In a recent interview, establishment Catholics make their latest in a long line of dishonest, ham-fisted, and feeble attempts, which have originated from the Vatican on down, to obscure and withhold key truths about the Third Secret of Fatima.
During John Paul II’s reign, an apparently truncated, dubious version of the Third Secret was released which has aroused immediate suspicion and controversy ever since. Letters and communications from the late visionary, Sr. Lucia, have been scrutinized. Papal pronouncements and accounts of conflicting Vatican prelates have been analyzed. Through the work of the late Fr. Nicholas Gruner and Chris Ferrara at the Fatima Center, and in more recent years, the prescient Vaticanista, Antonio Socci, the inconsistencies and questions surrounding the Third Secret of Fatima have continued to mount, despite official efforts to put them to rest.
In a stunning reversal this past May, Cardinal Burke called for the Pope to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary regardless of the fact that the Vatican has maintained for years that it had already been performed. Perhaps that is why, at the respectable Catholic World Report last week, Kevin Symonds uses the occasion of his new book, On the Third Part of the Secret of Fatima, to level what amounts to a high-sounding, arrogant, and empty smear of Fr. Gruner, Ferrara, Socci, and the careful work of many other experts over these past few decades.
Does the Vatican fear a growing awareness that they have been irresponsible regarding Our Lady’s requests? Today, Chris Ferrara was kind enough to respond to our questions:
Canon 212: In an interview at the Catholic World Report, Kevin J. Symonds makes an attempt to debunk Fatima ‘conspiracy theories’. Symonds says his book is written to address the work of Abbé Georges de Nantes, Fr. Nicholas Gruner, and Antonio Socci on the Third Secret, calling it “an attempt at providing a critical assessment of some contentious points that are generally common to all three.” They bring you in later as a ‘Fatima controversialist.’ What is your view of the book?
CF: That Symonds is very good at puffery. His “attempt a providing a critical assessment” makes almost no effort to address, much less actually refute, the overwhelming evidence for the existence of a text in which the Blessed Virgin explains the meaning and historical context of the enigmatic vision of a “Bishop dressed in White” who is executed on a hill outside a devastated city filled with the dead.
I have read the Kindle edition of the book from digital cover to digital cover and, having expected much more, was amazed at how little of substance Symonds has to say on the controversy. Hundreds of pages, including appendices and footnotes, dwell on a few peripheral points while the substance of the case, which my own book summarizes here, is never addressed.
Canon 212: Did you work closely with Fr. Gruner over the years?
CF: To say the least. I daresay I was as close to him as any person outside his immediate family. His death was devastating to me. During the gathering to commemorate his life and work, I “lost it” during my remembrance of him and was led, weeping, away from the stage.
Canon 212: Symonds says that, “literature from Father Gruner and the Abbé de Nantes struck me as being an enclosed circle that was given credibility by the journalistic clout of Antonio Socci.” This characterization reminds me of Pope Francis’s dreaded “closed in” Catholics. Why does Symonds find it necessary to smear his scholarly opponents as a small group of wild-eyed ranters?
CF: Because he has no case. Thus, he employs the tried-and-true demagogic tactic of insults and demonization. Symonds poses as a sober and objective scholar of the controversy but is in fact a shameless apologist for the Vatican account of the Secret which, to quote Antonio Socci, “leaks water from every part.”
Let me give you one very telling example of how this self-promoting “Fatima scholar” is actually a Fatima cover-up artist. During my recent debate with Symonds, I confronted him repeatedly with the undisputed existence of an envelope containing a text pertaining to the Secret on which Msgr. Loris Capovilla, personal secretary to John XXIII, wrote his own name, the name of the cardinals who had read its contents, and the dictation of Pope John that he would leave the contents to his successors to judge, after which Pope John suppressed the Secret rather than revealing it in 1960 as the Catholic world expected.
That envelope, whose contents were originally kept in a wooden safe in the papal apartment during the reign of Pius XII, was later found in a writing desk in Pope John’s bed chamber called Barbarigo (because it was the very desk of Saint Gregorio Barbarigo). The vision published in 2000, on other hand, was maintained in what was then the Holy Office archive. The “Capovilla envelope” was reopened by Paul VI, after Capovilla informed him of its location in the Barbarigo desk, and then resealed after Paul, like his predecessor, declined to reveal the contents.
The Capovilla envelope has never been produced. Unable to explain its non-production during the debate, Mr. Symonds finally declared to the audience that it doesn’t exist! But it most certainly does exist, as confirmed in detail by Capovilla during a televised interview presented by none other than Cardinal Bertone, Sodano’s successor as Vatican Secretary of State, with Capovilla even specifying the number of drawers in the Barbarigo desk where the envelope was kept. I discuss these facts here.
What sort of “Fatima scholar” denies the existence of evidence whose existence is undeniable?
Canon 212: Symonds claims to have debunked much of the ‘circumstantial evidence’ that Fatima conspiracy theorists have been using.
