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The Dislike of Catholicism: Understanding the Holy in the Catholic Tradition – 2 – What is truth?

Famous posthumous portrait of Niccolò Machiave...

Posthumous portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is truth?

Religion deals with beliefs and practices concerned with truth.

Most religious leaders appear open to interfaith dialogue but many, it seems, aren’t too keen to alter their core beliefs. They’ve invested their entire lives in a given belief system. It not only provides a comfortable living. It also gives them an identity. An importance. And some might say, a bit more sympathetically, a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.

Unless religious leaders are utter charlatans, like some TV evangelists, their sense of truth keeps them on track. To deviate from their cherished beliefs would be, in most instances, too psychologically and economically disruptive.

So after all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with interfaith conferences has subsided, many religious leaders probably walk away virtually unchanged, each still believing, my way is best.

This might seem cynical. But clearly there’s a politically correct aspect to religion.

In his classic The Prince Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) wrote that good ruling means

It is necessary to know well how to disguise this characteristic, and to be a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.¹

But what would a Machiavellian ruler have to do with religious leadership? The one works in the world of realpolitik while the other addresses the realm of the spirit. At least, this is the image that many religious leaders tend to portray. In reality, however, we can’t separate religion from the world. Consider the Vatican Bank, a global institution worth about $8 billion.

Not only that. There have been allegations about money laundering in the Vatican.² And other stories about Church payoffs to keep victims of sexual abuse quiet.³ Corruption and sexual abuse happen everywhere, in all corners of human experience. They are not only Catholic concerns. Still, Catholic leaders must publicly manage the weak side of human nature as it manifests within the Church.

During the Pope Benedict years, especially, Catholics heard a lot about homosexuality, abortion and other easy targets. But they almost never heard about the alleged corruption, closet homosexuality, and proven perversions within the Church. This arguably was a kind of lie by omission. But it wasn’t just a lie. It was pointing the finger to individuals less powerful, more vulnerable, and who, for the most part, couldn’t fight back.

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The French postmodern historian and thinker Michel Foucault wrote volumes about truth and morality. Foucault wasn’t interested in declaring truth or the good moral life. Instead, he was quick to point out how some discourses about truth and morality are highlighted while others are buried. Foucault believed that power, itself, was the key agent.4 Power either makes or breaks a given discourse about truth and morality.

This may be the case with most organizations, religious or not. But we should be careful when talking about power. What exactly is power? Isn’t there a negative, controlling type along with a positive, liberating form of power? Could a given institution, like the Catholic Church, express some combination of these two fundamental types of power?

Introduction « 2 » 3 (coming soon)




4 See Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings, 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon, trans. C. Gordon et al. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980.

Copyright © Michael Clark, 2014.


The Dislike of Catholicism: Understanding the Holy in the Catholic Tradition

Jesus le nazaréen by *Katch* via Flickr


If you ask someone on the street about the difference between a Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christian, chances are they’ll smile and admit ignorance.

Back in the 1990s, a fellow student of Religious Studies raised an interesting point in one of those mandatory seminars that everyone attends but secretly wishes they didn’t have to. He said humanities researchers should state their personal biases at the outset of a study instead of presuming they’re objective observers.

These days, the whole idea of objectivity is under fire, and rightly so. Any academic or scientist worth their salt will admit we can’t escape bias. The sciences have emerging concepts like “confirmation bias” and “experimenter bias.” And spiritual persons believing they’ve had a divine revelation should step back and ask if their apparent truth belongs within a given context. Is their revelation merely one that is appropriate for a given moment? It may be powerful. But it is universal? The highest?

This much said, and in keeping with my classmate’s prescription, I’ll tell a bit about myself to illustrate where I’m coming from.

English: Catholic church in Tehran

Catholic church in Tehran (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before converting to Catholicism in 2001, I had little interest in organized religion. Childhood summers were spent enjoying the natural environment of Georgian Bay’s eastern shores. In winters I downhill skied at a resort overlooking the south side of Georgian Bay. So, in a sense, the great outdoors was my religion.

