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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Problems With Fatima

Now that Pope Francis is in office, traditionalists are convinced the end-times are upon us. "It is the time of Fatima! Prepare for the end!". Etc.

Now, let me once again make clear that I believe the sun danced, that Mary appeared May 1917 to October 1917 during World War I at Fatima, that the three children are rightly held up as examples by the Church, etc. But visionaries sometimes get messages wrong, and Fatima is no exception.

Remember also that when the church approved Fatima in 1930, it only gave approval to the events that happened initially. The Church has technically never given formal approval to the subsequent statements and revelations from Sr. Lucia. This is problematic since all three secrets - the vision of hell, the set of prophecies we will examine here, and the notorious "third secret" - were only revealed by Lucia on August 1941 and October 1943. These "secrets" were thus never formally approved by the Church.

So, with all that in mind, let's take a look at the unapproved "prophecies", which were supposed to have been given to Lucia on 13 July 1917, but which she didn't bother to reveal for thirty-five years:
“You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.
(1) The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, (a) a worse one will break out (b) during the Pontificate of Pius XI.
(2) When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.
(3) To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace;
(4) if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.
(5) In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world”
This is the Second Prophecy, and it has a lot of problems. Some of them have already been discussed in other venues, others, not so much.

Prophecy Failure #1: Which Pope?
The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI.
The problem is obvious. This prophecy did not occur.
Pope Pius XI reigned 6 Feb 1922 to 10 Feb 1939.
Pope Pius XII began his reign on 2 March 1939.
World War II didn't start until 1 Sept 1939, 6 months after Pope Pius XII was elected.

Now, you can try arguing that the historians are all wrong, and some aspect of the conflict leading up to World War II was actually the beginning of World War II.
The Second Sino-Japanese War in 1931 was followed by a rising crescendo of treaty violations and acts of aggression. Adolf Hitler, when he rose to power (1933) in Germany, recreated the German army and prepared it for a war of conquest; in 1936 he remilitarized the Rhineland. Benito Mussolini conquered (1935–36) Ethiopia for Italy; and from 1936 to 1939 the Spanish civil war raged, with Germany and Italy helping the fascist forces of Francisco Franco to victory. In March, 1938, Germany annexed Austria, and in Sept., 1938, the British and French policy of appeasement toward the Axis reached its height with the sacrifice of much of Czechoslovakia to Germany in the Munich Pact.  (Read more here).
In fact, this is precisely the argument that Sister Lucia makes - the war began with the annexation of Austria:
World War II, in truth, began during the reign of Pius XI. "The annexation of Austria was the occasion for it," she explained. The invasion of Austria (in March 1938), the annexation of Czechoslovakia, the formation of military alliances and the decision to invade Poland were the beginnings of the war, though war had not yet been officially declared. 
Well.... ok... But notice that the very last element prior to Pius XI's death is a peace treaty (the Munich Pact) that gives the Germans Czechoslovakia. Great Britain and France don't abandon appeasement until the Italians seize Albania in April 1939, well into the reign of Pius XII. If a war began under Pius XI, wouldn't a peace treaty under that same Pope end it?

Now, there are some who will argue that World War II actually began with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, and that DID happen during the reign of Pius XI. Fine and dandy. But according to the second part of the prophecy, the war doesn't break out until we see a "night illumined by an unknown light", and according to Sister Lucia, the surviving Fatima visionary, that light doesn't happen until January 25, 1938 (see below). So, the Japan-Manchuria argument isn't in line with the prophecy either.

Sister Lucia's argument at least puts the heavenly light, the annexation of Austria and the beginning of war in the proper order, but the surrounding explanation is... weak. Hitler's demands on Polish territory did not begin until March 1939. Hitler's specific plans to invade Poland weren't drawn up until April, 1939. If we say he had plans prior to that, well, sure. As any historian is happy to point out, Germany had been making military plans to destroy Poland since it came back into existence following WW I. So, if Sister Lucia meant to say that the formation of military alliances is the beginning of the war, that's wonderful, but the secret Soviet-German non-aggression pact that allowed Germany to invade Poland without fear of a two-front war was not concluded until August, 1939 - well into the reign of Pius XII. Sigh. No matter how you try, it's just hard to shoehorn her prophecies into the actual history of the war.

Worse, Sister Lucia doesn't bother to reveal any of of these prophecies until 1941, years after the events already take place. Were her memories of a decades-old vision muddled by intervening events? We really don't know.

In any case, the various European states don't declare war until 1 September, 1939, which is why that date is generally considered the beginning of World War II. Given that Catholics are always very precise in their dates ("X happened on the Feast of the Assumption" or "Y happened on the Feast of the Annunciation"), it seems most odd that the Blessed Virgin would shoot six months wide of the mark, and get the Pope's name wrong to boot, in her description of exactly when a "worse" war than World War I will break out.

It's much easier to assume that the visionaries simply mis-heard, mis-understood or mis-remembered the Blessed Virgin on this point. Now, that would be bad enough, but the failures just get worse.

