Marian Times

Focus on the Medjugorje apparitions and the Catholic Church in the Bosnia Herzegovina region. Other Catholic items of general interest.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Medjugorje - Arguments of E Michael Jones (Part I)

There have been other Catholic authors and self-styled investigators who have taken up the cause of the Bishop of Mostar. One such individual is E Michael Jones. We don’t know their real motivations, but from all appearances, it is purely related to selling the sizzle and grabbing eyeballs. No doubt one or two of them enjoy the image of the maverick crime-buster that it creates. It's just a big Indiana Jones thriller for them. After all, the noisiest ones like Jones come from the land of Hollywood, Reality TV, Talk Shows, Ratings and Press Deadlines.

They initially picked up on the subtly deceptive and persuasive language and arguments used by Vatican negotiator and subsequent Bishop of Mostar, Pavao Zanic in his last ditch effort to get the Yugoslav Bishops’ Conference to condemn the apparitions. They spread the arguments all around the place as gospel about Medjugorje. After the Zadar Declaration, we were reading headlines such as “Vatican Condemns Medjugorje”, which was particularly painful to all concerned. This set the rumour mill working overtime and it brought all the would-be heroes out of the woodwork, semi-retired well-off folks with laptops and a loud mouth started up websites with all the arguments and objections listed in hyperlinks, preferably kept within their own website so that they could increase their Google ranking. And we sat back and saw it all working. Catholic Forums everywhere were inundated with the innuendo. People would come online telling about how they had been converted through Medjugorje and then someone would reply “Didn’t you know it has been condemned by the Church?” or “didn’t you know the Franciscans were disobedient?” We don’t know what happened to all those converted souls. We only hope and pray that God was looking after their new-born faith while these people sowed seeds of disruption and confusion all around them.

Here are some of the objections of Jones

1. "Phil Kronzer had lost his wife to Medjugorje around the same time Jeff Lopez had lost his, which is to say, over the winter of 93-94. Both of these domestic tragedies began with Medjugorje; just where they were going to end was not clear. When Jones got back to his hotel room in Reno, he got a call from a man in England warning him that if he went back to Bosnia, the Franciscans were going to have him killed."

For those who are not familiar with the story, Phil Kronzer is a wealthy California businessman, whose wife believed in Medjugorje while he developed a deep cynicism towards it for various reasons. I read a comment from someone who knows Phil Kronzer’s wife, Ardie. This person said that she “made her own choices” (as opposed to the claims of her being brainwashed in cult fashion) and that Phil “did a lot to make her look bad”.

I have also been speaking at length by email with another major anti-Medjugorje Catholic reporter, who we shall call "RS". I asked him about his relationship with Jones and Phil Kronzer. He told me that he wanted nothing more to do with Phil Kronzer because his methods are not from God. He wanted to take all reference to Phil Kronzer off his website.

Jones' complaint is rather weak. He is trying to cultivate bad fruits from Medjugorje by pointing to two failed marriage, failing to balance his report with the many testimonies of healed marriages as a result of Medjugorje.

2. Proponents of the “apparition” like to talk about its fruits when they become uncomfortable with the behavior of the seers and their Franciscan handlers. Over the ten years since he had become involved in investigating Medjugorje, Jones had come up with his own list of fruits. The death threat he had just received in Reno was the beginning of a long list of bad things that had happened to the world since the Queen of Peace arrived in Yugoslavia in 1981.
Jones’ list of fruits consist of a few highly dubious personal issues that have no bearing on the validity of the apparitions. His arguments rely on people being ignorant of the facts. People who get uncomfortable about the alleged “bad behaviour” of seers and Franciscans probably don’t realize that a few behavioural anomalies do not count against a vision’s authenticity. They also might not be aware that the Virgin herself scolded the visionaries on a couple of occasions, meaning that the Virgin nor the visions can be tarred by the humanity of the visionaries.

Very few, I imagine, have read up on the Herzegovinian Affair, where they could be quickly enlightened as to the undesirable behaviour of the secular clergy and the injustices against the Franciscans. From this, they might fairly quickly understand how it is possible for Franciscans and visionaries to be defensive in the presence of the Bishop of Mostar and how it was possible that the Virgin herself spoke against the Bishop. Jones, if he understand the history himself (sometimes I doubt that he does), would never reveal it as it would seriously damage his case against the Franciscans and stain the reputation of his mentor and hero, Bishop Zanic. Click here for more about these unfortunate events.