As for religion, itself, I was baptized in the Anglican church but never attended regular services. Weddings and funerals, that was it.

Like many kids, I asked the big questions. Why are we here? What is infinity? I never really got any answers but I kept on asking.

Eventually, I went to university and had summer jobs to help defray the cost. By that time I’d gravitated toward Freud, Jung and sociologists like G. H. Mead and Emile Durkheim. Later, I studied East-West philosophy, New Age and non-Christian religions. In 2001 I became a bona fide Catholic. But a free thinking one.

Since then I’ve met many critics of Catholicism. Instead of ignoring their views, I’ve talked with those honest enough to say what they really think. And from this I have a pretty good picture as to why some folks dislike Catholicism.


High Rock Island, Georgian Bay

Before writing this article, I told a Catholic friend about my plan to do so. She suggested I call it “Why people like Catholicism.” But I feel that dislike is the better term, because I’m mostly responding to the critics. And I’m not trying to put a positive spin on the all-too-human side of the Church. God knows, there are many issues in the Catholic Church.

Despite its real and pressing problems, I continue to experience the holy within the Church. And it’s not just because I was brainwashed as a kid. As mentioned, I wasn’t even a Catholic, and as a Protestant, I never went to church. I skied. I swam. But church? Nahhh.

Copyright © Michael Clark, 2014.

Part – 2

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Religious Americans view others

In this Rosh Hashana greeting card from the ea...

In this Rosh Hashana greeting card from the early 1900s, Russian Jews, packs in hand, gaze at the American relatives beckoning them to the United States. Over two million Jews fled the pogroms of the Russian Empire to the safety of the U.S. from 1881-1924. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

It is only human for most people to think more highly of themselves and the groups (academic, professional, social, religious, political and national) that they identify with, than they think of others. It is only natural to notice more of your own and your own groups virtues than the virtues of others; and it is only normal to to be less aware of your own groups vices and prejudices than those of others groups.

Thus, it is not surprising that a survey last week by Pew Research, found that Evangelical Protestants, who are confident that they are going to Heaven, score a warm rating of 79 with people who called themselves “born-again” or evangelical, but only receive a rating of 52 from others, a 27 point difference.

Catholics also give themselves a similar warm 80 score, while non-Catholics give them a six point warmer score than Evangelical Protestants rating at 58. but that still is a 22 point difference.

And Jews, who do not fear original sin and eternal damnation, rate themselves at a very warm 89, while non-Jews rate Jews as a warm 63, which is 5 points warmer than Catholics, and 11 points above Evangelical Protestants, but still a 26 point difference between self and others ratings.

On the other hand while Atheists gave themselves a 62 rating, others gave them a cool 41 rating, a 21 point difference.

White Evangelical Protestants rank Buddhists at 39, Hindus at 38, Muslims at 30, and atheists at only 25; the lowest score of any group.

Atheists give evangelicals an equally low overall rating of 28. But Atheists give much warmer ratings to Buddhists 69, Jews 61 and Hindus 58.

Americans are somewhat polarized about evangelicals. The survey found that, “roughly as many people give evangelicals a cold rating (27 percent) as give them a warm rating (30 percent).”

The most important results for Jews in this study is the very positive views Americans have of Jews and Judaism. Jewish anxieties about religious anti-semitism are greatly exaggerated.

On the other hand, many Jews need to examine their own negative attitudes toward evangelical Protestants who clearly differ with us in as many areas as we differ with them, yet still have a warmer view of us then we have of them.

White evangelicals rated Jews at a very warm 69, while Jewish respondents gave evangelical Protestants a very cool 34. Most people explain this as due to their ‘southern style’ and Evangelical Protestant Missionary efforts to convert Jews; which acts to offset their support for Israel.

