Medjugorje and “The Maciel Effect”

Many adherents of the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje to whom I have spoken personally have invoked the (also alleged) fondness and support of Blessed Pope John Paul II for it. “The Pope was in favor of Medjugorje,” they reason, “and given what a good and holy pontiff he was, it’s highly unlikely that Medjugorje could be anything other than an authentic Marian apparition. And, conversely, it’s an even stronger reason for believing in Medjugorje.”
This is a form of what’s known as an a fortiori argument. For example, one might say, “If I think that Medjugorje is true, that’s all well and good, but if even the pope thinks it’s true, then it’s even more likely that it is true.”
Similar reasoning can be seen on sundry pro-Medjugorje websites, in which such-and-such a bishop or cardinal is touted as believing that the alleged apparitions are authentic, or such-and-such a theologian is extolled because he has declared that Medjugorje “has the ring of truth,” etc., etc.
Strictly speaking, there is nothing wrong at all with arguing for something along these lines. We make use of valid arguments like this all the time (“Grandma always said that eating apples would keep you healthy, but if even expert scientists confirm this to be true, how much more so should we take Grandma’s advice seriously,” etc.). The problem, though, at least for those who follow Medjugorje, is that the commonly employed argument, based on the widely held belief that Pope Saint John Paul II strongly favored Medjugorje, skates dangerously close to the edge of the logical fallacy of weak induction. I’ll explain what I mean.
As those who follow this blog know, I am an open-minded skeptic when it comes to Medjugorje. I see too many problematic aspects of the alleged apparitions — some, seriously problematic, such as the incitements to disobedience from whoever or whatever is dispensing the messages (for more on that, read my comments beneath this post) — to be convinced that it is an authentic Marian apparition. I realize, of course, and freely admit, that I may in fact be wrong in my skepticism. I simply may not have properly understood or interpreted the data.
As I have said before, if I am wrong about this, and if the Medjugorje phenomena are truly the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, then I will rejoice to have my error corrected. I mean that sincerely. But that’s beside the point for the purpose of this post.
What I am driving at, as the title of this article suggests, is that those who attempt to bolster their own faith in Medjugorje, and that of others, by using the argument about Pope John Paul II accepting its authenticity (take note that many now seek to press Pope Benedict XVI into service using this same tactic, as well) are setting themselves up for a serious difficulty.
It is a well known fact that Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory, was a stalwart supporter of Fr. Marcial Maciel, the disgraced, recently deceased founder of the Legionaries of Christ religious order and its lay arm, Regnum Christi. I can only assume that John Paul was truly ignorant of the many frauds Fr. Maciel had perpetrated for decades. How it is that the pope did not know the truth about that dastardly man is beyond me, but I’m not focusing on that question here. It’s sufficient to remind ourselves that the charism of papal infallibility does not extend to the pope’s private, personal opinions about people and things.
As we now know, Pope John Paul II was utterly wrong about Fr. Maciel. He had completely misjudged him. Like a whole lot of other people, including a few popes who came before him, John Paul was conned by a consummate con-man. His approval of the vaunted Mexican priest was in complete error. The gestures of honor and confidence with which he generously betokened Fr. Maciel over many years were completely undeserved. His famous comment that Maciel was “an efficacious guide to youth” could not have been more hideously incorrect.
We know that now. We know now the sordid details of many bad things which Fr. Maciel perpetrated over his lifetime. Since his demise, they have continued to belch forth from the grave like a sulfurous semi-dormant volcano that will emit its noxious fumes for a long time to come.
Please note: I am not equating Medjugorje with Fr. Maciel. I am not suggesting any kind of similarity whatsoever between the two. Nor am I in any way impugning or disrespecting or trying to besmirch the memory of Blessed Pope John Paul II. I believe he was a good and holy man who was deceived by a duplicitous, wicked man.
And that’s what I hope all Medjugorje supporters who tout the alleged approval of Pope John Paul II will see and understand.
All the stories I have heard from Medjugorje supporters about how Pope John Paul II favored or even personally believed in its authenticity have all been apocryphal. I am not aware of the Holy Father ever publicly commenting, one way or the other, whether verbally or in writing, on Medjugorje.
Sure, there are numerous instances of private comments alleged to have been made by JPII about Medjugorje, but none that I am aware of which have been verified with documentation, such as video or audio recordings. Peruse these comments, and you’ll see they are all third-hand. He said he said he said, etc.
But even that is not the main point here. Let’s say for the sake of discussion that every single last one of those alleged remarks made by John Paul II really did come from his lips. Let’s assume that not only did he say those things, but that he was also convinced that Medjugorje is authentic. And, a fortiori, if even Pope John Paul II himself was a fervent believer in Medjugorje, how much more should we regard it to be true. Right?
Wrong. That’s a bad argument to be using in this case. Why? Because even saintly popes can be seriously wrong in their personal opinions.

We might think of this as the “Maciel Effect,” which applies to Medjugorje and can be expressed in the form of the following argument:

“If even a good and holy pope can be deceived and be utterly wrong in his sincere personal opinion about the character of Fr. Maciel, then how much more so is it possible that you could be sincerely wrong in your personal opinions about Medjugorje?”

