Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires: Some More Unanswered Questions

By Henry Sire at OnePeterFive:

When I wrote The Dictator Pope, I pointed out the failure of the cardinals in 2013 to inform themselves about Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s record as archbishop of Buenos Aires, for if they had known about it even superficially, they would not have voted for him. The more that is known about that record, the truer this appears. It is becoming increasingly clear that Cardinal Bergoglio was not merely below the standard usually expected in a papal candidate; he represented, in his close contacts if not in his own personal conduct, a link to some of the most corrupt features of the South American Church. Several examples of this need to be described.

  1. The swindle against the Sociedad Militar Seguro de Vida

In my book, I touched on a financial scandal in Buenos Aires that erupted shortly before Bergoglio became archbishop. The revelations made since then about the figure who was at the center of it, Monsignor Roberto Toledo, give it an even more sinister aspect than appeared at the time.

The story is as follows: in 1997, Jorge Bergoglio had been for five years an auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, and he had been granted the right of succession to Cardinal Quarracino, who was ailing and who died the following year. Quarracino had links with a bank, the Banco de Crédito Provincial, owned by the Trusso family, who were regarded as pillars of the Church and were close friends of the cardinal. Quarracino had been instrumental in securing for the BCP the large account of the Argentine military pension fund, the Sociedad Militar Seguro de Vida, and in 1997, the latter was asked to make a loan to the archdiocese of Buenos Aires of ten million dollars, underwritten by the BCP. The meeting to arrange this contract was held at the offices of the archdiocese, but Cardinal Quarracino was too ill to attend; he was represented by his general secretary, Monsignor Roberto Toledo. When the moment came to sign the contract, Monsignor Toledo took the document out of the room on the pretext of taking it to the cardinal, and he shortly brought it back with a signature, which, as later appeared, had in fact been forged by Toledo himself.

Monsignor Toledo was an egregious example of the corrupt clergy whose prominence in the Church is being highlighted ever more by the pontificate of Pope Francis. He was a homosexual and was known to have a male lover, a gym instructor, who served as a channel of the Trussos’ financial influence with the archdiocese. Within a few weeks of the conclusion of the loan, but for unrelated reasons, the BCP went into bankruptcy; it was revealed to have large debts that it could not pay, and the Sociedad Militar’s money, deposited with the bank, was lost. When the Sociedad tried to recover its loan of ten million dollars from the archdiocese, Cardinal Quarracino denied having ever signed the contract.

The cardinal died shortly afterward, and Archbishop Bergoglio took over as his successor. In his biography The Great Reformer, Austen Ivereigh represents Bergoglio as the man who brought financial probity to the finances of the archdiocese of Buenos Aires [1], but he omits a number of details crucial to the case. The first is the way Archbishop Bergoglio handled the Sociedad Militar’s claim for the restitution of its ten million dollars. He appointed as the archdiocese’s lawyer to manage the case one of the shadiest figures in the Argentine legal system, Roberto Dromi, a man who has been prosecuted for numerous offenses of corruption [2]. The mere employment of such a man by Archbishop Bergoglio should be a major cause of scandal. Dromi harassed the Sociedad to such an extent over its claim that in the end, the Sociedad was obliged to drop it.

The Trusso family were ruined by the collapse of their bank, and some of them claimed that they had suffered injustice. In 2002, the journalist Olga Wornat interviewed Francisco Trusso and asked him why he did not speak to Bergoglio about the forged signature. He replied: “I have asked for an audience, my wife has asked for an audience. My son. My brother. He won’t receive us[.] … He escapes, he doesn’t want to hear. It must be because his tail is not too clean. He must have signed something” [3].

Even more significant is Archbishop Bergoglio’s kid-glove handling of Monsignor Toledo. He was first sent back to his hometown without any sanctions. In 2005, he was tried for fraud, but no sentence was ever passed. This treatment falls into the pattern of Bergoglio’s habitual inaction in cases of misdemeanor, but there is a special detail to it: as secretary to Cardinal Quarracino back in 1991, Monsignor Toledo was the man responsible for rescuing Father Bergoglio from the internal exile to which the Jesuits had consigned him and getting him appointed auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires. Ever since, Bergoglio has been interested in preventing the reputation of either Cardinal Quarracino or Monsignor Toledo from being tarnished by the scandals that gathered round them [4].

A macabre postscript to this story emerged in January 2017, when Monsignor Toledo, who had been officiating for eighteen years as a parish priest in his hometown, still unpunished, was accused of murdering a longtime friend of his and forging his will [5]. We are given a glimpse here into the consequences of Bergoglio’s famous clemency, and we begin to get a sense of the personalities to whom he owed his rise in the Church and with whom he consorted while in office.

  1. The Catholic University of Argentina and the IOR

Another incident mentioned in my book relates to the Catholic University of Argentina, of which Bergoglio was chancellor ex officio as archbishop of Buenos Aires. His agent here was Pablo Garrido, who was financial manager of the archdiocese and whom Bergoglio also appointed financial manager of the university (a post from which he was removed in 2017). The university, which had a rich endowment of 200 million dollars, provided Archbishop Bergoglio with the financial sinews he needed in his attempts to gain influence in the Vatican, whose finances had been left in a disastrous state by the illegal activities of Monsignor Marcinkus and his successor, Monsignor de Bonis.

Between 2005 and 2011, some 40 million dollars were transferred from the Catholic University of Argentina to the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (the Vatican Bank), in a transaction that was supposed to be a deposit but which the IOR has hitherto treated as a donation. (Just this year, the reports are that this misappropriation has begun to be remedied, but only partially.) Pablo Garrido was responsible for this transfer, against the protests of members of the university who pointed out that the university, as an educational foundation, could not make a donation to a foreign bank. Together with the case of the Sociedad Militar Seguro de Vida, this is one of the obscure financial episodes in Archbishop Bergoglio’s administration that deserve to be studied in depth by a qualified researcher.

  1. The episcopal cronies of Bergoglio

Equally revealing is a look at Cardinal Bergoglio’s close associates in the Buenos Aires episcopate. The first to consider is Juan Carlos Maccarone, whom Bergoglio made an auxiliary bishop at the beginning of his tenure, in 1999. In 2005, Maccarone was dismissed from the episcopate by Pope Benedict after he was filmed having sexual relations with a homosexual prostitute in the sacristy of his cathedral. Yet Cardinal Bergoglio publicly defended him, asserting that the filming was a setup to bring the bishop down because of his left-wing political commitment. Maccarone, it is worth noting, declared that everyone was aware of his homosexual activities and he had been appointed bishop regardless of them.

Another friend and protégé of Cardinal Bergoglio was Joaquín Mariano Sucunza, whom he consecrated auxiliary bishop in 2000 although he knew that Sucunza had been cited in a divorce case as the lover of a married woman, whose husband accused him of having destroyed their marriage [6]. Bishop Sucunza has continued ever since as auxiliary and was indeed appointed by Pope Francis as temporary administrator of the archdiocese in 2013 after Bergoglio’s own elevation to the papacy.

  1. Protection of sexual abusers

No offense has been more damaging to bishops in recent years than the accusation of not having acted with diligence against priests suspected of sexually abusing children. Several bishops have had their careers destroyed over this issue, not always in cases of obvious culpability. Pope Francis himself proclaimed a “zero tolerance” policy in this area and supposedly introduced a new reign of transparency. Yet if we look into it, we find that his own past career is studded with episodes deserving fully as much scrutiny as those that have brought other prelates down.

The first case to be noticed is that of the priest Rubén Pardo, who was reported to an auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires in 2002 for having invited a fifteen-year-old boy to his house and sexually abused him in bed. The mother of the boy had great difficulty in getting the ecclesiastical authorities to admit the case; she considered that Cardinal Bergoglio was protecting the guilty priest and was indignant at his giving him lodging in a diocesan residence. She complained that when she tried to speak to the cardinal at the archiepiscopal residence, she was ejected by the security staff. The priest died of AIDS in 2005; in 2013, a Buenos Aires court obliged the Catholic Church to pay the family compensation for the harm they had suffered. The mother’s opinion on the handling of the case was: “Bergoglio’s commitment is just talk.” (Ese es el compromiso de Bergoglio: de la boca para fuera) [7].

Another instructive case is that of Father Julio Grassi, who was convicted in 2009 of sexually abusing a teenage boy [8]. What surprises in this case is the exceptional efforts the Argentine Bishops’ Conference, under the chairmanship of Cardinal Bergoglio, devoted to getting Father Grassi cleared, commissioning a document of 2,600 pages for the purpose. It was submitted to the judges after Grassi’s conviction but before they had given sentence and was described by the attorney Juan Pablo Gallego as “a scandalous instance of lobbying and exerting pressure on the Court.”

Let us not deny the importance of defending innocent people against false accusations, but we are not left with the impression of a prelate with a “zero tolerance” record against sexual abuse. Perhaps more significant is a remark by Cardinal Bergoglio to Rabbi Abraham Skorka, published in 2010, a year after Father Grassi’s conviction, that cases of clerical sexual abuse “had never arisen” in his diocese [9]. It is an example of the characteristic habit of Jorge Bergoglio of disposing of inconvenient facts by denying their existence.

Another example of this foible is provided by the father of a pupil at the Jesuit school in Buenos Aires where Bergoglio had taught as a young man in the 1960s. Forty years later, when Bergoglio was cardinal-archbishop, that father was told by his son that the chaplain of the school had indecently propositioned him in the confessional. He reported the case to the cardinal and was shocked to find that he took no action, the response of Bergoglio that we find time and again in the face of misconduct of all kinds. Shortly afterward, the father was astonished to hear Cardinal Bergoglio, replying to a question in a meeting of parents of the school, declare that the problem of sexual abuse and of homosexual clergy was virtually nonexistent in his diocese.

In the light of these facts, the recent revelations about Pope Francis’s complicity in the cover-ups of sexual abuse in the United States fall easily into place. It is entirely in the character of a man who throughout his career had shown complete indifference to accusations of clerical corruption when they came to his notice. When we consider his promotions of Bishop Maccarone and Bishop Sucunza, it comes as no surprise that he was a friend of Cardinal McCarrick, who, in the years before Bergoglio’s election as pope, had already been disciplined by Pope Benedict for his widespread molestation of boys and young men but who was nevertheless able to play an influential role in Bergoglio’s election. It is also completely in character that, on becoming pope, he should have taken as his leading allies prelates such as Cardinal Danneels, who was known to have covered up child abuse in Belgium, and Cardinal Wuerl, whose role in the United States proves to have been equally murky.

We come back to the fact that, if the cardinals had had any inkling of the background of Cardinal Bergoglio’s Church in Buenos Aires, they would never have voted for him. They might not have foreseen Bergoglio’s cavalier attitude to Catholic doctrine, but what they were looking for was a man who would tackle the knotty problems, which had defeated Benedict XVI, of financial and moral reform in the Vatican and of the widespread plague of clerical sexual abuse. If they had been aware of the lack of moral integrity of the clergy with whom Bergoglio had surrounded himself in Buenos Aires, of the financial scandals in his diocese, of his habitual inaction in cases of wrongdoing, of his repeated turning away of people who came to him with complaints, and of his head-in-the-sand attitude toward criticism, it would have been clear to them that this was the last candidate to fit the profile of a reformer.

[1] Austen Ivereigh, The Great Reformer, 2014, p. 244.

[2] See the articles “Acusan a Dromi de cobrar sobornos. Guillermo Laura dice que el exministro recibió US$ 7 millones de firmas viales” (“Dromi accused of taking bribes. Guillermo Laura says ex-minister received US$ 7 million from road construction firms”) in La Nación, 9 September 1999; and “La Justicia pidió un embargo millonario contra Menem y Dromi. Presunta venta irregular de un terreno de 241 ha. a Radio Nacional” (“Court demands embargo of millions against Menem and Dromi. Alleged irregular sale of 241 ha. plot to Radio Nacional”) in La Gaceta  (Tucumán), 23 April 2008.

[3] Olga Wornat, Nuestra Santa Madre, Buenos Aires, 2002.

[4] See Urgente24 (an Argentine online newspaper), 23 March 2013: “Una causa judicial que todavía le importa al papa” (“A court case that still matters to the pope”). In this article, published just after Bergoglio was elected pope, the author also reports the story related by Bishop Justo Laguna of Morón, that at the time of the 2005 Conclave the Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri remarked to him, referring to Bergoglio: “You’d better pray to St Joseph that this man doesn’t become pope.”

[5] See (“A suspicious death, a millionaire inheritance and a priest under suspicion”).

[6] See the article by Marcelo González in Panorama Católico Internacional, 20 September 2010: “Obispo Adúltero: Nombre y Pruebas” (“Adulterer Bishop: Name and Proofs).”

[7] See the article in Público, 3 May 2013, “El Papa encubrió al cura que abusó de mi hijo” (“The Pope covered up for the priest who abused my son”).

