The chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”… So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death. (John 11:47-48, 53)
May 12, 2017 The Memorial of Saints Nereus, Achilleus, & Pancras
Seventeen years ago now, in the late spring and early summer of the year 2000, there was a flurry of statements from some very notable Church officials concerning the Fatima Apparitions and the famous Third Secret. These statements were all cobbled together by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and released on June 26, 2000 under the title The Message of Fatima and can be read here. I urge you to read these documents because they have cast a shadow over the discussion of Fatima within the Church for almost two decades now.
First, these documents are not the product of a single author, but rather three men produced this thing, and Pope Saint John Paul II (who was reigning at the time) was not among them. The authors were Archbishop (now Cardinal) Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli the then Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Angelo Cardinal Sodano the then Secretary of State of the Vatican City State, and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
These are strange documents issued by men who at that time had no authority to do what they were doing and it shows.
1) Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone
The first task of Archbishop Bertone seemed to be to convince Catholics that there was no longer any need for the Consecration of Russia. In fact he went so far as to claim that Pope John Paul II had done it sixteen years before, even though the Holy Father had never made that claim himself. To understand this we have to remember that in the year 2000 the Berlin Wall had been down for ten years and the world seemed to be at peace. The Soviet Empire and indeed the Soviet Union itself had long since disappeared and there was not even any reason to think about Russia anymore. These were the first days of Vladimir Putin’s presidency and the country seemed a basket case.
So Archbishop Bertone put the first dagger in the heart of the Fatima message: Russia had already been consecrated and the fall of the Berlin Wall proved it. He cited a universal consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that Pope Saint John Paul II conducted on March 25, 1984 and said that this was the long awaited consecration that everyone had been hoping for. He even provided the text of that prayer and no one seemed to notice that there was one word that Pope Saint John Paul II never used when making that consecration that day: Russia. Read the prayer at the above link to the CDF documents and tell me if you see that word anywhere.
Archbishop Bertone also produced a single sentence from a much ballyhooed letter from Sister Lucia to Pope John Paul II where she says: “Yes it has been done just as Our Lady asked, on 25 March 1984.” The curious thing about that letter is that it is dated November 8, 1989. Do you remember what was going on in the world on November 8, 1989? Massive demonstrations in all the major cities of East Germany forced the government to resign that day. The Soviet Union was refusing to intervene as she had done in past uprisings against the Eastern Bloc governments and the next day the Berlin Wall came down. Possibly Sister Lucia was just as caught up in the euphoria as everyone else on the planet. She was only human after all.
And everyone bought it. But to understand why they were so easily convinced of this thing we have to remember what the world looked like in the spring of 2000. We forget now how good things looked at that time. The Berlin Wall had been down for a decade and the September 11 attacks had not happened yet. The global economy was booming in the first flush of globalization and the internet age. The European Union was in the process of implementing the new common currency, the Euro, that promised to bind the nations of that continent so tightly together that war could never erupt there again. Peace was even threatening to break out in the Middle East. Israel had withdrawn from south Lebanon a month before, ending an 18 year long disastrous adventure there, and Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were set to go to Camp David two weeks after the release of the Fatima documents to make a final peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Times were good, and they were going to stay that way. We don’t need to worry about Fatima and all that doom and gloom stuff anymore.
The second task of Archbishop Bertone was to dispense with the Third Secret. This was really the third part of a single secret delivered to the children on July 13, 2017. The first part was the vision of hell, and the second was the prophecy of the Second World War and the request for the consecration of Russia, and the third part– well nobody knew what the third part of the Secret was. It was written down by Lucia on order of the Bishop of Leira in 1944 and placed in a sealed envelope which was kept by him until it was transferred to the Archive of the Holy Office in 1957. Sister had by her own volition written not to open it before 1960 on the envelope. Pope John XXIII looked at the envelope in 1959 and decided to send it back unopened. Pope Paul VI read the contents in 1965 and decided not to release it. Pope John Paul II read it after the attempt on his life in 1981 and again decided not to release it. But in 2000 these men, ostensibly with the Pope’s approval, were going to release and interpret the thing.
