Introduction: The Fátima Litmus Test
Theoretically, Roman Catholics believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in Fátima, Portugal over the course of 1917. Among progressive Catholics, however, Fátima represents a dispensable afterthought. Aside from the Beatification of Jacinta and Francisco, the two younger Fátima seers, Pope Francis’ Fátima centennial celebrations lacked the comparative vigor of his long-planned and long-awaited commemoration of the 500th anniversary Martin Luther’s Protestant Revolution. On the other side of the spectrum, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) holds seemingly annual “Rosary Crusades” to increase awareness around the Fátima Message. And despite being more infamous for broadcasting various un-permitted opinions, Monsignor Richard Williamson, the indefatigable former SSPX bishop nicknamed the Dinoscopus, dedicates a much higher proportion of his lively Eleison Comments, to stern, quasi-apocalyptic digressions on Fátima and related Marian Apparitions than to controversial tangents on revisionist history.
As the multifaceted political dimensions of the Fátima Apparitions remain insufficiently explored, this piece will examine the broader events from the perspective of neoreactionary theory. The first part will showcase how Fátima, considering the longer Portuguese historical experience, demonstrates the need for active coordination between the state and the church for a truly robust national spirituality. Next, we look at how the Fátima narrative lies in stark opposition to the modern, democratic ideals as encapsulated in the standard of the French Revolution. We will then examine how opposition to the Three Secrets of Fátima within the Church hierarchy mimics the defensive tactics of denial, evasion, and obfuscation put up by the elite in other realms. Finally, we close by showcasing how this episode shows the need for elite participation and buy-in as demonstrated by Papal actions (or the lack thereof) concerning Fátima.
This analysis will assume some familiarity with the story of Our Lady of Fátima; those less familiar can refer to this schema from the SSPX.
Portuguese History, Fátima, and the Necessity of Church-State Unity
When the Portuguese Prime Minister Marquis de Pombal suppressed the Jesuit order in the Portuguese Empire in 1759 – making Portugal the first Catholic state to do so – he was as much appeasing his Enlightenment sponsors in London as he was consolidating his own grip on the Royal Court in Lisbon. Pombal helped transform “the ecclesiastical system of Portugal … [into] a disguised Anglicanism” – weakening relations with Rome, he wielded effective control over the Portuguese church and worked to undermine its power. Of long-term consequence, Pombal used his power over the Church to systematically gut the Portuguese missionary in its colonies, ultimately undermining the spiritual raison d’etre of Portugal and her empire.
Fast forward to the early 19th century, and the religious controversy comes to a head in the strife between absolutist and constitutional monarchists. Upon defeating the Tory Miguelists, the Whig Constitutionalists went on to take reprisal to the Churchmen whom in their mind were inseparable from the absolutists:
The religious orders were the first to go. The orders of men were suppressed, and their property confiscated, nominally to enrich the treasury, but private individuals reaped the benefit. The orders of women were allowed to die out, further professions being prohibited. The people, deprived of the monks and friars, who were their teachers, preachers, and confessors, gradually lost their knowledge of religious truths, because the secular clergy were unprepared to take the place of the orders; besides which, the bishops and clergy were bound hand and foot to the State.
By the time of the atheistic First Republic after the fall of the monarchy, the anticlerical elements schemed to deliver a “death by a thousand cuts” to the Church by passing a deluge of progressive-minded legislative activity:
A series of anti-Catholic laws and decrees followed each other in rapid succession. On November 3, a law legalizing divorce was passed; then laws recognizing the legitimacy of children born outside wedlock, authorizing cremation, secularizing cemeteries, suppressing religious teaching in the schools and prohibiting the wearing of the [priest’s] cassock, were passed. In addition, the ringing of church bells and times of worship were subjected to certain restraints, and the public celebration of religious feasts was suppressed. The government even interfered with the seminaries, reserving the right to name the professors and determine the programs. This whole series of persecution laws culminated in the law of Separation of Church and State, which was passed on April 20, 1911 … Alfonso Costa, the author of these laws, felt confident enough to declare at that time: ‘Thanks to this law of separation, in two generations Catholicism will be completely eliminated in Portugal.’
The difficulties facing Portugal as a country could be seen in microcosm in the travails facing the Fátima partisans during the First Republic. The most well-known incident was the kidnapping of the three seers from August 13th through 15th of 1917 by Artur de Oliveira Santos, the young mayor of the neighboring city of Orem who was well known for his anti-clericalism and involvement in Freemasonry. The incident is remarkable both for its absurdity – a skeptical atheist kidnapping three preteen children to prevent a religious manifestation whose authenticity he supposedly doubts – and the astonishing cruelty displayed, including open threats to boil the children alive as a means of having them recant their account of the Apparitions.