[8] See BBC News, 24 September 2013, “Argentine priest Julio Grassi jailed over sexual abuse.”

[9] Sobre el cielo y la tierra, a book of conversations between Cardinal Bergoglio and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, published in Buenos Aires in 2010.

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The Viganò crisis: ‘The conservatives are winning’

This must count as one of the most absurd comments on the clerical abuse crisis centred, for now, in the United States. The attempt to carry on as if nothing at all was happening, always the first recourse of the bureaucrat to a crisis, has at this moment not only failed, even according to a supporter, but become utterly ludicrous. Of course people are more interested in Archbishop Viganò’s statement than in the latest missive from the Bishops’ Conference about the dignity of work. Are we supposed to think that this interest is misplaced?

By that time ‘team Francis’ had already moved on to a kind of damage-limitation which, instead of trying to distract attention from Archbishop Viganò, focused it on what they hoped would prove to be his weaknesses. This, too, has proved a failure, however. Few people had heard of Viganò before his statement, and no-one has anything invested in his personal reputation or political associations. They just want to know if what he says is true.

The attempted character-assassination of Viganò himself increasingly strikes observers as an example of the whistle-blower suppression strategy which is very much part of the problem Viganò has been trying to expose. What we would expect from an abusive cabal is demands for silence and submission, angry denunciations of those who ask questions, and downplaying of the seriousness of accusations. What do we find? Well, it has been quite a sight on Twitter to see Massimo Faggioli, Austen Ivereigh and others have to insist repeatedly that they weren’t really playing down the seriousness of the systematic sexual abuse of seminarians: cases which range from seduction to rape. If you have to keep saying that kind of thing, it’s a sign that your public relations strategy isn’t working.

And it really isn’t working. We can see that in relation to two important constituencies: the American Catholic bishops, and mainstream conservative American Catholic commentators. Both are more or less closely connected to the Church as an institution, and depend for their positions and future prospects upon the favour of their hierarchical superiors, as well, or more, than upon their popularity with ordinary Catholics. This makes their defection from reflexive defence of the Pope, or at least silence, very significant.

LifeSiteNews has a list of bishops calling for an investigation of Vigano’s allegations. There are a few non-Americans, but the rest are from the US. To date it includes twenty-nine American bishops, not counting the non-resident Cardinal Burke. The United States Conference is a big one, but twenty-nine bishops is a lot of bishops. They have got to the important point where there is some safety in numbers. I fancy that these bishops are going to find life a bit easier than their colleagues in the coming months when they meet the faithful and ask for money. The process is far from over, and their numbers will grow.

What I mean by ‘mainstream’ conservative Catholic commentators are those who have been defensive of the Pope, or at least silent, on the major issues of controversy up to the McCarrick/ Pennsylvania Grand Jury/ Viganò tipping-point, and have or have had ‘centrist’ platforms such as Patheos and Aleteia.

One example is Fr Dwight Longenecker. His approach to the problems raised by Amoris laetitia is a good example of how things used to be. He had clearly decided that direct criticism of Pope Francis’ theology was too hot a potato, so instead he criticised it indirectly, by saying that things which people concluded from papal statements were making his life as a priest more difficult. This was, of course, a fair point in itself. (Like me, his first reaction was to attempt a completely orthodox reading of the text.)

Now, however, those old restraints have been thrown off. In his post about why it was a mistake for the Pope to remain silent about the Viganò accusations, Fr Longnecker is moved to say that this silence ‘makes his showy advocacy of victims look like a cheap publicity stunt’ and is ‘revealing him to be a hypocrite’. I beg your pardon, Fr?

We move into different territory with Simcha Fisher. Over the years Fisher has been a ferocious critic of the pro-life movement, alongside her friend Mark Shea, which has put her at odds with many of the people most worried by the direction of Pope Francis’ papacy. But in the last week or so she has written a couple of blistering posts about the situation: posts which are also, I must say, extremely interesting. She writes:

I have a number of friends who have escaped abusive marriages. They tell me that Pope Francis is sounding more and more like the men who abused them. He’s sounding like the men who hid that abuse from the world, who taught their victims to blame themselves, who used spiritual pressure to persuade them and their families that it would actually be wrong, sinful, to defend themselves.

I think Fisher is exactly right. We can’t tell from his words and actions that Pope Francis has personally carried out sexual abuse–something no-one is suggesting–but they do fit the pattern of behaviour abusers use to maintain their power. He seems to have sunk into an abusive modus operandi.

Other people who come into this same category include the radio host Patrick Madrid (listen to his recording here for example). Raymond Arroyo of EWTN swallowed the ‘red pill’ a while ago.

Now Mark Shea, still writing on Patheos, is still echoing the attacks on Viganò served up by John Allen and others. Jimmy Akin appears to be maintaining a grave-like silence on the subject. That is what one would expect. But a lot of their erstwhile colleagues are heading for the lifeboats on the good ship Francis.

There is a third constituency, moreover, which Team Francis seems to be losing, which may end up being more significant than any other. This is American Attorneys General. I have already mentioned the Grand Jury report into clerical abuse in Pennsylvania; this and other revelations have prompted the Attorney General in one US state after another to announce some kind of investigation of the dioceses in their states: there are now seven such processes beginning. These investigations may have the right to demand documents and take witness testimony under oath; even if they have lower levels of formal power, they could dig out and put together a great deal of information currently buried or scattered, and they will certainly stimulate new witnesses to come forward. Whereas in the past such investigations might have looked to many Catholics in public life and to Catholic voters as attacks on the Church, now they are being widely welcomed as ways to overcome bishops’ lack of accountability. That means that they will probably happen.

If they happen, they are bound to produce more embarrassing material for the hierarchy. Each one will pile up pressure for resignations and a clearing of the Augean stables which many seminaries seem to have become. Each one will give the basic clerical-abuse story a new lease of life.

What is Team Francis going to do about this? It seems their latest idea is to spread the blame.

There is, of course, some truth in this. But blame is not a finite resource. Including earlier Popes in causing the problem does not absolve Pope Francis from making things worse, if that is what he has done, and it makes his refusal to speak about it even more seriously wrong.

It seems now that a lot of resistance over the years, even by good bishops and priests, to dealing in an open and just way to the abuse crisis, has been motivated by the worry that if one scandal came out it would precipitate the exposure of another and another, in a situation where the problem was so pervasive, and so deeply rooted, that the exposure of a great part of it was just too terrifying to contemplate. It would do too much damage to the Church’s reputation and institutions. It seems that many good bishops and other sincere Catholics in the know thought, ten or twenty years ago, that by not washing the dirty linen in public they could gradually weed out the problems and put thing right. They must by now realise that they have failed, and that there is no prospect, certainly under Pope Francis in his current mood, that real progress can be made in this way. The only way things are going to improve is by an indescribably painful process of public exposure. It follows that good people should stop trying to prevent that from happening.

If Team Francis agrees, even if only for partisan reasons, and looks forward to the exposure of more and more disedifying information about the corruption of the Church since Vatican II and perhaps earlier, than the game really is up. We can look forward to a decade or more of scandalous revelations, and the predictable short-term negative outcomes of those revelations for the Church’s ability to preach the Gospel effectively. In the end, however, it will be better than having these secret sins eating away at the heart of the Church: harming children, corrupting seminarians, distorting the Church’s preaching, distorting the choice of bishops, cardinals, and popes, and always threatening to come out anyway.

Yes, let it all come out, even if some of the abusers turn out to be people we like and have trusted. As St Catherine of Siena said:

“We’ve had enough exhortations to be silent. Cry out with a thousand tongues – I see the world is rotten because of silence.”

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How to Recognize Demonic Activity in the Church Scandals, According to an Exorcist

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” – (1 Peter 5:8).

“By sexually abusing children, Satan desires to destroy the icon of the kingdom of God.”

By Patti Armstrong

“Who is going to believe you?” It is the devil’s taunt, according to exorcist, Father Gary Thomas. It is a message to silence sexual abuse victims. And we have learned that same message silenced or impeded the truth of the sexual scandal in the Church from getting out for so long.

Fr. Gary Thomas is the exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose, California. His training in Rome was the subject of the 2010 book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio. Hollywood made it into a movie in 2011 starring Anthony Hopkins.

I recently interviewed Father Thomas for an article about horror movies, although he pointed out that The Rite is really about faith. Although there are horrific scenes in it, he explained that spiritual warfare between the devil and God is very real and it can get scary as it plays out through humanity. It seems that all conversations lead to Rome these days, and that is where ours eventually went — to the real-life horror story within the Church.

Catholics know that the devil seeks our destruction and is forever looking for openings to destroy God’s Church and harm souls. The sex abuse scandal reveals that he found hospitality among those who should have turned him out.

Icon of the Kingdom

“It’s only going to get worse,” Father Thomas said, “but as bad as it is, it has to come out. It is unacceptable.” According to him, the devil used his old standby threat to keep people silent: Who’s going to believe you? We know now that among those that spoke out despite that taunt, the devil’s agents did indeed show disbelief or apathy.

“Convincing people that no one will believe them is what Satan says when something is so outside the bounds of what is reasonable as to be unbelievable,” Father Thomas said. “Reading the accounts of what those children in Pennsylvania went through [as detailed in the Grand Jury Report] we wonder, how could this happen?” he asked. “It’s other-worldly—outside what people thought was possible — that’s what makes it demonic.”

In an article about becoming the solution, Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., founder and president of the Ruth Institute, pointed out that if abusers thought people would speak up and be listened to, they would not have gotten away with so much for so long. If people had listened to poor “James,” when he was abused at 11-years-old, the now 60-year-old man abused by Father Theodore McCarrick, would not have had to suffer in silence for decades. “James tried to tell his parents,” Morse wrote. “They did not believe him, against the word of a respected priest. James began getting into trouble, doing alcohol and drugs. The family thought Father McCarrick could straighten him out. They encouraged him to spend more time with their son.”

Father Thomas noted that sexual abuse involving children, both inside and outside of the Church, is especially heinous. “By sexually abusing children, Satan desires to destroy the icon of the kingdom of God. He wants to destroy the most innocent version of humanity, which is the child.”

The scandalous behavior, in his opinion, was clearly demonic. “With natural disasters, people die sometimes,” he said. “Even if there’s great destruction, we don’t consider that evil because it’s in the realm of the natural. When there’s a car accident, we don’t call it an act of evil. But when it’s outside the bounds of what is conceivable—like murder—we call it evil. ISIS is a satanically driven organization because they have a premediated will to kill as many as possible who don’t believe their way of life. Even drug cartels are demonic and often pray to Satan to curse their drugs and they refer to Satan as their father and pray to him. I’ve seen documentaries on this and attended workshops with government task forces and prayed over some of the cops because of what they are dealing with.”

Pray and Fast

For the sake of the Church, Father Thomas calls on all Catholics to pray and fast and to act wherever possible to root out evil. “It can’t just be the removal of a few,” Father Thomas said. “It has to be a complete reshaping of the paradigm of the way our Church governs; we need a complete cleaning up. We need a lay commission to set up an independent study. The bishops can’t do it; they don’t know how to do it.”

In his work as an exorcist, Father Thomas fasts and prays before confronting the devil. He pointed out that he does so in a reasonable way — not starving himself to the point of weakness — but makes it sacrificial to strengthen him to fight evil. “Prayer, fasting and the sacraments are efficacious,” Father Thomas said, “but it cannot be without the intentionality of action that comes out of prayer. We want prayer to change us and we are praying for a change in the whole Church, all the way up. And we are also praying for the victims who have gone through decades of terrible trauma.”

Father Thomas encouraged Catholics to be strong and be prepared to persevere. “We are in for a long storm,” he said. “The clouds are just starting. However, our primary concern must be the victims who have been violated and firmly and without doubt prevent new victimizations from taking place in the future. There can be no tolerance for sexual misconduct perpetrated by clergy or lay people within the Church now or ever again.”

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Reflection for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

Image result for Healing deaf man

FIRST READING            Isaiah 35:4-7a

Thus says the Lord:  Say to those whose hearts are frightened:  Be strong, fear not!  Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.  Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.  Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.  The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water.

SECOND READING                  James 2:1-5

My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.  For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?  Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.  Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?

GOSPEL                Mark 7:31-37

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.  And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.  He took him off by himself away from the crowd.  He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”‑that is, “Be opened!”‑And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.  He ordered them not to tell anyone.  But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.  They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well.  He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Do we listen?  Are our ears open?  Do we speak the word of the Lord?  These are the questions that can be seen in the readings today.  We are invited to have our ears opened and to learn to speak God’s own words.

The first reading is from the Prophet Isaiah.  He tells the fainthearted—those who are uneasy about the word of God, whose hearts live in fear—“Be strong!  Fear not!”  Most of us who have faith are at least a bit shy about proclaiming that faith, especially when the world is so against faith right now.  Yet the Prophet Isaiah would tell us to have no fear, just proclaim God and God’s works.  Everything will change if we begin to proclaim the Word of God!  Our mute lips will speak, our tongues can speak aloud God’s glory.  We will be able to see the glory of the Lord.  The eyes of the blind will be opened.  All of these great works are a sign that God is present.

