Responding to those statements in order: Maybe; Sort of; Possibly.
There are some facts involved in what promises to be on tabloid covers and talk shows soon.
Purported Medjugorje Apparitions (Still) Under Investigation, Priest LaicizedFather Tomislav Vladic asked permission to be laicized - to have his priestly authority removed. The Vatican granted his request.
And, yes: the laicization of Fr. Tomislav Vlasic does seem to have something to do with the ongoing investigation of the purported ("alleged" in Western newspaperese) Marian apparitions at Medjugorje, Bosnia.
This milestone in Tomislav Vlasic's career, and the situation at Medjugorje is in this morning's Daily Mail Online. I've excerpted the juicier parts of the article:
"The Pope has defrocked the priest at the centre of claims that the Virgin Mary has been appearing in the Bosnian town of Medjugorje.I've made the point before, that secular publications don't have the best record for accurate reporting on matters concerning the Catholic Church. (September 16, 2008)
"The Vatican stripped Father Tomislav Vladic of his priest status after an investigation into growing concerns over the alleged apparitions.
"Father Vlasic was named as the 'creator' of the phenomenon by Pavao Zanic, the local bishop at the time the apparitions began in 1981...."
"...The Vatican also began an inquiry into claims he was guilty of sexual immorality after he made a nun pregnant.
The defrocking was secretly signed off by the Pope in March...."
"...It emerged yesterday that he has chosen to leave the priesthood and his order, a move which has brought the investigation to an abrupt halt...."
"...The seers have grown wealthy as a result of their claims – and so has their town, which has boomed as a result of the 'Madonna gold rush'.
"Some today own smart executive houses with immaculate gardens, double garages and security gates, and one has a tennis court.
"They also own expensive cars and have married, one of them, Ivan Dragicevic, to an American former beauty queen...."
(Daily Mail Online)
Not that the Daily Mail Online is in the same class as the Star: but I think that, between a desire to publish attention-grabbing headlines and an unconscious ignorance of Catholic beliefs and practices, secular journalists are likely to blunder when covering events which involve the Church.
Whaddaya Mean, "Unconscious"?By "unconscious ignorance of Catholic beliefs and practices," I mean that secular journalists - as well as some Catholics - are clueless when it comes to what the Catholic Church teaches, and how we operate.
Having a lack of specific knowledge is no problem for journalists, or anyone else: as long as the person is aware of that lack. A reporter, writing about Zoroastorianism, might not be familiar with the teachings of Zoroaster, or just what was in the Avesta. No problem: there are reference materials available which should give the reporter enough background information to get by.
As I see it, problems start when a journalist, or anyone else, has a knowledge deficit - and doesn't know it. There's quite a great deal about Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, that 'everybody knows' - that just ain't so.
One Catholic-oriented website (Catholic Online) used the Daily Mail article as the basis of it's coverage, so I'll take some points in the order that they appeared in the Daily Mail Online.
"The Pope has defrocked..."The term is "laicized," which is pretty close to "defrocked," although a bit more specific to Catholic procedures. The verb "to laicize" means to "reduce to lay status" (Princeton's WordNet) I could quibble about using "defrocked" in this context - but more of the Daily Mail's readers probably understand "defrocked," so it's probably good sense to stick with a familiar vocabulary.
The Vatican's Been Investigating the Purported Medjugorje ApparitionsThis is standard operating procedure for the Church: It would be shocking if the Catholic Church didn't investigate whether or not someone claiming to have talked with Mary was telling the truth, the victim of a hoax, or in need of therapy. As for the bickering between priest and bishop that's implied: So far, all Catholics have been and are human beings. We don't always get along. That's the way it is.
Sex! Oh, Wow! Sex!Remember what I said, about Catholics being human beings? We're also sexual creatures - and sometimes we do things with our sexuality that aren't right.
People following in the tradition of Maria Monk notwithstanding, the Catholic Church doesn't maintain nunneries to provide harems for priests. We take the idea of celibacy rather seriously: and in a case where a priest is accused of making a woman pregnant, an investigation would be in order.
The Perfidy of the Pedophile PriestsFor anyone who may have been isolated from the rest of the world for the last couple of decades: There has been a scandal in America, about a few priests who raped quite an impressive number of boys.
Those pedophile priests shouldn't have done what they did, and the Church is dealing with them.
"The defrocking was secretly signed off by the Pope"For people who really believe that there's a global conspiracy involving Jesuit assassins, and that the Vatican has a vast secret library that nobody ever gets to see except the conspirators: this sort of thing 'proves' their point.
For many others, the idea of 'secret signings' and shadowy intrigue are, well, intriguing.