3. Broken vows, the pregnant nuns, the poor people bilked of their money, the division in the Church, the de facto schism, leading most recently to illicit confirmations in Capljina, the kidnapping of the local bishop, the ethnic cleansing, and, most dramatically, the worst fighting in Europe since World War II. All in all it was an impressive amount of malfeasance coming, as it did, from a group of people whose stated intention was prayer and following the instructions of the Blessed Mother.

We will deal with each of these many objections individually, though some of them have already been dealt with on previous pages:

Broken vows and pregnant nuns:
Yes, it is true that Vego left the priesthood and married a nun who had also left religious life. This event occurred in a private way and can no more affect the authenticity of the visions than could the actions of paedophilic priests affect the authenticity of the Catholic Church. Both the ex-priest and ex-nun live peacefully in Medjugorje, working in charities and demonstrating a model married life with their children.

Defacto Schism:
This objection comes from the writer’s negative view of the Charismatic movement. To not accept the Charismatic movement as wholly part of the Catholic Church under Vatican II is to indulge in schismatic behaviour oneself. The Franciscan leaders at Medjugorje are very watchful and quick to crack down on any perceived development that goes along with false teaching. Father Jozo Zovko is a prime example. In an example already given in this book, he denounced a movement that adopted a fatalistic apocolyptic view of the Medjugorje apparitions, a view which Father Jozo never took. They tried unsuccessfully to use his name as an endorsement for their work. The visions and the visionaries cannot be stained by any downstream anomalies which are bound to spring up. Leaders can only be as watchful as possible.

Division in the Church:
Division has been part and parcel of the Catholic Church since the very beginning with Peter v Paul over circumcision of the Gentiles.
Division at Medjugorje has been caused by unreasonable detractors from Bishop Zanic to the writer, Jones, himself.

Illicit confirmations in Capljina:
Fr. Bonifac Barbaric from Capljina has been the most outspoken opponent of Medjugorje from the beginning and yet has never come to hear confessions or to concelebrate Mass in Medjugorje. Although he has had his faculties removed, in defiance to the Bishop and in opposition to the Franciscan Provincial, he continues to do parish work in Capljina. The other Franciscans fail to understand his motives and intentions. It is beyond them.

People Bilked out of Money by Con-men:
Wherever there are pilgrimages, the corrupt will find a way to cash in. Even Jesus had to deal with merchants and moneychangers outside the temple.

Father Svet, a Franciscan from Medjugorje said: “I know that it is mostly the poor people who come as pilgrims to Medjugorje. They choose to come. They come for God. They know that a pilgrimage always involves a sacrifice. I see the phenomenon of Medjugorje as a continuation of the pilgrimage tradition of the Church. Pilgrims see good coming out of it for them. I know that it is not I who makes their pilgrimage good or fruitful for them. There is the rain, the heat, the cold and people still come. And they pray and sing and confess. They praise God and they climb the mountains regardless. They tell each other to come and they come again. The longer I stay in Medjugorje the more I realize that I am not the one bringing pilgrims here. No one could "make them" come.”

Kidnapping of the local Bishop:
If Jones knows the full story here, he would certainly not tell you. The word “kidnapping” sounds damning and, from a quick reading, it looks like the Bishop is an innocent victim, which is far from the truth. This incident relates to the Mostar Affair and has been discussed previously in this book. It is an example of the Bishop reaping what he sowed. Personally, I am quite surprised that there was only one such incident.

Ethnic Cleansing of Muslims from Gradska:
Simply no truth or backup and is an example of the lengths to which Agatha Christie writers like Jones go to establish any kind of negative link to the visions in order to spice up their stories so they can sell more books.

A story of ethnic cleansing was kept alive for a long time in the Muslim daily “Feril Tribune” and was completely false.

Father Svet personally addressed this ethnic cleansing accusation from Jones as follows:

“Gradska is a place near Ljubuski. In addressing this point, the pressure against the Church in Croatia needs to be mentioned. In 1992, in Bosnia and Hercegovina (here noted as "BH") there were 900,000 Catholics. Now there are less than 450,000. Even now, the Catholics are the ones who are being most pressured to leave.

The world is being told that it is the Catholics who are the most non-cooperative and are the ones responsible for the war. This is not true. There are 14 Catholics from BH in the Hague tribunal accused of war crimes. Very few Serbians and Muslims are there. A few days ago, a BBC broadcast from London blatantly accused only the Croatians of causing trouble in BH and bringing instability. There was no mention of almost half a million Catholics who are not able to return to their homes. In my former parish of Konjic in central Bosnia, for example, prior to the war, there were 12,000 Catholics. Now there are less than 1,000.

