No Friend of Fatima:
Unspinning Christopher Ferrara’s Defense of Benedict XVI
Forever trying to persuade his readers, and presumably himself, that “Pope” Benedict XVI is “our only friend in the Vatican” – quite in contradiction to his former sarcastic use of the same phrase in reference to the very same Joseph Ratzinger – New Jersey-based attorney Christopher A. Ferrara is still busy claiming that Benedict XVI is a genuine friend of the message of Our Lady of Fatima, specifically of the Third Secret, which, he argues (and Novus Ordo Watch agrees), has only been released in part by the Vatican.
Though it is easy to understand why a man who is a lawyer by profession should habitually write in a rhetorically-persuasive style, desiring to get his readership to agree with his position, it is nonetheless not tolerable that a position should be allowed to continue to be put forth that has been clearly refuted.
In the case under consideration here, the individual definitively refuting Ferrara’s claim that Benedict XVI has covertly tried to indicate to the faithful that there is still some great future fulfillment to the Third Secret of Fatima, is none other than Benedict XVI himself.
All gung-ho for his deeply-held conviction that Joseph Ratzinger is, deep down, really a friend of Fatima and is desperately trying to let the faithful know that he agrees with them that Fatima isn’t over yet, despite his own Secretary of State’s insistence to the contrary, Ferrara writes:
As if to make clear beyond any doubt that the Message of Fatima is not consigned to the past, as the party line would have it, on May 13 , before an audience of 500,000 pilgrims, the Pope issued this dramatic pronouncement during his homily in the very sanctuary of the Fatima shrine:
“One deceives himself who thinks that the prophetic mission of Fatima is concluded.”
This clear papal negation of the party line prompted [Italian author Antonio] Socci to declare, in an article entitled “Why the Pope Contradicts Bertone,” that the Pope has “reopened the dossier” on the Third Secret and is now “engaged in a great ‘Operation Truth’ on Fatima, at the cost of contradicting the version of the Vatican Secretary of State.”
(Christopher A. Ferrara, “Fatima’s False Friends”, in The Fatima Crusader, issue 99 [Summer 2011], p.48; italics Ferrara’s.)
We see here a very typical tactic of Attorney Ferrara: Having stated his position, he adduces what he claims are pieces of evidence lending credence to his thesis, spins them (as we will see) into supporting his position, and zealously uses persuasive rhetoric to make his case sound convincing. Thus, he calls Ratzinger’s enigmatic statement a “dramatic pronouncement” that is a “clear papal negation of the party line” which “make[s] clear beyond any doubt” that the Ferrara thesis is in fact correct. Now, there is nothing wrong in and of itself, of course, with using rhetoric to help win people to endorse one’s point of view. Any great writer or orator uses such means. But there is a problem when the rhetoric is such that it is no longer being used in the service of truth, for then it is unjustified and a facade is created. In the case mentioned here, a brief “papal” statement, rather unclear in itself, is spuninto a “dramatic” contradiction of one of Benedict’s foremost henchmen, a contradiction allegedly so “clear” as not to leave any doubt.
Yet, the only thing “dramatic” here is Ferrara’s rhetoric. Whereas our New Jersey lawyer, in attempting to win listeners to his side, is spinning into existence a Fatima-friendly Benedict (the “sheep” – or perhaps “shepherd”) who is heroically trying to escape the clutches of his own Secretary of State (the “wolf”) by sending out cryptic messages to the lay faithful, assuring them of his true-blue support of the real message of Fatima (quite contrary to what Ferrara & Co. were arguing in The Devil’s Final Battle’s first edition, before Ratzinger’s ontological morphing from Modernist Caterpillar to Vicar of Orthodoxy in April of 2005), the reality is quite different: Benedict’s true position on the Third Secret and the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary is dryly unspectacular and boringly banal – and a definite insult against the Mother of God and her Immaculate Heart.
