Comprehending Medjugorje : Original Documents And Conversations with Arnaud Dumouch
Reference (French Edition) :
Daria Klanac, Comprendre Medjugorje : Regard historique et théologique, avec la collaboration du théologien Arnaud Dumouch, Informativni centar Mir, Medjugorje, en coédition avec les Éditions Sakramento, Paris, 2012, 2e éd. (1re éd. 2008, ISBN 978-2-915380-19-4 & 978-9958-36017-6), entretien avec le théologien Arnaud Dumouch, pages 188 à 196.
English Translation by Duško Čondić
Daria Klanac : Reverend René Laurentin, whom you just mentioned, a theologian, Mariologist, historian, and journalist as well as a specialist on Lourdes, has written much about Medjugorje. He followed the events in Medjugorje from year to year. That which he wrote about Lourdes is seen as being valid and solid. He is regarded as an authority on that subject. Meanwhile, as regards Medjugorje, he is attacked and criticized extensively, first of all, by those who are adversaries of Medjugorje. Why is he not regarded seriously as regards Medjugorje?
Arnaud Dumouch : The fact that he is not taken seriously as regards Medjugorje is exclusively the result of the fact that the Church has not rendered a final decision about Medjugorje (the apparitions continue), while she has brought such a decision on Lourdes. Hence, Reverend Laurentin, as regards Lourdes, finds himself in the direction the wind is blowing, namely, a positive and official evaluation. Meanwhile, he finds himself in the whirlpool of contradictory and personal opinions as regards Medjugorje.
In other words, the day when the Church renders her opinion (positive or negative), having followed the precise argumentation required by canon law, the majority of the arguments will cease.
At this time, it is wise to be calm, patient as was the blind man mentioned above. In anticipation, Reverend Laurentin engaged himself as a theologian and as a private person. His conclusions (that only bind him) have the strength and authority of his method of investigation, and by his vast experience. He too can be deceived or at times be caught off balance; however, his work through these past twenty-eight years is of enormous importance for this subject. When the time comes, it will most certainly be studied by the Church.
D. Klanac : Are the works that list themselves as being critical of Medjugorje synonymous as regards credibility? It would seem that those who are opposed to Medjugorje, who question it, are seen to be more credible than those who believe in it. Writings in favor of Medjugorje are not seen as being critical, hence, they are not held to be serious on the part of some intellectuals and the religious elite.
A. Dumouch : I read some of those works as well as some excerpts taken from Joachim Bouflet. I also carried on a discussion with him through the internet. One quickly comes to the conclusion that his method of investigation is far less skillfully and expertly carried out than that of Reverend Laurentin. Such critical works are more often in the service of accusation than in defense. Meanwhile, they should serve both as accusation and defense. They fail to investigate in a positive manner as to whether or not this or that word reported in the apparitions has or does not have a Catholic meaning and sense. Joachim Bouflet fails to take into consideration three important standards of evaluation (1) consonance with the dogmas of the faith, 2) the spiritual fruits exhibited, and 3) the miracles); rather, he advances other standards that are completely foreign to the apparitions.
As an example: the conflict between the Bishop and the Franciscans is foreign to the credibility of the apparitions. Are the apparitions at La Salette judged negatively in view of the stormy life of Melanie, or the conflict with the religious sisters in La Salette?
Another example of a strange standard of evaluation: Joachim Bouflet notes as an objection to the apparitions, that one of the visionaries, instead of being afraid of the vision as is (according to his thinking) to be expected, seems to spontaneously hurry towards the Virgin. This standard must be seen as being foreign to an analysis of the apparitions. What is more, this standard is unjust as can be seen in the case of Saint Catherine of Labouré, who, when she saw Mary, hurried towards her and place both of her elbows on Mary’s knees so as to listen to her.
As regards the Church in general, (as represented by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), a cautious distancing and patience prevails. One day, we will have a canonical judgement which will present arguments both in favor as well as in opposition to the apparitions.
In any event, if they truly come from the Virgin, there will, by then, be irrefutable miracles as in Lourdes which will serve to silence all voices.
D. Klanac : I had occasion to meet Joachim Bouflet in Paris. This is what he has to say in his latest work: “Even though she expressed regret over the fact that I uncovered certain facts that she would prefer to suppress, she (Daria Klanac), was nonetheless honest and admitted that in the book “Medjugorje ou la fabrication du surnaturel” [Medjugorje, or a Fabrication of the Supernatural], there is nothing which is contrary to the truth.” In reality, that which I said to him in our conversation is completely the opposite, as well as in my book “Medjugorje, Réponses aux objections” [Medjugorje, Answers to Objections].
