting Medjugorje,” because he had relatives there. He particularly points to his nephew, allegedly the head of the Communist party in the Medjugorje area, who Nolan claims was given responsibility for bringing the visions to an end. However, since he doesn’t give the name of this nephew, or corroborating evidence, it is difficult to substantiate this point. And even if it is the case, it is really that significant as regards Fr Sivric’s stance on Medjugorje?

Fr Sivric was away from Medjugorje from the early 1940s, and had in fact emigrated to the United States, and taught for many years, eventually becoming a US citizen. Thus his links to his relatives were remote, and far from his criticisms of Medjugorje being to his advantage, they were a cause of hostility from some of his fellow Franciscans—including Fr Ljudevit Rupcic, a Medjugorje-supporting Franciscan who was particularly critical of Fr Sivric.

In a small place like Medjugorje a lot of people are related to a lot of other people, and so we shouldn’t read anything sinister into the fact that Fr Sivric had relatives in the area. The argument could be turned on its head to say that the Medjugorje visionaries also had lots of relatives in the area, and so this was to their advantage.

Nolan then says that Fr Sivric’s, “niece was the social worker who, in the early days, kidnapped the visionaries (a well-known incident in all histories of Medjugorje).”

Let’s examine this “kidnapping” incident, which Nolan is referring to. Actually in his book, Medjugorje: A Time for Truth, a Time for Action, he describes her as Fr Sivric’s “cousin” (p. 200), but let’s grant that she is a female relative.

One of the most important of the taped interviews took place at about 6:30 p.m. on the evening of 30 June 1981. This involved Fr Zovko and five of the six visionaries, as well as two other young women, social workers, who had driven them, via a roundabout route stopping at various points, to a place called Cerno, near Medjugorje, where their visions took place that day. One of these women was the relative of Fr Sivric’s who Nolan refers to.

They were Mica Ivankovic, and Ljubica Vasilj-Gluvic, who, according to the taped testimony, had initially taken the visionaries on a sightseeing tour. They both testified that they had watched them while they were having their visions, hearing the questions put to the Gospa, and noting the responses of the visionaries.

The idea has grown up that the visionaries were in some way “abducted” by these social workers, as part of a Communist plot to discredit them. But it seems that the visionaries knew them and agreed to go. Indeed, the evidence from the tape transcript clearly indicates that the visionaries themselves wanted to go to a different place, in order, presumably, to see if the Gospa would also appear to them there.

This is the relevant part of the dialogue in Fr Sivric’s book, The Hidden Side of Medjugorje, p. 350.

Fr Zovko: “Who was the first one who suggested going over there [to Cerno].”

All the visionaries: “All of us!”

Vicka: “Marija told us to go to some place like Cerno. We suggested Cerno. Then we went.”

The transcription provided by Daria Klanac is substantially the same, (Aux Sources de Medjugorje, p. 162). And as I pointed out in my response to Klimek, she is a Canadian citizen of Croatian origin, and a Medjugorje supporter, who has 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.

In addition, Anthropologist Élisabeth Claverie, the research director at the French organization, CNRS, spent a great deal of time in Medjugorje during the early nineties, and could be described as being “neutral” with regard to the reality or otherwise of the visions. In the section of her book detailing the sources she had used, she agrees with the position taken above in indicating that the differences between Fr Sivric’s transcriptions of the tapes, and those of Daria Klanac, are minimal.

But after discussing both transcriptions with various parishioners, her preference was to base her own book on the work of Fr Sivric rather than that of Daria Klanac. Furthermore, Claverie writes that following her own research and crosschecking, she came to the conclusion that the tapes used by Fr Sivric were reliable copies of the original recordings. (Claverie, Les guerres de la Vierge, p. 375)

So, coming back to what the visionaries said about this incident, as indicated above, Vicka summed up the situation by saying: “Marija told us to go to some place like Cerno. We suggested Cerno. Then we went.”

