by Marco Corvaglia
Nothing is easier than self-deception, because man believes to be true what he wishes.
[Demosthenes, Third Olynthiac, fourth century BC]
Generally, men willingly believe what they wish.
[Caesar, De bello Gallico, first century BC]
Men believe more likely true what they prefer to be true.
[Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, seventeenth century]
Today psychologists use the expression wishful thinking to indicate this tendency to substitute an objective assessment of the facts with an assessment of an emotional type.
Those who exalt Medjugorje almost always refer to emotions and sensations.
Father René Laurentin, the first apologist for these Herzegovinian "apparitions", says that "Medjugorje responds to the spiritual thirst of the people" [R. Caniato, V. Sansonetti, Maria, alba del terzo millennio, Ares, Milan, 2001, p. 237].
The Italian journalist Paolo Brosio, very active in favor of Medjugorje, writes:
Nothing is as powerful as the air you can breathe in Herzegovina. [...] Now I know that in Medjugorje there are huge "doses" of the Holy Spirit everywhere.
[Paolo Brosio, Profumo di lavanda. Medjugorje, la storia continua, Piemme, Milan, 2010, p. 138]
A major Italian publishing house published a photographic book with an emblematic title: Medjugorje. Le immagini più belle, le emozioni più forti ["Medjugorje. The best photos, the strongest emotions"] (by D. Calisesi, Rizzoli, Milan, 2011).
Many people (including myself) felt nothing particular in Medjugorje. In any case, what is this triumph of emotion, of which so many others speak? A sign of the supernatural character of the place or the result of emotional contagion, suggestion, wishes, needs?
Let us watch the following video. The Medjugorje visionary Marija Pavlović is in Beirut, Lebanon, in March 2012, and has just had, according to the predetermined program, the apparition in front of thousands of people.
As we have seen, Marija says (in Italian): "[The Madonna] has been here a long time and looked at all of us." At this announcement, the audience bursts into applause of joy (the interpreter, who is translating, covers her lower face with her hand because, apparently, she is touched).
Another sports hall filled with Medjugorje devotees: in March 2011 Marija is in PalaDesio (in the Italian town of Desio).
Here's the video:
I only want to tell you: At the moment of the apparition, when Our Lady appeared, I recommended all of you and all your intentions to Our Lady [thunderous applause].
During the apparition, Our Lady looked at us. At all of us. She looked from side to side and started to pray for you. She gave no message but I think the most beautiful message is her presence [another thunderous applause].
Who would not like the idea of a celestial and maternal figure, physically present and near?
Are people who clapped now capable of judging dispassionately the facts of Medjugorje? Do they want to do it? Or will they tend to seek confirmation for their belief and to defend Medjugorje with all their might, in order to continue living this pleasant state of emotional elation?
We must not forget that playing on peoples longings and desires can be a powerful means of manipulation. Those who believe in Medjugorje often invite those who do not believe to "open their hearts". However this is obviously just an elegant way of inviting them to be governed by their emotions and desires. Just that and nothing else.
Moreover, the exhortation not to seek truth by thinking critically appears to be particularly explicit in the Medjugorje message of 2 August 2015 (Mirjana):
... the truth is in my Son born of God – the Son of God. Do not waste time deliberating too much; you will distance yourselves from the truth.
Probably, it is no coincidence that the most famous message of Medjugorje is this (also used several times):
If you knew how much I love you, you would cry with joy.
[1 March 1982, 25 June 1983 and March 18, 2009: cf. I messaggi della Regina della Pace, Shalom, Camerata Picena, 2010, pp. 417, 424, 479]
From Becoming a Critical Thinker, by Sherry Diestler:
We are uncomfortable when we are confronted with evidence that goes against our worldview, whether it is evidence about a person, an issue, or even our own character. We seek to relieve the mental tension caused by dissonance in one of two ways.
1. We try to increase the information (cognitions) that is consistent with what we already believe. We seek out more evidence that favors our viewpoint and speak to people who will reinforce our original viewpoint. Sometimes, we know just what sources will support us regarding an issue or a personal situation. For example, we might find a Web site that is filled with information that supports our beliefs; we might also call on friends who we know will take our side and agree with us. [...]
2. We may try to also decrease or diminish any information that contradicts our view of a person or an issue. If, for example, we are researching an issue and find a credible Web site that refutes our beliefs, we may just ignore the information on that site and search for one that supports our beliefs. [...] This problem can be summed up in the cliché "I know what I believe. Don't confuse me with the facts."
Critical thinkers take the time and energy required to recognize the weak points of their own side of an issue and the good points of their opponents. They search for truth rather than victory.
[S. Diestler, Becoming a Critical Thinker, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005, pp. 339-343]
Updated on 7 August 2015