Sunday, February 7, 2010

Marian Visions And The Infallibility Of The Modern Papacy

I've been doing a lot of reading in my time off. A lot of that reading has been in books I bought from seven or eight years ago and I've found it surprising how things I was taken with back then are not the things I'm taken with now. I've always done this, reread things years later as a way to track how much I've changed and learned--or how much I haven't.

I reread John Cornwall's "Hitler's Pope" about Pius XII. Part of my desire to reread the book was motivated by the current push to canonize Pius XII and part of it was because Cornwall has backed off from some of what he's written.

I came away with different points of emphasis this time. This time the part of the story which really hit home was Pius's failure to reign in the Catholic Ustache in Yugoslavia. He had ample reason to do so, but instead allowed this movement to engage in genocide with nary a peep in opposition. I've done more than a little research into the Ustache and their campaign of horror against the Serbian Orthodox. That particular region of Central Europe has been a thorn in European politics for a long time, precipitating World War I and continuing it's hate well into this current century.

Part of that research had to do with the Marian appearance at Medjugorge. The Medjugorge area was the site of Franciscan led Ustache atrocities in World War II, but it also has a history that predates World War II in this category of mob atrocities in the name of religion. The ground is soaked with the blood of Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic adherents and has been for a millenia. It's a piece of land that testifies to the atrocities mankind is capable of committing in a selfish understanding of God's will. I've always thought this was quite the area for an appearance from the "Queen of Peace". Her appearances are now causing more than a bit of a battle within the Vatican itself. The message of Medjugorge is as always about the need for conversion, but it's not always about conversion to Catholicism. It's about conversion to the way of love promulgated by her son. This Mary calls for the end of sectarian strife in the name of God and conversion to the love for all of mankind.

However, it was not Mary at Medjugorge which influenced Pius XII and then John Paul II. It was the Marian apparition at Fatima. Just as the Marian apparition at Lourdes influenced Pius IX. In all three popes Marian apparitions seem to influence these papacies to greater levels of centralized control for the papacy. Pio Nono and Pius XII announced the Marian dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. John Paul II was seriously considering declaring Mary as Co Redemptorix. These seem to be calculated attempts to equate the standing of the Papacy with Mary's standing with Jesus. As Mary is in heavenly kingdom so the Pope is in the earthly kingdom.

This final notion of John Paul's ran into serious opposition from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, but it now seems to be gaining favor with the same man as Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict is now scheduled to visit Fatima in May and say Mass at the Basilica on May 13th, which is the 93rd anniversary of the first vision. Perhaps he too has had a conversion, if not to the truth of the Fatima, at least to it's historical importance to papal notions of centralized Papal spiritual authority.

It seems this papal need to identify with Marian appearances has coincided with the papacy's forced redefinition of itself from a secular political power to the single spiritual authority for Catholicism. Pius IX saw this potential in Lourdes and used the message of Lourdes to embark on his redefining Papal infallibility. This trend continued more or less unabated until the Papacy of John XXIII. John refused to release the third secret of Fatima in 1960 as Fatima legend has he was supposed to have done. He said at the time it didnt' apply to his papacy. Instead he opened Vatican II and according to Fatima die hards, 'let the smoke of Satan' into the Vatican. (Or the Holy Spirit depending on one's point of view)

When Ali Agjca attempted to assassinate John Paul on May 13th, 1981, I suspect this was an attempt to undercut not just his papacy, but some of the spiritual authority Fatima had given the papacy. If Mary couldn't protect the Pope, as the third secret prophesied, it would have been a major hit to pious Catholics. That it didn't turn out that way was a major hit to communism. John Paul lived and the Iron Curtain fell. Mary triumphed against communist Russia without another shot being fired. Instead, those shots were once again fired in Medjugorge.