The threat to violence became more tangible in the years following the apparition. The first was the anti-clerical government stationed a military garrison to prevent believers from assembling at the Cova da Ira, the site of the Apparitions, on May 13th, 1921. In March of 1922, Fátima opponents degenerated to actual terrorism, detonating four explosives in the capelinha, the small chapel built in remembrance of the Apparitions.
Astoundingly, starting in the following decade, Portugal or “the Land of Mary” gets a desperately needed reprieve in this multi-century atheist onslaught and experiences a rise in religiosity in its populace. What brought this change about?
Classical liberals, constitutionalist conservatives, libertarians, and other voices in the mainstream Anglo-American right would opine that all that is needed is for the state to step back and just let the supposed “forces of good” prevail. Their dogma was most famously enumerated by Thomas Jefferson:
Truth will do well enough if left to shift for herself. She seldom has received much aid from the power of great men to whom she is rarely known & seldom welcome. She has no need of force to procure entrance into the minds of men. Error indeed has often prevailed by the assistance of power or force. Truth is the proper & sufficient antagonist to error.
The reality of the Portuguese experience could not be farther from this idealistic Enlightenment caricature. The opponents of the Church had no interest in a free exchange of ideas, and had no qualms in using the heavy hand of the state to suppress Catholic Christianity in Portugal. While the ultimate cause of the Catholic restoration in Portugal – per the author’s convictions – were the prayers of the faithful in heeding the Blessed Virgin Mary’s call, the nearer cause was the institution of a Catholic state under the autocratic rule of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.
While his sycophant predecessors drank in the latest fashionable progressivisms emanating from the major European capitals, Salazar used the resources of the state to shelter his populace from degenerate foreign influences and instead promoted national virtues aligned with Catholic teaching. More vividly, whereas his predecessors used state action to fight the Church, Salazar used the police and military resources at his disposal to combat what he saw as the gravest threat to Christianity: revolutionary communism. The Catholic restoration in Portugal did not arise under a state anchored in apathy and libertinism, but rather under a government unabashedly committed to order and national greatness.
Fátima as the Counter French Revolution
The Fátima message is anti-modern at the core, firstly in its emphasis of duty over liberty. The Angel which preceded the Marian Apparitions required the children to recite specific prayers and perform specific acts of pious devotion. The first appearance of the Holy Mother is, in part, a symbolic correction of the children’s childishly playful attempts to fast-track their Rosary prayers. In what must have left a stark impression, the Mother of God told little Francisco he had to pray many Rosaries to ensure the salvation of his soul. To learn who the “beautiful Lady” ultimately was, the children had to persevere in the making their visits on the 13th of the month through October – that they missed one-month due to their kidnapping was sufficient to cause the October miracle to be smaller than it would have been otherwise. Duty presupposes consequences versus liberty, which assumes meaningful progress can ever arise from chaos and spontaneity.
Neither clerics, nor the lay faithful have a choice in how they are to carry out the Fátima requirements as requested by Our Lady. The faithful are required to pray their daily Rosaries, complete their Five First Saturdays of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart, and perform prayers and acts of penance for the various Fátima specific intentions – the requirements placed on them are unequivocal. The clergy and hierarchy have the obligation to hearken the faithful to action in performing these duties. Last, but most crucial, the Pope has the duty to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the presence of all the world’s bishops. As such, for the entirety of the Church, actions have merit to the extent they follow the commands of rightful order and completes one’s God given duties.
Similarly, Fátima rejects the radical notion of equality and embraces traditional understanding of hierarchy and the patriarchy. Equality never existed among the three children: Lucia could see and communicate with Our Lady; Jacinta could see and hear the Blessed Virgin Mary but could not converse with her; and Francisco could only see but could not make out a single word. As the eldest of the three cousins, Lucia is given the larger psychological burden in dealing with the brunt of the skeptics and deniers around them. Lucia’s mother, who at many points appears somewhat cruel in her unabashed skepticism of the whole ordeal, is nonetheless afforded perfect respect by the future nun. Similarly, the initially skeptical parish priest retains the entirety of his stature of authority in the eyes of the seers. In the most extreme, the Masonic mayor who kidnapped the children is treated respectfully and becomes even the object of the prayers and sacrifices of the children.
