Pleasing Uncle Al

       Siding with a modernist Jesuit, The Wanderer suggests Sister Lucy made it all up. But at least Editor Alphonse Matt is pleased.

by Christopher A. Ferrara

       The Wanderer’s war of words against Father Nicholas Gruner has finally escalated into an attack on the Message of Fatima itself. Before I get to that, a bit of background is in order.

Putting the Matter in Context

      On March 25, 2002, it will be eighteen years since the putative "consecration of Russia" in a Vatican ceremony in 1984, and there is still no sign of Russia’s conversion. Quite the contrary, the spiritual, moral and material condition of "that poor nation," as Sister Lucy called it, is vastly worse than it was in 1984. We all know the litany of ruinous developments in Russia since its supposed "consecration": two abortions for every live birth, population dwindling by 700,000 a year, crushing poverty and a reduced life-span for the overwhelming majority of Russians, Islam the only thriving religion, a flourishing child pornography industry, a minuscule Catholic presence being squeezed in the vise of restrictions imposed by the tag-team of Vladimir Putin and Alexy II, and so forth. The disastrous condition of Russia today would appear to be Heaven’s answer to the 1984 ceremony: not the conversion promised by Our Lady of Fatima, but instead a kind of Fatima Curse.

      As G.K. Chesterton demonstrated so brilliantly, ours is a religion of common sense. It is a matter of common sense that the consecration of a thing must identify the thing which is being consecrated — not the general area in which it is located, much less the world at large. For that reason, no bishop in his right mind would attempt to consecrate a new church edifice for Catholic worship by consecrating his whole diocese, on the theory that the building is part of the diocese. Yet precisely this absurdity is advanced to justify the deliberate failure to mention the specific object of a consecration upon which the good of the whole Church and all of humanity depend. Of course, we know the reason for this failure: In the November 2000 issue of Inside the Vatican a Cardinal identified as "one of the Pope’s closest advisors" admitted that the Pope has been advised not to mention Russia in the various consecration and "entrustment" ceremonies because it would offend the Russian Orthodox hierarchy. The same Cardinal said: "Let us beware of being too literal-minded." This seems a rather risky approach to carrying out precise instructions from the Mother of God.

      For Heaven’s sake, the consecration of Russia needs to mention the place! Sister Lucy herself said so even after the 1984 ceremony, as reported in the September issue of Sol de Fatima magazine: "There was no participation of all the bishops, and there was no mention of Russia," she said. The questioner pressed the issue: "So the consecration was not done as requested by Our Lady?" Her answer: "No. Many bishops attached no importance to this act."

      In reply, of course, the neo-Catholic1 establishment constantly refers to those little computer-generated notes from 1989, purportedly sent over Sister Lucy’s signature, from the convent in Coimbra — where she has spent her life writing everything else by hand, including hundreds of pages of memoirs. One of these twelve-year-old notes — the only evidence cited in the Vatican’s commentary on the Message of Fatima last year — mentions a consecration of the world by Paul VI at Fatima.2 It never happened. Sister Lucy certainly knew that it never happened as she was present throughout Pope Paul’s fleeting visit in 1967, during which he consecrated absolutely nothing. Now, would Sister Lucy, a very elderly nun with a lifelong habit of writing everything by hand, suddenly switch to a computer to produce a one-page note describing a papal consecration of the world that never took place? Not in this universe. Strangely enough, the only person in the world forbidden to address the general public on this issue is Sister Lucy herself. Instead of Sister Lucy’s personal testimony, the Vatican commentary relies entirely on a twelve-year-old note containing a factual blunder Sister Lucy would never have made. How can these circumstances fail to arouse suspicion? No wonder even Mother Angelica has publicly questioned the completeness of the Vatican’s revelation of the Third Secret, declaring on live television before millions of witnesses: "As for the Secret, well I happen to be one of those individuals who thinks we didn’t get the whole thing."3

Turning Their Backs on Our Past

      How many words has the neo-Catholic establishment expended to justify the failure to utter just one word? But this studied and quite mysterious failure to mention Russia in the consecration of Russia poses little difficulty for neo-Catholics. We must remember that this is the same crowd that now professes to see no problem with altar girls, even though only a few years ago they loudly condemned the very idea as the worst sort of modernism — until the Pope caved in to pressure and approved the innovation, thus breaking with 2,000 years of tradition (including his own prior prohibition of altar girls in Inestimabile Donum). What the neo-Catholics once condemned as unthinkable, they now defend as perfectly acceptable. Neo-Catholic leaders constantly find themselves defending innovations that unquestionably would have reduced the pre-conciliar Popes to a state of apoplexy, including the destruction of the Roman Rite, the scandal of altar girls and the current Pope’s joint "ecumenical" liturgies with pro-abortion Protestant ministers. The constant defense of the indefensible is the essence of neo-Catholicism.

