by Marco Corvaglia
Go to the page Science Demonstrates Nothing [Part 2]
As previously mentioned, during the apparitions the seers kept moving their lips, but their voices could not be heard.
This is how Dr. Cappello describes the phenomenon:
Then the phase of acoustic «black-out» begins: While their prayers were acoustically perceivable up to that moment, they cannot be heard thereon, despite the fact that the youngsters keep on praying. That is, the acoustic effect of words is lost, even if the muscle effect is conserved, in that the youngsters continue to move their lips or make faces according to their feelings of joy or sadness. The only sound that is perceivable in this phase is the lapping of their lips.
[Frigerio et al., Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, pp. 18-19]
This phenomenon does not seem to present anything unexplainable.
The physicians ran some tests with a laryngophone, a microphone that records from the larynx movements during overt speech.
These are Prof. Joyeux’s words about this test, which was ran on Ivanka by his colleague Rouquerol:
At the beginning of the ecstasy, when the voice became inaudible, the needle stopped [author’s note: the needle’s position changes with muscle movement in the larynx]. There was no longer any movement of the larynx. When the visionary conversed with the apparition there was movement of the lips only. […] The was no movement of the larynx and, though lip movement remained normal, the act of breathing out no longer caused the vocal cords to vibrate.
[Laurentin, Joyeux, Scientific and Medical Studies on the Apparitions at Medjugorje, p. 26]
Dr. Marco Margnelli, who collaborated with the research team led by Dr. Frigerio and Dr. Mattalia (the A.R.PA. team) confirmed:
The vocal cords were motionless and did not vibrate. This datum reveals - the French team concluded - that in the ecstasies of Medjugorje there was no pathological catalepsy.
[Marco Margnelli, L’Estasi ("The Ecstasy"), Sensibili alle Foglie, Rome, 1996, p. 89]
He added that, obviously,“it is not an unexplainable phenomenon” [ibidem].
Drs. Frigerio and Mattalia also applied the laryngophone to Vicka, and wrote:
From the results it is possible to conclude that, during the ecstatic experience, the laryngeal muscles are not put in motion by the seers’ mouth movements.
[Frigerio et al., Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, p. 27]
If the vocal cords and the larynx were not moving, one can infer that the youngsters were just moving their lips without actually pronouncing any words—in practice, that they were pretending to be speaking.
c) The Algometric Test
Let us return to the tests run by Dr. Frigerio A.R.PA (Associazione Regina della Pace:"Queen of Peace Society") team. Prof. Maurizio Santini, neuropsychopharmacologist, was in charge of examining the seers’ sensitivity to pain.
The pain test made use of an algometer, built by Prof. Santini himself, equipped with a metal plate that could be heated up to 50 C (~122 F) and applied on the subject’s skin.
Three seers were tested, during the ecstasy. The device was applied on Jakov’s index finger and, after 0.8 seconds, “the boy shifted his finger 0.5 cm away: he reacted to pain stimulus” [Frigerio et al., Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, p. 56].
The other two were Ivan and Marija. During the ecstasies, in order to prevent lesions, the reaction times for the pain threshold were established by Prof. Santini himself. In the case of Marija, the device was applied for 3 seconds (left middle finger) and 4.6 seconds (wrist). In the case of Ivan, the doctor removed the device after 2.5 seconds (wrist) and 2.8 seconds (forehead) [ibid., pp. 55-56].
Let us focus on this latter result. After the ecstasy, Ivan’s reaction time would be 0.4 seconds. Therefore, the report reads as follows:
After the ecstasy, the reaction time on the forehead was 0.4 seconds. During the ecstasy, it was 2.8 seconds, i.e., a 700% increase.
[Frigerio et al., Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, p. 56]
A few pages further:
Our team’s studies have established beyond doubt that during the ecstasy there is a 700% increase of the pain threshold.
[Ibid., p. 62]
Incidentally, there is a repeated calculation error, since an increase from 0.4 to 2.8 seconds is a 600%, not 700% increase. But the point is another: it is clearly way more effective to talk about a “700%” increase than of a 2.4 second difference.
Moreover, it is a physiological fact that pain perception decreases under stress—and, as shown above, the seers were indeed under stress in similar circumstances. Besides that, one should also consider the following: when determining the baseline (or “basal”, in medical jargon) reaction times, the seers knew perfectly well that it was in their interest to react as soon as possible; similarly, they also knew perfectly well that, in case they were faking, they had to “suck it up” and resist as long as possible.
And one should not forget about Jakov’s data, which go in the opposite direction—a fact that Prof. Santini tried to explain post-hoc, and entirely hypothetically, with the youngster’s presupposed fear: "During the ecstasy I could test only once. My opinion is that this boy was so terrified that the depth of ecstasy must have not been as usual" [Prof. Santini, in Frigerio et al., Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, p. 56].
But there is more. When she was tested, Marija was recovering from a form of stroke (a pre-heart attack). This condition affects the patient’s sensitivity to pain. Prof. Santini himself noted:
I examined Marija on September 1985, before and after the ecstasy. There are signs of hypoesthesia on the left side, consistent with a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) that occurred last December.
[Ibid., p. 55]
Hypoesthesia is the dimished sensitivity to touch, temperature, and pain. And this means one thing only: That Marija’s data are uninterpretable.
d) The Eyes: Corneal and Photomotor Reflexes
In September 1985 the A.R.PA. (Associazione Regina della Pace: “Queen of Peace Society”) study group, led by gynecologist Dr. Luigi Frigerio, performed a corneal stimulation test, which consisted in touching the seers’ eyeball surface during their ecstasies to check the existence of a blink reflex.
Dr. Frigerio himself summarized his results during the Italian TV show Top Secret, broadcasted on Juanary 16, 2008 by the Retequattro network:
When a person is touched on the eyeball, it is unavoidable to blink. Now, during the ecstasy, there was no blink.
In fact, the test was performed only on Ivan and Jakov. And Ivan exhibited a normal blinking reflex during his ecstasy. This fact is reported in the mentioned Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, where neuropsychopharmacologist Dr. Maurizio Santini, who materially performed the test, noticed that Ivan “exhibited corneal sensitivity”. [Frigerio et al., Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, p. 56].
Only Jakov is left. He was tested twice and, in fact, the test succeeded only the first time. Saverio Gaeta remarks that “in a second ecstasy, Jakov’s blink reflect was evoked. However, the footage showed that exactly in that moment the seer was coming out of his altered state of consciousness." [S. Gaeta, Medjugorje. E' tutto vero, ("Medjugorje. It’s all True"), Piemme, Casale Monferrato, 2006, p. 69].
Moreover, one should also remark the comments of another member of the research team, Dr. Marco Margnelli.
Dr. Margnelli admitted that:
The experiment should be run again and better, since no sufficient certainty was reached that could ensure definite conclusions […] for instance, the reflex was evoked with one-to-one correspondence between stimulus and response, i.e., after each stimulus the experimenter moved away from the eyeball. It is not clear what would have happened if the stimulation was continuous or repeated.
[M. Margnelli, Il corpo e l’estasi, ("The Body and the Ecstasy"), Segno, Udine, 2004, p. 70]
Furthermore, the same team attempted to conduct the test on Vicka, but she repeatedly evaded the procedure. Her explanation that has been recounted by Dr. Giorgio Gagliardi (the date was September 9, 1985):
We went to Metkovic, where Vicka currently lives, to attend the evening apparitions and possibly run the corneal sensitivity test during the ecstasy. […] When we ask whether we can conduct some tests, her expression does not change, she says she is willing to do everything we can do, but that she has asked Virgin Mary and She has responded that the experiments are not needed, and She has told her so for three consecutive days. So, she obeys Mary and will not take part in the experiments we want to run—but only because Mary would not let her.
[Frigerio et al., Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, p. 17]
In addition, experiments run by other physicians have consistently yielded negative results.
During the test performed by anesthesiologist Anna Maria Magatti on February 3 and 4, 1984, the subjects blinked every time the eyeball was touched. [see Laurentin, Joyeux, Scientific and Medical Studies on the Apparitions at Medjugorje, p. 13].
On April 23, 1998, at the Dehonians’ Casa Incontri Cristiani (“House of Christian Meetings”) in Capiago Intimiano, Como, Italy, Marija undergoes some medical tests aimed at verifying whether her physiological conditions are anomalous during the ecstasy, a fact that would indicate an altered state of consciousness.
In the particular test we are going to describe, ophthalmologist Mario Cigada wants to assess Marija’s photomotor reflex (i.e., whether her pupils dilate when a miniature flash torch light is directly pointed to it) and the blink reflex (i.e., whether Marija blinks when her cornea is touched with a cotton ball). It is also interesting to take note of the blinking rate, which is of about one blink every 5 seconds in healthy subjects.
Let us look at this video recording, related to the test at issue:
During her ecstasy, not only Marija maintained her physiological blinking rate, but also exhibited the blink and photomotor reflexes. In summary, the test found no sign of an altered state of consciousness. This is what the report says:
Eye tests – Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti’s reflexes are constantly present and physiological, both at rest and during the observed ecstasies.
[Resch, Gagliardi, I Veggenti di Medjugorje. Ricerca Psicofisiologica, p. 163].
The dilation of the pupil is known as “mydriasis”, and is associated to the lack of photomotor reflex (i.e., the pupil no longer responds to varying light conditions).
On the basis of the September 1985 studies performed on Marija and Jakov, Dr. Frigerio made the following observation:
There is also a modest mydriasis in the pupillometric examination.
[Frigerio et al., Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, p. 60]
In fact, not only the mydriasis (which is notoriously correlated with the affective state, and, therefore, does not represent such a mysterious effect) is modest, but it did not usually occur. Dr. Margnelli, discussing Dr. Frigerio group’s report, wrote the following:
This fact [“the pupils did not respond to light and were in fixed mydriasis”] contrasts with what was reported by the French team; thus, the experiment should be repeated.