Remember: Pope John Paul II was convinced that Fr. Maciel was a holy priest, an exemplary and faithful Catholic, and “an efficacious guide to youth.”
He could not have been more wrong about that.


  1. mgseamanjr

    By the way, Patrick Coffin need not "shake in his boots" when he can count on my critique disappearing. 😉

  2. Patrick Madrid

    Okay, you're comment did finally appear. Must be a some kind of system delay. In any case, I very rarely delete posts, and only then when someone goes over the line with ad hominem comments, or spam links, profanity, etc. As I say, it's rare that I take that step, and I honestly do not recall ever seeing any problems like that with your posts. I'm not sure what caused the problem, but at least you know that you are welcome to post here in rebuttal to what I or Patrick the Greater have posted.I've been participating in the public-debate arena for nearly 25 years now, and I am used to taking shots from those who don't like me or don't agree with me (or both, as it sometimes happens). I don't find anything here intellectually uncomfortable, but even if I did, I would never delete a post because I thought the poster made such a strong and persuasive case that I was unable to answer it cogently. I can at least assure you of that.We may disagree, but let's agree to keep it friendly and, as I'm sure you'll agree, the discussions here will be much better and more profitable for it.

  3. mgseamanjr

    Patrick, for the record, there are at least three of my quotations deleted. These are:1. My Part I from April 6 at 4:05 (addressed to you)2. My Part II from April 7 at 9:48 (addressed to Patrick Coffin)3. Another posting of mine that was quoted in full by "Daniel" on April 16 at 11:17 but which was later deleted. All the reads now is this:Daniel: I somehow had missed this post until after I heard Patrick's appearance on Kresta yesterday, while having participated in previous posts. I noticed mgseamanjr said…<>The <> are now standing in for my (deleted) quote.Since my (deleted) comments were originally posted and discussed for at least a week by others, is it not reasonable to assume they were selectively deleted by someone? Clearly this is not an error of my critique somehow ending up in a spam folder. You state that it was not you who deleted them so either you have forgotten or someone else is deleting comments on your website. You poke fun at my stating my comments were deeply critical but what I meant to say was that they were not personal attacks deserving of deletion but sound analysis. Do you care to offer a better explanation of what happened to my comments? In response to your comment that Patrick Coffin is quaking in his boots, I would only say that there is no reason for him to fear getting intellectually dismantled when he can count on the critique that does so to mysteriously disappear. It is impossible now for the reader of your website to judge for himself who made the better points and, worse, one is led along an edited path to a certain view point. You write that you do not care what I think but you should take care not to sully your own well deserved reputation with some selective editing of remarks that make your position or postings, or those of your friends, look bad.

  4. Davide

    Dear Patrick,Although one should not based one's entire position on JPII's support of Medjugorje, it nevertheless can be used as one piece of evidence to build a greater case for the authenticity of Medjugorje. Alone, on its own merit, it may not be case-winner. But when it is combined with many like arguments, such as Mother Teresa's known support for, and even prayers to Our Lady of Medjugorje (also documented by eye witnesses such as Dr. Mark Miravalle), and Fr. Gabrielle Amorth's support as well, stating that Medjugorje is a "spiritual fortress against Satan", as well as the 1998 CDC statement allowing pilgrimage's to Medjugorje and restraining to over-arching rigor of the local Bishop, stating that his personal judgements "are and will remain his personal opinions", as well as the obedience of the visionaries to their spiritual directors and to the bishop, along with numerous other pieces of evidence, a case can legitimately be built for Medjugoje. So I am not clear why you posted the above article….It seems to me only to serve to stigmatize any discussion of the JPII with Medjugorje.

  5. kentuckyliz

    People I know who are Medj fans keep whispering threats of the coming Church of Medjugorje. OK, denomination #38,849. See ya.I saw Ivan the visionary in Louisville KY many years ago–dressed in a shiny suit and cufflinks and gold chains and slicked back hair, with a blonde bombshell hottie wife. He was living a far higher lifestyle than the humble middle class middle aged women who made up his audience. I didn't buy the apparition for a minute.Same ladies from my church went up to the Holy Spirit Center in Cincinnati for the Falmouth visionary's scheduled performance. They saw magic lights dancing everywhere! We were standing outside a large building at night and a huge crowd of people were taking flash photos! It was the flashing of the cameras! My my these people were so gullible.It makes me understand the historical attractions of gnosticism though. People have spiritual pride and want to be the special insiders with special knowledge, call it Messages if you wish.Now you can't swing a cat without hitting an apparitionist.As my dad said about Medj, the Virgin doesn't know when to shut up.

  6. Garyb444

    As someone who used to be involved with New Age, the daily messages from Mary at Medjugorje remind me very much of what is called “Channeling.” Messages received by someone that are supposed to be from some entity on the other side. They usually publish these daily messages. And they sound very similar to the messages received from Medjugorje.

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