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 II)

E Michael Jones' arguments continued, with Editor's comments....


10. Evidence from other sources close to the seers corroborates Ivan’s testimony. Mirjana once described a vision in which she saw the Virgin Mary appear, only to be replaced by a second virgin, who told her in a different voice, “You see even the devil can come dressed as me.”
Firstly, that was a lazy misquote from Jones. The virgin didn't say this. And we did not get any “testimony” from Ivan, simply an eyewitness comment taken out of context. Even so, this is far from any type of corroboration except if we are corroborating “seeing something”, which needs no corroboration because people have been saying nothing else since day one. And here we have more misrepresentations regarding Satan’s appearance to Mirjana. Below is the full story as told at Medjugorje.org:

"Mirjana related an apparition she had in 1982 which we believe sheds some light on some aspects of Church history. She spoke of an apparition in which satan appeared to her disguised as the Blessed Virgin. Satan asked Mirjana to renounce the Madonna and follow him. That way she could be happy in love and in life. He said that following the Virgin, on the contrary, would only lead to suffering. Mirjana rejected him, and immediately the Virgin appeared and Satan disappeared. Then the Blessed Virgin gave her the following message, in substance: "Excuse me for this, but you must realize that Satan exists. One day he appeared before the throne of God and asked permission to submit the Church to a period of trial. God gave him permission to try the Church for one century. This century is under the power of the devil, but when the secrets confided to you come to pass, his power will be destroyed. Even now he is beginning to lose his power and has become aggressive. He is destroying marriages, creating division among priests and is responsible for obsessions and murder. You must protect yourselves against these things through fasting and prayer, especially community prayer. Carry blessed objects with you. Put them in your house, and restore the use of holy water."

So, the key question seems to be: can the devil appear in two places at once in the disguise of Mary? Because it seems that Mary appeared while Satan was still there and shooed him away, i.e. they were both in the same space for a brief moment. The other interesting point about this event is that we see what Satan is really like. Before Mary appeared and shooed him off, Satan opened his mouth and out came the things we can immediately recognize as being from Satan. Forget the theories that Satan can be 99% convincing in order to pass on 1% of lies. Most of us believe that God would not test us beyond our ability to reason according to the limits of human ability and knowledge.

11. The possibility that the seers were seeing a spiritual entity which was not the Blessed Mother was mentioned explicitly the day before our trip to Surmanci by a priest who has been associated with the apparitions for over ten years and during that period has gone from an being avid believer and promoter to a confirmed skeptic. After years of hearing confessions and assembling a library of new age material from penitents, it became clear to him that Medjugorje was a major stop on the New Age circuit.
The “assembling a library of new age material” was, in fact, "confiscation". During this period, New Age thinking was prevalent all over the world, so it is no surprise that the philosophies were present in pilgrims. Franciscan priests and nuns regularly asked pilgrims to surrender their new age crystals and books, etc. because they came under the umbrella of “spiritism”, which was not acceptable at Medjugorje.

Before long, the Blessed Virgin even started talking like a new age guru. The first message to issue from the lips of “Our Lady of Medjugorje” after the bishops’ condemnation was that her devotees should turn “negatives into positives,” a turn of phrase which struck this priest at the time as totally unbiblical, a feeling which received dramatic confirmation when he found exactly the same phrase coming from the lips of New Age guru, Sanaya Roman, “Channel for Orin.” “Or,” the priest remembered, was the Hebrew word for light. The Latin word is Lux, whose genitive is lucis, which is the root of the name light-bearer, or Lucifer. The passage about changing negatives into positives, which Marija Pavlovic cited verbatim as the first message from the Gospa after the bishops’ declaration of April 1991, is the title of Chapter Five of Sanaya Roman’s book, Living with Joy: Keys to Personal Power and Spiritual Transformation (Tiburon, CA: H. J. Kramer, 1986).
Here is Jones’s latest angle – "Indian Jones and the New Age Guru". Unfortunately, this allegation probably holds the least water of all. As mentioned above, it was about this time that the new age idea was rampant all over the world. However, it is very clear that Mary is anti-new age. We have testimonies from the pilgrims on this subject. These pilgrims testify that they arrived with new age ideas and left without them. On one particular visit, one of the clergy asked if anyone believed in new age crystals as a means of fortune-telling. Quite a few people pulled crystals out of their pockets. They were told to get rid of them, in fact, in some cases, to leave them at the cross of Krzevac. There are many other testimonies, including a man who had been involved in Transcendental Meditation (TM) and, while in St James Church, saw a big black bug crawling across his mind’s eye. Believing he had a demon, he went to a priest in Medjugorje who referred him to an exorcist who was there. The exorcist asked the demon to reveal its name and the reply was in the form of a “mantra” that the man had used during his meditation. The man had unwittingly attracted a demon related to lust through his involvement in TM. The demon was expelled. The biggest supporting argument Jones can raise in support of his proposition that Medjugorje is New Age is Our Lady’s comment that we should turn the negatives into positives. I mean, this is laughable. What about all the saints who turned the “negatives” of suffering into positives for those they suffered for. Jesus kissed His cross, knowing that the negativity associated with His passion would bring unbelievable positive benefits for mankind. It is more unbiblical if one doesn’t turn the negative into positive, for we know that despair is a mortal sin because it rules out the power and mercy of God. New Age is a big no-no at Medjugorje. Case closed!

