THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT FATIMA
13. The Rationalist Solution of Gerard de Sede
FATIMA. Enquête sur une Imposture (Fatima : Investigation into a Fraud). This is the title of a book by Gerard de Sede, published in 1977 by Alain Moreau publications. On the inset, the blurb gives the tone of the work : « Here is the documentation on the greatest politico-religious fraud of our times : Fatima.
« After two years of investigation, Gerard de Sede exposes the working of this strange operation which began as a fraud with the alleged vision of three young shepherds, and has continued for sixty years.
« In 1917 Our Lady is supposed to have appeared on a holm oak to three young shepherd children of a Portuguese village. Miracle ? Hallucination ? Fraud ? Whatever the case may be, their declarations are behind a fantastic political, financial, and religious exploitation, the beneficiaries of which were a powerful local clergy, the Portuguese government, the Vatican and the international right wing... Who really knows what influence the “ Fatima advocates ” have throughout the world ?... Who finances the Blue Army of Fatima ?... Gerard de Sede answers all these questions as a journalist and historian. »
The whole work is in this vein, animated from beginning to end with the same Voltairian spirit. Its goal is clear : to uproot, by any means, the belief of the faithful in Fatima. Well done for its genre, it will undoubtedly succeed and do immense harm to a number of uninformed readers...
What are we to do, faced with such a work ? Certainly it is out of the question to answer it in the same tone... But is not answering him already giving him too much honour ? Why not simply let the book fall into a well deserved oblivion ? Because, it seems to us, we can do better. Why not get a hold of this book and show that it can be one of the most striking, most convincing proofs of the Apparitions of Fatima ? What better revenge, what better reparation than to turn the insult and blasphemy into a solid apologetical proof ? May Our Lady of Fatima help us ! Ave Maria !
If we believe in Fatima, if we want to spread its message, it is not because it pleases us. No, it is because with the Church, we are sure that at Fatima there was an unquestionable supernatural manifestation, and a final grace offered to our endangered world. We are sure that Fatima is true, for objective reasons, because it has furnished ample proofs of its credibility. Therefore we cannot but rejoice to see finally the contrary thesis openly maintained with passion, with vigour. If Fatima is true, the confrontation with the most virulent, even the most malevolent criticism can only contribute to making its bright light shine even more brightly, as was the case with the Gospel, which emerged victorious after more than a century of rationalist and modernist criticism.
A FLAGRANT IMBALANCE. Gerard de Sede’s book is a milestone. Until that time, at least in France, the thesis of fraud had hardly made an appearance. At the Bibliotheque Nationale, our author had to make a sorry discovery : « 113 apologetic works on Fatima totalling 16, 987 pages (sic !), but only two critical pamphlets scarcely totalling 100 pages... Thus the incense-bearers of Fatima have, so to speak, a monopoly on the floor. » 1 This “ flagrant imbalance ” is universal : « in all the Spanish-speaking countries, in West Germany and the United States », everywhere. How curious !... It goes without saying that we have not taken the time to verify the total page-numbers of pro-Fatima and anti-Fatima works. That would be a waste of time. On the other hand we were quite astonished, after having gone through the same card catalogues of the Bibliotheque Nationale, not to have found in our author’s superabundant bibliography the names of his valiant forerunners, or any mention of the titles of their works...
One can only understand the reasons for this silence after having read these works, which were the first in France to tell “ the truth ” about “ the Fatima fraud ”. The “ flagrant imbalance ” that Gerard de Sede speaks of is qualitative as well as quantitative... Why did he not cite La Vérité sur les Apparitions de Fatima (The Truth about the Apparitions of Fatima) by André Lorulot ? Was Gerard de Sede ashamed of his predecessors ? It is true that this publication of La Documentation antireligieuse does not get very far off the ground. There we find such juicy pearls as the following : after having assured us that private or collective hallucination explains everything, both the apparitions and the « supposed solar miracle », the thinker of « militant reason » continues triumphantly : « When Joan of Arc hears the voices of St. Michael (that’s right – St. Michael) or St. Catherine, we are convinced that these persons, long dead (sic !), cannot speak to anybody. There are hallucinations of the ear, just as there are hallucinations of the eye ! » 2 What retort can we make to such conviction ?! Why also does not G. de Sede cite the articles of Prosper Alfaric in the Cahiers Ernest Renan : Fatima 1917-1954. How is a Holy Place Created ? The same author’s study on The Origins of Marian Devotion could also have been quoted. Although he did not hesitate to use this book, G. de Sede surely judged that the above mentioned articles did not carry any weight...
FINALLY... “ THE WORK OF A HISTORIAN ”. In this context we recognize unreservedly the obvious superiority of G. de Sede. His book is easy reading, and the style is clear. The mind-boggling erudition that he demonstrates will make a great impression on the readers : the author seems to have read everything on Fatima. What an enormous mass of facts and documents he has used ! He has even taken the trouble to compose a list of “ French Fatima advocates ”, in which our own superior, the Abbé de Nantes, and his movement, have the honour of being high on the list : « ... The Catholic Counter-Reform is conducting an intense propaganda in favour of Fatima. » 3 At the National Library of Lisbon he has noticed the same “ imbalance ” as at Paris : faced with 148 works in favour of Fatima one finds only one work against, that of Tomas da Fonseca, published in 1958 and prohibited. G. de Sede could have used the more recent work of Joao Ilharco, Fatima Unmasked, published in 1971, after the liberalization of censorship by Professor Caetano. Professor Oliveira Marques, an important figure in the Revolution of April 25, 1974, an illustrious historian of the left who also raised the accusation of fraud against Fatima, might have kindly assisted G. de Sede in his research at the National Library of Lisbon, of which he became the director. He is thanked for his kind assistance, along with the ambassador of Portugal in France We are sure that our author, so brilliantly patronized, had access in Portugal to all the best anti-Fatima sources. He also knows of the fundamental works of the Catholic historians : those of Canon Barthas, and even of some Portuguese authors. Moreover, it is a complete work in its own way ; it examines all aspects of the question : the theology of the apparitions, the critical problem, the political implications of the event. He claims to have studied the documentation as a historian, clearly and objectively. 4
THE WORK OF A JOURNALIST. He even took the trouble to conduct his investigation on the spot in Portugal, from April to July 1975 : « This book is the work of a journalist, using interviews as well as library research. » 5 There, he interrogated everybody. Finally the adversaries of Fatima could speak out : The « revolution of April 25, 1974 put an end to forty years of dictatorship ». « The books began to come out of the obscurity of the libraries, private archives began to open, tongues were untied. » 6 What promising affirmations : books, archives, testimonies previously unknown, which will surely reopen the question !... « After half a century of enforced silence, the old witnesses who had once seen the Fatima enterprise come into existence and develop, freely spoke of their memories. » 7
Our journalist also went to find the “ impresarios of Fatima ”. No doubt introduced by his friends, the people behind the « Christians for socialism » movement, he was able to meet numerous ecclesiastical personalities : Bishop Alberto Cosme do Amaral, present Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, Don Luciano Guerra, rector of the Sanctuary, Canon Galamba, historian of Fatima and director of the review Fatima 50, Bishop Venancio, former Bishop of Fatima ; at Aljustrel he was able to meet Lucy’s sister and the cousins of Francisco and Jacinta ; he even asked to see Sister Lucy in her Carmel at Coimbra. Of course, when he was refused this gave him a chance to wax ironic...
ALL THE STRONGEST OBJECTIONS AGAINST FATIMA. Somehow G. de Sede is able to boast of presenting « a balanced documentation, as yet unpublished ». 8 Finally, he has produced the critical work loudly requested by Laurentin and all the enemies of Fatima in 1967 : « this desire expressed ten years ago has, until the present, remained without effect. It was to meet this desire that this book was written. » 9 We willingly concede to the author that he has written the finest example that can be given of the rationalist explanation of Fatima. With great cleverness he has maintained the radical thesis of politico-clerical fraud. As Dom Jean-Nesmy remarks, this work is « a sort of compilation of all the arguments accumulated against Fatima ». 10 It is on these grounds that the book particularly interests us, since nobody else succeeded in doing a better job of this type of work. It allows us to judge, in all objectivity, how valid the rationalist thesis is.
