Cardinal Schonborn on Standing by Medjugorje and Church Doctrine "It is my duty"
By Daniel Klimek September 30, 2010
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the official text of the teachings of the Catholic Church and Cardinal Schönborn the Archbishop of Vienna has gained international prominence for his work as Director of the Catechism of the Catholic Church -
"Praise be Jesus and Mary! Dear Ivan and Marija, thank you that you came again! Thank you for your service for so many years. "
Ever since Cardinal Christoph von Schonborn, the popular Archbishop of Vienna and a leading intellectual within the Catholic Church, made a personal pilgrimage to Medjugorje last year, he has received both praise and criticism for his spiritual journey. Devotees of Medjugorje have praised him for supporting the reported apparitions while critics of Medjugorje have vilified him for the same reason. Cardinal Schonborn's curiosity and wonder for the events taking place at Medjugorje has been expressed in numerous ways -
Recently, this month, Cardinal Schonborn granted his approval to Marija Pavlovic-
On September 23, 2010, St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna Austria was packed -
As a result of such activities over the past few years, allowing Medjugorje visionaries in his Cathedral and visiting their village, certain critics of Cardinal Schonborn have attacked him as being "disobedient" and irresponsible to the local bishop of Mostar-
Prominent Catholic Columnist for Beliefnet.com Greg Kandra and author of a recent online article titled "Someone should alert Cardinal Schonborn" wrote to us and said: "I think the Cardinal is being irresponsible in his very public support for an "apparition" that has not been approved by the Church, and I would caution all faithful Catholics to tread carefully on the issue of Medjugorje." What such criticisms ignore, however-
On May 26, 1998, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, then the Secretary to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the most influential office within the Roman Curia and the one responsible for dealing with reports of private revelations, issued a letter clarifying the Church's official position on Medjugorje. The letter explained:
"What Bishop Peric said in his letter to the Secretary General of 'Famille Chretienne,' declaring: 'My conviction and my position is not only "non constat de supernaturalitate," but likewise, "constat de non supernaturalitate" of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje,' should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion."
Bishop Peric, in his personal opinion, has not only been critical of the supernatural quality of Medjugorje, which he downright doubts, but also of pilgrimages to Medjugorje, including Cardinal Schonborn's personal pilgrimage in January 2010. Both of these positions contradict the Vatican's official teaching on Medjugorje. The Holy See is currently investigating the supernaturality of Medjugorje through an international commission, guided by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and headed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, and has been clear that an official ruling on Medjugorje will come later; thus this is the reason why the Vatican has emphasized that Bishop Peric's premature and negative ruling on Medjugorje constitutes his own personal opinion and nothing official for pilgrims to follow (since the bishop's opinion differs from the Vatican's current position, which remains neutral as investigations continue).
Second, Bishop Peric's critical opinion against pilgrimages to Medjugorje, including Cardinal Schonborn's personal pilgrimage, also contradicts official Church teaching. In his letter, on behalf of the CDF, Cardinal Bertone emphasized: "Finally, as regards pilgrimages to Medjugorje, which are conducted privately, this Congregation points out that they are permitted on condition that they are not regarded as an authentication of events still taking place and which still call for an examination by the Church" (emphasis added). In other words, Cardinal Bertone's letter, which was written when he was Secretary of the CDF under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the current Pope, stresses that personal pilgrimages to Medjugorje are allowed as long as such trips respect the Church's official position on Medjugorje as the Church continues its investigations (the official position, as mentioned, remains neutral as the Vatican continues all examinations).
In February of 2010, Cardinal Schonborn visited the United States, as he gave a lecture at the Catholic University of America. MinistryValues covered the event live. Both I and colleague Stephen Ryan were present for the Cardinal's visit. When asked about Medjugorje, Cardinal Schonborn emphasized that Medjugorje is an apparition site not yet approved, or disapproved, by the Church and, therefore, we must wait for the Vatican to make its official judgment and respect that judgment once it is made. Notice that Cardinal Schonborn's position is different from Bishop Peric's. Peric has already reached a negative (and quite premature) judgment on Medjugorje, on both the apparitions and pilgrimages there, thus violating the official Church position which permits personal pilgrimages to the site and which has yet to officially declare whether Medjugorje is authentic or inauthentic, emphasizing its neutrality.
Cardinal Schonborn's stance, on the other hand, respects the immense spiritual fruits that are present at Medjugorje while also respecting the Church's official teaching, in terms of his personal pursuits (like the pilgrimage -
"The letter of Archbishop Bertone to the Bishop of Le Reunion sufficiently makes clear what has always been the official position of the hierarchy during recent years concerning Medjugorje: namely, that it knowingly leaves the matter undecided." The Cardinal elaborated: "There is no doubt that the magisterium of the Church does not make a definite declaration while the extraordinary phenomena are going on in the form of apparitions or other means. Indeed it is the mission of shepherds to promote what is growing, to encourage the fruits which are appearing, to protect them, if need be, from the dangers which are obviously everywhere."
This insight of Cardinal Schonborn-
On June 17, 1992, in the midst of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, Pope John Paul II met with Fr. Jozo Zovko, then the pastor of St. James Parish in Medjugorje. The Holy Father's words to Fr. Jozo were striking. John Paul II declared: "I give you my blessing, take courage. Tell Medjugorje, I am with you. Protect Medjugorje! Protect Our Lady's messages!" The urgency of the Holy Father's words for the protection of Medjugorje, the messages and spiritual fruits contained there, make clear how much the holy site, as to millions of Catholics, meant to him. Like Cardinal Schonborn, the Pope could not ignore the spiritual fruits of Medjugorje. John Paul II once told Bishop Murilo Krieger of Brazil: "Medjugorje, it's the spiritual heart of the world."