A. Dumouch : Hidden in his words is an extremely skillful attack on you. In this manner, he suggests that you are attempting to conceal some inconvenient truth. He acted towards Reverend Laurentin in the same manner. In the meantime, Reverend Laurentin is not the type to hide anything, as can be attested to by all.
D. Klanac : I simply cannot comprehend how Joachim Bouflet continues to succeed in obtaining approval (imprimatur) for his book against Medjugorje.
A. Dumouch : Look, the imprimatur that he obtained from the Paris archdiocese has nothing to say as to the truthfulness of the evaluation made by Joachim Bouflet. Nihil Obstat and the imprimatur simply indicate the following: “There is nothing contrary to Dogmas of the Faith in this work. However, most faithful do not know or understand this. They believe that a Nihil Obstat and an imprimatur is Church approval of his stance regarding Medjugorje.
D. Klanac : In many works that are seen to be critical of Medjugorje, I notice an absence of critical sharpness, professionalism, and scholarly integrity. Yet, these works are considered to be worthy of credibility.
A. Dumouch : I, too, notice that: they frequently are not well-founded. A flagrant example of this is a mixing of the standards use for canonization of saints (which presupposes a heroic degree of virtue in the life of the subject under consideration), and the standard used to approve apparitions (which can be given even to great sinners).
Thus, the canonical investigation of the apparitions at Lourdes or those in Bac Street, are based on other standards of measure than those used for an investigation leading to canonization of Bernadette Soubirous, or Catherine Labouré. It would be well for analysts to keep the distinction in mind.
D. Klanac : Would you clarify for us the difference between the standard of measure used to canonize someone and those used to gain approval of an apparition?
A. Dumouch : In his Disputation on Grace, (Summa Theologica, end of Ia and IIae), Saint Thomas Aquinas differentiates two types of grace:
1. Sanctifying Grace: some such graces are associated directly to one’s personal sanctity. Among such graces he lists Faith, Hope, and Charity. Such internal graces are not obligatory or usually accompanied by extraordinary mystical signs such as a stigmata, perfumed vapors, or light. To the contrary, in the life of such a person we most often see only calm, joy, humility, and concern towards others. This pours forth from such a person. This is what is meant by the text: (Mt 25:35), “I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a traveler and you took me in; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me.”
2. Charismatic Grace: certain graces end up simply as being for the good of the Church and for the growth in holiness of other persons. That is the case for those graces we refer to as being charismatic. For instance, a given person who walks by and her shadow cures the sick, is not necessarily a holy person. Often, such a person serves simply as the messenger whose mission is to announce the Good News, such as Saint Peter when that happened to him. Jesus Himself demonstrates such an absence of a necessary link between some charism and personal holiness in the stand that He took, one that continues to baffle many people: (Mt 2:22): “Many will say to me on that day: ‘Lord, with the help of your name, did we not prophesy; with the help of your name, did we not expel evil spirits; in your name, did we not work miracles?’ And He will say to them: ‘I never knew thee. Depart from me you evil-doers.’” One, then, can be a man who has the zeal of many Charisms, yet in his private life he is a perfect case of scoundrel. At times, God, so as to further His Gospel, makes use of persons who do not possess any sort of personal sanctity. Saint Paul also perceives this (Phil 1:15-20): “Some, indeed, preach Christ even out of envy and contentiousness, but some also out of good will. Some proclaim Christ out of love since they know I am appointed for the defense of the gospel, but some out of contentiousness, not sincerely thinking to stir up affliction for me in my chains. But what of it? Provided only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed; in this I rejoice, yes and I will turn out for my salvation thanks to your prayer and the assistance of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, in accord with my eager longing and hope that in nothing I shall be put to shame, but that with complete assurance now as at all times, Christ will be glorified in my body, whether through life or through death.”
What remains, is that we come to know if a given apparition of Christ or the Virgin is of the first type that is, Charismatic, (No. 2) or is it proof of the sanctity of a given person (No. 1).
Without hesitation, I state that to have an apparition in and of itself in not any sort of proof of the sanctity of a given person. As proof, I maintain the following: at the moment of death, does not Christ have to appear to every person—holy or a sinner. Is not His very appearance that which will separate the good from the bad?
In the same manner, there is no impediment that would, for example, prevent Christ or the Virgin from appearing to innocent children such as Bernadette Soubirous, Catherine Labouré, or Lucia at Fatima, and, instead, to decide to appear to sinners instead. This is precisely why the standard of measure for evaluating canonization of saints and for apparitions is not the same.