Jews and Catholics have warmer views of each other than Jews and evangelical Protestants have because Catholics have no active missionary activities directed toward Jews, and Jews are more likely to know Catholics then they are likely to know evangelical Protestants.

Thus, Catholics are viewed more warmly than evangelical Protestants (58 vs 34), and this is only a little less than the Catholic view of Jews at 61.

These ratings are not a fluke. The Pew results match closely with a similar study in 2007 by political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell for their 2010 book, ”American Grace.” The overall order of warm-to-cold views for religious groups is unchanged between the two studies.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is:

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The Dislike of Catholicism: Understanding the Holy in the Catholic Tradition, 5 – Psychological reasons

Debate between Catholics and Oriental Christia...

Debate between Catholics and Oriental Christians in the 13th century, Acre 1290. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1 – Introduction
2 – Theory and method
3 – Theological reasons
4 – Social and political reasons
5 – Psychological reasons
6 – Philosophical and historical reasons and conclusion

Projection onto the Big Bad Institution

Now we turn to those who dislike Catholicism mostly because of their psychological baggage.

Some non-Catholic Christians routinely advocate angry, hateful behavior. And if they see any vice among individual Catholics they arguably project their own anger – and other shortcomings – onto Catholicism as a whole. This type of Christian is self-perceived as genuine while Catholics are seen as invalid.

The self-righteous Christian is often eager to get embroiled in long, heated messaging wars over specific points of doctrine. All too often the ideal of loving in Christ seems more like negative attention seeking—or shall we say, spoiling for a fight.

Non-Catholic Christians are not the only people who project their personal shortcomings onto “Big Religion.” All sorts of people are prone to projection. Projection is a convenient way to ignore personal issues by blaming something outside the self.

Individuals and groups from non-US nations, for instance, often single out the US as the Big Bad Wolf, as if other nations aren’t acting in their own self interest, and perhaps less humanely than the US.

Religion and Spirituality mutually exclusive?

Some New Agers and alleged psychics believe they have paranormal powers or, perhaps, special knowledge of unusual phenomena like ETs and UFOs. These folks typically see religion and spirituality as categorically different. For them, there’s no overlap.

If the psi perceptions of alleged psychics critical of Catholicism were from God, these impressions, insights and intuitions would be accurate and used for the common good. But sometimes we find in people with alleged psi abilities a haughty kind of arrogance. Little or no attempt is made to verify their truth claims, which are sometimes boldly proclaimed through the media. And the possibility of “analytic overlay” remains unchecked. Analytic overlay is a concept used in Remote Viewing but it could apply to psi in general.

Remote viewing also involves the awareness that we can incorrectly interpret incoming data. A misperception can occur when our conscious minds get in the way and our imagination or existing mindset fills in the blanks or jumps to a conclusion about a remote viewing impression. Remote viewers call this “analytic overlay” and good remote viewers take steps to minimize it.¹

In fact, some psychics seem so entrenched in their paranormal, imaginative, deluded or perhaps pretend world that they have no appreciation for Catholic mysticism. The self-important psychic knows best. And that is all. Most mature Catholics, however, don’t flaunt or advertise their spiritual gifts for profit or self-aggrandizement. Along these lines, St. Paul says that any such gifts are utterly meaningless without true, unselfish love.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  (1 Corinthians 13:1-4).

Fallen Away Catholics

Another consideration is the so-called ‘fallen away’ Catholic who dislikes Catholicism. Assuming fallen away Catholics did not suffer sexual or other kinds of abuse in their past experience with the Church, it seems probable that some – certainly not all – began as cradle Catholics who routinely went to church, possibly coerced by their families.

Due to their personality and early conditioning these people might never have become firmly established in the Holy Spirit. Catholicism just didn’t work for them. And later in life they embrace something else that provides tangible numinous experience and communal support—for example, a non-Catholic religion or a cult.

