Personhood: An Exercise in Wishful Thinking
Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus and founder of the Constitution Party (née The U.S. Taxpayers Party) once told me that Judie Brown is the Joan of Arc of the prolife movement. Such a reputation demands respect, so I read her February NOR article "Toward a Personhood Amendment" respectfully. Unfortunately, it quickly breaks down into a mélange of contradictory positions and is laden with wishful thinking utterly beyond redemption in the real world.
In her first paragraph, Mrs. Brown states that the goal of personhood for all, and thus the abolition of abortion in America, "is best achieved by amending the U.S. Constitution." Amending the Constitution is unavoidably the result of a political process, the mechanics of which are spelled out in the document itself. Mrs. Brown then spends the rest of her article arguing for the eschewal of "the meandering politics that have devastated our cause by watering down the principle." Mrs. Brown does not mention the utter failure of all efforts to adopt a human life amendment (HLA) or shed any light on how the prospects of an HLA or her personhood amendment might be brightened. She does express the naïve hope of converting "the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans" to her no-compromise stance, but she does not explain why the principled stand of Cardinal Medeiros 35 years ago did not lead to that result.
Mrs. Brown also devotes space to criticizing "compromised incrementalists" such as the Coloradans working for a parental-consent law and Fr. Frank Pavone's Priests for Life. At a very basic level, she is right that there is no moral room for compromising the right of each child to be born, but she seems completely unaware that her trenchant question, "What can possibly be acceptable about some murder?" can also be directed, at the practical level, at her own position. Voters demanding and getting parental-notification and parental-consent laws in their states have indisputably saved some babies from being murdered in the womb; how many babies has pursuit of an HLA saved?
In the end, a politics vs. morality dichotomy is both false and fruitless. We need both working in tandem. The Bush Administration had majorities in both houses of Congress for six years and could have outlawed abortion by using the powers of Article III, Sec. 2, giving Congress plenipotentiary powers over the jurisdiction of federal courts. It didn't because the Republican Party needs to keep making suckers of prolifers to maintain its base (have you noticed this yet, Fr. Pavone?). Admittedly, with those majorities now turned to minorities against the Party of Abortion, it will be a tough row to hoe getting back to where the possibility existed -- but not as tough as achieving a human life or personhood amendment. Admittedly, also, removing federal court jurisdiction over contentious social issues like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and homosexual "marriage" will just move these issues back to the states, but many of those states already have strong popular majorities in agreement with a no-exceptions prolife position, and millions of babies can be saved while the long-term battle against evil continues.
Prolifers also need to neutralize the "single-issue" bludgeon used against them in the political forum. We need to develop sensible positions on taxation, immigration, jobs, war, and peace. We need to make the point that abortion, in addition to being morally repugnant in each and every case, is also a demographic disaster (which, among other things, threatens the solubility of Social Security) and that it is anti-feminist, anti-black, and anti-Hispanic because it disproportionately kills girls, blacks, and Hispanics. We need to contribute money to organizations and parties (such as Mr. Phillips's Constitution Party) that can be relied on not to compromise basic principles after, God willing and with our sustained help, they achieve power. The economic crisis we are going through, as horrendous as it is for millions of us, is a golden political opportunity for consistent prolifers because it is almost predictable that both of the major parties will be discredited in the popular mind by all the pain coming down the pike.
The pressing need is to convert American hearts and minds away from voting for the lesser of two evils, which is always a vote for evil. It took the emergence of a new political party to do away with the evils of slavery. It will also require a new party to do away with the evils of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. Maintaining our moral purity and piously waiting for a constitutional amendment, with no practical sense for the political necessities, will not do the trick.
Frank W. Creel
It baffled me why some good Catholic prolifers voted against, for example, parental-notification laws or partial-birth-abortion laws -- until I read Judie Brown's article "Toward a Personhood Amendment" (Feb.). I guess I was dealing with "purists" -- i.e., those who won't support a law unless it condemns abortion in any and all cases.
I understand the value of seeing the vision and goal toward which we're working, but I don't think those who are more practical in their approach should be criticized for their efforts. If pro-abortion people thought in this all-or-nothing way -- i.e., we won't support any law that doesn't legalize abortion in any and all cases -- abortion would still be illegal. It seems to me that if I can't kill abortion, I can at least give it a good kick in the shins! Isn't a partial victory at least a step in the right direction? It took time for the Church to overturn paganism, slavery, etc., and it was done in gradual steps.
