The God Forgers
A recent email re-awakened me to the continuing spectre of 'Our Lady of Medjugorje' (aka 'Mary Queen of Peace' or 'The Gospa'). It seems that the Croatian 'Madonna' is still out there, and still talking! Twenty years on, this loquacious phantom - the invention of dissolute and rebellious Franciscans and their pseudo-seers - has just dictated her umpteenth instruction to the world; the latest of literally thousands of such 'messages,' each one as bland and instantly forgettable as the very first back in 1981.
To our knowledge, Christian Order remains the only magazine in Britain to have withstood the powerful Medjugorje industry, losing many readers and donors in the process of exposing this monumental hoax - which is no more than a blasphemous parody of an official Marian shrine at Hrasno, forty kilometres south-east of Medjugorje. Recognised by Pope John Paul II as the "true centre of Marian devotion" in the Mostar diocese,(1) Hrasno opened in 1977, four years before Herzegovina Franciscans and the infamous 'visionaries' concocted Medjugorje and set off in pursuit of money, power and sex. The shocking facts, now detailed in no less than 42 books and booklets in 8 languages, are well summarised in Jim Gallagher's book review of The Medjugorje Deception: Queen of Peace, Ethnic Cleansing, Ruined Lives (CO, November 1998).
That so few people are aware of these disturbing facts is, as usual, down to episcopal negligence. British prelates have received the negative statements on Medjugorje issued over the years by both the local ordinary, Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar, and the ex-Yugoslavian bishops' conference. And yet, like bishops everywhere, they have chosen to ignore Bishop Peric's urgent requests to publicise those official statements within their dioceses, preferring to leave their brother in Mostar to endure persistent defamation, disinformation and disobedience at the hands of Medjugorje propagandists. So much for collegiality.
Furthermore, not content to simply bury these negative conclusions, our Shepherds have effectively encouraged belief in the so-called 'Madonna' of Medjugorje through weekly advertising of pilgrimages and tours in their 'Catholic' weeklies, for whom the Medj fraud has been, and continues to be a lucrative 'earner.' It would be fascinating to know the total amount pocketed by undermining approved Marian apparitions and the authority of Bishop Peric (and thus all episcopal authority) in this way.
The ensuing report on Medjugorje by the French bishops - an objective summary of the official investigations and conclusions - is therefore a rarity: a welcome departure from the shameful episcopal pattern above. Published a few years ago, we have undertaken to translate it as an excellent, if belated corrective to two decades of disinformation, especially relating to the role and standing of Bishop Peric and his predecessor Bishop Zanic. The statement also displays refreshing commonsense and balance: whether in assessing the subversive nature of "private pilgrimages" to Medjugorje or in pointing out that the examination of "events" must always "precede" the examination of "fruits."
This notion that "roots," as it were, are more important than "fruits," is blithely ignored by your typical Medjugorje advocate, whose faith is more pietistic (i.e. over-credulous) than pious. It is a principle, however, that should be applied by the wise and prudent to any organisation, however reputable, that is founded upon an alleged 'vision' or 'apparition.' One thinks immediately of Britain's long-established yet deeply-flawed FAITH Movement, which is based on an alleged revelation about the nature of the universe made to Mrs Agnes Holloway, whose inner "voices" told her that God is an evolutionist (theistic, of course).(2) Then there is The Divine Innocence Trust, which attracts supporters sympathetic to its view that aborted babies should be regarded as martyrs for the Faith, but is rooted in the 'visions' of a deluded London 'seer' condemned by the local bishop.
In similar fashion, numerous groups have grown out of devotion to the fake 'Madonna' of Mostar, such as "Youth 2000," the popular organisation for young Catholics. While always quick to speak of certain good "fruits" emanating from Medjugorje, including the works of their own worthy apostolates (as if they somehow justify the ongoing fraud), these groups studiously avoid asking themselves the sort of fundamental Catholic questions posed by the French epsicopate, such as: "Have [the Medjugorje 'visionaries'] obeyed the Bishop of Mostar? Have they respected him?" In their negative response to these queries the bishops mention: the way in which the 'visionaries' called the Local Ordinary into question, "even to the point of defamation;" their "disobedience with regard to his legitimate authority;" their pitting of 'Our Lady' against the Bishop and in favour of the defiant Franciscans (a theological impossibility!). However edifying their particular activities may appear, therefore, Catholic organisations which retain a public devotion to "The Gospa" of Medjugorje cannot claim to be fully orthodox, since, in effect, they are perpetuating this assault on a bishop's "legitimate authority" to determine the truth or falsity of alleged private revelations within his own diocese.
From another angle, laying Medjugorje to rest once and for all would also clear up a host of subsidiary dangers to the Faith. Very many of the false 'seers' and their opportunistic fellow-travellers in the world today have formed a symbiotic alliance with Medjugorje; a kind of 'Seers Inc.' which operates on the unholy but highly profitable quid pro quo: 'I'll authenticate yours if you'll validate mine.' So that once the clear and damning evidence against Medjugorje is accepted, the rest fall like a pack of cards: Fr. Gobbi, Christine Gallagher, Briege McKenna, Vassula Ryden, Bishop Paolo Hnlica and so many others become instantly discredited and redundant. How much wasted time, energy and money this collective collapse would save their erstwhile followers - who would then be free to return to the less exciting but really fruitful task of living the Faith in simplicity and truth!
That, at least, is the theory. It is a sad post-conciliar fact, however, that the mystical vacuum created by Modernism has left many souls hungry for 'signs and wonders' and they are not easily persuaded to abandon their favourite 'seer' or 'apparition' by such irrelevancies as logic and hard evidence. Bereft of wise spiritual leaders to guide them along the (often difficult) path between too credulous and too critical a view of supernatural claims, they disengage intellectually and run on pure emotion, leaving them easy prey for the charlatans. A recently released French work, Les Faussaires de Dieu ["The Forgers of God"] by Joachim Bouflet, documents 300 cases of false 'seers' - still only a small fraction of the total number of hoaxers throughout Church history who, directly or indirectly, have been engaged by Satan to sow confusion, conflict, disobedience and disillusion among Catholics.
As exemplified by the proximity of Medjugorje to Hrasno, these spiritual swindlers often proliferate in the vicinity of genuine shrines and apparition sites. The explosion of such diabolic manifestations around Lourdes in the years after Our Lady's appearance to St. Bernadette is well documented. And in keeping with this pattern, a false 'seer' bearing satanic stigmata and supported by a suspended Portuguese bishop and Polish Archbishop, is currently luring many faithful to her very own basilica just 30 kilometres south of Fatima. Nor should such perennial wickedness surprise us. Blasphemous parody of the Divine is the very essence of Satan: a "liar from the beginning." And as his reign on earth draws to an ignominious close with the approach of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary - when her heel will crush his head [Gen. 3:15] - his desperate efforts to undermine the Church in this way will doubtless heighten and multiply. The judgement of the local bishop in such matters thus assumes ever more importance, commanding our respect and obedience as a God-given defence against the Marian mimicry of les faussaires de Dieu.
(1) Papal telegram to the local bishop of 5 July 1997.