A DANGEROUS BOOK. An examination of this work is very interesting, and very useful as well. With such great claims, a large supply of information, and an apparently rational thesis which eliminates all recourse to any sort of supernatural intervention, this book can be very dangerous for any reader without a perfect knowledge of all sources of the history of Fatima. Who can by himself test all the criticisms, all the accusations, all the worst suspicions, formulated on each page against the seers and those responsible for promoting the Fatima Pilgrimage, unless one has made it the object of a special study ? At every step the arguments seem to carry weight, and inevitably shake the faith of the pro-Fatima reader. That is why that which our superior, the Abbé de Nantes, wrote about a similar book to justify his critique of it, applies perfectly to the work of G. de Sede : « Is there, then, any use in refuting him ? Yes. Any book which claims to reduce the Christian explanation to dust must be refuted. For he pretends to bring to a Christian event a scientific explanation that has the advantage, at first sight, of the appearance of rationality over faith. » 11
I. A CATALOGUE OF OBJECTIONS AGAINST FATIMA
Let us go right away to the strongest part of the objections, where G. de Sede makes a list of real difficulties, which have long been raised against Fatima. This is a list of well founded criticisms which must be answered.
“ THE CONTRADICTIONS OF LUCY ”
« Everybody recognizes that the principal source from which we learn about the apparitions of Fatima at 1917 is Lucy. Thus the first question to be raised is that of the value of her testimony. » 12 Now, G. de Sede undertakes to show that Lucy is in no way credible.
1. The accounts given by Lucy are « evasive and hesitant » : when questioned on October 19, 1917, on the apparition of the 13th, Lucy responds to so many questions with : « I don’t remember... », that it becomes disconcerting. However, Canon Formigao, who questions her, is very benevolent. These hesitations, this silence, are a fact that we easily notice. De Sede concludes right away : « Thus after six days, Lucy is unable to describe with precision a supposedly prodigious event, which ought to have been engraved on her memory. This reveals either a profound indifference to the event, an exceptional lack of memory, or an extreme fear of contradicting herself. »13
2. The contradictions between the three seers : « Lucy’s story is on many points in contradiction with the fragmentary accounts of Jacinta, as well as those which were, with great difficulty, squeezed out of Francisco. » 14 Lucy affirms that the Lady had little golden earrings. Francisco declares that her ears could not be seen because they were hidden by the veil.
To the question : « Will Our Lady appear again ? » Lucy answers : « I don’t think so, She said nothing to me about it. » Jacinta declares on the contrary : « She said that this would be the last time She would come, and She said again today that this would be the last time. »
« Likewise, again on the subject of this last apparition of October 13, Lucy declared to Canon Formigao that she saw St. Joseph appear with the Child Jesus hanging around his neck, while Francisco and Jacinta said they saw the Child standing beside St. Joseph. » 15
These are contradictions only in appearance and they have a simple solution, but they do not fail to plant suspicions in the mind of the reader. Some are still more serious :
3. « The accounts given by Lucy contradict each other. » 16 Lucy supposedly contradicted herself on the apparitions of the Angel, 17 and in her account of the apparitions of Our Lady : « To Father Ferreira de Lacerda, Lucy declared : “ The Lady arrived, coming from the east ”. To Canon Formigao, on the contrary, she declared on September 27, 1917 : “ I did not see Her coming from any direction ; She appeared on the holm oak. ” » 18
Another example, from October 19, 1917 : « She had white slippers. » (To Father Lacerda.) To Father McGlynn, in 1946, she answered the same question, « I don’t remember, because I never saw Her feet. » 19
Finally, G. de Sede claims that she contradicted herself in her description of the apparition of the Holy Family, October 13, 1917. 20
THE FATAL ERROR : “ THE WAR WILL END TODAY ”
The devastating argument that G. de Sede prefers to dwell on during the whole length of his account of October 13, (we shall see why), is the famous « false prophecy » of Lucy : on that day she « committed an irreparable fault, in placing on the lips of the Virgin an absurd statement, which the incense-bearers of Fatima would labour for a third of a century to try to have us forget. » 21 Indeed after the apparition, Lucy announced that the war would end that very day. To Canon Formigao she repeats : « The Virgin said... that the war would finish today, and that the soldiers would come home soon. »
On October 19, the poor child stubbornly entangled herself : « Our Lady said it just like that : the war will end today, expect your soldiers to come home very soon. » Jacinta made similar declarations. « Over the years, the promoters of Fatima will strive to erase, by various retouches, this blunder of the child, who attributed an absurdity to the Virgin. » 22
After such hesitations, such contradictions, how can one maintain as does Canon Galamba, that Lucy enjoyed an exceptional memory ? « If this is true », de Sede concludes, « one of two things is true : either Lucy is deliberately lying when she invokes these gaps in her memory or contradicts herself, or the liars are those who transcribed her declarations. In the first case as well as the second, and also in the third and the last one, where Lucy is sincere but lacking memory and given to making things up, the whole structure of Fatima rests on testimonies that do not have the slightest value. » 23
Along with these five pages devoted to a critique of the testimonies (p. 127-132), more or less seriously handled, and where G. de Sede has reproduced the catalogue of Joao Ilharco, he devotes five other pages to « the Catholic critique » of Father Dhanis and his disciples (p. 233-238). In these ten pages the author brings up the real difficulties posed by the testimonies of the seers... At the end of this examination he settles the question, triumphantly : All this proves that it is simply a question of lies or wild stories ! but this is going too quickly into the work at hand... For although it is easy to make accusations of fraud, a number of facts remain for which it will be necessary to provide a plausible explanation. It is here precisely that the insurmountable obstacle lies.
II. THE RATIONALIST « EXPLANATION » OR PROOF BY THE ABSURD
Lucy is a stupid child, manipulated by the clergy. Moreover she is a liar. She is even a mythomaniac ! Convenient accusations... but they are not easily compatible with each other. It will be necessary to choose between them. Be that as it may, objectively, the apparitions at Fatima appear first of all as a series of unquestionable facts which all equally admit. On May 13, 1917, three little shepherds claimed that the Blessed Virgin had appeared to them and spoken to them ; that is a first fact. Then five times in a row, on the thirteenth of each month, they maintained that they saw Her again ; that is the second fact. From month to month, the crowds became more and more numerous. On October 13, there were 70, 000 people at the Cova who all claimed to have seen an extraordinary cosmic phenomenon in the sky : “ The dance of the sun. ” Here is a series of testimonies which are, as such, so many facts that the historian must explain in a plausible manner. There is the most arduous task, to which G. de Sede dedicates the major part of his work. We will follow our author step by step in his purely natural explanation of all the facts. Then our own critique will necessarily be mingled in with the exposition of the rationalist thesis.
1. THE CLERICAL MACHINATIONS
Everything began with murky clerical machinations. We even know the conversation which is behind the whole affair. In May, 1914, three priests met at Torres Novas, not far from Fatima : Abel Ventura do Ceu, Father de Sousa, and Manuel Marques Ferreira, the young parish priest of Fatima. « When the other two asked him how things were going in his parish, he answered with a sigh : “ Nothing ever happens. The region is poor, the earth is not very productive. The people are wretched, without initiative. ” Then Benvenuto de Sousa said to him : “ There is one way of rapidly enriching your parish : an apparition like La Salette or Lourdes. ” Manuel Marques Ferreira reflected a moment, and then agreed : “ You are right, especially since the environment lends itself to this sort of thing. ” » 24
THE PARISH PRIEST OF FATIMA AND THE APPARITIONS. In fact, if there was trickery, there was no one other than the parish priest of Fatima who could choose the actors and direct the whole affair without raising suspicions. However, this hypothesis goes against the most obvious historical truth. It is well known that the apparitions of 1917, far from being a profitable enterprise for the parish priest, were on the contrary prejudicial for him. He never ceased complaining about the fact that the faithful left their offerings on the spot of the apparitions, while the work begun on the parish church had to be interrupted for lack of resources. For Father Ferreira will always steadfastly refuse to receive any offerings left at the Cova da Iria. Discouraged, he will request a transfer and will leave Fatima in the beginning of 1919. 25 Is fecit cui prodest... That is the profit he got out of the apparitions !