So the idea that the Visionaries were “kidnapped” is a complete fabrication. And this stance is backed up by Fr Janko Bubalo, who interviewed Vicka for his book, A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje.

This is what Vicka said to Fr Bubalo about this outing: “Two girls came for us about two in the afternoon. And, they offered to take us about a bit in their car. Not suspecting anything, we got ready and left.”

However, on the 30 June tape, when asked by Fr Zovko if someone else had told them to try “another hill,” Vicka explicitly says, “we chose the place and the rest and we didn’t need anyone to tell us what to do,” while Jakov adds: “We marked the place.”

Fr Bubalo challenged Vicka about this discrepancy saying: “It’s uncomfortable for me, but I must. Lately I replayed some of the cassettes including that conversation with Fra Jozo. And, I came across one of your assertions that does not agree with what you just told me. … you told me here, and you always maintained it, that the girls tricked you into that outing.” (Bubalo, Thousand Encounters, pp. 37, 41; Sivric, The Hidden Side of Medjugorje, Vol. I, pp. 359–60; cf. Klanac, Aux Sources de Medjugorje, pp. 171–72).

Is Nolan going to claim that Fr Bubalo, another Franciscan, the English edition of whose book was published by the “Friends of Medjugorje,” from Chicago, was also involved in a “conspiracy” with Fr Sivric to deny the non-existent kidnapping?

Vicka attempted to explain all this away, but the fact is that her later account does not tally with what is on the tapes, and as far as Nolan’s point about the kidnapping goes, there was no kidnapping and this is just another part of the Medjugorje myth. In fact, it is quite likely that this story was made up to make Medjugorje seem more like Fatima, in that the Fatima seers were actually kidnapped by the Mayor of Ourem in August 1917.

And, according to the tape transcript made on the 30 June, this is what Ivanka said about Mica Ivankovic: “She is our cousin, Mica.” (The Hidden Side of Medjugorje, p. 360). Daria Klanac attributes this statement to Mirjana, (Aux Sources de Medjugorje, p. 172), but the point is it seems that this young lady was also related to at least one of the visionaries.

Fr Ljudevit Rupcic as critical of Fr Sivric

Nolan then goes on to say:

“The leading Croatian theological authority on Medjugorje was Fr. Ljudevit Rupcic who served on the Theological Commission of the Yugoslavian Bishops Conference from 1969 to 1980 and also spent several years in Communist prisons. He wrote several books on Medjugorje but three specifically responded to the polemical attacks on the phenomenon. These were The Truth About Medjugorje, Once Again the Truth About Medjugorje and The Great Falsification: The Hidden Face of Medjugorje by Ivo Sivric (which was, of course, about Fr. Sivric).”

However, as I have pointed out in my book, regarding Fr Rupcic’s own attitude to Medjugorje, it is clear that he was not a disinterested and neutral observer. His writings reveal a fanaticism towards Medjugorje which will not accept even the possibility that the visions are not genuine. He made it his business to champion Medjugorje at a very early stage, and was, according to Fr Michael O’Carroll, the first to “write substantially on Medjugorje.” Indeed, Fr O’Carroll was content to include criticism of Bishop Zanic, from the pen of Fr Rupcic, comprising over thirty pages, in his own book on Medjugorje. (O’Carroll, Medjugorje: Facts, Documents, Theology, pp. 103–35).

Fr Rupcic was also the author of the intemperate book mentioned above by Nolan entitled The Truth about Medjugorje, which again was highly critical of Bishop Zanic. He followed this up with the other books Nolan indicates, attacking those who questioned Medjugorje, including Fr Sivric. We also need to bear in mind that Fr Rupcic was a Franciscan and thus associated with the Herzegovina Franciscans who have been in dispute with both the local bishops and Rome for many years.

