Ivan Dragicevic and Maria Pavlovic-Lunetti at Cardinal Schonborn's St Stephens Cathedral in Vienna. They are having a visionary experience and it's right on time. Time zones and differences don't appear to matter to Our Lady of Medjugorge.
Whatever is Cardinal Schonborn up to? His latest affirmation of Medjugorge has the true Catholics up in arms:
Cardinal Schönborn lauds alleged Medjugorje seers
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn lauded alleged Medjugorje seers Ivan Dragicevic and Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti as he welcomed them to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna on September 23, according to an English translation of his remarks that was recently posted on YouTube.
“Thank you for your service across so many years, for your work, for your service of being messengers of the Gospa [Our Lady],” the cardinal said. “You give us, you bring us children of this world, children of humanity, her love and her presence, and may God pay you back a hundredfold for what you are doing tirelessly.”
Hmmm, Cardinal Schonborn got himself in a bit of trouble over Medjugorge at the beginning of this year when he made a private trip to the site that didn't exactly remain private. It upset the Bishop's conference of Bosnia-Herzogovina and the local ordinary Bishop Peric. They have forbidden the use of Church property to the visionaries. The Vatican has banned any official pilgrimages organized at the parish or diocesan level until the results of the fourth investigation into the phenomenon is announced. This fourth investigation was initiated in March of this year.
The Archdiocese of Vienna is hardly the only diocese in which appearances by the visionaries have occured. It's just the only one headed by a Cardinal, and the Cardinal who just happened to have written the definitive text on Catholic Catechesis. I can't help but wonder what Cardinal Schonborn has experienced on his trips to Medjugorge that he feels this strongly about supporting the phenomenon, knowing he is not exactly in collegial step with his fellow bishops and the Vatican.
Medjugorge is one of those distinctly Catholic phenomenon that is so troubling to notions of clerical order and the 'perfect' society. Lay people maintaining they are taking their orders from a supernatural being raises all sorts of flags for a clerical caste whose power lies in it's ownership of sacramental authority. This is especially true since the actual power of either approach is unprovable in any rational sense. The individual responds on an emotive level and one is either led to believe in the existence of such 'power' or not. The trouble for the Church is that once a person responds in the affirmative to the emotive experience of Medjugorge they won't deny or turn their back on their personal experience. At least not easily.
This is tricky ground for the Vatican precisely because Medjugorge is a world wide phenomenon and millions of people visit the area even knowing the Vatican and local authority do not approve of it. Those millions of pilgrims have lots of friends and family members, representing a lot of other Catholics. For the Vatican this is not just a matter of a few whack jobs seeing Jesus in a piece of toast, or a spontaneous but limited incidence of folk Catholicism. Medjugorge is a well established big deal and it's had demonstrable positive effects on a many many pilgrims.
So why not just add it to the list of approved sites like Fatima, Guadalupe, or Lourdes? The answer to that involves a number of issues. First is the fact that cherry picking thirty years of messages results in some messages which directly challenge the nature of the Church. Such as the one in which the Gospa says that all religions are equal in the sight of her son if they lead people to a conversion of faith, love, and repentance. Then there are the messages which directly question the purity of the motives of the members of the curia. Not that this particular observation is unique to Medjugorge. It's been a consistent message in many Marian appearances.
Then there is the fact the messages haven't stopped and have been ongoing for thirty years. This in spite of the existence of translations of audio tapes given by the visionaries in the first month of the phenomenon indicating that the Gospa said the appearances were to stop on a given date. Someone apparently changed their mind about that. There is also the fact none of the visionaries are in religious vocations which means they can't be controlled or silenced. This by definition makes Medjugorge a kind of subversive influence, especially since millions of people are not following the directives of the local bishops and the Vatican. And finally there is all the money and all the politics surrounding all the money. There is substantial evidence that some of that money went to groups convicted of war crimes during the Bosnian civil war. But all of these questions beg the real question of what is exactly happening at Medjugorge.
The traditionalist jumps to the disobedience aspect, which makes Cardinal Schonborn exhibit A, and calls it the work of Satan or just pure fraud. How in the world all the conversions benefit Satan is mind boggling to me. If Satan is as powerful and all intelligent as the traditionalist seem to want to credit, logic would dictate he'd be far more successful attacking the weak point of the Catholic structure which is it's overly centralized authority and sacramental structure. Perhaps that's why so many Marian appearances have messages pertaining directly to the 'impurity' of the men in this structure and call for it's reform and conversion. For me this is one aspect that validates the truth of Medjugorge, not denigrates it.
As to the bilking of the desperate and simple laity of their hard earned money, the only difference I see is that the institutional church itself is not the beneficiary of most of the money, unlike Lourdes and Fatima. Since no Catholic is under any kind of obedience to credit Lourdes or Fatima, I'm not sure a Vatican seal of approval means much more than who gets what portion of the pilgrim pie. Perhaps that's just me being cynical.
What I find more interesting is that the seers in a visionary state demonstrate the same kind of neural functioning and brain wave patterns of New Age channellers. I'm more interested in what this says about human consciousness and it's potential impact on our understanding of reality than what it says about fidelity to Catholic doctrine. Why is it that mystical/spiritual leaders and psychic channellers are getting the same over all message even though it's coming through different religious paradigms? It's questions like these I wish a Vatican commission would really study, but then the answers to those questions might not validate a great deal of the basis for Catholic doctrine--as opposed to the teachings of Jesus.
Maybe that's why Cardinal Schonborn occasionally looks like the odd Cardinal out in the curia. He's had a conversion and that conversion has started him on a path which transcends his enculturated religious world view and maybe even the catechism he co authored. Imagine that.