THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT FATIMA
14. The Solution of the Historical Critique
All the Events of Fatima, both Fatima I and Fatima II, Are True
THE evidence on the apparitions and miracles of Fatima pose a fascinating problem for the critic. Whether the historians consider them credible or not, they are facts that must be explained. Yet, neither one of the two solutions we have just proposed is acceptable. The Modernist explanation ? It is fundamentally incoherent ! The rationalist explanation of a fraud perpetrated by the clergy ? It is unfounded, ridiculous and grotesque ! Only one solution remains : that of the most serious historical criticism, concluding in favour of the perfect credibility of the witnesses, and thus the supernatural origin of the events of Fatima.
I. THE TRUTH OF FATIMA I
The truth of Fatima I is demonstrated by a threefold collection of mutually supporting proofs. The negative proof shows the impossibility of another solution, the inconsistency of all « natural explanations ». The positive proof directly establishes the credibility of the witnesses. The reader will have discovered it for himself in all its persuasive force during the detailed account of the apparitions that we gave in chapters 3 to 10. Here there are innumerable arguments which can be developed at will.
THE STRIKING POSITIVE PROOF. Let us recall just one fact, which alone is enough to decisively establish the authenticity of Fatima. Costa Brochado, one of the better historians of Fatima, explains very clearly : « Considered in the light of history, the events of Fatima do not depend on the three seers. It is not they who gave the events their historical character, but the unimpeachable witness of thousands of people. The astonishing solar phenomena of October 13, 1917, which we shall study, are historical realities that even the seers themselves could not contradict today, if by chance they could rise from the tomb to claim that they saw nothing. » 1 This extraordinary historical event has only one explanation : the divine miracle confirming the authenticity of the apparitions, the day and hour of which had been announced three months in advance. Even Father Dhanis himself, in spite of all his prejudices, is obliged to agree with the pro-Fatima historians on this point. The great solar phenomenon of October 13, 1917, whose undeniably miraculous character we establish in chapter 10, following in the footsteps of a plethora of authors, appears as the founding miracle, the major event on which rests our faith in the supernatural origins of the apparitions of 1917. It is to the events of Fatima what the miracle of the Resurrection of Christ is to the Gospel : the solid foundation of the whole edifice, the objective and certain historical fact that guarantees by its necessarily divine origin the authenticity of the Revelation indissolubly connected with it.
THE PROOF FROM COMPARISON. To these two proofs, G. de Sede’s work suggests that we add a third, which is also quite conclusive and susceptible to ample developments – the proof from comparison. In his desperate research on everything that might contribute to discrediting Fatima, he devotes a chapter of his book to an account of false apparitions, which are presented as plagiarizing Fatima : Fatima plagiarized, Ghiaie di Bonate et Vilar Chao. 2 These pages, however, even for the most ill-informed reader, will not produce the result hoped for by G. de Sede ; quite the contrary. Thanks to the contrast, it can only cause the events of Fatima to shine forth all the more in their divine limpidity ! Using the most superficial similarities, G. de Sede tries to draw a parallel between the false apparitions and Fatima. Yet, in spite of all his efforts, he cannot cover up the fact that the false apparitions are obvious frauds – or even diabolical imitations of Fatima.
In the two cases cited, as in many others, one discovers the pretence of trying to “ improve on Fatima, ” along with incongruous declarations that let us perceive the psychological derangement of the so-called seer. 3 At Bonate there was a « symbolic vision of the Church with some animals : the horse, the ass, the sheep and the dog. Suddenly the horse leaves the Church and goes off to pasture in a green meadow ; St. Joseph leads it back to the Church, and, prostrating itself with the other animals, it prays. » (“ A new Fatima : Bonate ”, cited by de Sede.) That tells us quite enough ! At Vilar Chao, in Portugal, the same fantastic episodes : the “ stigmatist ” « nourished herself exclusively on water and flower petals ! » What a notion ! When taken to the hospital of Coimbra and closely observed, the pretender could not stand up to forty-eight hours of a real fast, and the material she used to form her false stigmata was quickly discovered ! Although the credulity of the people at times allows itself to be deceived, the Church knows how to blow the whistle, denounce the imposture, and put an end to the fraud. All the recent examples of spurious apparitions, perfidiously cooked up or exploited to distract us from the real ones and particularly Fatima, force us on the contrary to recognize its incomparable clarity ! No, Fatima has nothing to fear from a comparative study with the false apparitions not recognized by the Church, quite the contrary !
The long history of Marian apparitions for over a century only illustrates the prudent wisdom of the Church, which can discern with certitude the authentic divine manifestations that she recognizes and supports, from all their pathological counterfeits or diabolical imitations, which she untiringly unmasks and denounces.
THE CHURCH DECLARES FOR AUTHENTICITY. Relying on the facts of the most certain historical criticism, the Church firmly and authoritatively made her judgement on Fatima. Since the Bishop of Leiria gave his official recognition in 1930, Fatima has enjoyed a constant and unanimous approval of the world episcopate and the Popes, even when they procrastinated in fulfilling its requests.
Here is what Cardinal Cerejeira declared at Rome on February 11, 1967, perfectly expressing the judgement of the Catholic hierarchy on the events of Fatima : « No, Fatima is not ecclesiastical exploitation or superstitious ignorance ; Fatima is a source of light and grace that the Immaculate Virgin wished to pour into the heart of Portugal.
« It is not the Church that imposed Fatima on the faithful, it is Fatima that imposed itself on the Church… In spite of the reservations of the Church and the obstinate, ridiculous opposition of those in power, Fatima continued to move the religious conscience of the country. Without the help of the Church and against the power of the State, the light of the miracle shone more and more brilliantly in the sky of Portugal, and the fire of the crowd’s enthusiasm communicated itself to the entire country.
« … Fatima imposes itself by the evidence of a supernatural action which, I do not fear to affirm, cannot easily be equalled in the history of Marian interventions… In our times of materialist atheism, Fatima demonstrates to us in a striking manner that the supernatural world exists. Fatima proves it to us in a visible, tangible, unassailable and even crying fashion. Fatima annihilates the absurd and arbitrary negation of the supernatural, formulated in the name of reason and science… » 4
This brilliant, radiant light of the apparitions of 1917 guarantees the authenticity of the whole message of Fatima II. Pope Pius XII, clearly alluding to the campaign of criticisms directed against Fatima, declared on May 8, 1950 to the directors of the Blue Army : « … The time for doubting Fatima has passed. Now is the time for action… » 5
II. FATIMA II VICTORIOUS OVER CRITICISM
The thesis of Father Dhanis, which tries to cast suspicion and doubt on Fatima II, is untenable because it is incoherent, both from the theological and critical point of view, as we have shown at length. But it is also untenable because it is false in its very principle, resting entirely on an erroneous affirmation, and propped up by utterly worthless objections. This is what we will demonstrate now.
THE INITIAL ERROR : AN ILLUSORY DICHOTOMY
The whole structure of Father Dhanis’critique, as we have seen, rests on the totally unfounded and false distinction between the “ old history ” of Fatima, disseminated until the years 1938-1940, and the “ new history ”, augmented from this time on by the addition of the Memoirs of Sister Lucy. From this undeniable and progressive growth in the diffusion of the message, Dhanis tried to conclude that there was a real, objective dichotomy.
We must say at the outset that in doing this, he committed a grave error in methodology and demonstrated a flagrant ignorance of the sources of the history of Fatima.
A GRAVE ERROR IN METHODOLOGY. In his studies, Father Dhanis, flouting the elementary laws of historical criticism, practically ignores a distinction of great importance. In the transmission of the message of Fatima (as with any historical fact) one can distinguish four successive stages :
1. First of all there is the event and the first oral witnesses which relate what happened. In this case it would be the responses of the children to the interrogations in 1917.
2. Then there are the later oral testimonies which are not to be neglected. Dhanis almost systematically ignores them.
3. Then comes the stage of writing it down. The writings of Sister Lucy, especially her versions of the events and letters to her confessors, are much more numerous than Dhanis imagined. Although they have long remained unpublished, for dating the appearance of a “ new theme ” in the message, they are completely reliable historical documents. Dhanis is oblivious to them.