As will be demonstrated in a moment, Benedict XVI’s statement that the prophetic mission of Fatima is not yet concluded quite simply means nothing more than the following: Since there are still evil, suffering, and danger in the world, there must still continue to be a conversion of hearts through faith, hope, love, and repentance, which are the only answer to evil, suffering, and danger.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Far from Ferrara’s trumped-up “dramatic pronouncement,” there is nothing dramatic or apocalyptic here at all but rather an anticlimactic, generic call to conversion in answer to evil in the world – as though we needed a Miracle of the Sun to reinforce such a “novel” idea.
But how do we know that this is really what Benedict XVI means? Very simple: He himself made this clarification – in public. He made it in 2010 in response to a question he was asked by interviewer Peter Seewald, who asked him specifically regarding his statement that one would be wrong to think the prophetic mission of Fatima was over.
The interview I am referring to was published in 2010 as Light of the World (German original title: Licht der Welt). In order to counteract potential misunderstandings and charges of using a “bad translation,” I have obtained a copy of the book in the original German, from which the following translation is taken (kindly provided by a native German speaker, with care to balance the original meaning with intelligibility in English):
[Interviewer:] . . . You said: “Whoever believes that the prophetic mission of Fatima is concluded, is wrong.” What is meant by this? Does the message of Fatima in truth still need to be fulfilled?
[Benedict XVI:] It is necessary to distinguish two things when it comes to the message of Fatima: on the one hand, a particular event which is represented in visionary forms; on the other hand, the essential matter under discussion. It wasn’t a matter of satisfying curiosity, after all. For then we would have had to publish the text much earlier. No, the issue is one of pointing to a crux, a critical moment in history, namely, all the forces of evil coming to the fore in the great dictatorships of the 20th century – and which, in other ways, are still active today.
The other issue was [sic] the answer to this challenge. This answer doesn’t consist of great political action, but, at the end of the day, it can only come from a transformation of hearts [orminds –Transl.] – through faith, hope, love, and repentance. In this sense, the message is precisely not finished, even though the two great dictatorships have disappeared. The suffering of the Church remains, and the threat which man faces remains, and with them the question for the answer remains as well; with them, the pointer given us by Mary remains. Even now there is affliction. Even now the forces [of evil –Transl.] threaten to crush the faith in all possible ways. Even now, therefore, we need the answer of which the Mother of God has spoken to the children.
(Benedict XVI, Licht der Welt: Der Papst, die Kirche und die Zeichen der Zeit [Freiburg: Herder, 2010], pp. 193-194.)
It is easy to see here that what Ferrara has eagerly declared to be a “dramatic pronouncement” is no such thing at all. Far from endorsing Ferrara’s position that Benedict XVI believes the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart is still to be accomplished by a future papal consecration of Russia, the “Pope” has haplessly popped the balloon Ferrara has spent so much time inflating, by making clear that what is still “outstanding” for him in the Fatima message is the conversion of individuals through faith, hope, love, and repentance, with the desired outcome that evil will be defeated so it can no longer threaten man and the Church. (Of course, for someone who in the 1980’s echoed the desire to “raze the Catholic bastions”, that’s a bit of an ironic comment to make, but that’s beside the point right now.) So much for “Operation Truth” on Fatima.
What’s adding more egg to Ferrara’s face is that what Ratzinger has expounded on here is essentially nothing more than the very “party line” given by the Secretariat of State, which Ferrara is adamantly opposing and which he claims is being contradicted by Benedict XVI:
This party line, first dictated by the preceding Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, has three elements: . . . Third, that since the Secret has been revealed and the consecration done, the prophetic content of the Message of Fatima now belongs to the past and “what remains” is only “the summons to penance and conversion” [quoting Sodano]. To recall Sodano’s announcement at Fatima on May 13, 2000 concerning the impending publication of thevision on June 26, 2000: “Even if the events to which the third part of the ‘secret’ of Fatima refers now seem part of the past, Our Lady’s call to conversion and penance, issued at the start of the twentieth century, remains timely and urgent today.”
(Ferrara, “Fatima’s False Friends”, pp. 45-46.)
As is clearly evident, the party line is very much “Pope” Benedict’s own position. For Benedict himself has said, in the interview quoted, that for him, what remains of Fatima is the call to conversion in the face of evil. This is also the Sodano/Bertone position.