Who then is more likely to be biased? Fr Sivric, who opposed Medjugorje at some personal cost, or Fr Rupcic, who demonstrated an obsessive attachment to the visions and the visionaries, to the extent that he was prepared to defend Medjugorje with far-fetched arguments, such as those which I discuss at length in my book.

Nolan quotes Fr Rupcic as being critical of Fr Sivric as follows:

“The true sources still today are the living people, the partakers of those events: in the first place, the Seers, their families, and the Pastors and Assistants. The author, nonetheless, relies on a few taped conversations involving some of the direct witnesses. It is important to note here that not all, including the most relevant facts and situations associated with the events at Medjugorje are recorded on tape. Beyond that, the author selects the tape recordings in harmony with the goal he has set for himself. Aside from that, the tape recordings used by Sivric are not the original tapes. The original tapes are clear and complete. The police confiscated those tapes at the time they arrested the pastor, Fr. Jozo Zovko. The Bishop sought to retrieve the tapes so as to make use of them for his Investigative Commission, but was unable to get them. The tapes made use of by Sivric are copies of copies made by individuals for their private use. When the tapes are being copied, often individual parts of the conversations were deleted; thus, the spliced conversations are spread over a period of days and dates. Evidence of this is seen in the transcription of the tapes used by the author in his book. Sivric often notes that the tape has been cut, and notes that the tape recordings are undecipherable in at least 148 instances. Since all the participants in these taped conversations are still living, it boggles the mind that the author does not attempt to fill in or clarify those missing parts. …Such tapes, ‘documents’ for the author, are seventh-hand witness, at best, which, by established principles, cannot be recognized as having the strength of proof. Fr. Jozo Zovko, himself, having read the author’s transcription of conversations held with him, said, ‘This is not my composition.’” (The Great Falsification: The Hidden Face of Medjugorje by Ivo Sivric, p.4).”

A few points can be made about this statement: first, if the original tapes were confiscated by the police, how could Fr Rupcic have actually known what was on them in order to compare them with the copies? How does he know that what is on the copies does not give us the substantial truth about what was on the original tapes? Clearly he wasn’t in a position to answer these points, and so his criticisms of Fr Sivric are flawed. Likewise to describe the tape transcripts as “seventh-hand witness” is just bizarre – they are the primary evidence for what took place during the first days at Medjugorje.

No one is saying that the tapes are perfect, but there is no question of Fr Sivric falsifying the transcription in order to favour an anti-Medjugorje “spin.” We know this because of stance taken both by Daria Klanac and Elisabeth Claverie towards the taped information, which indicate that the tapes are reliable. And there are certainly more than enough sections of the tape which go on for lengthy periods, to give us confidence that we are getting an accurate picture of what took place.

Fr Rupcic’s claim that it would be better to go to the living witnesses would be more credible if we could have any faith in them, but as the Cerno incident shows, there is no guarantee that what the visionaries said in later interviews is true, and in some cases clear evidence that they were not being truthful in these later interviews.

Inaudible conversations

Nolan further quotes Fr Rupcic on the question of “inaudible conversations.”

“The author also falsely maintains that the seers began to have inaudible conversations with the Virgin only after the apparitions were transferred to the Church in January of 1982. Meanwhile, according to the witness of Grgo Kozina himself, who followed the events of the apparitions and the Seers from the very start, the Seers sometimes spoke audibly and at other times inaudibly with the Virgin. They, in principle, always spoke inaudibly with the Virgin. They related the questions of those present in an audible manner. … One cannot determine by listening to the tape recordings as to whether there was any inaudible dialogue with the Virgin: it must be clear to the author that inaudible conversations cannot be recorded on tape.” (The Great Falsification: The Hidden Face of Medjugorje by Ivo Sivric, p.5).

It’s clear here that Fr Rupcic is in a state of confusion as to which conversations are under consideration. The tapes transcribed by Fr Sivric were recorded by Frs Zovko and his curate at St James’ parish church after the visionaries had their visions, and not during them. There were some tapes made while alleged visions were going on, but Fr Sivric does not deal with them.