12. I begin to descry a third possibility, based on its geographical and historical context and their relationship to the massacres at Surmanci just on the other side of apparition hill. The “seers” saw a ghost. Ghosts, to begin with, are psychological, whereas demons are ontological. Demons are actual beings; they are pure spirits, or angels who have chosen to rebel against God and live in a state of eternal separation from Him. Their only consolation comes from making other rational creatures, who were created to share happiness withGod, share their misery instead. Ghosts, on the other hand, are a function of the mind which beholds them. They are traditionally seen as the souls of men who have not gone to hell but rather to purgatory, from whence they escape periodically to admonish the living about some still unfinished business.
I’m laughing literally. This is a huge stretch. Why are there no other ghosts except Mary and, on one occasion, Satan? It takes no account of the repetitive vision of the same Marian apparition every day for 25 years. Surely, there would be a mass of entities rising from the graves of Surmanic, with no logical pattern and no clear messages, probably just a lot of moaning and dragging of chains. Furthermore, it doesn’t tie in the other phenomenon, miracles and healings for example. I don’t want to dignify it any more than that, but I’ve added even more of it below because I want to show something else.

13. Like the monster in horror fiction, ghosts represent the return of the repressed. Both Banquo’s ghost and Hamlet’s father represent an unrighted wrong. Like the monster in horror fiction, ghosts represent the return of the repressed. Both Banquo’s ghost and Hamlet’s father represent an unrighted wrong. They are an indication that an event in the past has failed to achieve closure. As a result of repression, usually caused by guilt, the ghost frequently re-presents itself at moments usually associated in some way with an anniversary of the event that needs to be repressed. To give a typical example, women who have abortions generally relive the guilt and anguish associated with the death of their child on the anniversary date of either the abortion itself or on the day the woman has calculated as the child’s birth date. The aborted child rises ghost-like on the anniversary of his death and accuses the mother in much the same way that Banquo’s ghost accuses Macbeth and the ghost of Hamlet’s father reproaches Hamlet.
We clearly see Jones' penchant for a story and his main strength as a writer rather than an investigator. He takes examples from fiction books and movies to back up his hypotheses in a real-life context. There is more than enough fiction in his writings without bringing Shakespeare into it. I wonder if anybody else is rolling around in the isles laughing besides me! He even says later “But as in horror movies, so in real life.” Ha ha! It actually makes me wonder if Jones is really Catholic. Surely, he must know that the dead lose their free will and come to under the Will of God. That being the case, it is impossible for a spirit to roam the earth without God’s knowledge and approval. The most likely reason for a spirit to be roaming the earth would be to work out some type of penance before coming to Heaven. If he is saying that it is an illusion fabricated by the mind and springing from guilt, well, this is even more of a stretch, firstly because of the evaluation of science and secondly because only six people have this so-called “repressed guilt delusion”, children who were not even born during the periods of oppression and that had the least to be guilty about.

14. Reduced to its simplest form, Medjugorje was this: two girls saw something one hill away from the place where the Surmanci massacres took place on the fortieth anniversary of the massacres, at a time when Tito had been dead for a little over a year and all of eastern Europe was aflame with the nationalism that the Polish labor union Solidarity had inspired in the subject nations of the Soviet empire.
Pure fiction.

15. Father Zovko tried to deflect attention from Surmanci, claiming that it was absurd “to offload on Medjugorje all the guilt for wartime atrocities that even we older ones hadn’t heard of; and as for the children, they weren’t even born,” but the Serbs remained unconvinced. Belgrade papers satirized an Ustase terrorist Madonna with a large knife between her teeth and a caption proclaiming, “The True Face of the Blessed Mother.”
Obviously Father Jozo was in his correct mind and thank you, Mr. Jones, for pointing out his perfectly valid reply to such a ludicrous idea. More surprising is Jones’ rebuttal that “the Serbs remained unconvinced”, as if their strong sense of nationalism would afford them any reason to be so convinced.

16. What the children saw, of course, became irrelevant by the third day of the apparitions when the Franciscans, specifically Jozo Zovko, became involved and turned the seers into foot soldiers in their war against Bishop Zanic. The deal with the children was cut as payment for not denouncing them as a hoax and exposing them thereby to the ire of a local population that wanted to believe that their deliverance was just around the corner.
Hopefully realising his ghost theory was sounding a little “out there”, Jones has changed tack, though unfortunately it doesn’t get much better. All the Zanic arguments are discussed previously in this book. Nevertheless, I will answer anything that resembles a good objection (and there honestly isn’t much). Now, we see again the meaty prose designed to hook the reader, pointing to Jones’s confusion as to the point of his book - is it a serious assessment of Medjugorje or is it a novel? He accuses a Catholic priest of deceptively and uncaringly using children for his own agenda. Yet, he cannot consolidate this accusation because we then have to address the selfless act of Father Jozo’s willingness to go the jail in support of his beliefs, from which position it would be extremely difficult to orchestrate his "clandestine plan" any further. Now, the local population was already very suspicious of the apparitions in the beginning. The childrens' parents and even Father Jozo scolded them for "lying". Father Jozo remained suspicious for a long time. In an ironic twist, we hear that Bishop Zanic was the one trying to convince Father Jozo of the authenticity of the apparitions. But later, Bishop Zanic apparently changed his tune after being called in by the Communist Police. If Father Jozo’s worry was simply that the population would get upset over a fraud, then the population surely could understand six mischievous teenagers playing a prank than a priest praying a prank. It would have blown over very quickly.

17. Although it was modeled consciously on Lourdes, with a little bit of Garabandal (the warning, the chastisement, the permanent supernatural sign) thrown in for good measure, Medjugorje itself was more like the equally bogus apparitions in Marpingen in Germany, which for a brief moment in the 1870s outdrew even Lourdes, upon which it too was based.
Jones has this habit of arrogantly pronouncing on apparitions just because he can, despite the fact that the Vatican has not finally pronounced. This applies to both Garabandal and Marpingen, neither of which have been condemned by the Church. Regarding the 1999 apparitions at Marpingen, after six years of investigating the case, the Catholic Church announced that "there was justified doubt about the supernatural character of the alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary." The special church commission did not go as far as proclaiming a pious fraud, but it also stopped short of explaining why the miraculous appearance of the mother of God could not be proven. My take on this is that the Vatican either weren’t willing to commit to a positive pronouncement given the available evidence, or found something in the Virgin’s comments, or other aspect of the vision, that alerted them to a need to revise some current Church proclamation or dogma, as it has done regularly over the centuries once some new information comes to light. In the case of the latter, it would be inappropriate to approve of a vision until the Church’s teachings are in line with what the visions teaches us, if indeed this is necessary. Marpingen has a similar history to Medjugorje in the sense of both apparitions occurring during a period of upheaval and religious persecution. This fact was used as ammunition by Jones, when he quoted Blackbourn: "there is overwhelming evidence... of the link between the apparitions and a combination of political persecution, material distress, and social change. That is true not only of the original events in Marpingen, but of the revitalized apparition movement in the twentieth century". He employed Blackbourne’s statement to support his tale that these apparitions are somehow some ghostly illusion or repressed injustices somehow surfacing in the form of an apparition. Jones says that the” fake” apparitions are borrowing ideas from the genuine apparitions and even borrowing off other “fake” apparitions, e.g. that Medjugorje is borrowing the apocalyptic aspects of Garabandal. However, if hoaxsters wanted to invent an apparition, surely they would make it as close as possible to apparitions that had been approved. Anyhow, the final word on the “hoax” card goes to the scientists. In the case of Medjugorje, scientific studies are multiple, extensive and intensive. Where one investigation left something out, the next one covered it or the way was left open for anyone to take up the challenge. At Medjugorje, there is no room for cynicism about current scientific findings. Because any objector has the opportunity to investigate further. The visionaries and Franciscans have wholeheartedly welcomed scientific investigations, excited by the prospect that science, at least, would be able to confirm what the Bishops and cynics have long doubted. As it is, there is very little doubt that Medjugorje is not a hoax. For more, see “Scientific Investigation”. Jones knows this, which is why he steers well clear of it because he finds fulfillment in writing and selling tall tales, not facts. Facts such as these would simply spoil his fun.

CONCLUSION TO JONES' OBJECTIONS

A huge wet blanket composed of an ill-fitting collage of objections and whinings aimed at bombarding the reader with pure volume rather than substance. I don’t enjoy writing somebody off completely, but Jones’ objections are simply preposterous. He has caught the investigative journalism bug big time. He makes Zanic and Peric seem almost believable. Perhaps that was his aim.