Prophecy Failure #2: The "Worse" War
Here's a question whose answer is not as obvious as it appears. Which was worse, World War I or World War II? You might say World War II based purely on the number of body bags produced: 60-70 million vs. 15-20 million. But is that the only way to look at it?

Well, no. Instead of looking at pure body count, we could look at percent of the world's population killed. And when we compare numbers, should we or should we not include the Spanish flu epidemic (1918-1919), the third worst pandemic in human history, a pandemic that killed off 1-3% of the world's population all by itself? In absolute numbers, it killed off more people than any plague in human history. And it happened before the reign of Pope Pius XI.

But, we digress. The Austria-Hungarian Empire had a 90% casualty rate among its military in World War I, Russia suffered a 75% military casualty rate prior to her civil war and withdrawal. No one in World War 2 had a comparable military loss rate. Similarly, judging by overall death rates, World War 1 was a much worse experience than World War 2, for at least several major countries around the world.

Total
Casualty Rates
WW1 WW2
Australia 1.38% 0.57%
Romania 9% 4%
Canada 0.92% 0.4%
Belgium 1.62% 1.05%
New Zealand 1.64% 0.73%
United Kingdom 2.19% 0.94%
France 4.29% 1.35%
Italy 3.48% 1.03%
Bulgaria 3.41% 0.38%

Prophecy Failure #3:
"When you see a night illumined by an unknown light..."
The night of January 25, 1938 saw a tremendous aurora borealis, visible throughout all of Europe. This light DID happen during the reign of Pius XI. Sister Lucia said this aurora was the sign. But the problem is, again, obvious. It wasn't an unknown light. It was a known light - the aurora borealis. There were similar auroras throughout the 1870s and a similar storm was seen on Feb 11, 1958. Consequently, some have argued the unknown light was actually the Trinity nuclear bomb test. Of course, there was no great war that followed that event, so that doesn't seem to work either.

Prophecy Failure #4: Famine
Famine is mentioned as a punishment on the world. But this one is very, very hard to entertain. Now, sure, since Fatima, there have been a lot of terrible famines in various countries. For instance, Stalin's Ukraine saw massive famine. Communists China's "Great Leap Forward" produced a man-made famine that killed tens of millions and drove the countryside to cannibalism. North Korea is under perpetual famine and cannibalism for decades. Communism produces famine - everyone knows that now in a way that no one did in 1917.

So, in that narrow sense, the children's vision was VERY prophetic. They correctly predicted that anyone living under communism would suffer great physical want. In 1917, before anyone had actually attempted to implement communism or socialism, it was not at all obvious that this would be the case.

But if you want to use Fatima to argue that the world was going to undergo or has already undergone some kind of unusual famine, it's an impossible argument to support. After all, famine is not exactly unusual in human history, and it is demonstrably less likely today. Don't believe me? Look at the numbers.

We have not yet hit the century mark on the Fatima prophecies, but the world has gone from roughly 1.6 billion in 1900 to a bit over 7 billion today. That is, the world has over 4 times as many people today as it did at the time of the prophecy. If famine were really hitting us hard, how did we get four additional planets' worth of people in the intervening century?

The consensus is clear: famine has become less common over the previous century, it is not increasing. And it looks likely that this trend will continue. As Norman Borlaug points out, 17% of the world's cultivated land produces 90% of its food. If we can get the other 83% to adopt Borlaug's techniques, we can increase food production 5-fold. That means we can support 35 billion people on the planet before we have to till any new ground. Sadly, we'll probably never accomplish that population level. But that isn't due to lack of food. It's due to lack of interest in having children among populations that have low infant mortality rates.

There is, of course, one more aspect that should be considered. Perhaps God had promised the world famines, but unknown to three children, God had already delivered the solution to world-wide famine three years earlier. On the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1914, Norman Borlaug was born. Sister Lucia had no way of knowing this, but Borlaug's research would feed over 1 billion people in the decades following World War II - he quite literally fed the world. His work stopped the very famines that Sister Lucia thought she heard Mary warn about.

Prophecy Failure #5: Russia and her errors
This is a nasty one, and a lot of it hinges on how free you wish to get with definitions. Technically, monarchical Russia fell out of existence after the Russian Revolution. It was replaced by the United Soviet Socialist Republic. So, prior to the reign of Pope Pius XI, the first nation which is annihilated is Russia, replaced by the USSR in 1922. But if Russia no longer exists, it can't very well spread it's errors throughout the world, can it?

Sigh. Of course, we can argue that it was really just a name change, and insist it is still Russia in all but name. In fact, we have to make this argument for the Fatima prophecies to work. But, in order to make this argument, we must ignore that Russia had been ruled by monarchy for over 1000 years (the Ruriks, 862-1598, and the Romanovs, 1613-February Revolution of 1917). We know the Romanovs and the Czarists who supported them won't take issue with our argument, because they caught nine grams of lead in the back of the head on 17 July 1918. The prophecies are given six months after the Romanovs had abdicated, and almost exactly one year before the Romanovs are executed, although the world won't find out about the executions for decades.