The second reading comes from the Letter of James.  “God chose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him.”  Again we have this testimony that God will work if we just walk with Him.  God does not choose the powerful and those who have the means to pay their way.  Instead God chooses the weak, the poor, those without capacity—and through them God proclaims the Kingdom of His love.  We often doubt this reality but once we begin to see everything through faith, we begin to recognize that power counts for nothing unless it is the power of love.  Our level in the society of this life counts for nothing.  What counts is a heart set on God and on doing God’s will.

The Gospel is from Saint Mark today and is about Jesus curing the man who had a speech impediment and who could not hear.  This echoes clearly the passage from the Prophet Isaiah.  And, of course, once Jesus heals this man, everyone wants to talk about it.  It is no longer a sign from God but is about extraordinary things happening.  We humans often prefer the circus to the hard realities of life.

What about us?  Do we help others speak?  Do we help others hear?  Do we direct others to God?  The early followers of Jesus recognized that Jesus was fulfilling the prophecies.  Do we recognize that?  Jesus does not go about saying:  “I am God, listen to me.”  Rather, Jesus goes about doing the works that proclaim that He is God.  Let us listen to Him and also open the mouths of others and help them see.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Solemnity of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary






Ancient Prayer In Honour of Our Lady’s Nativity by St Anselm

Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O sacred Virgin; give me strength against thine enemies, and against the enemy of the whole human race. Give me strength humbly to pray to thee. Give me strength to praise thee in prayer with all my powers, through the merits of thy most sacred nativity, which for the entire Christian world was a birth of joy, the hope and solace of its life.

When thou wast born, O most holy Virgin, then was the world made light.

Happy is thy stock, holy thy root, and blessed thy fruit, for thou alone as a virgin, filled with the Holy Spirit, didst merit to conceive thy God, as a virgin to bear Thy God, as a virgin to bring Him forth, and after His birth to remain a virgin.

Have mercy therefore upon me a sinner, and give me aid, O Lady, so that just as thy nativity, glorious from the seed of Abraham, sprung from the tribe of Juda, illustrious from the stock of David, didst announce joy to the entire world, so may it fill me with true joy and cleanse me from every sin.

Pray for me, O Virgin most prudent, that the gladsome joys of thy most helpful nativity may put a cloak over all my sins.

O holy Mother of God, flowering as the lily, pray to thy sweet Son for me, a wretched sinner. Amen.

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On the 110th Anniversary of Pascendi, What is the Remedy for Modernism?


On September 8, 1907, St. Pius X published his great encyclical against Modernism, Pascendi Dominici Gregis. 

This major document remains just as pertinent 110 years later.

In 1974, Fr. Roger-Thomas Calmel, OP wrote a preface to the second edition of the Catéchisme sur le modernisme (Catechism on Modernism) in which Fr. Jean-Baptiste Lemius, OMI, presents the encyclical Pascendi in a question-and-answer format. In his preface, the Dominican theologian considers whether there exists a remedy for Modernism which has infected the Church like gangrene, and his answer is:

It exists for sure. There are several, in fact. The evil is not incurable, since by faith we are sure that the gates of Hell will not prevail (Mt. 16:18), since the Lord will not leave us orphans (Jn. 14:18), since none can take from the Lord the sheep He holds in His hand (Jn. 10:28), since the Lord will continue to offer His sacrifice through the ministry of His priests donec veniat, until He returns (I Cor. 11:26). Therefore the evil the Church is undergoing will not destroy the Church. It can be healed. But this time, unlike what happened in the beginning of the century, the evil has greatly penetrated into the hierarchy itself. So long as the hierarchy has not eliminated the poison that infects it, the remedy can only be partial and limited. Doubtless the remedy will not come from the hierarchy alone, nor from the head alone. The body has to rid itself of the poison in all its members. But it remains that for the whole to be healed, the head needs to recover.

When we seek to find what remedy should be applied against Modernism, three fundamental questions arise: the question of the head of the Church, the question of the testimony to be rendered, and the question of theological studies.”

The Testimony of Tradition

Speaking of the testimony to be given by members of the Church, Fr. Calmel explains the precise conditions needed for this witness to be a truly Catholic response to Modernism. The most important passages are emphasized:

It is indispensable to confess the Faith, to bear public witness both with humility and gentleness and with pride and patience. For true confession of the Faith is a work of love, humility, goodness, and not only fortitude and courage. However, in times of Modernist revolution, new difficulties arise which keep the confession of the Faith and of the sacraments of the Faith from being a great work of love. But if it is not that, it remains very insufficient in the presence of God, angels, and men. If we had to bear witness to the traditional Catholic Mass before classic persecutors, if we had to face the tribunals of Terror and the Directory like our elders, we would obviously expose ourselves to a violent death simply by attending a Catholic Mass. In these conditions, how could we not hear or celebrate Mass with increased fervor? The violence would place us in a near occasion, so to speak, of growing in love in order not to commit the sin of denying the Faith. But today we have to deal with the Modernist revolution and not a violent persecution.
“Bearing witness to the traditional Catholic Mass undoubtedly requires a patient effort, but it does not actually place us in a state of necessarily growing in charity when we celebrate or hear Mass. We do not necessarily become apostates of the Mass if we continue to go with mediocre dispositions, whereas our persecuted elders would have become apostates if their interior dispositions had remained ordinary. There are in fact faithful and priests who, though they surely make an effort to confess their faith in the traditional Catholic Mass, persist in celebrating or hearing Mass with practically unchanged lukewarm dispositions. They do not seem to act with the great love that animated the martyrs of the Terror when they exposed themselves to death for going to the Mass of a refractory priest. They bear witness to the traditional Catholic Mass to a certain extent without being obliged to assist at or celebrate Mass with much love.
“Today there is practically no stimulus coming from the outside; but even without external provocation, the interior fire of divine life and mental prayer should be intense enough to make us bear witness to the Faith and the sacraments of the Faith with the love Our Lord desires. Not only Our Lord, but the souls of good will who are waiting; they hope to find this love in us, in order to find the courage themselves to turn to God and confess the Catholic Faith and the sacraments of the Faith.

The Specious Objection that Tradition is “Inadequate”

If our witness is penetrated with this love, the specious objection, that comes up in a thousand different forms, will be quickly swept aside. They tell us, ‘By teaching the Roman catechism, maintaining the traditional, Latin, and Gregorian Catholic Mass, you have no chance of influencing souls; you are preserving museum pieces; souls need a religion adapted to their needs; and this adaptation consists in adopting the spirit of the Council, entering into the evolutionary movement you call Modernism.’ (In truth, Modernism is not an adaptation, but a perversion under the cover of adaptation: non profectus sed permutation, in the words of St. Vincent of Lerins.)
“We know perfectly well that it belongs to the supreme authority to make ritual adaptations of general importance, and even more so to provide dogmatic explanations. When this authority is deficient, does any adaptation become impossible and are we left with being unadapted to our brothers of today, insofar as we confess the Faith of all times? It is a specious question and it is almost entirely resolved when the testimony is given with charity. For charity makes one attentive to the true needs of others, able to sense the right way to present the religion of all times so that it remains fitting in the present situation without being either corrupted or tampered with.
“Even when the supreme authority is deficient and the general adaptations, far from being accomplished in truth, have taken on the form of general perversions, even in these extreme cases, charity shows the simple priest and even more so the bishop, within the restricted field of his authority, the best way of preaching healthy doctrine and celebrating the Catholic Mass with the participation of the faithful without upsetting anything. There is no shortage of examples. The priests who keep the traditional, Latin, and Gregorian Catholic Mass out of a loving attachment to the Sovereign Priest, and therefore, inseparably, out of zeal for souls, know how to take care of the faithful and bring them to participate in the holiest possible way. These same priests captivate children by teaching them the catechism of St. Pius X and do not think they need to give in to Modernism in order to find a suitable way of teaching. However, these well-adapted presentations or this faithful adaptation can only be accomplished on two conditions: first meditating unceasingly on the traditional doctrine and rites in order to hold them as they are and never change or deform them; and then living in union with God so that the witness one bears to the Catholic Faith, the firm testimony one upholds, is a result of love.

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Fulton Sheen’s warning about counterfeit Catholicism

By Father Dwight Longenecker:

Locked, as he was, in the post war struggle with communism, Fulton Sheen’s prophecies about the end time are somewhat dated, but his underlying vision is strong and sobering.

In his Communism and the Conscience of the West  he discusses the Antichrist:

The Antichrist will not be so called; otherwise he would have no followers. He will not wear red tights, nor vomit sulphur, nor carry a trident nor wave an arrowed tail as Mephistopheles in Faust. This masquerade has helped the Devil convince men that he does not exist. When no man recognizes him, the more power he exercises.

We must always remember that Satan comes as an angel of light. What he presents is always eminently reasonable. He offers the seemingly sensible way, the soft way, the way of compromise and ease. If he showed himself as the monster he is all would run howling in terror. Instead he offers a way out when we are in a jam, an alternative when the way of Christ seems difficult.

Nowhere in Sacred Scripture do we find warrant for the popular myth of the Devil as a buffoon who is dressed like the first “red.” Rather is he described as an angel fallen from heaven, as “the Prince of this world,” whose business it is to tell us that there is no other world.

When watching for the anti Christ we should be careful not to become too obsessed with one particular historical or contemporary figure. To be sure, there will be an anti Christ one day who seeks to take over the world and there will be his prophet who is a religious leader who seeks to deceive people with a fake system of spirituality.

However, we should also remember that down through history there have always been anti Christs and false prophets. Furthermore, there have also been systems of thought that have been antiChrists and systems of religion that are the false prophet.

At heart the Anti Christ is the ruler of this world. The false prophet teaches a religion that is only of this world.

All the world’s systems and false religions combine to convince us of this fact. Here are some of the anti Christ systems of thought prevalent in our culture today:

  • Materialism: there is no other world. This is it.
  • Scientism only scientifically tested knowledge is valid.
  • Historicism there is not over-arching providence. History is random.
  • Evolutionism the natural world develops at random. There is no divine plan.
  • Utilitarianism what works is all that matters. Efficiency and economy are our gods.
  • Rationalism there is no such thing as Revelation. Your reasoning power is your only access to truth.
  • Sentimentalism your feelings are your only guide because there is no objective truth
  • Moral Relativism there is no great Law. Therefore you may do as you wish. In fact this is the motto of diabolism: “Do as you Will.”

Fulton Sheen traces the logical consequence of a system that is bound only to this world and seeks to eliminate the unseen world.

Satan’s logic is simple: if there is no heaven there is no hell; if there is no hell, then there is no sin; if there is no sin, then there is no judge, and if there is no judgment then evil is good and good is evil. But above all these descriptions, Our Lord tells us that he will be so much like Himself that he would deceive even the elect–and certainly no devil ever seen in picture books could deceive even the elect.

Of course the elect will be deceived and follow the antichrist. They already do. To see what I mean continue reading Archbishop Sheen.

How will he come in this new age to win followers to his religion? The pre-Communist Russian belief is that he will come disguised as the Great Humanitarian; he will talk peace, prosperity and plenty not as means to lead us to God, but as ends in themselves.

Always beware the promise of a better world. There is always a price to pay for Utopia. Do not swallow the bait. Remember there is always free cheese in a mousetrap. Do not spend your time making this world a better place without first making sure you are going to the Best Place. The antichrist always offers us this world. He offered Christ himself all the kingdoms of this world. He does the same to us. He offers a wonderful world…one without God and his Son Christ the King.

Sheen explains what the religion of the anti Christ looks like:

this is the temptation to have a new religion without a Cross, a liturgy without a world to come, a religion to destroy a religion, or a politics which is a religion–one that renders unto Caesar even the things that are God’s. In the midst of all his seeming love for humanity and his glib talk of freedom and equality, he will have one great secret which he will tell to no one: he will not believe in God.

The antichrist will not believe in God, but he will be religious. Watch the political leaders give lip service to Christianity and the Church. During the election the politician will pray to get into office. After the election the people pray to get him out of office. The antichrist follows the Lord of this World and you can tell because all he cares about is this world.

Because his religion will be brotherhood of Man without the fatherhood of God, he will deceive even the elect. He will set up a counter church which will be the ape of the Church, because he, the Devil, is the ape of God. It will have all the notes and characteristics of the Church, but in reverse and emptied of its divine content. It will be a mystical body of the Antichrist that will in all externals resemble the mystical body of Christ. . . .

