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The New Oxford Review Does Fatima — Badly

by Christopher A. Ferrara
November 11, 2011
November 15, 2011 (revised)

The New Oxford Review (NOR) still bills itself as a “cheeky” journal of fearlessly forthright opinion on the state of the Church today. But since the unfortunate passing of the editorship of Dale Vree, who turned the reins over to his son for medical reasons several years ago, NOR has abandoned its all-but-traditionalist editorial stance and now exhibits the boring blandness of other “conservative” Catholic publications. NOR has been safely repositioned in the domain of post-conciliar correctness (PCC).

In line with PCC, NOR has just run the obligatory article, by one Howard P. Kainz, bashing Father Nicholas Gruner and the “Fatimists” and defending the Party Line of the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, on the Message of Fatima. (“On Fatima and the Private Interpretation of Private Revelations,” November 2011.) You know the litany: “private revelation,” “the Third Secret has been revealed,” “Russia was consecrated in 1984,” “the Pope has spoken,” “we must obey the Magisterium,” and of course the old reliable argumentum ad hominem: “Father Gruner is suspended.” At least Kainz admits that Father Gruner was incardinated by the Archbishop of Hyderabad, which makes his canonical status “confusing” for the once cheeky but now PCC New Oxford Review.

Each of these canards has been roundly refuted a hundred different times; this column will not be the hundred-and-first. It suffices to note that Kainz is an evident dabbler in this subject whose presentation consists of a string of clichés he has culled from the Internet or elsewhere without independent research. One example says it all. He writes: “But the interpretation of the three ‘secrets’ our Lady entrusted to the children have been subjected to the vagaries of private interpretation by Catholics who give short shrift to the Magisterium of the Church.” If Kainz had even a thimbleful of knowledge of this subject he would know that the Pope has made it quite clear that the Magisterium has never imposed any interpretation of the Message of Fatima, particularly the Third Secret, and that the faithful have complete liberty to disagree with Cardinal Bertone’s Party Line.

Since Kainz knows next to nothing about Fatima, he does not know that, in fact, Pope Benedict himself has disagreed with Bertone’s “interpretation” of the Third Secret in sensational statements he made during his pilgrimage to Fatima in May of 2010. During that voyage he declared to the press and to the world — contrary to the main tenet of the Party Line — that the Fatima prophecies do not “belong to the past,” to quote Bertone, but on the contrary “one deceives himself who thinks that the prophetic mission of Fatima is concluded.”

The Third Secret in particular, said the Pope — demolishing the Bertone “interpretation,” which was never binding on anyone in the first place — depicts “future realities of the Church which are little by little developing and revealing themselves...” These future realities involve something in no way depicted in the ambiguous vision of the “Bishop dressed in White” which Bertone suggests is the entirety of the Secret. To quote the Pope: “As for the novelty that we can discover today in this message, it is that attacks on the Pope and the Church do not come only from outside, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from sins that exist in the Church. This has always been known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from enemies outside, but arises from sin in the Church.” There is no indication of internal enemies attacking the Church in the vision, standing alone. Ergo, there must be an additional text which introduces the concept of an internal attack in the context of the apocalyptic scene depicted in the vision. Only such a text — the Virgin’s own explanation of the vision, conspicuous by its absence — could explain the Pope’s otherwise inexplicable remarks.

These explosive revelations prompted Antonio Socci, the renowned Italian Catholic commentator and TV personality, to declare that the Pope had “reopened the file” on the Third Secret and negated Bertone’s position. Socci suggested that Bertone consider prayer and penance to make amends for the harm he has done to the Church with his bogus “interpretation” of the Secret as a mere depiction of 20th century events culminating in the 1981 attempt on the life of John Paul II.

