By Peter B
(This column was written by a working European theologian at my invitation. While he is identified here only as Peter B, I am fully advised of his full name, address and credentials. While I have emphasized that the focus of this blog is to help people live the next right step rather than speculate on the sensational, one of the very appealing things about Catholicism to me in my early days of contemplation on it was both the rigor and vigor of its intellectual tradition. It deeply saddens me that much of what passes for debate these days is merely ponderous and bitter swapping of insults. Peter has a significantly different take on this than I do – but I much admire the rigor with which he makes his case and the full fidelity to the faith he grounds himself in. I publish this both as an example of what reasoned disagreement should be and in respect for the centrality of Fatima to the times we are in. I am deeply grateful to Peter for accepting my invitation.
This is a posting in which the comments section is not automatically open. You are welcome to submit a comment as you normally would. I will consider them for addition based on their rigor, scholarship and fidelity.)
Greetings from France! Following some stimulating exchanges with Charlie on the ‘Mother of God’ Forum I am taking up his hospitable offer of writing a guest post for this always invigorating blog on the thorny subject of Fatima in response to Charlie’s ‘Choose or Perish’ piece of August 11. Before doing so (not without an appropriate dose of fear and trembling), let me first emphasize that my purpose is not at all to question Charlie’s own private revelations, which I take with full seriousness. Nor am I seeking to give unqualified approval to all the ‘conspiracy archeologists’ out there whose investigative writing on the issue of Fatima and the Vatican is a mixture of the good, the bad, the ugly… and the downright childish. If I am proposing a slightly different reading from Charlie’s, I do so not in order to argue a case, but in an attempt to assess the evidence as completely and dispassionately as possible, taking as my watchword the famous advice of Canadian Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan: ‘be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, be responsible’.
My perspective is both that of a believer and a trained theologian operating (in the arcane world of interdisciplinary journals, hopelessly obscure footnotes and seemingly endless peer-review processes) at the intersection between faith’s dialogue with culture/science and the study of contemporary mysticism. One hat I wear is that of a member of a science/religion team at an undeservedly under-funded European university headed by a man who recently prefaced the latest book by the great René Laurentin, whose courageous and faith-filled research I have found a continual inspiration. For decades Abbé Laurentin has pursued an unfashionable path in attempting a genuine reconciliation between a mystically-oriented faith and the proper use of God-given reason; his commitment to the ‘unity of truth’ has allowed him as few other intellectuals (Hans Urs von Balthasar, Jean Guitton and Père François Brune being notable exceptions) to pursue rigorous scholarly inquiry while also treating mystical revelation, when carefully discerned, as a potentially genuine source not only of spiritual inspiration but of knowledge.
So, following a similar methodology, regarding the questions touched upon by Charlie’s post – the Third Secret of Fatima, the Consecration of Russia and predictions of apostasy within the Vatican, my provisional conclusion based on my own research, taking into account both the work of historical scholarship and an extensive survey of 8000+ pages of alleged private revelation (Catholic and non-Catholic) in various languages, is more or less as follows:
a) St John Paul II’s Consecration of 1984, as an act of faith and obedience, was indeed of great benefit to the Church and humanity, and surely played a major role in both the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989-1991 and the revival of religious freedom in Russia. However, the case that it did not entirely fulfill Heaven’s original wishes, which not only concerned the Pope but all the bishops, nonetheless needs to be taken seriously, not least because of the critical state of geo-political tensions in the world at the present time. For example, even if you do not take the hardline stance that the conversion of Russia referred to in Fatima would require a wholesale conversion to Catholicism, the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church remains sadly prone in public statements to attacking the Catholic Church (as the crisis in the Ukraine has demonstrated) would seem to indicate that Russian conversion is at best a work in progress.
Although I have the greatest respect both for Sr Lucia and St John Paul II and would not, unlike the conspiracy buffs, for a moment question their sincerity, their pronouncements about the fulfillment of Heaven’s wishes for the Consecration of Russia were stated as personal convictions, not as far as I know as the result of direct revelation from Above. The same of course goes for those taking the other side of the argument, starting with Fr Gabriele Amorth, whose eyewitness testimony that politicians prohibited John Paul II from mentioning Russia explicitly in 1984 cannot be overlooked, given that he was the organizer of the event in St Peter’s Square. It seems that we have a genuine conundrum here.
