Fátima vs. the Conspiracy Theories

The 1917 apparitions of the Virgin Mary to three children at Fátima (ending in October of that year with the greatest historical public miracle before 70,000 observers) offer us without doubt a formidable example of Our Lady’s loving intervention, to warn the world of coming threats, and offer powerful remedies to avoid wars and achieve peace.

But the proper interpretation of Fátima is of the utmost importance.

For some decades, the Canadian priest, Fr. Nicholas Gruner, the “Fátima priest,” and the Fátima Center that he founded, have been claiming that the ills that the world and, especially, the Church are now suffering could be avoided if only the consecration of Russia by the pope and the bishops of the world, requested by Our Lady in a vision to Sr. Lucia on December 10, 1925, had been done correctly. By “correctly,” Gruner means mentioning Russia by name.

In December 1983, Pope John Paul II consulted with Sister Lucia, the only Fátima visionary then still living, about fulfillment of Our Lady’s wishes. He sent out letters to all the bishops of the world to join him in the consecration of Russia and the world on March 25, 1984. The consecration of the world was duly carried out, and the pope added, diplomatically, perhaps with a view to the ongoing threats of the Soviet Union to the Solidarity Movement in Poland: “In a special way we entrust and consecrate to you those individuals and nations that particularly need to be thus entrusted and consecrated.”

Afterwards, Sr. Lucia wrote that the pope had fulfilled Our Lady’s requests; and several years later, the world witnessed the collapse of the Berlin wall and the dismantling of the Soviet Union. As I have written elsewhere, and in a follow-up article, the promised “conversion” of Russia seems to have begun, with religious freedom, a massive proliferation of churches, monasteries, and seminaries, and church attendance almost comparable to that in Portugal, where, as Our Lady promised Sr. Lucia, “the doctrine of faith will always be preserved.”

But Fr. Gruner and his fellow Fatimists maintain that the consecration has to be done over, mentioning Russia by name, and that the five minutes spent doing this will bring about a miraculous conversion the likes of which the world has never seen. Gruner has even recommended a novel, Russian Sunrise, in which a Gruner “avatar” appears under the name of Fr. Nicholas Gottschalk, who finally convinces the pope follow his advice, leading to miraculous changes in Russia.

An alleged Vatican “conspiracy” of silence does not end there, but according to the Fatimists, the Third Secret of Fátima, revealed by Pope John Paul II in 2000, is missing an essential second part. Sr. Lucia herself, when she revealed the third secret in 1944 and sent it to the Vatican in 1957, said she could only give the details of what she was actually shown. But that she was not allowed to give Our Lady’s explanation, which was made known to her.

The Fatimists, however, have no such hesitation. They suspect that some “missing text” relates apocalyptically “to the vision in which the Virgin explains in Her own words how an internal crisis of faith and discipline in the Church is accompanied by a chastisement of the whole world.” Or else perhaps: “the secret foresaw the changes of the Second Vatican Council, especially in liturgy and ecumenical dialogue, as part of the ‘great apostasy’ which Church leaders refuse to acknowledge.”

Conspiracy theories aside, we should focus on the essential message of Fátima. In the 1917 May and June Fátima apparitions, the three children were asked to pray the rosary every day for the end of World War I and peace for the world. This is her primary request.

Witnessing the “miracle of the sun” at Fátima, Portugal, October 13, 1917
Witnessing the “miracle of the sun” at Fátima, Portugal, October 13, 1917

On December 10, 1925, Our Lady also made another extraordinary request/promise – the Five First Saturdays: “I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for 15 minutes while meditating on the 15 mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.”

Why “five” First Saturdays? To make reparation for the five blasphemies against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. On May 29, 1930, Our Lord explained to Sr. Lucia what these blasphemies were:

1. Against Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Although Martin Luther himself held to the lifelong sinlessness of Mary and probably also her Immaculate Conception, Protestants generally deny this because of lack of explicit Biblical confirmation. Many Orthodox doubt it, because it would imply a cleansing from original sin before the advent of the Redeemer.