At the time the Fatima prophecies were made, the only error Russia had made was to allow her Tsar to abdicate. It was operating under a Provisional Government which had amnestied all political and religious prisoners, guaranteed free speech, and promised free elections, among other things. Specifically, ten days before the Fatima prophecies, the Russian Provisional Government was putting down the "July Days" protests (July 16-20, 1917 of Gregorian calendar). Specifically, the first Provisional Government (run by Georgy Lvov, a noted Russian statesman who was NOT a socialist) had arrested many socialists for insurrection. Though Lenin and many of his Bolsheviks escaped the July Days crackdown, they were forced into hiding.

So, on the very day, at the very hour, the prophecies were being given to the three visionaries, the Russian government was actively suppressing socialism. Was that Russia's error? Because if it is, that's the exact reverse of every interpretation I've ever heard.

So, here's the problem: which part of Russian practice was error?

  1. Was it the Tsar's resignation six months before the prophecies? Was that the error?
  2. Or was it Lvov's Provisional government, the one in power when the prophecies were made? Because two weeks after the prophecies, it collapsed and was replaced by Kerensky's Provisional government. Was Lvov' overthrown by the Queen of Heaven?
  3. If so, he was replaced by Kerensky. Kerensky was a Menshevik (socialist). Clearly, Mary would never put a socialist in charge, would she? So, was his government the error? 
  4. Or was it the Russian Republican that came into existence September 14? Were the visionaries warned against republics? America is a republic...
  5. Or was it the Russian Revolution about a month later? 
There's at least five political systems here to choose from, and the prophecy doesn't say which one was the error which gets "spread throughout the world." A GREAT argument can be made that the error wasn't socialism or communism at all, but rather the loss of European monarchies.

But, as I said, let's ignore every bit of this inconvenient history and cut straight to the chase by assuming:
  • a Georgian (Stalin) = a Russian
  • the USSR = Russia
  • a General Secretary = the president of a republic or a monarch
  • democracy = socialism
  • and socialism is the problem.
OK. If we assume there is no substantial difference between all those things, then we're good to go.

Prophecy Failure #6: Nations Annihilated
Then, let's look at the next part of the prophecy:
[Russia] will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.
Various nations will be annihilated due to the errors of Russia, that is, presumably due to the Communists. Hmmmm. Really? Here's a list of nations that were annihilated in the 20th century. Let's take a look at which ones can be chalked up to Communist influence.

