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STATEMENTS FROM THE BISHOPS OF SANTANDER

 

Although two committees convened by the bishops of Santander declared that there were no phenomena capable of authenticating the facts as undoubtedly supernatural, they did not condemn the message. In this regard, the first commission stated, "We find nothing in need of ecclesiastical censure or condemnation, neither in the doctrine nor in the spiritual recommendations supposedly addressed to the faithful." Bishop Juan Antonio del Val, who called for a second commission, upon retiring from office stated that, "the message of Garabandal was important and theologically correct."

Four consecutive bishops of Santander have spoken out against the supernatural character of the apparitions of Garabandal, which has weighed heavily among the faithful. Here is a brief summary of the statements made by the various bishops who have served the diocese since the beginning of the apparitions until today.

 

Bishop Doroteo Fernandez (Apostolic Administrator from May 1961 to January 1962)

The Apostolic Administrator of the diocese, Bishop Doroteo Fernandez, basing his conclusions on a technical committee he had appointed to examine the apparitions of Garabandal, published a note in the ecclesiastical bulletin on August 26, 1961, just a little over two months following the start of the apparitions and just a month after the first denials of Conchita, in which he affirmed that there was no evidence confirming the supernatural character of the apparitions. The commission only made ​​two or three visits to the site of the apparitions and concluded that the events were "child's play".

The same Apostolic Administrator, on November 2, 1961, just half a month after the first message of Garabandal, which caused much disappointment, drafted another note – this time without mentioning the technical committee but without a doubt basing his conclusions on their report, as several committee members were present at the promulgation of the message – in which he reiterated his previous judgment that there was no evidence confirming the supernatural character of the apparitions. Obviously, there was no sign of the contrary, i.e. that they were not supernatural. One must keep in mind that one thing is the orthodoxy of the content – on which there was no contrary opinion – and quite another is the origin of the phenomena.

Full text of the first official note give by Bishop Doroteo Fernández.

Full text of the second official note given by Bishop Doroteo Fernández


 

- Bishop Eugenio Beitia Aldazabal (January 1962 to January 1965).

The new Bishop of Santander, Eugenio Beitia Aldazabal, signed his first note on October 7, 1962, just a few months after taking over the diocese and on his way to Rome to participate in the Second Vatican Council. This note seems to be the answer to the miracle of the visible communion of Conchita on July 18 of the same year, and in it the bishop who apparently was not yet well informed on the matter of Garabandal, merely ratifies the report of the technical committee which says that "all such phenomena lack any supernatural origin and have an explanation of a natural order." This judgment was undoubtedly premature, as the episcopal commission appointed to investigate what was happening in Garabandal made no serious scientific examination. The same bishop published July 8, 1965, 20 days after the second message of Garabandal, another note. In it, he mentions the technical commission, saying that it continues to believe that there is no evidence of the supernatural origin of the phenomena. This fourth note also contains “an explicit and formal” prohibition of priests to visit Garabandal, without express permission. The first note only expressed the desire that priests not visit, the second recommends that they avoid “the organization of visits and pilgrimages to said places”, and in the third what was banned was not “asistir” (visiting) but “concurrir” (meeting or gathering together with others), with Bishop Beitia’s declaration to a certain priest that this did not imply a formal ban.

Bishop Beitia imposed restrictions on priests who went up to the village without diocesan permission, but he did not condemn the events and noted that, "we have not found anything deserving ecclesiastical censure or condemnation either in the doctrine or in the spiritual recommendations that have been published as having been addressed to the faithful, as they contain an exhortation to prayer and sacrifice, Eucharistic devotion, devotion to Our Lady in traditional and commendable ways, and a holy fear of God who is offended by our sins." He authorized a private investigation led by three doctors, whose conclusion did not coincide with that of the official commission.

Full text of the first note given by Bishop Eugenio Beitia

Full text of the second note given by Bishop Eugenio Beitia


 

- Bishop Vicente Puchol Montis (July 1965 to May 1967).


