The Fatima Controversy is a Mirror of the Church

FatimaStatue

On Sunday afternoon, we published a report about Cardinal Ratzinger’s alleged admission that there is more to the Third Secret of Fatima than was revealed by the Church in 2000. Since that time, the post has been viewed nearly 70,000 times by visitors from around the globe — a testament to the relevance of this topic, almost a century later. It has been re-reported in German, Portugese, Spanish, French, Polish, and Italian publications. Among the Italians who have mentioned it are no less noteworthy figures than Roberto de Mattei, Marco Tosatti, and Antonio Socci — the first having written one of the definitive critical accounts of the Second Vatican Council, the latter two having both published books on this topic.

It is on Socci’s commentary — left on his official Facebook page — that I would like, for a moment, to focus my attention. I do not have a good English translation of it, so for the purposes of this blog post, I will work with the imperfect machine translation provide by Google rather than troubling one of our very busy translators in Italy. We should be able to understand, more or less, its meaning:

THE FOURTH SECRET OF FATIMA

In 2006 I published “The Fourth Secret of Fatima” (Rizzoli), where I presented the (many!) Evidence of a not yet published the Third Secret of Fatima, on the day.

Bid Today’s article OnePeterFive , commented by Tosatti, who brings a testimony that would confirm the existence of this part of the Secret not yet published.

But invite you to consider everything very carefully. I have many doubts and many doubts about the phrase attributed to Ratzinger …. I do not seem credible … [SS: He’s saying he does not find the attribution credible, in his opinion]

Moreover, it seems to me that he – beyond any words spoken in private – has already spoken clearly and officially as Pope Benedict XVI, in pilgrimage to Fatima on May 13, 2010.

On that occasion he stated that the Message of Fatima was not concluded with the events of the twentieth century, but which also concerned the near future and this message warned not only to persecutions of the Church from its external enemies, but also from great trials and persecution from within …

The Pope added:

“We are realists in expecting that evil always attacks, attacks from within and without, but which always forces the goods are present and that, eventually, the Lord is stronger than evil and our Lady is for us the visible, motherly guarantee of God’s goodness, which is always the last word in history.”

It’s a rough version, but you get the gist. This is, as far as it goes, a fair thing to say. It is a warning for caution, a suspicion that Father Dollinger’s statement is incorrect. It is not, in any conceivable sense of the term, an argument to the contrary. When it comes to Fatima, unfortunately all of us who question the official story have been relegated to speculation, suspicion, and the testimony of those closest to the people with a front-row seat to these events and the information that surrounds them. Often, all we have to go on is our gut. Our intuition. And I will not fault Mr. Socci for expressing his. In fact, I’m grateful that he is bringing this conversation to a wider audience. All that should concern us is the fuller truth behind the secrecy.

In a an ironic twist, the same day that Socci published his comment, I received his book, The Fourth Secret of Fatima, in the mail. I have always had a healthy respect for the major approved Marian apparitions of the 19th and 20th centuries (Lourdes, Fatima, and to a lesser extent, Akita), and an innate sense that they are true. That said, I have not studied them in great detail. My purchase of the Socci book was intended as part of a larger effort to begin doing just that.

But as I opened it this morning, I found that Socci makes — immediately, in his introduction — the precise argument that animates my willingness to publish statements like those of Fr. Dollinger. Socci speaks of how, in 2005, just two days after the death of Sister Lucia, he sat down to read an article about the secrets discovered in her room. This article was penned by the respected Italian journalist, Vittorio Messori. Socci’s response to this was as follows:

I reacted to the new article by Messori with a journalistic polemic in which I defended with a sword the rightness of the Vatican (ungenerously above all toward the traditionalists), attacked the writer and liquidated all of his “dietrologies” (An Italian idiom for conspiracy theories that look behind [dietro]  events for hidden plots) concerning unpublished documents. Certainly, I knew that after the fateful revelation of the Third Secret in 2000, doubts, suspicions, rumors, and critical observations had begun to circulate within the curial environment, and that they had found public expression in traditionalist circles. But I had never paid attention to the traditionalist publications because I believed that they originated from a burning disappointment over a Secret that negates all of their “apocalyptic” forecasts.

[…]

The traditionalists’ disputes with the Vatican on the revelation of the Third Secret (of June 26, 2000) have never been analyzed, confronted, and confuted by the ecclesiastical party and are unknown in the lay world — perhaps because their publications circulate almost exclusively in their own environment.

To me the choice by the Curia and the Catholic media to ignore and say nothing about them did not seem right, especially after having read the extremely harsh tone of their accusations against the Vatican.

[…]

Analyzing this literature — besides that circulating on the Internet — it occurred to me that throughout the Fatima affair, there are so many questions without answers as to color it a “detective story.” Perhaps the most fascinating and dramatic detective story of our times because it involves not only the Vatican, great powers and their secret services, as well as certain obscure apparatuses of power, but also each one of us, and the proximate destiny for all humanity and for the Church.