The Neo-Catholic Defense of Novelty

      In an upcoming book I have co-authored with Dr. Thomas Woods, we make the point that what we call neo-Catholicism is essentially a defense of novelty rather than Catholic tradition or Catholic doctrine as such. The neo-Catholic is willing to defend the post-conciliar novelties even if that defense requires a series of humiliating about-faces which undermine not only his own credibility, but that of the Church itself. The neo-Catholic refuses to acknowledge the constant teaching of great Catholic theologians, from Bellarmine, to Suarez to Cajetan, that Catholics have the right and even the duty to offer loyal resistance to papal actions which threaten harm to the common good of the Church. As Suarez teaches:

      Even Cardinal Ratzinger, who leads the charge to deconstruct the Message of Fatima,5 has criticized Paul VI’s suppression of the traditional Latin Mass: "A community that suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden, and makes the longing for it seem downright indecent, calls its very self into question." This does not trouble the neo-Catholics in the least. Indeed, it was Cardinal Ratzinger who wrote the laudatory preface to the French-language edition of The Reform of the Roman Liturgy by Msgr. Klaus Gamber, wherein Gamber declared:

      But there was no agony, no questioning of the destruction of the traditional Roman rite, among the neo-Catholic establishment, led by such newspapers as The Wanderer. The neo- Catholic response to Paul VI’s act of ecclesial mayhem was the same as it has been with all the other post-conciliar novelties: blind obedience, combined with the idiotic condemnation of their fellow Catholics as "schismatics" for saying precisely the kind of thing Gamber has said with Cardinal Ratzinger’s approval.

The Wanderer’s Hatchet Falls Again

      It was only a matter of time, then, before the neo-Catholics did an about-face on the Message of Fatima. If they could turn their backs on the traditional Roman Rite, spurning Fatima would be easy enough when the moment came. With each passing day the neo-Catholics’ insistence that Russia has been consecrated was looking more ridiculous: any decade, now, and Russia will convert. Therefore, something had to give — either the credibility of the neo-Catholic establishment, led by organs like The Wanderer and EWTN, or the credibility of Sister Lucy as the bearer of the Fatima Message.

      It was easy enough to see this coming. Back in April I made a prediction in a column I wrote on street protests by Russian citizens over Vladimir Putin’s systematic elimination of the last remaining independent mass-media outlets in Russia (another "miracle" following the 1984 "consecration"):

      That time has come even sooner than I thought. It came on October 25, 2001, when The Wanderer published a story entitled "The Strange Case of Father Gruner" by Farley Clinton. A better title would have been "The Sad Case of Alphonse Matt." I am told that the editor of The Wanderer is known as "Uncle Al" among his circle. Well, Uncle Al has a lot to answer for in having published this story.

      Before we get to The Wanderer’s abandonment of Fatima, I note first of all that Clinton’s story was presented as "objective" coverage of a Fatima conference sponsored by Father Gruner’s apostolate in Rome from October 7-13, 2001. But what Clinton delivered was just another hatchet in Father Gruner’s back; a rambling assortment of unproven accusations and snide remarks. For example:

      Well, yes, there is such a suggestion in Father Gruner’s literature: namely, his reprint of the sermon by Pope John Paul II at the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco in Fatima. As the Pope, not Father Gruner, declared on that occasion: "The Message of Fatima is a call to conversion, alerting humanity to have nothing to do with the ‘dragon’ whose ‘tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth’." (Apoc. 12:4)

      Evidently, Clinton has not read Father Gruner’s literature with a great deal of attention as to who is saying what. But then, as we shall see, Clinton’s article really has nothing to do with Father Gruner’s literature or, for that matter, the talks given by the many speakers at the conference in Rome which he "covered". In fact, Clinton’s article says absolutely nothing about the details of the Conference. There is a reason for this: Clinton could find nothing wrong with it, as he admitted to me over dinner in Rome during the Conference.

      But Uncle Al wanted a hatchet-job. And Clinton had to come up with the goods. So ...

      Inner circle. Pious (read: phony) associates. It all sounds terribly sinister, doesn’t it? I seem to remember the event as a gathering of like-minded Catholics who (along with millions of other loyal Catholics) share Father Gruner’s views. One of those Catholics happens to be this writer.

      By the way, I am wondering why Clinton cannot remember if it was three or four days he spent at the conference. What sort of notes does he keep?