After the girls' statements denying everything (fulfilling the prophecy of Our Lady in 1961 that said that this would be the case) he tried to put an end to Garabandal. He published the fifth note on March 17, 1967. This note is no longer based, like its predecessors, on the report of the technical committee but on the statement of the visionaries, which Bishop Puchol claims proves that there have been no apparitions or messages and that “all the events that have taken place in this town have a natural explanation.” Clearly, a prelate who publicly said, “I’ll put in an end to this, no matter what it takes”, cannot be taken for a fair judge, especially knowing that the verdict was not supported by any professional study conducted by scientific experts, something which such a delicate issue demanded. Anyways, there is not a word on what the real competence of a bishop as bishop is, i.e. dogma, morals, liturgy, or canon law.

Full text of the official note given by Bishop Vicente Puchol


- Bishop José Cirarda Lachiondo (July 1968 to December 1971)


He was strongly opposed to Garabandal and managed, through Cardinal Jean Villot (Vatican Secretary), to present the national and foreign press with a new note on the events of Garbandal on October 9, 1968. The note ratifies what the three previous prelates have declared, especially the fact that there is no evidence confirming the supernatural character of the events at Garabandal, according to the first two and that everything has a natural explanation, according to the third, who supposedly presented his opinion in accordance with the Holy See.

Full text of the official note given by Bishop José Cirarda Lachiondo


- Bishop Juan Antonio del Val Gallo (December 1971 to August 1991)

Although he did not believe in Garabandal when he took office as Bishop, he showed an open mind in contrast to his two predecessors. As a canon of the Cathedral of Sandander in 1961, he was a member of the original commission but resigned for the way they carried out their affairs. He is the only Bishop of Santander who has seen the visionaries in ecstasy. After a pastoral visit in 1977, he lifted the bans of his predecessors regarding spreading the message of the apparitions and priests celebrating Mass in the place in which they allegedly took place. He also allowed the filming of a documentary about them and instituted the first interdisciplinary Episcopal Commission that took up the case.

Around 1981, he began to believe in the events. In 1983, he gave Dr. Luis Morales of the original commission, who had also come to believe in the apparitions, permission to lecture in the largest auditorium of Santander in defense of the events of Garabandal. In 1987, he instituted a new investigation of the apparitions and lifted the ban for priests to visit the site, allowing them to celebrate Mass in the village church with the pastor's permission.

 


- Bishop José Vilaplana Blasco (August 1991 to July 2006)


He showed that he did not believe in Garabandal in a letter in 1993 to Ramón Pérez, while at the same time he maintained the policy of Bishop del Val without making changes.
In a letter to Richard Paul Salbato of Fatima, he reiterates the position of his predecessors.

Letter written by Bishop Vilaplana to Richard Paul


- Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra, Arzobispo de Oviedo (Apostolic Administrator, July 2006 to September 2007)

He inaugurated a new attitude in the hierarchy toward Garabandal, following the positive steps that had been taken by Bishop del Val.


- Bishop Vicente Zamora (September 2007 - December 2014)

He did not issue any formal statement on Garabandal.
On May 6, 2012, he presided the solemn events that took place on the occasion of the blessing and rededication of the Church of San Sebastian de Garabandal.


- Bishop Manuel Sánchez Monge (30th May, 2015, until present day)


Although in these notes, for the time being, the bishops do not find anything supernatural about the alleged apparitions (a question that remains open to revision in light of new information or in light of a better scientific study of existing information), they have said nothing against the content thereof (“we have not found anything deserving ecclesiastical censure or condemnation either in the doctrine or in the spiritual recommendations that have been published”) and this was and is precisely their role as a Church that instructs.


EVALUATION OF THE NOTES FROM THE BISHOPS OF SANTANDER

To properly evaluate the unfavorable judgment of the four bishops of Santander, one must consider the grounds on which they base their claims, i.e. in the case of the first two, on the report of the technical committee and in the case of other two, on not only the judgment of the previous bishops but also on the denials of the visionaries.

Regarding the value of the reports from the technical commission.

