"Private" Revelation and Medjugorje
Dr. fra Ljudevit Rupcic, OFM, 1995
The term "private" revelations has already for a long time become customary in theology. In contrast to it is public revelation. However, public revelation would be the one given in the Bible, and private the one given apart from the Bible. Accordingly, it would be more justifiable to speak of biblical and extra-biblical revelation. Assigning a greater honour and significance to the biblical than to the other has no real reason whatsoever. Because if they are both true, if they both come from God, according to their origin they are both divine and equally valuable. Both, the one and the other, God intends for people and wants them to accept both of them. Otherwise, there would be no reason for him to speak at all. If there may be some justifiable difference between them, it can never be in the sense that one is obligatory and the other is not. They are both obligatory. For every one that has been reached by them and for the one who has attained sufficient reasons and moral security regarding their authenticity, both of them oblige equally.
Revelation contained in the Bible is called "the canon," that is, the rule of faith. The authenticity of every other revelation is in some way measured according to it. First of all, everything that might be contrary to that revelation would be unauthentic or false. Accordingly, the biblical revelation provides the guarantee of certainty, and that in a negative way, the contrary revelation is false. Moreover, the authenticity of biblical revelation is guaranteed by the church's magisterium to which the Holy Spirit is given by Christ in order to preserve that revelation faithfully and to interpret it infallibly. For the extra-biblical revelation, the magisterium does not have that authority directly, but indirectly. That means that, if it would establish that an extra-biblical revelation is contrary to the biblical, it would be certain that it is not at all authentically divine. Because, "for even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel not in accord with the one we delivered to you, let a curse be upon him!" (Gal 1:8). On the other hand, if the Church's magisterium would in any way even affirm a extra-biblical revelation, one would not be obliged just by that to accept it as authentic. If one has his own reasons, he must accept it with fide divina. But if one does not have his own reasons, he can either reject it or doubt it. In that case, a person is not obliged fide catholica.
The history of the Church witnesses that it has always had extra-biblical revelations. According to their structure and form, they are equal to biblical revelation and are regularly connected with apparitions or visions. Usually it was Jesus appearing, angels and saints. But in recent times, it is most frequently the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Locutions [auditiones] are also connected to visions. The most recent apparitions of the Blessed Virgin in La Salette, Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje confirm that. The visionaries, in addition to seeing Our Lady, also hear her messages, which usually call to conversion, prayer, especially the rosary, and penance. Thereby they all the more direct toward the renewal and flourishing of Church life rather than giving some new truth of the faith.
No one can close God's mouth. He has not finished his conversation nor his revelation to people. It goes on continuously in the Church and the world in different ways. God's speech, in a broader sense, takes the form of vision or at least no one can dispute that. Therefore, extra-biblical revelations are not only possible but actual. The Spirit of God whom Christ has sent to the Church constantly reminds it of the words of Jesus and leads it into all truth (John 16:13). He does not accomplish this just through the hierarchy, but also through charisms and their bearers because the Church is not only hierarchical but also charismatic. That is why the Holy Spirit is not bound to the hierarchy, but vice versa. He is free and breathes wherever he wills. He gives incentives to the Church and leads the Church also through charismatics. Neither the hierarchy nor charismatics can usurp to themselves the exclusive right to speak and act in the name of the Holy Spirit. Their ministries originate from the same Spirit and must be harmonized. Therefore, neither the hierarchy nor the Church must be self-satisfied and indifferent toward visions, apparitions and revelations. The hierarchy must not only not reject them, nor merely tolerate them, but it must both accept and foster them. Otherwise, it would be rejecting the Spirit himself.
Vision and revelation belong to the prophetic charism of which the Church cannot be lacking and that, not because some new doctrine or truth would be necessary after biblical revelation, but because a new light is necessary, a better understanding of that same doctrine or truth and, especially, because a new direction and impetus for human activity is necessary.
A critical posture toward extra-biblical revelation has been expressed more or less throughout entire history. With the beginning of modern times, greater and more numerous debates on them have begun. According to them, the best sign of authenticity of extra-biblical revelation and vision is their agreement with biblical revelation. If that is affirmed, the content of extra-biblical revelation, which surpasses the capabilities of the visionaries, speak much in its favour. In that, the mental and physical health of the subject plays an important role. Personal holiness and the state of grace contribute to its authenticity even though they are not indispensable. In principle, even great moral defects are not an obstacle to the authenticity of the revelation. Moral heroism of the subject of the vision contributes positively to the authenticity of the truth. In that, attending circumstances also mean something, although accompanying errors are not necessarily considered a negative criterion. These internal criteria are accompanied by the external: miracle and approval of the Church. Involvement in some controversial question and political matter speaks against the authenticity of the vision because visions serve the kingdom of God and not curiosity and some purpose entirely of this world.