      Superficially! Ah, but underneath the appearance of good there is evil, evil, evil, dear reader. Clinton provides absolutely no evidence to support his poisonous implication. Yet he lets it sit there, killing the reputation of a good priest.

      A familiar tactic of Communist regimes, routinely employed by neo-Catholic leaders against their traditionalist brethren: suggest that enemies of the revolution are crazy.

      Someone said this? Who said it, and on what grounds did he say it? Back in the dark ages before the springtime of Vatican II, it would have been considered a mortal sin to publicly damage a priest’s reputation by repeating the backbiting of an anonymous accuser. Evidently The Wanderer’s brand of neo-Catholic journalism dispenses with such quaint conventions.

      In what way was Clinton’s good impression undermined? What did Father Gruner say in his canonically justified complaint to the Pope that Clinton finds objectionable? Clinton offers no particulars. Instead, he launches the killing implication that Father Gruner is impious, insane and without a sense of humor.

      What is "strange" about them? And why are they "quarrels" as opposed to legitimate grievances about the abuse of power by certain Vatican prelates, who have made a career out of blocking Father Gruner’s incardination by friendly bishops, while doing little or nothing about clerical predators who molest children or preach heresy in nearly every diocese of North America? Once again, Clinton provides nothing but empty pejoratives.

      Why does it not inspire confidence? Clinton fails to say.6

      Amazingly enough, Clinton accuses Father Gruner of believing something that Father Gruner never said. But, claims Clinton, it "is hard" not to conclude that Father Gruner believes something he never said, because what Father Gruner does say "seems to imply it."7 Seems to imply it. "Seems to imply" is a stock phrase of the shifty accuser, who wants to leave himself an escape hatch from the charge that he is guilty of libel. For an implication is, in the first place, a statement that seems to state something, but does not state it expressly. Thus, to say that someone "seems to imply" a given proposition is to say, in effect, that it seems that he seems to mean it. The accusation is utterly vaporous, but nonetheless has the desired effect: further damage to the victim’s good name. And here we see again the tactic of Communist regimes: Father Gruner must be crazy, for only a priest who is crazy would think that he must serve as the Pope’s confessor. Of course, Father Gruner never actually said that, but he "seems" to imply it. Well, that’s good enough for a front-page article in The Wanderer, isn’t it?

      A small point for the reader to consider: Since Clinton was at the conference for "three or four days," why did he not simply ask Father Gruner whether, in fact, he believes what Clinton contends he "seems to imply"? I myself put the matter to Father Gruner after Clinton’s hatchet-job appeared on Uncle Al’s front page. Father Gruner’s reply to Clinton’s accusation that he wishes to be the Pope’s confessor was: "Are you kidding? Who would want that responsibility?"

      This, then, is The Wanderer’s notion of "Catholic" journalism: send a "reporter" to "cover" a conference featuring a certain priest; then have the reporter write about something the priest never said, on a matter concerning which the reporter asked the priest not one single question.

      But enough of this. The rest of the article is in the same vein. No proof, no substance, just insinuations designed to stick like poisoned barbs in the reputation of Father Nicholas Gruner. That the contents of this article constitute an objective mortal sin seems to pose no problem for Uncle Al.

Selling Out Sister Lucy

      And now we come to the heart of the matter. Uncle Al surely appreciates that this kind of attack journalism is not bringing The Wanderer any closer to its goal of persuading the Catholic world that Russia was consecrated to the Immaculate Heart nearly eighteen years ago, and that Father Gruner is an obsessive crank to whom no one should listen. The mounting empirical evidence of the worsening condition of Russia since "the consecration" makes Uncle Al and his newspaper look extremely foolish; it is more apparent with each passing day that Russia and the rest of the world are rapidly moving away from conversion and the triumph of the Immaculate Heart and toward some kind of global chastisement.

      This, I am convinced, is why my little prediction has been fulfilled: Uncle Al finally had to cut loose Sister Lucy and the Message of Fatima, because they were dragging down the credibility of his newspaper. Thus, on the second page of Clinton’s article we find the following:

      There it is, right on the pages of The Wanderer. Siding with a modernist Jesuit who contributed heavily to the infamously heretical Dutch Catechism,8 a leading neo-Catholic organ now does openly what the neo-Catholic establishment has been doing furtively for years: repudiating the Message of Fatima. The Wanderer now dares to suggest that the Blessed Virgin never asked for the Consecration of Russia and that Sister Lucy simply made the whole thing up. That is, The Wanderer is now willing to say that perhaps Sister Lucy is a liar — a very pious liar, to be sure, who sincerely believes her lies, but a liar nonetheless, who has misled the entire Catholic Church for more than 80 years.