It has to be understood that Fr Sivric was trying to come to an understanding of what was happening at Medjugorje during the early years - in this case he was following the line of enquiry that the visions were an attempt to copy Lourdes. And while there are some elements that display this characteristic, that it is not necessarily the case with all aspects of the visions. So, not all his theories as to what was happening there have necessarily turned out to be correct.

So we have to distinguish between what is on the tapes and was transcribed by Fr Sivric, as opposed to any theories of his own as to the cause of the Medjugorje visions. With this taped material we are talking about objective evidence which is there for everyone to hear or read, and which is backed up by Klanac’s transcriptions. But theories as to what the visionaries might or might not have been doing during actual visions are another matter, and there is room for possible error. That is a basic point, but Denis Nolan doesn’t seem to have understood it.

“Three more days” of visions

Nolan then cites a further quote from Fr Rupcic on the important question of whether or not the visionaries said, on Tuesday 30 June 1981, that the visions would end in “three more days,” that is on the following Friday. Let’s look at what it says on the tape transcripts, from Fr Sivric and Daria Klanac:

In the taped interview with Mirjana on that same morning, 30 June, Fr Zovko focused on the important point of how much longer the visions were to last: “What do you think about it? How many more days will you be seeing her?” Mirjana replied: “Something tells me, two or three more days.” (Klanac, Aux Sources de Medjugorje, p. 147; cf. Sivric, The Hidden Side of Medjugorje, Vol. I, pp. 329–31.)

Then that evening, Fr Zovko asked Mirjana if she had said anything to the Gospa. She responded that she had, asking her “how many days she is going to remain with us. Exactly how many days she will remain with us. She said: “Three days.’ … that means until Friday.” (Klanac, Aux Sources de Medjugorje, pp. 159–160; cf. Sivric, The Hidden Side of Medjugorje, Vol. I, pp. 345–47).

And this evidence is further corroborated by Klanac as her own transcription of a section further on in the interview on 30 June makes clear:

Fr Zovko: “Well! This interests me. Three more times. So, when do these visions finish?”

Mica: “They said: ‘Immediately.’ Later, they said: ‘It finishes on Friday.’ ”

Fr Zovko: “But where is it going to finish on Friday?”

Jakov: “In the church.”

Mirjana: “If Gospa doesn't tell us, perhaps for the last day, she wishes that it may be on the hill!” (Klanac, Aux Sources de Medjugorje, p. 184).

This, though, is what Fr Rupcic says about this incident:

“Did the visionaries say that the apparition would end in three days? “If we compare Sivric’s claims with the statements made by Mirjana and Mica, only one thing is unambiguous, that Sivric’s claims are mere manipulation. Above all, Sivric does not cite Mirjana’s words but instead puts Mica’s words in her mouth. Mica incorrectly relayed Mirjana’s question to Our Lady as well as Our Lady’s reply to Mirjana.” Once Again the Truth About Medjugorje, 81).”

Regarding these statements, these points have to be understood in the context of what the tape transcripts reveal was actually said. Fr Rupcic discusses the recording of the meeting between Fr Zovko and five of the visionaries on the evening of 30 June, immediately after their experience at Cerno, which was dealt with above.

On that occasion, as we have seen, Mirjana said that she had asked the Gospa “how many days she is going to remain with us. Exactly how many days she will remain with us. She said: ‘Three days.’ … that means until Friday.” But on this occasion, Mica Ivankovic, one of the young women who had driven the visionaries to Cerno, stated that in response to the question, how many more times was the Gospa going to appear to them, she heard them say together: “Three times”.

Fr Rupcic advances the rather strained argument that because Mirjana used the word “days,” and Mica the different word “times,” to describe the remaining visits of the Gospa, then somehow this invalidates the fact that all the evidence does indeed indicate that there were only supposed to be a three further visitations.