As regards whether contemporary alleged prophecy is of any assistance in resolving the question, it has to be said that in all my reading I am yet to come across a credible source that explicitly confirms the total conformity of the Consecration with Our Lady’s request (I know that a 2009 message supposedly received by Fernande Navarro – a.k.a. ‘JNSR’- in France has said this, but her reliability has been questioned by many, including René Laurentin, not least on the grounds of some dubious Mariology and a sense of the intrusion of the supposed locutionary’s personal subjectivity into her ‘messages’). On the other hand, several sources which warrant serious consideration more generally – and I say this on the basis of having studied hundreds of pages – have indicated the contrary regarding the Consecration; this is not only a question of ‘Locutions to the World’ (towards which I for the moment take an agnostic view), but also Luz de Maria Bonilla (www.revelacionesmarianas.com) and the ‘God Speaks Will You Listen’ locutions purportedly received by Cletus Schefers and Verne Dagenais: http://www.godspeakswillyoulisten.org/
My personal opinion, although this could change in the light of new material, is that the nuanced position found in the purported words of Jesus to Verne Dagenais – who impressed many of us considerably when he responded personally to detailed questions on the locutions over at the ‘Mother of God Forum’ – is the reading of the 1984 Fatima Consecration which best fits the evidence, i.e. as a partial fulfillment.
b) Regarding the Third Secret, there are still a number of unanswered questions which suggest that the matter cannot yet be considered closed, not least concerning John Paul II’s statement in Fulda in 1980 reported by the German Stimme des Glaubens magazine (in which the Pope apparently described material other than that in the published secret) and the whole role of Cardinal Bertone in the release and interpretation of the secret in 2000, which have been subjected to penetrating and as yet unanswered critique from scholars such as Antonio Socci. Besides more general ongoing question marks concerning the activities of Cardinal Bertone, many reservations being expressed from within the Magisterium itself by senior cardinals, a particular issue is the rationale for Bertone’s published view that Fatima can be consigned to the past, one which he was forced to revise in the light of widely-publicized remarks of Benedict XVI in 2010 concerning the prophecy’s future dimension.
Here a more general point seems in order. One of the biggest obstacles to ascertaining the truth both regarding the secret and the Consecration is that so much of the writing has been agenda-driven. A strange and not-so-coherent alliance seems to have developed between the Catholic Right (either those at the outer limits of faithfulness to the Magisterium, such as Fr Kramer et al., or those well outside the boundaries such as the SSPX, Bishop Williamson…) and the militant Protestant camp, of which a prime example is Thomas Horn, the degree of whose media exposure in uninformed Evangelical circles has to be considered highly unhelpful. Having read a little of the latter’s published material regarding Fatima, besides the outlandish nature of many of his theses, there is an obvious and enormous logical problem with his argument. On one hand, he states that, as a Protestant – of a certain extreme variety, I might add -, he regards all Popes as false prophets, yet one the other he appeals to excerpts from approved Catholic private revelation in search of credible evidence to build his case!! This is of course utterly self-contradictory: read properly, that same private revelation completely deconstructs his theological position and anti-Papalism. On the philosophical level, this is simply not serious writing, but it can unfortunately appear so at first glance as Horn does quote some genuine scholarship (e.g. Socci, whose work I very much respect and who is not merely an ideologue), albeit as an element of an improbably heady cocktail featuring everything from Nostradamus and the Zohar to UFOs and the Hindu goddess Kali (www.exovaticana.com ).
c) As to whether predictions of apostasy within the higher echelons of the Catholic Church are more than the fantasy of conspiracy addicts, this is indeed a highly sensitive issue which needs to be handled with extreme caution, especially when supposed private revelation is brought into the equation. This is evident from the damage that has clearly been done by self-proclaimed ‘prophecy’ labelling Pope Francis as a false prophet (‘Maria Divine Mercy’ being the most spectacular example, but this tendency goes back to the sedevacantist Bayside ‘apparitions’ back in the 1970s). One particularly unfortunate result of a tradition of wholly irresponsible and undiscerning interpretation of alleged private revelation has been to marginalize responsible study of prophecy; I can personally testify that when I started to tell some educated Catholic friends about my reading of contemporary mystics, the reaction was one of horror that I should be associating myself with the most reactionary sub-culture within the Church! This is of course a distortion, as the most credible prophetic material itself does not advocate a Lefevrist/sedevacantist view of history but consistently urges faithfulness towards the official Magisterium. That such a sub-culture exists, however, is sadly a historical and sociological fact.
What is nonetheless certain is that the notion of coming high-level conflict resembling something akin to a schism within the Catholic hierarchy is attested by approved private revelation, dating at least as far back as the visions of Bl Anne Catherine Emmerich, as Mark Mallett has pointed out in a number of typically cogent blog posts:
[A word of scholarly caution here; it needs to be acknowledged that the authenticity of the much-quoted words of Mélanie Calvat’s 1879 version of her La Salette ‘secret’ stating that ‘Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist’ is a disputed question among specialists, some of whom feel that this was her own posterior embellishment]
The words received by Sr Agnes Sasagawa during the approved apparitions in Akita on October 13, 1973 are especially clear:
“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.”
As for the Pope’s personal role in such a conflict, the notion that a legitimately elected Pontiff will apostasize and betray the faith has of course to be rejected as contrary to the dogma of Papal infallibility – a point strongly made by Dr Mark Miravalle, Mark Mallett and others in contending against the alleged prophecies of ‘Maria Divine Mercy’ targeting Pope Francis. As a matter of principle, no credence should be given to any private revelation that encourages disobedience against a reigning Pontiff. In messages received by a number of locutionaries whom I take seriously, adherence to the ‘three whitenesses’ of St John Bosco’s famous dream of 1862 – the Mother of God, the Pope and the Eucharist -, is presented as a litmus test of prophetic authenticity, and this would seem to be a very solid yardstick.