      As Dhanis put it: "All things considered, it is not easy to state precisely what degree of credence is to be given to the accounts of Sister Lucy. Without questioning her sincerity, or the sound judgment she shows in daily life, one may judge it prudent to use her writings only with reservations. Let us observe also that a good person can be sincere and prove to have good judgment in everyday life, but have a propensity for unconscious fabrication in a certain area, or in any case, a tendency to relate old memories of twenty years ago with embellishments and considerable modifications."9 That Sister Lucy’s testimony was authenticated by an unprecedented public miracle witnessed by 70,000 people did not impress Dhanis. No, according to him, God worked a miracle in order to vouch for His choice of an unreliable witness. This borderline blasphemy is now advanced by The Wanderer.

      In his "commentary" on the Message of Fatima, Cardinal Ratzinger cited none other than Dhanis as "an eminent scholar" on Fatima. This "eminent scholar" refused to examine the official Fatima archives which are the very basis of Fatima scholarship. Then, relying on his willful ignorance of the facts, Dhanis cast doubt on every aspect of the apparitions which did not accord with his modernist theology: the prayer taught by the angel he called "inexact"; the vision of hell he called an "exaggeratedly medieval representation"; the prophecy of "a night illumined by an unknown light" heralding the advent of World War II he described as "grounds for suspicion". And as for the consecration of Russia, Dhanis flatly declared that: "Russia could not be consecrated by the Pope, without this act taking on the air of a challenge, both in regard to the separated hierarchy, as well as the Union of Soviet Republics. This would make the consecration practically unrealizable." Thus, Dhanis declared (evidently in the same article read by Clinton), that the consecration of Russia would be "morally impossible by reason of the reactions it would normally provoke."10 Says who? Says Dhanis, who evidently considers himself more prudent than the Mother of God.

      Dhanis’ deconstruction of the Message of Fatima is a typical example of how modernists undermine truth based upon premises they themselves invent. Since the consecration of Russia is morally impossible — a premise Dhanis simply assumes without proof — how could Our Lady of Fatima have requested it? Having thus stacked the deck against Sister Lucy, Dhanis states the "inevitable" conclusion: "But could the Most Holy Virgin have requested a consecration which, taken according to the rigor of the terms, would be practically unrealizable? This question indeed seems to call for a ‘negative response’.11 Thus, it hardly seems probable that Our Lady asked for the consecration of Russia."12 Based entirely on his own invented premise, Dhanis pronounces Sister Lucy’s testimony a fake. The entire process occurred in Dhanis’ head, with no examination by this "eminent scholar" of the crucial documents contained in the Fatima archives.

      But there is one premise Dhanis forgot, a premise that Catholics are bound to accept: With God, all things are possible. On the other hand, the omnipotence of God has never figured very prominently in the thinking of "eminent scholars" like the modernist Dhanis.

      So, there you have it: Uncle Al at The Wanderer has been reduced to trotting out a modernist Jesuit in his pig-headed quest to prove Father Gruner and millions of like-minded Catholics wrong. If it comes down to whether the public will believe Sister Lucy or Uncle Al and his mudslinging newspaper, Uncle Al will not hesitate to expose a visionary chosen by God to the charge that she is a pious fake. You see, it’s all about pleasing Uncle Al. And Uncle Al is no doubt very pleased with what Farley Clinton has delivered.

      To Uncle Al I have only this to say: Shame on you, sir. You have published damaging insinuations, supported by nothing, which make a good priest who has committed no offense against faith or morals look like a lunatic and a knave. Even worse, you have deliberately called into question the credibility of one of the most revered Catholic figures of our time: Sister Lucia dos Santos, who spoke with the Mother of God about matters of paramount concern to the Church and the world in our time, and whose witness to the world was confirmed by a public miracle and a series of prophecies that have thus far been fulfilled to the letter.

      And it is clear that you did these things, sir, not for the sake of truth and justice, but to score points with your readers in an argument you keep trying to win in the face of a growing mountain of empirical evidence against your position — even if it meant that you had to get into bed with a modernist.

      Go to confession, Uncle Al.


      Uncle Al pressed his attack on Father Gruner with a follow-up piece by Farley Clinton in the November 8 issue of The Wanderer. In this piece Clinton recycles the neo-Catholic bromide (refuted above) that Russia can be consecrated by consecrating the world.

      Clinton cites the opinions of Bishop Hnilica, who actually admits that Sister Lucy declared that the 1982 consecration ceremony did not comply with Our Lady’s request because it neither mentioned Russia nor involved the world episcopate. Well, precisely the same was true of the 1984 ceremony.

      But according to Clinton, