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The Scientific Tests on the Medjugorje Seers: A Critical Study by Prof. Theophile Kammerer, President of the Lourdes International Medical Committee (1986)
Prof. Henri Joyeux and Father René Laurentin (both French), in collaboration with some other professors and doctors, published in 1985 the book „Etudes médicales et scientifiques sur les apparitions de Medjugorje“, published by O.E.I.L. (Medical and Scientific Studies On the Apparitions At Medjugorje". The work has been translated and published in Croatian, too, (Duvno 1986). A critical look at this work was addressed by a member of the enlarged Diocesan Commission (1984-1986), Father Nikola Bulat, in his study on the phenomenon of Medjugorje Istina će vas osloboditi, Nepouzdanost izvora i nedoličnost poruka. Studija o nekim međugorskim pitanjima ["The Truth Shall Set You Free. The Unreliability Of the Sources And the Indecency Of the Messages. A Study On Some Issues Of Medjugorje”] (1986), Mostar 2006, pp. 96-98.
A few months after the exams conducted by Dr. Joyeux, further medical tests were carried out by an Italian group, led by Dr. Luigi Frigerio, in 1985.
Prof. Théophile Kammerer, then President of the International Medical Committee of Lourdes, after having studied the French dossier and having known the results obtained by the Italian group (through the report of Dr Cherubino Trabucchi), presented his criticisms in a meeting of the Committee in 1986.
We asked Mrs. Pascale Leroy-Castillo, Director for Archives and Heritage of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, to send us a transcript of the conference. She replied on May 13, 2011, with the consent of Dr. Alessandro de Franciscis, head of the Lourdes Medical Bureau, that publication of the contents of the conference of Prof. Kammerer is allowed, stating that it was held at the meeting of that Committee in September 1986. Also on this occasion, we sincerely thank the officials of the International Medical Committee and of Archives and Heritage of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes for their kind permission. Here are some passages from the exposition of Prof. Kammerer.
Report of the Meeting of
Lourdes International Medical Committee
This year, as had been decided for a long time, the Committee meeting has been held in Lourdes, 20 and 21 September 1986 [...]
It was chaired again by Bishop Henri Donze, Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, and Professor Théophile Kammerer, in the presence of Bishop John Sahuquet, Coadjutor of the Bishop Msgr. Donze.
Present were Professors and Doctors Juan Gibert Queralto Espinos and Domingo Perez, from Spain; Erwin Theiss, from Germany; St. John Dowling, from England; and Bernard Colvin, from Scotland.
From France, also present were Professors and Doctors: Jean-Louis Armand-Laroche, Charles Boudet, Charles Chassagnon, Pierre Mouren, Louis Revol, Jean Rodier, Jean Rousseau, André Trifaud, Théodore Mangiapan, besides Dr. Kammerer. [...]
After a few words of welcome from Bishop H. Donze for everyone, especially for the new members present, Prof. Kammerer made his presentation. […]
CRITICAL STUDY OF MEDICAL EXPLORATIONS OF THE MEDJUGORJE VISIONARIES
In recent years several books have been published about the apparitions of Medjugorje, a village of Yugoslavia (Herzegovina), which in the last five years has become a place of pilgrimage attracting huge crowds. The following study will focus specifically on medical expertise published in the book: “Etudes médicales et scientifiques sur les apparitions de Medjugorje” [Medical and Scientific Studies On the Apparitions At Medjugorje ] by Professor H. JOYEUX and Father R. LAURENTIN (published by O.E.I.L., 1985). Additional data from Italian source, have been added thanks to the kind cooperation of Professor Ch. TRABUCCHI. [....]
Prof. TRABUCCHI wanted to present in detail a book published in Italy: "Dossier scientifico su Medjugorje" [Scientific Report on Medjugorje] written by L. Frigerio, G. Mattalia, and L. Bianchi (1986). [….]