These individuals might be quite happy with their new path for their entire lives. Memories of Catholicism could conjure up combined feelings of familial coercion, boredom, etc. No wonder they would dislike Catholicism as adults. Quite possibly they’ve never been consciously aware of the Holy within the Church. And if they once did experience the Holy within Catholicism, bad memories and new interests could combine to replace their memory of their positive Catholic experiences.

The parable in Mark 4:2-9 of seeds variously planted on a path, rocks, thorns and good soil comes to mind:

In his teaching he said, “Listen! A farmer went out to plant his seed. He scattered the seed on the ground. Some fell on a path. Birds came and ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky places, where there wasn’t much soil. The plants came up quickly, because the soil wasn’t deep. When the sun came up, it burned the plants. They dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorns. The thorns grew up and crowded out the plants. So the plants did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It grew up and produced a crop 30, 60, or even 100 times more than the farmer planted.” Then Jesus said, “Those who have ears should listen.”

But let’s not jump to conclusions or unfairly generalize. No doubt many who leave Catholicism continue to experience God in their lives. And many may be on an extremely healthy path, according to God’s plan. Some Catholics might stop going to church simply because the Mass no longer speaks to them or because the demands of work conflict with their desire to attend. In their heart, mind and soul, however, these individuals might still see themselves as true Catholics or, at least, as God-fearing persons.²

¹ Steve Hammons, ‘Remote Viewing’ has Basis in Science, Military Intelligence.

² This article isn’t too concerned with non-Catholic spirituality. Obviously, many non-Catholics, religious or not, enjoy extremely healthy relationships with God. And from a Catholic perspective even those who don’t necessarily believe in God or belong to a particular religion, to include agnostics and atheists, are integral to God’s plan.

Copyright © Michael W. Clark, 2012.

6 – Philosophical and Historical reasons (coming soon)


The Dislike of Catholicism: Understanding the Holy in the Catholic Tradition, 3 – Theological reasons

Soufrière Catholic Church

Soufrière Catholic Church (Photo credit: waywuwei)

1 – Introduction
2 – Theory and method
3 – Theological reasons
4 – Social and political reasons
5 – Psychological reasons
6 – Philosophical and historical reasons and conclusion

Sociologists and philosophers, alike, say the Catholic religion generates ‘truth claims.’ The idea of a truth claim gives us a convenient way to talk about a given set of beliefs without necessarily advocating or dismissing them. Non-Catholics often say that Catholic truth claims are not eternally given but, rather, culturally and politically motivated truths—that is, relative truths.


The notion of Papal infallibility is probably one of the biggest reasons why people dislike Catholicism. But educated Catholics realize that only two Catholic truth claims are deemed infallible while most others are less authoritative, and merely disseminated as general guidelines for good moral behavior. Many lay-critics of Catholicism don’t realize that not every Catholic teaching is forwarded as an eternal, unchangeable truth. Instead, Catholic theologians say the Church’s teachings have various levels of certainty. And Papal infallibility only applies to these two dogmas:

  1. The Blessed Virgin Mary’s sinless birth (Dogma of the Immaculate Conception)
  2. Her bodily assumption into heaven (Dogma of The Assumption)

All other Catholic teachings are not infallible.¹ So it’s just wrong to say that all Catholic teachings are infallible when they’re not. True, some Catholics say that infallibility includes all of the Church’s teachings. But these fanatics – and that’s what they are – are a vocal minority that the majority of sober scholars, Catholic or not, would readily dismiss.

Papal Authority

Some non-Catholics say that even two (allegedly) infallible declarations are good reason to dislike Catholicism, a religion that endorses Popes who, from the critics’ perspective,  are mere pretenders to the throne of truth. This is variation on the above reason why people dislike Catholicism. Some just don’t believe in any kind of Papal infallibility whatsoever. And the fact that only two dogmas are deemed infallible makes no difference. These people want none of it.

Christianity as a Stereotype

A third theological reason why people dislike Catholicism is based on a misunderstanding and, arguably, unclear thinking.