The only hint to the contents of the Secret were two little tidbits that Lucia had written in her memoir. Regarding the July 13, 1917 Apparition the only thing that she tells us that the Blessed Virgin said about that last part of the Secret was this: “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved; etc… Do not tell this to anybody. Francisco, yes, you may tell him.” The ‘etc…’ would tend to indicate that the Blessed Virgin completed that statement with words, wouldn’t it? Remember that.
I will save the second tidbit until after we see to the Third Secret. By the year 2000 the Third Secret had long since acquired a mythological status among Catholics. It was a great mystery known to every Catholic and every Catholic worth his salt had a theory about what it was. If Fatima was ever going to be “part of the past,” as Cardinals Sodano and Ratzinger declared in these documents that it was, then the Third Secret had to be dispensed with. So they mentioned several times, too many times if you ask me, in these documents that the Third Secret would therein be published in its entirety, and here is what they published:
The third part of the secret revealed at the Cova da Iria-Fatima, on 13 July 1917.
I write in obedience to you, my God, who commanded me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine.
After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’. And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father’. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.
That is no secret. By itself there was no need to keep it secret for more than half a century. If this is all that it was then what precisely was it that stopped Pope Paul VI or Pope John Paul II from releasing this in 1965 or in 1981?
I confess that I was not much of a Catholic in the year 2000 and these things made little impression on me. I am not entirely certain that I was even aware of this while it was going on. However I do not doubt that there might have been people who were devoted to Our Lady of Fatima and, on seeing this, began to doubt whether the Message was really all that important after all and just threw up their hands and walked away. And of course that was the whole idea of the people who perpetrated this thing.
I have no doubt that this vision formed a part of the Fatima Secret, but it wasn’t the whole thing; it simply could not have been the whole thing. Lucia wrote in her memoir that the Virgin told them “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved; etc… Do not tell this to anybody. Francisco, yes, you may tell him.” She told them something. Remember that Lucia and Jacinta could both hear the Virgin, but Francisco could only see her. If this vision had been all that it was then Lucia would not have had to tell Francisco anything because he would have seen it himself.
And then there is the matter of the dogma of the Faith in Portugal. That line is absolutely not commented on at all in any of these documents. It is one of two glaring omissions. The only reference to it is in footnote number 7 where the anonymous footnote writer says this:
In the “Fourth Memoir” Sister Lucia adds: “In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will always be preserved, etc…”.
What do you mean ‘Sister Lucia adds’? Were you there? No. You weren’t. But Sister Lucia was most definitely there and she was the only one alive who knew exactly what the Virgin said. Are you saying that Sister Lucia made this up and added it later? Is that the idea you are trying to worm into peoples’ minds? And if Sister Lucia made this part up then the whole thing is open to question isn’t it? Oh this type is so clever…
So after all this we still do not know what the third part of the Secret is. We know that there was that vision associated with it but we do not know the context. We don’t know what the Virgin said save “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved; etc…” But what does that mean?
If the Blessed Mother is speaking about the preservation of dogma in one place it can be taken as a clear indication that it will not be preserved in others. Some sort of general apostasy seems to be being prophesied here. This should not be surprising since all the groundwork for such a thing has been laid up and down various Church institutions throughout all of our lives. In fact a soft apostasy is the day to day experience of most Catholics in the world. But it has not yet reached the point where anyone is threatening to chop off your head if you do not fall down on your face before their false god or their false christ. And the notion of apostasy helps make sense of the vision. The Church is often described as a city in Sacred Scripture. A half ruined city, corpses (i.e. souls dead in sin), bishops and priests and even the Holy Father himself being taken out. You do the math. Such a thing is prophesied to happen before the end with the rise of the great false prophet, the second beast rising up from the earth, who is helpmate to the antiChrist in the Book of Revelation.
Many people take the line “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved;” as an indication that somehow Portugal will be kept safe from whatever is to come. I wouldn’t be so quick to do that. Sister Lucia was very irregular with her punctuation and it would be unwise to take that semicolon as a full stop. We do not know what the conclusion to that thought was. It could have been “In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved in such and such a town or such and such a monastery,” or it could have been “In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved among people who pray the Rosary every day or people who consecrate themselves to my Immaculate Heart” or a million other possibilities.
