Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What Is Happening With Cardinal Schonborn And His Fixation On Medjugorge?

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.



  1. Outstanding post and very witty and incisive to boot. Thanks so much for this, a bit of the subversive Spirit at work in the College of Cardinals. I love it!

  2. Might be more than a bit of subversive Spirit at work. I can't help but wonder if Cardinal Schonborg doesn't have quite a bit of silent support for some of his statements.

  3. It is a very interesting article you wrote and keep up the writing.

  4. Very interesting.

    In the last days of his life Marshall McLuhan was fascinated by the left brain/ right brain split. The two sides communicate through the corpus callosum. To simplify, in general one side is a world of details, logic, facts, language, and reason. These things we associate with the head. The other side is about the ineffable, emotions, images, symbols, meaning, beliefs, fun and fantasy. The common person would say this is about the heart. (Do I need to say which side is associated with religion and philosophy?)

    Ironically McLuhan, a man of words, had a stroke that robbed him of his ability to speak. Before that happened he was passionately exploring the idea of the brain's structure in relation to thought and religion. (He was associated with St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto.)

    If you're up for it, read this short review of a collection of his works "The Medium and the Light" published posthumously in 1999.

    "In this sense, these speculatons serve more as a testament to the potential in each one of us rather than as a road map to a particular destination. Will we ever realize the possibility that "truth" has already arrived on earth and that we don't know this because we keep looking for it with our eyes rather than feeling for it with our hearts?


    (Note the interviews mentioned by Pierre Babin, a man I linked to in an earlier comment.)

    I was not a student of McLuhan's but he was a sensational figure on campus when I was there. Nobody ever claimed to understand McLuhan but we all used to listen intently.

    My point, and I do have one, is that Viktor Frankl was not alone in "Man's Search for Meaning". McLuhan might have said "Man is search for meaning."

    I met with a theologian friend over the weekend. He had recently returned from the Vatican. In the wake of scandal and all that might have been in the forefront of the mind he reported quite a different concern in the Curia. Too many in the power structure in the Church, in his opinion, are obsessed in their thinking about the battle between Catholic Theology and the two greatest threats to the present structure. The threats? They are best characterized as the Catholics who seek to satisfy their need for spirituality as "New Agers" and/or "Do Gooders".

    And so, in a long round about fashion, I have arrived at my conclusion. The present Church hierarchy is completely out of touch with the laity for they are all about the head and have forgotten about the heart of Christianity. It is the heart of the matter that most people seek. Consider Schonborg in that light. What do you see? What do you feel?


    Word verification: cries !!!

    I seek meaning in even the tiniest things like these silly word verifications.

  5. Off Topic:


    Priest Abuse In Chicago: Study Shows Nearly 60% Of Chicago Parishes Had Pedophile Priests



  6. p2p, this might sound strange, but the New Age movement is a major threat to all entrenched spiritual systems. The research coming out on human consciousness done under the auspices of groups like the Noetic Society are very interesting reading. Catholic theology is going to have to adapt and a great deal of that adapting will have to do with life after death and the nature of consciousness and reality. I know a lot of psychics, medicine persons, and channellers who firmly believe that social justice, respecting free will, and valuing the importance of love, are critical components in manifesting psychic talent or any kind of subquantum healing.

    We all go back and read the Gospels from the point of view that Jesus was teaching the rules of how this greater reality works. He really was trying to teach us how to do as He did, and more.

    Medjugorge is a big deal for a number of reasons. So is the New Apostolic Reformation, but for entirely different reasons.

  7. Off Topic:

    Interesting article: The Quet Faith Behind Colbert's Right-Wing Funnyman


    The headline writer got it wrong.

    The author also misses the point about what it means to be a Christian by framing the article around Christian in the secular world.


  8. Thanks for that p2p. Seems to me the Vatican is unable to trust God. God will burrow into anything and anyone, regardless of our theological views. People grow and develop across a lifetime - if they open themselves to whatever lifelines God throws to them, even in the midst of tragedy and suffering.

    I agree that the hierarchy seems to be out of touch. Rather than look at how they've created barriers and roadblocks for the faithful, they contort their thinking so that they view themselves as the standard bearers of "..." (who knows what?). And they are bent on viewing the laity as the source of the problems. Society is at fault, they say.... but they do nothing to take out the planks in their eyes! And nothing to reach out to those they have left bereft of pastoral care!

    I honestly trust God. God is the great healer of individual souls. God knows the heart of each one of us. God knows where the cracks in those hearts lie. God alone can send just the right person or event into our lives or can reach us - if we are tuned to hear or see or feel that. NO one is in control of others. And God always respects freedom of choice. (It's the Vatican that fails to understand this.)

    Work with those open hearts you come across. Pray for everybody else. But don't let yourself get filled with bitterness or frustration. Be at peace.

  9. My comment is to p2p's first comment above, not the second.

  10. Thank you TheraP,

    The secular world isn't the enemy.

    The fishers of men need to see the secular world as their ocean, river, lake, stream or pond. That's where the fish are.


    Have to laugh about the many strange word verifications here:


    I am not splogging but I do know where you can get some loquat, whatever that is.