Many use ‘Christianity’ as  a blanket term for all different types of Churches, organizations and individuals calling themselves as Christians. If I say “I’m a Catholic,” sometimes it’s like waving a red flag in front of people who dislike Evangelicals, Fundamentalists and Televangelists, and who really don’t know the difference between these forms of Christianity and Catholicism. It’s just one big amorphous dislike for all things Christian.

However, differences among Christian denominations (and even among individual believers within each denomination) are tremendous. In Ireland, for instance, Protestant and Catholic youth gangs engage in violent clashes. And as CNN’s Anderson Cooper once pointed out, some Christians align themselves with the Green movement while others are out to make greenbacks.

Falling Short of the Ideal

People also dislike Catholicism because of churchgoers who inevitably fall short of the Christian ideal. Some Catholics sharply criticize and even denounce one another. Mean-minded gossip and talking behind another person’s back is not unheard of in Catholicism, even though Jesus tells us to love one another. As in most spheres of humanity, pettiness and hypocrisy are alive and unwell in Catholicism, which is a turn-off for many.

Private and Public

With a little probing it sometimes becomes clear that a given Catholic’s private beliefs are quite different from his or her apparent beliefs as publicly expressed at the Mass. After all, human beings are social animals and usually don’t want to rock the boat. But arguably just as important, most Catholics believe in the necessity of liturgical structure. Structure affords unity and continuity amidst inevitable points of disagreement.

So Catholics with their own private beliefs are not necessarily just toeing the line at the Mass. They could very well be respecting the need for structure while perhaps secretly believing in (and doing) their own thing—e.g. using birth control, engaging in homosexual relations, having affairs or premarital sex.

On the need for structure, learned Catholics point out that even the very first Christian disciples disagreed on certain issues (Acts 15: 1-21; Galatians 2: 11-14; 1 Corinthians 3: 1-23). So there’s a need, they believe, to outline a clear set of teachings to carry the Catholic ship of salvation through all storms of disagreement.

Judging a Book by its Cover

Another reason people dislike Catholicism has to do with their perception of what it means to be ‘alive in the spirit.’ Some non-Catholics say the Catholic Mass looks or feels quite dead. Catholic parishioners apparently behave like robotic victims of a Roman cult, just going through the motions, not really thinking nor believing in what they profess during the Mass.

With few outward signs of ecstatic joviality or other emotional displays, critics wrongly assume that apparently wooden Catholics are spiritually dry and unhappy. These critics really have no appreciation for the possibility that Catholics may experience a very high and delicate kind of interior sweetness, healing and joy.

By way of contrast, Catholics, especially contemplative ones, may see non-Catholic forms of easily recognizable joy as commendable and perhaps even of Christ. But these manifestations of the spirit are usually subjected to the analysis of discernment, which tries to determine if they’re possibly of a different interior quality than the sacramental graces afforded through the Catholic Church.

Catholics are instructed to respect other religions. And the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said that she “loved” all religions while being “in love” with her own. Along these lines, the existence of worldwide Catholic Missions speaks volumes. Why would Catholic missions exist if the majority of Catholics did not believe that their religion was best? And would not many of these Catholics base that belief on how their religion made them feel?

Jesus as another teacher

Another theological reason many non-Catholics dislike Catholicism is that Christ is taken as just another teacher, not unlike the Buddha or the Hindu god Krishna. This critique often comes from contemporary Gnostics. For them it’s a mistake to insist on Jesus’ uniqueness. And the highly structured Catholic liturgy just gets in the way of their supposedly genuine, gnostic spiritual experiences.

In response, the Vatican recognizes any partial truths in non-Christian religious figures and their associated teachings but firmly disagrees with the belief that Buddha or Krishna, for example, are equal to Christ. It’s as simple as that and no politically correct or sugar-coated interfaith dialogue will change this fundamental point of disagreement. From a Catholic standpoint, it’s possible that some non-Catholic critics have yet to reach a point in their spiritual formation to appreciate the fullness of Christ as experienced through the sacraments.

