Question 1: "Garabandal: Only God Knows." What does the title mean?
The title of this movie, Garabandal: Only God Knows, has been meditated on at length and expresses our awareness of the fact that only God knows what really happened in San Sebastián de Garabandal. The Church does not have clarity regarding the case, and thus has not pronounced a definitive judgment. It also reflects another certainty: God alone knows what was in the heart of each of the protagonists and in the hearts of those who interpreted the events. Garabandal: Only God Knows does not intend to make judgments, rather simply to transmit the experience described by hundreds of eyewitnesses.
There is one more aspect: only God knows what plans the Lord and Our Blessed Mother, the Virgin, had and have regarding Garabandal. As “unworthy servants,” we must be at the service of God’s will with prudence so as to not get in the way of His loving plan for mankind.
Question 2: Can a movie be made about apparitions not yet approved? Wouldn’t that be going against the Church?
At present no article of the Code of Canon Law forbids the promulgation of revelations, visions, prophecies or miracles, even when they are not yet approved by the Church. Safeguarding the faith and morals of the Church is the evident limit in spreading any of these supernatural phenomena. The Diocese of Santander, Spain, has always maintained that it has not found anything contrary to the faith of the Church in the doctrinal content of the apparitions in San Sebastián de Garabandal. In regards to the phenomena themselves, it holds that non constat de supernaturalitate (It is not confirmed to be of supernatural origin), thus confessing that the case is not closed, much less condemned. Bringing the events in Garabandal to light and asking the Church, with all respect and submission, to complete studies that were never carried out in-depth, is not going against the Church. Rather, it is asking her to resolve ambiguities that do not benefit anyone.
Question 3: What does the expression, “It is not confirmed to be of supernatural origin,” mean?
“It is not confirmed to be of supernatural origin” is a fundamental concept to understand Garabandal’s situation. In the face of a supposed apparition and after correct discernment, the Church can declare her opinion in one of the following manners:
1. Constat de supernaturalitate. (It is confirmed to be of supernatural origin.) That is, there has been a manifestation of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, or a saint.
2. Constat de non supernaturalitate. (It is confirmed to be of non-supernatural origin.) That is, there has not been a manifestation and we find ourselves before a fraud, a phenomenon of autosuggestion, or worst of all, a diabolic intervention.
3. Non constat de supernaturalitate. (It is not confirmed to be of supernatural origin.) When the conclusion is not clearly seen, when facts are missing, or when the origin of an event is not yet known for certain, the Church then declares non constat de supernaturalitate. This does not mean that there has not been an apparition. It means that the supernatural origin of the events it is not yet confirmed and that certain information necessary to make a clear discernment is missing. The placement of the adverb “non” is key, because it changes the meaning of the sentence completely. Garabandal is in this state.
Question 4: What is this movie about?
Synopsis of Garabandal: Only God Knows:
June 18, 1961. In a small village in Northern Spain, San Sebastián de Garabandal, four girls, Conchita, Jacinta, Mari Loli, and Mari Cruz, claim that St. Michael the Archangel has just appeared to them. A few days later, on July 2, 1961 they receive a visit from Our Lady of Mount Carmel. After this first encounter, there are more than two thousand visits from this heavenly Lady. The village’s parish priest, Fr. Valentín, and the Civil Guard brigadier, Mr. Juan Álvarez Seco, suddenly become protagonists in an overwhelming event. They must struggle to find where the truth lies, while confronting a perplexed hierarchy and facing an ever growing multitude of people who arrive at the village in search of answers.
Question 5: Who is the protagonist of the movie?
The Virgin Mary is the great protagonist of Garabandal: Only God Knows. Over 300 performers and the entire filming crew had one goal: to allow Her to manifest Herself and Her maternal presence through this movie. At the start of each day, their voices were united in a unique prayer, “Mother, make this movie transmit your blessing.”
Question 6: Is "Garabandal: Only God Knows" a movie based on real events? To what point can this be sustained?
Indeed, Garabandal: Only God Knows is a historical movie based on real events. Each scene, character, and story gathered in its script has the sufficient historical backing to affirm that it is a movie based on real events. In many cases, the circumstances, details, or names of the actual persons have been altered. Garabandal: Only God Knows judges no one and takes for granted the upright intention of all who intervened in these events. But it does point out some historical facts that have not been properly clarified and that ought to be the object of a study free of prejudice.
Question 7: What is the role of the soundtrack of "Garabandal: Only God Knows"?