Extra-biblical revelations, in general, do not bring any new truths, but perhaps just a better recognition of the biblically revealed truths and all the more certainly the demand for a better and more urgent application of biblical revelation on a particular position of the Church or individual groups within it. In general, they want to inspire people to faith and conversion and thus, to bring them to salvation. They are rather requests and incentives than assertions. Their purpose is to direct the behaviour of people toward God. In that sense, St. Thomas of Aquinas says, "When there are no more revelations, people will be without guidance" (Summa II-II. q 174 a.6). This is the reason there have always been prophets in the Church who admittedly, did not proclaim some new doctrine, but gave direction to human activity. The same St. Thomas of Aquinas emphasizes, "Revelation is given for the benefit of the Church" (Summa II-II. q 172 a.4). It calls to a more authentic Christian life and points toward the necessity and the means that are of a higher priority. It is heaven's response to particular questions of the times and it thereby helps more than any intellectual and theological endeavours.
Since extra-biblical revelations are extraordinary and conspicuous, they usually produce more attention than the ordinary proclamation of biblical truths and Church directives and they act as "shock therapy." It is well known that the apparitions in Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje intensified devotion and they have awakened spiritual life throughout the world. They contributed a great deal to the renewal of confession and reverence for the Eucharist.
Too great an emphasis on extra-biblical revelation in place of the gospel would not be healthy or normal. Biblical revelation takes preference but extra-biblical must not be rejected, simply because it also comes from God and because with it God wants to say something to man. That is why both cases God's word is obligatory.
THE MEDJUGORJE APPARITIONS AND VISIONS
Already since June 24, 1981 until today, six visionaries in Medjugorje, Ivanka Ivankovic-Elez, Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo, Vicka Ivankovic, Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti, Ivan Dragicevic and Jakov Colo, unanimously claim that Our Lady is appearing to them. They all still see her every day, except Ivanka and Mirjana, who still see her once a year, Ivanka on the anniversary of the apparitions and Mirjana on her birthday. Already from the very beginning of the apparitions, it was attempted in different ways to obtain approval of the authenticity of these apparitions and visions. In addition to the persistent claim of the visionaries, it was attempted, in a more or less scientific and theological way, to arrive at objective proofs of the authenticity of the apparitions. Already from the first days, the communist regime of that time, which because of ideological and atheistic motives opposed the fame about Our Lady's apparition, tried first of all through doctors in Citluk and Mostar to prove that talk about apparitions is a common childish trick and a report of sick children. When doctors established that the children were completely healthy, the communists composed a commission of twelve doctors and psychiatrists, which they simply charged to declare the children mentally ill. It is significant that, despite the pressure, member of the Commission did not do so because it was obvious that the children were healthy.
After that, numerous other unofficial and official commissions followed in succession. The tried to arrive at the truth of the apparition with a greater fairness. An exception to this were the two commissions established by the local Bishop Pavao Zanic. He did not request these commissions to study the Medjugorje phenomena, but to confirm his negative opinion which, taking into consideration the apparitions themselves, did not have any grounds whatsoever. In order to assure "the outcome" of the investigation, he appointed himself president of the commission, and charged them to think and speak what he, without any basis in the truth, thought and spoke. The others, differently from Bishop Zanic and his commissions, expertly examined the visionaries and the facts in Medjugorje. Since the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, rejected the "results" of the commissions of Bishop Zanic as incompetent and unfounded, it ordered the Yugoslav Bishops' Conference to establish its own commission to care more seriously for the apparitions of Medjugorje. Although even that commission did not investigate these apparitions more seriously, nevertheless, it behaved more responsibly toward them. At least, it did not assert that the apparitions are unauthentic, but it found a Solomonic solution and declared that it had not yet arrived at real proofs of the supernaturalness of the apparitions. That position was also accepted by the Yugoslav Bishops' Conference. Because of the ever more general conviction that the apparitions are authentic, and especially because of the exceptional spiritual gifts to the whole world in regard to the apparitions, it was, nevertheless, compelled to accept Medjugorje as a shrine and to take on itself greater care for a correct development of devotion and adequate provision for the spiritual needs of pilgrims in Medjugorje.
However, the apparitions of Medjugorje were examined the most competently and the most expertly by the international French-Italian scientific theological commission "on the extraordinary events that are taking place in Medjugorje." The assembly of seventeen renowned natural scientists, doctors, psychiatrists and theologians in their research came to a 12-point conclusion on January 14, 1986 in Paina near Milan.