Mary and the Saints

Another theological reason why people dislike Catholicism relates to Saint Mary and the rest of the Catholic saints. Misinformed Christians often dispute the supposed Catholic ‘paganism’ of praying for the saints’ intercession.

As outlined at

Some Protestants and Fundamentalists complain that Catholics have got it all wrong because, so they say, Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and Man. But these very same people freely ask their friends and associates to “pray for them” which to any thinking person is clearly a request for intercession.

The Catholic reply to this contradictory Protestant and Fundamentalist charge is that if you can ask souls on Earth to pray for you, why not souls in heaven?²

Catholicism clearly outlines its stand on intercession. Asking the saints to pray for us does not elevate them to the status of gods and goddesses, as so many non-Catholic detractors will say. This is just theologically wrong and represents another groundless reason for disliking Catholicism.

¹ Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Rockford, Illinois: 1974 [1960], Tan Books, pp. 8-10 » See online discussion at

² See in context.

Copyright © Michael W. Clark, 2012.

4 – Social and political reasons

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Our Meeting With Blessed Pope John Paul II

English: First appearance of Pope John Paul II...

First appearance of Pope John Paul II in 1978 via Wikipedia

by: Bob and Penny Lord

In the Spring of 1994, the four of us from Holy Family Mission had just arrived in Rome for an audience with Blessed Pope John Paul II.

We had previously been traveling throughout Poland gathering information and taping the lives of the Polish Saints and Martyrs. Saints like Faustina Kowalska and Martyrs like Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko and the Nuns of Nowogrodek were part of the schedule. In addition we had traveled throughout Poland and Lithuania gathering information on Shrines like Our Lady of Czestochowa and Saint Maximilian Kolbe.

We even had the fortunate experience to go to Mass with President Lech Walesa in his private chapel during the trip.

While we were there we had an audience with Cardinal Glemp, the Primate of Poland and he told us a lot about the Polish people and his friend Pope John Paul II. We went to Wadowice the hometown of Pope John Paul II and gathered information and tape on his early years and childhood in Wadowice. Subsequently, we made a documentary on his life.

Cardinal Glemp explained how Blessed Pope John Paul understood the soul of the Polish people and also understood the workings and minds of the Soviet enforcers.

One particular account comes to mind to clearly point out the situation at that time. John Paul as the Cardinal of Kradow was kept up to date about the plans of the authorities in regards to his flock. On one occasion, he was informed that the authorities wanted to reduce the number of Catholic Churches in Poland by 50%. So John Paul devised a plan. He immediately asked for a meeting with the top level authorities to talk about the Catholic Churches in Poland. The authorities were jubilant – those in charge believed this would be their chance to accomplish the goal. At the start of the meeting John Paul immediately asked for an additional 1000 Catholic Churches to be built right away. The authorities were upset and proceeded to do what they always did compromise – compromise! They negotiated John Paul down to 500 additional Catholic Churches to be built! Blessed John Paul was a genius and the authorities thought they won that battle!

Let us now share one more account before returning to the account of the audience: This account will give you great incites into the Polish mindset. The Catholics in Czestochowa wanted to have a procession with the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa. The authorities did not want to permit the procession, but also knew they had to obey the laws. Next the Catholics petitioned the authorities for a permit to process the Image in the back of a truck. The authorities were jubilant again, and this time they issued the permit, then refused to permit a driver for the truck. The Catholics simply placed two large wooden poles under the truck and carried the truck with the Image of Our Lady of Czestochowa processing through the streets as planned.

Now back to the audience. We had arranged to be in the Polish group for the audience and were very excited with the Archbishop asked us to step out of the crowd and go to a special place where Pope John Paul II would greet each one of us individually.

Our most memorable moment is when he spoke to each one of us individually. He told the four of us to continue to make television programs for Mother Angelica and EWTN Eternal Word Global Television Network. He stated that television and media was very important.