He accuses Fr Sivric of “manipulation” but surely no sensible person will read any great significance into the fact that these different words were used—and all Fr Sivric was actually doing was accurately transcribing the words on the tapes. Given that the visions had been taking place daily, then whether it is said they were going to go on for another three days or another three times, surely it is unreasonable hairsplitting—and a sign of some desperation—to argue that there is any real problem here.

However, despite the above argumentation, Fr Rupcic acknowledges that there is a discrepancy between Ivanka stating that the Gospa would remain with the visionaries as long as they wished, and Mirjana stating that she would only be remaining with them for three days. (Once Again the Truth About Medjugorje, pp. 80-81, 82)

He attempts to explain this by attributing this difference to the pressure which the visionaries were under from the Communist authorities, but this does seem to be a case of grasping at straws. Rather it seems that the Vision uttered these contradictory statements, which once again indicates that we are not dealing with a genuinely supernatural event—the real Blessed Virgin would not speak in such a confusing way, but it is certainly the sort of thing we might expect a diabolical vision to say.

E. Michael Jones and Medjugorje

Nolan then says:

‘Foley stands by his guns in defending E. Michael Jones as a reliable source: “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.” Jones, like Foley, used Sivric as his main source – so he is already in trouble on that score. In Medjugore – A Time for Truth, A Time for Action, I had shown the incoherence of Jones’ arguments. Foley does not even try to answer my counter-arguments. More important yet are the arguments against Jones laid out in essays in this book by people who knew Jones. The most striking is the critique of Jones by the distinguished moral philosopher Janet Smith who makes an impressive, lucidly argued case for Medjugorje while also showing where Jones has gone wrong. Has Foley even read this? If so he should at least give a response before blithely dismissing critiques of Jones as coming from people “who do not want to face up to the evidence provided by him about Medjugorje.” ’

You can get an idea of the implications behind Nolan’s thinking in this quote, when he speaks about, “the arguments against Jones laid out in essays in this book by people who knew Jones.” That is, it clear that Nolan is to some extent, mounting an ad hominem attack against Jones, rather than focusing on his arguments.

In looking again at Janet Smith’s points, I can’t see that anything she says that hasn’t been answered in my book, which is only to be expected since the article by her which Nolan quotes from was written in April 1989, that is nearly 22 years ago. That was during the period when a huge amount of propaganda about Medjugorje was in circulation, and when there was very little critical material available.

Smith is largely repeating the positive information about Medjugorje which was then available, and following a visit there had obviously been favourably impressed. She mentions solar “miracles” and rosaries changing colour as evidence, and also the large numbers of people who have gone there. (Medjugorje – A Time for Truth, A Time for Action, pp. 221, 223)

Some of the things that Smith pointed to have clearly been proven false by subsequent events. For instance she says of the visionaries: “There is no evidence that any of them is profiting financially in the slightest from the events – they still live in very humble homes and live very simple lives.” (ibid, p. 224) That may have been true then but certainly not now.

Smith tries to defend the “bloody handkerchief” story, (ibid, pp. 225-26), but has to fall back on some suspect theological interpretation, i.e., that there are some strange stories in the Bible and that therefore we can’t expect everything about Medjugorje to be perfect. Thus her explanation is not really tenable.

Smith also puts forward Fr Laurentin as an authority to be trusted on Medjugorje, (ibid., p. 227), but subsequent events have shown him to be someone quite capable of manipulating the alleged messages. I have put some information about this on my site Theotokos site at:

http://www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/unapprov/medjugor/laurentin.html

and Louis Bélanger also has material of a similar nature about Fr Laurentin at:

http://en.louisbelanger.com/2010/10/20/medjugorje-the-grand-concealment-2-three-more-days-duplicity-rene-laurentin/

Janet Smith also defends Fr Zovko, (ibid., pp. 231-32), but this was before serious allegations were laid against him. These matters were brought to the attention of the Franciscan General, Herman Schalueck, and Fr Zovko was disciplined by Bishop Zanic in August 1989. He was also “disciplined a second time, in June 1994, this time under Bishop Peric, for pertinacious disobedience.” Even Fr René Laurentin, in his Dernières Nouvelles, was forced to acknowledge that since the motives for the sanctions against Fr Zovko were not made public, they must have been serious.