Name changes: Since we have already discounted the idea that name changes count, we can toss out the following as not really being annihilated, but merely undergoing a name change:
  • 1939: Siam changed its name to Thailand.
  • 1946: Transjordan: Became the independent kingdom of Jordan.
  • 1958-1961: United Arab Republic. Non-neighbors Syria and Egypt merged to become a unified country. In 1961 Syria abandoned the alliance but Egypt kept the name United Arab Republic itself for another decade.
  • 1966: Basutoland changes its name to Lesotho. 
  • 1971: Taiwan: stopped representing China in the United Nations but is still an independent country.
  • 1972: Ceylon changed its name to Sri Lanka.
  • 1980: Rhodesia changed its name to Zimbabwe.
  • 1990: Southwest Africa: Gained independence and became Namibia.
  • 1997: Zaire changed its name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • 1998: Western Samoa changed its name to Samoa 
Weren't There: Since these countries didn't exist at the time of the prophecy, it seems unfair to count them as being annihilated when they again disappear:
  • 1918: Czechoslovakia didn't exist until 14 Nov 1918. It doesn't exist now, having split in 1993 into the Czech and Slovak Republics, respectively. The largest religious group within the Czech Republic is Catholicism (10%). The largest religious group in the Slovak Republic is Catholicism (62%). So, how do you count this? 
  • 1939: Catalonia: Autonomous region of Spain independent from 1932-1934 and 1936-1939. 
  • 1954-1976: South Vietnam: Now part of a unified Vietnam, South Vietnam existed from 1954 to 1976 as the anti-communist portion of Vietnam. While it was wiped out by communists, it didn't exist in 1917, so it's hardly fair to count it. 
  • 1964: Neither Tanganyika nor Zanzibar existed as independent countries in 1917, so when they united to form Tanzania, that can hardly count as annihilation can it?
  • 1967: Yemen splits into North Yemen and South Yemen but in 1990 the two rejoin into a unified Yemen.
  • 1971: East Pakistan: A province of Pakistan from 1947-1971 when it became Bangladesh. It became a country, it didn't stop being a country. 
  • 1990s: Yugoslavia: First created 1 December 1918 as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, it was officially recognized in 1922. The Axis invaded in 1941, which led to its re-creation as Democratic Federal Yugoslavia in 1943 when the Partisans took over, then renamed again to the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia in 1946 when the communists took over. In 1963 it became the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, then in 1991 it began the breakup up into what is now Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro and Slovenia. This essay originally incorrectly categorized Yugoslavia as having fulfilled the prophecy. But, since the country didn't exist at the time of the prophecy, it really falls into this category. 
  • 1991: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR): Technically, it doesn't come into existence until 1922. When the Tsar abdicated in February 1917 (March 1917 in the Orthodox calendar), the Russian Provisional Government was established. In September 1917, this was reformed as the Russian Republic. The Republic was overthrown by the Russian Revolution of 1917, establishing the Soviet Russian Republic. In 1922, this became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. By 1936, this was renamed the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, but most people continued to call it the USSR. By 1991, the whole scheme collapsed and it broke into fifteen new countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldovia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Again, this essay originall mis-categorized the USSR as having fulfilled the prophecy. Technically, the "Russia" which existed at the time of the July 1917 prophecy had already disappeared by either August or October/November of the same year (depending on your definition). Now Russia exists again, so does it count as being annihilated or not?
Tricky: These countries are trickier. They existed when the prophecy was made, they fell out of existence for a time, then they came back into existence, albeit with somewhat changed boundaries. Poland is the weirdest exception:
  • 1917: Poland had actually been completely annihilated in 1795. It only came back into existence in November 1918, after Germany surrendered. It technically didn't exist at the time of the prophecy. But, does the reconstitution of a fully Catholic country count as a kind of anti-annihilation? Does it count against the prophecy instead of for it?
  • 1980s: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were invaded and annexed by the USSR during WW 2, but most Western countries refused to recognize the annexation, and they all came back into existence during the 1980s. So do they count as having been annihilated or not?
  • 1989: Germany existed in 1917, but it was divided into East and West Germany by WW 2. Today, of course, they have again merged together to form a unified Germany. Does that count?
  • 2011: Same problem with South Sudan. Sudan technically was an independent nation at the time of the prophecy, but Britain ruled is as she did all of her other colonies. Worse, she ruled the north and south halves independently, since the differences between the regions were well-known. Sudan gained independence from the British in 1956. South Sudan began in July 2011. Does the new-found independence of Christian South Sudan from Muslim North Sudan count as the annihilation of Sudan?
Annihilated the Wrong Way: These countries really did fall out of existence and have not come back. But not only do they have to be annihilated, their annihilation should be the result of Russia's errors. These clearly don't qualify: 
  • Oct 1918: Austria-Hungary: Established in 1867 and included not just Austria and Hungary, but also parts of the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, Romania, and the Balkans. But it didn't disappear as a result of Russia's errors. It disappeared as a result of the Allied victory in WW1
  • 1923: Ottoman Empire disappears, replaced by bits of contemporary Russia, Turkey, Hungary, the Balkans, northern Africa, and the Middle East. It disappeared as a result of the Allied victory in WW1
  • 1932: Prussia: effectively abolished in 1932, officially abolished in 1947. It disappeared as a result of the Allied victory in WW1
  • 1975: Sikkim was an independent monarchy from the 17th century until 1975, when it joined India. This was an internal Indian political affair and had nothing to do with communism.
Now, you can make the argument that these four countries should be counted, but it's hard to see how. The Russians were on the side of England and France in WW 1, they were fighting WITH the Allies, not against them. Her withdrawal from the war made Allied victory LESS likely, not more likely. And the Allies still won, even without Russia.

So, how exactly would Russia's withdrawal spread Russia's (unspecified) errors through the world given that she was on the side of the winners up until she withdrew and the winners still won? Should the Axis powers have won? If so, America is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Perhaps you want to argue that those empires should NOT have been broken up? That all the monarchies and czardoms were supposed to stay in place? That the breaking up of monarchy and the institution of democracies in all those countries is a consequence of Russia's error? Ok, you can make that argument, but again, it's different from any argument I've ever heard laid out about the proper interpretation of Fatima prophecies. I have a hard time constructing an argument that would make these four countries fit popular Fatima interpretations.

The Winners!: These countries not only existed at the time of the prophecy, they fell out of existence directly as a result of the errors of Russia, that is her communism, and to this day, do not exist: 
  • 1950: Tibet was invaded by Communist China (which got its communism from the USSR) and is now known as the Xizang Autonomous Region of China. Alright, this one counts. But Tibet was no Shangri-La. In fact, some Tibetans argue they are better off under the communists than they ever were under the Dalai Lama. 
And.... that's all.

Hmmm... That's rather... uh... well... that's rather disappointing. We don't actually have nations annihilated. We actually have just "nation."

So the second "prophecy" clearly has its problems. Which calls into question the first prophecy and the third.

The Other Prophecies
Now, I'm sure that hell exists. What am I not sure of? I'm not sure that the visionaries correctly understood the Blessed Virgin there either. A lot of people have used the first prophecy to preach fire and brimstone concerning all kinds of things, and they may well be right. But you can see why using prophecy, especially the Fatima prophecies, to preach doctrine can quickly become a problem. If these three little kids got some of the essentials on the second prophecy a little (cough, cough) messed up, then what about the other two?

And as for the third prophecy, no Fatima endorser can even agree on what it really is. It's something horrible, they are all sure about that. But the details.... well... that's murky. Just be assured that the third prophecy is really horrible. Really.