2. Against Mary’s Perpetual Virginity. Although Luther, Calvin and Zwingli affirmed the perpetual virginity of Mary, most Protestants now deny this, assuming that references in the Gospels to Jesus’ “brothers” and “sisters” have to do with biological siblings rather than, as often in the Bible, cousins or other relationships. As if, after giving birth to the very Son of God, Mary might be interested in having other children! Or as if Mary had other children, but none of them were willing to care for her after the Crucifixion; St. John, apparently, being the only person available.

3. Her divine maternity and motherhood of all mankind. Although Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli discouraged veneration of saints, they made an exception for the Virgin Mary. Orthodox also have traditionally reverenced the Theotokos (“God-bearer”). However, now many Protestants ignore Mary and the possibility of her intercession; even many fervent fundamentalists devoted to the Bible are hostile, considering the honoring of Mary to be detrimental to faith in Christ.

4. The attempt to publicly implant in children’s hearts indifference toward, contempt and even hatred for their Immaculate Mother: It is sad to contemplate the attitude of some Protestants who think they are doing a service to God by inculcating hostility to Mary in their children; and even sadder to think of Catholics of liberal or feminist persuasions who are afraid that any exposure to Mary will give their children ideologically unacceptable concepts of womanhood.

5. The offense of those who insult her directly by profaning her sacred images: We have seen numerous incidents of this even in recent years: A 1999 painting, included in a Brooklyn Museum show, “Sensation,” depicted the Virgin Mary stained with elephant dung; some New Zealanders in 2011 constructed a billboard with the Blessed Virgin holding a pregnancy test in one hand, covering her mouth in surprise with the other; Belfast Protestants in 2012 placed a statue of the Virgin Mary atop their Shankir bonfire celebrations; in 2014 ISIL destroyed the statue of Mary in the Virgin Mary church in Mosul, and blew up the church; in Perugia, Italy, this January, five Muslims destroyed the statue of Mary in the St. Barnabas chapel, and urinated on it. Such incidents are becoming more frequent along with destruction of Catholic churches in the Middle East.

At the First Saturday Mass this month, I was struck by the sparseness of attendance, aside from the usual daily-Mass goers. Are so few Catholics interested in fulfilling heaven’s request for reparation for the multiple offenses against the Blessed Virgin? Do they even make the Five First Saturdays once, in order to avail themselves of the extraordinary graces promised by Mary? How many Catholics say a daily rosary – which was the first and surely the most important and simple request of Our Lady of Fátima?

A most urgent mandate from heaven now is to repair insults to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Our Lord in his glorified body presumably has bodily emotions. Pope Francis’ recent comment about a man’s natural reaction about hearing insults to his mother may not be an inappropriate analogy.

But do the Fatimists really think if the pope redoes the “consecration of Russia” verbatim in five minutes, that all of a sudden miraculous conversions are going to take place, among the great masses of Christians – who are busy contracepting like the pagans, promoting sodomy, and profaning marriage?

Hello! The Soviet Union is no longer persecuting Christians, and “spreading its errors throughout the world.” Islamists are doing that now. Our Lady didn’t divulge any secrets about Islam at Fátima. No special “secrets” are necessary for those of us who, even intermittently, follow world news. The spiritual crises are clear. But the main, essential solution Mary offered at Fátima is still completely relevant. If you think the world is going to hell in a hand basket, it’s time to start following the indispensible simple requests of Our Lady – the daily rosary and the five First Saturdays.

Howard Kainz, Emeritus Professor at Marquette University, is the author of twenty-five books on German philosophy, ethics, political philosophy, and religion, and over a hundred articles in scholarly journals, print magazines, online magazines, and op-eds. He was a recipient of an NEH fellowship for 1977-8, and Fulbright fellowships in Germany for 1980-1 and 1987-8. His website is at Marquette University.