What is more difficult to judge is the notion that at some point in the future an illegitimately elected Pope (antipope) could effectively apostasize. This is far harder to dismiss, given that a) there have been antipopes in the past and b) obviously such an antipope would not be covered by the charism of infallibility. Here it should be said that there are a number of credible prophetic voices out there whose alleged locutions say just this, Verne Dagenais, Sulema and Pedro Régis being three examples. That the words to Sulema and Pedro Régis have been unjustifiably used by others to attack Pope Francis does not automatically inauthenticate them. It should be added that according to these purported prophetic sources apostasy would, it should be added, only be very short-lived and would not therefore contradict Christ’s words about the ‘gates of Hell’ not prevailing against the Church in any ultimate sense; we would only be talking about a temporary setback here prior to a dramatic re-establishment of Divine Truth. Furthermore, the scenario predicted by Pedro Régis a number of years ago, well before Benedict XVI’s retirement, that there will come a time when there are Two Popes, only one of whom is authentic, is by no means impossible. I admit to speculating here, but the existence of a ‘Pope Emeritus’ (a title which Pope Francis would presumably also acquire on retirement) effectively guarantees, even in the event of some kind of illegitimate power grab at a future conclave, there will still be a genuine Vicar of Christ on earth…
It is perhaps also worth noting that what the messages received by Verne Dagenais apparently foresee – that there will come a false church led by an antipope uniting lukewarm Catholics with liberal Protestants -, lines up very closely with visions/angelic visitations that at least two of the most credible non-Catholic prophetic ministers have received independently in America (Terry Bennett) and Australia (Neville Johnson), both figures being outspokenly pro-Catholic in their predictions that there will be great revival in the Catholic Church and that millions of Catholics will be martyred for refusing to accept apostasy (for what it’s worth, the tentative timeline for this is given as 2022-2028, by which stage Pope Francis, if still alive, may well have retired).
d) That there is masonic infiltration of the Catholic Church, as alleged by many mystics from St Pio onwards, is surely beyond reasonable doubt (as well as of other Christian denominations, particularly Anglican and Lutheran – a former Lutheran bishop of Paris who was the professor of a friend of mine was an open freemason until he converted to Catholicism ). Masonic sources themselves point to this, such as Gioele Magaldi’s ‘reformist’ Grande Oriente Democratico
or former grand master of the Grand Orient de France Michel Baroin (1930-1987), who allegedly claimed in the 1980s that 60+ French bishops were Lodge members. Although of course there may be an element of bragging in this, just as Magaldi’s recent claim in the book MASSONI: Società a responsibilità illimitata (Chiarelettere Editore, 2012) that the late Carlo Maria Martini was interested in Masonic initiation may be an attempt at recuperation for his own organization’s purposes, it is indicative of a long-standing Masonic desire for what might be termed ‘theological colonization’, a further example being the awarding of the German Freemasons’ Culture Prize to Prof. Hans Küng in 2007.
Whatever the truth of Baroin’s and Magaldi’s remarks, the documentary evidence for the hand of Freemasonry in the Vatican for several decades is overwhelming and comes from several directions. It is not merely an invention of the SSPX/sedevacantist camp, although the latter have frequently overstated their case and drawn logically erroneous inferences from the evidence, for example arguing since the 1960s that the official Magisterium itself is Masonic at the core, which is a completely unjustified conclusion.
A good example of convergent evidence from several sources is the question of the role of Italian Masonry in the untimely death of Pope John Paul I in 1978. Here we have testimony of the ex-Mafioso turned Italian police collaborator Vincenzo Calcara testifying to the collusion of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, the Italian Mafia and several cardinals in the untimely death of Pope John Paul I;
Calcara’s account is coherent both with the investigative hypothesis of British author David Yallop (In God’s Name) and alleged private revelation concerning John Paul I received by Don Ottavio Michelini (a former cameriere segreto of Pope Paul VI whose six volumes of purported locutions I have never seen seriously challenged) and Swiss mystic Erika Schwarzach (the subject of one of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s final books). As ferocious critic of Freemasonry Gabriele Amorth – who also believes that John Paul I was murdered – has pointed out, a further source of information indicating that something extremely sinister is afoot in the Vatican is the testimony of demons under obedience during exorcisms. In his recent book Memorie di un esorcista (Piemme, 2010) Fr Amorth goes as far as to claim on the basis of these demonic ‘confessions’ that even cardinals belong to Satanic sects operating in Rome.
In a climate where the question of ecclesiastical Masonry is no longer a fringe topic but is openly discussed in mainstream media outlets (at least in Italy, as has been the case since the saga of the P2 ‘rogue’ Masonic lodge in the 1970s), it is a surely a matter of grave concern that Stefano Bisi, incoming Grand Master of the Italian Grand Orient, has recently re-stated the Lodge’s desire for a rapprochement with the Catholic Church, calling for a ‘Vatican III’ … To say that this can hardly be considered an innocent proposal is an understatement.
Watch and pray – hard!