I wonder what has prompted the Vatican to officially investigate the apparitions at Medjugorje at this time? After years of denying there’s anything going on, (the apparitions began in June of 1981) the Vatican’s just now deciding to investigate. There have been some investigations -- for example, the Bishopric Conference in 1991 in then Yugoslavia, which decided that "nothing out of the ordinary" occurred. And the local Bishop, Bishop Ratko Periç, for the area, denies that there is anything unusual appearing at Medjugorje. But this new team is of the Vatican, led by a Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Bosnia, and so their conclusions will be the final word on the subject.
Catholics have been divided on this issue; some priests have been threatened with excommunication, some have left the church, some have defied the church. . . meanwhile, the people (the "folk") continue to experience something supernatural/paranormal/religious. Catholics as well as non-Catholics (and people of many faiths, including agnostics) have experienced the unusual at Medjugorje. Millions of visitors go there every year; the once poor town has now become "one of the most developed and rich small towns in the country."
It’ll be interesting to find out what the Catholic Church’s new stance on the apparitions will be. Will they simply announce that there is definitely nothing going on and deny everything? Are Catholics to be advised that they are committing a sin if they continue pilgrimages to the site? Or will the Vatican decree that it is a sacred site and give the official go ahead to Catholics world wide to pilgrimage to Medjugorje?
The refusal to recognize apparitions as legitimate phenomena is interesting, but not surprising. As I wrote in the last Trickster’s Realm column, much of this acceptance/denial by the Vatican is one of control. Control the people and control their out of ordinary experiences. The parallels between that and government cover-up and disinformation on UFOs and other Fortean phenomenon are obvious. Denial, ridicule and manipulation of UFO, paranormal and religious events aren’t because of ineptness on the part of the authority involved, or ignorance. In fact, they know very well what they’re doing. It’s about control.
Meanwhile, we have the Vatican happily acknowledging the existence of ET. Monsignor Corrado Balducci, Chief Exorcist for the Vatican, came out with this pronouncement a couple of years ago. Accepting that extraterrestrials exist does not conflict with Catholic beliefs, says the church. (And yet there are many Christians who either deny the existence of UFOs and aliens, as well as Marian apparitions, or who do acknowledge them but as Satanic manipulations. As somewhat of an outsider, I can see this for the anti-Catholic bigotry it is, wrapped up in religious justification. When it comes to religious dogma and beliefs, anything goes.)
So why this juxtaposition between denial of Marian apparitions, and acceptance of aliens from space? One reason is the slick affirmation of original sin. Aliens are free of original sin, since they weren’t born on earth (or whatever aliens do to procreate) and so are exempt from the whole Garden of Eden legacy. But I think it’s more an issue of control. ET is out there, they aren’t making any claims to Catholicism or any other religion, (though some would argue that, who’ve interpreted their alien visitations in a religious context) and it’s all kind of vague.
Marian apparitions, however, are much more specific: they occur in the context of Catholic experience, they’re in your face, they appear to the folk, not the authority. And, she’s a chick. The Vatican is run by males, the church is dominated by men, the whole thing -- Bible, Catholic Church (and patriarchal religions in general) is that cliché of old white males who are deeply invested in control.
I suspect that many at the top know a lot more about the esoteric nature of these apparitions -- as the ones at governmental top levels do about UFOs -- and realize the paranormal, Fortean implications within these phenomenon. Human history has shown us over and over how the priests, the authorities, the ones in charge, knew the fuller dimensions of whatever religious / sacred / paranormal thing they were dealing with, choosing to reveal only the shallower aspects. All for control.