A PURE INVENTION. Moreover, the anecdote in question was completely invented. G. de Sede is well aware of it because he puts forth reservations which alone suffice to ruin the foundation of such anecdotes : « Did everything begin in May of 1914 ? In any case, this is what we are led to believe by the anecdote related to us by several persons during our investigation in Portugal. » Who are these persons ? G. de Sede does not tell us ! At least he gives us his sources : Once again it is his mentor Tomas da Fonseca. Here is how the ecclesiastical plot was discovered : « The conversation was held before a witness, Father Fernando da Silva, a military chaplain at the time. Being somewhat scandalized, he reported it immediately to one of his friends, Dr. Luis Cebola, one of the most celebrated Portuguese psychiatrists, who saw to it that it became known. Thus the anecdote was known at Lisbon even before the apparitions of Fatima. After fifty years of enforced silence on a subject that was to remain taboo as long as the former regime was in place, the “ old Republicans ” take pleasure in telling the story. »
« The anecdote was known at Lisbon even before the apparitions... » In that case, how is it possible that the republican and anti-Fatima press of that time made no allusion to it, contenting themselves with making Fatima an invention of the Jesuit and clerical reaction, without being any more specific ? The dictatorship of Salazar had nothing to do with the affair : Why did the “ old Republicans ” neither speak nor write about it from 1917 to 1926, when they were still in power, and controlled all the media ? They had nine years to denounce the “ Fatima fraud ”, with supporting documents. Why did they not do so then ? Because the famous anecdote that explains everything too easily had not been invented yet... No doubt it was necessary to wait until the supposed witnesses had disappeared !
De Sede concludes his decisive anecdote with words that are significant : « We give it here for what it is worth (sic), and with the reserves of usage (?!). » Very good ! We understand. He continues : « Let us stress however (sic) that a historian as serious (da Fonseca evidently is not serious !) as Professor A. H. de Oliveira Marques, director of the National Library of Lisbon, in no way excludes the possibility that Fatima rests on a fraud : “ In May 1917 (he writes), the Church, or certain of its local elements, perhaps organized and certainly exploited what are known as the apparitions of Fatima. ” » The evidence ? The proofs ? The republican historian is too “ serious ” to go into details.
Let us continue the explanation of our rationalist. Once the idea of « operation Fatima » was launched, to set it in motion it would be enough to copy La Salette and Lourdes. The priests had chosen their actors : three illiterate, stubborn and stupid children.
2. THE APPARITION OF MAY 13, 1917
What happened, then ? « It is very difficult to admit that the three children on May 13, 1917 were the victims of a simultaneous hallucination at such a well chosen place and time, as we have seen. Thus, at the basis of the first apparition, there was an objective reality. » 26 G. de Sede has seen that, in the case of Fatima, the hypothesis of hallucination is, for many reasons, decidedly untenable. What then ? There was an « arrangement », an « operation planned from all angles ». 27 But it is certain that the children saw something quite real, objective. 28 What does that mean ? Here is the explanation given by the leaders of anti-Fatima rationalism.
THE THESIS OF TOMAS DA FONSECA. « Here is what he discovered », docilely related by G. de Sede : 29 « In 1916, a colonel named Genipro had been sent to the area of Fatima to do some topographical surveys. Since he was working there for some time, he also brought his spouse, a beautiful, elegant young woman, always dressed in white during the summer. She was a fanatical Catholic, and as her husband confided later on, it was she who had tried to approach Lucy. The colonel added that his wife spoke several times not only with Lucy but also with Jacinta and Francisco. »
Imagine... Colonel Genipro’s wife climbing up on a holm oak ! We will not dwell on the grotesque character of the explanation. We will only admire the precision of the testimony : When did the colonel confide this ? To whom ? As always da Fonseca is very evasive about his sources ! De Sede has to buttress the story, adding : « These facts were confirmed for us by a witness, Dr. Hernani Dias Amado... now eighty years old. » A witness of what, please ? His respectable age leads us to believe that he took part in the fraud... In this case his testimony, which quite curiously comes very late, astonishes us by its laconicism. He must have known more about it : why did he not reveal the names of the priests who instigated the affair ?
G. de Sede assures us that « this explanation of the facts is not without probability ». The only appearance of proof that he gives is the following little fact, related by Canon Barthas : « Two days after the apparition (of August 19), the parish priest of Fatima drove to Aljustrel a group of five ladies, one of which was a young girl of fifteen, dressed in white. He asks Jacinta which of these ladies resembled the vision. Having stared at all of them, she said : “None ; the other Lady was much more beautiful.” – “ And this young lady dressed in white ? ” – “ She is very beautiful, but the Lady I saw at the Cova is much more beautiful ! ” » 30 Such is the only fact which is supposed to prove the fraud : « This at least proves that the parish priest did not exclude, and desired to avoid, a misadventure », 31 G. de Sede comments. You see, he suggests, the parish priest himself had suspected the fraud ! Our “ historian ” who wants to use everything as a weapon, and draw on all possible arguments, is hardly embarrassed by the contradictions : did he not just explain to us twenty pages ago that it was precisely Father Ferreira who had launched the operation, chosen the actors and prepared everything in advance ? The fact related proves on the contrary that our three shepherds were incapable of confusing a beautiful young woman with the Heavenly apparition, surrounded by light, which almost blinded them... It also confirms what has already been proven a thousand other ways : the parish priest of Fatima, who had so little sympathy for the three seers, was very hesitant and was always cold and harsh towards them. In any case it absolutely excludes the idea that he himself was involved in the supposed fraud in any way !
Another problem : Tomas da Fonseca seems to be unaware of the chronology. The lady in question who supposedly played the role of the apparition... was not at Fatima in 1917... but in 1916 !
JOAO ILHARCO : THE HYPOTHESIS OF THE STATUE. Those who maintained that there had been fraud had to invent something else... Da Fonseca’s work had appeared in 1958... Joao IIharco, who writes in 1971, proposes another explanation : « Asking questions about this doll, 1. 1 metres high (?), which spoke without budging or even moving its lips (?), he concluded that someone (?) had placed on the holm oak a statue of the Virgin whose appearance was familiar to the children (?) and that an operator (?) hidden in the bushes, after drawing attention to the statue by capturing the rays of the sun in a mirror, had conversed with Lucy. » 31a We will not waste time commenting on such foolishness : here he is swimming in a sea of impossibilities. By whom was the statue placed on the holm oak ? When ? How ? If it was « familiar to the children », why didn’t they recognize it ? The famous “ doll ” upon which Ilharco builds his whole edifice is a pure invention taken from a fantastic account of the apparitions, published on July 22, 1917... in O Seculo, a liberal and anticlerical daily of Lisbon, which at that time was very satirical on the apparitions of Fatima. 32 Using such sources, it is easy to write history as one pleases ! Fortunately, to be taken in by the stories of Joao Ilharco, one would really have to want to be. His work, Fatima Unmasked, published in 1971, provoked a whole series of critiques in Portugal that left no part of it standing. 33 We have even learned that, « to avoid “ the scandal that his book provoked ”, Ilharco offered to retract his publication. » 33a
THE “ EXPLANATION ” OF GERARD DE SEDE. The rationalist critique goes on. In 1977, G. de Sede proposes a third solution, absolutely ingenious because it is synthetic : « The version of Joao Ilharco and that of Tomas da Fonseca do not, moreover, seem irreconcilable : Lucy could have seen the colonel’s wife at Estrumeiras, a statue at the Cova da Iria, and then mixed up the two recollections. » 33b Once we present in detail the testimonies on the apparitions of the Angel in 1915 and 1916, we will see that the ingenious synthetic theory only doubles the incoherent statements, incredible assumptions, and contradictions.
THE UNQUESTIONABLE FACT. We find the perfect refutation of the rationalist fabrications in an unquestionable historical fact. Not the fact of the apparitions themselves, but first of all the fact of the witness given : the account given by little Jacinta to her mother on the evening of May 13, 1917. Confirmed by the agreement of Francisco and the accounts of Lucy the next day, this witness – although written down only a few months later in the interrogations and articles in the press – is a certain historical fact. A few days later, the whole village knew it and soon the whole country would know what the three children had related. Now it is this initial witness that all the theories are expected to explain.
Ti Olympia, the mother of Francisco and Jacinta, tells the story : « The little child ran to greet me and threw herself at my legs, hugging me as I had never seen her do before. “ Oh, mother ! ” she cried, full of emotion, “ today I saw Our Lady at the Cova da Iria ! ” “ That’s likely, isn’t it !... I suppose you’re a saint to be seeing Our Lady ! ” Jacinta seemed downcast at what I said, but she came into the house with me, saying again : “ But I saw Her ! ” Then she told me what had happened, of the lightning and her fear because of it... of the light... and the beautiful Lady surrounded by light so dazzling you could hardly look at it... of the Rosary which they were to say every day...