On the question of pilgrimages to Medjugorje, the Holy Father agreed that they are permitted years before the Vatican issued a letter on the matter. In June 1986, in response to a group of twelve Italian bishops seeking advice on pilgrims traveling to Medjugorje, John Paul stated: "Let the people go to Medjugorje, if they convert, pray, confess, do penance and fast." Likewise, on March 14, 1989, Pope John Paul II told Bishop S. Treinen, then Bishop of Boise, Idaho, that, "...it's good for pilgrims to go to Medjugorje and pray and do penance. It's good."
Interestingly, Cardinal Schonborn's views on Medjugorje do not only align with Pope John Paul II's views, in recognizing the spiritual fruits, but also with the current pope's views, Benedict XVI. Most people may not know that before becoming Pope Benedict, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger played a monumental role in protecting Medjugorje and taking the jurisdiction of Medjugorje away from the local bishop.
In April 1986, then Bishop of Mostar, Pavao Zanic, who had an infamous reputation for hostility toward the apparitions and the visionaries of Medjugorje, frequently making slanderous and unsubstantiated remarks against them, traveled to Rome to submit the findings of an episcopal commission he led investigating the events in Medjugorje. Bishop Zanic was more than surprised when he was summoned to a meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger in Rome, then the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal Ratzinger ordered Zanic to suspend his negative judgment on the matter, dissolve his commission, and place the inquiry into the hands of the Vatican. The CDF made sure to free Zanic and his commission from further investigative duties, recognizing that he was not the man to objectively investigate the matter.
In an interview with MinistryValues.com, the renowned Mariologist Dr. Mark Miravalle has commented why Cardinal Ratzinger took these actions against the local bishop, explaining how they are connected to the current investigation in the Vatican:
"I see this [the current Vatican commission investigating Medjugorje] as a continuation of what transpired before, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger intervened in 1986 and took the jurisdiction of Medjugorje away from the local bishop of Mostar, Bishop Zanic, placing it into the hands of the Yugoslav Bishops Conference. This was done so Medjugorje could be judged objectively. That's why Medjugorje has recently been placed under an international commission headed by the Holy See, so the apparitions could be judged objectively. I see this as a continuation of the Church's previous actions now. What is most important is Our Lady's wishes. Perhaps local Church authorities not certain of the authenticity of the apparitions at Medjugorje have themselves at times not been in conformity with the Church's process of objective evaluation which therefore calls for ongoing cooperation. Much of the debate surrounding Medjugorje generally results from misunderstandings of official Church position pertaining to Medjugorje, which in light of the 1991 Zadar statement from the ex-
Once again, we see how Cardinal Schonborn is fully obedient to the Church's teachings, to the Magisterium, on this issue. It is important to note that when the Cardinal traveled to Medjugorje he did so as a personal pilgrim, as the Magisterium explains should be the case. Once again we also see how accusations that Cardinal Schonborn has been "disobedient" to the Church (as certain critics have alleged) are completely without any merit. For going against the personal opinion of the bishop of Mostar Cardinal Schonborn was not "disobedient" to the Church because the Church has also stood against the local bishop's personal opinion-
Some critics have even alleged "disobedience" against Cardinal Schonborn for hosting the Medjugorje visionaries in his Cathedral. This accusation merits no validity since an official declaration of "disobedience" is something that the Church takes seriously and dedicates investigations to-
"From time to time we are approached by parishioners who would like to invite speakers representing various alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, private revelations or locutions, or others claiming to possess extraordinary spiritual gifts. My purpose in bringing this to your attention is to ask that you not issue such invitations. Whether the speakers would make presentations on well-
There are a few reasons as to why this memo has no effect on Cardinal Schonborn and his invitation to the Medjugorje visionaries to come to Vienna. First, the Bishop of Joliet, Illinois, has no jurisdiction over the spiritual activities that transpire in Vienna, Austria, not to mention over Cardinal Schonborn. Second, the memo was addressed directly to the priests of Joliet, Illinois, and thus is the only place where it could contain any validity for that is the only place where Bishop Sertain holds jurisdiction. Third, the memo, in many ways as is the case with Bishop Peric of Mostar, constitutes the bishop's personal opinion and does not reflect the teachings of the Holy See, of the Church in Rome (this is why the bishop uses his language very carefully in the memo, stating that he is asking his priests not to issue any invitations to any reported seers or mystics -
Thus far it seems like Cardinal Schonborn has been fully in line with the Popes' teachings on Medjugorje. Pope Benedict XVI, when he was the head of the CDF and known as Cardinal Ratzinger, took the jurisdiction over Medjugorje away from the local bishop so the apparitions could be judged objectively. Cardinal Schonborn has clearly respected this move and indeed the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Schonborn, was in attendance with the visionaries but not as the organizer and not, for that matter, for the apparitions. He came to be with the Visonaries at the scheduled adoration of Our Savior. He attended officially as a neutral observer all the while recognizing -
As the crowds thinned and as the broadcast equipment was being gathered, Cardinal Schonborn, still milling around the Cathedral thanked Tom Matasso , the Mary TV technical expert ,for his work. Tom Matasso then thanked Cardinal Schonborn for standing by Medjugorje... the Cardinal replied, "It is my duty!"
"It is my duty!" -
Testimony by Cardinal Schonborn