He stated over and over how important television and media was and we responded that we would heed his advice. Since then we have produced over 200 television ready programs and to this day we continue with that commitment.

The meeting was literally out of this world! Wow!!

We have never lost the determination to produce more media for evangelization.

Copyright (c) 2011 Bob and Penny Lord’s Site

About The Author

Bob and Penny Lord are renowned Catholic authors and television hosts on EWTN, Global Catholic television. They are prolific writers about the Catholic faith, especially the Saints for which they have been dubbed “experts on the Saints.” For more information about Saints in the Catholic Church like Blessed John Paul II go here

The author invites you to visit:

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Medjugore, Signs and Wonders

Deutsch: Maria, Mutter Jesu, Figur einer Grabl...

Virgin Mary © Raimond Spekking / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

by: Anthony Keith Whitehead

An article by Francis Frangipane has recently gone into circulation. It is a very balanced and well constructed article. The main purpose was to argue the need to put the word of the Bible before signs and wonders and to see the latter in the context of the former. He made a number of useful points and used some interesting concepts. It was of a quality one would expect from him no more than one would expect from him and it is not my purpose here to criticise this work.

However, there are some points which arise from what he said which do need attention. In pursuing his objective he, inevitably, made comments which were subservient to it and, not being of main concern, were not developed. But some of these do require further consideration.

Extra-biblical Phenomona

FP defines manifestations ‘which have no pattern in the Bible’ as extra-biblical. In these he includes the quaking of Quakers and the rolling of Holy Rollers. He then includes the claimed visitations of the mother of Jesus at Medjugore (in the former Yugoslavia) as belonging to the same category. This is surely a slip of thought.

Medjugore Patterns in the Bible?

A pattern consists of elements which can be regarded as representative of something and which are repeated in recognisable ways.

In fact, there are several well known instances in the Bible which constitute a pattern into which Medjugore fits very well. Visitations of angels abound, but there are other instances: Samuel appeared to Saul, albeit illegally (1 Samuel 28:8 – 20); Jacob had an encounter with a heavenly being (some would say divine) (Genesis 32. 23 – 33); there was a (probably divine) appearance to Joshua (Joshua 5. 13 – 15). Of course, we know of the appearance to Jesus himself of Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17. 1 – 8f) and there are many other examples one could quote.

Do these constitute a pattern into which the (claimed) appearances at Medjugore fit? Surely they do. The visions at Medjugore are different in only two respects: they concern a female rather than a male figure; and they have been repeated every night without fail over twenty-two years. Otherwise, and these are surely not grounds for exclusion, the Medjugore events fit into the biblical pattern extremely well.

True, as patterns go, are identical, but many have repetitions which include nonidentical elements. This is evident when we compare such biblical events as mentioned above. All have similarities of one kind or another but none can be said to be identical.

Medjugore, Quakers and Rollers.

The events at Medjugore cannot, therefore, properly be compared with extra-biblical charismatic-type events relating to such as Quakers and Rollers. Of course, Francis Frangipane was simply looking for some examples, and unfortunately picked on Medjugore. But, since the latter can be seen quite clearly to fit within the biblical category, it does demand further attention. Clearly, this kind of categorisation is permissive rather than conclusive of its genuineness: everything that looks like something biblical is not necessarily genuine.

At least because of its influence on very large numbers of people, not to say that God may be ‘reaching to these people through this manifestation,’ the Medjugore phenomenon warrants some further consideration.

Divine Or Demonic Origin?

FP says ‘I personally do not believe that this was (is?) Mary’. He does not say why but, as we have noted, thinks that God may be using it. But that is not really enough. It is either of satanic or of divine origin. One or the other. Ought we not to make an assessment of which?

Is there a possibility of satanic origin? That is doubtful when one considers the messages, and I have read many of them, which have been coming out of Medjugore since 1981. Jesus once asked “How can Satan drive out Satan?” because a kingdom or house cannot stand if divided against itself. Moreover, he added, very significantly, that, if Satan were to oppose himself, his end would have come (Mark 3. 23 – 26f).