So, the reality is quite different from what Ferrara, in his overblown zeal to defend his own pet position, has presented it to be: Benedict is not contradicting Cardinals Sodano or Bertone – but Mr. Ferrara!
But not enough. Ferrara claims to have found an “explosive answer” (there is that overly dramatic rhetoric again!) in Benedict’s comments to journalists regarding the Third Secret, which – you guessed it – the New Jersey lawyer uses as another piece of “evidence” for his apparently irrefutable thesis that Benedict is trying to contradict the Sodano/Bertone position. Ferrara writes:
The Pope himself pronounced emphatically against the Secretary of State’s party line during his pilgrimage to Fatima in May of 2010, making it clear that the Third Secret is very much a part of the Church’s present and future. During the flight to Fatima the Pope answered a question he had personally selected concerning whether the Third Secret pertains in any way to the sexual scandals now convulsing the Church – a telling question, given that no such thing is depicted in the vision [released by the Vatican as the Third Secret]. Speaking in Italian, the Pope gave this explosive answer:
“. . . [B]eyond this great vision of the suffering of the Pope, which we can in the first instance relate to John Paul II, are indicated future realities of the Church which are little by little developing and showing themselves. Thus it is true that beyond the moment indicated in the vision [!], it is spoken [!], it is seen, the necessity of a passion of the Church . . .
“As for the new things that we can discover in this message today, there is also the fact that attacks on the Pope and the Church do not come only from the outside, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from inside the Church, from the sin that exists in the Church. This too we have always seen, but today we see in a really terrifying waythat the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from external enemies, but is born of sin in the Church, from the sin that exists in the Church…” [All ellipsis points, italics, exclamation points, and paragraph break added by Ferrara.]
Here the Pope clearly hints at the existence of a missing companion text to the vision. . . . There must be such a text because in the vision there is no indication whatsoever of attacks on the Church from within.
(Ferrara, “Fatima’s False Friends”, pp. 47-48. Of particular importance here, in light of the suggestion that Benedict “hints at the existence of a missing companion text”, is to look at exactly what he wrote in the official Vatican document, “The Message of Fatima”, back in 2000 as “Cardinal” Joseph Ratzinger. That was the text announcing the purported Third Secret of Fatima, in which Ratzinger unequivocally refers to “the text of the so-called third ‘secret’ of Fatima, published here in its entirety…” [emphasis added]. Clearly, Ratzinger wanted his readers to believe that there was nothing else to what he claimed to be the Secret.)
This is a great illustration of reading into a text what one wants to see there. Yes, one can, as Ferrara has done, make this into a piece of “evidence” that Benedict acknowledges there is a companion text to the vision released by the Vatican on June 26, 2000 – presumably, the real Third Secret –, but such an interpretation is by no means required (unlike Ferrara’s rash insistence that it “must” be so), nor does it arise as the obvious meaning from a natural reading of the text. Ferrara should quit arguing for a particular thesis and then trying to make the evidence fit. If he wishes to be a servant of the truth, he ought to let the evidence speak for itself and then deal with what the evidence tells us.
So, what of Ferrara’s “evidence” that “requires” us to believe that Benedict is trying to tell us that there is still another part of the Third Secret that is hidden? Does a mere reference to “future realities” of the Church “beyond the moment indicated in the vision” allow for such a conclusion? Not by far, at least not with Ratzinger’s clarification, quoted earlier, that he distinguishes the “particular event which is represented in visionary forms” from “the essential matter” the event intends to convey, which Benedict interprets as a call to penance and conversion to ward off future suffering of man and the Church through the forces of evil. The fact that Ratzinger uses the word “spoken” – the official English translation on the Vatican web site uses the phrase “made mention of” – does not require Ferrara’s interpretation either, since one can believe the “Pope” either misspoke slightly (Italian is not his native language, after all) or used “spoken” in a figurative sense.
