The Truth About Medjugorje—Donal Foley Part I

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patrick coffin

On June 24, 1981, a clear Wednesday afternoon, some young people went up Podbrdo Hill near the small hamlet of Medjugorje in then Yugoslavia.

When they came down, they told people they saw “the Gospa,” (Croatian for “Our Lady”). A few more joined them, and it happened again.

And again. And again.

Today, three decades later, the six teen-aged seers are middle-aged adults and are still getting these visitations with their alleged secrets and signs.

A global movement supporting these visions has been selling the phenomenon as real, in the face of the official stance of the Catholic Church. What is the official stance?

What is the truth about Medjugorje? I spoke with British historian and researcher Donal Foley about the whole story behind the visions, about the assessment by the local bishops (and every official commission that ever investigated the seers’ claims), and about the criteria, the Church uses to approve or condemn private apparitions.

There are undoubtedly good fruits associated with the phenomenon, there are many more in the bad category.

Foley’s book Medjugorje Revisited: 30 Years of Visions or Religious Fraud? is a must-read for anyone interested in the most popular unapproved apparition in history. It is the definitive account. (Full disclosure: I wrote the Preface).

There are three groups of people on the Medjugorje spectrum: 1) true believer zealots for whom not even an angel from heaven will convince them otherwise; 2) sarcastic naysayers; and 3) the much larger group in the middle—people who are either on the fence, ignorant of the details, or who don’t care one way or the other. This two-part series is for the benefit of that much larger middle group.

One American theologian told me privately, “Medjugorje is not only unapprovable; it’s a giant tar baby. Whoever touches it gets sticky tar all over himself.” So why am I doing it? Clickbait? Attention? No, I’m covering it because I’m tired of seeing ordinary Catholics (including busy priests) getting hectored and lectured by aggressive followers of Medjugorje. It’s all too much.

The Medjugorje Movement

The Medjugorje Movement dominates the publishing and internet world, fleeces good people of millions of dollars based on half-truths and outright lies, and—the main point—people have a right to know the full story. One searches in vain among the scores of books and websites peddling the phenomenon for descriptions of its serious problems. Most pilgrims are kept largely in the dark.

This is a problem.

I have dear friends whom I love and respect who believe the Blessed Virgin Mary continues to appear to the seers. I hope they’re not too upset with me. Even before this episode aired, my Facebook page was jammed with angry devotees accusing me of “hurting people,” of “turning people from God,” of “going on some kind of crusade,” and the like. Very strange. If I did a program about why I think no Catholics don’t really need to believe in Fatima or Lourdes or Our Lady of Guadalupe to be saved — no one would melt down or lash out (pick your metaphor). Raise one eyebrow of reserved concern about Medjugorje? Duck!

Apparently, there’s no soft way to say in public that the Church has never wavered in the official judgment, starting with the late Bishop Pavao Zanic, and now Bishop Ratko Peric of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno/Trebinje-Mrkan (to whom the Church gives the right and duty to judge apparitions). The Latin phrase is non constat de supernaturalitate, meaning, “it is not established that anything supernatural is happening.” It’s a negative judgment, and the Church has never wavered from it.

Medjugorje enthusiasts are quick to say that it’s not negative, per se, that it simply means something like, “Wait and see the final approval—in the meantime, go there so you, too, can discover that the Blessed Mother is appearing.” That logic won’t work, for the same reason that if a man asks a woman to marry him and she says, “Let me get back to you” — that’s a no. It’s only yes if she accepts.

Despite the harassment and weird guilt trips (“Mother is calling — what are you afraid of?”) employed by the enthusiasts, it is perfectly fine for Catholics to disbelieve the claims of Medjugorje. Even approved apparitions like Fatima and Lourdes are not binding on the faithful.

The results of the final investigative Ruini Commission (initiated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 and chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini of Rome) have been on the desk of Pope Francis for two years now. A rumor floated around the internet last year that the Commission was set to approve “the first seven” apparitions—a rumor based on information leaked to a pro-Medjugorje Italian journalist). We simply don’t know what Pope Francis will ultimately say. His public statements, off-the-cuff and unofficial as they are, do not look favorable.

In addition to my interview this week with Donal Foley, interested readers will want to read the summary regarding that first week in late June 1981, compiled by Bishop Ratko Peric (see the bottom.) The summary is based on the taped interviews with the seers, and provide strong evidence against the claims, particularly the first seven apparitions. If only 10% of it is accurate, Medjugorje has about the same chances of approval as I do of winning gold in the giant slalom.