CF: But this is laughable. He has debunked nothing. Nor does his interview with CWR give the least indication of what he has “debunked.” It’s all puffery. Symonds has a few opinions on what he thinks some of the evidence means, and he calls for “further study.” That’s it! Yet the neo-Catholic commentariat now hails him as the great debunker of “Fatima conspiracy theories.”
Symonds has only a shallow grasp of this deeply fact-intensive controversy. His book and the interview do not even begin to address the mountain of evidence summarized in my book, which the Fatima Center has made available for free online, and which, by the way, was endorsed by no less than the late papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi.
As Archbishop Sambi said to Robert Moynihan concerning my book: “And in the end, we are all after the truth, aren’t we? The truth is the important thing…” Not, apparently, for Symonds.
Canon 212: Symonds refers to a 2013 biography by the Carmelites of the convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra. What do you make of the biography’s account that Sr. Lucia was advised to only reveal part of the third secret, or that she had held back out of a sense of reluctance?
CF: The 2013 biography is one of several smoking guns that reveal the existence of an explanation of the published vision by the Blessed Virgin herself. Even Symonds concedes this, yet he contends, ludicrously, that the Mother of God did not wish us to have her explanation. No, she left behind a riddle to be decoded by Cardinal Sodano and his ridiculous “interpretation” that the vision of a Pope being executed outside a devastated city filled with the dead signifies John Paul II not being killed by a lone assassin in the intact City of Rome. Give me a break.
Canon 212: In your work, did Sr. Lucia strike you as the type to withhold a supernatural message from the Mother of God out of a caution or doubt?
CF: That question answers itself. The claim is laughable.
Canon 212: Symonds calls Fr. Gruner’s case regarding the Third Secret, “arguments made for sensational propaganda of scandal and Vatican intrigue, real cloak-and-dagger stuff, that played upon the sympathies of Catholics…” Is this fair?
CF: These are the lazy insults of a man without a serious argument, playing to the grandstand.
Canon 212: Symonds characterizes your thinking this way: “Chris prefers the hermeneutic of suspicion and conspiracy with the rhetoric of a lawyer. A theological lens would serve him better.” Your comment?
CF: More insults in place of reasoned debate. But, being a lawyer, I am used to this cheap shot. When you are debating someone without an argument, he can always denounce you for being a lawyer. Boo. Hiss. That is about the level of Symonds’s “Fatima scholarship.”
Canon 212: Have you been in an adversarial posture with the Holy See on Fatima for so long that you have lost objectivity, as Symonds maintains? Would an extended agreeable posture clear your mind?
CF: Having no real reply to the evidence, Symonds piles on the insults, this time by way of amateur psychoanalysis. The papal nuncio to the United States praised my book because it presents a vast quantity of evidence in an orderly and reasonable way. It is Symonds who lacks objectivity, as we see with his absurd attempt to deny the existence of the undeniably existent Capovilla envelope.
Canon 212: Symonds maintains that when, in 2010, Pope Benedict stated the Third Secret concerns “realities involving the future of the Church, which are gradually taking shape and becoming evident… sufferings of the Church [that] come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church,” which “is something that we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way” he really meant only events in the 20th century. Your comment?
CF: Just as the Capovilla envelope “doesn’t exist” because Symonds doesn’t wish it to exist, the words “today” and “future realities” mean, for him, the past. Any nonsensical claim will do when it comes to defending the Vatican’s account at all costs—while posing as an objective “Fatima scholar.”
Canon 212: What do you make of the previously unknown, undated letter from Sr. Lucia to Paul VI? Does it reflect your understanding of the Third Secret? Do you doubt its authenticity?
CF: Another bit of unintended humor from Symonds. He trumpets this letter to Pope Paul, warning of a “diabolical revolt” in the Church, as if it were some breakthrough discovery by him. For goodness sake, it was on public display in the Sister Lucia museum in Coimbra, and he got to see only the one page on display.
I have no reason to doubt its authenticity. I haven’t even seen it. But then it only says what Sister Lucia said to numerous others in oral and written remarks. Moreover, here is yet another bit of evidence for the existence of a text in which Our Lady predicts this “diabolical revolt,” of which there is no indication whatsoever in the vision of “the Bishop dressed in White” standing alone.
Canon 212: In studying Fatima, Symonds calls for “humility and openness to God’s grace, whereas sensationalism stokes the very distrust of the Church that runs absolutely contrary to the message of Fatima.”
CF: It is Symonds who indulges in sensationalism, presenting himself as the voice of reason in this controversy, contributing nothing of real substance to the debate, while hurling gratuitous insults at people who have done years of serious work he clearly has not taken the trouble to understand in any detail much less “debunk.” Read his insult-laden interview with CWR and decide for yourself if it evinces “humility.” It is always wise to be wary of people who publicly proclaim that other people need to be humble.