- On the basis of the psychological tests, for all and each of the visionaries it is possible with certainty to exclude fraud and deception.
- On the basis of the medical examinations, tests and clinical observations etc, for all and each of the visionaries it is possible to exclude pathological hallucinations.
- On the basis of the results of previous researches for all and each of the visionaries it is possible to exclude a purely natural interpretation of these manifestations.
- On the basis of information and observations that can be documented, for all and each of the visionaries it is possible to exclude that these manifestations are of the preternatural order i.e. under demonic influence.
- On the basis of information and observations that can be documented, there is a correspondence between these manifestations and those that are usually described in mystical theology.
- On the basis of information and observations that can be documented, it is possible to speak of spiritual advances and advances in the theological and moral virtues of the visionaries, from the beginning of these manifestations until today.
- On the basis of information and observations that can be documented, it is possible to exclude teaching or behaviour of the visionaries that would be in clear contradiction to Christian faith and morals.
- On the basis of information or observations that can be documented, it is possible to speak of good spiritual fruits in people drawn into the supernatural activity of these manifestations and in people favourable to them.
- After more than four years, the tendencies and different movements that have been generated through Medjugorje, in consequence of these manifestations, influence the people of God in the Church in complete harmony with Christian doctrine and morals.
- After more than four years, it is possible to speak of permanent and objective spiritual fruits of movements generated through Medjugorje.
- It is possible to affirm that all good and spiritual undertakings of the Church, which are in complete harmony with the authentic magisterium of the Church, find support in the events in Medjugorje.
- Accordingly, one can conclude that after a deeper examination of the protagonists, facts, and their effects, not only in the local framework, but also in regard to the responsive chords of the Church in general, it is well for the Church to recognize the supernatural origin and, thereby, the purpose of the events in Medjugorje.
So far it is the most conscientious and the most complete research of the Medjugorje phenomena, and, for that very reason, it is the most positive that has yet been said about it on a scientific-theological level.
Besides that, a very serious work of examination of the visionaries was also undertaken by a French team of experts headed by Mr. Henri Joyeux. Employing the most modern equipment and expertise, it examined the internal reactions of the visionaries before, during, and after the apparitions. Likewise, the synchronization of their ocular, auditory, cardiac, and cerebral reactions. The results of that commission were very significant. They showed that the object of observation is external to the visionaries, and that any external manipulation or mutual agreement between the visionaries is excluded. The results with individual electro-encephalograms and other reactions are collected and elaborated in a special book (H. Joyeux - R. Laurentin, Etudes medicales et scientifiques sur les Apparitions de Medjugorje, Paris 1986).
The results of the last mentioned commission confirmed the conclusions of the international commission and, for their part, they proved that the apparitions, to which the visionaries testify, are a phenomenon that surpasses modern science and that all points toward some other level of happening.
In regard to the scientific examination of the Medjugorje apparitions, it is important to bear in mind that in the entire history of apparitions not a single one has ever been so broadly and strictly examined scientifically as those in Medjugorje. When the examinations in Lourdes and Fatima are compared with those in Medjugorje, then there is almost no similarity whatsoever between them. Neither have other visionaries been that strictly examined nor was it possible to examine them with such certainty and success, due to the inferior level of science and the insufficiency of technical tools at that time. Besides, it is also very significant to mention that there was only one visionary in Lourdes, Bernadette Soubirous; there were three visionaries in Fatima, and six in Medjugorje. Manipulation is easier with one visionary than with several. Likewise, a group confirmation is more valuable than an individual. The said about Bernadette herself that she was psychically of delicate health. For the visionaries in Medjugorje adequate health has been established. When to that are added the positive moral qualities, the uniformity of testimonies, there remains no significant doubt whatsoever that the apparitions, to which the visionaries in Medjugorje testify, are indeed supernatural and worthy of belief.
The content of the Medjugorje messages also confirms that. Beside the five main messages on which the visionaries agree, every month, primarily through Marija Pavlovic, Our Lady has been giving special messages intended for the whole world. Even though in volume they have grown into a library, still, in spite of that, nothing can be found in them that would in the least manner be contrary to Christian doctrine and faith. On the contrary, together with the principal messages, they compose a veritable treasury of handy and practical theology on a level, which not even 80% of today's priests would attain. It is, thereby, more significant since the visionary Marija, as well as the other visionaries, is a completely average believer who could not even attend regular instruction in catechism, much less acquire a practical-theological education. The false charges of the Bishop and some other opponents of Medjugorje that the friars wrote them, also speaks in favour of the extraordinary content of the messages. Indirectly they thereby confirm their extraordinariness.