And Fr Zovko was disciplined yet a third time, in 2004, being suspended from exercising any priestly act within the diocese of Mostar-Duvno by Bishop Peric, in the light of his “constant disobedience in this local Church” and his “lack of respect towards the decisions of the Diocesan Bishops,” with the decree indicating this being published in the Archdiocesan newsletter.

The testimony of Marija Pavlovic, from 21 October 1981, that, according to the Gospa, Fr Zovko was, “a saint,” looks quite suspect in the light of all this. (Jones, The Medjugorje Deception, pp. 147, 164–65, 370; Laurentin & Lejeune, Messages and Teachings of Mary at Medjugorje, p. 168. Laurentin, Dernières Nouvelles de Medjugorje, Nr. 15, June 1996, p. 34.)

Mark Waterinckx gives explicit testimony about the allegations concerning Fr Zovko on the Cover Up video, with this being based on his own first hand experiences as a former close friend of Fr Zovko over many years. The details of the suspensions of Fr Zovko are contained in the Mostar Chancery documents numbers 622/89 and 423/94. Cf. also Cover Up video. Details of the third suspension can be found at:

http://www.marcocorvaglia.com/medjugorje-en/father-jozo-a-disobedient-franciscan.html

the decree was published in Vrhbosna, 3/2004, pp. 293-298, (843/2004).

Smith likewise defends Fr Tomislav Vlasic from charges of sexual impropriety, but this, too, was before the recent news that Fr Vlasic had sought laicization—he was also dismissed from the Franciscan Order—following the CDF asking Bishop Peric 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 just 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.”

So on this point it appears that E Michael Jones has been vindicated, and in sum I took Janet Smith’s arguments into account when writing the book. But given that she wrote so long ago, it is only to be expected that subsequent events would have nullified her arguments. It would be interesting to know what she thinks about Medjugorje now.

So Nolan’s charge that Jones is discredited does not stand up. That does not mean that I have necessarily accepted all of his explanations for what happened at Medjugorje, or the tone of what he has said, but I would argue that Nolan has not demonstrated that any of the facts which Jones provides and which I have quoted in my book are incorrect. If he can do that, I will, of course, be happy to correct my text.

The Vatican, the Bishops of Mostar, and Medjugorje

Nolan then says:

‘Foley continues to maintain, most recently in this article, 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.” ’

He then goes on to try and make a comparison between this situation, and what happened regarding St Faustina whose Cause was under a cloud for many years, until John Paul II became pope. But it is a false analogy, because Nolan is trying to compare the case of someone who has now been recognized as a saint, with alleged visions which show no signs of being authentic. So it’s something which is true, St Faustina’s sanctity, which was under suspicion for a while, but then vindicated, being compared with Medjugorje, which has been under suspicion from the beginning.

So I maintain the above position, and that in fact the Vatican has implicitly upheld the position of the successive Bishops of Mostar on Medjugorje, since there has been no explicit approval. To repeat what I said in the Klimek article, the word implicit means something “implied or understood though not directly expressed.”

Nolan’s next point concerns the position of Bishop Zanic.

“Like the other Medjugorje critics, Foley refuses to address the question of what motivated the original Bishop of Mostar in changing his initial position on the apparition (which was welcoming and warm). Not to worry. Fr. Rupcic lays it all out (in passages I have quoted in my book).”