1. We must first recognize the good point and the merit of the tests carried out: they are the first that have been implemented in ecstasy, during an apparition. Experts have overcome many obstacles, the last and most important being the opposition of the seers - which is understandable. The latter took refuge behind the authorisation of the Virgin, who has expressed her consent, and sometimes her denial: "It is not necessary." In that case, experts have complied.
2. Despite all efforts, as to their level, these tests remain superficial. The most important was the EEG: with 8 electrodes in contact with the scalp, to explore approximately 50 billion neurons working in the brain, we can - very roughly - compare his accuracy with that of a plane, flying over Paris at a height of 10,000 meters [more than 32,000 feet], wanting to take note of the activities of the city and of its inhabitants. One should know that the EEG provides valuable information in relation to global changes in brain activity (sleep, dreaming for ex.) or to perturbations concentrated in a "focus": brain tumor, softening, epilepsy etc. On the other hand, it does not provide any usable data on mental activity, emotional and affective states, neurotic disorders, psychoses. It is rarely used in psychiatry except in cases of suspected organic lesion.
3. Despite this, all the sophisticated techniques impress the simple-minded readers and may make them believe that, given the evidence of the normality of the seers, subjective visions are excluded and, at the same time, objective apparitions are scientifically proven. The very title of the book itself "Medical And Scientific Studies On the Apparitions At Medjugorje" tends to induce that belief.
4. What is really disconcerting is to see that the expertise is limited to those instrumental tests to which some superficial clinical observations are added. It presents itself as an example of neurobiological reductionism currently in vogue in the milieu of materialist neuroscience. Clearly, the problems raised by apparitions or visions relate mainly to psychology or psychopathology and require the assistance of a psychiatrist. The team thought they could do without that assistance, and gave no explanation for this: it is a serious fault. Some examinations carried out by Italian and Yugoslav psychiatrists are mentioned: they are superficial and, at most, consist of tests: they allow nothing but the description of the temperamental profile. We can say that there is a sort of short circuit between the neurobiological data and the spiritual approach to the phenomena.
5. Every psychiatric observation requires several interviews with the subject and possibly his parents, dedicated to attentively listening to information:
a) curriculum vitae, as detailed as possible, of the subject, since his early childhood, noting physical or mental diseases and injuries, investigating critical phases, school adjustment, relationships with peers, the entry into work etc;
b) family history, relationships between parents and between generations, any conflicts at all levels;
c) in this case, the religious evolution of each of the seers would have to be very important: their first approach to prayer, forms of family religiosity, peculiar devotions, religious education received, the way the Bible was presented to them etc., possible participation in pilgrimages;
d) details of the psychiatric state of everybody in the weeks and the days preceding the first apparition; genesis of the group of seers.
The careful observation of each seer during these interviews, his attitude, his emotional reactions and all information collected would have enabled the psychiatrist to achieve a fairly accurate knowledge of his personality, its evolution and psychological condition. Certainly it was a difficult undertaking, requiring an interpreter, but perhaps not impossible, and in any case, essential to an investigation that wants to draw conclusions.
6) Curiously, only one psychological personal datum is mentioned, not in the expertise but in the story of the first apparitions, reduced to a mere allusion. It concerns the first seer, Ivanka, 15 years old, who had lost her mother a few weeks before the first apparition (May 1981).
More can be said: she was the one who, in the second apparition, asked the Virgin the first question, a personal question, asking for news of her mother. Response of the Virgin: "Your mother is fine, she is with me."
It could be that the death of her mother has played, on a psychological level, an important role in the genesis of the first vision of Ivanka. But no one could give his opinion, of course, on this issue without more information. Everyone knows, in fact, that the loss of a mother, especially for a teenager, can be a profound and disturbing emotional stress.
In the case of Ivanka, precise information would be required about the disease (or possibly the accident) and the death of her mother, the personality of the latter, her role in the family, her religious life and her behavior, the reactions produced by her death etc.
The "elaboration of mourning" will, however, be the subject of a further development.
This example illustrates the vital importance of the psychological approach to the difficult problems of visions and apparitions. They will be presented in a general plan in the second part of the report.
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