Prolifers who vote for imperfect laws that only restrain or restrict abortion (or even just make abortion inconvenient) are not necessarily compromising or being morally relativistic. They're just being realistic about what actually can be done under the circumstances.
On the other hand, prolifers who vote against such laws, or don't vote at all, are helping out the enemy. The killers of babies certainly see every defeat of parental notification or limits on abortion as a victory. Maybe "the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light." Perhaps we can learn from our enemies.
Deacon John F. Bradley
St. Anne Byzantine Catholic Church
San Luis Obispo, California
"Toward a Personhood Amendment" by Judie Brown was a beautiful article written by a dedicated prolifer. She seems to be saying that, when it comes to eliminating abortion, it is "all or nothing." I, too, am a prolifer. Responding to her position, I would like to ask a rhetorical question: If I had the opportunity to vote on an amendment to the Constitution that would deny all abortions except in the case of rape or incest, could I, in good conscience, vote in favor of it?
When addressing this question, there are many things to consider. (1) Abortions, in our present environment, are as available as a pack of cigarettes in a grocery store. (2) Let's say, for simplicity's sake, there are 1,000,000 abortions in our country each year, and of these, rape and incest are responsible for 50,000. (3) I feel that, without this exception, the amendment will not be offered. Morally and intellectually, I would be bound to vote in favor of it.
Why? In view of the above, I would be voting in favor of eliminating 95 percent of the abortions in our country. It is my intent to save 950,000 innocent babies each year -- a monumental achievement. I do not intend the death of the five percent. In fact, I must continue working until those 50,000 lives are spared. Additionally, the approval of this amendment would destroy the abortion industry in this country, obliterate Planned Parenthood by denying them several hundred millions of dollars each year, and help our people to more easily comprehend the pernicious evil of abortion.
By voting thus, I do not support the pernicious murder of 50,000 innocent children; I support saving the lives of 950,000 innocent children. If it takes two steps to end abortion, we can wait and pray as we have been for the past forty years.
James J. Clauss
JUDIE BROWN REPLIES:
Mr. Creel appears to have a problem with the virtue of hope, and for that I am terribly sorry. When I became involved in the prolife effort more than 38 years ago, and devoted myself to the defense of the innocent preborn, I had no timetable, no measure of what it would take to achieve the goal of personhood, but a confidence that, in God's timing, this would come to pass. I still believe that with all my heart. That is why I have not thrown in the towel, so to speak, but persist in the pursuit of personhood. The reason it has not worked thus far is a composite of many things, including the defining of abortion as a "political issue," which has, in a certain sense, obscured the reality that abortion is an act of murder.
Cardinal Medeiros's stand of 35 years ago "did not lead to that result" (of achieving personhood) because the entire prolife movement was not united behind the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding the absolute fact that there is never a reason to abort a child.
The pursuit of the human life amendment, coupled with the pursuit of principled laws such as those focused on increasing funding of crisis-pregnancy centers, has saved many lives, but I really don't think that is the point of Mr. Creel's comments. Rather, I think he prefers to look at the short-range goals and circumstances rather than look at how some short-range goals, dedicated as they are to political reality, can undermine the long-range goal of personhood.
Mr. Creel is absolutely correct about President George W. Bush and the manipulation of prolifers by the Republican Party. In fact, Mr. Creel's comments on that subject make my point better than I could have made it myself. But I think he misses the mark when he suggests we need to neutralize the "single-issue bludgeon." Au contraire! What we really need to do is work harder to personalize the preborn child, put a face on that baby and an identity on the person who dies every single time an abortion is committed. It is possible that we can maintain our moral purity and not sit around and "wait" for the human life amendment, but rather pursue it with the same gusto that sent the Apostles forth each day to spread the Good News!
Deacon Bradley makes an excellent point, which suggests to me that he does not fully understand the objective of my article on personhood. Prolifers pursue principled legislation every single day, but what some of us will not do is accept the alleged political reality that we have to accommodate polls and politicians by adding exceptions or judicial bypass to bills. What prolifers need to do in the political arena is pay less attention to polling data and more attention to pressing against the status quo for the principled bill.
An imperfect law sets a bad precedent. If it is actually true that prolifers believe that every preborn child deserves a right to be born, then we must not contradict that truth by tossing our support behind legislation that permits the grisly act for any reason, be it rape, incest, or the life or health of the mother. There is never a reason to protect the act of murder in a law formulated by a people who are demanding justice for all. Abortion is unjust.
