More Than Questionable
One objection to Medjugorje deals with the money made by the villagers for providing the pilgrims room and board. The theory goes something like this. The early years were okay when the pilgrims piled into the homes of villagers or whatever lodging they could provide. This was acceptable because no money was involved.
However within six years, the total number of visitors was about ten million, a large percentage of those needing lodging that was provided by the villagers. But no money was involved. Of course, that is being facetious, but the theory doesn’t object to the compensated hospitality thus far.
Time marched on and the people kept coming and roomed under these conditions. It was about then that the villagers began building to better accommodate the influx of pilgrims. This is problematic because money was now involved. So depending on the version of the theory, the first years were good but then turned sour, or it was only then that its true color showed.
Let us examine the situation more closely. By the time of contention, the whole village was more or less geared towards supplying for the pilgrims. They cooked and cleaned for them, leaving little time for anything else. Yet, the crowds increased and more room was needed, and actually more suitable space than what they could provide.
So they built, adding on to their house or building a separate though often adjoining structure. This was typically done in stages, building upwards one floor at a time over the years. These were nothing fancy, but it was better than sleeping in someone’s living room.
Let us now consider the morality of this action. The first possibility is the villagers were quite generous to provide such hospitality. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find another example of a small town dropping everything, opening their homes to multitudes of visitors, for years on end, basically becoming their servants. Here, the building phase was simply an extension of that generosity.
The second possibility is they were only in it for the money. While that might have been true for some, the majority charged modest rates and lived simple lives, not becoming rich by any stretch of the imagination.
The critics will not admit the first possibility, and the second they can’t prove because the facts get in the way. This brings up the third possibility as expounded by the theory: their action is “questionable.” Why? Because money was involved whereas an authentic apparition will not have such profiteering. Thus, Medjugorje is “questionable” on this account. This theory has been propagated for many years, and is still around today.
But let’s go a step deeper and explore the alternatives. There were few hotels at this point, and they could not handle the large crowds. Something else was needed, unless one insists the villagers didn’t have the right to privacy in their own homes.
One alternative would have been for the villagers to throw up their hands and let the pilgrims fend for themselves, the result being, say, tent cities. But their land or the surrounding land would be needed, which entails rent for fair use, plus the need for water and latrines. But this basically shifts the problem while leaving the conditions more primitive, and it gets below 40 °F in the winter.
Furthermore, that basically contradicts the alleged messages which say the Blessed Mother is coming to convert the entire world wherein the chosen village didn’t even remain hospitable. As the villagers believed and thought this was their role, they wouldn’t have considered that. And if it wasn’t their role, whose role was it?
Another alternative would have been the creation of a non-profit entity to own the hotels, shifting lodging from homes to hotels over time. But people would be needed to run them, which leaves the villagers, unless one insists they didn’t have the right to work in their own town. While this alternative is practical, it effectively would turn the villagers into tenant farmers.
A quick survey of Catholic social teaching is in order. Private ownership of the “hotels” is perfectly acceptable here as the common good is served. Furthermore, as Rerum Novarum points out in the context of land, better care is provided as opposed to by a stranger, and further it is “just and right that the results of labor should belong to those who have bestowed their labor.”
The principal of subsidiarity is also upheld with the provided lodging being privately run. This won’t be analyzed in depth, but a cursory consideration suggests the principals of participation, solidarity, universal destination of goods and human dignity are all equally or better served with villagers running the show.
A variant of the prior alternative is the gradual shift from homes to commercial hotels as investors moved in and built. But the social teachings considerations mentioned above apply there as well.
Further details are beyond the scope of this essay, but it brings up a very important point. While not exhaustive, the preceding strongly suggests there is not a more appropriate alternative to what the villagers did. And if there is, what is it?
Over the years, those adhering to this theory haven’t said much beyond: it is “questionable.” But if they insist on that golden criteria, should they be subject to it as well? Namely, shouldn’t they be made accountable and be forced to offer a solution where: no money is involved? For if unable to propose a better alternative, their “objections” are completely without reason and deeply hypocritical. This would render it to a propaganda theory that is more than questionable.