« But I didn’t believe anything she was saying and hardly listened to her. “ Little fool ! ” I said to her. “ Sure, sure Our Lady is going to appear to you. ” After that I went to get some food for the pig. My husband had stayed in the corral to see if it was getting on with the other animals. When we had finished seeing to the animals, we went back to the house. My Manuel sat down by the hearth and began to eat his supper. His brother-in-law, Antonio da Silva, happened to be there too, and all my children – as far as I can remember, all eight of them. Then I said to Jacinta : “ Tell us that story about Our Lady in the Cova da Iria. ”
« And she told us what happened with the greatest simplicity. There had been a most beautiful Lady... dressed in white with a gold cord hanging from Her neck to Her waist. Her head was covered with a mantle, whiter than milk, and fell to Her feet. It was edged with gold and was so beautiful... Her hands had been joined, so... And my little girl got up off the stool and stood with her hands folded on the level of her chest in imitation of the vision. She said : “ The Lady held a Rosary in Her hand ; a beautiful Rosary shining like the stars, and a crucifix that shone... She spoke with Lucy a great deal, but not with me, or Francisco. I heard all that She said. Oh, mother, we must say the Rosary every day ; the Lady said this to Lucy. She said too that She would take us all to Heaven, and other things which I can’t remember, but which Lucy knows. When She went back into Heaven the doors seemed to shut so quickly that I thought Her feet would get caught... Oh, Heaven is so beautiful !... It’s like there were lots of wild roses there !... ”
« Francisco confirmed these declarations. The girls were much interested in the story, but the boys inclined to tease. » 34
Let the reader judge for himself if the dreamings of the rationalists allow them to explain such an account ! And our anti-Fatima critic is only at the beginning of his labours...
3. THE FIVE SUBSEQUENT APPARITIONS
The fact is clear and obvious : five times in a row the children said they saw the Blessed Virgin again, and later on there were hundreds, and then thousands of witnesses. For what is unbelievable – and still more incredible on the hypothesis of fraud ! – is that the “ inventors of the fraud ” had the audacity to announce on May 13 the day and the hour of the five subsequent apparitions, on the thirteenth of each month... Each time the crowd heard Lucy speak with the Vision, and after each apparition the children described it and reported the responses of “ the Lady ”. Here, reduced to a bare minimum, are the facts nobody contests, not even G. de Sede !
Here the rationalist “ explanation ” is even more incredible, incoherent and ridiculous than for the apparition of May. The presence of the crowd renders the difficulty greater : « The first vision of the little shepherds of Fatima was that of a real entity – either a person or statue. But quite obviously nothing similar can be assigned as the basis of the five subsequent “ apparitions ”, at least the four that took place in public. » 35 Really ! So no longer is it a question of an aerial promenade of the colonel’s wife, or an ordinary statue illuminated by the sunlight reflected in a mirror ! No more actress hidden in the bushes to transmit the message ! So then, what happened ? Something else must be invented... Let us take time out to read the key page where G. de Sede presents the most skilful and elaborate of the rationalist explanations. Here is the text in extenso, a model of its genre. 36
THE RATIONALIST “ EXPLANATION ”. « For these apparitions (the five subsequent ones), it is thus legitimate to ask if Lucy dos Santos – her two cousins were only stooges playing a minor role – was the prey of hallucinations “ induced ” by the first vision ; if she conducted a simulation on her own initiative ; or if the “ secret ” she claimed to have received was not simply an order not to reveal to anybody under any circumstances, under pain of going to Hell, that the messages received from the Lady seen the first day would henceforth be transmitted by someone to whom she would owe both confidence and obedience.
« It would be possible to choose between these three explanations, which are equally plausible, only if Lucy were subjected to clinical examinations of which we knew the conclusions. Since this was not the case, in the actual state of the case we are obliged to rely on interrogations.
« Let us remark however that the last of these three hypotheses was that of Joao Ilharco, who thinks that the person who transmitted to Lucy the messages she presented to the public and her interrogators as coming from the Blessed Virgin, was Father Faustino José Facinto Ferreira, parish priest and dean of Olival.
« Among other things, he bases his hypothesis on the following facts :
« 1. At the time of the Apparitions, Lucy – as she herself revealed twenty years later – stayed two or three days with Father Faustino on the pretext of spending some time with his sister (“ He had the patience to spend long hours with me, teaching me the practice of virtue and guiding me with wise counsels. ” – Memoirs of Lucy.)
« 2. Again according to Lucy, it is Father Faustino who ordered the three children to “ keep the secret ”.
« 3. Numerous witnesses noted that during the gatherings at the Cova da Iria the children seemed to be the prey of intense fear.
« 4. Certain prayers which Lucy affirms were taught to her by the Virgin bear the stamp of Father Faustino. (“ The Father showed a special devotion for Our Lady of the Rosary and the souls in purgatory ; now at Fatima the Lady presented Herself as Our Lady of the Rosary and taught the children a prayer for the souls in purgatory. ”)
« 5. It was Father Faustino who led the Bishop of Leiria to believe in the apparitions of Fatima.
« Joao Ilharco himself recognizes that this conclusion presents itself as the reconstruction of a puzzle, of which some pieces are still missing. »
Such a text, by its apparent erudition, will no doubt leave the reader indecisive and embarrassed. We would have to be able to verify all his sources to show just how impossible it is to explain the apparitions of Fatima by a clerical fraud. G. de Sede proposes the three hypotheses as equally plausible, although he obviously leans to the third one, that of Joao Ilharco.
THE FRAUD OF FATHER FAUSTINO, DEAN OF OLIVAL. This is absolutely untenable, for many reasons.
If the hypothesis were true, how incredible it would be for Lucy herself, in her Memoirs, to reveal the name of the author of the messages !
To say that Lucy made some visits to Father Faustino “ at the time of the apparitions ” is a pure lie. Although the dean of Olival wrote a favourable article after hearing an enthusiastic account from some of his parishioners who were present at the apparitions of July 13, he did not meet the seers for the first time until after the apparitions. Only then did he take charge of their souls and become their counsellor. No doubt in 1918, he invited Lucy and Jacinta to spend two or three days with him. After Jacinta became ill, Lucy returned there alone. 37
As for the prayer for the souls in Purgatory, which supposedly bears the stamp of Father Faustino... it has been proven that this was not the original formula, but an inexact one which spread later on during the pilgrimages. The prayer given by the children immediately after the apparitions did not speak explicitly of the souls in Purgatory.
Evidently, those who maintain that it was a fraud perpetrated by the clergy cannot succeed in giving the name of a single priest who was in the least capable of playing this role. The dean of Olival could not have been behind the affair any more than the parish priest of Fatima. Canon Barthas, in a sound study on the attitude of the clergy towards the apparitions in the first few years, 38 shows convincingly that no priest could have “ coached ” the children. In a village, everybody knows each other. But no priest was familiar with the seers. And when G. de Sede must give a reference taken from this study, why does he cite only the title, giving neither the chapter nor the page number ? 39 No doubt because the demonstration is far too convincing, and would bring his thesis to naught.
This explanation is also incredible from the psychological point of view ; it assumes utterly contrary qualities in the seers : to be stupid enough to let themselves be fooled so grossly, and to be exceptionally gifted to act out their roles so ably... to repeat the message learned by heart (?), without however using exactly the same expressions. They would have to have a great religious spirit, and an extreme fear of Hell, but not be afraid to lie in the most shameless fashion, pretending to have seen what they had not seen at all. The explanation of Joao Ilharco is a tissue of lies and incredible assumptions.
LUCY A FAKER ? « Lucy faked it of her own accord. » This explanation also is utterly fanciful. Moreover, it would have to be proven that Lucy was a liar. Then, even if we granted her an extraordinary cleverness, how could one attribute to a child of ten the invention of the words of the message, so profound that one could examine them indefinitely without discovering the least flaw : not the slightest childishness, the least vulgarity, the least theological error... Read, and reread the words of Our Lady, and you will conclude for yourselves : to say that a child of ten invented all that on her own is absurd.
“ INDUCED HALLUCINATIONS ”. « Lucy was the victim of hallucinations “ induced ” by the first vision. » In this case, Lucy would be mentally ill. But after each apparition, Jacinta and Francisco also gave testimony. We would have to assume a collective, simultaneous hallucination announced in advance ! In other words it is extremely improbable. De Sede himself writes elsewhere : « It is very difficult to admit that on May 13, 1917, the three children were the victims of a simultaneous hallucination, at so well chosen a place and time... » 40 It is just as difficult for the following months ! From the point of view of psychiatry, such a simultaneous hallucination in these conditions is a pure chimera. We shall return to this point.