Mr. Clauss joins Deacon Bradley and Mr. Creel in what I can only summarize as attitudes symptomatic of a spirit of despair. After nearly four decades of struggling against the evil of abortion, many are willing to settle for proposals that are truly contradictory -- not only to our faith but to common sense. Why not vote for an amendment that contains exceptions, Mr. Clauss asks. Well, the answer is quite simply that we must never accommodate evil, regardless of the political or social realities of the day.
I am reminded of the wisdom of Pope John Paul II, who taught us in Veritatis Splendor (#96) regarding the meaning of genuine democracy: "When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the poorest of the poor' on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal."
A Question of Style
Regarding the debate over charismatic renewal ("The Charismatic Appetite," article, Nov. 2008; letters, Jan., Feb.): I was never comfortable with the charismatic prayer meetings I attended. To me, it was like taking medicine that didn't taste good but made me healthier. At my first meeting, I questioned the orthodoxy of the movement, but was assured that it had the approval of the Magisterium. But since I grew spiritually during the time of my participation, I recognized that my personal preference is for a more intellectual approach. The charismatic movement is more of an emotional approach. It is merely a question of style.
Some people need the emotional approach. If the Catholic Church does not provide it, many may seek to fill their needs from televangelists or at Pentecostal or evangelical churches.
Individual charismatic prayer meetings can be susceptible to fringe abuses if they do not have good, solidly Catholic leadership. I was fortunate that the meetings I attended always had this.
Let us not be elitist in our approach to the Faith. Some will respond to the intellectual approach, others to a more emotional style. Thank God that our Church is big enough to accommodate many different expressions of our Faith.
Buffalo, New York
Catechesis, Post-Vatican II Style
In response to the letter-writer from Virginia Beach who wants to serve as a catechist but is put off by the unorthodoxy of his local CCD programs ("How Can I Serve?" Feb.): I have been in a similar situation to that which you describe. I have taught CCD to seventh- and eighth-graders for about 10 years in the post-Vatican II liberal, modernist environment.
You could not be more correct when you say that much of what you hear is not true traditional Catholic teaching. Some teaching is in error, but my experience is that most of the damage comes from the "sin of omission." In other words, the greatest fault today is that many deliberately leave out those Church teachings that may make people uncomfortable. "Cafeteria Catholicism," where we pick and choose the doctrines we believe, is the flavor of the day.
By the grace of God, I have learned the Catholic faith; moreover, I will be asked by the Eternal Judge to give an account of the stewardship of my talents on the Last Day. I am a "soldier" in the Lord's army, and these are His children, and this is His Church. Therefore, whatever happens is ultimately in His control. If I become "wounded" in battle or "discharged," I nonetheless -- as St. Paul says -- "fought the good fight." If faced with an ultimatum to teach watered-down Catholicism or resign, I choose the latter. But after 10 years, I am still in the fight.
This is what has worked for me thus far. First of all, I do my homework; I am able to back up my facts with the Baltimore Catechism, Catechism Explained, encyclicals from popes, writings of the saints, etc. Then I preface my information with: "The traditional teaching of the Church on this subject is ." If questioned, I argue with no one; I just present what the Church has always taught and reference my source, leaving it up to them whether to accept it or not. I just plant the seed; it's really up to Christ and the Holy Spirit to change hearts. So, I use the "take it or leave it" approach and, ever so slowly, I believe it is working.
(Name & Location Withheld)
To the Virginia Beach resident fearful of religious training contradicting his Baltimore Catechism training ("How Can I Serve?" letter, Feb.), I would respond that the training given me this past summer in the Diocese of San Diego did not conflict with, but reinforced, my own pre-Vatican II training. I am sure that you would be welcome in all the parishes in our diocese. If your parish or diocese does not treat your beliefs with respect, shake the dust off your shoes and offer your services elsewhere.
Chula Vista, California
I sympathize with the letter-writer from Virginia Beach who seeks to be involved in passing on the faith without being part of unorthodox CCD classes found in many parishes today. I've been there myself. Might I suggest that he get in contact with a local Catholic homeschool group? I am sure his expertise in Scholastic philosophy would be much appreciated and helpful in giving presentations on Catholic teaching, the virtues, the lives of the saints, etc., to older homeschoolers.
Patricia M. Johnson
Morgantown, West Virginia
I encourage the letter-writer from Virginia Beach, and anyone who writes such letters, to check us out at www.holyinnocentsnw.net. We are looking for teachers and would appreciate a person like the one who wrote that letter.
Dennis M. Cantwell, Headmaster
Holy Innocents School
Federal Way, Washington
An Unbalanced Reviewed
I have not read Being Catholic Now, edited by Kerry Kennedy, nor do I intend to, but Paul Bower's review (Feb.) seems strangely unbalanced.
Bower points to the current Speaker of the House, Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi. I have little doubt that her father, the former fine Democratic Mayor of Baltimore in the 1940s, would moan in his grave if he could hear his daughter's positions on abortion and contraception, to say nothing of her admitted "doubts" about the Creed. The late Fr. Robert Drinan, also singled out in Bower's review, is commonly recognized as the source of grave misguidance to the whole Kennedy clan relative to abortion. His legislative record in Congress is incredibly contrary to the faith, and yet these things are not even mentioned by Bower.
Both Pelosi and Drinan have clearly placed themselves outside the Church's unquestionable doctrine, and may well have incurred excommunication latae sententiae, according to a fair reading of canon law. What, nevertheless, do we hear from Bower about Drinan? That Catholics "strive to bring Heaven closer to earth for all people," and the "truths" of Catholicism "lend themselves toward corporal works of mercy." In a similar vein, Pelosi "believes strongly in the importance and sanctity of Catholicism," and she expresses herself "with sincerity and feeling." Presumably, both of them exclude the unborn from their observations about the faith.
Contrasting this, the "controversial" talk-show host Bill O'Reilly is incorrectly characterized as a "neoconservative," and Bower wonders "why he bothers to call himself a Catholic at all." Granted, O'Reilly may have expressed some heterodox viewpoints from time to time, as have so many public persons, but I agree with his flip and negative characterization of "mustard seed" sermons. After all, when was the last time anyone heard a sermon about throwing away the contraceptives in the bedside table or agreeing with the Pope? Certainly no hint of that from Drinan or Pelosi.
Being Catholic now has to mean the same thing it has always meant -- fidelity and self-denial. The early Christians gave up their lives for the faith. We need to be prepared to do the same, not pander to the electorate or the confused.
Bernard M. Collins
PAUL BOWER REPLIES:
I agree that Fr. Drinan and Nancy Pelosi fail to espouse the fullness of Catholic truth -- that much is obvious to NOR readers. However, the reason I found their essays most compelling was the tone and depth of their writing. Their candor and sincerity was impressive, and I've always had a soft spot for characters struggling with their faith -- I suppose that's why I enjoy Walker Percy's fiction so much. I also trust the Church in her teaching that Christ's grace is denied to no one, and thought the opinions of these admittedly flawed Catholics were remarkably interesting if not completely valid.
As far as Bill O'Reilly is concerned, I recommend perusing his essay in Being Catholic Now, as the man lays bare his utter disbelief of the central tenets of Catholicism and admits that he sees the Church as nothing more than a passable institution for the education of his children. O'Reilly's essay struck me as shallow and uninteresting for the same reason that Frank McCourt's did: both of them have given up thinking about whether Christ died for their sins or not. For them, being Catholic has more to do with ethnicity than ethics. I try not to judge them too harshly; after all, they are human and have an intrinsic and irreducible dignity that I would never assay to question. However, their complete lack of concern for the larger implications of the faith of their fathers makes me wonder why they still bother to call themselves Catholic.
Ed. Note: For the background story on Fr. Drinan, see "The Passing of Fr. Death'" by Anne Hendershott (guest column, Apr. 2007) and "The Secularizing of Catholic Universities" by Michael V. McIntire (article, Sept. 2008). For Pelosi, see our New Oxford Notes "Nancy Pelosi & Archbishop Wuerl" (Mar. 2007), "A Lesson From the Past" (Nov. 2008), and "Return Volley" in this issue.
Pray for Obama's Intentions
On February 1, after the last morning Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Eugene, Oregon, I went to the parish center to read the church bulletin over coffee. At the top of the column listing prayer intentions for the following week's morning Masses, the first one, for Monday, February 2, was for "Int. of President Obama." That a Catholic should offer a Mass for the intentions of the most pro-abortion president ever to occupy the White House seems cause for scandal.
Most of Obama's expressed intentions were vague generalities dealing with the economy and health care. His most concrete intention was for the passage of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). He has indicated that if FOCA comes across his desk, he will sign it into law. This act would make abortion-on-demand a federal law and would sweep away nearly all state and other local restrictions on abortion. Is this the intention the person offering the Mass had in mind?
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
There seems to be some confusion over the meaning of the term "intention." Mass intentions are intercessory prayers offered by the Church on behalf of others. A Mass for the "intention of John Doe" means that the Mass is being offered for the sanctification of his soul and his preservation in health, not for the realization of his "intentions" -- i.e., the thoughts or ideas he may have in his head. Likewise, a Mass offered for the "Int. of President Obama" is a Mass offered for the president's health and sanctification, not for the success of his legislative "intentions."
As Christians it is our duty to "pray without ceasing" (1 Tim. 5:17); our prayers are to be offered for "all men, for kings and all who are in high positions" (1 Tim. 2:1-2), including for our enemies (Mt. 5:44). The Mass is the Church's highest form of prayer; it is therefore entirely appropriate that Masses be offered for the intention of a president.
If we wonder how we are to pray for our presidents, we may look to Pope St. Clement, the third bishop of Rome after St. Peter, who composed the Church's most ancient prayer for political authorities: "Grant to them, Lord, health, peace, concord, and stability, so that they may exercise without offense the sovereignty that you have given them. Master, heavenly King of the ages, you give glory, honor, and power over the things of earth to the sons of men. Direct, Lord, their counsel, following what is pleasing and acceptable in your sight, so that by exercising with devotion and in peace and gentleness the power that you have given to them, they may find favor with you."
For President Obama specifically, we can follow the example of Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota, who assured Obama of his prayers and those of the faithful of his diocese as he undertakes the "immense responsibilities" of leading our nation. "One of those prayers," said Bishop Aquila, "will be for the conversion of his heart and mind to recognize the dignity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death and the truth that no government has the right to legalize abortion."
It is our duty to pray and offer Masses for President Obama, that he exercise his office appropriately and "dispense justice humanely by respecting the rights of everyone" (Catechism, #2237), and that he come to the knowledge of the truth and be counted among the saved.
Not Hitler's Pope
Regarding your New Oxford Note "The Latest Skirmish in the Pius Wars" (Feb.), there is no better refutation of Chief Rabbi of Haifa, She'ar-Yashuv Cohen, and Israeli cabinet minister Isaac Herzog than The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis (Regnery, 2005) by Rabbi David G. Dalin, a professor of history and political science at Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida. Rabbi Dalin shows that many Jews, including Albert Einstein, Golda Meir, Moshe Sharett, and Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Isaac Herzog, were lavish in their praise for Pope Pius XII and his work to save the Jews from the Holocaust. It was the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who advised and assisted Hitler in carrying out the Final Solution.
The Third Secret: Fully Revealed
I don't doubt the accuracy of Arthur C. Sippo's review of Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone's The Last Secret of Fatima (Feb.), but I have serious misgivings about some of what Sippo wrote and, by extension, the book. Sippo states that "communism was relegated to the ash heap of history." This is false because communism, or some form of it, is alive and well in places such as China and Cuba and, to some extent, Venezuela.
An obvious question that has already been asked by Catholic commentators much smarter than I is: How does one man being shot by another man and surviving in St. Peter's Square equate to the vision of " a city half in ruins corpses he met on his way the top of the mountain at the foot of the big Cross [being] killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows there died the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people "? I have no doubt that Our Lady saved Pope John Paul's life, but this still doesn't add up to what is revealed in the vision. The Mother of God wouldn't say things or reveal visions that have no purpose or don't come to pass.
It is true that Fatima is a private revelation, but the Miracle of the Sun was performed so that everyone would believe. A miracle of that proportion should indicate that Fatima is of more import than a "mere" private revelation, as Sippo phrased it.
How can anyone seriously claim that Russia is converted, as promised by Our Lady? Satanism, alcoholism, abortion, pornography, and violent crime are rampant in Russia today. If we are living in the triumph of the Immaculate Heart, how can this be? The answer is simple -- because the Immaculate Heart has not yet triumphed. The collapse of the Soviet Union is a bogus claim for the conversion of Russia because it was a political occurrence and not a religious conversion, and because Our Lady warned us about Russia not the Soviet Union. The Immaculate Heart hasn't triumphed yet because Russia has not been properly consecrated to it.