One of the key anti-egalitarian aspects of the Fátima story is its implicit rejection of modern feminism. While the two key protagonists, the Mother of God and the future Sister Lucia, are obviously women, their actions are nonetheless subsumed within the auspices of male leadership. In describing the rationale behind Apparitions, Jacinta stated that the Apparitions occurred because “Our Lady can no longer hold back the arm of her beloved Son from [punishing] the world.”
Similarly, Sister Lucia will spend her life under the direction of various male spiritual directors in the Church. In the thick of the Apparitions, it was the loving support of Lucia’s father who provided material and emotional comfort to the young seer. At the miraculous final October Apparition, Saint Joseph, the Head of the Holy Family, appears with the Divine Child blessing the world. This traditional Catholic world is one where men lead but God more than occasionally calls women for decisive action, as with Saint Catherine of Siena admonishing weak Popes or Saint Joan of Arc leading her countrymen to battle. For casting off the old traditions, what do the Fátima protagonists imply women have gained? The basket includes a boon in fashions that offend God and “marriages” that do not belong to God; it is not for nothing Lenin stated that “the success of a revolution depends upon the degree of participation by women.”
Finally, as the antidote to a globalist-oriented fraternity, the story heartily embraces the centrality of nationhood. The Angel declares himself as the Angel of Portugal, supporting the traditional Catholic precept of countries having their dedicated Guardian Angels. Our Lady made a country-specific promise that “the Faith” – meaning Catholicism – will always exist in Portugal, which some have taken to mean traditionalist communities in Portuguese-speaking Brazil. The missions of different nations are also distinct: while misunderstood by some of the Orthodox as derogatory, Russia has – quite the opposite – the tremendous and singular honor of being the mechanism for world Christian Restoration through Russia’s Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and its re-integration under a united Church. Tangentially, there is a moment of fraternal unity with the Eastern Rites when the children receive communion from the Angel of Fátima in both species – which prior to Pope Paul VI’s Novus Ordo Missal was not permissible in the Latin Church. This early Apparition showcases that even in a future of rediscovered Christian unity, the particularism of the various national traditions would persevere and would be glorified for the undeniable spiritual good these traditions have inspired through so many countless generations.
The Three Secrets and Modernity’s Rejection of Reality
Chronologically, the first of Fátima’s Three Secrets was the jarring vision of hell, where the three children saw poor souls falling to their eternal damnation. This vision aligns with those of the Saints pertaining to the Biblical doctrine of hell: Saint John Don Bosco had a vision of the beloved schoolboys cascading into hell; and Saint Teresa of Avila saw the nook in hell where she would go had she not been willing to cooperate with God’s Saving Grace. But in the current year, the Church is led by a Pope who peddles cheap mercy by a God that Francis seems to imply is devoid of any meaningful notion of justice. More concretely, the Church hierarchy comprises countless clerics like the liberal ordinary of Los Angeles, Bishop Robert Baron, who claims few if any souls have ever gone to hell.
In a world where supposed leading theologians can deny such core Gospel messages, can we surprised that other experts follow suit and willing expunge the fundamental truths of their own fields? In a world under a multi-century rebellion against the notion of objective truth, it is unsurprising that the expert class denies more and more of the foundations of their fields of expertise: biologists deny the biological basis of race and sex; political theorists and economists deny the socio-economic impact of those variables; psychologists deny that degenerate lifestyle choices are the result of mental illness; and so-on as the list grows each year. Such are the fruits of an Enlightenment world order, where all is perception and subjectivity, and the notion of objective reality is deemed a crutch of feeble, retrograde minds.
The Second Secret was the prophecy of the Second World War and the “spread of Russia’s errors around the world” – usually interpreted as the global march of revolutionary Marxism. The prevention to all this carnage was supposed to be the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As the consecration has not yet happened, the world still suffers from a growing list of conflagrations. The conflicts most emblematic of the modern West’s misguided statecraft are the flurry of Middle Eastern regime changes launched under American leadership; for the copious blood and treasure spilled, the neoconservative/liberal-internationalist coalition in Washington has only succeeded in annihilating Christian communities dating back to Apostolic times and creating “refugee crises” that, thanks to the West’s modus operandi of “Invade and Invite,” creates “vibrant” outcomes, including welfarism, crime, and terrorism.