THE THREEFOLD WITNESS. None of the three “ explanations ” has any credibility. None of the three permits us to explain an important fact, that of the triple witness which is an additional guarantee of authenticity, especially since it is a question of children who were seven, nine and ten years old, incapable of foreseeing the complex questions of adults. G. de Sede finds it convenient to neglect this fact : « Her two cousins were merely stooges in a secondary role », nor does he give them any further thought ! That is too convenient. Granted, Lucy was the head of the trio, but that doesn’t prevent her cousins from being true witnesses, as we will see. Their statements do not agree on a few tiny details. Their expressions are not stereotyped, which proves that they did not learn a text by heart. These apparent or slight contradictions, which can be explained quite well by the greater or lesser extent that such or such a detail struck their attention, would be inexplicable in the case of a fraud or lesson learned by heart.
But their statements always agree on all the essentials, which reduces the other two hypotheses to naught. For a triple and identical hallucination is a pure invention. As for faking it, it would assume not only a creative genius on Lucy’s part, but an equally faultless and ingenious complicity by the younger two, whom Lucy would have to instruct in their respective roles after each apparition. Yet they were only ten, nine and seven !
Thus, to save at any price a bad cause dangerously compromised, all means are allowed : deceit, lying, and bad faith.
THE MEDICAL EXAMINATION. « It w0uld be impossible to choose between these three explanations, equally probable in themselves, unless Lucy were submitted to clinical examinations, of which we knew the results. Since this is not the case, we are obliged in the present state of the question to rely on the interrogations. » 41
The dishonesty here shows us how bankrupt the rationalist thesis is. What is the truth ? The truth is that the three seers did undergo this medical examination. The ambiguous phrasing of the author does not deny it. He even makes a very rapid allusion to it a few pages before : « On the morning of August 13, the sub-prefect of Vila Nova de Ourem, Artur de Oliveira Santos, took the three children to the sub-prefecture to interrogate them and have them examined by a doctor. » We read in a footnote : « Dr. Antonio Rodrigues de Oliveira. The report of this doctor disappeared under the Salazar regime. » 42 Yet from 1917 to 1926, in the complete “ liberty ” of the masonic republic, our good apostles of science did not find the time to publish it. The argument is striking... against its own authors. Dom Jean-Nesmy asks : « Why did they hide a document which surely could not be expected to favour the seers, a document which would have been of the highest interest for the critique of Fatima ? Given the manifest hostility of the administrator, one can only hold as reasonable the hypothesis that if he did not make use of this medical examination, it was because its conclusions were not favourable to him. » 43
Of the three “ equally plausible explanations ” that supposedly explain the apparitions from June to October... nothing remains.
4. THE ENTHUSIASM OF THE CROWDS
In June sixty persons were present. In July there were four or five thousand, eighteen thousand in August, twenty-five thousand in September, and seventy thousand in October. Such an increase in the crowds from month to month is another fact which must be explained. Why did such great crowds travel there if absolutely nothing happened ? The hypothesis of a gross deception is still more powerless, in this case, to explain the facts. When announcing an extraordinary event, although it is possible, because of the surprise factor, to draw a large crowd once, the people will be quickly disillusioned, and the fraud will not repeat itself. Fatima was quite different ! G. de Sede is aware of it : « To attribute such episodes purely to the sleight of hand of the clergy, as does Tomas da Fonseca, a figure very much in view in the anticlerical republic of 1910, is however a rather curt explanation (what an admission !).
« Not that trickery is rare, but it does not always result in a popular cult ; far from it. Indeed the development of such a cult demands the concurrence of complex historical, social and emotional factors. In short, as its name indicates, every cult develops in a culture. » 44
THE SOCIOLOGICAL EXPLANATION. We are curious to learn the profound sociological arguments that our “ intelligent ” rationalist will add to the “ rather curt explanation ” of his mentor da Fonseca. Here they are :
« In a sense Fatima is the authentic reflection of modes of religious expression proper to a poorly developed country ; if after the staging of the apparitions (sic) a popular cult developed there in a relatively spontaneous manner (sic !), it is because in this milieu faith was confused, and is still largely confused, with belief in the extraordinary, and religious conduct is confused with a type of magic. » 45 Let the reader assess the sonorous emptiness of these vague generalities... Or is perhaps the author alluding to the much more precise development of page 118 of his book ? By an audacious sociological argument he imagines he can explain at once both the success of the apparitions of Our Lady and the Miracle of the Sun : « What must still be explained is why, in the Vulgate of Fatima, the Marian theme was linked with a solar theme. In our opinion, it is due to the resurgence of a local tradition which is expressed in the legend of the foundation of the village. » To make a long story short : according to legend, the village of Fatima owes its name to an episode of the “ reconquista ”. In 1188 a young Moslem woman, Fatima, was taken prisoner by a Christian knight. Since the latter wished to marry her, she was baptized under the name of Oureana, thus giving the town Ourem its name. She died young and her body was transported to a place which retained its Arab name : Fatima. But here is the important part, which sufficiently explains everything : Fatima was the daughter of the lord of Alcácer do Sal. That is enough ! In case you have not understood : « Alcacer do Sol (sic) means “ castle of the sun ” and Ouranea (sic) is the translation of the Greek Ouranos, or heaven. Being the daughter of the master of the sun at its apogee, Fatima, alias Ouranea was then – already – the Lady of Heaven. Legends and tradition perpetuate themselves in a rather enigmatic manner (sic !), in the collective unconscious where they had already taken on existence ; the existence of a very ancient cult of the “ Lady From Heaven ” at Fatima (?) unquestionably contributes (!) to explaining the credence that the apparitions and dance of the sun gained among the population of the region, for these themes were based on profound cultural residues. » 46 In other words, the promenade of Colonel Genipro’s wife, the statue balanced on the holm oak, and then above all “ profound cultural residues ” suffice to explain the increasing flow of the crowds of Portuguese people to the Cova da Iria...
« NOTHING EXTRAORDINARY... » Did not this enthusiasm come instead from the witness of the pilgrims, who on their return told everyone how they had seen, if not the Virgin Mary, at least some extraordinary events ? The simplicity of the seers, their piety, unquestionable and overwhelming cosmic phenomena... G. de Sede does not wish to hear about any of this. Let us quote once more his commentary on the apparition of September 13 : « Today there are between 25 and 30, 000 people. Many come to ask for the healing of a sick person, or the assurance that a departed one will go to Heaven. In a touching gesture, some people give Lucy two letters and a flask of perfume for the Virgin, but the little girl gives them this clever response : “ These things are not needed in Heaven. ” » (Remember that for G. de Sede Lucy is a deluded, stupid child who learned her text by heart. The question was unexpected. How, on her own, could she find a response that showed such presence of mind and delicate benevolence ?) A collective psychosis develops around Fatima...
« Since however nothing extraordinary happened, they had a rumour spread that day that a rain of flowers had fallen from Heaven. » « They had a rumour spread... » and thirty thousand people went back home, full of enthusiasm... without anybody having seen anything at all ! It was merely a bit of « innocent deceit » ! Of course : it is enough for anyone to say any old thing, and thousands of people from every background and culture will believe it, without themselves having seen or heard anything. This “ explanation ” is so grotesque that it needs no commentary.
5. AND THE MEMOIRS OF SISTER LUCY ?
This also is a fact to be explained. From 1938 on, the historians of Fatima claimed to cite writings where Sister Lucy, at the request of her bishop, related with more precision things she had never spoken about before – the events of her childhood, and the life and virtues of Jacinta and Francisco. These texts exist, and even the facsimile of the manuscript has been published. Where do they come from ?
CANON GALAMBA AUTHOR OF THE MEMOIRS ? For de Sede, under no circumstances can Lucy be behind these texts, which she could have slavishly copied later on : « It is clear that the author of the second Vulgate of Fatima (the Memoirs) cannot be Lucy. When, in 1921, Lucy was ushered in to the convent boarding school of Vilar, Bishop Correia da Silva was reluctant to accept her because she was so silly... The slightest internal criticism shows conclusively that she could not have composed, even at thirty or thirty-five, these texts with theological pretensions and an elegant style that are attributed to her. » 47 Since it is Canon Galamba who published the first of these famous texts, « in all logic the author of the second Vulgate is none other than Canon Galamba de Oliveira ». Moreover, he refuted the attacks of various authors against the Memoirs – a proof that he was in fact the author !
A HYPOTHESIS TOO QUICKLY FORGOTTEN ! A simple reading of the Memoirs is enough to show the absurdity of the rationalist thesis. The accounts are filled with descriptions, names and precise events that all assume a perfect knowledge of Aljustrel in 1917. The only possible author is certainly a woman who was intimately familiar with the life of the village between 1913 and 1921 !
