Part 4: The “Seven Apparitions” and the Commission’s Glaring Errors
by Marco Corvaglia
Go to Part 1: An Inadequate Commission
Go to the full index of the study: Who Will Judge the Judges? The Unresolvable Contradictions of the Commission of Inquiry on Medjugorje
What we need to tell now is a sort of a mystery (along with a probable solution), linked to some incredible errors made by the commission in indicating the "apparitions" that it considered credible.
As a first step, we have to highlight a fundamental fact: according to the "seers", the Madonna appeared on Podbrdo from 24 to 29 June 1981, that is, in the first six days [for just one example, see Vicka’s account in J. Bubalo, A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, Friends of Medjugorje, 1987, pp. 5-33]
As we know, the commission considered the "first seven apparitions" to be credible. Let's see how they are counted in the Final Report [italics in the original]:
[…] the events that the witnesses declare to have occurred on Mt. Podbrdo have been identified as those that correspond better to a situation free from improper elements of influence. These are the first five alleged apparitions/Mariophanies.
[Final Report: Gaeta, p. 47; Murgia, pp. 37-38]
Already there is an anomaly here: the alleged events that took place on Podbrdo are six, as we know.
In any case, let's try to follow the train of thought in the Report: the “first five alleged apparitions / mariophanies” would mean: from 24 to 28 June.
Immediately after this, the report made reference to the two "apparitions", respectively, of June 30th and July 1st [italics in the original]:
Always taking into account the testimonies given, the International Commission has decided it has to consider, together with the events said to have happened on Mt. Podbrdo, two other alleged apparitions also:
• that of Cerno, a town a few kilometers from Medjugorje, where the then-adolescents had been brought by car by police officials;
• the one that took place in the parish house of Medjugorje, where the witnesses had in a sense “sought refuge” after having been “taken into custody”, and certainly not as an act of benevolence, by state officials.
[Final Report: Gaeta, pp. 48-49; Murgia, pp. 38-39]
Five plus two is seven, but July 1 is the eighth day, not the seventh (let’s set aside the fact that, in reality, there is no evidence that there was an "apparition" on that date in the parish house, but this is not the place to get involved in that discussion).
To resolve the problem, Saverio Gaeta had hypothesized that the Commission had intended "the first seven apparitions" to mean those that went from June 25 to July 1, considering the first one (June 24) only as a "prologue" [S. Gaeta, Dossier Medjugorje, San Paolo, 2020, pp. 66-67].
Of course, the Commission would have operated in a simply illogical way if it had asserted that the "apparition" of the second day was true, while suspending judgment on the first day.
In any case, Saverio Gaeta’s hypothesis definitively faded after the publication of Processo a Medjugorje: in the proceedings some distinctive characteristics of the seven apparitions considered credible are listed ("it is the Mother of Christ who awaits the visionaries", "the phenomenon '[...] stands before the visionaries, always in the same place, [...] it occurs ‘suddenly' and by surprise, [...] it causes fear and disturbance in the souls of the visionaries"). And these are illustrated with explicit and specific references to the apparition of June 24 [cf. Appendix V - 15 December 2012 Proceedings, in Murgia, Processo a Medjugorje, Rubbettino, 2021, p. 169]
But that's not all.
At a certain point in the Report, the commission wrote another very strange thing [emphasis added]:
Having identified the formal object and specific material capable of offering and outlining the physiognomy of a religious event of specific interest, from the point of view of its possible supernatural origin, this can then be recognized, in a sufficient and reasonable way, in the first seven alleged apparitions, which are attested to have taken place from June 24 to July 3, 1981 to [the list of the visionaries’ names follows].
[Final Report: Gaeta, p. 52; Murgia, p. 41]
But from June 24 to July 3 the "apparitions" were ten (and we should note that June 24 is also explicitly mentioned, and so Gaeta's hypothesis is again disproved).
This meaningless statement was repeated in the Summary of the Report, where we read about "the first seven apparitions, which took place from 24 June to 3 July 1981" [Final Report: Gaeta, p. 134; Murgia, p. 77].
