Monday, June 9, 2014

Memoirs of a Spanish Country Priest (Chapter IV)


Continuation of August 22nd, 1961
The Diocesan Commission
On this night of August 22nd, 1961, several members of the Diocesan Commission had gone up to Garabandal, completely incognito. I was not aware of them, and it was only later that I learned their names. There were at least two clergy, a doctor anesthetist — not a psychiatrist as has been said mockingly — and an amateur photographer.
We are going to see them “operate,” I might say, and hear them also. And I do not hesitate to express my opinion, in stating clearly that it is absolutely objective since it was mine at the time of the facts, although I was completely unaware of the identity and especially the character of those involved.
They came into the church at the same time that the children were in ecstasy in front of the crowd.
One of them, a layman, (I was to learn that he was a doctor of anesthesiology, Dr. Pinal) without further ado, said in a very loud voice:
— “So, the comedy is continuing?”
At that very moment, kneeling in front of me, Dr. Celestino Ortiz, a distinguished pediatrician from Santander who had followed the matter from the beginning, was taking Conchita’s pulse. He wanted to see if the seer’s running through the village had changed the heartbeat more than at other times. Without raising his head, and continuing his important examination, Dr. Ortiz responded tartly:
— “If there’s a comedian here, it has to be you. The sanctuary of a church is not the place to speak like this, and still less in public.”
His work finished, Dr. Ortiz got up and the two doctors recognized each other.
— “Oh, it’s you Piñal?”
— “Ortiz, we must discuss some things in the sacristy.”
— “In the sacristy, agreed. There you can tell me what you think is proper.”
And the two doctors left the sanctuary.
And so on that day the medical study of the ecstasies by the doctor of the Commission ended. As I see it, I am inclined to think that the scientific work was finished before it began… How different from the professional conscientiousness of Dr. Ortiz, a prominent pediatrician, who I had just seen on his knees next to Conchita, whispering:
— “There are no more pulses than in the normal state.”
Now I understand the trust that everyone gives to his medical observations and his conclusions with regard to the apparitions.
Let us proceed, very objectively also, to the attitude of the two priests of whom, may I be allowed to insist, I knew neither the names nor the functions.
The first went up to the sanctuary. His back turned to the Blessed Sacrament, the visionaries at his feet in ecstasy, facing the crowd, in a loud voice, he resolved the problem in a definitive manner:
— “Whatever happens, I don’t believe in this.”
The second, also in the sanctuary, was speaking with a layman and telling him:
— “I have taught philosophy for five years and theology for ten!”
Undoubtedly he wished to convince the person with whom he was speaking that he had the knowledge necessary to be entitled to express his agreement with the incredible words of his comrade and colleague of the Commission. To myself I thought, “What kind of philosophy? What kind of theology? Had he also been by chance a professor, for example, in ascetic and mystic theology, the only one competent on that evening?”
The second priest retired and his companion greeted me with these words:
— “I am the photographer.”

— “Professional?”
— “No, not professional, amateur.”
My heart jumped since I use a camera and know something about it.
— “Oh, your camera’s automatic, with a flash and loaded with color film?”
— “Yes,” he answered.
— “Look then. You are going to miss a gorgeous picture! Look at Jacinta and Loli on their knees on the altar step. What grace, what an extraordinary pose!”
— “Father, I have finished my work, I’ve taken the pictures that are necessary.”
— “Really!”
— “Certainly.”
If I would have known then that this was the photographer from the Commission, perhaps I would have lost the interior composure that the circumstances required. Why? Because I would have had the same conviction that I have today. The Commission should have been accompanied by a professional photographer to take all the pictures that were important, useful, from all possible angles. How else could the study be objective, honest, and complete?
Today I am glad to have been unaware on that evening of the identity and the mission of the four persons who remain present in my memory, as if I were still in the sanctuary of the church at Garabandal.
What did I think at the time?
— Was the layman from Santander proclaiming the comedy a doctor?
And Ortiz then?
— The abrupt and closed judgment of the first priest?
It was inconceivable. It smacked of prejudice and the ridiculous.
— The second priest?
Was he conceited or worse?
— The photographer?
He surely did not know his trade or like it.
— My conclusion?
I was not in agreement, and I held my own personal opinion.
I stayed in the church until 11 o’clock, in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I prayed, I reflected, and I also listened very attentively from my place to all that I could hear. This was not difficult, since everything was said in a loud voice and nothing appeared to be secret.
It was then that I understood perfectly, for example, pronouncements from the mouth of one of the two priests:
— “We are going to close the church to this cult.”
— “We will give Father Valentín a month’s vacation. Since he is so upset now, he will gladly accept.”
— “We will give the Jesuit priest, (Father Ramón Andreu) the order to leave.”
— “We will forbid priests to come up to the village.”
— “And if this comes from God, it will make its own way.”
“Really!” I said to myself, “This is a fine way of proceeding and acting, when studying such important events! Is Pilate being resurrected? In any case, this is a new Praetorium and once again the washing of hands...”
During this time, the Bishop of Santander, would have thought his delegates were working at Garabandal as true men of the church, as true doctors, and as a real photographer should work with professional and religious conscientiousness. The various “Notas” have been dictated, relying on these disputable foundations, and I have every reason to believe no other more serious, more solid efforts have been made. The visionaries have told me many times:
— “The Commission came up here very seldom; it never concerned itself with us. It questioned only some persons from the village chosen from those who didn’t believe in the apparitions or doubted them.”
I did not think that these gentlemen were concerned with me personally. I was wrong. Exactly at 11 PM, Father Valentín came up to me:
— “The Commission has ordered me to tell you that it is time for you to leave the church.”
A slight consolation, nevertheless: at the door, two policemen, placed there to keep order in case they were needed, greeted me with a friendly smile.

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