30 Years of Visions or Religious Fraud?
by Donal Anthony Foley
(Theodokos, 2011, 436pp, $24.95, ISBN: 978-0-95507-463-9. Available from Freedom Publishing)
Donal Foley has written extensively on Marian apparitions, notably his Marian Apparitions, the Bible and the Modern World (Gracewing, 2002) while the previous version of the present work, Understanding Medjugorje, was published in 2006. Throughout Medjugorje Revisited his approach is scholarly and his tone moderate.
The topic of Medjugorje has been a vexed one since the first of the reported apparitions occurred 30 years ago. The Charismatic Renewal movement embraced Medjugorje from the outset, giving it a flying start world-wide while the highly regarded Marian theologian Fr Rene Laurentin has given the apparitions credibility with his positive assessments. Many other respected orthodox Catholic identities such as Sr Briege McKenna have also supported Medjugorje.
In light of this, and the many pilgrims who have found their faith reactivated at Medjugorje and the countless "good fruits" including the long the lines for confession, Eucharistic adoration and Mass, it is no wonder that so many are convinced of the veracity of the apparitions.
Donal Foley takes all this on board, but in a very detailed exploration of the whole phenomenon, including the complex historical background of the Balkans area, he discusses a succession of aspects that don't follow the pattern of approved apparitions like Lourdes and Fatima, such as the extraordinary length of time involved (30 years) compared with the relatively short periods for approved ones.
At the heart of the book is a close examination of the transcripts of the original tapes of the visionaries made in 1981, shortly after the first of the claimed apparitions, including the assertion that these would end in a few days.
The ongoing dispute between the local Franciscans (who first promoted the apparitions) and the bishops, who declare them not of supernatural origin, has added a further question mark. In addition, many of the messages attributed to Our Lady, including advising disobedience to the bishop, don't ring true, while the conduct of some of the visionaries and Franciscans since 1981 hasn't helped the credibility.
There have been conflicting claims made about the Holy See's stances over the years, but given the vast number of people of good faith who have derived spiritual benefits from their visits, the fallout from any negative official assessment by Rome could be very divisive.
I would invite readers, whatever position they currently hold regarding Medjugorje, to read this book with an open mind and judge for themselves.