4. Finally comes the moment of publication. In the case of Fatima, it was often quite late, due to the ecclesiastical authorities alone and against the will of the seer. We know that the publication of the secret and several essential themes of the message did not take place until 1940. The last part of the secret has still not been revealed.
Dhanis has constructed his whole system taking into consideration only the first and last stages ! He opposes at will the testimonies of 1917… to the popularizing works of the 1940’s, and concludes quite simply that there was a hiatus, a break in continuity which can only be explained by a later invention of all the new themes !
A FLAGRANT IGNORANCE OF THE SOURCES. If the apparent break in continuity, which appears real between the interrogations of 1917 and the disclosure of 1942, disappears when we consider the succession of intermediate testimony, the hypothesis of Father Dhanis loses its whole reason for existence. Now this is precisely the case.
The studies of Father Alonso, 6 even as we await the appearance of his monumental critical work, already establish an uninterrupted chain of oral or written statements indicating that Lucy already knew and partially disclosed everything she is accused of having invented later on ! The most demanding historical criticism can thus establish that the children received a secret in 1917, that they kept it carefully, and then revealed it little by little – according to the designs of Providence, as the theologian will say. In any case, the secret revealed in 1942 does indeed originate in 1917.
1. FROM THE PROMULGATION TO 1926 WITHOUT DISCONTINUITY. Here are some guideposts which will suffice to show how we can go back, without any interruption, from the themes published in 1942 to the first events and testimonies of 1915 and 1917, which are slim but real.
1942. It was only at this date that the authority of the hierarchy permitted the publication of the Secret. The new themes were thus set out for the first time as a whole, in the works of Fathers Galamba, da Fonseca, and Moresco. But Sister Lucy, who already in 1927 had received the permission of Heaven to reveal the Secret, had not failed to develop one or another of its themes for the intention of her confessors, her bishop, or the Pope.
1941. Lucy writes down the third and fourth Memoirs, which constitute the whole of Fatima II.
1940. Sister Lucy writes to Pope Pius XII. In her letter she communicates to him the secret, and relates what happened in the complementary apparitions at Tuy and Pontevedra in 1925 and 1929. 7
1938-1939. Sister Lucy writes several letters to her bishop, announcing that the war predicted in the secret is imminent, and already predicting that Portugal would be spared. 8
1937. Letter of the Bishop of Leiria to Pope Pius XI, requesting on Lucy’s behalf the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Sister Lucy writes down her second Memoir, where she relates the apparitions of the Angel and speaks of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
1935. In her first Memoir, Lucy already alludes to passages of the Secret concerning the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
From 1929 to 1936. Numerous documents relate the apparitions of Tuy and Pontevedra, which constitute the whole essence of Fatima II in close connection with the Secret.
1927. Lucy receives the permission of Heaven to reveal the first two parts of the Secret. She writes them down twice at the direction of her confessors.
Here is a fact of capital importance : the Secret was already written down in 1927 ! Although Lucy had to burn the text almost immediately by order of her confessors, the fact is no less certain. Regarding Father Dhanis, Lucy declared in 1946 : « this Jesuit Father can write to my confessors, to ask them what I communicated to them in 1927; they are Fathers José da Silva Aparicio and José Bernardo Gonçalves. » When asked : « To whom else did you reveal the secret before the war ? » she answered : « To the Provincial Superior, to the Bishop of Leiria, and to Canon Galamba. » 9
Father Dhanis was careful not to verify this testimony with his colleagues, who were Jesuits like him and still living at the time ! But we must go back even further.
1925-1926. Several letters of Lucy to her confessors relate the apparition of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at Pontevedra, with the request for the communion of reparation on First Saturdays, which is already an essential part of the Secret.
The first conclusion : Numerous documents prove that at least from the years 1925-1929, Lucy is already in full possession of the whole of “ Fatima II ”. Thus the supposed hiatus is sharply reduced. If the message was not divulged earlier, the responsibility rests entirely on the authorities to whom Lucy was submitted by religious obedience, and not with herself.
2. DEFINITE EVIDENCE OF A WELL KEPT SECRET (1917-1926). For the preceding period on the other hand, from 1917 to 1926, since Heaven had not yet permitted disclosure of the message in all its fullness, it is certain that the seers were bound to a more rigorous silence. The documents are more scarce. However, although we discover no explicit revelation of the themes that remained secret, we still find precious indications which, once the entire message was revealed, necessarily imply that the seers were aware of them at this time.
1924. The interrogation of Lucy for the canonical process clearly affirms the existence of a secret not yet revealed. There is evidence of the apparitions of the Angel, which were still a secret at that time. We know that Lucy was tormented with a crisis of scruples because she had vowed to tell everything, except the secret, and yet of her own accord she kept « certain things » to herself. How could she have experienced such scruples if she had imagined all that in 1937 ! 10
1921-1922. A serious investigation by Canon S. dos Reis established that Lucy had already taught the prayers of the Angel to one of her companions of Asilo de Vilar. 11 Father Alonso, having interrogated Lucy’s friend anew, « took down the same testimony in the most critical manner » 12. These prayers already contain a reference to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Undoubtedly, it was also about this time that Lucy told Bishop da Silva about the apparitions of the Angel. 13
1920. During her sickness, Jacinta confided many things, especially to Mother Godinho, which already call to mind several themes of the Secret : a prophecy of wars and chastisements, the haunting thought of Hell, and the necessity of reparation. « We have documents written shortly after the death of Jacinta. » 14
1917. In September or October, Lucy had mentioned the apparitions of the Angel to Canon Formigao, who told Canon Barthas about them. Moreover, « since the time of the apparitions, the parents of the little seers knew that they recited a certain formula that they called “ Prayer of the Angel ”, without knowing who had taught it to them. » 15
Let us add finally, in response to the unjustified suspicions of Father Dhanis, that the first appearances of the Angel in 1915 were known immediately. The little companions of Lucy had mentioned them to people in the village. In 1917, Canon Formigao knew about them. Teresa and Maria Rosa Matias, and Maria Justina, when interrogated by Father Kondor, confirmed Lucy’s testimony. 16
3. THE SECRET ANNOUNCED ALREADY IN 1917. While Dhanis is scandalized over the substantial augmentation of the message, there is one fact he is aware of, but which he practically overlooks : it is that the existence of the secret was revealed immediately, in July 1917. Thus Lucy could not have invented everything later on ! There was at least this much, which the three seers did not cease to bear witness to later on, showing that it was always in their minds. This was moreover one cause of the rapid success of Fatima. Everybody wanted to question the seers to make them reveal the famous secret, trying to persuade them with caresses, fantastic promises, or terrifying threats. On this principal secret the three children, who we must not forget were only ten, nine and seven, kept the most complete silence, preferring even to die rather than disobey Our Lady when they were imprisoned by “ the Tinsmith ”, administrator of Vila Nova de Ourem.
There is serious evidence that even apart from the secret itself, which was imposed by the Virgin, the seers had not said everything about their apparitions. The parents of Jacinta and Francisco were well aware of it. Their mother Ti Olimpia observed, not without regret : « I don’t know what’s the matter with these children. When they are alone, they chatter like magpies, but when somebody comes near them they become so quiet you can’t get a word out of them. » 17
Already Fatima I was announcing Fatima II in a veiled way. We are thus far from a total silence, from 1917 to 1942, imagined by Dhanis to support his thesis which aims, a priori, to reject the authenticity of the secret ! « Faced with this chronological table », writes Father Alonso, « all the hypotheses imagined by the negative critic of Fatima crumble. The unfavourable judgements that rely on excessively late dates, are seen to lose their critical foundation. The chronological difficulty itself disappears. No longer is it a question of themes completely ignored until the writing of Sister Lucy’s Memoirs. It is a question of themes pertaining to the Message of Fatima, which little by little are providentially uncovered. » 18
If the principal objection, the one underlying all the others, finally proves to be without a foundation, what happens to all the others that form the indictment of the anti-Fatima critic ?
When we examine in retrospect the list of objections constructed in detail by Father Dhanis against the authenticity of the message of Fatima, it makes us see clearly the emptiness of all the objections drawn from internal criticism. Let us review them very briefly. The more Father Dhanis’formulation of his criticisms is waffling and awkward, the more our response will be frank, clear and concise.
