It seems that the official Commission in Santander first of all doubted the actuality of the fact of the Host on Conchita's tongue, attributing it to suggestion, madness or the collective hysteria of those who saw it. Afterwards, in the face of irrefutable proofs, especially the photographic pictures that had been taken, they maintained a hypothesis of fraud: Conchita, aided by others, had put this over with great talent . . .
In the questionnaire presented weeks later to Fr. Etelvino González, there is a collection of questions from which it can be seen that the Commission took seriously the many things that were said about the peculiar circumstances around the miracle. Their questions themselves clearly reveal this:
«Is it true that Conchita and her cousin Luciuca Fernández González didn't stop laughing nervously and playing with their hands?
At midnight did you see her write some words to her Uncle Elías González Cuenca?
Is it true that on the back of the paper she drew two feminine figures?
Did you identify them as Luciuca and Conchita?
Is it true that on the drawing Luciuca brought her hand to Conchita's mouth?
Is it true that Conchita avoided being accompanied by the priests present there?
At 1:20, did her mother tell her to change her dress?
With regard to this, did Conchita go upstairs?
Who were the persons there upstairs?
What purpose could her going upstairs have?
How long did she delay in coming down?
On coming down, did she go back into the kitchen?
Did she come down in rapture?
Did she have her mouth closed?
Did she cover it with the crucifix?
Did you notice anything strange in her mouth?(48)
We do not know the answers to any of these questions. Fr. Etelvino answered only the ones we have previously mentioned, and refrained from responding to these with excellent reasons:
«I don't know because at the time I was absent from the house. At that time I didn't hear anything about the writing or the drawing; I heard about it days later from people who said they had heard it discussed by a priest.»
The last question of the Commission was this:
— «Could the possibility of fraud be considered?»
The Dominican father answered simply:
— «I think that's not impossible.»
But we can well think that the Commission, with all these questions, had determined not just the simple possibility, but the actual probability that the alleged motions of Conchita had been designed to stage the miracle with the aid of her uncle and cousin. Taking advantage of some of her comings and goings, the girl had secretly put what she had prepared in her mouth, and thereupon the ecstasy began . . .
What is it that they could have prepared? A question from the Commission puts it down specifically:
«The “host," could it have been a piece from a game of Bristol, a wafer made from flour, a pharmaceutical product?»
Fr. Etelvino answered:
— «I've never seen a Bristol piece so thick, but it well could have resembled a wafer made of flour.»
Several premier witnesses say something overwhelming in this regard; but the Commission has never called them to testify or given any credence to their testimony.
The stonemason of the village, José Díez Contero, familiarly called Pepe Díez, enjoyed a privileged position for minutely following the Communion, since he was at Conchita's one side, holding her arm and protecting her, while her brother Miguel was on her other side. And Pepe Díez never tires of explaining — with remarkable forcefulness — how he illuminated the girl's mouth with his flashlight very carefully during the time before and after she opened it:
«When I saw that she held out her tongue, and that there was nothing at all on it, I had, I think, the worst moment in my life. Oh heavens! — I said to myself — This is terrible. Nothing is seen here! And on saying this, I lit up the whole interior of her mouth with my flashlight. Suddenly without the girl moving her tongue in the least — in a most unexplainable way — there appeared on top of it, as if suddenly coming forth, a white, round thing, which seemed to grow . . . I don't know how long it lasted; perhaps two or three minutes.»
Conchita's brother Miguel, who was on the other side of the girl, was able to make the same meticulous observations that Pepe Díez made. Serafín, her older brother, could not come to Garabandal on July 18th, but he returned a few days later. Miguel went to greet him, and as soon as the two brothers met, the question came up:
— What happened with the miracle of the Host?
— I swear it's true. I saw it. I saw perfectly how she held out her tongue, bare without anything on it, and without putting it inside, a white Host suddenly came forth.
— Are you really sure?
— Completely. I swear it was so.
— Well, it's enough for me that you say it.