Looking at all the facts, it seems clear that Bishop Zanic changed his mind about Medjugorje essentially because he had come to realize it was false, and I provide the evidence for this in my book, including incidents such as the threatening letter he received from Ivan Dragicevic, dated 21 June 1983. In this, Ivan claimed he had received a message from the Gospa, in which she demanded the Bishop’s “immediate conversion on [sic] the happenings in the Medjugorje parish before it is too late,” and warned him not to, “cause nor incite dissension among the clergy,” nor emphasize the “negative side” of the visions. This was to be a “last warning” that he should “convert and change” otherwise the “verdict” of the Gospa and her Son would “reach him.”

Does it need to be pointed out that it is completely beyond the bounds of credibility to believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary could possibly have given such a message? Although it was established that this letter was written in Ivan Dragicevic’s hand, it does not seem at all likely that he actually composed it. (The Hidden Side of Medjugorje, Vol. I, pp. 130–131)

Surely no bishop could take Medjugorje seriously after that?

Nolan then quotes from Fr Rupcic’s book, based on the testimony of Fr Zovko, to the effect that Bishop Zanic changed his mind because of pressure from the communist regime, whereas Fr Zovko stood up to the communists.

This charge by Nolan and Fr Rupcic is very serious, and it was a charge that was repeated in the film Gospa, a Hollywood production, which starred Martin Sheen in the role of Fr Zovko, and Morgan Fairchild as a Franciscan nun. In the film, Bishop Zanic was portrayed as a Communist collaborator. Thus, it was a slur on his good name, and the Vicar General of Mostar diocese issued an official rebuttal on 17 June 1995. His statement categorically denied this charge as follows:

“The Chancery office of the diocese of Mostar, fervently condemns as untrue all the scenes and words regarding the ecclesiastical behaviour of Msgr. Pavao Zanic, the former diocesan bishop (under the name of Petar Subic in the film) with respect to the events of Medjugorje, … Not even a shadow of cowardliness or easing-off of the Bishop before the communist authorities was ever in question, let alone any type of collaboration with them, …Instead, the bishop always behaved in a courageous and dignified way.” (Msgr Ratko Peric, Criteria for Discerning Apparitions: Regarding the Events of Medjugorje, (Mostar, 1995), p. 17.)

So it’s a question of either believing the Chancery office of the diocese of Mostar, which denies that Bishop Zanic was a communist collaborator, or Fr Rupcic, the fanatical Franciscan Medjugorje supporter, and Fr Zovko, the thrice disciplined Franciscan priest.

Pope John Paul II, and St John of the Cross

Nolan then goes to discuss the position of John Paul II on Medjugorje, saying:

‘Here is Foley’s response to Klimek’s John Paul’s statement about Medjugorje as the fulfillment of Fatima: “Klimek fails to provide an authoritative, public and official source for the claimed quote from Pope John Paul II given here.” The real issue is not whether or not this quote can be satisfactorily substantiated. Rather it is what John Paul thought of Medjugorje. On this there can be no further doubt since there are letters in John Paul’s hand expressing his views on Medjugorje, e.g., “I go to Medjugorje every day in prayer.” Not surprisingly, Foley leaves aside the question of why a Pontiff who received all available data on Medjugorje and knew Eastern Europe from a native’s point of view would be wrong on the facts while he (Foley) got it right.’

Nolan thus claims that the “real issue is not whether or not this quote can be satisfactorily substantiated. Rather it is what John Paul thought of Medjugorje.”

But as is the case with his other points, he is wrong. It can’t be reiterated too often that the private opinions of John Paul II on Medjugorje have no authority. And the letters Nolan mentions are purely private ones, in which the Pope, in writing to his old friends, who had become Medjugorje enthusiasts, was politely replying to their points. Although it’s true that the Pope was from Eastern Europe, and thus had first hand knowledge of the situation there, he didn’t have such knowledge about Medjugorje – such evidence as there is suggests that he tended to rely on people like Fr Laurentin, who claimed to have influenced the Pope.

