It's funny how things can lead to other things and lead to even more other things. I had intended to commemorate Benedict XVI's trip to Lourdes with an update on what's happening with Medjugorje. The Vatican has recently censured one of the Franciscan's who was instrumental in mentoring the visionaries, and is still in the process of determining it's official stance on the site itself. But, what I found is that Medjugorje is about far more than Marian visions and the subsequent life of the visionaries.
It seems that one can't look into anything in the Balkans and not find oneself in a morass of politics, tribalism, sectarian violence, and economic exploitation of one group by another. Medjugorje is no exception. Whatever the kids experienced, and multiple scientific testing says they did experience something which was not a lie, not a form of drug psychosis, and not a form of hallucination, they also inadvertently help set off all kinds of other very unpleasant historical conflicts.
These historical conflicts encompass the Church itself, since the Franciscans operate the parishes in the immediate area and have historically been at odds with the official Church in the diocese in which Medjugorje exists. These conflicts between the Archdiocese and the Franciscans continue.
The Archdiocese is not a supporter of the pilgrimage site, and the Franciscans are one of the major driving forces behind all the pilgrimages, and one of the main beneficiaries of all the money the pilgrims bring. One of the Franciscan sites which is deriving a great deal of benefit from Medjugorje is the University of St Francis in Steubenville, Ohio.
Researching Medjugorje is going to take me a lot more time. There are so many threads enter twined with so many other threads, and the picture which emerges is very murky. Unlike Lourdes, and Fatima, none of the visionaries followed through with religious vocations, and the since the visions happened within the jurisdiction of a Franciscan parish, the official diocesan representatives held no sway until the whole phenomenon became a threat to the Milosevic government. Not surprisingly the Serbian government saw the site as a front for Croatian Independence and the re emergence of the Ustasha. So while the official church was immersed in it's own jurisdictional issues, the politics of the area also intruded into the whole development of Medjugorje.
To add even more mayhem to the mess, during the Yugoslavian war of the 90's, just as in WWII major atrocities were committed in the area under the fog of war, old injustices were acted on, and suddenly wealthy criminal families wreaked vengeance on each other. No wonder the Queen of Peace was frequently seen by the visionaries to be crying.
I'm beginning to see why the Vatican has been sitting on the fence on Medjugorje, and while even though John Paul II seemed to be supportive in private, in public it was and is a different story. It is a mess, and the Church has zero control of either the site or the visionaries. This is a situation which has not been in play in any other officially recognized Marian Shrine. In the cases of Lourdes, Fatima and Guadalupe, the official church was the main player. In this situation they have been the weakest player. This must be an uncomfortable place for the Vatican to find itself as millions of pilgrims visit the area every year.
In my own personal opinion something most certainly happened to the visionaries. The real question is what was that something? Tomorrow I'll go into the speculation about just what that something is. It ranges all the way from Mary actually being present, to mind control experiments run by the KGB, to the devil, to the visionaries themselves in some cases not understanding what's happened to them and what they've really been experiencing.