From the beginning, the Medjugorje apparitions were accompanied by many unusual phenomena, both in the sky and on the ground, especially by miraculous healings. I myself, with about a thousand pilgrims, experienced one unusual dance of the sun. That manifestation was so unusual and obvious, that everyone without exception classified it as a miracle. None of those present remained indifferent, which I myself was convinced of by questioning the others who were present. The joy, the tears, and the statements of those present strongly confirmed it. From their words, it could be seen that they understood that manifestation as a confirmation of the authenticity of the apparitions, and as an incentive to respond to the Medjugorje messages by accepting them. And that is the real purpose of miracles: to help people believe and live by faith because they stand in the service of the faith and of the salvation of people.
Regarding the luminous phenomena in Medjugorje, a professor employed in Vienna, an expert in that field, admitted to me that he studied them in Medjugorje for a week. At the end, he told me: "Science has no answer to these manifestations." Although judgment about miracles does not belong to any natural science nor to science in general, but to theology and faith, nevertheless, the judgment of science is very important because where it leaves off, faith takes over. It is very significant that many events were understood by the faithful as a real miracle. They understood their significance and, whether they experienced them for themselves or through others, they felt themselves obliged to accept the Medjugorje messages as an obligation. It is difficult to say precisely how many of these miraculous events have taken place in regards to the Medjugorje apparitions. However, it is well known that several hundred of them have been reported and attested to. Several of them have been thoroughly examined and scientifically-theologically elaborated, and there is no serious reason whatsoever to doubt their supernatural character. It suffices to mention just a few of them.
Mrs. Diana Basile, born October 5, 1940 in Platizza, Cosenza, Italy, suffered from multiple sclerosis, an otherwise incurable disease, from 1972 till May 23, 1984. In spite of the expert help of the professors and doctors at the clinic in Milan, she grew more and more sick. By her own desire she came to Medjugorje and was present during the apparition of Our Lady in a room connected to the Church and was suddenly healed. All of that happened in such a quick and thorough way that on the following day the same woman walked barefoot 12 kilometres from the hotel in Ljubuski, where she spent the night, to the apparition hill in order to thank Our Lady for the healing. Ever since then until today, she has remained well. Upon her return to Milan, the doctors were astonished by her healing and immediately established a medical commission, which was again thoroughly to examine both the previous and present condition of the healed woman. They collected 143 documents and, in the end, 25 professors, head doctors, and other doctors wrote a special book about the disease and the healing in which they stated that Diana Basile indeed did suffer from multiple sclerosis, that for many years she was unsuccessfully treated, but that now she is completely well and that this did not happen by any kind of therapy, nor by any kind of medicine. They, thereby, indicated that the cause of the healing was from a different than scientific source.
Another more significant miracle happened to Rita Klaus of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA, a teacher and mother of three children, born January 25, 1940, who for 26 years suffered from multiple sclerosis. She was also one that neither doctors nor medicine were able to help. Reading the book about Medjugorje, Is the Blessed Virgin Appearing in Medjugorje? by Laurentin-Rupcic, she decided to accept Our Lady's messages. And once while she was praying the rosary on May 23, 1984, she felt within herself some unusual warmth. After that, she felt well. And from then till today the patient is completely well and capable of doing all her domestic and school work. There is a solid medical documentation about her sickness and her futile therapy and likewise a professional certification of the doctors on her extraordinary and incomprehensible healing, which is complete and permanent.
There are still other healings pertaining to Medjugorje, which took place suddenly and thoroughly. They are more or less expertly examined. But some of them have not at all yet been analysed. It is not ruled out that among them there are some cases just as great as those already analysed. With miracles it is critical that they originate from God and that they serve the faith, but it is not important for them to be "big". It is rather people of good will and open to the truth that will recognize them rather than biased scientists and versatile critics because they often shut themselves within boundaries where a miracle "must not" and "cannot" happen.