Faced with this logically inextricable tangle, the Vaticanist David Murgia, a supporter of Medjugorje who published the confidential proceedings of the commission, writes:
The Pontifical Commission defined the first seven apparitions as "extraordinary" but as it is possible to see, in that period, the apparitions that allegedly occurred in Medjugorje are ten. So we should state that among these ten, only seven are authentic. And we speak of the “first seven”.
So I wonder: how should the other apparitions be considered given that we are still in what the Commission defines as the first period? And again I wonder: why did the Commission not identify the individual apparitions one by one, explaining the reasons by which it justifies supernaturality?
I don't know how to answer this for myself. I can theorize that time was short and pressure to close the process was such that in the end the Commission had to hurry up and finish the work as best as possible.
[Murgia, Processo a Medjugorje, p. 230]
In the documents the “first seven apparitions” are repeatedly mentioned, so for the commission’s purposes, it was not necessary to specify which ones they are, one by one. The reasons for the presumed supernatural nature of the individual apparitions are not explained because the commission does not have solid arguments to support its thesis (but we will talk about this later).
The fact remains that the commission's statements are nonsensical. How did all the incredible logical inconsistencies we have highlighted come about?
Two glaring errors were clearly intertwined, and they help us understand a lot about the way the commission worked.
Both errors can be traced back to the study The origins of the "Medjugorje" phenomenon, drawn up by two members of the commission in autumn 2012 (see part 3: The Strange Choice of the "First Seven Apparitions").
As we know, the two members appointed by the commission, in this study, chose to consider "the first seven attested (alleged) 'apparitions'" as the “original event” [Appendix V - 15 December 2012 Proceedings, in Murgia, Processo a Medjugorje, p. 168].
More specifically, they wrote that Podbrdo, as the place of the apparitions, is the "logical and reasonable element that allows a clear distinction to be made between the initial phase of the apparitions and the subsequent phase" [ibid.].
They then add that "there is an 'intermediate level', with the same homogeneous elements, to which two presumed 'apparitions' can be ascribed: The first apparition not located on Podbrdo is in Cerno..." [ibid., p. 169].
If the total they want to reach is seven, and they also include two apparitions not located on Podbrdo, it is clear that they are mistakenly counting only five on Podbrdo, instead of six.
It is clearly a mistake in elementary addition.
Afterward, the commission accepted this data passively and no one noticed the mistake.
However, the study by the two members also contains the premises for the second error in the Report and in the final resolutions.
In fact, if this study, on the one hand, seems to identify as the final limit the second apparition that did not take place on Podbrdo (therefore - it follows – on 1 July), on the other hand it clearly contradicts itself and confuses things even more:
The first apparition not located on Podbrdo is in Cerno. This town is located a few kilometers from Medjugorje: here the "visionaries" had been taken by car by state agents, and the children communicated to the parish priest the same evening that Our Lady had said that there would still be three apparitions: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, that is, 1, 2 and 3 July 1981. Friday would therefore be the last apparition.
This last "apparition" takes place not on Podbrdo but in the parish house of Medjugorje, and some priests were also present. After the "apparition" ended, the "seers" said: "This is the last apparition!"
[Appendix V - 15 December 2012 Proceedings, in Murgia, Processo a Medjugorje, p. 169]
Now it seems that they want to stop on July 3, the tenth day.
It is tragically clear, at this point, what probably happened.
In January 2014, the document The origins of the "Medjugorje" phenomenon was taken up. It had been written a year earlier by two members and had been already approved by the commission. It was taken with all its inconsistencies and was used, in the Final Report, as a source on which to draw, mechanically, to indicate which apparitions were the "credible" ones.
It is a revealing episode. Nobody noticed the incoherence of what was written. No one even asked for clarifications, and there is evidently no trace of such in the documents, as Murgia implicitly confirms, writing: "I don't know how to answer this for myself". Nor did these clarifications reach him, the editor of the book, during the drafting of the text (Murgia writes: "I verified all the minutes with some members of the Pontifical Commission" [note 16, p. 247]; in the acknowledgements page, "first of all Fr. Salvatore M. Perrella" [p. 255] is mentioned (as a Mariologist, not as a member of the commission).
The matter was not clarified and corrected by the commission because, in over a year, it was not really analyzed in detail. It was only approved.
Go to Part 5: The Rescue of Medjugorje? Based on Strange Psychological Theories Marco Corvaglia
English linguistic revision by Richard Chonak
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