[…]

I tried…to understand the Vatican’s position in order to counter the accusations of the “Fatimists.” I investigated the concrete and reliable elements of criticism in the traditionalist literature, unfortunately buried in a mass of theorems, invective, absurdity, and unconfirmed hearsay. I caught certain of their contradictions, dismantled some theses, but in the end I had to surrender — thanks also to the revelations of an authoritative witness who furnished invaluable information. I had not expected the discovery of a colossal enigma, of a mystery that spans the history of the Church of the 20th century, something unutterable, something “chilling” that has literally terrorized different Popes who succeeded each other in mid-century, something that certainly regards the Church, but also the proximate future of us and our brothers.

Socci begins his narrative with a concession: that the evidence was such that it “contradicted [his]  initial convictions, and surprised and impressed” him. There is something more going on that has not been revealed. There is an import to Our Lady’s message at Fatima that has caused it, in part, to be hidden, avoided, and shrouded in secrecy by the highest powers in the Vatican.

I look forward to the rest of his book, even if his presentation of the facts contradicts my own initial convictions. But what I am certain not to be disabused of is the very idea that we are being deceived in some way; that there is something Our Lady (and by extension, almighty God) thought important enough to warn us personally about. Something that, for human reasons, has been kept concealed.

It is in part for this reason that I do not want the discussion to remain circulating “almost exclusively” in the traditionalist “environment.” We have sought to confirm information that was already in that environment in the hopes it would reach new audiences. It is the message that matters far more than the messenger.

Some Catholics forcefully reject the implication that there is more to the story than we have been told. They do not like this assertion because they think it makes popes into liars. I don’t believe that this is a logical consequence of secrecy. It is possible for broad mental reservation cover a multitude of sins. No doubt fear — fear for the reaction of the faithful to what is contained in the full secret — plays a role in the suppression of information about the warning. But even if it does make them out to be liars, is avoiding such an unfortunate thought more important than the discovery of the truth? There is no charism of the papacy that prevents those who hold it from speaking falsehoods. And in any case, such a sin can be forgiven.

The confusion and debate I have seen in our comment boxes over the past few days makes clear why it is so important that the full truth be made known. Whenever the impression is given to people that they are being misled, or that those leading them are not trustworthy, it is human nature to begin filling in the missing data however possible — even if by imagination. It is this tendency that gives rise to conspiracy theories. And wherever multiple conflicting accounts exist — put forward by credible witnesses on all sides — the conditions are perfect for wild speculation of this kind.

Only the whole story has any hope of putting this controversy to bed. People are hungry for this information. Nothing we’ve ever published has garnered so much attention so quickly. Sadly, we are forced to wait, and to hope, and even to pray that someone like Pope Emeritus Benedict will come forward to set the record straight and to explain away the discrepancies. And the odds of this happening are decidedly slim.

All of this is, in reality, a facet of the larger problem in the Church.

I had a conversation with my wife today, and she, as a convert, expressed her frustration at the way Catholics fight amongst themselves. “I’m used to Protestants,” she says, “who are far more inclined to help each other.”

I reminded her that in contrast to this or that Protestant denomination, ours is a universal Church in chaos, struck by Satan and thereby divided. It is almost impossible to believe how so many otherwise very intelligent Catholics are unable to recognize that the post-conciliar Church has brought about the near-total gutting of Catholicism. It is an unqualified, unmitigated, disaster. The number of people who profess to be Catholic and still believe in essential Church teaching is such a tiny minority, it’s staggering.

The problem with Fatima — just as with the larger Church — essentially boils down to a crisis of confidence. The Church was once eminently credible, but through the actions of those who have led it these past decades, it has squandered much of its hard-earned regard. (Changing the unchangeable tends to do that.)

There are those who oppose Church leadership because they have strayed too far from the mission Christ gave. There are those who oppose Church leadership because they haven’t, in their opinion, strayed far enough. Oddly, these two groups (for brevity, let’s call them traditionalists and progressives, respectively) tend to see the problems in the Church the same way. Both groups agree, for example, that Amoris Laetitia opens the door to communion for the divorced and remarried. One sees this as a catastrophe, the other as a positive and long-overdue development, but there’s little quibble between them about the new reality on the ground.