“The Ape of God” what a phrase! It reminds me of The Last Battle by C.S.Lewis in which an ape named Shift finds an old lion skin and persuades a stupid donkey named Puzzle to dress up as Aslan. The faithful Narnians are fooled by Shift and Puzzle because they had already given in and forgotten about Aslan. They had already compromised, so when the anti Aslan appeared they fell down before him.

Catholics need to wake up. Already most of us have adapted to the Spirit of the new age. Already we have compromised our standards and lowered our defenses. It has been a slow, gradual process, but why do we think that we might stand up to the antichrist when we have already swallowed his candy?

Look at the world around you. How many church leaders do you know who already preach a gospel that is no more than watered down socialism? How many sweet talking, smiling preachers do you already know who parade their political activism while neglecting the reality of Christ’s true gospel? How many religious people do you know who already believe that it is all about the brotherhood of Man while neglecting the Fatherhood of God?

At this time there is no single false prophet or counterfeit church. Instead these false systems of thought have infiltrated all the Christian churches and the Catholic church is no exception. When I hear prelates talk more about saving the environment than saving souls I’m smelling sulphur. When I hear priests and prelates justifying a sexual immorality that breaks the sacrament of marriage and the natural order in the cause of “peace and mercy” I’m smelling smoke–and it ain’t incense. When I hear prelates compromise the Catholic faith in favor of a false ecumenism I’m whiffing something vile from the sewers of Dis.

Already they have put before us “a new religion without a Cross, a liturgy without a world to come, a religion to destroy a religion, or a politics which is a religion–one that renders unto Caesar even the things that are God’s.”

Wake up, and don’t be deceived. Remember the only thing Satan knows how to do is to lie. He is the Father of Lies and the Father of Flies, and where the flies gather there is already a corpse.

Brantly Millegan writes here on the history of the Feast of Christ the King and how it was instituted by PopePius XI as a bulwark against Communism and secular atheism.


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Babylon Comes Knocking: What The Church Must Do Now

These have been sad weeks for Catholics across the globe and especially in the United States, as more and more headlines have spilled forth a seemingly endless stream of failures in the Church’s handling of sexual abuse, of clerical power, and of topics pertaining to sexuality in general.

Our present mega-storm is composed of several tempests all drawn together.  First came the revelations about Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior, then the Pennsylvania report, and then the uproar in my own Archdiocese over a retreat for gay priests.  The escalation of the debate about the nature and acceptability of same sex attraction, in and outside of the clergy, was taken to new levels.  As if that were not enough, there came the bombshell testimony of Archbishop Vigano describing a web of protection and cover-up surrounding Archbishop McCarrick that ensnared, by name, several prominent prelates, implicating even Pope Francis himself in the sheltering of a known sexual pervert. What we are left with is a mess of epic proportions.

What’s worse has been the explosion of a civil war, out into the open, among some of the bishops, the varying wings of the Catholic and secular press (along conservative and liberal lines predictably enough), over the need for the Pope to give an answer to these claims.  Several voices of the laity have added their voices to the same cry for transparency and accountability. Meanwhile, it appears to us on the outside that Rome fiddles while the Church burns.  The Holy Father is said to be calm and serene in the midst of the firestorm, rather like Nero playing his fabled fiddle.

Many of the laity and clergy who have no means of influence feel the sickening sense of helplessness as this drags on with no clear movement toward resolution, and no end in sight. Even if Pope Francis were to resign, as some have demanded, it is not clear what that solves in light of the questions now swirling around so many others in the College of Cardinals and in the hierarchy.

This is what it feels like to be drowning in spiritually violent seas.  Our teachings on the very important matters of human sexuality have been emptied of any power or coherency. Our leadership has zero credibility. Our survivors of sexual abuse are still in pain. Our laity are feeling ignored and abandoned by the thousands.  Our Church appears to be tumbling down. This is a spiritual and moral heartbreak of epic magnitude.

The Cry of the Righteous One Who Waits for Justice

The Scriptures offer key insights on how to understand the causes, the meaning, and the remedy for our current situation. The psalms and the prophets poignantly articulate the cry of the righteous one who cries out to heaven for justice and feels ignored. The righteous one suffers violence and pain at the hands of the wicked and the powerful.  These are cries of lament in the face of forces that seem intransigent and well outside of earthly control.  Where is God?

The most poignant Scriptural laments express the sad realization that calamities have been occurring at the hands of fellow Israelites. The worst hurts are caused by those within the chosen fold, by the anointed leaders, while the priests and professional prophets (the clergy) stand by.

The same psalms and prophets also speak of confidence in God’s saving power, trusting that in the end the righteous and the innocent will be vindicated, while the wicked will be punished and brought to justice.  If it does not happen in this life, then it will happen in the next. These days we, who have no official authority to make changes, find our voice echoed in that of the righteous one who painfully waits God’s justice.

The Destruction of the Temple Was Permitted for a Reason

The Scriptures gradually coalesced around the understanding that the destruction that befell the Israelites, most devastatingly with the Babylonian destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, was the result of the infidelity, hubris, and self-satisfied smugness of the chosen nation itself.  God himself permits necessary suffering to come to the people He loves in order to teach them to repent.

Babylon has been knocking at the gates of the Church for a while now under a guise of many faces, brought on by multiple layers of infidelity and hubris.  The prophets speak of an abandonment of the covenant. In our day there is the infidelity of decades of gradual watering down of the Scriptural and theological teachings about sexuality, especially the sensitive subject of homosexuality, during which the Church and the wider culture became slowly unmoored from the rock of Divine Revelation.

The prophets condemn the shepherds who prey on their sheep. In our era, over decades, the shepherds preyed on the vulnerable for the twisted sexual gratification of the clergy, fueled by the abuse of clerical power. Such evil rots the Church from the inside out.

The prophets speak of faithless leaders. In our era, over decades, there has been an abject failure of judgment and leadership on the part of the hierarchy who did not act to correct the offenses against doctrine, or the offenses against the vulnerable.

The prophets speak of bad politics and the forming of camps in favor of divergent agendas. In our era there has emerged, over decades, “conservative” versus “liberal” fault lines in the Church, causing earthquakes throughout our seminaries, our parishes, our dioceses, our presbyterate , and even between our recent popes. What gradually became more important than protecting young people was the question “which side of the theological battle are you on?”  Little else can explain how it is possible for Pope Francis to, allegedly, ignore the warnings of the leadership of the prior regime other than the suspicion that a member of the “conservative” theological camp was trying to smear a member of the “liberal” camp, and therefore he was dismissed as a zealot.  Similar arguments have been advanced to explain how Saint John Paul II became blind to the grievous sins of Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ. This type of ideological filtering that leads to tragic misjudgments of facts is occurring these days at all levels of the Church.

The abuses of power by the clergy do not confine themselves only to sexual abuse of minors, teens, and seminarians.  It is an abuse of power for clerics and theologians, especially those who make the popular media circuits, to set themselves over and above the revealed tradition of the Church by seeking to make murky our doctrines on sex, sin, and grace.  Those who suffer most are those who need clear teachings to sort out the muck of their own moral messes.  They are the vulnerable who are led astray by clerics on power trips.

The parallels of our own day with those of the prophets are clear.  Therefore we should not be surprised if our current strongholds and structures, like the Temple of old, are allowed to burn down.

The Necessary Transparency of the Gospels

Not only are the psalms and prophets helpful to understanding our situation, but instructive also are the Gospel narratives and the writings of the New Testament.  In the ancient Church, whose picture is painted in the divinely inspired writings of the Bible, we are given a model of how to handle the reality of a failure of judgment on the part of the Church’s leaders, namely, the Apostles themselves.

The Apostles, and their close followers, are the ones who told the story of their encounter with the Lord during His life, on the last night of His life, and in the days of His death and resurrection.  It is a very unflattering picture of themselves that they paint for all the world to see. There is no attempt to protect their reputation by papering over their own bad judgment and failures.

Their transparency intentionally serves to demonstrate the Savior’s power. God saves, not us.  It is His message, not ours.  His Sacraments have power not because ministers are holy, but instead because God is holy.  His Church is true not because men have kept it going, but rather because God pushes her forward, through storm after storm, allowing with great care all the buffeting that she must endure for her good.

What We Need to Do Now

In the light of the Scriptures, I propose the following remedies for the epic mess in which we currently find ourselves.

First, the Church herself, as an entity, needs to go to ConfessionIt is true that the majority of the abuse cases roiling the news and the public now occurred a long time ago.  However, our attitude about this fact should be the same attitude any good pastor has when someone approaches him in Confession, explaining that it’s been 40 years since his or her last Confession.  The answer from our side of the screen is always: “Confess it all, even the things that happened 40 years ago. Then you will know healing and peace.” The Church needs to go to Confession, and we need to confess everything.

Secondly, we need to confess to the civil authorities.We need to request that every attorney general, in every State, and also any international authority with any teeth, conduct a full investigation of every American Archdiocese, and of the Vatican, of how the issue of clerical abuse has been handled.  For a complete picture, those same civil authorities also need to be given an accounting of our handling of finances and contributions right down to the local parish level.

Sadly enough, I do not think we are capable of making a full confession without the assistance of an external agent. For the record, I do not trust the secular and anti-Catholic agenda of many of the civic powers that will no doubt have to carry out this embarrassing exercise, but the fact is that if we are honest then we have nothing to fear.  If we are dishonest we need to suffer. Did not the Lord freely place himself into the hands of his enemies for the salvation of the world?  What else is there to say?

Thirdly, I join my voice to others who have already called for an inclusion of the lay faithful in the process of making priest assignments within dioceses and bishop appointments throughout the world.I also echo the recent calls for the creation of a lay review board for accusations against bishops.There are challenges with this to be sure, for example, who decides which laity are included, but nonetheless there is immense benefit to seeking the wisdom of professional lay leaders in evaluating the suitability for clerical leadership within the Church.

Lay professionals offer a vital extra pair of eyes on the judgments of clerics. One occupational hazard of the priestly vocation comes from the “power of the keys,” or of “binding and loosing” that is of the essence of Holy Orders itself.  All bishops and priests exercise this role of discernment and judgment within the confessional.  It is the weighing, with hopefully tender heart and sound theology, of the gravity of a person’s sins, as well as their sincerely expressed desire to change, in order to extend absolution.

This duty of priests hearing confessions is unique on the face of this earth.  After years and years of it, we run the risk of developing a mistakenly high tolerance for the failures of others, as well as an overly optimistic view of how some situations may change with time. Priests see miracles of grace and transformation all the time in the personal lives of our flocks, and we do accept God’s awesome power to transform even hardened sinners into changed men and women. One can see how an overly optimistic mentality about conversion could have been applied to personnel decisions of priestly assignments, especially when there were no professional laity involved to check our reasoning about difficult cases.

Lastly, the laity and the clergy need to be inspired to take up true, internal reform. This requires embracing the fullness of the Scriptures, the fullness of our teachings especially those pertaining to sexuality, returning to penance and fasting, increasing our prayer, embracing simplicity, assisting the needy, and being ardent in devotion to the Lord Jesus. From such reform movements new lay sodalities grow, and new clerical associations are born. From those groups, new bishops are chosen, new cardinals are named, and authentically reforming popes are elected. This all takes generations.  It will come again.  I dare say it must come soon.

Only a New Generation Will Move Us Forward

Until the reforms I speak of come about, we find ourselves in the psalms and with the prophets.  We find ourselves as well on the long journey out of Egypt, a time of real testing and trial.  None of the Egypt generation were allowed to see the Promised Land, including Moses, because of their sins.  A new generation had to move forward with God.  Similarly, a generation or two were lost in the Babylonian Exile, and the Temple was burned, and the priests were taken captive, before God would again allow them all to return home.  If we end up losing it all, then one must conclude it was time for it to go.

Such things are necessary in every era.  It is how God purifies His chosen people.


Father Nathan Reesman is a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. He is the Shared Pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, and also of Saint Frances Cabrini Parish, both in West Bend, Wisconsin. He is also the Courage and EnCourage chaplain for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Courage is an apostolate of the Catholic Church that ministers to men and women who experience same sex attraction.

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Clergy who promote LGBT are committing a ‘kind of apostasy’: Bishop Schneider

From LifeSiteNews:

Dublin, Ireland, September 4, 2018

“The Christian family is facing a new Goliath in the ideology of homosexuality and gender,” Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana in Kazakhstan said in a recent talk.

“And unfortunately,” he added, “some in the ranks of the clergy became activists and promoters of so-called LGBT ideology, which is, in reality, a kind of apostasy from the Christian faith.”

Schneider made his comments in a video address to the Conference of Catholic Families (COCF) which took place in Dublin, Ireland, last month. He lauded those present for proclaiming the truth about marriage and family.

The COCF “has meritorious courage to resist the totalitarian and worldwide gender ideology,” he said, in contrast to “other Catholic family meetings, which have surrendered themselves to this ideology or willfully accepted it.”

“Such surrender to the gender ideology and its acceptance constitutes ultimately a betrayal of Christ,” Schneider stated, “an apostasy from the integral and divinely revealed Catholic and apostolic faith.”

Schneider was one of several Catholic presenters who addressed the COCF, an alternative orthodox event running concurrent to the Vatican-run LGBT-affirmingWorld Meeting of Families (WMOF).

“We live in a time in which one of the most beautiful creations of God – namely marriage and family- are under general attack on the side of the neo-Marxist dictatorship which disguises and masks itself with the artificial and bizarre name of LGBT,” said Schneider, “which has gained almost universal power in the media.”

It was puzzling and sad, he said, that collaborators with this general attack on marriage and family could be found “even in the ranks of the clergy.”

Along with the ongoing revelations in the Church’s sexual abuse crisis, the WMOF was overshadowed by concern that pro-LGBT Father James Martin was one of the keynotes.

Martin, a Vatican advisor and editor-at-large for Jesuit-run American magazine, continually preaches an LGBT-affirming message. He told WMOF participants who traveled to Dublin for the Vatican’s family event that active homosexuals “should be invited into parish ministries.”

“But right now,” Schneider said, “we are called to be faithful to the unchangeable truths of our Catholic and apostolic faith which our fathers and forefathers had transmitted to us. We have a chance to be courageous witnesses of the divine truth and of the beauty of marriage and family.”

Despite being smaller than the Vatican-backed meeting and lacking “the sympathy of the powerful of this world” and sometimes even from the official structures of the Church, Schneider told the Conference of Catholic Families, “You are powerful in the eyes of God and of eternity” because “you have the true and undistorted faith.”

“You can say to the others you have the money and all the administrative and organizational structures you have the applause of the anti-Christian world,” he added. “We, however, we have the faith, and that matters.”

True Catholic families – and fittingly, large families – will strengthen the troubled Church of today with the beauty of the Catholic Faith, the bishop said.

“From that faith will come out new Catholic fathers and mothers,” said Schneider, “and from them there will come out a new generation of zealous priests and intrepid bishops, who will be ready to give their life for Christ and for the salvation of the souls.”

Christianity was born out of the Holy Family, he said, so that the family may be born again out of Christianity. The first fruit of the redemption is the Holy Family, just as the first blessing of the Creator was given to the family.

“Indeed,” said Bishop Schneider, “what the current world and the Church mostly need, are true Catholic families, the original places of the beauty of the Catholic Faith.”

“Let us look with the eyes of faith and with the gift of our reason and common sense to the beauty of the divine created author of marriage and family,” he said.

Remaining faithful to the vocation of being a Catholic family

Schneider went on to quote the statements of several popes and others, to illustrate that “the family and the entire human society will flourish only on the condition that the divine truth on marriage and family will be observed.”

These pro-family voices included Pope Leo XIII, Pope Pius XII, Pope Leo XII, Pope Pius XISt. Pius X, Pope Pius XII, Pope Pius XIV, Saint Louis IX, King of France and St. Therese of Lisieux.

There are families, young people, priests and bishops who are marginalized and ridiculed for their fidelity to the integrity of the Catholic faith and of the divine worship according to the tradition of our forefathers, said Bishop Schneider.

The key to the Catholic family remaining faithful to its vocation, he said, is faithfully practicing daily common prayer.

“My dear brothers and sisters, the first and most holy goal and end of holy matrimony and family consists in giving birth to new citizens of Heaven and to educate them in the Catholic faith,” he said.

“The family is, therefore, the first and original place where the integrity and the beauty of the Catholic faith should be taught to the children and by this way handed over to future generations,” he added.

Schneider emphasized the crucial nature of catechetical instruction in spreading the glory of God and to secure the salvation of souls.

One of the main causes of the moral, spiritual and religious crisis of the current time, he said, exists in religious ignorance, ignoring the truth of the faith, and an erroneous knowledge of the faith.

Also among the bishop’s key points were how Christian families must be new crusaders in spreading and defending the true Catholic faith, the importance of the Church’s tradition, and how the spiritual health of a nation depends on this transmission of the faith.

“My dear brothers and sisters, the Catholic family represents the first bulwark of two most efficient weapons against the modern apostasy,” said Bishop Schneider. “The two most efficient weapons against the modern apostasy outside and inside the life if the Church, are the purity and integrity of the faith and the purity of a chaste life.”

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Viganò: Instrument of Divine Intervention

From The Remnant Video:

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World Over Analysis of Archbishop Viganò’s explosive Testimony

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A Leaven In The World… Why I Accuse The Pope

September 3, 2018


Stained Glass Windows depicting the seven Sacraments, Holy Redeemer Church in Aledo, Texas

For many years now, it has become quite common for priests to be treated as if they have do not have a conscience. They have been led to corrupt the sacraments without their consent and now it is being directed from the top.

Some years ago I was stationed by the Navy in Florida. A woman came to the chapel with a child to ask about Baptism for an infant. Her visit led to one of the greatest crises of my naval career, perhaps of my priesthood. You know the tale: Adult wants Baptism for a child, adult hasn’t been attending Mass, adult is in mortal sin and scandalizing the child or children as well as unable to raise them in the faith. Adult needs to return to regular Sunday Mass first. After Confession.

Establishing a reasonable hope that a child will be raised in the faith, which the Church requires for infant Baptism, has always been understood by me to mean that, at a minimum, the child should be educated in the faith and enabled to practice his or her faith by at least attending Sunday Mass, depending upon the help of an adult to get there until he or she is old enough to drive.

Out of compassion in such situations most priests probably, as I did, launch into a nuanced explanation leading to the conclusion that Baptism is for the purpose of going to Heaven, we go to Heaven by cooperating with the grace of Baptism and loving God, we love God by keeping the Commandments, to include keeping the Lord’s Day holy through Mass, and we cannot reasonably assume we are going to Heaven if we choose not to do so of our own free will. I usually also offer the information that a grave reason excuses from the grave obligation to keep the Third Commandment and ask the adult if he or she has indeed omitted to attend Mass for such a reason.

Well, she left my office and lodged a complaint. Word came back that the military archbishop was going to pull my endorsement. The reason was that he had been led to believe that I told the woman “she was going to Hell in front of her six-year-old daughter.” It didn’t matter that it was a lie. For a military chaplain losing an endorsement means you’re out of the service in 24 hours: no retirement, all one’s years of active duty lost. Disaster.

The Navy chief of chaplains at the time convinced the archbishop to look into the matter with the help of a senior chaplain who would meet with me and discuss the accusation. We did, and I told him that I had never said those words to the woman and had, in fact, never said them to anyone. How do I know where someone is going after they die? Impossible, for anyone, including a priest, as well as irrational. But also, as I would later write in a letter to the archbishop, I consider such behavior a pastoral abuse. If I had indeed done such a thing it should be treated with the utmost seriousness.

The archbishop also said it was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” because there had been other complaints previously. In my defense I made it known that no one from the archdiocese had ever informed me that was the case. The story ended with me finishing out my term of active duty, after affiliating with the Reserves, and retiring last year. Unscathed.

It is true I was known to preach about Humanae Vitae and other taboo topics and otherwise upset the carefully balanced apple cart in the Catholic chaplain world at the time, then documented in other places as a holding tank for errant clergy. The senior chaplain interceding on my behalf offered a solution by saying “baptize them all.” That’s not what the Church says. And that’s where the conscience of the priest comes into play. The Church says that the priest must establish a reasonable hope that the child will be raised in the faith. The priest must ascertain the facts and, if such is not the case, work to bring it about. But he cannot do it without the cooperation of the parents. He must follow his conscience and deny Baptism if the parents reject the faith by refusing to practice it.
The corruption of the sacraments is the greatest threat to the faithful in the pews. Yes, they will fight you tooth and nail to try to get grace under false circumstances, but priests and faithful Catholics must strive mightily to give them salvation in true love. Priests have often become mindless sacramental machines to give our sacraments unthinkingly like candy to every comer.

The Archbishop Viganò Letter currently causing a furor in the Catholic world is simply the straw that broke the camel’s back with Pope Francis. We have been steadily subjected to more and more abuse of the sacraments and of the faithful like frogs in steadily increasing hot water. It is logically a short distance from corrupting Communion by giving the Lord sacramentally to fornicators or adulterers, as called for by Amoris Laetitia, to allowing a homosexual predator cardinal back into circulation after the previous Pope attempted to protect the faithful by sanctioning him. This is what it appears was done by Francis in the case of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick with knowledge of his crimes. Regardless, Francis is the Pope and as such it is his job to know. I choose to believe Archbishop Viganò when he writes that he gave the Pope every opportunity to learn of McCarrick’s crimes before he put him back into circulation.

These are pastoral abuses: Silence when speaking would dispel confusion. Propagating error instead of Catholic doctrine. Restoring sanctioned reprobate clergy back into good standing. Appointing pro-homosexualist bishops and cardinals to meetings.
All priests have consciences like every Catholic and also a right and duty to speak out. To all our priests I plead: You owe your flock courage and clear leadership. Be silent no more. Form and follow your consciences. Refuse to corrupt the sacraments and betray souls, for we who are priests betray our own salvation if we do thus.

Let’s at least not lie to ourselves: The Viganò testimony is merely the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The evidence is already in and it is abundant. Guilty as charged. Any reasonable person would expect a priest or bishop who so abused his flock to be deposed.
Pope Francis is continuing his course of destruction by disastrous episcopal appointments to Newark, Chicago, and San Diego with prelates in his image who mock our intelligence with their nonsensical prattle and pro-homosexualist ideology. If we do not speak our consciences we jeopardize our own salvation as well as those we betray also by our silence.

Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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Attacking the Whistleblower and The heart of Bergoglianity

Attacking the Whistleblower. The abuse-enabling culture is alive and well 

by Joseph Shaw, LMS Chairman:

In the current phase of the Church’s crisis, we are focusing as much or more on the enablers of abuse, than on the abusers themselves. It is time we thought about them, because it removes the comforting impression that a ‘few bad apples’ could be ejected from the priesthood and all would be well.

As is sometimes pointed out, perhaps 4% of priests were sex abusers. The problem is the general ethos and culture which enabled them to carry on their abuse, and the superiors systematically protected the abusers. Never mind the 4% of priests: it is the 60% or 80% or more of bishops and religious superiors who harboured sexual predators and provided them with fresh opportunities for abuse. It may be that most of the priest-abusers have died or been laicised by now, but their hierarchical enablers, few of whom had to face up to their crimes when the clerical abuse became a big story in 2002, have continued to flourish. This is an indication that, even if stricter reporting procedures have had a restraining effect on sexual predation by priests since 2002, the ethos and culture which made the abuse possible is still largely intact.

What is this culture? I have on this blog tried to go beyond a superficial understanding of it with the help of two perspectives: first, the classic account of how conformism can distort an individual’s behaviour, and how it can take over an organisation; and second, the way that the rejection of the Church’s teaching on sexuality has destroyed the hierarchy’s ability to respond appropriately to cases of abuse. In this post I want to consider things from a third perspective, which is connected with conformism: the pattern of abuse-enabling.

Eleven months ago I was defending the ‘Filial Correction’, and wrote this about some of its critics:

Something profoundly worrying about criticisms of the signatories of the Correction specifically for speaking out about problems which every informed Catholic already knows about, is the mindset it reveals, one focused not on the truth, but on appearances. It is strongly reminiscent of the mindset at work in abusive families, where children are taught to pretend things are all right, when they are not: certain topics are not to be broached, certain facts are not to be referred to. This attitude can be enforced not by the abusive parent directly, but by other family members who are trying to keep up appearances and hold the family together. It is nevertheless profoundly unhealthy, and indeed is linked to psychological disorders in the children.

We should fear any such attitude, however well-intentioned, invading the Church. If there are problems, we should talk about them, and not pretend they do not exist.

It is natural to ask whether, since Cardinal McCarrick was himself a sexual predator, those who defend him, and often had such long associations with him, are or have been sexual predators as well. It is after all very possible. But even if some are, I expect most are not. They stand in relation to McCarrick as many family members stand in relation to an abusive parent. They desperately try to protect him, not because they approve of what he does, but because they are terrified of the consequences of it all coming out. They are frightened that the exposure of the abuser will destroy the family.

That specific fear is not, of course, entirely irrational, but the behaviour of these family members is not to be understood in simple, rational terms. They are, after all, victims of the abuse, whether sexual or psychological, and this has shaped their behaviour in non-rational ways. To put it in crude terms, they have for years and perhaps decades been bullied and brainwashed by the abuser, and the complex and self-contradictory message the abuser has sought to impress upon them includes the following: the abuser does no wrong; they are at fault for bad things which are happening; they are guilty and should fear the attention of outsiders; the abuser loves them and protects them; and terrible things would happen if he were removed from the scene.

Those who have internalised this message can go to astonishing lengths to protect the person who is making their lives hell, and to maintain the situation in which his behaviour can continue.

