from Hector Avalos, 'Solar Miracles' as Evidence for Marian Apparitions

Solar miracles are cited often by theologians and laypersons as proof of the authenticity of the visionaries' experiences.  Ironically, the reports of such solar miracles are the most definitive proof that people can and do report the occurrence of non-occurring events at Medjugorje.

One dramatic case may be found in a 1988 videotape recorded by "20/20," the ABC news program. Stone Phillips was sent to accompany a group of pilgrims to Medjugorje. At one point in the report a crowd of pilgrims reported seeing the sun "coming closer" and "dancing" at the same time that ABC cameras were trained on the sun. Of course, any such movement of the sun would be an event of astronomical proportions that should have been witnessed by a large part of the planet, astronomical observatories, and hundreds of different types of instruments. Yet, the videotape showed no movement in the sun, and Stone Phillips likewise confirmed that he saw no movement in the sun. As in the case of the subjects in the Barber and Calverley experiment, the report by a group that a non-occurring event is occurring indicates that a psycho-social process is the best explanation.

The report of a "dancing sun" also demonstrates other important points about group delusions. The reports of non-occurring events need not be due to lying, which involves making statements that the speaker believes to be false. For example, a pilgrim may say, "I see the sun moving," to express the following interpretation of raw perceptions: "Marian apparitions should be accompanied by a moving sun, and therefore that is what must be happening." Once the believer assumes that this rationale is true, then he or she allows the use of phrases such as "see" (e.g., "I see the sun moving")even though empirical evidence says otherwise.

Crying Icons, Metallic Transformations, and Healings

Crying icons are often reported at sites of Marian apparitions. I examined one such case in Arizona in 1982, when a group of Mexican immigrant neighbors reported that a statue of the Virgin outside their apartment "cried" around dawn. I found that the liquid under the eyes of this "crying icon" was indistinguishable from dew that also was present on other objects and on many parts of the icon. One may characterize as "selective seeing" any claim that ignores the moisture on most parts of the icon and yet attributes to crying the moisture below the eyes. Psycho-social processes can explain all of the reports of icon "miracles" at Medjugorje with which I am

Reports of metal transformations are also common. There is indeed a long history that associates the Virgin with metal workers. The fact that metal color can change is a known phenomenon, most often due to oxidation. However, the instantaneous metallic changes reported by Marian devotees have simply never been verified by science.

Reports of healings are also poorly investigated. Most of the testimonies come from people who, by their own words, already have had medical treatment, and so it is virtually impossible to distinguish the effects of medical treatment from those of supposed miracles. Another problem is that most of the reports represent as facts diagnoses and symptoms that the compilers have not verified.  Equally important, most readers of reports of supposed miracles are not apprised of negative follow-up reports. For example, a book by R. Laurentin and L. Rupcic relates the case of Venka Bilic- Brajcic (of Split) as follows: In January, 1980, the patient had her left breast removed, and afterward, she received postoperative radiation treatment. Nine months after the operation there were numerous metastases. These had reached the right breast on which radiation treatment began in April, 1981. . . . Venka herself reported . . ."My sister said that Our Lady of Medjugorje could help me, and suggested that I pray to her. . . . Two or three days after this prayer the appearance of the sores started to change. . . ." Venka feels well, and the medical certificate confirms that there is no sign of further metastases into the bone or other organs. Venka returned to Medjugorje to thank Our Lady. She submitted medical documents on September 8, 1982. But Father O'Carroll's book reports that, in response to Laurentin and Rupcic's claims, Zanic noted that this patient died in June 1984, and that her doctor protested the claim that she was cured at the time that she had stated.


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