It is the third group in the Church, therefore, which is the most troubling. These are the extreme loyalists, those so dedicated to their confirmation biases that they refuse to see what is staring them in the face. Colloquially, we can call these the “conservatives”, though it’s an odd turn of phrase when one considers that the only thing they seek to conserve is the new, late 20th-century ecclesiastical paradigm, all while typically glossing over the conflicts this presents to the Church’s previous 19 centuries. I call this phenomenon, “the Magisterium of the now.” This is the group that believes (to the extent they have been taught the truth of it) what the Church believes; they follow the pope and love him (to a fault); they attempt to grow in a true spiritual life, they receive the sacraments, they honor the moral teachings of Catholicism, they teach their children the same. These are good people who love God, but they are deeply deceived. If a pope or a council changes a thing, in their view, then that’s the new reality, and we just have to go with it and find a way to re-interpret our understanding of the Church “in light of” that new thing (rather than vice-versa). A good example of their attitude can be found in a comment I recently saw on Facebook from Dan Burke, Executive Director of the National Catholic Register:

danburkecomment

This is a snapshot of a much longer conversation, but I think it stands on its own merits. This is the kind of inscrutable thinking the “conservative” Catholic mentality leads to. The idea that anyone who wants to restore what was good and retract the recently-added bad from a divinely inspired — and thus, immutable — religion is nonetheless somehow harmful or out of tune with reality. Later in the discussion, he doubled down: “Looking back is a practice of wound-lickers,” he said, “who are paralyzed in the past and do nothing to work to bring about the kingdom of God now.”

It’s a contemptuous statement, and it, too, is deserving of contempt.

How can the Church continue with such a dichotomy in her midst? How can Catholics continue to be so diametrically opposed in their fundamental understanding of what Catholicism is and what Catholics are supposed to believe, and how they are meant to worship? How can those who recognize the severity of the wounds in the Mystical Body of Christ work together with those who think they are merely superficial, or perhaps even an improvement?

Meanwhile, as so-called “conservatives” clash with so-called “traditionalists,” the so-called “progressives” are using every opportunity they can to exploit their new found power and expand it, with the aim of producing “irreversable reform.”

Ultimately, we all need to be able to trust that Rome has our best interests at heart. For “progressives,” this is something to aim for, even if they’re repeatedly told “no”. For “conservatives,” it is impossible to conceive of any other reality — even if it’s right in front of their nose. For “traditionalists,” it’s complicated; we believe that God has our best interests at heart, and that He leads His Church, but that it has fallen into the hands of bad shepherds. We believe He will eventually sort it out according to His own plan. But as we look around us and see the incalculable damage that has been wrought under the watch of those who should have protected and preserved our treasures, we are filled with righteous anger and fear that it will only become worse. We understand the boundaries that the progressives fail to acknowledge (ie., that the Church has an authority that comes from God and that there is no democratic revolution to be had); we also recognize the reality that the conservatives turn a blind eye to (ie., that infallibility and the promise that the “gates of hell will not prevail” is not a blanket guarantee of good leadership free from egregious error in matters of discipline and governance.) But we are left with a decided inability to trust those responsible for placing us in this dilemma, awaiting a divine solution when no human one seems possible.

To continue to deny this situation is foolhardy. As I said in response to a commenter earlier today:

The post-conciliar Church is a massive and demonstrable failure. It represents a deviation from the mission the Church had for nearly 2,000 years. It called into question — and continues to do so — a number of fundamental doctrinal points that previous popes and the entire Magisterium agreed upon.

The Catholic Faith under the leadership of the conciliar and post-conciliar popes has taken humanly irreparable damage. Belief in the Real Presence is decimated, as is (unsurprisingly, considering the previous fact) Mass attendance. Most surveys indicate over 90% of Catholics engage in contraception, and a similar number support same-sex relationships. Church doctrines on topics as diverse as religious liberty, ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, the necessity of the Church for salvation, the indissolubility of marriage, the just use of capital punishment, just war theory, and the prohibition against those not living in the state of grace receiving Holy Communion are all under attack from within.

The Church has been infiltrated, and yes, it is a satanic detour from what Our Lord intended and the Magisterium had always been at pains to preserve.

Which brings us, in this moment, back to Fatima.

The popes of the past half century, whose job it was to preserve and defend the Church from this devastation, are the very same who have assured us that the Fatima message (which they originally suppressed, against Our Lady’s wishes, in 1960) has now been fully revealed. A message that, according to multiple credible accounts, predicted the very destruction that took place on their watch.

It doesn’t take a veteran detective to find motive there. Those who ask that we simply believe we have been told the whole truth in this matter ask too much.

Fatima matters because it is inextricably intertwined with the ecclesiastical crisis it so narrowly pre-dates. It is often dismissed as only private revelation, but that is not entirely accurate. The nature of the warnings that apparitions like Lourdes and Fatima contain make them something more. As Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote, “They are great miracles – in part miraculous healings, in part supernatural warnings – but they represent no additions whatever to Revelation in the strict sense of the word, which terminated with the Apostles. Not private revelations, as in the case of the holy mystics, for their messages were directed to all. The persons who experience them have more the character of a mouthpiece…”

A mouthpiece for Our Lady, who was, in turn, a mouthpiece for our God. As I look to the confusion and chaos around me, driven straight through the heart of the Church, I want to hear everything they have to say that could help us sort out this mess.

I want to know the whole Fatima story. I want to never have a reason to doubt our bishops and popes again. That seems a lofty goal, all things considered, but clearing up the questions around the Third Secret would be an incredibly important first step.

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