Now, it may well be that Satan’s end is near, but it has clearly not arrived at the moment. Moreover, the essence of the conflict between God and Satan is, to coin a phrase, a struggle for the hearts and minds of God’s people. In that conflict the major weapon is a composite of words, concepts and ideas – a major weapon on both sides.

So what are the words (and fruits) coming out of Medjugore? Principally, and repeatedly over the past twenty-two years: love, peace and prayer – and not just any prayer, but sustain, repeated, serious, two, three hours of prayer every day; the establishments of prayer groups and a renewal by thousands of their life in Christ. Now, does that sound like a message from Satan? Hardly. For as yet, his kingdom has not fallen. Certainly he is a crafty strategist, but he would hardly take the risk of repeating these messages every day for so long! And to what end?

So phenomena at Medjugore is unlikely to be satanic in origin. That leaves a divine source. FP doubts it is Mary. But who else, then? Has God sent some angelic spirit to give such words of truth, over so long a period, by deceiving his people with a spirit instructed to claim to be the mother of Jesus but which it is not? That seems implausible, to put it at its lowest.

Hence, whether we like it or not, (but why do we not?) Mary seems the likeliest probability.

Now, although a lifelong Catholic, (albeit with strong Pentecostal symptoms) I am not what Catholics would call a ‘Marianist’ i.e. someone with a special devotion to Mary. And I have always been somewhat shy of the idea of ‘to Jesus through Mary’ – not because it cannot happen, because it can and has for many people, but there is always the risk getting ‘stuck’ on or at Mary. But maybe that implies that I think God cannot look after those who sincerely seek him.

However, we also have to take a wider view than Medjugore itself. It has been argued here that the (claimed) appearances there are not extra-biblical and that is not surrendered. But suppose they were, for arguments sake. While the Bible contains only truth, not all truth is contained within the Bible.How could it be when John’s gospels says that the world could not contain even everything which the disciples knew of Jesus alone (John 21. 25)? Being extra-biblical, as WP acknowledges, is not in itself a cause for condemnation. So…?

In order to accept that the appearances at Medjugore are genuine, one has to consider them within the wider framework of Marian appearances. Medjugore is only the latest in a long cycle of (claimed) appearences of Mary. Most non-Catholics will not be aware of even those in the modern era, which amount to at least eight major visitations, from Guadalope in Mexico in 1531, through Bernadette Soubirous in1858 at Lourdes in France, andKnock in Ireland in 1879, to Fatima in Spain, in 1917 (which led Catholics world-wide to pray over decades for the downfall of communism and the USSR). Not one is identical to another but there is a very strong pattern of similarities (which space here does not permit of description).

In every instance there have been signs and wonders over succeeding decades or centuries of continuing evangelistic and healing associations. Far too many to delineate here, but far too many to pass-off as ‘bunkum’ and, for reasons similar to those given above, too marked by the work of the Spirit to judge satanic in origin.

I have never been to Medjugore. Perhaps I should have. But, in FP’s t erms, I could have been found ‘running after signs’ when the ‘Toronto Blessing’ hit the north east of England at Sunderland some years ago. I hope I did not do it at the expense of the God’s word. But I could not accept the condemnations which some other Christians were making of it of it without investigation. I did get the ‘shakes’ as a result, although I could never see any real spiritual growth as a consequence.

There is, perhaps, too much suspicion among Christians of Christians in sectors other than one’s own (not that Francis Frangipane is guilty of this). God is too big even for the Bible, and certainly for our limited minds to comprehend. And it is surely an irresponsible Christian who thinks he knows the limits to the ways in which God acts among his people, or who thinks he can impose such limits.

About The Author

Anthony Keith Whitehead
Web Site:
Experience: Over twenty years in Christian healing, teaching and writing.
Qualifications: B.A., M.Phil., Cambridge University Certificate in Religious Studies.


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