From the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle THE Catholic Herald seems unfair in the way it allows writers to ignore the official guidance of the Catholic Church on Medjugorje.
On June 19 you closed a correspondence on the lawfulness of pilgrimages to Medjugorje and on the Catholic attitude to the claims being made for it. You have broken you own rule more than once since then.
Now (Catholic Herald, October 23) you have given Fr Richard Foley a generous 42 column inches to put forward yet again what he and Archbishop Franic of Split have been saying for years.
The official view of the Church was published by the Yugoslav Bishops' Conference on January 29 1987 with the agreement of the Holy Father's own Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It announced that a national Yugoslav commission had been set up to continue the inquiry into the investigation of the events of Medjugorje.
It stated quite simply and clearly that "while awaiting the results of the commission's investigation and the Church's investigation and the Church's judgement, pastors and faithful should observe an attitude of prudence customary in such situations. Therefore it is not permissible to organise pilgrimages and other manifestations motivated by the supernatural character attributed to the facts of Medjugorje".
Fr Foley wrote (Catholic Herald, March 20) that I was misinformed when I quoted this. He claimed that Cardinal Zuharic, Archbishop of Zagreb, had said that private pilgrimages are not forbidden. However, when he wrote to the Cardinal, he said that he could not comment on the official statement without the approval of the Bishops. He did say, however, that the former distinction in favour of private pilgrimages had gone, and that "the Church does not want its decision to be prejudged".
Interviewed in a private capacity, Archbishop Franic is reported as saying that all Catholics may go on private pilgrimage to Medjugorje, that they (including priests) may encourage others to go and that it is lawful "to practice and promote devotion to Our Lady of Medjugorje and to inform others about events and messages associated with Medjugorje". Your readers will have noticed that this unauthorised interpretation is at variance with the official statement of the Yugoslav bishops, made with the agreement of Rome.
Archbishop Franic also issued on September 23 a statement after a "session of the Croationspeaking section of the Bishops' Conference of Yugoslavia". That group has no authority to speak for the Conference and, in fact, the Archbishop does not claim to speak for the group; the view on private pilgrimage is "my own interpretation" and the document is "a directive for my faithful". His statement is not as clear as his interview; it even seems to contradict it when he writes that "it is not proper to speak about the messages of Medjugorje from the altar".
I have to say, with some regret, that the official view of the Catholic Church on Medjugorje is not contained in the reported statements but in the official statement issued in January by the Yugoslav Bishops' Conference with the agreement of the Holy See. Hugh Lindsay