An added factor, particularly when we move from families to larger institutions, is when the abuser is able to promote favoured victims to the status of co-abuser, or give them other privileges which depend upon the continuing existence of the abusive system.

It is worth emphasising that I am talking about abuse, not what the secular press likes to call ‘consensual relationships with adults’. Abuse does not stop being abuse when the victim turns 18, but the pattern of behaviour I am describing has little in common with, say, a seminarian having an affair with a fellow seminarian, or a woman outside the seminary, serious as that would be. Nor am I principally concerned with sexual orientation: the pattern of behaviour can equally be displayed when the underlying abuse is not sexual at all, but psychological. My interest here is the relationship between what we might call the core abuse and the penumbra of unhealthy attitudes and patterns of behaviour which come to be displayed by those around the abuser, even by people who don’t take part in the core abuse.

For these attitudes and patterns of behaviour in the circle around the abuser are themselves abusive.

Imagine a family or institution at whose apex there is a classic abuser. He has surrounded himself with people who permit, facilitate, and cover up the abuse, and placed them in positions of privilege. Beyond this inner circle there will be people who have not been completely conditioned by the abuse, for example because they are newer on the scene, or younger. Most of them will have much more contact with the inner circle than with the abuser himself. It is the inner circle who will do much, or perhaps even all, of the direct work of bullying and brainwashing these outer-circle people, who will be looking to them for guidance. Consistently turning a blind eye to abuse, refusing to talk about it, becoming angry when certain topics are broached: these are powerful tools, if applied consistently to a captive audience over a long period of time. They train the junior members of the institution or family in the behaviour which is expected of them. This is a training in patterns of thought and behaviour which are unhealthy: which are harmful to mental health. They are gaslighting them.

This will work most profoundly in a closed institution like a cult, but it can work in families, seminaries, dioceses, the whole Church, and indeed in a whole society. The more open the institution the harder it will be for a culture of abuse to distort members’ sense of justice and of what is normal, but it can still work to a large extent. This is how totalitarian states can continue to exist.

The most important thing for abuse-facilitators to do is to keep a lid on the exchange of information and dissent. This is a very pronounced principle in many cults, and of course in repressive states. In institutions and families which have limited coercive measures to employ against members, social pressure is the key to this. People who speak out internally or seek to attract the attention of outsiders are subjected to vilification and ostracism. Abusive institutions are generally also on the look-out for scapegoats to blame for their poor functioning, so hysterical attacks on whistleblowers can serve a double purpose.

The people attacking the whistleblowers are, to repeat, not necessarily the top-level abusers in the institution. They are people who are both abused and abuser: who are inflicting on others what they fear will happen to themselves. At the limit, we might want to absolve them from blame altogether: they may be too terrified and pyschologically damaged to think straight. But my concern is not with Maoist China; I’m talking about something at the milder end of the range. The Church is a dysfunctional family, not a death-cult. The unbalanced attacks on Archbishop Viganò, the desperate attempts to change the subject, are not being carried out by brain-washed zombies. They are being carried out by people who have got into a habit of protecting the institution regardless of the rights and wrongs of it.

Talking of tiers of abuse may seem a rather extreme approach to analysing a simple problem of over-zealous loyalty to the Church, but remember, we now know that we are dealing with the institutional manifestation of widespread sexual abuse. The question I am probing is: given that we have had an endemic abusive system at the heart of the institution for fifty or more years, at the level of the episcopacy, the seminaries, and even the Roman curia, what effect on the overall culture of the Church has it had?

The answer is that it will have done its best to draw into its distorted mind-set as many people involved with the Church as possible. It will have done its best to inculcate in them the abusive assumptions that the system is not, really, bad; the victims are guilty; and it would be terrible if the system is exposed: whistleblowers are traitors. We know how ruthlessly men too strong, too healthy, to bow to this set of attitudes have too often been treated. We know the kind of weak and weaselly individual who too often has found preferment in this system. Thank heaven, there are exceptions. I am not making a generalisation about bishops or priests, so much as an observation of the direction in which things have been pushed, a direction we would not have gone in at all had it not been for the poison of abuse eating away at the good sense of good people in the Church over many decades.

This problem will not quickly be cured. Removing the chief abusers and their chief enablers is obviously urgently necessary. Making it clear to the next rank down, to people who have consciously or half-consciously been aiding abuse and its cover-up, that this is unjust and continues and spreads deeply damaging attitudes and behaviours – that it is itself abusive – is the next step.


The Heart of Bergoglianity

by Father Hunwicke:

The heart of the Bergoglianist error is, in my fallible opinion, to be found in such texts as the letter Archbishop Nichols wrote last year to PF, assuring him that English Catholics believe that his election was the work of the Holy Spirit [not in my name, Vincent], and that the Holy Spirit guides him daily [ditto]; vide similar statements by now-Cardinal Farrell linking the Pope to the Holy Spirit … Mgr Pio of the Rota … …

Now one of the Church’s leading and most extreme hyperultrapapalists, the papolatrous Cardinal Maradiaga, has encapsulated that error in a single lucid sentence and, in so doing, has pushed the error a few notches further up the scale … or even, you may feel, off the scale. Here are his reported words:

“To ask for the resignation of the pope is, in my opinion, a sin against the Holy Spirit, who ultimately is the guide of the Church.”

I need not remind you that the “sin against the Holy Spirit” is, according to the words of the Lord, the unforgivable sin: unforgivable both in this world and in the next (Mt 12:31 sqq et parr).

Not even, apparently, merely a sin canonically reserved to the Holy See. A sin … unforgivable!

As PF’s grip on power becomes ever more threatened, it is natural that his cronies should become daily more extreme in their desperate rhetoric designed to protect their unfortunate and profoundly flawed hero.

But to say that calling on him to resign is a sin against the Holy Spirit goes even further than I had  feared possible. 

I wrote recently, “They are running scared and they will become very dangerous”. 

When I wrote this I had no idea just how scared and how dangerous. Is there anything they will stop at?

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Reflection for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B


Image result for This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me



FIRST READING            Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8

Moses said to the people:  “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.  In your observance of the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.  Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’  For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?  Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”

SECOND READING                  James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27

Dearest brothers and sisters:  All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.  He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.  Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.  Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:  to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

GOSPEL                Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.  — For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders.  And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves.  And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. –So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”  He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:  This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.  You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”  He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.  “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.  All these evils come from within and they defile.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Is there anyone who can teach us as Jesus does?  Is there any faith tradition that as strong and true as our own?  There is no God other than ours, Father, Son and Spirit, that claims to give us the truth about what it means to be human, what it means to believe and what it means to live with complete faith in God.

The first reading today is from the Book of Deuteronomy and speaks about how our ancestors had an enormous pride in their faith but also a deep awareness that it was truly God who was leading them and showing them how to believe.  They believed deeply that God was speaking to them in history, in His chosen people, in those who were chosen to lead them and in everything.  It was this belief that sustained them and which still sustains the Jewish people.  We, Christians who follow Jesus Christ, acknowledge the Jewish people as our ancestors in the faith.  We can only understand Jesus if we understand our Jewish ancestors.  This is why we always have readings from the Old Testament.  Jesus Himself explains who He is to those who accompanied Him to Emmaus after the Resurrection by explaining the Scriptures to them.  The only Scriptures at that point would have been the Jewish Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament.

The second reading today is from the Letter of James.  We are told to be doers of the Word and not only hearers.  This is echoed so much today:  we need actions and not just words.  All of us should recognize that if we only speak about God or about Jesus or about the Spirit—and our lives have no actions showing that our beliefs have taken effect—then no one will believe our words.  This is echoed strongly today in the movement to combat sexual abuse and the cover-ups of sexual abuse by bishops and religious leaders.  We humans get tired of words that do not change our lives into action.  This is why today’s short except from the Letter of James ends this way:  “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:  to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”  Actions must come from beliefs.

The Gospel today is from Saint Mark and tells us about the complaint of the Pharisees and some scribes that the followers of Jesus were not observing the proper Jewish laws when they did not wash their hands before eating.  Jesus shows Himself to be impatient with this understanding of faith:  “You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”  What use is it to wash our hands if we don’t love other people and only use religious traditions to make life difficult for others?

Jesus is so clear in His teachings.  He tells us that He did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.  Jesus has no problem with the person who washes His hands and still serves the poor and the needy.  The problem is with us who make sure to wash our hands but never pay attention to the poor and the needy in our midst!  If I go to Church regularly but don’t care about the poor and the needy, my Church-going is in vain.  I should both be going to Church and serving the poor and the needy.

We can never use our faith to think that we are just fine and ignore the poor and the needy.  We must seek how to serve others.  God calls us in Christ Jesus to serve all others and to sacrifice ourselves and our own desires in the serving of others.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Medjugorje: 30 years of Visions or Religious fraud?

Medjugorje: focus on the first ten days

One would think that the ardent promoters of Medjugorje would be overflowing with Christian virtues, given that they supposedly get the benefit of so much spiritual guidance in the form of frequent sermonettes from Heaven: over 1000 messages by now. But some of them responded quite bitterly to the recent interview given by Fr. Manfred Hauke in the “Tagespost” Catholic newspaper in Germany: one Austrian news site headlined its piece “If a ‘Mariologist’ fights against the Mother of God”, presenting attacks from the physician and Medjugorje devotee Dr. Christian Stelzer of Vienna.

Ah, well. One must be patient and persistent, and so the professor is. Here, in an interview published at August 27, 2018, Dr. Eva Doppelbauer gives Fr. Hauke the opportunity to go into some detail, telling the story of the first ten days of the alleged apparitions: facts which Medjugorje devotees aren’t going to find very much in the promotional literature. The translation is mine. Thanks to Fr. Hauke for permission to publish it here.

Is the Medjugorje phenomenon authentic? Exclusive interview with Prof. Manfred Hauke

Q: Professor, you find it unimaginable that the Mother of God has been appearing in Medjugorje since 1981. Why?

There is a whole series of arguments that have to be viewed together. The most weighty are the internal contradictions of the messages connected with the “Mother of God”. These began as early as the first days of the phenomenon and are documented in detail in tape-recorded interviews with the seers.

For example?

On the question of how long she would continue to appear, the “Gospa” answered on June 29, 1981: “As long as you want.” A day later on June 30, she answered the same question: “Three more days”: or, three times. That was witnessed not only by five seers (with the exception of Ivan Dragicevic, who was absent on June 30), but also by two women who were present at this “apparition” and had heard the clearly spoken words of the seers (who were not at all in ecstasy). Because of that, the seers expected the end of the apparitions to be on July 3.

The two “apparitions” contradict one another…

Not only that. The first answer binds the duration of the “apparitions” to the subjective will of the seers, which contradicts the heavenly origin of authentic apparitions – as for example in Lourdes or Fatima. The second answer contradicts the factual outcome of the events, since the “apparitions” did also continue after July 3, 1981. Hence it is a false prediction which, according to the testimony of Deuteronomy, speaks against the authenticity of a prophecy. Deuteronomy asks: “How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?” The answer is: “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the Lord has not spoken” (Dt 18:22).
I have no doubt that in the first days “apparitions” took place. I do doubt that the Mother of God appeared to the young people in Medjugorje. A whole series of further indications speaks against it; I will come back to those.

You wrote in the Tagespost that Cardinal Ruini’s Medjugorje commission overlooked the interview tapes. What kind of tapes are they?

This is about interviews with the seers, recorded on tape, that were conducted from June 27 to 30, 1981, by Fr. Zrinko Cuvalo, OFM, at the time the vicar of the Medjugorje parish, on the morning of June 27 and afterward by Fr. Jovo Zovko, OFM, then the parish priest, from the afternoon of June 27 onward. In addition there are taped excerpts of the “apparitions” of June 28 and 29, 1981.

What has been done with these interviews?

Fr. Ivo Sivric, OFM (d. 2002), a Franciscan born in Medjugorje, working in the United States, published a French and English translation from the Croatian tape transcripts in collaboration with the Canadian parapsychologist Louis Bélanger.[1]
The distribution of these books was in fact boycotted by interested parties. Copies that were sent to France, for example, never arrived. The book is very hard to get in Europe. When I ordered it in 2010, I had to contact Bélanger personally, who arranged for me to get both editions. Sivric and Bélanger do not consider the “apparitions” authentic.

Are there any other editions of the taped interviews?

The publication of the texts in Canada inspired a Croatian-born supporter of the “apparitions” living there, Daria Klanac, who published her own edition of the taped interviews in order to check the work of Fr. Sivric.[2] The result doesn’t show any significant differences from the content of Sivric’s previous publication.
After Donal Anthony Foley had published a painstaking analysis of the tape transcripts (first in 2006, with a second edition in 2011), this alarmed Medjugorje devotees in the English-speaking world. So James Mulligan published a further English edition of the texts that adds a few additional recordings and confirms what was already known.[3]

Did the unavailability of this publication cause the Ruini commission to not take it into account?