It's also a fallacy to talk about an era of peace when every place one looks, one sees violence, crime, hatred, wars, and rumors of war. We must beware lest we become like the false prophets who "deceived my people, saying: peace, and there is no peace" (Ezek. 13:10).
We deserve truthful answers to the questions I and many others before me have raised, and we haven't gotten them yet. I pray that we get them before it is too late.
Regarding the review of The Last Secret of Fatima (Feb.): The whole truth of Fatima is yet to be revealed. Why won't the Vatican reveal the whole truth?
Arthur C. Sippo's review of The Last Secret of Fatima by Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone is the latest example of the heterodoxy infecting the NOR. In his book, Cardinal Bertone distorted the Message of Fatima beyond all recognition in order to make it seem just an outdated relic of the past, an anachronous message neither helpful nor applicable in today's terrible times. Sippo, without a single quibble, presented the Cardinal's distortions as facts. And the NOR, by publishing his review, participated in, and became complicit in, those distortions. Collectively, you have insulted Christ Himself by deliberately altering His Mother's Message, stripping it of its immense importance for our time. And that is blasphemy!
The Virgin of Fatima appeared to the three children in 1917 to save souls from Hell by asking for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart, and by instituting the First Saturdays devotion to her Immaculate Heart. She spoke of the danger to the Pope, and to the world, if her requests were not fulfilled. And, in the still-unreleased Third Secret of her Message, all serious students of Fatima agree that she warned of a great apostasy in the Church that would begin at the very top, and which would be clearer in 1960, the eve of the Second Vatican Council. Her Message, and her warning, were elevated beyond mere private revelation when Almighty God caused the sun to change colors and to spin and dance in the sky -- the great Miracle of the Sun!
The Church has always deemed the Virgin's Message to be worthy of belief: She has beatified the seers Jacinta and Francisco; she has included the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima in the Roman Missal; she has incorporated the Fatima prayers ("O my Jesus ") into the Rosary; and she practices the First Saturdays devotion throughout the world.
But what had previously been the apostasy in the Church warned against by the Virgin in the Third Secret became the de facto teaching of the Church at the Second Vatican Council. And the Virgin's warning of that apostasy became an embarrassment to, indeed an indictment of, the Vatican hierarchy who brought it on, and who permit it to continue. Thus, her warning had to be suppressed, and so it has been!
Since 1960, when Pope John XXIII defied the Virgin's specific request by not releasing her Message to the world, the Church has hidden her Message, silenced her messenger, Sr. Lucia, and persecuted Fr. Nicholas Gruner of the Fatima Center, the world's strongest defender of her Message. And on June 26, 2000, in the hope of finally burying her Message forever, the Church held a press conference in the Vatican in which Msgr. Bertone and Cardinal Ratzinger completely rewrote the Virgin's Message in order to prevent her warning from reflecting on their modernist, if not heretical, stewardship of the Church.
Msgr. Bertone, now Cardinal Bertone, continues to embarrass himself as he distorts the Virgin's Message right up to this day. And Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote the Foreword to his blasphemous book, a self-serving piece of fiction.
You have abetted their corruption of the "timeless truths of the faith" you claim to uphold by attempting to defend the manifest apostasy that arose during the Second Vatican Council. You profess to be an "orthodox Catholic" magazine. I say hogwash!
ARTHUR C. SIPPO REPLIES:
Fatima Freaks need to get a grip.
Once upon a time, in a village in Portugal, three young children had visitations with the Blessed Mother and were given a vision of the hell that would become the 20th century. They were told that the Christian nation of Russia would spread its errors throughout the world, the Church would be persecuted, and the Holy Father would suffer. All of this seemed fantastic and lacking in credibility. As the century unfolded, what they were told became disturbingly real.
They were entrusted with a final secret that they were told not to reveal and which was to be kept unread until 1960. Pope John XXIII read the secret and determined that it was not fit to be revealed publicly at that time. All of his successors agreed with this decision. Only in the waning years of his pontificate did Pope John Paul II decide to reveal it because he thought that it illumined recent history and showed the providence of God in his own suffering.
One problem with having a hidden apocalyptic secret is that people will put far more faith in it than in the Magisterium of the Church and her bishops in union with the Pope. People will project onto that secret whatever they want to hear and will be disappointed when it says something other than what they want. Its revelation may cause them to question the integrity of the Pope and those in communion with him merely because it does not meet their expectations. Some have even claimed that the true secret remains hidden and what we have is a forgery!
