Ecumenism and Fatima Reconsidered

Lately, there are some mainstream conservative thinkers who have gone on record critical of ecumenical endeavors. Lately, too, there is a mainstream and respected journalist who has done a major course correction vis-a-vis Fatima. The two issues are very much related.

First, ecumenism. The official line in Rome today is that ecumenism is good. It was called for by Vatican II and it should be pursued vigorously. But even among some who are personally devoted to the last two popes there seems to be an undercurrent of frustration that this is getting nowhere.

Of course, there is very good reason to be frustrated with ecumenism. Witness the folly which happened after the Holy Father’s Turkey trip. After having made what appears to be a favorable impression in the Moslem country, and having signed a joint statement with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Bartholomew, the Holy Father was not back in Rome a week and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II made his displeasure known over Catholic “proselytism” in Orthodox countries, mainly Russia and Ukraine. (See “Alexy II calls on Vatican to stop unfriendly policy toward canonical Church.”) Almost immediately, the new Secretary of State, His Eminence Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, issued a conciliatory statement reported by Zenit News Agency:

“I do not know Patriarch Alexy’s statement, but I believe that relations between Moscow’s patriarchate and the Holy See are sufficiently good and talks are taking place, with frequent visits,” said the cardinal.

“Moreover, we do not want to engage in proselytism in Russia,” he added.

By contrast, Our Lady of Fatima, of course, spoke of the “conversion” of Russia, a nation not yet officially atheist when the Mother of God appeared to the children. She was speaking of a conversion from, among other things, the schism which still keeps the majority of baptized Russians outside of the true Church. Of course, it’s bad for ecumenism to say that. But then again, ecumenism has proved bad for the Church.

It seems calculated on Alexy’s part to have come out with a public statement when he did. As canonical second fiddle to the “primus-inter-pares” (first among equals) Patriarch of Constantinople, he probably wanted to sound a few discordant notes just so people knew he is still a player in the Orthodox orchestra.

So, here is the pattern: We placate one non-Catholic leader by engaging in “fruitful ecumenical dialogue” with him. Another non-Catholic leader (very close, ideologically, to the first) gets offended and makes a public statement to that effect. We spend time placating him. In the meantime, none of them seem closer to Catholicism. If we get too close to the Protestants, we may offend the Orthodox more (as we did when we protestantized our liturgy); if we get too friendly to the pro-homosexual Anglicans, we may offend conservative mainstream Reformed Protestants; dialogue with the Moslems may irritate the Jews and dialogue with the Jews may offend the Moslems. In the end, all will wind down to the lowest common denominator and we will simply agree to be agreeable without converting anybody and having offended everybody.

Given the generally known principle that “you can’t please all the people all the time,” worldly prudence (forgetting, for the moment, evangelical charity!) would call for an unvarnished preaching of the message of salvation.

Another case in point: Just after the Pope’s visit to Turkey the mufti who hosted the Holy Father at his visit to the Blue Mosque, said that he would not pray in a Catholic Church. “It is not right to expect that others will pray as the Pope did,” said Ali Bardakoglu, Turkey’s top Islamic official. He went even further: “It is not right for an imam to have to put on a cross and pray before the Virgin Mary, or priests to pray in mosques.”

In light these events, consider the comments below, a passage from an interview Mr. Brian Mershon had with Father Joseph Fessio. The reader must bear in mind that Father Fessio is not a hard line traditionalist. He has been highly instrumental in bringing the doctrinal novelties of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac to the English speaking world. (The former held for a thinly-veiled universalism — everybody goes to heaven — and the latter obscured the Church’s teaching on nature and grace.) Further, Father Fessio’s position on the liturgy is an advocacy of “the Reform of the Reform,” i.e., a conservative approach to the Novus Ordo. In light of Father Fessio’s “moderate” position, his comments are all the more telling.

In reply to a question about ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and religious liberty, Father Fessio says a mouthful:

To tell you the truth, I really don’t even try to keep up with it and I think there has been and continues to be an enormous amount of nonsense in that regard. Of course we should foster dialogue. However, as a Church, we need to categorically restate that there will be no reunion with the Orthodox and other Christians unless there is a mutual acceptance of the primary beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church such as those on Mary, the primacy and authority of the papacy, etc. [The emphasis throughout is mine –BAM.]

How can there be unity with anybody except with those who accept those beliefs?

We can talk about lots of things — justification — for instance with the Lutherans. But what else? Where has it gotten us? Of course, when dialogue promotes mutual understanding, respect, and collaboration on causes that all Christians should accept — such as the defense of the unborn, the integrity of marriage and the family — that is valuable.

But there can’t be a “reunion of Christians” on anything else than a shared faith; and the fundamental tenets of the Catholic faith are not negotiable. Congregationalists will have to accept priests, Presbyterians bishops, Episcopalians the Pope.

I think the whole thing is a big smokescreen if the intent is the reunion of Christians. We’ve made absolutely no progress on that front except for maybe the Armenian Christians. Are we closer to the Anglicans now that they’ve ordained women and practicing homosexuals?

With the Muslims, we need to say what we believe. If it’s really going to be religious dialogue, then we have to point out that both religions make truth claims and some are incompatible. Jesus can’t be the Son of God and Mohammed His prophet, since Mohammed denies what Jesus claimed to be.

This is refreshing to hear.

Now for another thing refreshing to hear. Antonio Socci, a respected mainstream Italian journalist is coming out with a new book, The Fourth Secret of Fatima, in which he takes a position on Fatima that is not generally considered either respected or mainstream.

The following are passages from a review of the book by the equally mainstream and respected Vittorio Messori, a man who has collaborated with Pope John Paul II and then Cardinal Ratzinger. (We are indebted to Mr. Christopher Ferrara — The Truth Breaks Out in Italy — for the news and the translation.)

For him (Socci), there was no longer anything “secret” after the declaration of Cardinal Sodano, on May 13, 2000, and after the publication of the manuscript text, with commentary by the ex-Prefect of the Holy office, on June 26 of that same year.

But then, the Tuscan journalist and author changed his opinion and has now published a book, to be released tomorrow (The Fourth Secret of Fatima, Rizzoli, 252 pages, € 17) that begins by retracting, with undoubted honesty, the conviction that every word pronounced by the Apparition in 1917 had already been revealed by the Church.

After having rejected the journalism, above all on the part of Lefebvrists and sedevacantists, who suspected the Vatican of not having revealed the true contents of the message, Socci decided to examine the reasons of those he found unworthy of belief. And he ended by convincing himself that something of great importance had been hidden.


In brief, his thesis is that the part of the secret revealed (that of the “bishop dressed in white” who is killed by “gunshots and arrows”) is authentic,but constitutes only a fragment. In its entirety, the message would contain terrible words on the crisis of the faith, on betrayal on the part of the hierarchy, on catastrophic events in store for the Church and, with it, the whole of humanity.

John XXIII and Paul VI — whether out of skepticism or to avoid furnishing arguments to the critics of the Council — would have prevented the publication of the text. John Paul II and his right-hand theologian, Ratzinger, would have been blocked by the refusal of their predecessors and the unavailability of the great part of the episcopacy for the “consecration” of Russia requested by the Virgin.

So, in 2000, recourse would have been made to trickery: to reveal only one part of the text, making believe that it referred only to the past. The other contents would have been revealed “not explicitly although implicitly,” in homilies, discourses, documents of Pope Wojtyla and by the prefect of the Faith. ‘He who can understand, let him understand.’

It’s good to see people turning the corner. No further commentary is needed.