The difficulty of obtaining the source texts is certainly a factor that one has to take into account, as well as the difficulty that the transcripts are not available in Italian translation. But they absolutely should have evaluated them closely. These earliest texts are closer to the origin than later interviews (such as those of Fr. Bubalo with Vicka from 1983-84). Failing to basically evaluate a historical source of this rank is scandalous from a scholarly point of view, especially if a recognition of the “first days” (and only those) is recommended by the Ruini commission.

What problems present themselves on the basis of the tapes?

I mentioned the unfulfilled prediction of the end of the apparitions “in three days” and that it was contradicted by the assertion that the duration of the apparitions depended on the will of the seers. The seers also asked the “Gospa” for a sign, but there was none given. The fact that the hands of a watch belonging to one of the seers had allegedly moved on its own was not given any great importance later by the seers.

Were there other “signs”?

There was the case of Daniel Setka, a disabled three-year-old boy. On June 29 the “Gospa” promised a healing for him. However, Fr. Zovko determined on June 30 that this had not succeeded.[4] According to the testimony of the parents (April 3, 1983) there was a gradual improvement, but no immediate and complete healing, as would be expected of a miracle recognized by the Church (according to the guidelines of the medical bureau at Lourdes).

What is the content of the “message” of the first days?

In contrast to what happened later, there is no clearly identifiable message in the first days of the “apparitions”, as Fr. Zovko stated on June 29 in a communication to the members of the parish at Medjugorje. Instead the “Gospa” responded to the private questions of the seers.
On June 29, she spoke of the “unbelieving Judas”, which the French Mariologist René Laurentin (principally responsible for the worldwide spread of the “apparitions” of Medjugorje) modified to “unbelieving Thomas”. The expression “unbelieving Judas” is plainly heard on the tape recording that was taken during the apparition itself.

How does the “Gospa” present herself?

The appearance of the “Gospa” contains numerous unusual details that we do not find in authentic Marian apparitions. Her hands tremble. Whenever people step on her overly long veil, she disappears over and over and then comes back. She allows herself to be grasped and laughs at it. Whoever grasps her has the feeling of grasping steel. The color of her garment is gray. There is no cincture in her garment and her foot cannot be seen. As in spiritualistic phenomena, her face becomes visible slowly and gradually. When she is asked whether she would like to appear in the church (which was Fr. Zovko’s preference), she hesitates. When holy water is sprinkled, three of the female seers faint. The seer Marija complains on June 26 of having ice-cold hands as a result of the encounter with the “Gospa”.
Donal Anthony Foley’s commendable work Medjugorje Revisited[5] illuminates some of these aspects.

The Ruini commission wants to recognize the first days of the “apparitions”. Where do they draw the boundary?

The content of the Ruini commission’s assessment is under the obligation of papal secrecy. At the same time it has become known, through press reports that were not denied, that the commission recognized the first seven “apparitions” in the first ten days as worthy of belief.

Are there reasons for drawing that boundary?

It is meaningful to set off the first ten days, that is, from June 24 to July 3, and it has been done already by multiple scholarly studies, because the “apparitions” were supposed to end on July 3, according to the statement of the “Gospa”.
But, to my knowledge, no researcher familiar with the sources has set off the first seven apparitions from the later ones. Sivric regarded the first seven days as distinct (they were dealt with in the taped interviews), without excluding the later ones from the investigation; Bubalo only mentions the meaning of the first week of apparitions (eight days, up to July 1). The number of apparitions and the number of days also do not match. On June 29, the sixth day of the “apparitions”, there is talk of the “apparitions” to come on the next three days. If someone wants to recognize the seven days from June 24 to 30 as authentic, he cannot logically exclude the time from July 1 to 3, because the prediction on June 29 refers to it.
If someone wants to set off the first “seven” apparitions, then (depending on how you count them), that runs up to June 29 or June 27. Perhaps the “apparitions” from June 24 to 29 were grouped together because they took place on Apparition Hill (Podbrdo), while the “apparitions” afterward took place in the area of Cerno (June 30), or in the rectory and in other places (in a car, etc.) But there were also later “apparitions” on Podbrdo, so that drawing such a boundary would be problematic.

What happened in the first days of the “apparitions”?

In the following, I would like to attempt an overview. To take a more precise position, one should compare the sources I have mentioned and especially Foley’s presentation.
The events did not begin on June 25 (i.e., according to the anniversary dates given on the web sites of Medjugorje devotees), but on Wednesday, June 24, on the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist. In the late afternoon Ivanka Ivankovic (15 years old) and Mirjana Dragicevic (16) were at the Podbrdo, between Bijakovici (a section of Medjugorje) and Cilici, on the way to listen to rock music and smoke cigarettes without permission. All at once Ivanka says: “Look, the Gospa!” Mirjana doesn’t even look at the place indicated by her friend: “What you do mean? Do you really think the Gospa would appear to us?”

And when did the second apparition happen?

The second “apparition” takes place on the evening of the same day, after Ivanka and Mirjana have gone to the home of Milka Pavlovic, a younger sister of Marija Pavlovic, who was later to be a seer. Milka asks Ivanka and Mirjana to help her drive her sheep back home from the hill. While climbing the hill (Podbrdo), the three girls see the form of a woman from a distance (about 200 meters), holding a white bundle that could be a child (though no one sees a head or hands or feet). The figure repeatedly covers and uncovers the “child”; she makes a gesture that the girls should come nearer. In front of the “apparition”, Vicka Ivankovic, a friend of Ivanka and Mirjana, happens upon the group.
At the cries of the girls, two boys who were gathering apples nearby approach: Ivan Ivankovic (who later does not take part in the “apparitions”) and Ivan Dragicevic, whose description of the vision deviates somewhat from that of the other seers. He reports having seen a woman with a blue cape, a white veil and a silver crown, while according to Mirjana the dress was gray and the veil whiteish; she also mentions a shining crown. There is no message.

What happens then?

The third “apparition” takes place on Thursday, June 25, at 6 p.m. on Podbrdo. Since people had said that Mary had appeared 18 times in Lourdes, Ivanka, Mirjana, and Vicka go to the hill in the evening in the expectation that the “apparition” could perhaps repeat itself. Milka and the two Ivans (from the previous day) are not there. In the taped interview on June 27, Ivan Dragicevic emphasizes three times that he was not present at the apparition. According to an interview on June 28, which was first published by Mulligan in 2013, the Mother of God is said to have asked: “Where is that boy?” (without using a name), and afterward had appeared to him separately.
While Ivanka runs to the “apparition”, Vicka turns back to the village to fetch Marija Pavlovic and Jakov Colo. As they run to the hill, they feel themselves as though “carried” through the thornbushes by a superhuman power, similarly to what the seers of Garabandal reported, where there was a comparable problem. This time, for the first time, the seers are quite close to the “Gospa” and can touch her. The seers perceive a sort of fog that draws ever nearer to them and gradually the body becomes visible.
Vicka describes touching the “Gospa” with the expression ‘grasping steel’, while Marija has the opinion, it was like air. As the seers touch the figure, it itself begins to laugh. According to Ivanka’s description the apparition is wearing a white veil and a very long gray cape, as well as a crown upon the head, with stars; she wears no belt; she has blue eyes and black hair. Ivanka asks where her mother (who had died two months previously) is. The “apparition” answers that her mother is well, and she should obey her grandmother. Mirjana asks for a sign and says that she saw the hand of her wristwatch turn. When asked if she would come again, the “Gospa” answers with a nod and says, “Go in peace”. When Marija returns home, she is deeply frightened; she cannot eat, and her hands are ice-cold.

The fourth apparition?

At the fourth “apparition” on Friday, June 26, all six seers, who subsequently form a group, are together for the first time (Ivanka, Mirjana, Vicka, Marija, Jakov, Ivan Dragicevic). It is again the start of evening, around 300 meters from the apparition site of the previous days. Three lightning flashes announce the “apparition”. For the first time, a large crowd of people is present. When Marija greets the figure with the words “My Gospa” as it appears, the “Mother of God” nods repeatedly (so it seems) with her head and makes the sign of the Cross several times. Ivanka asks the “Gospa” why she has come and receives the answer: “Because there are many believers, who should be together.” The people and the whole world should be reconciled to one another.
Upon Vicka’s interior request to give a sign, the “Gospa” answers: “Come again tomorrow”, to the place where she had appeared before. Mirjana asks about her deceased grandfather and receives the answer: he is doing well. She should visit the cemetery. According to Ivan the “Gospa” says, before the crowd: “You, who have gathered here around me, are the best of believers.”
Vicka sprinkles holy water (made with blessed salt, added to water which was not blessed), in order to test whether it might be the devil who was appearing. Jakob relates that instantly three of the female seers (Ivanka, Marija, Vicka) faint, in contrast with him and Mirjana. In 1983 (or 1984) Vicka, in her interview with Fr. Bubalo, mentions that the “Gospa” smiled. This detail, which may possibly be derived from the description of the Marian apparitions at Lourdes, according to which the Mother of God is said to have smiled during the sprinkling of holy water, is absent in the taped interviews.
After the end of the (repeated) fainting, the seers pray seven Our Fathers, seven Hail Marys and seven Glory bes, as the grandmother of one of them had recommended; and also the Creed. This means: the initiative for the prayers did not come from the “Gospa”, but arose from Croatian popular piety.

The following apparition?

On Saturday, June 27, the fifth “apparition” takes place, or rather, the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth. The differing possibilities for counting them arise from the account (by Jakov and Marija), that the “apparition” had gone away three times: that it had removed itself twice because people had trod on the veil. According to Mirjana’s count, in contrast, there were not three but four “apparitions” on the same evening.

And then?

The sixth (or 9th-10th) “apparition” takes place on Sunday evening, again on Podbrdo. The seers ask for a sign twice. The first time, the “Gospa” smiles and disappears, but returns again. At the repeated request for a sign, the figure says, “Go in the peace of the Lord”, before disappearing.

Then the seventh or eleventh “apparition” follows…

The seventh or eleventh “apparition” takes place on Monday, June 29, the seventh day of the apparitions. The “Gospa” promises the healing of the disabled three-year-old boy Daniel Setka, while on the next day Fr. Zovko determines that the healing did not occur. But there was, as mentioned above, a gradual improvement.
When a physician (Darinka Glamuzina) wants to touch the “Gospa”, it answers: “There are always unbelieving Judases! She should come.” The physician herself later gave contrary testimony about whether she had touched the “Gospa” or not; according to Ivanka, she was able to touch the “Mother of God”. Fr. Zovko intervenes to say that Judas was not unbelieving, but rather Thomas; the seers, however, insist that the word was “Judas”, as the tape recording of the “apparition” itself confirms.
When Vicka asks the “Gospa” why she had come there, in particular, she gets no answer. At Ivanka’s question of how long the apparitions would continue, the “Gospa” answers: “As long as you want.”
She says yes to the question of whether she would also come on the next day (thus on June 30, in the vicinity of Cerno). If someone were to judge only the “apparitions” thus far on the hill as genuine, the question poses itself: why that does not apply to the “apparition” at another location, announced on June 29.

What happens on the seventh day of apparitions?

The eighth or twelfth “apparition” on the seventh day of “apparitions” is the first to take place away from Podbrdo, namely in the vicinity of Cerno. Accompanied by two young women, the seers (with the exception of Ivan) undertake a car trip, in order – so it says in the taped interview – to “try out” whether the “Gospa” would also appear in another place. At this “apparition” Mirjana asks how long the “Gospa” would remain with the seers, and receives the answer: “Three more days”, that is, until Friday, July 3.
Fr. Zovko would like the “Gospa” to agree to appear not on the hill but in the church. The corresponding question from the seers seems not to please the “Gospa”. “Apparently she didn’t like it. But finally she said she wasn’t angry.”
Half an hour later, Fr. Zovko is already interviewing the seers in the rectory at Medjugorje. The women accompanying the seers had no apparition themselves, but confirm the words spoken aloud by the seers during the “apparition”, referring to the end of the “apparitions”.
The taped interviews end on June 30. Other sources give information about the first three days in July, especially the interviews of Fr. Bubalo with Vicka (1983-84, published in 1985). According to that, on July 1 there was an “apparition” in an auto, on July 2 and 3 in the rectory instead (so all together about 12-16 “apparitions” during the first ten days). On July 3, the seers declared before many witnesses that the “apparitions” of the “Gospa” had ended.

The Vatican wants to overlook the question of the authenticity of the “apparitions” and concentrate on “good fruits”. Is that legitimate?

I hope that the Vatican does not overlook the question of authenticity in the future. Placing practice ahead of theory is questionable in any case. An apostolic visitor for Medjugorje has been named without first declaring a position on the question of authenticity. The phenomenon should first be clarified in its various dimensions, and only then can the practical conclusions be drawn for pastoral care. Wherever people set out to pray, there are good fruits. But there are also bad fruits that are inseparably connected with the “apparitions”.