So, if the message of Fatima is to pray, that's a great message and I'm all for it.
However, if the message of Fatima is to obsess over the prophecies, I think, from a spiritual perspective, I'd be better off playing a video game. Really.


UPDATE:
Hey, I just noticed this. According to the first vision, "more souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason."

Hmmmm.... Now, the traditionalists who push Fatima often like to say that you have to be baptized with water to be saved. If you aren't, according to them, you just go to Limbo. Limbo is supposedly the first circle of hell. Limbo is just a theological opinion, but traditionalists often pretend that it is doctrine of the Church which every Catholic must accept, even though that's impossible to prove. But let's go with their opinion on this.

Given that most of the people who have ever lived have lacked baptism, and would therefore go to hell for original sin even if they never committed any sin of the flesh, you would think that more souls go to hell because of lack of baptism than for any other reason.

But according to Fatima, lack of water baptism isn't the reason most people are in hell, it's sins of the flesh. So could the first vision be used as a bit of evidence AGAINST the idea of Limbo?
It certainly seems possible.



17 comments:

Tim Hoven said...

Steve,

Thanks for the perspective.

Just a note though...

A nation isn't only a country...

From wikipedia, A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, or history.[1] In this definition, a nation has no physical borders.

Were the Ukrainians annihilated by Stalin? They were not wiped out but I would classify a few million dead as annihilated. Were the Ukrainians that survived Communist rule a different people, a different culture, a different faith?

How many unique cultural groups were slaughtered by the communists over 70 years? I think those are the nations that are being referred to.

Tim Hoven said...

Just my $0.02

Steve Kellmeyer said...

No, annihilated means "they don't exist anymore." We annihilated the carrier pigeon, for instance.

The neighbors of the Illiniwek tribe wiped that tribe out. There aren't any Illiniwek anymore. The Patuxet of Massacnusetts were annihilated - completely wiped out. The natives of Tasmania were annihilated - there aren't any left.

The Ukrainians were NOT annihilated. I was just in Ukraine a few years ago, lots of Ukrainians were there. I can't think of a single nation, in the tribal or blood-line sense, that was wiped out.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

And I listed six problems. Even if I granted that one, you'd still have five more to chew on.

Flambeaux said...

Steve,

Would you be willing to point me in the direction of some of the other criticism of the prophecies?

I've, honestly, never encountered any serious criticism of them.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Flambeaux, the single and only criticism I've ever seen is the Pius XI screw-up.

Other than that, I've never seen anyone question Fatima.

That's why I wrote this post.
I was getting a little tired of everyone invoking the end of the world every other month.

I was also completely fed up with the brouhaha over the 3rd secret. It struck me in the last few days that the whole "nations annihilated" thing was probably not easy to support.

And the more I looked at it, the less supportable the whole thing got. At this point, I'm fine with the vision, but I don't trust the prophecies at all.

Jordanes551 said...

I don't see any serious problems with these prophecies -- no more than we have with the prophecies in the Bible. They're worded ambiguously enough to allow for them to be interpreted fairly and judiciously. The war breaking out during the pontificate of Pius XI isn't a problem, since there's no reason to think Our Lady counts the invasion of Poland and formal declarations of war at that time as the formal start of the "worse" war. Things look differently from heaven than they do from earth.

The "unknown" light could be the aurora borealis as Sister Lucia thought. Unusually bright aurorae certainly are not any of the kinds of night-time light that we usually "know." Or perhaps the prophecy just hasn't been fulfilled yet, and refers to some sign God will work before the end of the world (whenever that will be -- probably not during this pontificate). Reading the whole text, however, it seems that the great light, and the ensuing calamities such as annilation of nations, would be something that would come about only if Russia was not consecrated to the Immaculate Heart. But Russia was consecrated, so I think the only parts of this prophecy we need to pay attention to any more are the predictions of Russia's conversion and the world being given a period of peace.

If, however, we take the prophecy as referring to events that have already happened, the annihilation of nations, or genocide, isn't a problem for the prophecy, since there's no reason to think "annihilation" was meant in a mathematical or numerically exact sense rather than an idiomatic sense.

But then, in interpreting such prophecies, not only do we keep in mind that they're private revelation (and, as you correctly point out, sometimes visionaries don't understand what they're seeing, or unintentionally substitute their own ideas for the message they were give), but also we must remember that in the Bible, prophecies of doom are conditional upon repentance (see Jonah) or saintly intercession (see Moses).

Anyway, I don't see anything particularly problematic for the prophecy -- I just think it's either mostly fulfilled and/or contains warning that have been averted. The prophecy doesn't say how or when Russia would be converted, though, or how or when peace would come. I don't trouble myself over Fatima, nor the Third Secret. Like you, I am convinced Our Lady appeared to the children, and the miracle of the sun is undeniable. I take the prophetic warnings to heart, but I see no cause to use them as the template for viewing modern history or the year or decades to come. Time is in God's hands after all, including the future. I'm content to leave it there.

joe said...

Jordan that was perfectly said

Kevin Tierney said...

Like many, my problem isn't with private revelations, but what people do with them.