More of a writer than a serious investigator, he endeavours to connect dots from Medjugorje to anything that sounds ominous, including Nazism, New Age philosophies, Spiritism and plenty more. He has left no stone unturned, bottom-trawling for anything that could possibly, if the story is told just the right way, smear and damage the reputation of the seers or those immediately connected with them. Notice I did not say that these things could smear the Virgin or the apparitions themselves or the messages that come from them, because there is simply nothing that can directly stain these. And these are actually all we really care about.

As well as "Indiana Jones", he would suit the nickname “Sideshow Bob. I have honestly scoured his writings for fair objections so that I could bring them out in the open for discussion but, unfortunately, I cannot. The best arguments were already given by Zanic and Peric. His writing picks up the threads and stretches them as far as they can go. It is all so outlandish and far removed from what we should be concentrating on – the visions and the visionaries. He has us traversing the landscape looking at unrelated, though possibly interesting, sideshows.

In fact, I cannot see how he has deserved any type of reputation as a serious critic. His writings cannot be taken seriously and they would have most people falling about laughing – Medjugorje supporter or not. He has lost sight of the hay, looking for the needles.

He is seriously confused about his mission – writer or investigator? He should choose one and stick with it. I can’t imagine people getting into a “novel” about Medjugorje. People want to read about Medjugorje in real life – the visions and the visionaries and the miracles and the healings. They don’t want to read all that ungracious nastiness. Jones has smeared every character that has not been nailed down and even some things that were nailed down (he even had some negative comments about the design of the outdoor pavilion behind St James’ Church!) He takes far too many liberties in his condemnation of holy priests, such as Father Jozo. He has cast stones in all directions and borne outright false witness against innocent people.

I have had long email discussions with Jones during which I admitted that it did look as though the visionaries had told a couple of white lies to the Bishop, although I could not confirm it absolutely. And we kept coming back to his one main objection that he keenly insisted on:

“If the seers have admitted that they lied, there is no way that the Vatican can approve the apparitions. If the seers lied, they are not credible witnesses. If they are not credible witnesses, the apparitions are not worthy of belief. The conclusion flows inexorably from the premise which you have already admitted, namely, that the seers have lied.”

He held this position even after I clearly showed the context of the alleged lies, which I have since explained. He did not reply to my latest email, in which I pointed out that there is room for “momentary aberration”, as shown below from the Church’s procedure for evaluating private revelations (any emphasis is mine):


An inquiry into the visionary's character might be pursued as
follows:

  1. What are his natural qualities or defects, from a physical, intellectual, and especially moral standpoint? If the information is favourable (if the person is of sound judgment, calm imagination; if his acts are dictated by reason and not by enthusiasm, etc.), many causes of illusion are thereby excluded. However, a momentary aberration is still possible.
Not the mention that a revelation can be regarded as Divine in its broad outlines, but doubtful in minor details, e.g. the revelations of Marie de Agreda and Anne Catherine Emmerich.

Jones, and all those who blazed Indiana Jones trails with him, has attacked not only Medjugorje, but most other Marian apparitions that have not yet been approved by the Vatican. Rick Salbato, who is of a similar ilk to Jones, even attacked an apparition that HAD been approved by the Church (i.e. Rwanda) on his website.

Their favourite deception is using the loaded word “condemned”, a word that is rarely used in the Vatican since there was a list of “condemned books”. “Doubt” is a key word here. Ever since Sts Peter and Paul – these anointed men of God – fell into doubt so soon after Christ had risen to heaven (concerning whether Gentiles could join the Church without circumcision), doubt and confusion has characterized the voyage of the Catholic Church.

Where there is doubt, it is not an appropriate reaction to spoil perfectly good fruits. It is in the hands of the Holy See. The fact is that the Vatican is uncertain about many of these apparitions, just as it is uncertain about other issues, which we see for example in the Vatican’s revision of the dogma that unbaptised children go to limbo. And, at the time of writing, the Vatican is revising its ban on condoms under certain circumstances. The Catholic Church is growing and evolving and is being assisted along the way by God’s regular providence in the form of private revelations.

Jones and all those like him have a very great deal to answer for in terms of leading people away from what may turn out to have been very genuine apparitions – and for what? For the thrill of the chase! This is not God’s way! Their sensationalist writings have spread widely on the internet, with Rick Salbato even bragging that he had achieved a high Google page ranking. The effects of this include that atheists now have every reason to take miracles and apparitions less than seriously. This reflects, in turn, on the Catholic Church and on religion as a whole. Within the Church, backsliding believers (those most sternly reprimanded by Christ), who were originally re-ignited in their faith by the events at Medjugorje, had a wet blanket thrown over them by the first person they met who had seen an article or a blog regurgitating the writings of those such as Jones, Salbato et al.

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