What are the bad fruits?

The disobedience fomented by the “Gospa” against legitimate church authority (particularly on the part of prominent Franciscans), the linking of Medjugorje with hundreds of alleged “seers” and obvious pseudo-mysticism, a kind of dependency on “daily” “apparitions”, the ties to economic interests, and a neglect of authentic apparition sites recognized by the Church.

Are there things in the Gospa messages that contradict the faith?

The collection and filtering of the “messages” constitutes its own problem. In the “Chronicle of the Apparitions” produced in the rectory at Medjugorje, there is a series of doctrinal errors.

For example?

On September 16, 1981, as an example, one can read there that the seers didn’t need to pray for themselves, but only for others. This assertion recalls the erroneous Pelagian doctrines condemned by the Church, according to which it was not necessary to pray the Our Father for ourselves with its petition “And forgive us our trespasses”, but only for the sins of others.[6]
Under May 6, 1982 it says, according to the message of the “Gospa”, the saints are in heaven with soul and body. This contradicts the doctrine that ties the resurrection of the body with the second coming of Christ (see, for example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1001).
On October 1, 1981, it is noted that the “Gospa” said the following: “Before God all the religions are equal …” One can compare that, in contrast, with the declaration “Dominus Jesus” from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, from the year 2000.

Medjugorje devotees say that the “Gospa” cannot be saying anything new, but only recalling what is old, as a patient mother.

The count of over 40,000 “apparitions” with around 1000 “messages” is a verbose opposite to the authentic Marian apparitions recognized by the Church, e.g., four in Guadalupe (1531), three at the Rue du Bac (Paris, 1830), one in La Salette (1849), 18 in Lourdes (1858), three in Champion (Wisconsin, USA, 1859) and six in Fatima (1917).
Medjugorje devotees often cite the apparitions in Le Laus (France), which spanned 54 years, as a counter-example. But there were no daily Marian apparitions underway for 54 years there, but rather – except for individual mystical experiences – a cycle of apparitions in four months (May to August 1664), with a conclusion on September 29-30 of that year.

The physician Christian Stelzer from Vienna accused you in the Tagespost (August 10) of simply echoing the arguments of Bishop Peric of Mostar.

Bishop Peric is certainly an important witness with a comprehensive knowledge of the phenomenon. My study of Medjugorje is, however, not limited to the observations of the current bishop. Even if that were the case, it is not important who presents an argument, but rather the truth contained in it should be put to the test. Two times two is four, regardless of whether a ten-year-old child or a professor of mathematics affirms it.

Stelzer says that the claim that the Mother of God was born on August 5, 16 B.C. does not come from the Medjugorje seers.

According to Stelzer the “Gospa” only named August 5 as her birthday, but did not designate the year 1984 as her 2000th birthday, which would give her birth in the year 16 B.C., so that Mary would have been 9 or 10 years old at the birth of Jesus (around the year 7 B.C.)
But the “Chronicle of the Apparitions” says this expressly several times. This fact, which is known in the research, was brought to mind again in a publication from the Diocese of Mostar on August 2, 2018.
On May 28, 1984, Fr. Vlasic writes in the Chronicle, “Today I visited Bishop Pavao Zanic. I brought him the last part of the ‘journal’ from Jelena and Marijana Vasilj. I also brought him the message from the Gospa that was given to Jelena for him, for the Holy Father, and for the Christian public, according to which the 2000th birthday of the Mother of God is August 5, 1984.” The entries of June 14, and July 27, 29, and 30, 1984 also refer to the 2000th birthday in 1984.[7]

There was also moral misconduct surrounding the “apparitions”.

Moral misconduct should only be mentioned here when it stands in connection with the alleged “apparitions”. This relates to disobedience against legitimate church authority, as well as misconduct against the eighth and the sixth commandments (“Thou shalt not bear false witness”, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”). There is an extensive dossier here, but I would like to limit myself to three Franciscan fathers closely connected with Medjugorje: Jozo Zovko, Slavko Barbaric, and Tomislav Vlasic.

What is the problem with Fr. Jozo Zovko?

At the beginning of the apparitions, Fr. Zovko was the parish priest of Medjugorje. By “inviting” the “Gospa” to “appear” in the parish church, he took it upon himself to lend the phenomenon a quasi-official recognition, which is only up to the Bishop. Zovko claims to have had an “apparition” of the “Mother of God” himself on July 1 and 19, 1981. He was imprisoned by the Communists because he had compared the 40th anniversary of Communist dominance in Yugoslavia to the 40 years of the Babylonian captivity.
During his time in prison, he himself “appeared” to the “seers” multiple times together with the “Gospa”, who says this about him, according to the “Chronicle of the Apparitions” on October 21, 1981: “He is a saint; I’ve said that to you already.” He also appears as a “saint” in the reader comments to one of the articles on August 10, 2018.

What is Zovko’s ecclesiastical status?

This “saint” repeatedly brought church sanctions on himself because of his Medjugorje activities and because of controversial “charismatic” practices that began before the “apparitions”. At present he is not allowed to live in Bosnia-Herzegovina or to speak publicly about the alleged “apparitions”.
The testimony of Mark Waterinckx from Belgium, who made numerous pilgrimages to Medjugorje since 1984, came into public view. In the summer of 1989 he uncovered the sexual molestation of an American pilgrim, and learned of similar cases.
In connection with other negative experiences, this was the impetus for him to distance himself from the Medjugorje “apparitions”. Waterinckx has made part of his related experiences public.[8]

The second Franciscan is Fr. Tomislav Vlasic.

Exactly. Fr. Tomislav Vlasic, OFM (b. 1942) visited the seers as early as June 29, 1981. He worked as parochial vicar in Medjugorje from 1982 to 1984 and described himself as the “spiritual director” of the seers, assigned by the “Gospa”. Vlasic continued to be closely connected with Medjugorje after his removal from the parish. The “Kraljice mira” community connected with him to this day has a gigantic presence there with a big four-story building and an amphitheater for gatherings. Before coming to Medjugorje, Vlasic had lived in a mixed Franciscan community (1976) and got a religious sister pregnant, who was sent away with her child to Germany. There was an attempt in the order to deny his fatherhood and attribute it to a former Franciscan who had emigrated to the USA.
Vlasic, of all people, was the object of a “prophecy” by two well-known figures in the “charismatic movement”, during a May 1981 meeting in Rome. An Irish “charismatic” sister saw him on a seat surrounded by a great throng, and from there streams of living water flowed out. Another “prophet” spoke: “Do not be afraid, I am sending you my mother.”
During his presence in Medjugorje, Vlasic maintained the “Chronicle of the Apparitions”, which was turned over to the Bishop later, after the texts had been purged. Despite this, many “problems” in the “messages” remained visible. For example, Vlasic recorded the words of the “Gospa” that placed her 2000th birthday on August 5, 1984. On February 28, 1982, these words of praise from the “Gospa” to the seers are in the “Chronicle”: “You can thank Tomislav; he is leading you so well.” Vlasic did not create the Medjugorje phenomenon, but he channeled it.

What has happened to Fr. Vlasic?

Things came to a break with the mainstream of the Medjugorje movement when Vlasic, of all people, founded a mixed Franciscan community in 1988 and arranged for the seer Marija Pavlovic to write a message from the “Gospa” in support of the new foundation. On July 11, 1988, Marija made an official declaration that she had written that message under pressure from Vlasic. Vlasic then entered into a “mystical marriage” with a German seer, who left him after a few years. Currently he is closely connected with UFO messages with a decisively spiritualistic background from the seer Stefania Caterina. In those messages, Medjugorje is bound up with an imaginative world history and the preparation for a future visit by space aliens. Pope Francis is urged to announce the Good News of the presence of other brothers in the universe.
The problem with Vlasic is the connection with pseudo-charisms and a moral conduct that is at least very ambiguous. Bishop Zanic, in 1984, called him a “mystificator and charismatic magician”. On January 28, 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith applied disciplinary measures on the ground of dubious mysticism and transgressions against the sixth commandment. The Franciscan order laicized him in 2009.
If one is to believe Dr. Stelzer, this case has “nothing to do with Medjugorje”.

And there was also Fr. Slavko Barbaric.

Yes, Fr. Slavko Barbaric, OFM worked in Medjugorje for many years, from 1984 until his death in the year 2000. As the successor of Fr. Vlasic he functioned as the spiritual director of the seers. When he took a stand against the Bishop’s directive that the “apparitions” no longer take place in the church, he was removed. The “Gospa” spoke against that directive herself on February 3, 1985, saying: “I wish Slavko to remain here to take care of all of the details and the transcriptions, so that we have a clear picture of everything at the end of my visit.” It is hardly credible that the “Mother of God” would support canonical disobedience against a justified order from the bishop. Furthermore the “message” stated that Barbaric would still be living at the end of the “apparitions”. But Barbaric died and the “apparitions” are still going.
After his removal Barbaric worked in Medjugorje despite the bishop’s prohibition (I encountered him there in October 1985). He supervised the publication of the “monthly messages” of the seer Marija, and fewer theological problems popped up in them than in the visionary texts under Vlasic’s direction. In the year 2000, he signed a declaration that he was leaving Medjugorje, but remained there. Hence the bishop (again) withdrew his faculties to hear confessions. Fr. Barbaric died in that irregular situation on November 24, 2000. The “Gospa” announced the beatification of the rebel Franciscan on that very day: “I am happy with you, and would like to tell you that your brother Slavko has been born into Heaven and intercedes for you.”

Medjugorje devotees make reference to medical investigations of the seers that would point to extraordinary phenomena. Have you looked into those?

I have. There are several studies that claim to have established “ecstasies” with no natural explanation, and hence conclude that the “apparitions” have a supernatural origin. Even if these studies were convincing, such a determination would not say anything about a supernatural origin. The devil can also produce phenomena that have effects upon the natural powers of human beings.
In any case, it does appear that during the first days of the “apparitions” there were no real ecstasies to certify. The seers remained in contact with their surroundings, took questions from bystanders and shared answers from the “Gospa” with them. The seers saw and heard things that those around them did not perceive, but they themselves spoke in a loud voice. Only later did this change, as it seems, through a process of learning.

Is that different from, for example, St. Bernadette of Lourdes?

St. Bernadette did not feel the flame of a candle during an apparition of the Mother of God, because she was in a real ecstasy. In contrast, with the seers of Medjugorje, we find rather the experience of a trance or incomplete ecstasy. For the Medjugorje fan Jean-Louis Martin, his world fell apart on January 14, 1985 during the seers’ allegedly complete ecstasy, when he moved his spread fingers at the eyes of Vicka and the seer jerked and moved backward. Later she put out the information that she had wanted to catch the infant Jesus, whom the Mother of God had allowed to drop. This information was not convincing to Martin, who had wanted to test the ecstasy: “Why, then, did you move backward and not forward?”

How do you explain the origin of the Medjugorje phenomenon?

There are various hypothetical explanations. Based on what has been said, a supernatural origin is excluded. A psychological or parapsychological explanation is also not sufficient, especially to explain the beginning of the phenomenon. “Collective hallucinations”, which Bp. Zanic brought up in the early years, are not the case. Hallucinations are always individual. In my assessment, the first “apparitions” (and probably a good part of the subsequent phenomena) are of “preternatural” (i.e., outside of nature) origin, that is, they derive from evil spirits whose fruits show themselves in disobedience, lies, and other moral failings. There is also human influence, even including the business dealings of the Camorra from Naples, if one believes the papal visitator Archbishop Hoser.

How were things able to get so far?

The priests active in the parish should have exercised restraint, to make a discernment of spirits possible for the seers. Fathers Zovko and Vlasic particularly were not capable of that, and they let loose a pseudo-charismatic avalanche, which has led to a great chaos in the Church.
Failing to name these evils by their names is worse than the bishops’ silence about sexual misconduct in Chile.
The “pastoral” practice of promoting visits to Medjugorje without clarifying the authenticity first, is playing with fire, which can have uncontrollable effects, not least for the successor of St. Peter. We should pray for Pope Francis, that he can recognize the duty to clarify and discern according to the principle he treasures: “see, judge, act”. First, to see and judge, then to act.

[1] The Hidden Side of Medjugorje, Saint-François-du-Lac (Quebec): Psilog, 1988. (See
[2] Aux sources de Medjugorje, Montréal, 1998.
[3] Medjugorje. The First Days, Medjugorje, 2013.
[4] Svetozar Kraljevic, The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medjugorje, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1984, 181-185.
[5] Medjugorje Revisited, Theotokos Books, Nottingham 2011.
[6] Synod of Carthage, 418, canon 7: DH 229.
[7] (in Italian)
[8] “The ‘Saint‘ Jozo Zovko and his Many Sex Affairs”, 2004:; also, E.M. Jones, The Medjugorje Deception, South Bend, 1998, 164-165.

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