Please note that this is not an “anti-Medjugorje” position. It’s a pro-Catholic, pro-Marian one. As with most disputes in the Church, this one is ultimately about authority. The legitimate authority of the local bishop, His Excellency Ratko Peric, has been rejected, derided, and been the object of non-stop calumny.

I pray that this conversation with Mr. Foley will be of great value to you and I highly recommend his comprehensive book on the matter, and also his Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World.

After this episode, you will know:

  • The long history of disobedience by the Franciscans serving in the local diocese
  • The official judgment of the Church, what it means, and why it is so
  • The disturbing, occultic elements of the visions of Medjugorje you won’t read about in pro-Medjugorje websites and books
  • Why ex-Franciscan friar Tomislav Vlasic, one of the original self-described spiritual directors of the seers (and the man of whom “the Gospa” told the seers, “Thank Tomislav very much for he is guiding you very well. Go in the peace of God, my angels!”—February 28, 1982) was defrocked in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI
  • Why the Church doesn’t bind the faithful even to approved private apparitions

Resources mentioned in this episode

Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World by Donal Foley

Medjugorje Revisited: 30 Years of Visions or Religious Fraud? By Donal Foley

The Medjugorje Deception: Queen of Peace, Ethnic Cleansing, Ruined Lives by Dr. E. Michael Jones

The Patrick Coffin Show podcast features weekly interviews with A-list influencers and outliers in the effort to recover the Judeo-Christian roots of the culture. Patrick is the Canadian-born former host of Catholic Answers Live, and he has raving fans around the world. He injects these fascinating interviews with his own distinctive blend of depth and levity. If you’re tired of politically correct mediaspeak, you want to see God back in the public square, and you’re not allergic to having a laugh, this is the place to be.

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16 thoughts on “The Truth About Medjugorje—Donal Foley Part I”

  1. One thing that struck me after reading many of the anti Medjugorje stuff on the web, they cannot refute the fruits of Medjugorje. That is all of the vocations, confessions, adorations, mass attendance, pilgrimmages, etc of Medjugorje. There sole attack, at least when they are being honest, is whether the visionaries are profitting from there visions.

    Coffin has not mentioned that allegedly Foley had once held Secretary of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Great Britain, besides the many books Foley has written against Medjugorje. Whether Foley has interests in Fatima that he might profit financially, socially, or spiritually is open to question…at least they should be stated that they should be open to question. It does not mean that Foley is wrong about Medjugorje, but you have to acknowledge that what he says should be scrutinized closely.

    I am at a loss to consider that Medjugorje is profitting from the visions anymore than Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe, or even Rome are profitting from their religious associations. If you go to Fatima and walk the streets around the Basilica you tell me how much money it took to build those facilities, and what the annual income from the pilgrims may be?

    What is the big difference between Fatima and Medjugorje? The Internet.

    Fatima started in 1917 and 1981 for Medjugorje. Coffin may complain about the attacks from people on Medjugorje, but the same could be said for Lourdes and Fatima as well. The difference was that data did not move quickly or far easily. The best way to silence and apparition was just to ignore it.

    What I am composing right now is on my tablet in a Whatburger in Crestview, Florida USA. It can be read anywhere in the world in mere seconds, by almost anyone (with translation). I will catch flak here and elsewhere. It bothers me not one whit.

    I think if Coffin had included more of Foley’s background, understood the issues not only of Medjugorje and why the locals are more loyal to the Francisicans, remembered the visionaries while they were children when the first saw them and only now are in their 40s and 50s, the politics of the area that dates back centuries and how difficult it was for Catholics under Ottoman, Nazi, Communist rule, the high unemployment, the development stopped by the Communists (they did not like Catholics, but especially Francisicans) he might not get his tail feathers singed now and then.

    Coffin and maybe Foley too may need to remind themselves that Jesus picked Judas, Peter denied Jesus, and Paul killed lots of Christians…but those would not be reasons to deny Christ divinity.

  2. I’ve been involved in Medjugorje and Our Lady’s messages to mankind, as well as various supernatural events and healings for 23 years and wouldn’t know where to start to rebut the misinformation, misunderstandings, and misrepresentations in the above article. Time better spent praying or spiritual reading or getting some sleep to be ready for early morning Mass – no fun feeling like 300 years old.