It is important to put private revelations into perspective. Public revelation was given to us by God through Jesus Christ and the ministers of the Church whom He empowered to carry on after Him. It is this revelation alone that commands our faith and our obedience. Only through submission to the truth of the Gospel can we hope to be saved. The Gospel message is only rightly proclaimed in the Catholic Church, and its credibility is guaranteed by the charism of apostolic succession in which the Holy Spirit superintends the Church. Without that charism, we have nothing but speculation and human artifice leading inevitably to disagreement, schism, and religious compromises with the disordered appetites of our fallen nature.
Private revelations have been with us from the beginning of Christianity and have been of no small consequence. A hallowed tradition that Pope John Paul II favored was that the risen Jesus appeared to the Blessed Mother after the Resurrection in the first true private revelation. We also have the story of St. Peter's vision of Christ as he was trying to escape persecution in Rome: St. Peter met Jesus on the road and asked Him, Quo Vadis? (Where are you going?). Jesus replied that He was going to Rome to be crucified. St. Peter then immediately reversed direction and returned to Rome to face his own martyrdom.
But no private revelation adds a single truth to the deposit of faith. Private revelation does not supplement public revelation. At most it complements it. In fact, the touchstone by which the Church judges the possible authenticity of a seer's vision is precisely whether what is revealed in that vision coincides with previously defined magisterial teaching.
Our first loyalty, therefore, is not to a seer and his visions, but to our bishops and the Pope, whose ministries are the only guarantee of sound teaching. Even if an apparition is sanctioned by the Church, we as Catholics are under no obligation to believe in its authenticity. All such sanctions say is that there is no conflict between the message of the apparition and Catholic teaching. A Catholic in good standing can openly deny belief in Church-sanctioned apparitions with a clear conscience. As such, it is ludicrous to say that the Pope "disobeyed" the Blessed Virgin when he allegedly did not do something exactly as some seer says he should have. The seer, no matter how venerable, is not guaranteed to have the charism that the popes have to protect him from error. No Catholic in the pew, let alone the Vicar of Christ, is bound by the opinion of any seer.
Several sanctioned apparitions have been widely accepted within the Church, even among popes and bishops (e.g., Lourdes and Fatima). Other sanctioned apparitions now appear dubious in retrospect (e.g., La Sallette). Still others have not received any official sanction or formal condemnation (e.g., Medjugorje). There are many that have been formally condemned (e.g., Bayside, Necedah). Some people have placed more faith in such seers and apparitions than in the Catholic Church. This is a seriously disordered sentiment. Our first loyalty must be to Jesus Christ and His Mystical Body, the Church, under the pastoral care of the successors of the Apostles. Only thus can we please God and be saved.
Those who react so strongly against the interpretations of the Fatima secret by Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, and other mainline Catholic thinkers need a serious reality check.
In 1960 the Western world was broken into two warring camps: aggressive atheistic communism and what appeared to be a faltering Christendom. Revolutionary rhetoric was being touted on most every college campus. Brushfire wars sparked across the globe. And the two great opponents confronted each other with arsenals of mass destruction that could annihilate all life on earth in a single day. We came very close to doing that in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis.
A mere 30 years later, communism was a sad joke and truly became "the god that failed." The Soviet empire that threatened to annihilate the world crumbled from within. It happened without any nuclear exchange. It was not completely peaceful, but compared to what could have happened it was a miracle in itself. Much of the impetus for the fall of the Soviet Union was due to the close collaboration of Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and -- yes -- Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.
Gorbachev had been baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church. On March 19, 2008, during a surprise visit to pray at the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Gorbachev made an announcement that has been interpreted to mean that he was a Christian: "St. Francis is, for me, the alter Christus, the other Christ. His story fascinates me and has played a fundamental role in my life." Gorbachev added, "It was through St. Francis that I arrived at the Church; so it was important that I came to visit his tomb."
Now, in a resurgent Russia and Eastern Europe, the Church has begun reclaiming the ruins of what was once Christian territory. It is coming back, slowly but surely. John Paul II saw the ruins of the modern world all around him. He was not a triumphalist but a victim soul -- and he knew it. He knew that the story of the secret was fulfilled in his own lifetime, and he made a special effort to document the martyrdoms of the 20th century, lest we forget.