This committee apparently consisted of three canons and professors from Santander: Fr. Juan Antonio del Val, who would later become Bishop of Santander, Fr. Francisco Odriozola, and Fr. Jose María Saiz, who died suddenly in 1964. There were also two doctors: Dr. Morales, psychiatrist from Santander, and Dr. Piñal, anesthetist. However, Fr. Francisco Odriozola, secretary of the commission, was, according to a statement he made in 1962, the “real engine of it [the commission]”, which had led him to be known as “the soul and engine” of the commission.

The fact is there is more than enough information to suspect on reasonable grounds that these members of the commission adopted an a priori or preconceived negative attitude regarding the apparitions of Garabandal, an attitude we can summarize in the fact that for them it was unacceptable that the Blessed Virgin Mary could appear so often, in such an uncommon and rare fashion to four girls from a small village in the mountains of Santander and, therefore, everything had to be attributed to the imagination of four girls, encouraged by the pilgrims who continually flocked to Garabandal.

First of all, within 40 days of the initial apparitions, Conchita, who was considered their main protagonist, was transferred to Santander at the request of certain members of the committee in an effort to bring an end to the alleged apparitions. The day after her arrival there, according to what Conchita says in her diary, Dr. Morales, member of the commission, and other doctors examined her. Their conclusions were that the girl was normal, but that “all this about the apparitions was a dream”, recommending a good environment of distractions in Santander as treatment to rid her of her fantasies or hallucinations. Eight days later, her mother and aunt came to take her back to Garabandal and Dr. Piñal, commission member, took things to the extreme, using not only flattery – presenting her a smiling future if she stayed in Santander – but also threats, saying that they would even put her in an asylum if she persisted in talking of her appearances, until he finally got her to sign a blank sheet of paper denying her appearances. Likewise, the apostolic administrator of the diocese and Fr. Francisco Odriozola also flattered her with promises in this regard.

Secondly, one of the few times that members of the committee visited Garabandal – according to reports from reliable witnesses, the member who most visited the place was only present on six occasions – they demonstrated an evidently negative preconceived bias. It was August 22, 1961, two months and a few days into the apparitions. According to the pastor of Barro-Llanes (Oviedo), Fr. José Ramón García de la Riva, the girls fell into ecstasies after the Rosary. And on one of those occasions, as they entered the church in this state, he could hear Doctor Piñal saying aloud, “What? Does this charade continue?" Likewise, the priest chairman of the committee also commented out loud, “I don’t believe in this.... no matter what happens.” Later on, the commissioners deliberated about what to do and said to one another, “Let's close the church for worship. We can give Fr. Valentín a month off – I’m sure he’ll accept, he seems a bit nervous... We’ll have the Jesuit priest (Ramón M. Andreu) leave. We’ll prevent priests from coming up here and... if this is from God, things will unfold." A few days later, on August 26, the first unfavorable note from the bishop regarding the apparitions was issued.

Thirdly, word had just gotten out that Fr. Lucio Rodrigo, moral professor at Comillas for many years, had shown signs of admitting the supernatural character of the phenomena at Garabandal. In September 1961, the three priest members of the commission (who had been his “disciples”) and Dr. Piñal went to Comillas to meet with him. As regards this meeting, Father Lucio Rodrigo told a person worthy of confidence, “It was not hard for me to understand that what they were seeking was not exactly my opinion, as an element to help them formulate a judgment: They came with their judgment already placed against the possible sign of supernatural character in the events.” He also told this person that from that moment on, he sensed in the committee members something that would later become almost obvious: that they “were on a hunt for data or evidence against [Garabandal].”

There are also words and events involving members of the committee that demonstrate this preconceived bias. In particular, it is curious to note what happened with Dr. Morales, psychiatrist, on July 11, 1961. Pretending to be a Carmelite, he tried to convince the four girls that their apparitions were false, assuring visitors that from that day on the girls would no longer have apparitions. Shortly after he left, the girls fell into ecstasies that lasted about seven minutes.

From all this it follows that the notes that were published by the bishops of Santander, based on the reports of the technical committee, suffer a lack of serious and impartial information on the part of the commission.