  3. I think once the Vatican sent an Apostolic Visitor to Medjugorje and reduced SOME of the restrictions on pilgrimmages to Medjugorje that has changed a lot about Medjugorje.

    Most western people really do not understand that this region of the world was where WWI started, not to mention the centuries it was under Ottoman rule, WWII, Communist oppression, the wars during last part of the 20th Century. There is also the fact that the war mostly ended in 1994 so barely 20 years have passed.

    Judging by our western economic concerns in a country with 3-way political divide, high unemployment, and not a huge industrial base to generate jobs is hardly fair. Extended family living under their parent’s roofs into their late 20s is hardly unusual.

    There is a divide among Catholics in Bosnia-Hertzegovia. That is that the locals trust the Franciscans and are less incline to like the Catholics in Mostar. Some of the Franciscans were thought to be on the side of the Nazis during WWII and Tito’s Communists that generally did not like religious, were particularly anti-Franciscan.

    The conflicts amongst the Catholics are based on those facts. Remember the bishop in Mostar was one that Tito’s government could tolerate. That doesn’t mean he always holds Tito’s party line, but he has to mostly or cleverly hold Tito’s line. (of course not now since the collaspe)

    I will say in Internet publications I hate when no date or location is provided on the article. Dates are important in knowing whether a report is seriously stale and makes it hard on the reader to know what facts were in play when the story was written. I have not problem with the story being updated as long as the story in its heading indicates it is updated.

    One aspect missing from this story is time. That is to say that thinking of the seers as 40 to 50 year olds ignores their youth when this started. In particular the communist government was not kind at all to Mirjana and isolated her from her fellow seers by moving her to Sarajevo.

    One has to wonder is the seers were in it for the money why didn’t teenage Mirjana sell out while she was in Sarajevo since the state would have rewarded her? Further, we never have found out what may have happened to her during the interrogations and isolation in Sarajevo when she was alone with the police. If this was all made up and her imaginings, she sure endured a lot of harassment. She was just a teenager.

  4. For all of you who are spreading rumors about Medjugorje -these children were ridiculed, accused of lying, threatened by communist police, interrogated, harassed and worse. And they stood firm against all this. They sacrificed everything for the truth. Our Lord said “By their fruits you will know them”. The fruits of Medjugorje have been huge numbers of people returning to faith, hundreds of vocations, people returning to Sacraments, miraculous healings, spiritual and physical. Saint Pope John Paul II believed in Medjugorje apparitions and blessed the town every time he flew over it. May God have mercy on all those who refuse to believe and who persecute His servants.

    1. I realize that no evidence will ever convince you otherwise but considering the fact that the so-called seers have never been obedient to the bishop, claim that the Blessed Virgin Mary said that God presides over all religions like a king over his subjects (which is total heresy), and at least one of them is on tape admitting she lied about the circumstances of the first “apparition”, I think is way beyond clear that medjugorge is a total lie.

      Just because there are good things happening there does not prove that the Blessed Virgin Mary is appearing there. And what about the many divorces that resulted, what about all the phony seers who went there and then claimed their own ” visions”, not to mention a lot of other problems? For example, when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared at Fatima, she said the war would end soon, and 13 months after the last apparition World War I came to an end. Fast forward to the 1980’s. There was no war in the area then known as Yugoslavia, but by the 90’s in a place referred to as the land of the Queen of Peace, war breaks out. Does the name Milosevic mean anything to you? Or ethnic cleansing?

      As for the way beyond tiring claim that Pope JP II believed, where I find an official Church document where he states that? Anything less than that can not be considered proof.

      Good day to you.

    2. Where the heck did you read all these lies? -“the fact that the so-called seers have never been obedient to the bishop, claim that the Blessed Virgin Mary said that God presides over all religions like a king over his subjects (which is total heresy), and at least one of them is on tape admitting she lied about the circumstances of the first “apparition”, I think is way beyond clear that medjugorge is a total lie.” These are not facts, these are lies spread by some distorted anti Medj. group, as usual. It takes humility, littleness, deep prayer and, as always, the Holy Spirit to illuminate this precious merciful modern times gift of Mother’s appearances, once again, to call her children back to God. Come, Holy Spirit!