Thousands of Catholics were killed. Ten of thousands were evicted from their homes. As refugees, they were forced to seek refuge in the Croatian controlled areas of Ljubuski. It was these refugees from Bosnia who caused tensions with the resident Muslim community in Gradska. The refugees were angry because they lost everything and they wanted to take justice into their own hands. The local authorities and people were powerless. It was then that the Croatian army, the HVO, decided that it would be best to bring the Muslims out of Ljubuski and out of Gradska. They were not killed like the Catholics in Bugojno. Some went to Croatia, some went abroad and some to Bosnia in Muslim controlled areas. At the same time as this was taking place, most of the residents of Medjugorje were refugees in Croatia, most in Dalmatia.

Today, the remnant Catholic population in Bosnia continues to be under great pressure. For example, Catholics constitute 18% of the population of BH but they receive only 2% of the allotted funding. It is also documented that while Catholics have given and continue to give humanitarian aid to everyone in need, regardless of religion or political conviction, this is not reciprocal. In 1901, 43% of the population of Sarajevo was Catholic. Now it has been reduced to only 3%. Likewise, following the war, the Catholic population in Banja Luka has been reduced to less than 10 percent and would not exist at all if it were not for the bravery of Bishop Franjo Komarica. It was this same Bishop who was told by an EC [European Community] diplomat that it was not in the plan for the Catholics to remain in Banja Luka at all. Whose plan? The situation facing the Catholic community in BH is truly tragic and cannot be expressed in this short letter.”

Malfeasance and trouble caused by visions:
This appears to be an effort to call the Medjugorje visions demonic, a conclusion that Bishop Zanic himself stated that he did not agree with. Much of the disorder occurred or had its roots long before the virgin arrived. We have the wars, ethnic divisions and the long-running combined Herzegovinian, Mostar and Apaljina Affairs. Basically, before the Madonna came, the landscape was a political, ethnic and religious shambles. We prefer to believe that Our Lady came to clear up the mess and bring peace according to her title “Queen of Peace”. Experts who know a little bit more about the history, e.g. Dr. Viktor Nuiæ, OFM, points to the Bishops of Mostar as being practically WHOLLY responsible for ALL the inter-Church malfeasance in the region (his testimony can be read here). Our Lady spoke out about the Bishop in her well-known statement/warning that irked the Bishop enough to make him turn against the apparitions. However, as smoke always indicates fire, the Bishop was eventually found guilty of having acted against cannon law in the Prusina and Vego affair. Malfeasance was to continue when the Bishop, refusing to believe the Virgin could be speaking against him, set about the task of destroying the credibility of the visions. Malfeasance is the legacy of this as the world's media, including Jones, picked up the threads and spread them widely and rashly. If any malfeasance occurred directly from any of the Franciscans in the form of “disobedience” for example, it was simply provoked. And informed people will know that all the sideshow shenanigans in the world do not automatically render authentic visions false. The coming of Jesus Christ was at a time much needed and He himself said in Matthew 10:

34Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and a man's foes will be those of his own household.

Ironically, we are seeing this “brother against brother” situation right now in the Catholic Church over Medjugorje.

Like his predecessors Misic and Zanic, Bishop Peric has had to deal with the rabidly nationalistic Herzegovinian Franciscans. Peric found out first-hand just how bellicose the “Queen of Peace” and her supporters can be.

Although this is not an objection as such and has nothing to do with the authenticity of the visions, I have included it to give people a sense of how the media, often completely uninformed, uses loaded words and impressive prose. This came from Jones’s book, which is written like an Indiana Jones novel. I am not going to mention the name of the book because it deserves no publicity. The”rabidness” he attributes elsewhere is more correctly applied to his own writings.

I’m also going to point out the error in the facts, though I don’t think facts are what Jones is genuinely concerned with and there is nothing that stains the visions or the visionaries. However, I do it for the sake of the souls of the ignorant innocent he would otherwise dupe.

Jones calls the Franciscans “rabidly nationalistic”. First, the Franciscans themselves are nothing but peaceful and existed in peaceful communities for centuries. The “rabidness” came in the form of a new breed of secular Bishops, originating from Austria, who brought seriously bad attitudes into the region to the point where I, personally, can hardly recognize them as members of the clergy. The Franciscans tolerated them at length, which probably egged the bullying on even further. When the first proposal was made to take away parishes, the Franciscans, in conciliatory fashion, in fact made the first offer, even though they were able to show that they had full rights to retain their parishes.

I can put it no other way than to say that these Bishops came with a plan to divest the Franciscans of their parishes and duped the Holy See into agreeing with it. Once agreed, they took far more than they were entitled to and picked the bones clean. That is it in a nutshell.

