The Official Stance:
We have seen how the parish priest, Father Valentín Marichalar, from the very first days had proposed to go as soon as possible to the diocesan capital in order to inform the bishop about everything that was happening.
It cannot be verified on what date he completed this project; although it was obviously before the middle of the month of July, since during the last half of that memorable month a group of persons from the mountain capital of Santander were already acting as if they were the Commission named by the bishop to study the Garabandal Affair.(32)
According to our information, this group consisted of three priests as experts in ecclesiastical disciplines and two laymen as experts in medical science. The priests were Juan Antonia del Val,(33) Francisco Odriozola,(34) and José María Sáiz,(35) the latter being the best theologian of them all according to the opinion of numerous priests from the Santander area. The canon of Tarragona, Father Julio Porro, also listed Agapito Amieva, the Provisor of the bishop of Santander as a member of the Commission; but this cannot be proven. The medical men were Doctor Morales, a well-known psychiatrist and Doctor Piñal, an anesthesiologist; both lived and worked in the Santander capital.(36)
In order that the reader might have a better point of reference about the bishop's Commission — and even though this will in part go ahead of our story — I would like to insert here some information that has come my way. On the 8th of May, 1968, the same year of the tragic death of Puchol Montís (the bishop who declared a No against Garabandal that appeared definitive), two reputable priests signed a confidential report destined to the cardinals, archbishops and bishops of the French language. These two priests were the parish priest Alfred Combe (a Frenchman of the District of Ródano) and Father José Laffineur (a
Belgian who had settled in France and who was to die on November 28th, 1970).
The fourth part of this report deals with Garabandal and Canon Law with affirmations such as these:
The Commission has never been a tribunal, nor has it ever acted or judged as an ecclesiastic tribunal according to regulations. For example, it has never required an oath from those who were summoned and interrogated.
This Commission was composed of two laymen and three priests. The laymen were a psychiatrist (Morales) and an anesthesiologist (Piñal), which does not constitute, it is noted, a great amount of expertise.
And in what concerns the priests of the Commission, one of them, the abbot (Odriozola) rapidly led the others into the dark, acting as if to him alone belonged all the functions: secretary, counsel, arbitrator, judge, etc . . .
This priest wished to obtain for himself evidence of the reality of the apparitions, although in this regard evidence could only be given to the visionaries; others would have to satisfy themselves with motives of credibility.
On top of all this, this priest, and likewise the doctors mentioned, have not gone to see the facts on location except in rare instances; and then they conducted themselves, according to witnesses, with a lack of seriousness.
As if seeking to gather only arguments unfavorable to the cause of Garabandal, they have avoided interrogating the visionaries themselves, their families, the irreproachable witnesses that they knew were favorable to the apparitions.
Here we are before extremely serious accusations. It is no pleasure to have these things come to me for they are saying these things against persons whom I esteem. But we urge everyone to clarify the matter once and for all; we have the right to know the truth about what has happened at Garabandal. If the Commission's way of acting has been so clear, objective, and conformed to truth as the Santander chancery would have us believe, and their negative pronouncements so well founded as they say, then let us see the evidence so as to finally disperse the clouds of suspicions, doubts, and comments that disturb everybody so much.
Christians of today, so mature as it is said, are not satisfied with simple official declarations.
32. It appears that this Commission was organized more by the initiative of the Reverend Father Francisco Odriozola than by the will of the diocesan bishop. In the beginning the Commission had taken the matter of Garabandal as of little importance, not worthy of giving it official attention and hoping that this fever or hysteria would soon pass.
Furthermore, this bothersome affair was coming at the wrong time, while Bishop Doroteo Fernández was entrenching himself in the diocese, since he sought to remain in Santander as the Diocesan Bishop. He avoided this annoying difficulty until the time came when Father Francisco Odriozola convinced the bishop about the necessity of dealing with the affair. It appears that His Eminence, Bishop Fernández told Father Odriozola to choose some competent people and to proceed . . .
With regard to the Commission, its methods of action, its foundation, the reason for its position, etc., a profound study would be required. However, the actual Bishop of Santander in 1970, Bishop José María Cirarda set down insuperable difficulties for this by saying «The affair is already well studied and judged.»
Time will tell.
33. José María Cirarda became bishop of Santander in the summer of 1968. A short while later he named Juan Antonio del Val Gallo as Vicar General of the diocese. Bishop del Val did not remain long in this position since several months later he was designated auxiliary bishop of Seville, with residence in Jerez de la Frontera. Cirarda and del Val were classmates in the University of Comillas (Santander). Finally in December of 1971, del Val was named Bishop of Santander. Six bishops in this diocese in less than eleven years!
34. It was already mentioned that this was a priest of the city of Santander, a Professor and a Canon.
35. Also Professor and Canon at Santander. He died suddenly on October 22, 1964, while celebrating Holy Mass in the chapel of the Slaves of the Sacred Heart in Santander.
36. From his father Mariano, Doctor Luis Morales had inherited a psychiatric clinic, well-known in Santander. Doctor José Luis Piñal Ruiz Huidobro then was working as an anesthesiologist, although it appears that he had also worked during a short time with a psychiatrist named Aldama. Recently a letter from another doctor from Santander, Doctor Celestino Ortiz, informed me that a third doctor was a member of the Commission: Doctor Peláez; but it seems that this Doctor Peláez de Valladolid, rather than being a member of the Commission, was an expert that the Commission used at times. Anyhow he was in Garabandal on the night of August 22nd as will be mentioned later.