Consulting the full text of Benedict’s answer, which can be found at the Vatican web site here, we discover that the explanation given here seems indeed to be the one intended by Ratzinger, as is made clear from a part of the text that Ferrara conveniently “forgot” to include in his quote. What follows is the entire sentence that Ferrara cut short, and other relevant text that follows immediately after:
So it is true that, in addition to [the] moment indicated in the vision, there is mention of, there is seen, the need for a passion of the Church, which naturally is reflected in the person of the Pope, yet the Pope stands for the Church and thus it is sufferings of the Church that are announced. The Lord told us that the Church would constantly be suffering, in different ways, until the end of the world. The important thing is that the message, the response of Fatima, in substance is not directed to particular devotions, but precisely to the fundamental response, that is, to ongoing conversion, penance, prayer, and the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. [Italics added by Gregorius.]
(Benedict XVI, “Interview with Journalists during the Flight to Portugal,” May 11, 2010)
Clearly, what the “Holy Father” is saying is that beyond the immediate image of the suffering Pope who is killed in the vision, we may say that this suffering concerns the entire Church, of which the Pope is the head and representative. Ratzinger then basically repeats what he said in his interview with Peter Seewald, that this suffering can only be alleviated by conversion, penance, etc., and that this is the core of the message of Fatima. There’s nothing at all here that smacks of Benedict being the great “Fatima friend” that Ferrara so eagerly wants us to believe in. There is no great mystery here; the key to understanding the reference to the future attacks on the Church is found in Ratzinger’s own published thoughts on Fatima, including the very rest of the sentence which Ferrara omitted. There is, then, nothing “explosive” about Benedict’s answer – the only thing that explodes here is Ferrara’s own rhetorical shysterism. (And, of course, there is nothing spectacular about Ratzinger referring to the sufferings alluded to in the vision as being in the “future,” either, considering that our recent past was still in the future at the time the vision was put to paper.)
Lastly, Ferrara’s argument that Benedict must be indicating there is a companion text to the vision because he makes reference to attacks against the Church from within, is pure lawyerly fabrication on Ferrara’s part, as the vision by no means precludes as a reasonable interpretation that the soldiers that are shooting the Pope could also include people from within the Church who have revealed themselves as her enemies (such as a false Popeperhaps?). In fact, Benedict XVI himself being the Church’s greatest enemy trying to destroy her from within, he would surely know what he’s talking about.
The facts I have laid out with regard to Benedict’s real views concerning Fatima are confirmed – and Ferrara’s wishful thinking is further exposed – when looking at the follow-up question Peter Seewald posed to the “Pope” after Benedict gave the answer of which we treated above. Seewald wondered about Benedict’s position on the idea of a future Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in connection with the sermon Benedict gave on May 13, 2010, in Fatima:
[Interviewer:] . . . Does this mean that the Pope . . . considers it possible that, in the next seven years, the holy Mother of God will appear in a manner that would be akin to a triumph?
[Benedict XVI:] I said the “triumph” would come closer. That is essentially the same as praying that God’s kingdom come. This term was not to be understood – perhaps I am too much of a rationalist [!] in this regard – as though I expected a great turning point now and that history will suddenly take a completely different course, but that the forces of evil are hindered again and again; that the strength of God shows itself in the strength of the Mother again and again and keeps it alive.
The Church is always called to do that which Abraham asked of God, namely, to ensure that there would always be enough righteous people to ward off evil and destruction. I understood it in such a way that the forces of good would once more thrive anew. In this sense, the triumphs of God, the triumphs of Mary, are low-key, but still quite real.
(Benedict XVI, Licht der Welt, pp. 194-195.)
Again, the real Benedict – remember that these words are his own verbatim – is quite different from the Benedict existing in Ferrara’s mind, as we can see here. Far from endorsing the traditionalist vision of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Mother, which would include a conversion of Russia to Catholicism, genuine Christian peace throughout the world, and an end to the Novus Ordoapostasy around the globe, Benedict XVI reveals here unabashedly that, being the (now self-confessed) rationalist that he is, when he speaks of a “triumph” of the Blessed Virgin, he is thinking simply of the coming of God’s kingdom, and by that he merely means that “evil” is “hindered” by “good” time and again – he is explicitly excluding from his view the idea that there will be a major turning point of history, brought about miraculously and suddenly by the intercession of the Immaculate Mother of God. He’s “too much of a rationalist” to believe such a thing! He admits it! (Rationalism, of course, was condemned by Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors in 1864 as well as the First Vatican Council in 1870).