But let’s leave the miraculous multiplication of motels for the moment, and look at the Church’s investigation into this. Reason now rears its head as their focus is on the visionaries, not the village, though many of the critics acknowledge that as well. While the village’s response is not without import, it is primarily the visionaries that are being examined on this issue.
Yet, there remains the fact: “Ivan owns a hotel.” This is quite startling at first, and of course, is an issue demanding close scrutiny, which can be presumed the Ruini Commission has performed.
But before considering the visionaries here (and it’s not just Ivan), let’s take another look at the villagers. The preceding analysis demonstrates the initial building by the villagers (starting around 1987) was morally acceptable, in this author’s opinion. They did what they thought was best. And to date, no one seems to have provided a concrete argument of any impropriety. Finally, if a more appropriate alternative doesn’t exist, i.e. a better alternative, then what they did was actually the best.
A truly rigorous proof in such a domain is impossible because the concepts and causal relationships cannot be rigorously defined. Yet, a model theoretic approach (principally examining the substantive possibilities) is practical. This would provide a proof, one way or the other, regarding this question, it being about as rigorous as possible. But experts in theology, social justice and morality are needed, which is beyond the expertise here.
Yet, the above outline of alternatives does yield a quasi-rigorous proof that their action was indeed the best. This is the conclusion that will be maintained here, though admittedly it is partly conjecture.
However, several interesting corollaries now spring forth. The first deals with calling the building phase “questionable.” Calling the best possible behavior into question is not criticism but a veiled attack. As the internal dialectic is so subtle that it breezes by so readily, it is fair to raise the question as to the origin of such a deception.
Note that this holds true even to the charge of “questionable” if a valid alternative cannot be cited. For if the backseat driver can’t give better direction, and not even give any indication why a turn is wrong, even with years of hindsight, then insinuating that an action could be immoral is not valid criticism. For if they can’t explain what is wrong, how can they expect someone else to have known better? Further, even if a better alternative does exist, there still is the question of why the villager should have seen it.
The second corollary deals with the building of hotels (pansions often being a better term) as the established practice in the village. As this is the best possible practice, and the visionaries are villagers as well, applying the social principal of participation yields an interesting result. Namely, would it not be more questionable if Ivan did not own a hotel? Was he lazy and didn’t help out with the social needs of the town? Again, this still carries weight even if a better alternative exists.
But time marches on. What is best in 1987 is not necessarily best in 1997 as conditions change, such as the increased degree of sophistication. For example, one of the alleged visionaries, Marija Pavlović, founded an association (the USA analog being a non-profit organization) in 2010. Two years later the doors open for the Magnificat, which has 54 rooms for lodging, a large conference room, a chapel and rooms for seminars.
Hence, more sophisticated business practices now exist, which makes analyzing all “substantive possibilities” harder. But it is contended that the prior reasoning does add another ten or so “good years” to Medjugorje’s record, which includes the hotel building by the visionaries.
On the other hand, Ivan also has an $800,000 house in Massachusetts, evidently paid for. This is not a dwelling of the rich and famous. Many people have nicer homes, but the vast majority have considerably less. Ivan is married with four children so a good sized house is reasonable. And at least two other persons live there so it is housing eight. Yet, it still seems a bit much to apply the modest adjective to, though local housing prices need to be considered as well.
Interestingly, Ivan says the Virgin asked him to write a book about the disease of materialism, to be released upon Her request. There is a great danger of setting one’s own salary. With the social justice principles being exhausted, another principal for his defense seems necessary here. How about this? God doesn’t choose the qualified, rather He qualifies the chosen.
It is reported that papal spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, has indicated “the visionaries are in need of better guidance.” This recommendation is “more than questionable” as arguably it is about ten years late in coming. But the Church usually takes a hands off policy until an apparition is approved, resulting in alleged visionaries being left to their own devices.
But the review process is in full swing, whereupon the whole boatload of complexities and considerations will be dumped on the desk of Pope Francis. And then the Holy Father will announce his decision, which will come soon enough.