With respect to the “spreading errors of Russia,” that the Soviet Union no longer exists is less relevant when the United States happily fills the void as the neo-Jacobin sponsor of worldwide revolutions for historically-leftist causes like “spreading democracy” and the normalization of abortion and homosexuality. Furthermore, the spread of communism is far from the sole Russian error. The more brazen readers might perhaps allude to the overrepresentation of men tracing their lineage to Russia’s Pale of the Settlement within the various subversive movements plaguing the West over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries. That aside, the older and more forgotten Russian error is the horrible sin of schism – the holy fruits of Greek missionary efforts in Russia had been operational for merely a century before the tragedy of the Great Schism. In the “Age of Confusion” following the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Church is, for all intents and purposes, itself in schism with its own millennia old magisterial teaching. Post a proper Consecration, a re-exalted Holy Russia would gloriously lead the standard towards a newly united and spiritually revitalized Christian Europe.
The most controversial of the Secrets is far and away the Third Secret. Clouded in secrecy for years, it was released in 2000, where it was described as merely having foreshadowed the assassination attempt on John Paul II in 1981 despite some crucial differences between the two, However, a myriad of incongruent facts including details from Sister Lucia’s diaries as well comments by prelates who had viewed the document – including then Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI – contradict the notion of the released document as exhaustive. While the clues vary, a common theme is that the full Third Secret also foresaw a period of mass apostasy which for many closely approximates what has been experienced in the Vatican “NewChurch” of the Post Conciliar period.
The Roman authorities – much like their counterparts in the media, academia, and the civil service –believe obstinately that the information flow on items such as the Consecration of Russia and the Third Secret can still be easily suppressed and manipulated. In decades past, many if not most Catholics might just blindly accept what was transmitted by the hierarchy. But as the progressive elite in the Church has overplayed its hand in overextending on banal, leftist issues, more and more people have adopted a skeptical posture, seeking out alternative information sources and blunting the success of the Church leaders’ obfuscation. Paralleling the palpable disenchantment with established politics, a growing number of prominent Churchmen are beginning to voice their opposition to the current entrenched regime, as showcased in both the Dubia and the Filial Correction. While much more would be needed for a true Restoration, these modest yet brave initial steps provide hope that there is a fledgling movement for a return to right order forming among many of the Church’s leading voices.
Conclusion: Fátima and the Need for Elite Buy-in
One less common yet starkly profound take on the Fátima Apparitions is that they were a response to the prayers of the then reigning Pontiff, Pope Benedict XV:
On May 13, 1917, the children did not know the confused condition of the world. They had not heard the voice of Pope Benedict XV, who had addressed himself to the Mother of Mankind, asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to look upon the world in tears, to sympathize with the wailing of innocent children, the anguished cries of mothers and wives. This was the day on which the Queen of Heaven had decided to answer the Holy Father’s plea.
The longstanding relationship of the Papacy with Fátima has its complexities. Traditionalist Catholics, while oftentimes over-eager to rightfully criticize Pope John Paul II for his incomplete Consecration, miss the more self-evident point that his predecessors failed in the exact same fashion. In fact, despite being significantly more conservative than any of his successors, the last pre-Conciliar pontiff, the great Pope Pius XII, made the same exact faulty consecration in 1942:
In answer to a question from Professor William T. Walsh, Sister [Lucia] points out that Our Lady did not ask for the consecration of the world (as was done by Pope Pius XII in 1942), but only and specifically RUSSIA. “If this is done,” says Sister Lucy, Our Lady promises to “convert Russia and there will be peace.”
Pope Pius XII took a second stab ten years later, on July 7th, 1952: “Pope Pius XII consecrates Russia specifically, but he is not joined by all the Catholic bishops of the world because he did not ask them to participate, not having been advised that this was necessary.”
The more one studies Fátima, the harder it becomes to avoid reaching one unfortunate conclusion: that among the set of Pontiffs that have reigned since the Apparitions, none have taken Fátima as seriously as it evidently merited. This conclusion showcases the major failing of the whole “Fátima movement” – a lack of buy-in from the elite of the Church hierarchy. Despite the decades of laudatory efforts to increase devotion among the masses – most notably the life’s work of the late Fr. Nicholas Gruner, “The Fátima priest” – the outreach to the elite has been less fruitful versus the natural appeal of Fátima to more populist elements. Where Fátima was ultimately more successful was not in Rome but in the political realm in Lisbon, precisely because within Portugal it had stronger support from the elites in the Church, the military, and the aristocracy.http://traditioninaction.org/HotTopics/g31ht_Devoion_3.htm. Accessed 8 October 2017
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