by Marco Corvaglia
§ 1. Preamble
Over time, the visionaries of Medjugorje have changed their behavior during the apparitions.
In the first months, in fact, they used to speak loudly to Our Lady; besides, they listened to questions and requests of those present and immediately reported the answers, always elementary, of the Virgin. They appeared to be fully vigilant.
For example, in December 1981, when the visionaries, as they had done several times previously, got to queue the faithful and guided them so that they could "touch" the Madonna:
VICKA: Recently I was going through some notes of mine and I saw that just before Christmas of the first year of the apparitions, many touched the Virgin at the evening apparition.
JANKO: How did they touch the Virgin?
VICKA: Well, we told them where to touch and they touched.
[Bubalo, A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje,Janko Bubalo, A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje. The Seer Vicka Speaks of Her Experiences, Friends of Medjugorje, Chicago, 1987, pp. 108-109]
Since January 1982 they ceased to do so, conforming to the behavioral model that tradition considers as distinctive of ecstatic phenomena. So, in 1983, Vicka, interviewed by Father Janko Bubalo, claimed:
We see the Virgin, but we don’t see anything else or sense anything else [....]
When the Virgin appears, I no longer see nor hear anything except her.
[Ibid., pp. 47 and 167]
§ 2. The Scientific Reports on Medjugorje
So far, these study groups had the opportunity to collect physiological measures and run experimental (and not only observational) studies:
1. Prof. Henri Joyeux’s (1984)
The report of their research was published in René Laurentin and Henri Joyeux, Scientific and Medical Studies on the Apparitions at Medjugorje, Veritas Publishing, Dublin, 1987 (French edition: Études médicales et scientifiques sur les apparitions de Medjugorje, O.E.I.L., Paris, 1985).
The team of Prof. Joyeux (an oncologist physician close to the movement of Charismatic Renewal) was formed at the request of Father René Laurentin, who has been the most prominent Medjugorje campaigner for fifteen years:
On 20 March at 8 a.m. we telephoned René Laurentin who informed us of his desire to put togheter a medical team to carry out a scientific examination of these extraordinary phenomena.
[Prof. Joyeux in Laurentin, Joyeux, Scientific and Medical Studies on the Apparitions at Medjugorje, p. 46]
This team concluded that "The phenomenon of the apparition in Medjugorje [...] is scientifically inexplicable" [ibid., p. 74].
Prof. Théophile Kammerer, President of the Lourdes International Medical Commitee, objected:
As to their level, these tests remain superficial [....] Despite this, all the sophisticated techniques impress the simple-minded readers.
[T. Kammerer, Critical Study of Medical Explorations of the Medjugorje Seers, LIMC, 20 September 1986]
2. Queen of Peace Society (1985)
A report of their investigation was published in Italian, as Luigi Frigerio et al., Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje ("Scientific report on Medjugorje"), Associazione Regina della Pace, 1986 [a digitized version is also available].
The team was formed on the spontaneous initiative of Dr. Frigerio, a gynecologist, and was named “Associazione Regina della Pace“ (“Queen of Peace Society”) as a tribute to the apparition. It was named this way before the beginning of their investigations by medical instrumentation [cf. Frigerio et al., Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, p. 30].
In the report there is also an excerpt of the Statute of the Association, stating that it has the "apologetic aim to highlight the harmony of Science with Faith" [ibid.].
On 21 November 1985 Dr. Frigerio stated:
Through various scientific missions we have collected some data, I can't say some proofs of the presence of the Virgin, because the proof is of a spiritual nature, ie, the conversion, but certainly some important clues that for now are all in favor of the autenticity of this phenomenon. [....]
My experience leads me to say, without presumptuousness, with great simplicity, that the changes of this century, from the methodological point of view, in order to live the Church, are two: the movement of C.L. [Comunione e Liberazione] and the insistent apparitions of the Virgin at Medjugorje. I believe that following this change one can come to a concrete experience in his own life, even in the workplace.
[E. Sala, M. Mantero, Il miracolo di Medjugorje, Edizioni Mediterranee, Rome, 1986, pp. 119 and 129]
Researchers from these two teams, together with a number of theologicians, held a meeting in Paina (Milan) in 1986, with the goal of discussing and comparing their results.
3. Dr. Giorgio Gagliardi and Father Dr. Andreas Resch’s (1998)
Their original report was published as Andreas Resch and Giorgio Gagliardi, I Veggenti di Medjugorje. Ricerca Psicofisiologica, ("The seers of Medjugorje. Psychophysiological inquiry"), Resch Verlag, Innsbruck, 2000.
This team was put together at the insistence of the priest of Medjugorje, Father Ivan Landeka [cf. Resch, Gagliardi, I veggenti di Medjugorje. Ricerca psicofisiologica, p. V]
The scientific coordinator, Dr. Giorgio Gagliardi, has developed an attitude of great caution [see Received from Dr. Giorgio Gagliardi (Scientific Coordinator of the Third Study Group on Medjugorje)].
A vast popular mythology flourishes about these medical investigations. According to the stories circulated among believers and supporters of Medjugorje, the seers stoically lent themselves to painful testing procedures, and have been under constant scientific scrutiny for years. This is far from being the case.
