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BRESCIA, Italy (ChurchMilitant.com) - After years of defying the Church, a former spiritual director to the alleged visionaries at Medjugorje has been excommunicated.
The diocese of Brescia, Italy made the announcement in a press release on Oct. 23: "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith formally communicated to the bishop of Brescia that on July 15, 2020, the congregation issued a declarative decree regarding Mr. Tomislav Vlasic. The decree declared that Mr. Vlasic incurred the penalty of excommunication."
As a Franciscan priest, Vlasic had previously served as spiritual advisor to the seers in the 1980s, until he was embroiled in a sexual scandal, fathering a child with a nun. He left Medjugorje to found the Queen of Peace community in Parma.
He later admitted on a video that he had been a member since 2002 of a movement called "The Central Nucleus," which combines Catholic teaching with astrology and New Age mysticism.
In 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith launched an investigation into Vlasic, after his bishop suspended him "for the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspicious mysticism, disobedience toward legitimately issued orders," as well as charges of sexual misconduct. The investigation resulted in his laicization in 2009 by Pope Benedict.
The Oct. 23 diocesan statement noted:
[T]hroughout these years, in the Diocese of Brescia and in other places, he continued to carry out the activity of an apostolate with individuals and groups, both at conferences and through the media; he continued to call himself a religious and priest of the Catholic Church, simulating the celebration of sacraments, which were not valid; he continued to cause serious scandal among the faithful, committing acts gravely detrimental to ecclesial communion and to obedience to church authorities.
The statement explains that the excommunication means "Mr. Vlasic is forbidden from taking part in any way as a minister of the celebration of the Eucharist or any other ceremony of public worship, of celebrating sacraments or sacramentals, of receiving the sacraments or exercising any kind of church office, ministry or function."
The diocese goes on to request that Vlasic be expelled from any public worship or Church events.
The Medjugorje phenomenon has been wracked by scandal and marked by continual disobedience to the local bishops by the Franciscans at the heart of the community.
In 1999, the Franciscans were expelled from the diocese of Mostar-Duvno by their bishop, Ratko Peric, as well as by the Father General of the Order of Friars Minor, for disobedience. The Vatican approved the joint expulsion.
The alleged apparitions have been occurring like clockwork in the small Bosnian town since 1981, when a group of children claimed they were receiving heavenly messages from Our Lady. She's reportedly been appearing to them regularly ever since, giving thousands of messages (some whose contents verge on heterodox) over the course of nearly four decades. The alleged apparitions have turned the once-sleepy Bosnian village into a travel destination for millions of pilgrims and tourists, launching the seers to international fame as they travel the globe on lucrative speaking tours.
At least three of the original six visionaries claim to still be receiving messages daily from Our Lady. Her appearances are so regular, in fact, that she seems to appear on command at the seers' whim.
As critics have noted, the messages include questionable doctrinal content, including the fact that "Our Lady" regularly prays the "Our Father" with the seers — something Our Lady refused to do at the Church-approved apparition of Fatima, because it includes the line "forgive us our trespasses." As the Church teaches, Mary is without sin, so she could not ask for forgiveness of her sins.
The Virgin also reportedly said, "All religions are equal before God" — espousing the heresy of indifferentism, explicitly condemned by the Church. She similarly remarked elsewhere, "It is you who are divided on this earth. The Muslims and the Orthodox, like the Catholics, are equal before my Son and before me, for you are all my children."
She is also said to have offered the very protestant remark: "I do not dispose of all graces. ... Jesus prefers that you address your petitions directly to him, rather than through an intermediary."
In 2017, after a lengthy investigation, the Vatican issued the results of its final report on Medjugorje, painting an overall negative picture. The final tally on authenticity of apparitions from 1982 onwards resulted in zero votes in favor, two votes against and 12 votes claiming no opinion could be given.
The first seven apparitions, which reportedly took place in 1981, received a generally positive response, with 13 members of the Vatican commission voting yes as to their supernatural nature, one voting no, and one vote suspended.
But the second phase — which include the 35 years from 1982 to the present day — received a strongly mixed reaction, including a final tally with zero votes in favor of the supernatural nature of the apparitions.
Pope Francis himself expressed skepticism about the authenticity of the "apparitions," saying to the press in 2017, "The report has its doubts, but personally, I am a little worse. I prefer Our Lady as mother, our mother, and not Our Lady as head of the post office who sends a message at a stated time."
"This isn't Jesus' mother," he continued. "And these alleged apparitions don't have much value. I say this as a personal opinion, but it is clear. Who thinks that Our Lady says, 'Come, because tomorrow at this time I will give a message to that seer?' No!"
Despite the pope's personal skepticism, he authorized pilgrimages to Medjugorje in 2019 as a pastoral nod to the faithful who continue to visit the site. Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Holy See Press Office, was careful to clarify that care must be given "to prevent these pilgrimages from being interpreted as an authentication of known events, which still require examination by the Church."