THE JUDGMENT OF THE CHURCH ON THE MEDJUGORJE APPARITIONS
Since the Medjugorje apparitions, visions, and messages belong to extra-biblical revelation, the competence of the Church in judging their authenticity is somewhat different than in biblical revelation. The magisterium of the Church has a direct guarantee of infallibility only in regard to biblical revelation, and only an indirect guarantee in regard to extra-biblical. If, namely, the latter were contrary to the biblical, it would certainly be false. In other cases, other criteria remain, according to which one can arrive at trustworthiness of some revelation being supernatural. Those are primarily scientific conditions. What is false according to reason can neither be authentic in revelation. With regard to the serious and expert work of individual scientists, in the first place, of the international medical-theological commission and of other expert, scientific teams, it has been clearly established that in the Medjugorje apparitions there is nothing that is contrary to science. They are not contrary to reason, but are above reason. Likewise, not a single theological commission found anything in the Medjugorje apparitions that would be contrary to the faith. Even the latest commission, established by the Yugoslav Bishops' Conference, declared only that it has not yet arrived at the necessary proofs of the supernaturalness of the Medjugorje apparitions and that, therefore, it will continue with further investigation. It, thereby, acknowledged at the same time that it did not find in them anything whatsoever that would be contrary to biblical revelation and the faith. When God gives some revelation, whether biblical or extra-biblical, he always enables the people to whom it concerns to be able to recognize it and at least to have the moral certitude that this revelation is authentic. It is very important that simple people have easily recognized God's revelation in the Medjugorje phenomena and that they accepted it, not just in theory, but also in practical life. The word of Christ proves true here, "Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God" (Matt 18:3). That quality proper to a child in the first place is openness to the truth. On the other hand, those also who refuse to acknowledge the trustworthiness of the proofs of Medjugorje, nevertheless unintentionally acknowledge it. Because the findings of their position and arguments show that their proofs are from some other area of interest rather than of Medjugorje. In addition to that, the opponents of Medjugorje are, in that regard, a recognizable tiny handful of people. Their arguments consist of deceptions, lies, and ignorance of what they are nevertheless judging. In contrast to them stand millions of people, who mainly carry the proofs for the authenticity of the Medjugorje apparitions also in their personal experience of encounter with God, and on the other hand, in the obvious deficiency of the arguments against them. Here one can speak about the sensus fidelium which is commonly a locus theologicus of revelation and faith. The evident and abundant spiritual fruits of faith, conversion, prayer, and profound mass spiritual renewal have a special proving strength in favour of the Medjugorje apparitions. Even the opponents of Medjugorje cannot call this into question. They only attribute it to faith, and not to the Medjugorje apparitions. There is no doubt that they are fruits of faith. But why are these fruits unusual and why are they precisely connected to Medjugorje? Why are they not in other places and ordinary pilgrimage shrines or in cathedrals? In question is precisely that extraordinariness and the great multiplicity of the fruits of faith that must have their own reason. In this regard the opponents behave like the Jews who attributed Jesus' casting out of an evil spirit to Beelzebul and not to Jesus. When they could not deny the fact because it was obvious, they then denied its true cause.
In this entire matter, in addition to the evangelical criterion that a good tree is known by its good fruits, the position of the Pope is decisive. And it is completely clear. He has expressed it on several occasions when, asked by many bishops whether they may go on pilgrimage to Medjugorje, he not only encouraged them, but also recommended himself to their prayers in Medjugorje. On the occasion of his ad limina visit, the President of the Bishop's Conference of South Korea, Archbishop Kim, greeted Pope John Paul II with the words, "Holy Father, thanks to you, Poland was able to be freed from communism." The Pope corrected him and said, "No, not thanks to me, it is the work of the Virgin as she claims in Fatima and Medjugorje" (Catholic News, the Korean Catholic Weekly of November 11, 1990). Everything is contained in this that the Pope and the Church can at all say about the Medjugorje apparitions. From that comes forth that Our lady is in Medjugorje, and that there she announced the destruction of communism. Many more times lacking in seriousness are all the other stories, which, only for non-religious reasons, want to obscure the truth about Medjugorje and turn the world away from accepting Our Lady's evangelical messages.
fra Ljudevit Rupcic, OFM, 1995
Dr. Fr. Ljudevit Rupcic was born in 1920 in Hardomilije, Ljubuski. In 1939 he entered the Franciscan Order in the province of Herzegovina, and in 1946, he was ordained a priest. He finished his studies in Theology in the University seminary in Zagreb. He completed a doctorate in 1958 and received the habit there. From 1958 until 1988 he lectured in New Testament exegesis on Franciscan theology in Sarajevo, and also in the University seminary in Zagreb. Under the former Yugoslavian Communist regime, he served two prison sentences from 1945 to 1947 and again from 1952 to 1956. For a longer period, (1968 until 1981) he was a member of the theological commission aiding the Episcopal Conferences of former Yugoslavia. He has accomplished a translation of the New Testament from it's origins into the Croatian language, and his translation has had continuous re-publication. His books, studies and articles have been published in Croatian, English, German and Italian, and he has lectured at various conferences and meetings throughout Europe and America.