2) Angelo Cardinal Sodano
Cardinal Sodano was called upon at an address he gave following the Papal Mass at Fatima on May 13, 2000 to make the interpretation that the above related vision was fulfilled in the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981. It pains me to say this about a Prince of the Church, but that is ridiculous.
As if the Queen of Heaven would come to earth to prophesy and to warn of a terrible World War, show a vision of Hell, warn of the annihilation of nations, but the real reason that she came and what she told the children must at all costs be kept secret from anybody and everybody was that sixty four years later some one would attempt to assassinate the Pope.
Popes have often been assassinated. During the first three centuries every Pope was martyred. Pope Pius VI was kidnapped by the armies of the French Revolution who were sacking Rome and trying to destroy the Papacy as an institution in 1798 and marched off to France where he died of maltreatment in captivity at Valence a year and a half later. That did not merit a special warning from Heaven. Why should this merit one, and sixty four years in advance?
This sold at the time because John Paul II was very highly regarded by many Catholics who thought he showed great courage during that ordeal and believed he was instrumental in the fall of the Berlin Wall. We all felt that it was providential that he hadn’t been killed that day in Saint Peter’s Square, so the ground had already been prepared for many people to buy into something like this. But, in the vision the Pope dies, which John Paul II did not. End of story.
3) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
I was a big fan of Pope Benedict XVI and was very sorry to see his papacy end the way it did. I am forever grateful to him for Summorum Pontificum and for the restoration of the ancient Latin liturgy to the life of the Church. I do not like what he did on this day when he was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger though.
He meanders through an overly long discourse on private vs. public revelation touching on Church History and psychology and the interior lives of children while ignoring the most important aspects of the events at Fatima. He speaks as if the events at Fatima were simply interior experiences of the three children. He speaks as if no one was standing on that holmoak, even though eyewitnesses saw the boughs bend. He never in his entire discussion mentions the abundance of evidence that 70,000 people saw the sun dance on the Cova da Iria.
Even though his helpmate Archbishop Bertone stated at the outset of these documents that
Fatima is undoubtedly the most prophetic of modern apparitions. The first and second parts of the “secret”– which are here published in sequence so as to complete the documentation– refer especially to the frightening vision of hell, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Second World War, and finally the prediction of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith and embracing Communist totalitarianism.
Cardinal Ratzinger discounts the prophetic nature of the vision reported as part of the Third Secret saying that “The purpose of the vision is not to show an irrevocably fixed future. Its meaning is exactly the opposite: it is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction.” Fine, but what are these “forces of change”? Communion of Reparation, Consecration of Russia, Penance. Everything that your cronies in this enterprise are trying to drive people away from.
I have been overly long on this topic and I will conclude here on the saddest note. Commenting on the vision the future Pope Benedict XVI states that
The concluding part of the “secret” uses images which Lucia may have seen in devotional books and which draw their inspiration from long-standing intuitions of faith.
He didn’t believe. If Lucia got any part of these Apparitions from devotional books, and she was questioned repeatedly on that subject as a child, then the whole thing is open to question. If this is what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger really thought about Fatima, if he thought that it was somehow or other the product of childish imagination, then that might explain why Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy ended the way it did.
While all of these high Church officials were saying these strange things about her Sister Lucia remained silent in her convent in Coimbra, always obedient to the Church. She died in peace five years later and Our Lady took her to Heaven; while these three men linger on in a world that is darkening by the hour.
Blessed Jacinta Marto
But as to that second little tidbit that was recorded in Sister Lucia’s memoir about the Secret it goes like this. She records in her first volume this exchange between herself, Jacinta’s mother and Jacinta after Blessed Jacinta had fallen ill on p. 45 of Fatima in Lucia’s own words
One day my aunt made this request: “Ask Jacinta what she is thinking, when she covers her face with her hands and remains motionless for such a long while. I’ve already asked her, but she just smiles and does not answer.” I put the question to Jacinta.
“I think of Our Lord,” she replied, “of Our Lady, of sinners, and of… (and she mentioned certain parts of the Secret). I love to think.”
This may be the greatest revelation we will ever get about the Third Secret of Fatima outside of its fulfillment: there was something in that Secret that made soon to be Saint Jacinta Marto smile.