Okay: the Pope didn't make a public announcement about allowing a priest to withdraw from the priesthood. Some American cultures are a bit over-enthusiastic (I think) about "privacy," so consider the sort of fuss that could have been raised if the Vatican hadn't kept Tomislav Vlasic's change of status quiet. I could be wrong, but I think that headlines about "public humiliation" might be popping up about now.
"The seers have grown wealthy as a result of their claims..."Yeah. This is one reason why the Church investigates claims about apparitions.
It's a fact: A whole lot of 'Jesus junk' has been sold in and around Medjugorje; quite a few books about Medjugorje have been sold - for a profit; and news outlets have used Medjugorje in headlines, to get readers.
Hello? If there's a profit to be made, someone's going to try to make a profit: whether it's Michael Jackson's death; or a purported Marian apparition.
But wait! Aren't religious people supposed to be poor? You know: despising the vain trappings of the world and all that?
Louie: The Saint Who Owned FranceYour history text probably called him King Louis IX of France. If you've got a book about saints, you may know him as Saint Louis the Confessor. Either way, he was king of France for part of the 13th century. A rather conventional biography of Saint Louis the Confessor starts with "In Louis IX of France were united the qualities of a just and upright sovereign, a fearless warrior, and a saint...." (EWTN)
As king, Louis IX of France had the sort of authority over, and control of, French land that makes it not altogether unreasonable to say that he owned France. Whatever, he wasn't exactly poor.
I've also been taught, and believe, that being stinking rich brings with it certain opportunities for practicing holiness. They're not the same opportunities as you get with being poor: but Saint Louis the Confessor made pretty good use of what he had - and is recognized as a saint.
Back to MedjugorjePeople who have used the purported Medjugorje apparitions strictly as a way to make money aren't, I think, making good use of their opportunities.
The Daily Mail Online says: "...The seers have grown wealthy as a result of their claims...." I think it makes a difference, whether they tried to become wealthy, and just what they did to obtain the wealth. There isn't enough detail in the news article for me to go 'tsk, tsk' or 'good for them.'
Bottom line: Although people in some religious orders take vows of poverty, it's okay as a rule for a Catholic to be rich - or poor - in terms of material things.
One of the Medjugorje "Seers" Married - the Horror! the Horror!Remember what I said, about human beings being sexual creatures? Part of what I've been taught, and believe, is that God made human beings. Also, that God doesn't make defective products. Yes, evil exists - but that's a matter involving free will - and a topic for other posts.
Sex itself is built into humanity, at the cellular level. It's literally in our genes. And yes: sex is okay, although the Catholic Church does have some rules about what we're supposed to do with it.
Let's put in this way: Marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic Church, and we're supposed to have sex if we're married.
And, although most of us haven't married "an American former beauty queen," I haven't seen anything in the rules saying that Catholics are supposed to avoid marrying attractive people.
I'm Not Happy About This News: But I'm Not Shocked or Disheartened, EitherI've been following the purported Marian apparitions at Medjugorje for quite a few years, and I'm not at all happy to read the latest developments. However, I was aware that the Church was still investigating the purported apparitions, and hadn't heard anything about their being approved: so this is just one more piece of news to come out of Bosnia.
Disappointed? Yes. But there's nothing here to shake my faith. The purported Medjugorje apparitions may be the real deal, or they may not. I don't have enough information about what's been going on in and around Medjugorje, Bosnia, to have an informed opinion, one way or another.
It would be nifty-keen if the Church does declare that they're in the same class as, say, the Lourdes event - but I'm willing to wait for an official decision, one way or another.
- "'Poisoned chalice? Swine flu hits church wine' - Not Exactly"
(July 23, 2009)
- "The Pope: Looks Like Saint Paul is in the Tomb of Saint Paul"
(June 29, 2009)
- "Mother Teresa of Calcutta: She's No Princess Di"
(May 8, 2009)
- "The Pope, Angola, and the News: No Wonder 'Everybody Knows' What Those Catholics Are Like"
(March 22, 2009)
- "Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas: Nancy Pelosi Isn't Alone"
(March 8, 2009)
- "Catholic Beliefs and Practices: Don't Believe Everything You Read"
(September 16, 2008)
- "Pope Benedict laicizes priest connected to alleged Medjugorje apparitions"
Catholic News Agency (July 29, 2009)
- "Pope Laicizes Priest Involved with Purported Apparitions of Mary at Medjugorje"
Catholic Online (JUly 29, 2009)
- "Pope defrocks priest over 'visions' of the Virgin Mary"
Daily Mail Online (July 29, 2009)
- "Saint Louis - Confessor, King of France-1214-1270"
Feast day: August 25
"Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc., via EWTN
A tip of the hat to Roseblue, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this news.