15 January 2009

Marian Apparitions

So our Holy Father is to set up formal processes to investigate alleged appearances and other supernatural 'events'. That brings him into line with one of my (other) heroes, the great bishop Grandisson of Exeter. Immense though his devotion was to our Lady, he scrupulously investigated a 'shrine' at Frithelstock in Devon; deemed it to be spurious (it seems to have involved a fortune-telling racket); ordered its demolition; and turned very nasty when he was ignored. (That is why my friend Fr Hummerstone does not have a major Marian Sanctuary in his Devon parish within the Ebbsfleet Apostolic District.) Grandisson also administered a rocket to his Dean for allowing disorders to follow a spurious miracle in the Cathedral. That's how you behave if you believe that apparitions and miracles are possible; you investigate them with all the rational aids at your disposal. Credulously accepting any old claim; and credulously resisting something that lies outside one's own previous experience and assumptions; are both superstitious. And both unscientific.

Of course, everybody immediately thought of Medjugorie when this news broke. Assuming that M is investigated, condemned, and the 'seers' and their clerical cronies excommunicated, there is an alternative ecclesial group they could join which is much more inclusive and accepting of the Movements of the Spirit than is the boring old RC Church. It is called Affirming Catholicism and it is within an exciting ecclesial association calling itself 'the Church of England'. Here the Medjugorie crowd would find unqualified acceptance; they would be encouraged to 'tell their story'; they would be given endless scope for any childish excess that took their fancy. The seeresses could be consecrated bishopesses and everybody would live happily ever after. It would be nice for the 'Affcaths' too; their membership is minuscule and to get a major accession of adherents, even if in the distant Balkans, would be lovely for them. There is a lady called Christina Reese who could go to Bosnia and have visions.

Rumour has it that the Vatican might even employ atheists to investigate claimed visions. I hope the Sovereign Pontiff sends 'Professor' Dawkins to investigate Medjugorie. It would prove that Germans do have sense of humour after all.


Gregory of Langres said...

Father you're such a cynic. It's wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Great idea for the Affcaths! Hopefully the blood-letting will draw off other poisons - Neo-catecumenal Way, distributivists, Legionaries, (most) Opus "Ju-dei," and the Institute of the blue pom-pomed self-proclaimed monsignors.

Independent said...

Would not Dr Dawkins be ruled out as believing a priori that miracles cannot happen? Professor Anthony Flew might be a better bet, he has proved that he will follow the argument and the evidence where it leads.

Fr Ted said...

Dear John,

The post from my recent comment on events in Medjugorje seems appropriate:

"Pilgrimage to Medjugorje is questioned by many. This is because of a misunderstanding on the part of both those who believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary is appearing there regularly and also on the part of those who do not.

The simple facts can be reduced to two: first nobody knows for certain what is the true nature and origin of the reported visions and other phenomena; second a great many lives are changed for the better through visiting Medjugorje.

It is this second fact that led the late Pope, John Paul II, to his validation of private visits there whilst at the same time avoiding the necessity of pontificating on the matter. We should all, I think, follow his example!

I do wish and pray that the opponents of Medjugorje would understand this point. What is taught in Medjugorje is, for the most part, solid, traditional Christian teaching of a kind acceptable not only in Western catholicism, but also, to my mind, throughout Christendom, East and West.

Understanding the nature of Christian truth gives us good reason for hope in a dangerous and despondent world.

We should continue, therefore, to suggest a Medjugorje pilgrimage to those we feel would benefit. At the same time we ought to point out that there is no official declaration made as to the nature of the apparitions. We should not be too worried if the outcome of official investigation appears negative. There are too many positives around Medjugorje for that!

I value the positive results I and my colleagues, particularly my late wife, Hannelore, have received there. After all, if Bishop Peric, the local Diocesan, is right - that there is nothing supernatural about the apparitions, that those at the centre are normal and healthy catholics, and that to say you are having visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary doesn't mean you are mad - then the parish of Medjugorje is to be complimented for showing us all the benefits of a healthy devotion to Mary and Jesus.

It means also, and this cannot be emphasised enough, that in organising visits there, every pilgrim should ensure that a sensible and experienced spiritual director goes with them. I write this with some passion as so much of the movement against the events there has come from those who went on their own, on the off-chance, to see what was happening, got into the wrong company, and were deceived as to what was going on.

January is a good time to think about holidays. So why not think about a pilgrimage? April and early May are seasons of very pleasant weather there as a rule. How about that Easter break?

Decide and plan properly, therefore, for your pilgrimage this year. It doesn't have to be Medjugorje - here in the UK we have a marvellous Marian centre of activity at Walsingham - but it might just be the right idea for you this year! Why not check it out?"


Fr. Ted

PS Dawkins seems inappropriate - he seems to leave out any evidence contrary to his argument! Not the best kind of researcher, surely?

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I haven't got chapter-and-verse, but, for example, I distinctly remember reading that one of the seers claimed that our lady described all religions as being true. and that on another occasion, she made critical remarks about the local hierarchy. Such things make one dubious.

Of course, it is logically possible that some of the seers are genuine and some are not. But if that were true, the situation would be very dangerous.