Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
A reader writes:
I understand your abundance of caution in discerning whether the Medjugorje phenomenon is truly of divine origin, but you seem to have taken your disbelief a step further to veiled hostility and subtle denunciation. That is up to Holy Mother Church to pontificate about. I await with hopeful expectation the Church's official decision, which I will support, either way!
Why do you instruct your "reader" in the post about pious devotions not to, "pass judgement on the other person who finds it helpful, but proceed with caution before making it a pillar of support..." You seem gratified that she flatly states her disbelief, confirming her opinion with a gratuitous, "you seem to be taking this very wise course with Medjugorje." You admonish her not to pass judgment on others who believe, yet every statement you have ever made about Medjugorje is negative! You leave no room for a positive pronouncement. I can and will accept the Church's decision when rendered; will you be able to do the same if it is deemed authentic?
Incidentally, have you ever been to Medjugorje?
I believe Medj to be a fraud. If you want to know my reasons for doing so, Te Deum Laudamus has amassed some good evidence for why I think it's bunk. At the same time, I also believe that the people with a devotion to it are honest and good people who are being deceived by the “visionaries” and sundry other shady frauds and hucksters in their orbit, but who themselves have real and frequently beautiful faith in Jesus and our Lady that is honored by God. I am morally certain Rome will simply ratify the rejection voiced by the local ordinaries that there is nothing superatural happening there. If some of the more fanatical adherents of Medj.make enough trouble, they might, for all I know, condemn the whole shooting works and forbid pilgrimages, but I doubt that. Benedict, despite his false reputation as God's Rottweiler, generally takes the gentle and conciliatory route.
Of course, there is a (remote) chance I will be wrong and, if I am, I will honor the Church’s finding.
But I’m not wrong. The evidence against Medjugorje is pretty solid and Rome will act on that evidence just as the local ordinaries did. So I warn devotees not to invest themselves emotionally in this, lest they have their faith unnecessarily shaken when Rome finds against Medj.
So what happens if I am wrong? Well, nothing. Because even if Rome does say Medj is “worthy of belief” all that means is that I may believe, not that I must believe. So I lose nothing either way. But people who are dead set on believing and who have invested make or break, heart and soul, Medjugorje or bust faith in this stuff could have their faith shaken and even destroyed. Already, I see Medj devotees murmuring paranoid conspiracy theories being put forward by various True Believers in order to “explain” how “apostate Rome” is now the Seat of Antichrist and so we have to henceforth trust the “visionaries” and not the Church. Such folk are quite clearly arranging the pieces in order to justify going into schism and founding a Cult of Medjugorje as an alternative church should Rome not play ball and give the fanatics what they demand. Obviously not all or even most Medjugorje devotees are in this camp. But a significant number are and I do not underestimate the power of the human mind to resist reality it dislikes. Some Medj. enthusiasts have a greater devotion to this “revelation” than they do to Holy Church. It’s unhealthy. So I speak my mind and caution people not to count their chickens before they are hatched..
Finally, no. I have never been to Medj. Nor have I been to Fatima or Lourdes. I believe these latter private revelatons because I agree with the Church that the evidence for them is impressive. I disbelieve the claims for Medj for similar reasons: the evidence strongly suggests “fraud”. I don’t believe you have to visit a place to make an informed judgment.
Hope that clarifies things. God bless you!