Interview: Bishop Bernard Fellay on The Fatima Centenary & Church Crisis
Editor’s note: the questions in the following interview were first sent to Bishop Fellay near the close of 2017, but due to various obstacles, the interview could only be completed this month. Nevertheless, we have retained the references to the end of the centenary year of Fatima as contained in the original text of the questions. We are grateful to His Excellency for providing us with this opportunity to discuss the importance of Fatima in our present day.
Maike Hickson (MH): The Centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima is coming soon to an end. What is your assessment about how the Catholic Church has thus far celebrated it; and also about how the message of Fatima was actually presented to us at various mainstream Catholic events? What, if anything, was lacking in these celebrations, in contradistinction to the unattenuated tone and fuller message of Fatima?
Bishop Bernard Fellay: First of all, the fundamental message of Fatima is the promotion of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. If something is missing, it starts there. There is almost no reference to this devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Secondly, there is also hardly any reference to the famous Third Secret of Fatima. Thus, Fatima is reduced to something rather ordinary, one apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary among others. Yes, let’s pray and receive graces, but nothing about the great influence of Our Lady on our terrible time and in the Church.
MH: Would you briefly recapitulate for us what, in your view, the main messages are of the whole set of apparitions concerning Fatima – and, more specifically, the substance of the Three Secrets of Fatima, as they have so far been officially presented to us?
Bishop Bernard Fellay: In the first Secret, besides the devotion to the Immaculate Heart to Mary as a means of salvation, we have the vision of Hell. This reminds us of the important consequences of sin and that we must make sacrifices to win souls for Heaven. In the second, there is another consequence of sin: war. “If the world does not convert, there will be another war, more terrible than the first.” What is the Third Secret? The part published is very cryptic: we see a persecution of the Church with many deaths, the Holy Father among them. But it is difficult to conclude much from this. In fact, in what has been published, we don’t see the triumph of the Immaculate Heart. Yet this was revealed by Sr. Lucy as the conclusion of the Third Secret.
MH: At several of these larger Fatima events, Cardinal Raymond Burke himself has participated and has often given lengthy speeches, such as a recent one presented at the The Buckfast Abbey Fatima Conference, on 12 October 2017. After first discussing various kinds of apostasy manifested in the Church’s history and also today, Cardinal Burke was then, for example, to say about the mysterious message of the Third Secret of Fatima, as follows:
“Without entering into a discussion regarding whether the third part of the Secret has been fully revealed, it seems clear from the most respected studies of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, that it has to do with the diabolical forces unleashed upon the world in our time and entering into the very life of the Church which lead souls away from the truth of the faith and, therefore, from the Divine Love flowing from the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus.”
Would you comment on this analysis in light of the wider discussions as to what might not have been fully revealed to us with regard to the Third Secret of Fatima? Could the content of what Cardinal Burke here says be deduced or inferred from the officially published part of the Third Secret in 2000 about a bishop in white being killed on a hill?
Once again, it is quite difficult to draw concrete conclusions from these visions. We have other sources, like the conference of Fr. Fuentes and letters from Sr. Lucy, when she speaks of a diabolical disorientation in the hierarchy. Is it or is it not fully revealed? In a way, it doesn’t matter. It is the reality in which we now live that matters. In that sense, we may consider this current reality of the present catastrophic situation of the Church as a part of the message of Fatima.
MH: Let us thus delve more deeply into the question of the Third Secret. You yourself have given lectures where you present the argument that the Third Secret has not yet been fully published. Could you explain this argument and some of its implications?
The most obvious argument in favor of the incomplete Third Secret comes from the very texts of Sr. Lucy in her memoirs. She introduces the Third Secret by putting words in the mouth of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will be preserved…in the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph, the Holy Father will consecrate Russia”, and so on. This part is described by Sr. Lucy herself as the Third Secret and does not appear at all in what was published by Rome. Hence the conclusion, looking at the other parts of the messages, which include both a vision and an explanation, that for the Third Part, the explanation is absent.
MH: With this current interview, we hope, in part, to bring back into this year’s discourse about Fatima and its festive celebration the merciful warning message of the Mother of God as it pertains to a loss of Faith, even in the upper echelons of the Church. Only last year , this matter has been once again freshly discussed by Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, who revealed that this apostasy and “infiltration of the Church to the very top” is a part of the Third Secret as it was once presented to her and to her husband (Dietrich von Hildebrand) by a well-connected and well-informed priest in Rome. Do you yourself have your own independent sources who have given to you privately some hints that, indeed, not all the parts written down by Sister Lucia of Fatima concerning the Third Secret have yet been published? If you do, could you give us some idea about the reports you received from your own understandably protected sources?
No, I have absolutely no personal knowledge of what else could be in the Third Secret.
MH: From your own studies on this topic, what is your assessment of what such a missing part of the Third Secret would likely and concretely contain? What would Heaven still want to warn us about?
Looking at all possible sides, it seems to me that there would be two parts: one, a terrible natural catastrophe or one caused by war. And secondly, the huge crisis in the Church. It is clear that the most important thing is the salvation of souls, but the threat of punishment on this earth helps lead many people back to God.