This is the real Benedict, Mr. Ferrara. Wake up!
To those of us who have known the real Benedict all along, this does not come as a surprise, for we did not shut ourselves up to reality but faced it and allowed it to dictate what we believe about Benedict – not the other way around. The “Pope” Benedict exposed here is eerily reminiscent of the “Cardinal” Ratzinger who blasphemously dissed the Immaculate Heart of Mary as simply a “pure heart” possessed by all those referred to by Our Blessed Lord in the Beatitudes as “the clean of heart” (cf. Matthew 5:8; see his “The Message of Fatima”, 2000).
One wonders why, considering that Benedict’s interview book was published in late 2010, Ferrara is even now still promoting his thesis that Benedict is a friend of Fatima. Has Ferrara not read the interview with the great “Restorer of Tradition”? Could someone please make him aware of it? After all this clear evidence, will Ferrara still claim that Benedict shares, at least to a significant extent, his own view of Fatima, the Third Secret, and the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart?
In a way, one ought to commiserate with Mr. Ferrara. He’s got a difficult task. Day in and day out, he must present to the world a Benedict who is an at-times-confused-but-always-good-willed hero for orthodoxy and Tradition, who would totally restore the Church if the evil wolves in his Vatican circus would only let him (wolves of whom he himself was a part, we recall, until the death of John Paul II) and if his own poorly-educated, tainted-by-German-philosophy intellect would only be able to see more clearly the real nature and causes of the “crisis” (a euphemism if there ever was one).
The real Benedict, of course, doesn’t fit this bill, and so Ferrara’s task becomes herculean. In an effort to uphold his own wishful idea of Benedict, Ferrara has convinced himself – and, no doubt, a lot of his readers, too – that he must often juxtapose the traditional “Benedict” with the evil “Vatican” – you know, that faithless crowd of cardinals, bishops, lower clerics, and laymen who are all fighting the great “Restoration of Tradition” that Benedict is so desperately trying to accomplish (hence his scheduled plan for Assisi III in October – wink, wink). Never mind that Benedict runs the Vatican and that he freely accepted the “office” to which he was elected on April 19, 2005—an election he could easily have turned down.
Unfortunately, reality does not care what we think of it or what we try to make it into. It is what it is, and no pursuit, however well-intentioned it may be, will be successful if at the outset we do not allow reality to dictate the data we want to analyze. Someone once said, “Deal with reality, or it will deal with thee.” How true this is!
What, then, do we learn from all this? It’s clear: Next time you see Christopher Ferrara all gung-ho about a position he’s defending, showing off his rhetorical best by making references to “dramatic pronouncements” and “explosive answers” given by his great tradition-restoring “papal” hero defendant, ask yourself if he’s really allowing the evidence to dictate his position, or whether his preconceived position is coloring his interpretation of the evidence. The mere fact that Mr. Ferrara has the ability to argue persuasively is only a testimony to the talents God has given him – it is no indication whatsoever that his arguments are actually sound.
PS: Reality contradicts Chris Ferrara’s theses about Benedict all the time. Just recently, super-modernist “Cardinal” Karl Lehmann (right), former long-time head of the German National Bishops’ Conference, and carnival fool of the year [Warning: Photo of immodestly-dressed women], tendered his mandatory resignation because he had reached his retirement age of 75. If we were to believe Ferrara’s version of Benedict XVI – the great “Restorer of Tradition” – then this would have been a perfect opportunity to get Lehmann finally out of office without causing a big stir. What did Benedict do instead? He refused the offer of resignation, enabling Lehmann to stay in office until 2016. Put on your surprise face, folks. But then again: Perhaps it was not Benedict’s fault; perhaps it was simply pressure from the “Vatican” (wink, wink).