Are bishops against the supernatural?
It's like clockwork. In some part of the nation there will be a report of a weeping icon or an apparition or some other miracle and the local bishop will either ignore the situation, express immediate skepticism, or even condemn it. In many cases the hierarchy is tougher on mystical phenomena -- phenomena that in some cases are at the very foundation of Christianity -- than the secular media.
The instances are legion. Last fall, when a statue of St. Philomena exuded tears in Michigan, authorities rushed to indicate that they would have nothing to do with it, while in Arizona a bishop stopped a priest who wanted to exhibit a host on which an image of the Virgin Mary miraculously appeared. In New York State a priest hid a Communion host that had materialized on the hands of a woman in a chapel for fear that crowds would descend. And back in Michigan another bishop forced a priest to destroy a host that exuded blood and then turned into what looked like an actual flesh-and-blood heart.
In recent years apparitions have been rejected in at least half a dozen states and any number of other nations.
What goes on here? Why is the Church so skittish? Is there anything it will accept?
The faithful can't be blamed for asking such questions, and much of it is rooted in Medjugorje. There, despite overwhelming evidence (literally millions of extraordinary testimonies), a local bishop tried to condemn the apparitions and was stopped only when the Vatican intervened to save the situation. Since that time, apparition after apparition has fallen to the wayside due to negative rulings by the local bishop, and because of what happened at Medjugorje, many of the faithful assume that such bishops are similarly in error.
But are they? Do the local hierarchies have it wrong? Or do they know something we don't?
Much of the problem is in training. Many of today's priests have no background in how to approach the supernatural. The study of mystical theology has been stripped from the seminaries and replaced by the cold spiritless practices of psychology -- which tends to treat claims of the supernatural as an illusion. Our priests have been raised on mechanistic philosophy. Some tell us they received no more than an hour of formal instruction on phenomena like demonic possession during their entire time at the seminary!
At seminary and then in the "logical," scientific world, they're immersed in an intellectuality that stifles the spirit.
No doubt about that. But does that mean bishops are always wrong? Hardly. In fact, often the issue goes deeper, and we have seen cases where the bishop was right despite widespread popular perception. While in the wake of what happened at Medjugorje it's easy to assume that every bishop who rejects an apparition is incorrect, that's not usually the case in situations where bishops actually set down formal rulings. Indeed, bishops have a special anointing despite the scientism that has been heaped on them, and this anointing often allows them to spot higher forms of deception. They are also privy to "inside" information or advised by priests who have listened to alleged seers in Confession (although this is not to say that the seal of Confession is broken).
The bottom line is that bishops must be obeyed and are often more correct than we know but at the same time may need to catch up on mystical theology. The root of Christianity is in the supernatural nature of Christ, Who most powerfully showed Himself precisely through the supernormal: healings, exorcisms, transfiguration, miracles, supernormal knowledge, and in the end apparitions. That tells us something. It tells us that we're the mystical body of Christ -- not the intellectual one.
E-mail this site to a friend
Return to home page