ILLUSORY CONTRADICTIONS. 19 Regarding the month when the secret was revealed to the children (June or July), the contradiction is only so in appearance and not in fact, as we will see clearly : on June 13, the Virgin Mary again promised Heaven to the three little seers, and She announced that Jacinta and Francisco would die soon, while Lucy would remain on earth to « make the Immaculate Heart of Mary known and loved ». Although Our Lady did not command them, the three children felt an impulse to keep this strictly personal prophecy secret.
On July 13, when Our Lady revealed to them the great secret properly speaking, ordering them to say nothing to anybody, they found in this message, the essence of which is the revelation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an additional formal reason to keep silence on the vision of June 13 and the announcement of Lucy’s mission, since they touch on the same theme of the Immaculate Heart. By revealing one they would have risked uncovering the other.
This sufficiently explains why, before everything was published, there was hesitation regarding the date the secret was revealed.
Another inconsistent contradiction : Yes, the Virgin did not reveal Her name, that is the title by which She desired to be invoked at Fatima until the apparition of October 13 : « I am Our Lady of the Rosary. » This did not prevent the children from recognizing already in May who the Heavenly vision was : the Blessed Virgin ! Nor did it prevent Our Lady from revealing, on June 13 and July 13, Her most intimate secret, Her Immaculate Heart. Must one be constantly on the lookout for supposed objections to find a “ disturbing ” contradiction in this fact ?
ALLEGED “ ERRORS ” WHICH ARE NOT SO. Let us move on to more serious criticisms : Dhanis’accusation that the message contains theological inaccuracies. In short, this is the issue :
Is the prayer to the Holy Trinity taught by the Angel faulty ? 20 Dhanis claims that it is, because, he says, « there can be no question of offering the Divinity Itself of Christ in reparation », and moreover, « it is debatable that we can offer the Divinity of Jesus Christ to the Most Holy Trinity » 21. The objection disappears when we take the trouble to read attentively this marvellous prayer, which is remarkably profound. It is the whole prayer in its two parts, of offering and petition, which is addressed to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no question of offering God only the divinity of Jesus Christ. The doctrinal reminder of all the realities presented in the Holy Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, indicates rather that it is the very Person of Jesus Christ, taken in His divine-human unity, that is offered in reparation : just as at Calvary and in the Mass, with which the faithful join themselves spiritually by this prayer. It has been said that this prayer is a formula of a “ spiritual mass ”, just as we speak of “ spiritual communion ”.
The most we can concede to Father Dhanis is that, with a good dose of acrimonious bad will, one could in fact give this very profound text some inexact interpretation. But for that matter the Gospel itself, the epistles, and the writings of the saints are full of analogous expressions, which our censors of Fatima would also have to denounce as « not entirely satisfying the demands of a precise theology » ! Their impudence leads us to think that they will eventually do just that, measuring the divine words by their own supposedly precise theology ! Common sense is on the side of Lucy, who, when told about the objection answered with a smile : « Perhaps the Angel was mistaken ! » 22.
The “ Prayer of the Angel ” is also supposed to attribute “ infinite merits ” to Mary. Our good apostles of ecumenism exclaim : that is unacceptable and scandalous ! If they had only reread the words of the Angel !… They would have realized that the infinite merits are those of the « Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary ». As negligible as the merits of the Blessed. Virgin Mary are in the eyes of our reformers, when added to the infinite merits of Jesus, how could they make the latter lose… their infinity ? But let us pass over these grievances, which can only be explained by haste and a priori jealousies.
The objections some have attempted to formulate against the vision of Hell related by Lucy are no more solid. But the question is so important that we will return to it at length in our commentary on the secret.
DOUBTFUL PROPHECIES ? Has anybody drawn attention to the fact that the two accusations made by Dhanis against the prophecies of the secret are mutually contradictory ? We are told with a sneer : these are not true prophecies since they were not formulated until 1942, after the event. But on the other hand they denounce a gross error, which Father Dhanis by a tortuous argument tries to attribute to Lucy’s propensity for inventing things : she announced that the war would break out « in the reign of Pius XI ». So ! The secret, whose perfectly balanced structure manifests its unquestionable unity of composition was thus written under Pius XI and not in 1942, “ post eventum ” ! Moreover the documents prove it. We shall cite them, and it will be obvious that Lucy indeed sounded the alarm, cried out with all her might concerning the imminent danger of the « horrible, horrible war », already in 1938. As for the apparent inaccuracy, « in the reign of Pius XI », we shall see what its double meaning is – one historical and the other hidden.
THE ERROR ON RUSSIA. There remains the most serious error, the only unforgivable one in the eyes of those who despise Fatima. This whole account of errors being spread by Russia, the principal cause of the Second World War, this bizarre request for the consecration of Russia alone… For the moment let us examine only the pertinence and impartiality of theological judgement shown by our detractor of Fatima.
On this point he is formal and speaks with authority, in the name of his science : « There is no need for long reflections to see that it is practically impossible for the Sovereign Pontiff to make such a consecration… This would render the consecration (of Russia alone) practically unrealizable… a moral impossibility », implying that the Most Holy Virgin could not have formulated such a request Herself. Our critic is so sure of this that he will repeat his judgement three times : in 1944, in 1945, and for the last time in the Nouvelle Revue Théologique, in 1952.
On July 7 of the same year, a month after the article by Dhanis, Pope Pius XII in his apostolic letter Sacro Vergente Anno, accomplished this consecration of Russia and it alone, by name – so much for Dhanis declaring it impossible ! 23
Thus the flagrant, enormous error on the consecration of Russia was not the work of Sister Lucy but rather her censor, too opinionated and too inclined to confuse his political prejudices with the objective norms of theology. Although the act of Pius XII was incomplete, at least it proved in a striking manner that the request of the Secret contained nothing unsuitable, nothing utopian, nothing impossible… and therefore that the Blessed Virgin Mary could well have been the author.
These then are the imaginary difficulties and worthless objections constantly repeated by an impressive number of critics parroting Father Dhanis, against all of whom Fatima II is triumphantly resistant. The error lies with the opponents : they are mistaken in imagining that there is a real dichotomy between Fatima I and Fatima II. It does not exist. They are mistaken in raising against Fatima II objections of pure form, none of which will stand up to examination.
But something else is involved, of which the history of the controversy furnishes innumerable proofs – for such a series of errors cannot be attributed to ignorance alone.
BAD FAITH UNMASKED
From 1944 to 1982, through charity, weakness, or a secret connivance, the majority of authors that referred to the works of Father Dhanis, either to use them as a source or to firmly criticize them, thought themselves bound to pay tribute at least to his perfect good faith. And this, from Father da Fonseca to Father Alonso and to Father Laurentin, who could still write in May of 1982 : « Dhanis wrote nothing out of hostility to Fatima, he assured me before his death, but out of concern to dispel the inextricable doubts and confusion that he saw but could not resolve. » 24 A rapid survey of the controversy obliges us to say that this statement does not correspond to reality. The facts are the facts, and for the honour of Fatima they should not be covered up. Dhanis combated the message for reasons other than the pure love of truth and with weapons other than those of an objective scientific criticism. If we insist on this point, it is because of the flagrant bad faith of the first, and in the final analysis, the only adversary of Fatima.
“ TO ERR IS HUMAN ”. We willingly recognize that his first studies, which appeared in 1944 and 1945, at least had the merit of presenting with all frankness and clarity, the specific critical problem raised by Fatima – the progressive growth of the message. With good reason he could be surprised and even scandalized by the important modifications made to the text of the great Secret by those authors who published it first. This mutilated text, presented by various writers in versions which notably differed among themselves, by that very fact lost a good part of its credibility.
The Belgian Jesuit also had another excuse, which he would not fail to invoke later on : « The war which was raging at the time we wrote, although it raised certain difficulties, nevertheless stimulated us to do a careful job, moved only by the desire of honouring the Most Holy Virgin in bringing out the truth on the subject of these apparitions. Unfortunately, however, we were not able to consult personally the archives of the diocese of Leiria, but we were able to use all the important works that had then appeared on Fatima… » 25
Dhanis was perfectly aware of the inadequacy of his sources, for by his own admission he had to base his study on popularly oriented works, which were much more concerned with devotion than scientific criticism. Is it not astonishing that our professor at the Louvain dared, all the same, to uphold a thesis so contrary to his colleagues, especially Father da Fonseca ? For Father da Fonseca was a Jesuit like himself, an eminent professor at the Biblical Institute, and also possessed the source texts to which he, Dhanis, did not have access.
