Cult Corner: Showdown at Knock

One of the staples of the Roman Catholic Church is their habit of installing special investigation panels to decide whether the various mystical apparitions of the Virgin Mary are  official, and thus deemed real, or discarded as hoaxes. For a town to score an official miraculous appearance is something of a jackpot, akin to winning an Olympic bid, except in this case the punters don’t just turn up for the summer but keep rolling in indefinitely.

Nothing says "God loves you" like a plastic MadonnaNothing says “God loves you” like a plastic Madonna™

Lourdes is obviously the number one VirginTown on the map and it is an indication of the value of the Papal nod that the town and its surrounds contain the second largest number of hotel beds in France (ranking just behind Paris). And most of the six million or so visitors aren’t just hoping to catch a glimpse of Jesus’ Mum, they are hoping for a miraculous cure to a fatal ailment. The church has sanctioned 67 official miracles ever since the Virgin’s first appearance in 1858 and each year the faithful dying queue up in the hope of winning what appears to be the fairly arbitrary, random and elusive chance of being number 68.

Knock, in County Mayo, Ireland hit the jackpot in 1879 when Mary, Joseph and St John the Baptist decided to put in an appearance to a number of parishioners with ages ranging from five to seventy-five. An Ecclesiastical Commission of Inquiry established the evidences of witnesses was “trustworthy and satisfactory” and the local Knock economy got a healthy, and seemingly everlasting, shot in the arm. Whilst not quite achieving the same phenomenal tourist figures as Lourdes (partly perhaps because the various mystical visitors thoughtlessly failed to unearth a spring with miraculous healing properties), Knock still enjoys the patronage of around one and a half million visitors a year all of whom carry hopes of a miracle and wallets that require emptying.

But strife has come to this once blessed corner of Ireland. Joe Coleman and Keith Henderson, who say they are “spiritual healers” and “Visionaries of Our Blessed Mother”, announced Mary would be putting in an appearance on October 31st and predicted a crowd of 50,000 would join them to welcome her return. Estimates only placed the crowd at 10,000 but the church, far from being pleased with the turnout and excited about a much needed boost to Roman Catholicism’s profile, doesn’t appear to be welcoming the publicity. The authorities had hoped to lock the doors to the shrine but the Bishop eventually bowed to public pressure.

However, Joe was still livid and his row with Pat Lavelle, manager of the shrine, was duly recorded by the Irish Times.

You should be ashamed of your life… I am a visionary for our Blessed Mother. How dare you.

Are you a clairvoyant?

I am what I am. What are you?

I’m the manager of the shrine.

You’re a liar . . . I invited people to see our Blessed Lady. Do you not understand the truth? Why are you denying the people, the Christian people of Ireland from all over the world?

He later insisted that the Virgin Mary had appeared and that she had said “Thank you for responding to my call. I am so happy. I smile on this day, 31st October 2009, at my beloved Knock”. Coleman also later criticized the Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, and the parish priest of Knock, Monsignor Joseph Quinn, of discouraging pilgrims rather than “making Our Lady welcome and showing respect to her”. He then compared himself to Joan of Arc, and accused the clergy of switching off the microphone system in the basilica, of stripping the altars and not allowing flowers.

Cult Priest Freakout

Joe Coleman also possesses "awesome healing powers"

The Archbishop later issued a statement, saying “It is not healthy, does not give glory to God and . . . is not good witness to the faith to be looking for extraordinary phenomena”.

So what is it the Church is worried about here? The fact that a couple of charlatans are taking their parishioners for a ride?

Or that Coleman and Henderson are muscling in on their territory?

The next date for your Apparition Calendar is December 5th when Mary has promised Mr Coleman a return visit. We’ll be keeping an eye on developments.



One Response

  1. I only learned this recently but apparently when Mary “died”, her body shot straight up to heaven, just like that, makes you wonder doesnt it ?

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