Blundering about in the realm of Fatima, which is unknown territory to him, Kainz writes: “Do we really need a special revelation from our [sic] Lady to tell us that there is an internal crisis of faith and discipline in the Church?” Kainz needs a course in Fatima 101. We do not need the Message of Fatima to tell us what our own eyes tell us today in the aftermath of Vatican II. Rather, we needed the Third Secret in particular back in 1960 to warn the Church of the crisis that had not yet happened, but would begin in that year if not averted by the means Our Lady prescribed. That is why Our Lady commanded that the Secret be revealed not later than 1960 — it will be “more clear” then (mais claro) Sister Lucia said, when asked why Our Lady had chosen that date. And even today we still have need of the full content of the Secret to explain how and why we find ourselves in the midst of the tremendous crisis whose existence even Kainz admits, and what we can do to end it — beginning, no doubt, with a consecration of Russia that actually mentions Russia. (How unreasonable of the Fatimists to think that the consecration of a place needs to mention the place consecrated!)

Had Kainz done any reading on the subject, he would have known of Cardinal Bertone’s determined — and quite suspicious — campaign to deny that Our Lady had linked the Secret to 1960. Bertone tried to deny this — and to have “Sister Lucia” deny it as well — even though he knew (as he himself revealed on television in 2007) that Lucia had recorded on the outside of two sealed envelopes pertaining to the Secret that “By express order of Our Lady, this envelope can only be opened in 1960 by the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon or the Bishop of Leiria.” Who, then, is lying about Our Lady’s explicit connection of the Third Secret to 1960: Cardinal Bertone, who denies it, or Sister Lucia, who recorded it in her own handwriting on the outside of two different envelopes?

Such questions do not trouble the blissfully uninformed Mr. Kainz, who dismisses as a “pamphlet” my 247-page investigation of the controversy, The Secret Still Hidden, which he calls “The Still Hidden Secret” — suggesting that he has not even seen the book he purports to judge. But then Kainz is clearly no seeker of the truth on this subject. His job was to regurgitate the clichés of PCC concerning Fatima.

Compare NOR’s treatment of the Third Secret controversy with the truly courageous article by Robert Moynihan in the August-September issue of Inside the Vatican. With nothing to gain, humanly speaking, but trouble for himself with Cardinal Bertone, Moynihan published the following exchange concerning my book, which occurred during a conversation he had with no less than the Papal Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who passed away in July. Moynihan brought up the claim by Father Gruner and the “Fatimists” regarding the incompleteness of the Vatican’s disclosure of the Secret, whereupon:

Sambi said, “Excuse me.” He got up, went out of the room, and came back with a book. “Here,” he said. “Do you know this book? You should read it.” It was Christopher Ferrara’s The Secret Still Hidden. “Wait,” I said. “You are the Pope’s representative in the US, and you are urging me to read a book that questions what the Secretary of State wrote?” Sambi replied: “All I am saying is that there are interesting things worth reading in this book. And in the end, we are all after the truth, aren’t we? The truth is the important thing...”

The truth is the important thing. That is what one of Cardinal Bertone’s highest-ranking diplomats said about Bertone’s plainly dubious “official account” of the Secret. And Robert Moynihan had the courage to publish Archbishop Sambi’s remarks, which he could just as easily have let pass into oblivion.

But, writes Mr. Kainz — playing the inevitable trump card of “obedience” — we must forget this whole matter and “demonstrate the filial obedience required of Catholics by trusting the Popes...” Trusting the Popes? But which Popes? Trusting what, exactly? No Pope has imposed any particular interpretation of the Third Secret, nor has any Pope committed himself to the proposition that there is nothing further to be revealed. Quite the contrary, Pope Benedict has intimated that there is a great deal more to be revealed, even though (as Antonio Socci argues) the Pope’s hands have been tied by the long-ago decision of papal advisors and John XXIII that the missing text is not “authentic” and thus not part of the Message of Fatima. In the same manner, as Cardinal Tomko has revealed, papal advisors talked John Paul II into performing a “consecration of Russia” that deliberately avoids mentioning Russia lest the Russians be offended. Please!

It is so easy, so safe, for NOR to bash Father Gruner and the “Fatimists” — one more time. Boo. Hiss. What is not so easy is to pursue the truth to an uncomfortable and unpopular destination. NOR once had no fear of going to such places back in the days when it really was cheeky. But that was then, and this is now. Deo gratias, not every Catholic publication is afraid of the truth about Fatima. And that truth will prevail in the end, just as surely as the Immaculate Heart will triumph in the end.