“ TO PERSEVERE IS DIABOLICAL ”. It was especially in following years that Dhanis behaved in a curious manner for a man who, if we are to believe him, was motivated in this affair only by the love of the Most Holy Virgin and the desire to bring out the truth on the subject of the apparitions. In 1946, Father Jongen, a Dutch Montfort Father, informed Sister Lucy of the objections of Father Dhanis. All the responses of the seer were perfectly precise and clear. Above all, she provided the Fatima critic with a simple means of verifying everything she said, indicating by name all the persons to whom she had revealed the contents of the great secret in 1927 and 1941. « This Jesuit Father », she said, « can write to my confessors, to ask them what I told them in 1927; they are Fathers José da Silva Aparicio and José Bernardo Gonçalves. » She then took the trouble to indicate their address in 1946. She also indicated the names of the superiors to whom she had made the same disclosures. Father Jongen then published in several Belgian reviews the account of this interview. Dhanis was surely aware of it… but he was careful not to ask for additional information from anybody ! In any case, he never made any allusion to it in the future. This proves that he either never bothered to write to either of these witnesses, who alone could shed light on the “ fabrication ” of Sister Lucy, or that whatever they told him went completely contrary to his thesis. In either case, this casts a serious suspicion on his perfect good faith…
There is something even more serious. We know that the Bishop of Leiria invited him to « come to Fatima to study the facts and documents conserved in the archives, in the very context of the events ». 26 Yet he always refused ! « Father Dhanis », writes Dom Jean-Nesmy, « never wished to come and study the documents on the spot, or to go to Coimbra to interrogate Sister Lucy himself. Thus he would not have to retract his own hypothesis, which a deeper historical investigation would have showed him was unjustified. » 27 A strange attitude ! The truth ? He does not seem to have wanted to learn it. His mind was made up in advance, and he preferred not to inform himself so that he would never have to retract his position. And when the defenders of Fatima showed him his error with compelling arguments, he evaded the discussion…
THE REFUSAL TO ENTER INTO CONTROVERSY. Before giving the example of Father Dhanis himself, let us look at the remarkable case of one of his disciples, Cardinal Journet. In 1948 he published in his periodical entitled Nova et Vetera, and then in another magazine called La Vie Spirituelle, the nasty article we have already mentioned, filled with gross errors and injurious calumnies against the seer and the historians of Fatima, especially Canon Barthas. This article, a few pages long, was moreover devoid of all critical value. 28 But when Canon Barthas demanded a chance to reply, it was refused him. 29
Let us return to Father Dhanis. When in June 1952 he wanted to respond to the authoritative refutation of this thesis by Father da Fonseca, a response at once benevolent, conclusive and rich in new documents, he used the same dishonourable procedure, adding to his text this note which says a great deal. It is attributed to the review itself : « Our collaborator shows that his thought was distorted in the study devoted to him. The Nouvelle Revue Théologique believes it is performing an equitable gesture and that it is serving the truth in welcoming this response ; it considers the debate closed. » Father da Fonseca was not allowed to respond !
We could go on at length about the style of Father Dhanis’defence : smooth, evasive, underhanded and perfidious. Let us remark first that, when faced with the arguments, the unpublished documents cited by the Fatima specialist, our critic evades the issue and refuses all discussion on the important questions. He declares at the outset : « We have no intention of discussing this question here, which in our opinion is rather difficult. » 30 But what is he talking about ? Precisely the incoherence of his thesis, brought out by his colleague, and which we have exposed at length. In 1952, our Jesuit no longer had the courage to give a second helping of the stupid or frankly modernist responses he had dared to present in 1944 ! 31 He notes elsewhere, in passing : « The new evidence supplied by Father da Fonseca on the subject of the solar miracle is interesting, but its examination does not fall within the scope of this article. » 32 Dhanis uses the same evasive remark on several occasions. In short, everything that would oblige him to admit his errors in black and white is conveniently thrown out on the pretext that it does not fall within the scope of his article ! What then does he speak about in his twenty-seven page response ? Something entirely different…
A MODERNIST HYPOCRISY. Dhanis responds to the criticisms of Father da Fonseca’s article by avoiding the issue, as usual. He begins by saying, « We will present a clarification on the subject of our thought and our text. » From the beginning to the end of his response, he conveniently confines himself to this vein : he was misunderstood, misinterpreted and unjustly calumniated by his colleague. Coming to the end of his exercise in self-defence, he claims victory : « Almost no discussion, properly speaking, was necessary. It was enough for us to oppose the texts of our article to his attacks (sic) : they defend us quite well. » 33 No longer is it a question of the truth concerning Fatima, or even what his real thoughts are, which he could have tried to express more clearly… No, at issue is one thing : his texts. « They defend us quite well », he adds triumphantly… thus revealing something of his character… For he had foreseen the critique and prepared the response in his text itself. Does Father da Fonseca stigmatize his gross errors or unjustified calumnies with supporting proofs ? Dhanis is content to retort maliciously : « But I didn’t say that ! Read over my text ! » In fact, all his affirmations, even the most obvious ones, are always prudently matched in his study with some discreet doubt, some carefully crafted formula which allows him – whether his assertions are founded or not – never to have to retract a single word of a text which is always faultless. Are examples needed ?
In his first text of 1944, Dhanis favourably proposes the hypothesis that the seers imagined the apparitions of the Angel. In this context, he asked : « May we say that, at the moment the Angel gave the miraculous communion to the children, they had a banal hallucination ? » Since Dhanis is careful not to respond clearly, this is what the reader is led to understand. Thus Otto Karrer, and Journet who writes : « Here Father Dhanis pronounces the words, “ banal hallucination ”. » And when Father da Fonseca refers in the same way to the thesis of Dhanis, but this time to refute it, the adversary of Fatima exclaims : « In reality, nowhere did we say that the little seers had a hallucination… We have posed a question on the subject of hallucination, we have not yet answered it… Nowhere did we affirm the “ banal hallucination ” of the children… » 34 As in his second study, Father Dhanis is careful never to quote from his most explicit texts, and the reader is led to believe that Father da Fonseca lied… or, as the Belgian Jesuit suggests, that his Portuguese colleague misunderstood him because of « the difficulty he experienced understanding the language our first study was written in ». The Flemish language of the first little work « partly accounts for the errors » of Father da Fonseca. 35
As a matter of fact, Dhanis was unable to demonstrate a single error in translation on the part of his colleague. But what we must point out, because it is extremely significant, is that the adversary of Fatima had originally written his article… in French ( !) and then deliberately translated it into Flemish, precisely to avoid too lively a reaction from readers familiar with the romance languages, which he feared, and undoubtedly also to provide himself with a convenient excuse : « You have misunderstood », « You have mistranslated », 36 etc.
Here is another example of his long-winded style, designed so that his anti-Fatima friends would understand his meaning, while keeping the appearance of the critic’s benevolent moderation for the suspicious authorities. At issue is the essential point : the theme of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the message of Fatima. We know that Dhanis claims that Sister Lucy added it later on. Here his writing is a masterpiece of consummate ambiguity, the perfidious duplicity of which borders on the grotesque : « The new theme of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is not presented in very reassuring circumstances. » This is the firm conclusion of the exposé of Dhanis. But now, to reassure the pro-Fatima reader : « It is not impossible (sic) that the celestial apparition suggested recourse to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and even that it suggested (sic) the consecration (of what ?) to this venerated Heart. » Does Dhanis accept as possible the authenticity of the theme of the Immaculate Heart of Mary ? No, because the counterpart comes immediately : « But judging from the old history of Fatima, it seems completely unlikely that the visitor (sic) identified herself by speaking of this Heart as her own. » 37 As an example of the hypocritical camouflaging of his thought, we admit that we have never seen the like. Dhanis brings this up to show the total absence of this theme in the old history of Fatima. The reader will conclude, with him, that this theme, i. e. the Immaculate Heart of Mary, is inauthentic. But he does not dare to say it so crudely, attenuating his thought in a pro-Fatima sense… by an absurdity : “ the visitor ” spoke of the Immaculate Heart of Mary… but not as if it were her own ! That is grotesque.