[Margnelli, Il corpo e l’estasi , p. 71]
Let us look, then, at what was originally reported by the French team:
The pupil continues to react to light during the ecstasy.
[Laurentin, Joyeux, Scientific and Medical Studies on the Apparitions at Medjugorje, p. 23]
This statement is then repeated at page 24:
The photo-motor reflexes (contraction of the pupil in the presence of light) are normal and unchanged before, during and after the apparition in the case of Marija and Ivanka on 6 October and in the case of Marija on 7 October.
In fact, one does not even need to go back to original French reports, since Dr. Frigerio himself, in the other March 1985 examination, noted that the photomotor reflex and the pupil constriction (in response to light) was normal and present "both out of the ecstatic state and during the apparition" [Frigerio et. al., Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, p. 28].
The same result was recorded by the team lead by Resch and Gagliardi. The team, in 1998, did not observe any mydriasis [cf. Resch, Gagliardi, I Veggenti di Medjugorje. Ricerca Psicofisiologica, p. 163].
§ 5. Conclusions
Dr. Frigerio will summarize his own research group’s results this way (emphasis added):
The clues we have collected are positive: There is no fraud or simulation. We cannot speak of proof, since we only have clues. The only true proof is the change in our lives, and the growth of our faith.
[Frigerio et al., Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, p. 60]
The Dr. Margnelli position appears contradictory. In the Dossier (1986) he appears to conform to the official line of the group. In his later publications (L'estasi, Sensibili alle foglie, 1996; Il corpo e l’estasi, Segno, 2004) he presented some critical remarks on some tests. But, above all, in an interview given in 1995 to the Catholic journalist Andrea Tornielli, without making any specific reference to Medjugorje, he said:
Ecstasy is a state of consciousness, such as sleep, dream and wakefulness. [...] In the state of ecstasy then they live experiences of hallucinatory type that change their content depending on the various cultures. In our culture they see the Madonna whilst among the Hindus they see something else. [...] Modifications in the state of consciousness may be caused by some very simple and deliberate techniques. Ecstasy is a phenomenon known - with different names - among all peoples and all ancient and contemporary cultures. It is produced using natural, exciting, inhibiting, chemical techniques: you can induce ecstasy with the obsessive repetition of a phrase, with ritual dances, with isolation and fasting, with the repetition of the rosary. This is not a supernatural but a naturally provokable phenomenon . One of the features of this state is the complete abolition of all sensitivities.
[Marco Margnelli in: Andrea Tornielli, Quando la Madonna piange. Lacrimazioni di statue, veggenti, guaritori, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Milan, 1995, p. 153]
In 1987, Margnelli and Gagliardi (the only two doctors experienced in this field) wrote:
The results of the September 1985 research have not yet been debated in the high-level scientific contexts, nor published in specialized journals. They appeared in a popular and summerized form in non-scientific volumes (H. Joyeux, R. Laurentin, Études médicales et scientifiques sur les apparitions de Medjugorje, O.E.I.L., Paris, 1985 and Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, by L. Frigerio, L. Bianchi and G. Mattalia, printed in-house, Milan, 1986).
In the practice of the scientific work, it is customary to submit the results of research to the criticism of colleagues: it is a very important step because it is legitimate to draw conclusions only after having excluded methodological errors, after having eliminated the doubts and after having discussed all the hypotheses.
These objectives are achieved, usually, by the authors presenting themselves to conferences and publishing articles in specialized reviews. Every respectable review has a reading committee composed of specialists of international level that very critically assesses how the experimental data have been obtained, what are the purposes of the research and what are the conclusions the authors want to reach.
[M. Margnelli, G. Gagliardi, Le apparizioni della Madonna, Riza Scienze, Milan, 1987, pp. 17-18]
In all these years the international scientific community has never considered worthy of attention the theses suggested by the physicians who have worked in Medjugorje, and no paper on the Medjugorje results has ever been published in a recognized, peer-reviewed specialized journal. Being published in this kind of journal is exactly the kind of credit that a study must receive in order to be considered “scientific”. Science does not depend on the principle of authority, or on “trust”. It is “Science” only what the scientific community, impartially and after examining the data, accepts concordantly.
The documentation on the Medjugorje seers has never received (and could have never received) this type of recognition and validation.
On top of that, these medical examinations have been disregarded by two Inquiry Committees: the diocesis’ committee  and the one put together by the Episcopal Conference of Yugoslavia. In fact, the bishops of Yugoslavia, in their famous Declaration of Zara , agreed that:
On the basis of the investigations so far, it cannot be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.
As we have said above, a detailed examination of all the tests performed by the different research groups, as well as the results they yielded, is contained in my own book Medjugorje: è tutto falso, pp. 177-268.
On this subject, you can read also, in Italian, La scienza e Medjugorje:
by neurophysiologist Dr. Francesco D'Alpa.
These free downloadable books contain a critical analysis of the tests conducted on the Medjugorje visionaries.
Updated on 12 August 2016