The soundtrack of any movie is an essential element to emphasize those emotions that images alone are not capable of expressing. But in Garabandal: Only God Knows, the music adds something more: the serene presence of Our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, who speaks to Her children with a motherly voice; who suffers for us and forgives our mistakes; who consoles, embraces, and caresses, healing interior wounds that torment us; who invites us to draw close to Her without fear, because She understands our suffering and anguish. She seeks our highest good: the salvation of our souls.
Question 8: Why does the movie begin the way it does?
The movie’s opening scene alludes to a true situation: the interview one of the bishops of Santander had with one of the visionaries, Conchita González, when she was a boarder at a school in Pamplona. The encounter took place on August 30, 1966, not only when the apparitions had ended, but when the girls, and especially Conchita, found themselves in moments of dense spiritual darkness. From that situation of interior restlessness, a series of flashbacks begin. From the point of view of this girl’s experience, the viewer is submerged in what really took place in San Sebastián de Garabandal between the years 1961 and 1965.
Question 9: What are the key moments in the movie’s storyline?
The movie Garabandal: Only God Knows presents the most important moments in the story of the apparitions: the first apparition of the Angel and the Virgin Mary, the beginning of the conflict with the hierarchy, the Virgin’s first message, the extraordinary phenomena, the girls’ doubts, and the second message. There is a key moment that determines the characters’ position regarding the events: the miracle of the visible Communion. For some, it is the definitive demonstration of the supernatural character of the events in Garabandal. For others, it is the confirmation of the contrary. Meanwhile, the Civil Guard brigadier, Mr. Juan Álvarez Seco, advances with difficulty under the weight of his responsibility. He finally comes to a point in which his interior certainty prevails, obliging him to declare to Conchita, “You know what, Conchita? Even if at some point you doubt and deny everything, I can’t ever deny what I’ve seen, all the things I’ve lived here. And if you deny it, in some moment of doubt, or confusion, or darkness, or even deep suffering, it wouldn’t change anything for me."
Question 10: Does the film reflect truthfully the proceedings of the investigating committee in charge of the study of the apparitions?
Unfortunately, the conduct of the Investigating Committee responsible for the study of the apparitions left much to be desired. It showed signs of acting with prejudices and presuppositions. The witnesses’ testimonies are unanimous: the members of the Investigating Committee rarely visited Garabandal, barely observed the phenomena, and did not interview the girls in-depth or speak with their parents, relatives, or many other important witnesses. No public report was published to answer the many questions that the events in Garabandal provoked.
The date of the first official statement from the Bishop's office speaks clearly about the hastiness of its conclusions. The apparitions began on June 18, 1961, and on August 26 of the same year, just two months after the first supposed manifestation, the episcopal document states: “In view of the report that has been presented to us [by the Committee] ... nothing, up to the present moment, obliges us to affirm the supernatural character of the events occurred there.” Two months of studies was not enough for such a complex and delicate matter, especially considering that the phenomena were still in course and the most important events, such as the messages, had not taken place yet. However, most of the investigation of the phenomena ended there.
Two facts prove that this first Investigating Committee, and therefore its reports, should not be taken into consideration. The first is what happened on May 30, 1983. Dr. Luis Morales Noriega, the chief medic of the Investigating Committee of the apparitions, withdrew his previous negative opinion in a conference which he gave at the Cultural Center of Santander. He did so before a large audience with permission from Msgr. Juan Antonio del Val Gallo, Bishop of Santander at the time, who had also formed part of the Investigating Committee. He repeated the same conference in Madrid a short time afterward. The other fact is that in 1989, Msgr. Juan Antonio del Val Gallo named a new committee, thus manifesting that the previous studies, which he was familiar with firsthand, were insufficient. Unfortunately, this second committee repeated some of the same mistakes and committed others, such as not examining the visionaries or the eyewitnesses of the events. For these reasons, we can honestly affirm that the definitive study of what occurred in Garabandal is still pending.
Question 11: The supposed visionaries denied having seen the Virgin. How should these denials be understood?
Much has been said regarding the girls’ “denials.” It is interesting to note that the Virgin Mary had warned the girls that they would deny the apparitions. “How are we going to deny this if we are looking at you?” they said confidently, finding it hard to believe Her warning. They knew little about the interior darkness the Lord uses to purify and strengthen souls. Perhaps they did not know how to measure their strength. The four poor village girls were simply overwhelmed before the constant pressure of people they respected and wished to obey.