Moreover, it is so evident that Lucy is the true author of the Memoirs that G. de Sede himself, forgetting his arbitrary hypothesis on several occasions, lets slip from his pen phrases such as these : « In her Memoirs written in 1937 (sic), Lucy herself unintentionally informs us on this subject... Lucy then describes for us the effects of these recommendations on Jacinta... » 48 Again : « As Lucy herself revealed a good twenty years later... », and he quotes a long passage from the Memoirs... 49 It is obvious that the Galamba hypothesis does not have the least consistency – a new fact that the rationalist thesis leaves unexplained !
III. WHERE IS THE FRAUD ?
The work of our rationalist author is not only devoid of any historical value, and incapable of seriously explaining the most certain facts, it also reveals itself to be a tissue of lies and a work of exceptionally bad faith. The sentiments of the author do not interest us. What is important is to show that this bad faith, these lies, these calumnies are an integral part of the thesis of fraud, which without them cannot even be presented with the least appearance of seriousness. The most telling arguments, which will most surely shake the confidence of the readers in Fatima and engender suspicion, are precisely the enormous lies which ridicule and tarnish the reputations of all the witnesses of the facts, and undermine the credibility one would otherwise give them.
THE OLD ANTICLERICAL PREJUDICES. Let us say nothing of the old anti-Christian prejudices faithfully preserved by our author in the first part of his work, Fatima before Fatima. For to destroy Fatima, de Sede understood that one must reject the whole Catholic doctrine on Mary. This he does using the scraps of a Protestant and rationalist exegesis almost a century old. For example : the four Gospels « were written between 98 and 145 A. D.... Luke wrote around 120 and Matthew around 145 ». 50 What contemporary exegete, even Protestant or atheist, would still dare to maintain such a fantastic chronology, since the most recent and reliable findings prove, on the contrary, that the whole New Testament was written within a generation, before the fall of Jerusalem ? The Anglican John Robinson wrote in 1980 : « My personal opinion is that we must speak of a period between 47 and 70. » 51 But the science of Gerard de Sede is still at the level of Guignebert (A manual of the ancient history of Christianity, 1906 !)
Of course, Fatima forms one body with the great Marian apparitions of the nineteenth century, from rue du Bac to Pontmain, Lourdes and La Salette. De Sede pretends to demystify them under the provocative title : The French Forerunners of Fatima (Chapter III). Everywhere the scenario is the same : « the choice of illiterate children in a rural environment with strong magical traditions (sic), and immediate claustration of the seers. » 52 Inexactitudes, deception, systematic malevolence – such are the rules of his method. A whole book would be necessary to re-establish the truth on all the points touched on by the author 53 – but let us stick with Fatima.
Here are some examples chosen from among a hundred possible ones, drawn from a superabundant dossier.
THE THREE SEERS CALUMNIATED
LUCY ? AN INCOMPETENT. According to de Sede, Lucy was not able to write her Memoirs herself, because she was so silly. The argument to prove it is drawn from Barthas, Fatima 1917-1968, p. 209. Here is de Sede’s version : « Later on, at the convent, they will give up on making her pass her exams and will content themselves with teaching her housework, embroidering and a little typing. » 54 The point is that Lucy was incapable of learning. Now here is the source text : the bishop, to try her humility, « asked her never to reveal her name until ordered to do so, and never to speak to anyone about Fatima... In fact, Lucy will succeed by a true miracle of humility, obedience, and... of spirit, in completely concealing her identity », and this for almost thirteen years. « She was successful enough in her studies : but she was not presented for exams, to avoid revealing her identity. In addition to the usual subjects, she learned the practical work of housekeeping, embroidery, typing, etc. » 55 This is how anti-Fatima history is written !
“ THREE STUBBORN AND STUPID FACES ”. « The three children could neither read nor write, and a photograph of them, taken by an amateur the day after the apparitions, is eloquent : it shows us three stubborn and stupid faces. This is why they quickly substituted for this hastily done disaster a retouched photograph, for which the three children posed in their folk costumes : the little girls are covered in a shawl, and the boy has a little Portuguese cap. Later on they will transform this photo into a photomontage of the apparition, with little lambs and the Virgin appearing on the holm oak... » 56 In an appendix, the three photos are reproduced under the title : Contribution of Photography in the Elaboration of the Myth of Fatima. 56a
What is the truth ? The only photo he declares authentic is that of an amateur, Mario Godinho, taken on July 13. The children, who had just had the vision of Hell, appear sad and frightened. 57 As for the trick photo of the Virgin visible in the midst of the children, it is clearly only a pious image, and never did anyone claim it was a photograph of the apparitions ! There is nothing there to deceive us... any more than in the hideous postcard that G. de Sede chose to reproduce on the cover of his book. That one has “ doctored photo ” written all over it !
That leaves the admirable photo on page 265. De Sede adds the perfidious caption : « The three children became stars and their photo, posed for and retouched, appears in the press. » Here we have to denounce the most shameless calumny. Just as “ they ” fabricated the photomontage of the apparition, “ they ” retouched the photo, G. de Sede accuses, leading us to believe that “ they ” evidently refers to the same persons. Yet he is careful not to say what retouches were made. Above all he is careful not to name who “ they ” are that contributed so powerfully to the « elaboration of the myth ». Here is the truth that he is careful to hide : the incomparable photo was taken by the journalist of O Seculo, and published in the issue of October 15, 1917. Why should we suspect that the liberal and masonic journal so generously came to the aid of the clerical fraud ? The authenticity of the photo is unquestionable.
Another stupefying example of a false accusation :
“ HOW THE ACTORS LEFT THE SCENE ”
This chapter is a choice example of bad faith, replete with lies and contradictions. 58 When Francisco and then Jacinta died, the freemasons and enemies of Fatima said : « It was necessary to cause the disappearance of these little children, who otherwise would have ended up exposing the fraud. »
De Sede does not pass up this argument : it was the parish priest and dean of Olival (the author of the messages !) who knowingly imposed « inhuman privations » on the children, to lead them to their death more quickly and get rid of troublesome witnesses. He then describes at great length the sacrifices the children made at the instigation of the dean of Olival. « Our Lord wishes us to do everything that Father tells us. » Thus did Lucy encourage poor, exhausted Jacinta always to make more sacrifices. One can only conclude with the freemason Tomas da Fonseca « who in no way exaggerates », opines de Sede, when he writes concerning the parish priest of Olival : « By his actions and his counsels, he must have greatly contributed to sending these children to the grave, a safer solution than the convent where they would have had to be enclosed if they did not go to Heaven first. Jacinta preferred this solution, or was made to prefer it, as has often been said. »
The audacity of the lie and bad faith surpass all bounds. While giving long quotations from the Memoirs, our “ historian ” has simply replaced with an ellipsis (that is three dots...) the passage where Lucy explains that it was precisely the dean of Olival who moderated them in their penances, forbidding the ailing Jacinta to get up at night to pray ! But of course he keeps the recommendation of Lucy to her cousin, the meaning of which is turned totally upside-down : « Our Lord wishes us to do everything Father told us. » We have to be aware of his own desperate thesis, which cannot be honestly sustained, to see why he must have recourse to such a dishonourable procedure ! Note also the flagrant incoherence. G. de Sede affirms elsewhere that these famous penances that drove the seers to their deaths were pure inventions... made up much later « to fatten the dossier destined for their beatification ». 59 It was all made up by Canon Galamba. 60 Against Fatima, all arguments are good, even the most contradictory !
“ AN ILLEGAL SEQUESTRATION ”. Another example of perfidious calumny, brazen lies and doctoring of references is in the same chapter, where he describes the departure of Lucy for Asilo de Vilar. After accusing the clergy of provoking the death of Jacinta and Francisco, he now accuses them of getting rid of Lucy by an illegal sequestration. « As for Lucy, she was not left free to manufacture prophecies for very long. In 1921, when she had reached the dangerous age of fourteen, it was judged prudent to enclose the unpredictable impulses of puberty within four walls. Bishop Correia da Silva had her enclosed, with a false identity, in a modest convent boarding school of Porto, at Vilar. It was wise to give her an assumed name, for it was an illegal sequestration : the child was a minor and had just lost her father and mother, and thus only the public authority was competent to provide for her education... At the age of eighteen, again in secret, and illegally, she was transferred to Spain. » 61
This leads us to think that the lie is the first and unique principle of anti-Fatima history. Gerard de Sede is so sure of himself that he even has the gall to name his source : Fatima 1917-1968, pages 208-9. With such a reference, the calumny will take on the appearance of unquestionable truth ! But what does Barthas say on the pages cited ? « The decision for Lucy to leave had been made at the suggestion of the Bishop of Leiria, with the consent of her mother, the new parish priest of Fatima and the seer herself. » So Lucy was not completely an orphan ! Where could de Sede have read that Lucy’s mother was already dead in 1921 ? Nowhere does Barthas say that. De Sede attributes this enormous blunder to Canon Formigao... with a reference to the book by Barthas ! 62 Here is yet another example of the lengths he will go to dishonour an author and the cause he maintains.