For the recognition of apparitions of the Virgin, objective facts are first in importance. Then, three main standards of measure are set and a series of subordinate standards.
1. The Virgin does not concern herself about the speaking of heresy. Because of this, the first thing that must be questioned is whether the message of the apparition is consonant with Dogma. This standard, in and of itself, does not prove the apparition’s validity (we can think of a person who fabricated an apparition, yet knows theology quite well). However, such a case makes possible for us to cleanse the terrain if it is clearly heretical.
2. Subsequently, we investigate its spiritual fruits, without thereby concluding that all fruits are good without exception. Keep in mind that Christ Himself, when He came to us in His body, awakened dissension and hatred on the part of His enemies. However, if the majority of the direct fruits on the part of the faithful prove to be a return of unity in the Church, obedience to the Faith, prayer, and the sacraments, then that is a good sign.
3. Finally, as always, God confirms the presence of His Hand through miracles. Those miracles have nothing in common with miraculous manifestations.
These three standards of measure are most important. That, of course, does not exclude subordinate standards of measure such as personal sanctity, psychological balance, etc. These are less important since a priori (as I said before), nothing prevents Christ or the Virgin from appearing to a great sinner, to some person who freely opted for Hell and who coldly rejects every attempt towards conversion by the Virgin. In the same manner, nothing, a priori, prevents them from appearing to a person who is psychologically unbalanced. When carrying out an investigation for the beatification of some holy person, the standards are different since they first investigate the interior virtue of the person. In such a case, three main standards of measure are employed as well as a series of subordinate standards.
1. A study is made of that which the person said or wrote—especially after his conversion. A true and sincere conversion to God as touched by the Holy Ghost cannot be accompanied by hardcore heretical teaching.
2. One looks for heroic virtue on the part of the person in the works that marked the person’s life. In general, mercy pervades the person’s behavior which is filled with goodness and humility. We must caution that this is not always apparent. In this instance, I am thinking of Germaine de Pibrac, who did nothing spectacular (except to suffer); however, God revealed her virtue through miracles that followed her death.
3. Of necessity, God must reveal His Will, as He does in the recognition of apparitions, through several proven miracles. This, then, is always the ultimate mark of that which God wills on Earth since His Essence continues to be hidden. It is the only and final proof of His Will.
These, then, are the most important standards which do not include subordinate standards such as consideration of extraordinary manifestations (apparitions, stigmatae, illuminations, odor of sweetness, etc.) Meanwhile, all which is a charism and an extraordinary mystical manifestation are subordinate to the internal sanctity of the person. This is precisely why Bernadette was not proclaimed a saint simply because of the apparitions, (even though those must be kept in mind), but rather because of what she made of her life after the apparitions. Her life was a true symphony loyal even to the point of suffering.
D. Klanac : It seems to me that a critical stance, which is a gift from God, can easily be manipulated and misused in every possible sense. Is this not an insult to the Faith?
A. Dumouch : A critical stance does not consist of an aprioristic starting point—either for or against. I was dumbfounded with the following tales. They, at the same time, reveal how blind naiveté and an excessive critical stance can be—both, in the extreme, are equally harmful. I previously spoke of the case of judgments in case of false mystical revelations directly prior to the death of John Paul II. A whole host of (non-approved) apparitions were proclaiming over the internet such things as the following:
– The removal of Pope John II as the Pope through a conspiracy of the bishops.
– The flight of Pope John Paul II from Rome
– The canonical election to the Apostolic See of a Pope “who is not of God.”
While visiting those sites, I could not stop telling myself: “Those apparitions, of necessity, are false since they announce something that is impossible: a lawfully elected pope simply cannot ever be against God. Jesus promised this to us, and He is infallible (Lk 22:32): “… however, I prayed for you so that your faith does not diminish.”
Naturally, no one would listen to me and all those “apparitions” that repeated the same thing, were taken a priori as being true.
Yet, nonetheless, Pope John II died, and Benedict the XVI was elected Pope.
I had hoped that some would come to acknowledge their past naiveté and that they would assume a “critical” approach that made use of the three standards mentioned above. But, to my surprise, I saw an entire group of people open new internet pages where they, a priori, rejected all that was canonically recognized, even that which still awaited judgement. They went from one extreme to another… This is hardly the proper sort of behavior expected.
56. Acts 5:15, “… so that they carried the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and pallets that when Peter passed, his shadow at least might fall on some of them.” [↩]