This subterfuge, however, permits our Jesuit to make his glib conclusion where he shows his devotion ( ?) to Our Lady of Fatima. And if you can believe it, he even greatly rejoiced in the decision of Pius XII to close the solemnities of the Holy Year in Fatima. He « shared in the holy joy of the pilgrims… » These last phrases, ambiguous to excess, fooled even good Canon Barthas, surely incapable of imagining such duplicity… 38 In fact, Dhanis does not retract anything he had said, and maintains his whole thesis intact : « The pilgrimage of Fatima presents itself with serious guarantees of originating from a merciful invention of the sweet Mother of God (this is only accepting Fatima I); it greatly contributes to spreading devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to which it seems (sic) bound for ever (Of course Dhanis omits specifying in just what respect ! It is not in the history of the events but only in the pilgrimages, which endorsed the imaginary elaborations of Lucy); the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ encourages it ; it seems to us that one would be showing a strange self-sufficiency in spurning such a grace. We have already said so in our first article, and we are happy to conclude this article by repeating it. » 39 One last wink at his friends : Understand, he tells them, I am obliged to take precautions because of the Pope… but I am saying no more than in my first virulent study against Fatima.
Does it not remind us of « the insidious tactic » of the modernists, their « refined cleverness » that St. Pius X unmasked in Pascendi ? 40
A COMPLETE DISAGREEMENT. Constrained by his superiors, no doubt at the instigation of Pius XII, to put an end to the discussion by a reassuring article, Father Dhanis, crafty and sanctimonious as ever, remains faithful to his original thought. In fifteen pages of bland and colourless prose, we scarcely find any phrases that obstinately maintain the initial critiques. But they are there all the same, and those who can read between the lines will find them.
He declares at the very beginning of his “ evaluation of a discussion ” : « This controversy, although it demonstrated the existence of some difficulties on secondary points, nevertheless showed that the essentials of Fatima, and not only the essentials, can triumphantly sustain the ordeal of criticism. » 41 Was Father Dhanis convinced by the vigorous refutation of his thesis by Father Veloso ? This beginning would lead us to believe so… But let us entertain no illusions, for that would be underestimating the duplicity of our man. In 1952, he proclaimed that his disagreement with the historians of Fatima « did not concern the essential ». 42
This is the ultimate sleight of hand, for he still has to specify where this essential or non-essential lies… For Dhanis, all of Fatima II which is summed up in the text of the secret, is precisely part of this accidental element, which is uncertain and of no importance. And in this final response, in vain shall we look for the slightest honest and clear retraction. On the contrary, he always claims imperturbably that his « preceding clarifications (sic) remain substantially intact ». 43 He even defends his French translations, which weaken the meaning of his Flemish text, on the pretext that « they are not literal ». He insinuates that the recent consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the Pope – which in fact had just provided the most stinging rebuttal of his whole thesis ! – in no way weakens his suspicions against the secret. One has to read this serpentine paragraph, which contains the perfidious insinuation : « The fact of the consecrations does not prove that in the eyes of the Holy Father the secret of Fatima, in all its parts, reproduces the words of the Most Holy Virgin… » 44
And his final conclusion which, by its ironic tone, might lead us to believe that he had abandoned all his unjustified criticisms, formulates them once more, and more arbitrarily than ever : « On the supernatural origin of the apparitions, we are in accord with Father da Fonseca, just as we both recognize in the “ Secret ” written by Lucy in 1941 an echo ( !) of what was supernaturally communicated in 1917. » At the very moment that he proclaims his agreement, by a single clever word Dhanis reintroduces his whole thesis ! For he adds in a benign tone that the only little disagreement remaining is the following : while Father da Fonseca maintains that the secret was « very faithfully conserved », Dhanis still thinks, just as in 1945 and for the same reasons, that the secret received « precisions added in all good faith in a degree difficult to determine ». 45 The text divulged is only a distant and deformed « echo ». In other words, its content remains completely uncertain !
Let us quote this particularly ambiguous phrase, as a model of its genre : « … a consensus on this “ secret ”, which in some way existed from the beginning, is today in progress. » Go over the many meanings this phrase can have, and you will not find one which is fully satisfying… except this one, which corresponds to the most obvious interpretation of his whole article : the accord is purely an appearance, purely for form’s sake. At bottom the disagreement is and remains total and absolute, for although Dhanis is a clever and hypocritical adversary of Fatima, he is also a fierce and tenacious one.
“ LARVATUS PRODEO ”. As we have said, without ever retracting his first attacks of 1944, this wretched man continued to pontificate, always with his hand over his heart to swear his perfect sincerity – as though his sentiments could compensate for the total absence of proofs ! – and his great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima ( ?). But what is even more serious is that all this time he allowed all those who quoted him as an authority to heap scorn, insults and perfidious calumnies on the seers, the apparitions, and the message of Fatima, without ever publishing the slightest correction to repudiate his extremist disciples. The latter, who after all were only expressing clearly what he had cleverly insinuated, claimed that they had totally destroyed the testimony of Sister Lucy, lining up specious objections against the message of Fatima. But never did their leader, who had launched the offensive and provided them with all their weapons, think for a moment of making any sort of restitution to those whom he and his disciples had harmed so gravely… Instead he confined himself to defending his own compromised reputation – and with such jealous care ! – waiting until the time would come when he could express his theories openly and with impunity, influencing the decisions of the highest princes of the Church. This time did come… after 1960. But that is another story to which we shall return later.
“ THERE MUST COME HERESIES ”. Dom Jean-Nesmy is right in saying : « Father Dhanis did a great deal of harm to Fatima. » And he adds this remark, which is no less opportune : « But indirectly, he provoked the historical research, which on the contrary confirmed the veracity of Lucy. So the misfortune served some purpose ! » 46 In fact, without the underhanded attacks of Dhanis, would the Bishop of Fatima have thought of entrusting Father Alonso with the task of preparing a great critical study which would publish, along with all the necessary scientific apparatus, all the documents on Fatima ? Although the final result of this monumental work has not been published, all the partial publications that have been made and which surely give us the essential, already permit us to establish with greater certitude than ever, the full and entire truth of all of Fatima and particularly of Fatima II, concentrated and summed up in the secret of July 13, 1917. After showing the emptiness of the criticism, we shall still have to say a few words about it.
III. THE TRUTH OF FATIMA II
PERFECT HARMONY BETWEEN FATIMA I AND FATIMA II
The more the facts are studied in detail, the more surprising it is to see just how well the elements of Fatima II fit harmoniously into those of Fatima I. Just one example : the great secret reveals to us that on July 13 the children had a vision of Hell. This text would not be written down until 1941, but how perfectly it fits in with the known events of 1917 ! The children related that day how Our Lady taught them a prayer concerning precisely the danger of Hell : « O my Jesus, forgive us, deliver us from the fire of Hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need. » This prayer, the meaning of which was undoubtedly not grasped very well, was quickly corrected in a more traditional sense, and from then on, during the pilgrimages, they prayed for the souls in Purgatory. It was the disclosure of the vision of Hell that gave the authentic formula, communicated at the very beginning, its whole significance.
On this same July 13, several witnesses remarked on the sudden fear and horror that took hold of Lucy, who suddenly cried out, her face livid with fear : « Aie ! Our Lady ! Aie Our Lady ! » 47 But nobody knew the reason for this terror, which only the secret would reveal later on. Such correlations cannot be invented !
This perfect concordance between the elements of a message, divulged at such different points in time – and for which several examples could be provided – cannot be explained except by a harmony pre-established… since 1917. This implies the unity of a message very rich in diverse elements, which were only gradually revealed. Fatima II reminds us of the missing pieces of a puzzle which, when found later on, fit quite naturally in their proper place in the whole, which until then was incomplete. But there is more.