It was not the Franciscans, but their parishioners, who revolted against the secular Bishops and I, personally, feel complete empathy with them if my readings of the events are correct. I mean, we hear the story of how Bishop Peric refused to allow refuge to Franciscans whose monastery was destroyed in the war and had nowhere to live temporarily.
5. The Catholic Church did end up condemning Medjugorje in 1991, but St. James Church continued to attract pilgrims.

This is probably the single most damaging misrepresentation of the truth surrounding the Medjugorje apparitions, and has sent thousands if not millions of unconverted souls back to lives of sin, instead of onto their new lives as converted souls. I have taken Jones to task about spreading this outright lie and have not received any sign of retraction to date.

I repeat: Medjugorje was not condemned in the Zadar Declaration of 1991.

6. St. James Church has undergone dramatic transformation as well. What used to be the muddy area surrounding it is now paved and decorated with statues. What used to be pasture and farmland behind it has now become a gravel parking lot, whose focal point is a hideous tent-like pavilion behind the church, which dwarfs the church itself, much as the apparitions and what they stand for have come to dwarf the Catholic parish which spawned them.

I included this to show how objectivity has gone completely out the window with Jones and many writers like him. My original notes regarding this passage read “Jones even has a beef with the decorators at Medjugorje! haha.” I think I’ll leave that as it is. And the only “dwarfing” done was to the ego of the Bishop of Mostar and to the objectivity of its detractors. The rest of the parish fairly blossoms with the beauty of the presence of the Madonna. There is no ugliness at Medjugorje. All the ugliness comes from people like Jones.

7. The connection between Surmanci and Medjugorje, both from the point of view of place and time, seems too obvious to ignore, although Craig goes on to do just that in Spark from Heaven, which ends up being one more instance of promotional literature— a bit ambivalent, better written perhaps, but in the end another piece of advertisement for the ultimate benefit of the airlines, the travel agents, the Franciscans and the “seers.”

This is a prime example of the work of the Indiana Jones’s, who have attempted to establish links with whatever mystery and intrigue they can find. Jones is trying to tell the world that there is a good chance that the vision experience at Medjugorje is simpy a ghost who represents a collective repressed guilty conscience. It is eminently ignorable. Most believers say the atrocities at Surmanci are yet another reason why Mary has chosen Medjugorje. She comes as a salve of forgiveness and peace for so much human wrongdoing.

8. But the “seers” are far from being declared saints by the same Church which declared them liars.

Jones’s rabid reporting reaches another level. Not only has he spread lies by saying the Church condemned Medjugorje. He now says the Church has declared them liars. Certainly it has done no such thing. The Bishop of Mostar came to this conclusion all by himself and the Church rejected his final pronouncement.

9. So the questions remain. What exactly did they see on that day in June in 1981? Or did they see anything at all? In late October 1989, Ivan Dragicevic, the Medjugorje “seer,” was a long way from home. He was in San Francisco in fact, and having survived the biggest earthquake in recent memory on the day of his arrival, he was standing in the back yard of a Croatian Emigre by the name of Joe Tolaich, having a cigarette. Joe Tolaich was part of the Croatian Diaspora living in the bay area. He had grown up in Metkovic, a few kilometers down the Neredva from Medjugorje and had in fact been one of the first people to arrive in Medjugorje as pilgrims during the summer of 1981. Joe’s attitude toward the Blessed Mother had a distinctly practical bent. Faced with the prospect of having a seer who had daily contact with the Blessed Mother in his own home, Joe asked Ivan if the Virgin Mary might divulge, during one of her visits, her favorite six numbers, so that Joe could put them to good use in the state lottery. Perhaps Joe had become skeptical because of Ivan’s lifestyle. Whatever the reason, he never got an answer to his question, which prompted him to ask Ivan on that evening while he was having a cigarette in his back yard, whether Ivan was really seeing the blessed Mother. Ivan’s answer was something less than reassuring to the pious. “Joe,” Ivan replied after taking a drag on his cigarette, “I’m seeing something.”

Very fanciful prose and we don’t have the full transcript of the conversation with Ivan. Unfortunately, we are well used to detractors taking statements out of context. Jones himself has already tarnished his credibility by telling lies in previous sections. Nevertheless, I will leave his comments there for others to read and decide for themselves. From here on, we see Jones’s conspiracy theories which cover the eventuality that Ivan is indeed seeing something, even though Jones has everywhere else already been giving evidence that it is a hoax and that Ivan is not seeing anything at all. Well, OK, let’s assume that at least the part about “seeing something” can be believed. We need Jones to establish a starting point for his opinions because at the moment he loses all credibility simply digging around for anything at all that will disprove the apparitions – hardly credible reporting, and the reason is that Jones is not a reporter, he is a story-teller.

Continued in part II


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