Expert theologians who have studied the phenomena in Garabandal hold that, rather than denials, we should speak of “momentary hesitations." These hesitations are perfectly understandable considering the girls' difficult situation. Several of them never reached the point of denying everything, such as Jacinta, who never denied her vision of the Sacred Heart near the end of June 1961. It is clear that, in face of the events seen and studied by a multitude of witnesses, these weak hesitations cannot be used as an argument to cast doubt on the phenomena. In fact, not much time passed before the girls withdrew the denials that were provoked by various intimidations. Unfortunately, little has been said about this important detail.
Question 12: What are the “calls”?
Only the first apparition of the Angel on June 18, 1961 was a surprise for all four supposed visionaries from San Sebastián de Garabandal. That day, they certainly were not expecting him. But all the other apparitions (over 2,000 are estimated) were preceded by an odd phenomenon: the calls. The girls explain the calls as a feeling of interior joy. They felt three calls before each ecstasy. One of them, Conchita González, wrote in her diary, “The first one is a small joy, the second is somewhat greater, but at the third we get very nervous and very happy. Then it comes (the apparition).” At the third call the girls took off running in the direction where the apparition would take place. Even when the girls were separated before the calls, they always arrived at the same place, at the same time, and fell into ecstasy in unison. The perplexed spectators immediately tried to prove their authenticity. The parish priest himself separated and supervised them, and the girls had no way to communicate with each other. Yet their coordination was always perfect.
Question 13: The visionaries of Garabandal confessed that they feigned some ecstasies. Why did they do so? Does this mean that everything was a lie?
Certainly, the girls of Garabandal faked ecstasies on some (though few) occasions. For anyone who had witnessed a genuine ecstasy, it was quite simple to notice when they were pretending, because they were incapable of repeating the actions and gestures of the real ecstasies. In some way the feigned ecstasies reaffirm the lack of natural explanation for everything that happened in Garabandal.
The girls certainly acted wrongly in pretending to be in ecstasy. However, in their defense, they did so moved by the desire to do good to the people who came from far away to witness the events. The fake ecstasies were almost always limited to prolonging ecstasies when the people asked the Virgin to stay or to anticipating an ecstasy after receiving the second call, when the Virgin would arrive shortly. While their behavior cannot be justified, the girls' goodwill cannot be doubted nor can all that has occurred at Garabandal be disqualified.
Question 14: Has the Church condemned Garabandal?
Not at all. Garabandal is not condemned by the Church. What the Church holds, as explained in Question 3, is that what occurred in Garabandal is “not confirmed to be of supernatural origin.” This does not mean that there has not been an apparition, but that the Church is not yet certain about the events. In reality, this position is a recognition a certain conclusion cannot be made due to a lack of thorough investigation.
It is important to point out that all the bishops of Santander have agreed that both the doctrine and the spiritual recommendations offered in Garabandal are correct: "We have found no matter of condemnatory ecclesiastical censure, neither in doctrine nor in spiritual recommendations" (Msgr. Eugenio Beitia, July 8, 1965).
Question 15: The official notes published by the Bishop's office of Santander prohibited priests and members of religious orders from visiting Garabandal. Are these prohibitions still valid?
At first, the bishops of Santander took disciplinary measures, in accordance with the Code of Canon Law of the time, such as forbidding priests and religious from going to Garabandal. The intention of the apostolic administrator at the time, Bishop Doroteo Fernández, was to limit the popularity the case was acquiring, hoping to facilitate the way towards “the light of the truth.”
Those prohibitions were removed years later by Bishop Juan Antonio del Val Gallo, who had witnessed the phenomena at Garabandal firsthand; he had formed part of the first Investigating Committee for the apparitions several years before being named Bishop of Santander. Presently, no prohibition weighs upon Garabandal.
Question 16: Why does the movie end with the last apparition of the Virgin and the conference given by Dr. Morales at the Cultural Center of Santander?
Dr. Luis Morales, a prestigious psychiatrist, was convoked to be the chief medic of the Investigating Committee to study the events occurring at San Sebastián de Garabandal. For years he took a clear stance against the phenomena. The movie ends with the conference he gave on May 30, 1983 at the Cultural Center of Santander. Because he was so well-respected within the field of psychiatry, the conference had a very powerful effect. Dr. Morales, with the permission of Bishop Del Val, the Bishop of Santander at the time, admitted that he intervened directly to restrain the Committee’s studies and direct its members to negative and preconceived conclusions. He withdrew his negative opinion and admitted the apparitions’ authenticity.
The last scene of Garabandal: Only God Knows is a faithful portrayal of that conference, attended by a numerous audience at the Cultural Center of Santander. It confirms that Garabandal is not a closed case, that the events that occurred there have not been sufficiently clarified, and that they ought to be the object of a prejudice-free study.