Let us consider all the instrumental tests that could be conducted during the seers’ “ecstasies”. This excludes all the (prevalently or solely) observational tests, as well as those tests that were run while the seers were not having an “apparition.” Altogether, these tests only cover 12 presumed apparitions, each lasting just over a minute, in this period of thirty years.
These are the details: Prof. Joyeux’s team managed to perform their studies on June 10, October 6 and 7, and December 28 and 29, 1984. The average duration of an appartion was 79 seconds (range: 62 to 102 seconds. See Laurentin, Joyeux, Scientific and Medical Studies on the Apparitions at Medjugorje, p. 50).
Researchers from the “Queen of Peace” group could study only three of the six seers (Ivan, Marija, and Jakov) during three days (September 7, 8, and 9, 1985). In this case, the average duration of the three apparitions was 61 seconds (range: 49 to 75 seconds. See Frigerio et al., Dossier Scientifico su Medjugorje, pp.35-37. In March of that year, Vicka, Ivanka and Marija had undergone an eye examination, but the report [pp.27-28] does not provide any information about the duration of the apparition).
Finally, the team lead by Resch and Gagliardi could work on two seers, Ivan and Marija (as previously stated, we are considering only those subjects who claimed to have an “ecstasy”) and for two days only: April 22 (a 90-second apparition) and 23 (a 100-second apparition for Marija; 154 seconds for Ivan) 1998.
They were also able to collect data from one single seer (Marija) on December 12, 1998 (duration: 185 seconds. See Resch, Gagliardi, I veggenti di Medjugorje. Ricerca psicofisiologica, pp. 45-47-75-96).
One could find mention of some tests of Ivan and Marija, performed on June 25, 2005, by Dr. Philippe Loron. However, no report has ever been published on these recordings. We have no information on the member of the investigating team. There is no accurate description of which tests were performed. And no results were reported in quantitative (and, therefore, precise and verifiable) form.
Dr. Loron (I invite the curious readers to examine his baffling declarations, reported in the webpage One-Sided Doctors [Part 1]) can be considered an associate of Joyeux.
My own book on Medjugorje contains a detailed examination of all the tests performed by the different research groups, as well as the results they yielded [Medjugorje: è tutto falso, pp. 177-268].
For a more thorough critical examination, the series of books La scienza e Medjugorje (in Italian) by neurophysiologist Dr. Francesco D'Alpa is available:
On October 7, 1984, Joyeux’s team ran a “test” consisting in putting a paper card before Ivanka’s and Marija’s eyes, during an apparition (see the picture).
Let us follow the report:
Screening test for Ivanka and Marija wich consisted in placing a sheet of opaque cardboard before their eyes during the ecstasy.
[Laurentin, Joyeux, Scientific and Medical Studies on the Apparitions at Medjugorje, p. 64]
After the ecstasy they said that their vision of Our Lady was not impaired and that they did not see the screen in front of them.
[Ibid., p. 65]
The screening test does not impair the vision, therefore the normal visual pathways are not used.
[Ibid., p. 72]
These are odd assertions in the context of a scientific report, since they are not based on objective results but solely and exclusively on the subjects’ claims, whose sincerity is taken for granted.
But I will now present an example taken from the records of the second study group on Medjugorje (the Italian A.R.PA., “Queen of Peace” team), lead by Dr. Luigi Frigerio.
Let us consider this test’s methodology.
The doctors’ goal is to show that, during the ecstasies, the seers’ neurophysiological responses change. In this case, they focus on the spontaneous blink rate, that is, the frequency of rapid closings and openings of the eyelid. Instead of using real data from the subjects, the analysis was run on tape recordings of Marjia and Jakov.
In both cases, the analysis follows a procedure that, for various reasons, does not conform to any scientific protocol. As an example, let us pick Jakov’s case.
During his apparition, Jakov’s blink rate was of one blink every 7.4 seconds. By itself, this value seems well within the physiological range.
Then, to demonstrate that this value is actually significantly different from that of Jakov’s non-ecstatic periods, the A.R.PA. doctors make a peculiar claim: That Jakov, when he’s not having an ecstasy, blinks every 1.7 seconds.
The truth is that no healthy person blinks so frequently, as anybody can verify by himself. How did the A.R.PA. doctors come to this conclusion?
Let us read their report:
8.9.85 - Jakov Colo
During the ecstasy
The duration was 52’. There were 7 blinks, and precisely at 4”-10”-25”-31”-33”-38”-43” (arithmetic mean: One blink every 7.4 seconds)
After the ecstasy
The control recoding was 12” long. There were 7 blinks with this frequency (sic)1”-2"-3"-5"-7"-9"-12" (arithmetic mean: One blink every 1.7 seconds).
An analysis of the spontaneous blink rate shows that during the ecstasy the blink rate decreases prominently
[Frigerio et al., Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje, pp. 41-42]
This is unthinkable: the control condition consisted of a tape recording of just 12 seconds, which was not even remotely representative of real-life conditions, and where, on top of everything else, Jakov’s blinking rate was entirely abnormal.
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.
Published on 10 July 2009. Updated on 12 August 2016