FATIMA II SHEDS LIGHT ON FATIMA I. Many of the difficulties raised by the interrogations of the children in 1917 vanish entirely in the light of the new perspective of Fatima II. Now that we know the essential themes of the secret that the children were ordered to keep rigorously hidden, we can see that most of their hesitating or embarrassed replies touched on themes of the secret they were not allowed to reveal.
Thus the knowledge of the apparitions of the Angel resolved a contradiction that Lucy was accused of : « In all the interrogations she underwent, if she was asked : “ Did you see the Blessed Virgin any other times before May 13 ? ” she answered no. But if she was asked : “ Did you have other apparitions before May 13 ? ” she answered yes. » 48 Lucy was accused of contradiction and bad faith. The knowledge of the apparitions of the Angel entirely resolves the difficulty, and underlines, on the contrary, her absolute honesty.
EVIDENCE ABOVE SUSPICION
“ A TRIPLE CORD IS NOT QUICKLY BROKEN… ” 49 Once we reject as arbitrary the supposed opposition between the old and the more recent evidence, the credibility of the three seers becomes undeniable. The fact that they jealously kept their secret in no way permits us to suspect their sincerity or psychological equilibrium, quite the contrary.
« The apologists for Fatima, and already Father Formigao, proved by the facts that the little seers of Fatima enjoyed perfect mental and psychological health, removing any suspicion of mental illness or psychological trouble. » 50 And to quote from a letter of Bishop da Silva recognizing the authenticity of the apparitions, the judgement of the bishop sums up a multitude of testimonies which all agree : « The little seers are humble country children, modestly clothed, unschooled, not even able to read, and having a rudimentary religious instruction. They are not nervous, but affable and affectionate in their rude simplicity. They love their family, obey their parents, and have a cheerful disposition… » (Letter A Divina Providencia, declaring the authenticity of the apparitions.) Such a collection of positive criteria cannot be mistaken.
IS ONE WITNESS NO BETTER THAN NONE AT ALL ? After the death of Francisco in 1919, and then of Jacinta in 1920, Lucy remained alone. From this fact alone, Dhanis tries to draw an argument against the validity of her testimony. « But the fact of there being only one witness », as Father Alonso justly points out, « is only suspect in history when deceit on his part can be proven, or when it can be proven that other witnesses were intentionally excluded. Many historical facts, even in Holy Scripture, have only one witness. » 51 The rationalist criticism was quite stupid to reject all the events related only by St. John as the result of a fabrication on his part. We know now, by numerous archaeological proofs or cross-checks, that his Gospel gives us the most detailed and exact accounts of events. Shall we deny the authenticity of the apparitions of Paray-le-Monial or rue du Bac or Lourdes on the pretext that they all had only one witness ?
Of the three initial witnesses at Fatima, the premature death of her two cousins resulted in Lucy being the only one able to explain a good many things. « But one of two things must happen », Father Alonso rightly continues. « Either we believe what she says, or we absolutely give up on understanding Fatima. » 52 In effect, accepting her witness allows us to understand the history of all the events, taking into account all the facts, even down to the tiniest evidence, while refusing to believe her, and moreover without any serious reason, inevitably results in the construction of a mass of incoherent hypotheses, which neglect several of the most certain facts.
THE HISTORICAL VALUE OF THE “ MEMOIRS ” OF SISTER LUCY. The internal criticism of all the writings of Sister Lucy leaves no doubt about the fidelity of her memory, which is really extraordinary. On reading her, might we feel that she relives intensely all the events that she relates ? In the enormous mass of descriptions, conversations, and concrete details of all kinds that constitute the Memoirs, « an enlightened criticism will find only a few accidental errors of dates, facts, and circumstances. » 53 It should also be added that these texts were written under obedience, in all haste and in record time, without the seer having had the leisure to consult any previous document. And yet, her accounts often textually repeat expressions that she had already employed from the years 1917 -1922. A synoptic presentation of the first account of the apparitions drawn up in January 1922 with the three later accounts of the Memoirs would show this in a striking manner. 54
Sister Lucy herself writes, with charming simplicity, at the end of her second Memoir : « Maybe someone will want to ask : How can you remember all this ? How ? I don’t know. Our Dear Lord, who distributes His gifts as He thinks fit, has allotted to me this little portion – my memory. He alone knows why. » Here is the answer, not without some irony, to those who would want to limit a priori the possibilities of her memory and presume to censor her on points they are ignorant of ! Endowed with a certain naturally good memory, Sister Lucy explains that there is another, supernatural reason for the firm, precise memory she has retained of Fatima : « And besides, as far as I can see, there is this difference between natural and supernatural things : When we are talking to a mere creature, even while we are speaking, we tend to forget what is being said ; whereas these supernatural things are even more deeply engraved on the soul, even as we are seeing and hearing them, so that it is not easy to forget them. » 55 Elsewhere she writes, and how easy she is to understand ! « … (supernatural things) are imprinted on the mind in such a way that it is almost impossible to forget them. At least, the meaning of what is made known is never forgotten, unless it be that God also wills that this too be forgotten. » 56
THE TRUE MEANING OF HER “ INSPIRATION ”. In addition to her great natural ability and this indelible mark that such intense supernatural experiences leave on the soul, Lucy has often spoken of a sort of “ inspiration ” that assisted her very palpably whenever she had to write or say anything about the apparitions. Dhanis derides this claim, which he finds exorbitant. He even draws from it an argument against the perfect psychological equilibrium of the seer and the veracity of her words.
Is it not Dhanis instead who did not understand ? For of course, Sister Lucy never said or thought that she was infallible ! The few cases where she recognized that she made an error, expressed a doubt, or confessed her ignorance are enough to prove it. But that she was aware of a very special help that God granted her, when she had to relate her apparitions or the messages that the Blessed Virgin had communicated to her, precisely for her to transmit them, is nothing to be astonished about ! The perfidious allusion to the analogous and illusory pretensions of Nietzsche, is a gross incongruity coming from the pen of our Jesuit ! For never did Sister Lucy pretend to base the reality of her revelations on her intimate experience of being inspired from on high in order to express them in a faithful and adequate manner.
But once the authentic origin of the messages received is proven, is it not fully normal that, in order to pass them on, the seer should have benefited from an “ inspiration ” analogous, in its own order and keeping all due proportion, to that granted to the Apostles and Evangelists to pass on the unique and full Revelation, that of Jesus Christ the Word of God ? There is nothing in this affirmation that is not in complete harmony with the soundest theology. Father Alonso expresses it very well : « It is important to assume », he writes, « that if God used evident signs to make known His presence in the events of Fatima, He also intervened in a special manner so that “ His ” message… was faithfully passed on by the seers chosen for this end. It is something similar to what we say about the Church : if God entrusted her with a message of salvation, we must at least admit that he gave her a charism of truth for transmitting this message in an infallible manner. » 57 In short, if the striking miracles of Fatima prove sufficiently that it is indeed the Queen of Heaven who spoke to us, we can be sure that She is powerful enough to also guarantee the exact transmission of Her great message of love and mercy.
CONCLUSION : THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE SECRET. Once we recognize with certainty the reality of the divine intervention, it is reasonable to think that the three seers benefited from a particular assistance of the Holy Spirit, inciting them to keep secret whatever was to remain so, inspiring them to speak at the hour willed by God, and finally enlightening their memory and intelligence to faithfully express the message received. Here the highest theological reflections square with the conclusions of the most detailed criticism of the documents : it is unjustifiable in the eyes of both the one and the other to maintain that Fatima II was the fruit of a later invention. No, the only plausible hypothesis, the only one perfectly verified, is indeed that there was a secret received in 1917 and exactly retained by the seer.
On this point Lucy has spoken formally. When Father Jongen interviewed her in 1946, echoing the objections of Dhanis, she answered firmly : « When I speak about the apparitions, I limit myself to giving the meaning of the words that I heard. On the other hand, when I write, I take pains to cite the words literally. Thus I intended to write down the secret word for word. – Are you certain of having kept it in your memory ? – I believe so. – Then the words of the secret were quoted in the order they were communicated to you ? – Yes. » 58
This serene and firm response, which there is no serious reason for doubting, bears witness to the absolute authenticity of Fatima II and especially the great secret of July 13, 1917.