I am sorry that there was no instantaneous miraculous conversion of Russia to Catholicism. I would have liked that too. But out of the ruins of the communist conspiracy a new world is emerging. China is no more "communist" than the National Socialists (Nazis) were socialists. What we see there and in Cuba and Venezuela is the power of dictatorships, not communism.
The world is full of sin, and now the commitment of the West to Christianity is in danger. We need to stop hoping for miracles and start working for the future. We need prayer, evangelization, religious vocations, sound marriages, sound economies, and all the other things that our Christian faith has perennially taught us to pursue. This is our time.
The Blessed Mother told the Fatima children that in the end her Immaculate Heart would triumph, Russia would be converted, and there would be peace. Well, the end has not arrived just yet. We have lots of work to do before the end arrives.
I Saw the 'Unknown Light'
Arthur C. Sippo, in his review of The Last Secret of Fatima, states, "On October 13, 1981, exactly 64 years after the last appearance by Our Lady at the Cova and the famed miracle of the sun, Pope John Paul II was shot by a Turkish thug ."
That is incorrect. Pope John Paul II was shot on Wednesday, May 13, 1981, exactly 64 years after the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.
It seems providential that on the same day, and during the very hour, Sunday, May 13, 1917, when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima, Pope Benedict XV was consecrating Eugenio Pacelli a bishop -- the future Pope Pius XII. Pope Benedict XV spoke of the timing of the episcopal consecration of Pacelli as a "happy coincidence," and "that great day -- May 13, 1917 -- was in the secret designs of Providence."
Pope Pius XII did everything humanly possible to save Jews from Hitler's hands during World War II. He had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and established the feast in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But this great Pope is most remembered for the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.
Please permit me to "reveal" my firsthand experience in connection with one special event predicted by Our Lady of Fatima: my personal encounter with the "unknown light."
The Fatima visionary Sr. Lucia reported that Our Lady, in her July 1917 apparition, foretold the following event: "When you see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that it is the great sign that God gives you that He is going to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, of hunger, and of persecution of the Church and the Holy Father."
I saw this "unknown light" with my own two eyes on Tuesday evening, January 25, 1938, in my native Yugoslavia. After evening prayer in the chapel, my classmates and I were on the way to our dormitories. It was close to 10 PM. Walking along the corridor, I happened to look out the window to the north where the Slovenian Alp range meets Austria. I couldn't believe what I was seeing! The entire sky over the Alps was illuminated by an extraordinary, weird light. Huge flames were flashing out from behind the mountain range. I thought that towns of the neighboring Austria were engulfed in a terrible fire. The luminous phenomenon, consisting of streams of bright lights, lasted close to ten minutes. Then it slowly vanished into the darkness of night.
My classmates and I were astonished at the magnificent display of the Aurora Borealis, or so we thought it was. The next morning, the newspapers reported the event, which was seen all over Europe, and also as far south as Morocco, North Africa. Sr. Lucia reported that she too saw the "unknown light."
It took some time after this unusual phenomenon before I became familiar with the story of Fatima. Not quite two months after the incident, the Anschluss -- the Nazi annexation of Austria -- took place. On Sunday, March 13, 1938, the German military entered Vienna in triumph. Hitler was greeted by the Austrians with great enthusiasm. Theodor Cardinal Innitzer, the Archbishop of Vienna, appealed to the people to accept their new leader. Pope Pius XI summoned Cardinal Innitzer to the Vatican and reprimanded him for going too far in his acceptance of the Nazi regime.
In October 1938, nine months after the phenomenon of the "unknown light," Hitler moved into Czechoslovakia and joined the Sudetenland with the Greater German Reich. It was First Friday, September 1, 1939, when Hitler and Stalin marched into Poland. The start of World War II in Europe!
I had no idea then that, in a few years, I was going to be "blessed" with a great deal of suffering during the war and Tito's bloody communist persecution of the Church in my native country. I often asked myself why God spared my life. I do not know why. But I daily thank the good Lord, who saved me from death on several occasions through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Fr. Vladimir Kozina
Pine Grove, California
A Fitting Date
Thank you for Arthur C. Sippo's review of The Last Secret of Fatima. Our Lady said there in October 1917 that in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph and Russia will be converted. It is most fitting that the Minsk Agreement between Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, proclaiming the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, was officially signed and dated on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1991. Today Russia encourages the teaching of religion in her schools.
Bronx, New York