The truth is that Lucy’s mother died in 1942. Lucy left for Asilo de Vilar with her full consent. Maria Rosa even accompanied her daughter for part of the way. To a sectarian official who inquired where Lucy was going, her mother replied sharply : « She is going where I want her to be and that is all you will find out ! » So much for “ forced and illegal sequestration ” !
A SIGNIFICANT LIE. It must be added that this enormous lie is very significant. G. de Sede would be right... if there had never been any miracles at Fatima. For it was in fact Lucy’s prayer at the Cova da Iria which miraculously saved her mother when she was at the point of death, overwhelmed by increasingly frequent heart failures. The astonishing story is found in the Memoirs of Sister Lucy. « In any case, her mother had no more heart attacks until her death, in 1942. » 63 These are historical facts concerning which G. de Sede could have interrogated numerous witnesses still living in Aljustrel.
Our author did well to inform us that he wished his work to be « a scientific and critical history which gathers and analyses all the documentation, with a rigorously exact method... » 64
MIRACLES DO NOT EXIST
There is another series of facts that our anti-Fatima author almost totally ignores. These are all the phenomena for which honest scientific criticism has determined that there is no adequate natural cause, and at once recognizes the miracle. However, in the name of Reason it has been decided once and for all : miracles do not exist ! To deny them, the method is simple : it is enough to ignore the facts, or to mention them only with a mordant irony.
THE MIRACULOUS HEALINGS. In twelve lines, everything is dismissed : « The miracle-working reputation of Fatima is much less solidly established than that of Lourdes. In spite of my insistence, I was not able to see Mrs. Maria Manuela Nunes Monteiro Teixeira Bastos, the wife of a retired naval commander, who was cured of a persistent lack of appetite at Fatima in 1942. Without neglecting such modest miracles, which are scrupulously noted down in the columns of the Voz de Fatima, the directors of the sanctuary are fond of claiming that at Fatima they attach less importance to relieving the body than to forming souls, which is much more noble. » 65 Granted, he can turn a phrase quite ably. But from the scientific point of view his statements are a joke. Gerard de Sede at least could have read the accounts furnished by Canon Barthas on this question : Fatima 1917-1968, (p. 297-301). In Fatima, Unprecedented Miracle, the same author devotes an entire chapter to “ miraculous healings ” (p. 211-230). If he had wished to handle the question seriously, he would have had to have refuted the work of Michel Agnellet, Miracles at Fatima, which uses the most solid historical method in the examination of witnesses and medical dossiers, retaining only the most obvious cases, where the proofs of extraordinary healing are unquestionable. 66
“ THE MIRACLE OF THE DOVES ”. Here is another example of the clever but fanciful manner in which our anti-Fatima author eliminates miracles at any price. We will cite all the witnesses later on, but it must be noted that they are so abundant that Canon Barthas could devote a whole book to the subject : The Doves of the Virgin. 67 All the facts related are contemporary. The author indicates the names of witnesses who are often very visible personalities, whose words can be verified quite easily. 68 To deny these facts one would have to assert that a good fifty bishops and Cardinals are all liars. De Sede is careful not to give any references to this book. He handles the affair quite cleverly : he is the first to discover the deceit involved in this affair of the doves, who came spontaneously to place themselves at the feet of Our Lady during Her worldwide peregrinations ; and he publishes a sensational photo which exposes the fraud. During Her world-wide tour by plane, « the statue of the Virgin of Fatima was accompanied by doves, trained to place themselves at her feet. These doves are seen here in the baggage-hold. » 69
How did our investigator succeed in eluding the surveillance of the clergy to obtain this decisive photo ? He does not indicate the source. We have discovered it anyway : it is simply taken from the work of Canon Barthas, The Doves of the Virgin, (p. 126) ! Among dozens of photos and hundreds of witnesses, Barthas relates how the, faithful, having offered some doves in Italy (in no way trained to place themselves at the Virgin’s feet !), wanted them to follow the statue to Portugal, hence their presence in the plane. Two of these doves, chosen from among the most beautiful ones to follow Our Lady during Her tour of Italy, were put in a cage to be offered later on to the Holy Father. The cage is pictured in the photo. 70 If it had been a fraud, Barthas would not have published this photo himself. Our anti-Fatima writer, who is well aware of this, is careful to camouflage their origin.
THE MIRACLE OF THE SUN. We Will have to close this refutation, which could be prolonged indefinitely, with a final example which demonstrates the total collapse of the adversaries of Fatima before the most certain facts. What does G. de Sede say about the famous Miracle of the Sun of October 13, 1917 ? Once again the procedure used is eloquent. The reader’s attention is drawn to another terrain, making the reader forget all the essential points.
Thus Gerard de Sede uses four pages of appendices, as well as three pages of text, 71 along with photographs, to rigorously demonstrate that two photographs of the solar miracle presented as authentic by l’Osservatore Romano on November 18, 1951, were recognized as unquestionably false by the same organ of the Vatican on March 13, 1952. Gerard de Sede rambles on, insistent on this point, as if the reality of the solar miracle depended exclusively on these two photographs published in 1951 ! It is obvious that they have no importance, and the journalist of l’Osservatore Romano had no choice but to realize that he had been duped. But that proves nothing about the event of October 13, 1917, for which the testimonies of 70, 000 people amply suffice !
In his triumphant irony, 72 the author hopes to make the reader forget the three miserable pages (yes – only three pages as opposed to the seven dedicated to the business of the photos !) where he deals with the only events that are of any real importance : the solar phenomenon itself. « From this mistaken expectation, and the curious games played by the light, which one can sometimes observe in an atmosphere saturated with humidity when the clouds move rapidly, was born the collective vision of the “ dance of the sun ”. There is no need to go on at length about this incident (sic !), since on that day no observatory noted the slightest exceptional solar phenomenon (there is precisely the whole problem !)... In compensation for not being present at the promised apparition of the Holy Family, many people affirmed that they had seen the sun change its colour and dance, in defiance of the inflexible laws of the celestial movements. » 73
The embarrassment of the author is obvious, and for anyone who has read the accounts given by numerous unimpeachable witnesses of the event, the explanations suggested are ludicrous : to say that seventy thousand people, disappointed at not having been present at the apparition, affirmed “ in compensation ” that they saw the unheard of spectacle is ludicrous ! Did they merely “ affirm ” that they saw the sun dance, without having seen anything ? In this case they are all liars ! But that would be ignoring the most certain facts : in this immense crowd, there was a large proportion of curious people, sceptics, and fanatical unbelievers, who, far from being disappointed at not seeing anything, would have been delighted had the hour gone by without anything happening !
The prodigious, unheard of and inexplicable fact is that even the unbelievers saw like everybody else the astonishing spectacle that we will describe at length. The ironically intended, reassuring considerations about “ the inflexible laws of the celestial movements ”, and the fact that no observatory noted the phenomenon ring false, for the miracle lies elsewhere : in the simple fact that seventy thousand perfectly credible witnesses saw, with their own eyes, on that day a grandiose spectacle, perfectly unimaginable until then. Our anti-Fatima writer is not capable of uttering the first word of a plausible natural explanation for this fact.
« PROOF BY THE ABSURD »
Somehow, Gerard de Sede has the audacity to attribute to himself, in conclusion, this honourable satisfecit : « I do not believe I have been lacking either in this respect (due to Christians), or in the exactitude one may expect from a historian, in showing that the apparitions at Fatima, like all those that preceded and inspire them, admit of a natural explanation... » 74
“ THE RIGOROUS EXACTITUDE OF A HISTORIAN ” ? We have already seen “ the exactitude ” of the historical method used by our author ! Father Alonso, in a brief article devoted to him, in spite of his usual benevolence, is constrained to judge this work severely : « The reader familiar with the historical method will see that, in spite of his pretensions to don the noble gown of a historian, the author never goes beyond the style of a bad, obnoxious and opportunistic journalist. » 75 He denounces the « many gross historical errors » in this work. He cites twenty, and adds : « If we were to cite all of them, we would never finish. » So true is this affirmation that, for the most part, the errors he cites are in addition to the ones we have already pointed out.