Maybe it's because the message of Medjugorge is not always about conversion to Catholicism that the Papacy is disinclined to take these visions seriously. The Vatican is wrong. They need to take these visions very seriously because they are missing the point. Mary is not talking about a conversion to a set of religious beliefs or intellectualizations, she is talking about a conversion of the heart. The very same conversion Jesus came to show us. She is talking about the power of love. That power is not bound in any dogma. It's boundaries are self imposed by love's very nature and those boundaries are much more open than those of religious dogma.

If Fatima was about Mary's view of communist Russia as the biggest threat to individual freedom and love in the twentieth century, Medjugorge is about the biggest threat in the twenty first century. That threat is religious dogmatism and that threat is as much a core part of Catholicism as it is in the Islamic or Christian evangelical movements.

This may be a message the Vatican does not want to hear. I admit Fatima is a much more Vatican friendly message. Unfortunately for Benedict, Fatima is a finished message. Medjugorge is not.


  1. Mariolotry and Papolatry:

    2 of the biggest (but not onliest) idolatries in Catholicsm for a long time.

    Slavish adoration of Latin is a very close section.

    Jim McCrea

  2. Hi Colleen,

    Wonderful article. Could I have your permission to republish it at The Progressive Catholic Voice?



  3. Sure Michael. By the way, your photos from down under are making me thoroughly sick of winter.

  4. Catholic orthodoxy today can be summed very briefly: The Pope is right, even when he is wrong. As he is Chairman of the Party & the Praesidium, and makes all policy, this is no surprise. The CC has been totally politicised.

    If lesser fry such as other Catholic theologians say there is a case for using condoms, even if an unsought side-effect of this is contraception - they are reviled as heretics, nurslings of Satan, Democrats, baby-eating gay transsexuals, offspring of Antichrist, not real Catholics, Protestants - that kind of thing.

    If the Pope, as a private theologian, not as bishop or Pope, says there is a case for using condoms, even if an unsought side-effect of this is contraception - this is purest Gospel truth, & there is no hell deep enough for those who in any way question it.

    IOW, truth depends not on objective realities such as whether what is said is true; it depends on relativities such as whether the speaker is also the Pope. Truth is dependent on who utters it.

    Sorry, but I thought the Pope was this great warrior against "relativism" - whatever that is; no one ever defines it (deliberately ?) Yet here he is being defended by arguments that reek of relativity; did no ever teach his groupies fundamental logic ?

    The Pope is the one man in the entire universe - pluriverse, if there are pluriverses - who has immediate access to the mind of the man identifiable as Pope Benedict XVI. If any one in any dimension or galaxy or nebula should know what Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) meant by his condom remark, it is precisely that individual. He's not been lobotomised, he's not a zombie, he's not ignorant of theology, he hasn't been crippled mentally by a stroke, he's not vanished into another dimension, he's not been turned into something by an alien virus from billions of lights years away, he hasn't been kidnapped by anything or anyone - in short there is zero reason why he cannot make absolutely clear what he meant, & make sure that it is accurately translated. But he has not made clear what he meant - why not ? Or does it not matter a d*mn to him that what he says has effects on others ?

    - read all the condom articles at the second link; they are very interesting; esprecially as illustration of intra-Catholic Church politics.

  5. Basically the masonic abd New Age version of Catholicism now is that Jesus and His long-suffering Mother wasted their time that Friday...that "be nice to people" was the whole deal.
    I don't buy that...I believe Jesus is special.
    Also, to be fully human, Jesus, the new Adam must have been given a new Eve...a soul twin, a woman. This is Mary, His Mother...created by the Father and given to the Son. This is Genesis, not the Pope. It's not a sex thing, a soulmate, thing....but the whole soul of a human being.
    As usual, the Church puts thing very badly, putting people off with latinized phrases that sound more like magic.
    I don't understand why in all the reams of writing quoting Marian apparitions, she never warned parents about abusive clergy and financial corruption. The Mary I know, the Jesus, I know and worship, are very blunt and down to earth. They don't use ethereal gobbledygook and vague prophecies.