The wisdom of St. John of the Cross to avoid all private revelations, good or bad, still maintains its... well.... wisdom.

jonjon358 said...

Certainly there are major problems with the so-called prophecies of the “Secret of Fatima” – problems that the uncritical pious ride right over, but they tend to nag at people who actually know a thing or two.

As for instance – you’ve dismantled the “Second Prophecy” point-by-point, proved that there’s no possible way to make it jibe with history, and people have responded by suggesting you’re being too pedantic and technical. Or even better, the old "Things look differently from heaven than they do from earth." Well, sure. In heaven it was clear that WWII began in 1938.

I submit that there’s no point in prophecy at all if it’s not addressed to earthlings, in terms we can at least dimly construe. Maybe in heaven “Russia” means Alaska – fine, but in that case we’re bound to misunderstand prophecies citing “Russia” unless heaven lets us in on the cipher in some way, or gives us some fairly specific contextual clues, as when John the Divine speaks of “Babylon.” Otherwise anything might mean anything, for all we know or are capable of discovering. Heaven has to condescend to us a little bit, or “what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” plain and simple.

So the suggestion that “things look differently in heaven” is no excuse for the fact that the Fatima prophecy deals in details in a perfectly comprehensible way and gets them wrong.

Having established, then, that the prophecy isn’t prophetic, we have to ask ourselves why this is the case – particularly if we wish to maintain our belief that “the sun danced, that Mary appeared May 1917 to October 1917 during World War I at Fatima, that the three children are rightly held up as examples by the Church, etc.”

It goes without saying that the fault cannot be Our Lady’s own. Therefore we’re forced to assume it’s Lucia’s; we’re forced to impugn our witness in order to credit her. If Our Lady told her a “Secret” at all, it can’t be the one she recorded years later. She must’ve (cough, cough) “messed it up” somehow.

But does that make sense? I mean, yes, it stands to reason that the Virgin Mother of the Son of God would take the trouble to appear to three illiterate shepherd kids in backwoods Portugal in 1917 to deliver a vitally important message about future world events, predictions of war and famine and annihilation of nations which yet only they – the shepherd kids – were allowed to chew on, to what end God alone knows, only to have two of them die almost immediately…but then to believe that the third, who lived on and entered a religious vocation, evidently “messed up” the message when she was finally compelled to write it down for posterity 24 years later, after the occurrence of most of the events to which it appears to attempt to refer? That seems to begin to strain credulity. What – again – is the point of all this?

Lucia herself claimed to be graced with a supernaturally pristine memory of the words of Our Lady – which would make sense, on the theory that Our Lady actually appears to children to deliver messages that are presumably supposed to be passed on to the world at large at some point – one would think She’d take some measure to guarantee that it wasn’t all wasted on the pasture air.

Lucia also claimed to have received follow-up visits from Our Lady on various occasions throughout her career, notably in 1929 when the Latter made Her formal request for the consecration of “Russia” (still “Russia,” by now quite evidently meaning the USSR), this time not in the context of a “Secret” which Lucia was to keep to herself, but more practically as something of which she was to inform her superiors so that the message could get to the Holy Father. So if our theory is that the prophetic failures of the “Secret” are due to Lucia’s faulty recall of the words of Our Lady, we might wonder why Our Lady didn’t refresh Lucia’s memory during these follow-ups – by which time she was more mature and sophisticated and could actually read and write, even take dictation if necessary.

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jonjon358 said...

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No, I don’t think it works to argue that Lucia “got in the way” of a genuine prophetic message. I don’t think Our Lady would roll the dice on whether a given 10-year-old would be able to retain Her message intact. True, it was supposedly given to Lucia as a “Secret,” but it contained information that she was clearly intended to act on if not necessarily reveal in its entirety – “Russia” wasn’t going to consecrate itself. And anyway the “Secret” was eventually revealed to the world in its entirety (unless you’re among the so-called “Fatimists,” the ultra-Catholic conspiracy theorists who insist that a portion of the “Third Part” of the “Secret” is still being withheld by the Vatican), so its manifest errors now have to be contended with by anybody who’s simultaneously devoted to the Faith and unwilling to be sold an obvious bill of goods – i.e. anybody who’s interested in the Truth. For such the “Secret of Fatima” is a liability rather than an asset. Can we suppose Our Lady failed to foresee this unfortunate eventuality?

Shall we cut the Gordian knot? There doesn’t seem to be any way to square the failings of the “Secret” as prophecy with the belief that it was really given in any form by Our Lady to Lucia. To be brutal: the “Secret” is Lucia’s, not Our Lady’s.

The mere fact that Lucia waited until 1941 to “reveal” the alleged 1917 prophecy in re: the end of WWI and the beginning of WWII – well, that would pretty much void it as prophecy even if it did hold up. It’s as if I claimed to have dreamed next week's lottery numbers last night, but then I waited till next month to play them.

In fact, the strongest argument – irony of ironies! – for the prophecy predating the events it purports to describe is that it bungles so many details – but even so, it comes off as the bungling of a bad historian, not a bad prophet. In other words, Lucia made those mistakes, after the fact, for the same reason that so few believers have so much as noticed them – she was in over her head.

Hence e.g. the statement that the “even worse war” would break out during the pontificate of Pius XI, following the “great sign” of the “night illumined by an unknown light.” My guess would be that the jumping-off point for Lucia was the aurora borealis over Europe in February 1938. Such phenomena have always fascinated superstitious peasants, who regard them as omens or portents, so it’s only natural that it would show up in Lucia’s “Secret” as the “great sign” – and since Germany annexed Austria less than a month later, she fixed on that event, during which Pius XI was pope, as signaling the true beginning of WWII, even though it was a peaceful "war of flowers" and was followed by the Munich Pact, prior to the outbreak of war proper in 1939 during the pontificate of Pius XII. That’s a leaner explanation for the discrepancy, so plain to merely terrestrial historians, than the suggestion that Lucia bungled a genuine prophetic message from Our Lady. (Incidentally, as to the aurora borealis being a “known” light: Lucia questioned whether the aurora of '38 was an aurora, or whether it just looked like one, but was really a miracle. Satisfied?)

Lucia, it seems, had a pronounced habit of claiming, after the fact, to have been given hitherto “secret” predictions of events by Our Lady. Nice trick if you can get people to buy it – and apparently she could. Thus the imminent deaths of Francisco and Jacinta had been predicted by Our Lady in 1917 – again, according to Lucia in 1941. I can’t help but feel that you have to be already “in the bag” to take this woman at all seriously. If you approach her claims with no preconceptions, she looks like a common huckster.

[CONT’D]

jonjon358 said...

[CONT’D]

Granted, that may sound like harsh criticism…well, Lucia’s own mother called her a “fake” who was “leading half the world astray.” But for our part we needn’t assume that Lucia was a conscious fake, so to speak. She may have been honestly deluded. Or, she may have been a “pious fraud” who felt justified in inventing and elaborating her “visions” and “prophecies” in order to promote the Faith.

At any rate I would argue that Lucia’s credibility as a visionary is seriously and perhaps fatally compromised by intimate association with “prophecies” that cannot withstand intelligent scrutiny.

What are we to make of the story of the apparitions themselves, then, which attracted so much attention and eventually won the endorsement of the Church? What of the famous “Miracle of the Sun”? What of the pious “example” of the children themselves?

It seems to me, again, that it costs more faith than it nets to perceive anything truly “miraculous” about the events in Fatima in 1917.

Even the friendliest accounts confirm that Lucia had been an especially imaginative and charismatic little girl who exercised great influence over her friends and courted attention. It’s known that her mother had fascinated her with stories of the Marian apparitions at Lourdes and La Salette prior to her own alleged encounters, which turned out to share many points of similarity. Well, maybe “what really happened” is that Lucia decided to work some of these themes into her childhood play-acting with her cousins. Soon word got around that the kids were claiming to have seen a “Lady.” These sorts of reports have a way of very rapidly assuming a life of their own, particularly in rural parts of Catholic Europe. Imagine, then, Lucia (and her cousins, but I get the distinct impression that they were only along for what turned out to be a very short ride) suddenly finding herself the focus of whole villages of attention. She need only have played up the part, without being too theatrical, without going into too much detail – and much of the work of fleshing out the “story” in terms of Catholic piety would’ve been done for her, especially once the local Church authorities got involved. (It’s known that her initial descriptions of the “Lady’s” appearance, e.g., were altered to better correspond with the conventional iconography of Our Lady – as at Lourdes.) Then would come spontaneous reports of “miraculous healings,” independent witness accounts of phenomena attending the visions (which were conveniently on a schedule, again as at Lourdes) – though nobody else went so far as to say they’d seen Our Lady – and also the inevitable opprobrium of doubters, which would only serve to provoke those who were “on the bandwagon” to dig in even further.

I daresay that outline roughly accounts for the facts without unduly taxing our credulity (which is something we should be even more wary of as believers than if we were shallow skeptics who presume not to have a God in the fight) – and it spares us from having to make awkward and flimsy excuses for the very serious problems with the content of Lucia’s visions. For it doesn’t serve the True Faith to squander our belief in the possibility of supernatural interventions on episodes that are better explained otherwise. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

As for the “Miracle of the Sun” – I can deal with it in six points. 1) Nobody knows how many people were really there. One journalist said 30K, another said 100K – one or the other or both were way off. Could’ve been as few as 10K for all we really know. (It doesn’t matter, but “70,000 witnesses!” are constantly claimed.) 2) Of those, only some witnessed the “miracle.” Again, no real means of determining how many. There was no exit poll; we only have an assortment of accounts selected for publication, and among these are accounts of frustrated would-be visionaries who saw nothing unusual whatever.

[CONT’D]

jonjon358 said...