MH: Inasmuch as it has seemed to me personally that we are now witnessing within the Catholic Church what Our Lady might well have wanted to warn us about in the Third Secret, I therefore last year reached out to some high-ranking prelates in Rome. I asked them to help reveal the missing texts from Sister Lucia which would shed some more light on Our Lady’s merciful and warning message. Moreover, I was then told that there were people in Rome, indeed, who were then considering this sensitive matter very carefully, but nothing – to all appearances – then happened. I also know of other sources who admit having doubts as to how Rome so far has handled this matter. What is, in your own view, the reason for the continued hesitancy of those people in the Church who could disclose, for the greater good, much more information? What do they still have to fear or to lose? Would such a disclosure not be an act of mercy toward the suffering Church in this deep crisis?
I remember that Sr. Lucy, in an interview with a cardinal from India in the mid-1990s, was very afraid that the Pope would publish the Secret. She said, if she were to give the Holy Father advice, she would caution great prudence. If, for instance, the text contained something like the coming of the Antichrist or something else quite serious that would cast grave doubt on the authority of the Church, it could be a reason the same authorities are hesitant to publish this. I don’t pretend these examples are the case; I am simply speculating as to what some possible reasons might be for not releasing it.
MH: In light of the fact that we do not seem to advance any further in our attempts to gain a fuller knowledge of what Heaven had planned for us to know – while also knowing that our failure itself is within the Providence of God – what would be your counsel to those sincere Catholics still desiring to know the fuller truth about Fatima?
There are things more important than knowledge. That is the Catholic life. Obviously, if the Blessed Virgin Mary wanted this Secret to be known, there was an important reason for Catholics and maybe the world to know it. Even if we don’t have it, we are obliged to do our duty of state every day. This is what is most important.
MH: Asking you for counsel in another field of expertise: many Catholics observe with fear how some of those loyal faithful within the Church who defend the traditional Catholic teaching on marriage – such as Professor Josef Seifert, Father Thomas Weinandy, and others – are being ostracized and silenced. Some Catholics look with much fear into what our future will hold for all of us who are determined to be loyal to Christ and His Teaching. What inner disposition of the soul and clear conduct would you now especially recommend for us to develop and to pray for?
First, have an enormous trust in God, Who will never abandon those who are faithful. Count on His grace. Second, be steadfast to the Faith at any cost and obey the Commandments.
MH: Many observers increasingly seem to see parallels between the principles upon which the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) had based its own resistance against certain novelties coming from Rome earlier; and between the principles now applied by those critics of Pope Francis’ hortatory document Amoris Laetitia. Professor Seifert himself has even repeatedly made an explicit reference to your own analogous case. Would you explain to us these fundamental principles to the extent that you see them to be in some mutual and reinforcing correspondence?
We have souls to save. The Church is not new. If we follow what the Church has always done, and what the saints have always done, we are assured of being on the safe path to Heaven. In all times, the Church has considered novelties dangerous and the fruit of pride. We might, today, say that there is a sickness for novelty and change. But God does not change. The Faith does not change. The Commandments do not change. Be faithful to what the Church has always taught in her catechisms and you will be assured of being on the right side of this fight for God and His glory.
MH: The SSPX has from early on opposed certain aspects of ecumenism and religious liberty. How would you relate that earlier resistance to the current debate about the indissolubility of marriage in light of the fact that these other religions often do not believe in this dogma?
Since many religions reject the indissolubility of marriage, we might think that the steps taken by Rome would be inspired by ecumenism, but I am not sure there would be a necessary link there. I think the problem is a general relativization of truth and by consequence a lax application of the law and understanding of God’s commandments. Or, following the principles of personalism, such an insistence on the human person that God’s order is not primary. (In other words, Man becomes God.) You find this at the level of religion and even legislation today. John Paul II described this as anthropocentrism. We now see this applied to marriage. Everybody wants an easy life…
MH: In light of the seemingly growing apostasy from the Catholic Faith within the Catholic Church, could you tell us at the end of this interview how you see your own mission and the SSPX’s mission and specific role?
We could say, that the Society of St Pius X, by Divine Providence, not by our own merits, represents the past of the Church, what we call Tradition. This cannot be erased from the Catholic Church or Catholic life. So our mission is to remember this. We are not simply a monument to the past; we are a living witness of Tradition in the Church, which is above all the changes and moods of the modern world. The Faith remains our mission, specifically by reviving the Christian spirit, especially for the priests of the Catholic Church. Our specific role is to help restore the priesthood, in all its purity, to the Church. Every aspect of Christian life and even of the Church follows by consequence from this principle. If you want to help restore the Church, one must start with the priesthood.
MH: Do you yourself have any knowledge with regard to the rumors that Pope Francis soon will also go about altering or undermining the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum?
No, I have no knowledge of this.
MH: Do you have any expectations as to the Society’s official relationship with Rome, especially in light of the fact that you have personally signed the Filial Correction regarding Amoris Laetitia? Have the negotiations with Rome now been effectively stalled or postponed?
I don’t think there is any specific correlation between my signing of the Filial Correction and our status with Rome. We are at a certain standstill for the time being, but things remain open to further discussions.
MH: Are there some final words that would help us to grow in loyal love for Our Lord and Our Lady in light of the merciful message and warning of Fatima?
If the Blessed Virgin Mary made the effort to come to speak to the world, it must be important. So, listen to Her and Her words. Let us grow in great devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She will keep and protect our faith, hope, and charity and lead us, as She promised, to Heaven.