Visionaries or Heretics: Knock

In Ireland, there is an intriguing story unfolding at the established Marian shrine of Knock, where Mary is said to have appeared in a vision in… Since then, promoted by the Irish clergy, it has been a regular site of Catholic pilgrimage and devotion: as well as a useful source of income for the tourist trade. . Now, it is again a site of pilgrimage for some of the devout – but is encountering strong opposition from the clerical establishment. Early in October, a self-proclaimed visionary and spiritual healer announced that he had been seeing visions of the Virgin, who had told him she would be appearing at Knock on three distinct dates this year: October 5th, October 30th, and December 8th. With the news spread by internet, large crowds appeared on both the first two dates: many were disappointed, some claim to have seen the sun break through the clouds, “dancing” in the sky. Coleman himself, and a second visionary, claim to have seen theVirgin, just as she promised, and to have been given messages for the world.

knock pilgrims

Knock pilgrims:. (Picture: Independent)

The church establishment are not happy: they have denounced the claims, and stated that this expectation of Marian apparitions is “unhealthy”. Why this dismissive approach, when so many clergy actively encourage pilgrimage to Marian shrines, as they have done to this one in the past? Is it because the message this time is critical of the Church’s priests?

Mary, in her latest apparition, told him she is very angry: “She will rock the foundations of the church if the people do not listen, from Rome back down to where we are, down to Knock. -Coleman, after the first apparition on October 11th “I love all my children unconditionally with my immaculate heart, especially all my priests who are not listening to my call. I ask all my children to pray for my priests. Pray. Pray. Pray.” the second visionary, Keith Henderson. after the second apparition on October 31st

Oh, and she also wants the unification of the church:

“I am the immaculate heart, Mother of all my children, Mother of all God’s children. I am the Immaculate Conception. I am Queen of the heavens. I am Queen of the Earth. “I will glorify my father’s name through prayer from the people who come to pray. I ask for conversion many times. I ask for peace. I ask for prayers every day for my son’s apostles. I pray that they will listen. I pray and I ask for unification of the faith across the globe. -Coleman

What is to be made of this? Are these genuine, is Coleman deluded, or even just an opportunist? Press reports from the ground give conflicting impressions, and I have no intention of passing any armchair judgment. If you want to make up your own mind, ahve a look at some of the many press reports. I would like to share though, some pertinent observations on alleged visionaries and church reactions in general. I’d like to begin by pointing to an obvious similarity to the situation at the much better known, well established site at Medjugorge, where the Church establishment has similarly washed its hands of the place. Jayden Cameron at Gay Mystic last month highlighted the contrast between the church’s dismissal of Medjugorge with its endorsement of the much lesser known Garabandal, pointing out that at the latter, the Church was benefitting financially.

The essential message of Garabandal, apart from the now familiar call to penance and conversion, is respect for the Eucharist, reverence for priests and the necessity of ‘obedience to the Church,’ making this Marian visitation more than palatable to the Vatican leadership of the Church. This is in stark contrast to the ecumenical message of Medjugorje, which originated in Communist Yugoslavia in the 80’s and witnessed to the necessity for respect and tolerance between religions, particularly Islam and Christianity, some years before the outbreak of the horrific religious/ethnic wars of the 90’s.

An observation in the comments that Mary at Medjugorge appeared to be specifically including Muslims in her prayers, led to a series of later posts at gay Mystic and at Enlightened Catholicism on parallel traditions of “White Lady” apparitions and assistance in other faiths, from native Americans to Eastern religions. Does the reference in the latest message from Knock to “all” her children include non-Christians? Not too favourable to the Vatican, then. No wonder they’re upset. Next, consider the timing, a few months after the publication of the Ryan report into clerical abuse of Irish children, and just ahead of a further report on the episcopal cover-up which protected the culprits for decades (this report is expected any time soon). her reproach of her priests did not single out the Irish clergy, but that is how an Irish audience will have interpreted it. Again, no wonder the clerical establishment are not impressed. All of this fits a pattern. There have been far more alleged Marian apparitions than most people realise. Many of these are patent nonsense, others are less easily dismissed. Very few are endorsed by the establishment – for them, the problem is simple. Claims of visionary experience suggest a direct approach to the divine which bypasses the clergy as necessary intermediaries. This is why those few examples that have achieved endorsement are either under some form of clerical control, or urge faithful obedience to the church authorities, or both. Many examples though, after first meeting fierce resistance, have later been embraced by the authorities.

The Vatican’s statement on the dangers of Halloween, the African Bishops statement on Traditional African Religions, the denouncement of Medjugorge and the latest Irish upheaval around the Marian Shrine at Knox all speak to the threat that these interactions are to institutional authority.

There is a legitimate issue concerning private revelation about discernment and certainly with the motivation of the visionary, but there is also this issue of these revelations as outside the control of the hierarchy.

-Colleeen Kochivar-Baker, Enlightened Catholicism, writing on All Saints Day

One famous example of great significance for the LGBT community, is Joan of Arc: visionary, military hero, alleged heretic, martyr and canonized saint. More on her later.

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One Response to “Visionaries or Heretics: Knock”

  1. Phillip Clark Says:

    Well, it is certainly timely that Our Lady may be appearing calling for a greater sense of inclusion within the Church and throughout the world. I’m just waiting for the day when she mentions her “gay and lesbian” children, then I’ll be listening! =P

    But it is interesting to note how the hierarchy clamps down on alleged apparitions that are critical in any way of the Church’s leadership and conversely endorses any apparition that exhorts “obedience to the Church’s pastors.” Once again, the double standard is obvious…


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