Nolan then says:

“Secondly, Foley says he went to Medjugorje and remained a skeptic. Well, a number of skeptics descended on Lourdes when the apparitions there were taking place and yet remained skeptics. If your mind is already made up, God is not going to over-ride your freewill.”

Actually, I never said that I was a skeptic before my visit to Medjugojre, and in fact pretty much had an open mind – if I thought it was totally false at this point I certainly wouldn’t have taken the trouble to go and see for myself. But it was while I was there, and subsequently, that I began to feel something was wrong about the whole thing.

“Finally,” Nolan says, “I note Foley’s citation of St. John of the Cross and his warning against a thirst for signs and wonders.” He goes on to quote the Jesuit Fr Richard Foley as saying that “St. John’s warning against diabolic phenomena was never intended as a warning against all supernatural phenomena.”

I would just note initially, that this statement is confused: if something is genuinely supernatural, then there is no need to be warned about it – it comes from God, so there are no problems in accepting it. But this statement also shows that Fr Foley was apparently taking Medjugorje in this sense, that is as being supernatural, which was clearly a premature and incorrect thing to do.

In any event, I would argue that the Saint’s warning is quite pertinent regarding Medjugorje. This is what he said: “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.”

Revelations can apply to all manner of claimed experiences and so what St John of the Cross said holds good for Medjugorje, and on this too Nolan is wrong.

Nolan’s absurd allegations

Nolan then says:

“It should be said here that Foley is already notorious for writing an article on Marian apparitions in the magazine The Voice of Padre Pio and slipping in his pet peeves about Medjugorje. The subsequent protests from the readership of the magazine led its editors to apologize for this abuse of authorial privilege. Foley’s book is in some ways an extended version of the article. As I have already said before, there are no new facts, discoveries or insights in the book. It is a re-run of previous devious assaults.”

How is it an “abuse of authorial privilege” to write critically about Medjugorje – is Nolan saying that it is beyond criticism?

The article he refers to appeared first in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, and it was a perfectly straightforward article, which prompted some very favourable comments. Nolan is of course entitled to his opinions about the article and my book, but it should be understood that he is coming from an extremely pro-Medjugorje position, which can accurately be described as one with cult-like attributes. According to his website, he is building a TV station in Medjugorje, which is surely evidence enough of this on his part. Is it rational to attempt to build a TV station in such a contentious place to promote alleged visions, which have not been approved, and which have caused so much disruption in the Church?

Apart from that, it is clear that he is unwilling to face up to the facts about the alleged visions, the visionaries, and their Franciscan associates, and that, as this article has demonstrated, he can bring forward no cogent evidence to justify his position.

Nolan’s final paragraph is as follows:

‘Even the highest authorities in the Church take seriously the claim that the Blessed Mother is appearing in Medjugorje. That is why the Vatican has appointed an international commission to investigate the claim. I grant that some people have sincere concerns about Medjugorje and therefore they have good reason to air their concerns. This is understandable and acceptable. There are others, however, who not only have concerns about Medjugorje but also air outright falsehoods about it and propagate demonstrably distorted accounts of the phenomenon. Foley’s book belongs to this latter category. Klimek has provided a great service to the cause of truth by exposing the book for what it is: “Foley's book—as any well-read person on Medjugorje would be able to point out—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.”

Conclusion

Where are the “outright falsehoods” and “demonstrably distorted accounts of the phenomenon” which Nolan claims to have unearthed? They only exist in his imagination, and so as with Klimek’s article, which likewise provided no evidence for its wild assertions and allegations, Nolan should withdraw his allegations and apologise.

In conclusion, I would still argue that there has still been no cogent criticism of my book, and certainly nothing Nolan says falls into that category. Rather his attack, like that of Daniel Klimek, is further sad evidence of the corrupting influence of the Medjugorje mentality.

© 2011 Donal Anthony Foley

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