THE “ DIVINE ECONOMY OF THE SECRET ”
Before retracing the marvellous history of this incomparable message, before commenting on each of its words without any more doubts or misgivings, we must dispose of one last objection which we have not yet answered.
A COMMAND OF HEAVEN. The little seers, Dhanis claims, could not bear the burden of such a secret in future years… How could Lucy have kept the secret without alteration until 1941 ? It is inconceivable ! To which we retort that Lucy wrote the secret for the first time in 1927, which notably diminishes the time of strict silence. This did not prevent Jacinta and Francisco from keeping a rigorous silence from 1917 to 1919 and 1920. After that Lucy kept silence until 1927. How was this possible ?
The answer is quite simple. But since Dhanis had doubts about everything a priori, and for reasons having more to do with prejudice than criticism, it did not even enter into his mind. This is because this silence was an integral part of the great design of God. The Virgin Mary firmly imposed it on the children, and grace helped them to keep it faithfully. Yes, it must be said openly : if the essential message was kept secret for so long, it is because it was expressly willed by the Most Holy Virgin : « Tell this to no one. Francisco, yes, you may tell him. » (July 13, 1917) It is due to this formal order that the children were led to keep silence on the other elements of the message, without having received the command of Heaven, but only because they touched very closely on some themes of the secret, and would have provoked their disclosure before the proper time.
A SUPERNATURAL SILENCE. The long silence kept by the seers, which thus corresponded with a divine command of providence, had nothing stupefying or impossible about it. Sister Lucy herself explained many times how they could keep it for so long. First there was a natural help : the three children, and especially Lucy, were reserved by temperament. The first visions of the Angel in 1915 were for Lucy the occasion of insults and mockeries of all sorts on the part of those around her. This already moved her to keep silence wherever possible ; she knew that it would cost her to speak. But it was the supernatural reasons which were decisive : the very nature of the apparitions moved them irresistibly to keep silence. For the apparitions of the Angel above all, Sister Lucy writes : « The presence of God made itself felt so intimately and intensely that we did not even venture to speak to one another… (This atmosphere) only gradually began to disappear. It did not occur to us to speak about this apparition, nor did we think of recommending that it be kept secret. The very apparition itself imposed secrecy. It was so intimate that it was not easy to speak of it at all. » 59
Even for the apparitions of Our Lady, which on the contrary filled them with a « communicative enthusiasm », « I felt an inspiration to keep quiet, especially on certain things », Sister Lucy writes. 60 One would have to be in bad faith, or completely ignorant in these matters, to maintain with Father Dhanis that these reasons are not valid. 61
AN EXACT OBEDIENCE. In addition to this supernatural impulse she felt inside her, Sister Lucy indicates to us the other reason for her silence, also supernatural but exterior : obedience. For the secret of July 13 there was the formal order of Our Lady ; for the apparitions of the Angel and all the related themes, Lucy could only obey the orders and counsels of the priests to whom she confided herself, and who all recommended that she keep silence. « I have always obeyed », she could write to her bishop. « Firstly, I obeyed the interior inspirations of the Holy Spirit, and secondly, I obeyed the commands of those who spoke to me in His name. This very thing (silence) was the first order and counsel which God deigned to give me through Your Excellency. » 62
A HEROIC SILENCE. A silence of this kind, from which Dhanis strives in vain to draw an argument against Sister Lucy’s credibility, testifies instead in her favour, in a striking manner. For to keep inviolate such an important and coveted secret, resisting for years the perpetual nuisance of insidious questions, shows an exceptional calm, self-mastery, and psychological equilibrium. Such a reserve, always measured by obedience, supposes a life completely absorbed in God, unceasingly following His movements ; it demands heroic virtues, absolutely contrary to the defects which our critics would like to attribute to the seer : Did they ever see a mythomaniac, a “ yarn-spinner ”, capable of keeping the fruit of her diseased imagination to herself for so many years ? Certainly not ! The false mystics give themselves away by their loquaciousness. They importune the world with their interminable “ revelations ” which they make known at any price and by all means, always finding someone credulous enough to give them a favourable hearing. It is prolixity and not silence that characterizes them.
On the contrary, the silence of Sister Lucy can only be explained by the aid of a supernatural force inclining her to it, a force more powerful than all external pressures. And God knows how strong they were ! In effect, such a secret places the seer – even in the midst of a religious community – in an extreme loneliness of heart, unbearable for nature alone. Poor St. Bernadette, who could not reveal her three secrets to anybody, even to her Mistress of Novices, underwent this cruel experience in her convent at Nevers. 63 Sister Lucy undoubtedly did not escape this hard trial, and overcame it for sixty-five years, waiting patiently for the goodwill of men to finally reveal the message of Our Lady. Yes, at Fatima the secret was indeed something willed by providence, and then permitted by God, to which the heroic and supernatural silence of the seers corresponds.
THE REASON FOR THE SECRET. One last question remains, which we must take a moment to answer : why this secrecy ? What is the meaning of it ? Why did God require it up to 1927, and permit it since… right up to today ? We shall be able to provide the answer at the end of our long historical commentary on the very text of the great secret, for the passing of time now permits us to read, with amazement, the brilliant wisdom of the divine plan in the realization of events. Our task is to bring out this wisdom to dispel the natural surprise caused by this astonishing fact, wholly peculiar to Fatima : the most important part, the essential part of the message was not known until twenty-five years after it was revealed to the seers, and the most decisive secret still remains hidden from us, seventy years after the event.
To guess at why the divine plan arranged for its gradual unveiling, it is enough to imagine what would have happened if the little seers had immediately revealed the whole of the great secret immediately, on July 13, 1917. What would have happened ? Its bewildering prophecies on the subject of a second world war, when the first one was not even over yet, its announcement of the deadly and worldwide role of Russia, which would have seemed extravagant, would surely have discredited the whole of the message and the apparitions, making their recognition impossible.
Thus God willed that Fatima impose itself on the Church the way that Lourdes did, by its miracles and by its message of prayer and penance, independently of its prophetic secret, only the existence of which was revealed at first. The cosmic miracles, the radiant sanctity of the seers, and the extraordinary fruitfulness of the pilgrimage, first had to shine forth and obtain the official recognition of the hierarchy.
At the moment when some of the events predicted began to be fulfilled, drawing the attention of the whole world, the secret could then be revealed with fruit. This is what happened around the years 1927-1930, when the whole West finally discovered, to its stupor, the horrors of Stalin’s Gulag. Already partly fulfilled, the secret could then be understood, and it kept the divine seal on the prophecy first of all by its origin – it had been revealed in 1917 – and then by the numerous events predicted that still concerned the future. Far from being absurd or baffling, it is then a marvel of divine wisdom that the secret was gradually revealed ! Thanks to it, the great prophecies of Our Lady pronounced in 1917 were destined to illumine the whole history of our epoch, bringing a message of light and hope for each of the great stages of our century.
The secret of Fatima and the drama of its publication appear then under a twofold light, at the convergence of a twofold mystery : first the mystery of grace, by which God had foreseen and ordained the most opportune times for his revelation to effect the great work of salvation willed by him, and then the mystery of iniquity by which the Adversary succeeded in delaying its benefits, even for a time depriving the Church and humanity of it, leaving them endangered. By its prophetic secret, the publication and implementation of which were confided to the highest authority of the Church, Fatima dominates our whole century. This will be shown in our second volume, devoted to the great Secret, its fulfilment since 1917 and its integral content. This will be the most original and important part of our work.
BEYOND CRITICISM : THE GREAT LIGHT OF FATIMA
First of all we must draw all the lessons from our patient critical study necessary to reap all the fruits from it.
Yes, it cannot be denied : Fatima as a whole triumphantly sustains the twofold scrutiny of criticism ; the violent and unscrupulous one of rationalism, and the insidious, perfidious one of modernism. None of their objections can stand up against an attentive examination of the sources ; neither one or the other of their theories explaining the events is seriously tenable. They are absurd and grotesque, or fundamentally incoherent. Far from being founded on a scientific study of the documents, the obstinate opposition to the facts and the message in reality rests on a flagrant bad faith that we have had to denounce, both in Gerard de Sede and in Father Dhanis. Confronted with these vain attacks, the only solid solution remaining is the positive one which recognizes, after mature examination, the full and entire authenticity of the apparitions, and accepts the divine origin of the message in its integrity.