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3) The accounts of those who did claim to see something disagree with each other on particulars. Something unusual about the sun; it changed colors and/or “spun round on itself” and/or “danced” and/or plummeted to earth, etc. 4) This shows that the “miracle” was in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. Either it was something along the lines of a “mass hallucination,” or it was an optical effect only observable from certain points in the Cova, or “God chooses who will see the miracle,” etc. But you have to stifle a smile when you read that the proof that the sun literally plummeted to earth is that it dried the clothes of the spectators. 5) Most people who showed up obviously expected to see something. The psychology of crowds is notorious. Even self-avowed skeptics are obviously interested in their own way, and could easily have got “caught up.” 6) It’s not all that difficult to believe that people saw things while staring directly at the sun. There are “sun miracles” reported at Marian apparition sites – and elsewhere – all the time. At some (including Knock, Ireland, site of a late-19th-century magic lantern hoax that somehow got approved as a genuine apparition by the Church), the reports of sun miracles have been followed up with reports of permanent retinal damage.

The RCC has painted itself into a corner with its endorsement of “Our Lady of Fatima,” in spite of the fact that its official position on Marian apparitions is wisely circumspect – but once it’s beatified the visionaries, it’s hard to prevaricate without losing serious face. Thus upon Lucia’s death, her cell was sealed by order of then-Cardinal Ratzinger – he could hardly take the chance that, say, a draft of a vision might be discovered, or any writing that hadn’t been thoroughly vetted for dogmatic and ecclesiastical fidelity. But we have no responsibility to these fairy tales, which, even if they were really convincing, couldn’t possibly add to the deposit of Faith. They’re devotional “extras” at best; at worst, embarrassing liabilities.

Lastly, the “example” of the kids. The child visionaries of Fatima – aged 10, 8, and 7 at the time of the apparitions – are alleged (by Lucia, writing years after the fact as usual, with nobody to contradict her) to have practiced “self-sacrifice” at the behest of Our Lady in order to help sinners escape hell, the terrorizing vision of which supposedly constituted the first part of the “Secret.” This self-sacrifice included going without food and water on the hottest days of summer (and drinking, when they did, from noxious pond water), binding with tight cords worn under the clothes to cause pain, even self-flagellation. I hope I’m not the only one happy enough to doubt this was really done. If you can manage to regard the image of a 7-year-old girl starving and flogging herself as a wholesome one, I bow to your superior piety. What if you discovered your own little girl doing this? What if she told you that a “Lady” had appeared to her and told her to do it in order to help vicariously redeem sinners? What of the “God” contemplated here, Who seems to find something inherently satisfying in the suffering of children?

Remember that two of these kids were victims of the influenza epidemic of 1918 – well, I suppose this program of regular self-torture and anorexia, if actually carried out, would likely have resulted in malnourishment and physical deterioration and increased susceptibility to disease. And indeed Jacinta, the youngest of the kids, is alleged to have had foreknowledge of her death, and that she was ordained to die alone, in anguish, separated from her family, as a final “sacrifice” to God to “buy back” her own soul and others. “Does this seem a cruel and unnecessary burden for the power of heaven to set upon a shrivelled, powerless, dying child?” asks Father John de Marchi in his heavily mythologized book “The True Story [sic] of Fatima.” He answers for her: “Jacinta did not think so.” I confess that I DO.

Teófilo de Jesús said...

A quite fascinating study.

I can't speak to all of it, of course. Like you, I believe in the whole Fatima event.

The thing is that endtime prophecy, be it Catholic or Protestant seems to me "a slippery animal." At plain sight, is OK. Break them down for analysis and they become difficult to understand and to derive actionable information from them.

I think you have reached that conclusion. That's why I much better like to stick with binding, public, normative, Revelation.

+JMJ,
~Theo

Brian Kopp said...

Even Pope BXVI in 2010 said the Fatima prophecies are still unfolding.

"Consequently, I would say that, here too, beyond this great vision of the suffering of the Pope, which we can in the first place refer to Pope John Paul II, an indication is given of realities involving the future of the Church, which are gradually taking shape and becoming evident."

If that is true then most of the criticisms here are baseless.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Most? That word must mean something different to you than it does to others.

I pointed out five aspects to the prophecy. The first three parts are completely erroneous.

Notice, aspect three starts out with "to prevent this...". But the "this" indicated never happened and CAN never happen because the necessary Pope is dead.

So that means 4 is very problematic, even apart from the problem that we don't know what "Russia's error" is.

Of course number 5 happens, in the sense that God never loses, so that's not even a prediction.

So, apart from all the prophetic parts of the prophecies not happening, yeah, it all works out.

Corey E said...

I doubt that most souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh. Most people live to an old age and these type of temptations and sins would normally decrease and the old person would likely have a chance to repent or confess their previous sins of the flesh before they die. It seems to me that most people would go to hell for ultimately refusing God's love and mercy - final impenitence and obstinacy. People bound for hell would refuse to repent and confess any of their sins, not just sins of the flesh.

It seems about all the apparitions, even ones that are deemed worthy of belief by the Church, are riddled with contradictions, false prophecies and general confusion. If it were authentic and God wanted as many people as possible to know about it and believe it, why wouldn't the BVM keep the messages simple and clear to get the point across for prayer and conversion and make any prophecies and miracles more obvious for people to recognize?