A SYMPATHETIC INVESTIGATION ? Gerard de Sede pats himself on the back for having conducted a serious investigation, inspired by benevolence and “ respect for Christians ”. The truth is that all the people well disposed towards Fatima who, in good faith, agreed to answer his questions were duped by an unscrupulous man. « Truly », Alonso deplores, « greater effrontery could hardly be imagined : first he provokes the interviewee, then he ridicules him... » The procedure is simple but dishonest, especially when de Sede adds the most infamous calumnies to quotations out of context. « Who », asks Father Alonso, « will defend before a jury the humble Maria of the Angels (the elder sister of Sister Lucy who at the time was still living at Aljustrel in the family house) from the injury done to her by Gerard de Sede in accusing her of “ speaking only in exchange for remuneration ” ? » Alonso asks, « “ Investigation of a fraud ”, or “ Fraud in a supposed investigation ” ? »
“ NATURAL EXPLANATIONS ” ? All the natural explanations our author has presented to us to attempt to explain the apparitions of Fatima are nothing more than a tissue of inconsistent and incoherent absurdities. To formulate them, he had to unscrupulously ignore the most certain facts, distort others, and finally, to shamelessly make use of the habitual weapons of bad faith : doctoring of sources, boldface lies, perfidious calumnies, up and down the book... from Voltaire to Gerard de Sede, the rule has not changed : To “ wipe out the infamy ” everything is allowed : “ Lie ! Lie ! Some of it will always stick ! ”
THE SYNTHESIS OF ANTI-FATIMA CRITICISM. This procedure is terribly effective on uninformed readers, but once the fraud is denounced, it rebounds against the thesis the author professes to uphold. The remark is all the more applicable to this work by Gerard de Sede, since in spite of its enormous defects it is currently by far the most clever and complete statement of the radical opposition to Fatima. Father Alonso, who composed a whole work tracing « the history of the literature on Fatima », assures us : « We believe we are well acquainted with the bibliographical information on Fatima. We can affirm that this author has gathered in his book all the difficulties which for him contribute to making Fatima a fraud. We can even say that he has exhausted the theme. If we made a critical edition of it, we would be certain of having collected the principal themes of this school of authors, which derives its source from the anticlerical demagogy... » 76 In short, it is « the synthesis », « the summary », « the summit » of everything rationalism could dig up, in seventy years, against the authenticity of the apparitions of Fatima.
FRAUD ? AN OUTDATED HYPOTHESIS ! Apart from this work, there is nothing. And if there is nothing, it is not for lack of interest or research of all kinds. It is simply because nothing else can be there, for all the impassioned a priori arguments in the world cannot replace the facts and documents. Today it is impossible for any honest historian familiar with the sources to continue to uphold the hypothesis that Fatima was a fraud. And we can be sure that this will be increasingly the case, especially since we have the critical works of Father Alonso, which eventually will be published in their totality. The change of tone in the articles of Father Laurentin from 1967 to 1982, going from scornful suspicion to an almost unhesitating recognition of authenticity, is very significant. 77 This progressive rallying to a positive judgement on Fatima is proportional to a real knowledge of the facts.
“ PROOF BY THE ABSURD ”. Meanwhile, we see that Gerard de Sede has contributed his part (indeed in spite of himself !) to the apologetic of Fatima. The patent absurdity of all the “ natural explanations ” proposed leaves the field free... for the supernatural explanation. « Here then is everything our good “ critics ” have been able to find », writes Dom Jean-Nesmy. « Such inconceivable theories at least have the merit of making a true apparition of the Virgin almost natural and plausible by comparison ! » 78 Especially, we might add, since this hypothesis of a supernatural explanation does not demand that we avoid any fact, and needs neither deceit, nor lies, nor calumny, but only the great light of historical truth. In short, we can say that, following his masters da Fonseca, Alfaric and Ilharco, Gerard de Sede has made an indirect but important contribution to proving the supernatural origin of the events of Fatima – as Dom Jean-Nesmy put it so well, it is the « proof by the absurd ».
(1) Gerard de Sede, Fatima. Enquête sur une Imposture, p. 10.
(2) André Lorulot, La Vérité sur les Apparitions, p. 27.
(3) De Sede, p. 248.
(4) p. 10 & 255.
(5) p. 12.
(6) p. 12.
(7) p. 12.
(8) p. 12.
(9) p. 237.
(10) Dom J.-Nesmy, The Truth of Fatima, p. 158.
(11) Abbé Georges de Nantes, Controversy with Louis Rougier, CRC 76 p. 3, January 1974.
(12) De Sede, p. 127.
(13) De Sede, p. 128-129.
(14) De Sede, p. 128.
(15) De Sede, p. 129.
(16) De Sede, p. 128-129.
(17) De Sede, p. 104.
(18) De Sede, p. 130.
(19) De Sede, p. 130.
(20) De Sede, p. 131.
(21) De Sede, p. 115.
(22) De Sede, p. 115-116.
(23) De Sede, p. 131-132.
(24) De Sede, p. 88-89.
(25) Alonso, Fatima and Criticism, p. 423.
(26) De Sede, p. 104.
(27) De Sede, p. 99.
(28) De Sede, p. 141.
(29) De Sede, p. 105-106.
(30) Barthas, Fatima 1917-1968, p. 117.
(31) De Sede, p. 88-89.
(31a) De Sede, p. 104.
(32) De Sede, p. 101 ; Barthas, p. 163-164.
(33) Martins dos Reis, Uma Vida, p. 389-390.
(33a) Dom J.-Nesmy, op. cit., p. 246.
(33b) De Sede, p. 106-107.
(34) Fatima and Criticism, p. 528-529.
(35) De Sede, p. 141.
(36) p. 141-142.
(37) Memoirs, p. 86, p. 181 (Fr. Ed.).
(38) Barthas, Fatima 1917-1968, p. 216-231.
(39) De Sede, p. 118, note 26.
(40) De Sede, p. 104.
(41) De Sede, p. 241.
(42) De Sede, p. 111.
(43) Dom J.-Nesmy, p. 157.
(44) De Sede, p. 79.
(45) De Sede, p. 175.
(46) p. 118. To advance his argument, Alcacer do Sal became Alcacer do Sol, and Oureana became Ouranea. Against Fatima, anything is permissible !
(47) De Sede, p. 193-195.
(48) De Sede, p. 138.
(49) De Sede, p, 142.
(50) De Sede, p. 25 & 27.
(51) J. Robinson, Peut-on se fier au Nouveau Testament ? p. 74, Lethielleux 1980.
(52) De Sede, p. 65.
(53) For example, the scandalous calumny which accuses the chaplains of Lourdes of fabricating the miraculous well ! (p. 153-154) De Sede is careful not to give the source of this gossip. R. Laurentin tells us anyway : « A phony document completely fabricated by Bonnefon at the beginning of the century, as I established in 1858, in “ Lourdes, Documents authentiques ”, I, p. 145-146. » (Rev. des Sc. philos. & théolog. April 1978, p, 295).
(54) De Sede, p. 193.
(55) Barthas, p. 209.
(56) De Sede, p. 93.
(56a) De Sede, p. 265-266.
(57) Martins dos Reis, Sintese Critica, Apêndice, Documental Fotografico.
(58) De Sede, p. 137-142.
(59) De Sede, p. 94.
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) De Sede, p, 184-186 ; 192-193.
(61) De Sede, p. 139-140.
(62) p. 138, note 2.
(63) Dom J.-Nesmy, p. 151.
(64) De Sede, p. 237.
(65) p. 19.
(66) Michel Agnellet, Miracles at Fatima, p. 113-219, Paris 1958.
(67) Resiac, 164 pages, 1972 ; 2nd ed. 1977.
(68) The Doves of the Virgin, p. 3 & p. 11-12.
(69) De Sede, p. 272.
(70) The Doves of the Virgin, p. 101-102.
(71) De Sede, p. 267-270 ; 208-211.
(72) De Sede, p. 210-211.
(73) De Sede, p. 117.
(74) De Sede, p. 255.
(75) Broteria, January 1978, p. 55-64.
(76) Broteria, January 1978, p. 56.
(77) Le Figaro, May 10, 1967 ; Historia, May 1982.
(78) La Vérité de Fatima, p. 159.