    3. No doubt you consider the bishop of Mostar to be a liar, which of course you do, both of them in fact since they both told the “seers” to cease their promotion of the “visions” which is a matter of public record.

      You also obviously believe that Janice T. Connell and Svetozar Kraljević , OFM both of whom wrote PRO-Medjugorje books and detailed these things are also liars. Not to mention the “seers” themselves who these writers were quoting.

      Thank you for once again showing the true spirit of Medjugoje, as has been shown millions of times. Always assuming that anyone who speaks against it must be spreading lies, yes…. Thank you for that demonstration of (lack of) charity and condemnation. Really, I mean it. You showed what Medjugorge is truly about.

      Wake up and realize that anything that contradicts the teaching of the Catholic Church is not of God, and Medjorge contradicts the teaching of the Catholic Church. Seriously, do you really believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary could ever say or do anything that is in contradiction to her Son? Really?

      For the moment, it is clear that you do. Hopefully that will change.

    4. Mary told you are wrong this morning. How are you going to disprove that? And I don’t even smoke dope.

      Please send me a cashiers check for $2,000,000.00.

  5. Thank you for this informative article, even if troubling at one level .

    Could the message be that , even if there are elements of errors around ,related to the visions and all else connected to same , the Sacraments still are very efficacious to help bring forth the good that our Lord desires .
    Such an aspect and the renewed focus on the blessings from Eucharistic Adoration , esp. by the priests and how beloved they are to our Lord , even when not perfect
    as mentioned in the book ‘In Sinu Jesu ‘ would hopefully move many places to start such a practice , esp. in all Catholic institutions , such as schools , colleges . hospitals etc too – after all , it should not be that difficult to find two or three persons , to be adoration in such places during most of the day hours and the blessings from same might be the answer for many issues in such places .

    One problem in many churches that desire to have adoration seems to be , not having enough persons for even all the day hours , thus at times the monstrance left alone , seemingly from controversial guidelines on what is the reverential and merciful manner to deal with same .

    A rather inexpensive tabernacle such as the one below , that any church can afford to be the place to hold the monstrance and if no adorer present , the door to be left closed , till the next person comes in – would such an arrangement be considered acceptable !

    http://www.churchsupplywarehouse.com/metalware/metalware-tabernacles-bells-vases-baptismals/tabernacles/rsws942-ihs-cross-tabernacle-rsws942.html

    God bless !

  6. Pingback: MONDAY LATE EXTRA – Big Pulpit

  7. I have a question. If these are indeed phony apparitions or worse in nature, should we dispose of all the rosarys and other items purchased there? What do I do with them and are they bad to keep in our home or should we just have a priest bless them again?

    1. Did you have them blessed by a priest there? If so there is no need.
      According to Catholic teachings, even if the priest were in sin, that does not negate the blessing. Remember, even if a priest serves communion while in sin it is still valid.
      Besides the Vatican sent an Apostolic Visitor to Medjugorje and reduced restrictions on pilgrimages.

  8. I’ve been to medjugorje twice and I’d say I grew in faith but I don’t say that I believe these are Heavenly visitations. I don’t know. I do know the church is the one who can tell us clearly and I look forward to an answer… I have in my more recent years found more of medjigorje troubling.

    For instance “our lady” telling the seers that all religions are the same, there is no need to believe in Catholicism. That doesn’t fit with Jesus and the gospel at all. He commanded “go out in all the world and tell the good news…Repent believe in the gospel!” But those supposed messages from medjugorje don’t fit with the real gospel. For reasons such as that, I’m now very skeptical of medjugorje and I urge others to trust the church over the seers.

  9. A few years ago, a friend of mine passed me a collection of some of writings of the seers. At the time, they struck me as phony. I can’t remember all of it, but I remember one message about how a lot of priests and nuns were in hell. “How odd,” I thought. Not necessarily because priests and nuns might be in hell, but that the Blessed Virgin Mary would be passing on that uninspirational message.

  10. Decades ago, in my business, I met a man who, as it turned out, was from Medugorje. We got to talking and I am simply going to recount what he told me, that e said everyone there knew, and you can take it for yourself any way you want.

    He told me that some gypsy [note: his word!] children were out smoking pot and they got home late. Rather than fess up, they told their parents they were late because they were having a vision of the Virgin Mary.

    I do note that several of the seers/wealthy do not sell all they have and give it to the poor. Guy McClung, Texas

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