A long time later, during one of Fr. Laffineur's stays(49) in Garabandal, he and Serafín were speaking about the miracle of the Host, and of its closest witnesses . . .
FATHER LAFFINEUR — For me, the real witness is Pepe Díez.
SERAFIN — I'm not going to argue about it; but for me, the real witness is Miguel, my brother. Perhaps you don't see it that way, since he's Conchita's brother . . . But look. Out in the fields, in the places where we had to go to work, Miguel and I spoke about this miracle many times. He has always told me that he saw it perfectly; that the miracle was true. He held Conchita by one arm and Pepe Díez held the other when she fell on her knees for the Communion.
The whole family's honor is at stake in regard to the truth of this happening. Miguel knows it, and considering his character, if he holds it with such firmness against the opinions of so many people, it's because he's very sure there was no fraud.(50)
In spite of this, neither Miguel nor Pepe Díez made a report to the bishop's Commission. Two other of the witnesses did not make a report either: a farmer from the neighboring country, Benjamín Gómez; and an industrial worker from a distant city, Alejandro Damians.
The first of these, Benjamín Gómez, was not given to religious fervor as he admitted:(51)
«Prior to being in Garabandal, I was not what I am now. Let us not say that I didn't believe in God, since sometimes I thought about those things; but I put it aside, as if it had no importance. Was it my age? Was it my weak head? The fact is that now I feel differently. And this change began here.(52) In my opinion, things have happened here that are divine — that are not of this world.»
Benjamín Gómez was a native of Liébana; but he had lived for years in Pesués, downstream from Puenta Nansa. News had soon come to him of the unusual things that were happening in San Sebastían de Garabandal. And one day he finally decided to go up to the place. At the beginning, he did not attract attention by doing this — there were so many who were going there! But it did not take long until townspeople began to talk about his devotion and started making jokes about him, and at times harassed him — even the pastor, who was opposed to Garabandal.
Garabandal attracted Benjamín. But that did not change the deficiency in his practice of religion:
«In spite of coming, I was still holding back, and missing Mass on Sunday didn't matter to me . . . until it came to July 18th.
I remember it well. After midnight, many people began to leave; I was glad they left, since it would be easier to see. It was well past one o'clock and I was waiting near Conchita's house when the young girl came out. A little later she fell on her knees in ecstasy, and I was able to be very near to her, and to see everything at leisure.
The young girl opened her mouth, but in no hurry. She was in no hurry for anything there. She opened her mouth, I say, and I set myself to watch with all my attention. I committed the rudeness of not allowing others to see. I recognized this, but I wanted to check everything well . . . I looked into her open mouth again and again; and neither on the top of her mouth, nor beneath her tongue, nor in any part of her mouth could anything be seen. There was nothing there at all!
The tongue was like this, without anything; and then the Host appeared suddenly, and was seen by everyone for some time, sufficient time so that all who were there would see. I saw it well.
The color could not be compared with anything. It seemed most like snow when the sun rises and gives it splendor in the blinding light. But it was not quite that way; it was white, like I have never seen anything whiter . . . I stayed still and continued to watch. Finally she closed her mouth and left the place still in ecstasy.
I swear before God and all the saints that what I say is true.»
48. Naturally, I do not criticize the Commission for trying to bring all the hidden elements out into the open; I criticize their actions for not being open, actions which have given reason to think that they were only interested in confirming adverse points, only calling for testimony and accepting it from those who were able to present something unfavorable.
49. This Belgian priest who lived in France is already well known to the reader; he died on November 28th, 1970.
50. Father Laffineur’s statement was given in a conference at Saragossa on December 8th, 1968.
51. Benjamin Gómez has spoken many times with almost the same words about his extraordinary experience at Garabandal. Here we are following the report that was recorded on a tape recorder by a man in Santander.
52. The event of July 18th left a definite mark on Benjamín. His religious life prior to this could be well described by what he himself said: «I went 23 years without going to confession . . . I didn’t concern myself with God except to blaspheme Him . . .»