THE LIGHT OF TRUTH. After this preliminary study which at the beginning establishes our full confidence in the apparitions, our task becomes easy and supremely attractive : it is enough for us to step aside wherever possible to give as much attention as possible to the events of the apparitions, and to let the witnesses speak for themselves. But although we shall lay aside all unjustified or undue suspicions, we shall not therefore abandon all critical spirit. Here and there, we shall respond in detail to such and such an objection, left in abeyance. But above all it will be a simple matter for us to demonstrate the superabundance of solid proofs, which cause the luminous truth of the apparitions and the message to shine forth.
THE RADIANCE OF HEAVENLY BEAUTY. In a domain so vast and so often recounted as the history of the apparitions, a second perspective will guide us in the choice of episodes and witnesses : that of the beauty of Fatima, which shines brightly everywhere : the unspeakable beauty of the Apparitions of the Angel and the Queen of Heaven, the striking beauty of the cosmic miracles culminating in the marvellous spectacle of the dance of the sun, the hidden and secret beauty (but therefore all the more moving) of the pure and spontaneous, serious and heroic souls of the three seers, the beauty of their family, the beauty of their village and dear homeland, a country with a long and faithful record in Christendom. A shining light, a resplendent Beauty which makes us feel, as it were, a foretaste of Heaven.
THE FIRE OF CHARITY. To apologetics and mystical aesthetics, we do not fear to join devotion as well. Yes, for how could we relate them in a cold and indifferent manner without totally distorting these marvellous events, these burning words, by which the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary willed, in our century when the charity of the many has grown so cold, to revive the ardent flame of the love of God and salvation of souls ? The fire which they came to light upon the earth, must it not give warmth to us also ?
A HISTORY WHICH IS A MESSAGE AS WELL. The message of Fatima, as we have already said and as we will show, has nothing a-temporal about it. Ascetical and mystical, it is also prophetic, and as it sheds light on our history, it dominates and governs it. More than anything else, we shall come to see it as an apocalypse for our twentieth century. That being said, we must add on the other hand, that with Fatima as well as with the Gospel, the story is also a message. The events themselves and the life of the seers are radiant with the same divine brilliance as the words of Our Lady, they are the most vivid illustration of Our Lady’s words, and their happiest complement. In the history of the events at Fatima, everything speaks of and reveals to us the essence of the mystery : the secret of the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and Their divine predilections.
However, even before the choice of the little seers and their life, it is the choice of their homeland from among all nations, to accomplish in our century the great design of Our Lady, that occupies our attention. Clearly this choice was not the result of an absurd or capricious chance. Had not the Event of Fatima, foreseen in the plan of Providence, been prepared for many centuries ? We shall discover with wondrous astonishment – for it has not been said enough – that the special and age-old benevolence of Heaven in favour of its “ faithful nation ”, already reveals to us, in the course of its eventful history, the good pleasure, the desires and the will of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, such as they will be revealed for the whole world at the Cova da Iria, on July 13, 1917.
May Our Lady deign to open our minds and our hearts to the light of Her mysterious Secret so rich in meaning, that it may enlighten us, and fill us with wonder and warmth !
Ave Maria ! Veni Sancte Spiritus !
(1) Fatima in the Light of History, 1948, p. 216, Alonso, The Old and New History of Fatima, p. 94.
(2) De Sede, p. 217-226; 274-275;
(3) De Sede, p. 219-224.
(4) Documentation Catholique, March 19, 1967, col. 546-547, 550.
(5) Quoted by S. Martins dos Reis, Sintese Critica de Fatima, p. 11.
(6) Cf. Fatima and Criticism and The Old and New History of Fatima, from which we draw almost the whole substance of our exposition.
(7) De Marchi, op. cit., p. 350-351.
(8) Statement of Cardinal Cerejeira, Doc. Cath., March 19, 1967, col. 552.
(9) Statement to Father Jongen, De Marchi, p. 344.
(10) Barthas, Fatima 1917-1968, p. 50.
(11) S. Martins dos Reis, Na Orbita de Fatima, p. 128-129. Quoted by Alonso, Eph. Mar., 1972, p. 290-292.
(12) The Old and New History of Fatima, p. 98, note 57.
(13) Lucy confided to Father Jongen that the Bishop of Leiria had advised her to say nothing. For his part the bishop confirmed this to Canon Barthas, Fatima 1917-1968, p. 50.
(14) Alonso, Old and New History, p. 85.
(15) Barthas, Fatima 1917-1968, p. 49.
(16) Memoirs, p. 61. (Fr. Ed.)
(17) Barthas, Fatima, Great Marvel of the XXth Century, p. 41.
(18) Alonso, Old and New History, p. 87.
(19) Cf. supra, chap. 1, p. 16-19.
(20) « Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly and I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the earth, in reparation for all the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He Himself is offended. And by the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners. »
(21) Streven, p. 145.
(22) To Father Jongen, February 1946; De Marchi, p. 342.
(23) An excellent article by Father Veloso, “ Still Some Confusion and Errors on Fatima ”, underlines the contradiction, placing the texts of the Pope and Father Dhanis side by side. Broteria, February 1953, p. 185.
(24) Historia, May 1982, p. 46.
(25) “ A Look at Fatima and Evaluation of a Discussion ”, p. 403, La Civilta Cattolica, May 16, 1953.
(26) Alonso, The Old and New History, p. 90.
(27) The Truth of Fatima, p. 246, note 11.
(28) Journet has the audacity to attack Fatima so vehemently, yet by his own admission he is relying on only one text : an edition of Dhanis by Otto Karrer which already exaggerated the negative conclusions.
(29) Alonso, Fatima and Criticism, p. 410.
(30) NRT, p. 581.
(31) Cf. supra Chapter I, p. 31-35.
(32) NRT, p. 184.
(33) NRT, p. 606.
(34) NRT, p. 585-586.
(35) NRT, p. 580.
(36) We know this from a conference by the Fatima expert, Father Caillon.
(37) Streven, conclusion, p. 213.
(38) What Our Lady Asks of Us, p. 134.
(39) NRT, p. 606.
(40) More than one passage where St. Pius X denounced the perfidy of the Modernists’methods fits him like a glove, for example : « Reprimanded and censured, they continue with boundless audacity, while they deceitfully appear to submit. They hypocritically bow their heads as if to submit, while with all their thoughts and all their energies, they pursue their plans with greater audacity than ever. » (no. 37)
(41) La Civilta Cattolica, May 16, 1953, p. 393.
(42) NRT, p. 606.
(43) La Civilta Cattolica, p. 404.
(44) Ibid., p. 401.
(45) La Civilta Cattolica, p. 405-406.
(46) La Verité de Fatima, p. 246.
(47) De Marchi, p. 115.
(48) Barthas Fatima 1917-1968, p. 49.
(49) Ecclesiastes 4 : 12.
(50) Alonso, Old and New History, p. 82.
(51) Alonso, op. cit., p. 91.
(52) p. 91.
(53) Alonso’s introduction to the Memoirs.
(54) This first account was published by S. Martins dos Reis in Uma Vida, 1973, p. 305-321.
(55) Memoirs, (Fr. Ed.), p. 104.
(56) Memoirs, (Fr. Ed.), p. 180.
(57) Memoirs, Introduction.
(58) De Marchi, p. 344.
(59) Memoirs IV, p. 156.
Besides his hypocrisy, this phrase alone abases our author to the level of the rationalist of the Documentation antireligieuse which contented itself with saying : « The Portuguese are a merry bunch. » This is absurd.
(60) Ibid., p. 158.
(61) As St. John of the Cross explains, the highest mystical graces almost irresistibly move the soul to keep silence. Cf. Spiritual Canticle, stanza XXXII.
(62) Memoirs, p, 154.
(63) Mother Marie-Thérése Vauzou could neither understand nor pardon the seer for this complete silence on the “ three secrets ”, and consequently the most intimate aspects of her soul. St. Bernadette had much to suffer from the coldness and lack of understanding of her Novice Mistress. Cf. Msgr. Trochu, Saint Bernadette according to the Authentic Documents, p. 393, Vitte, 1958.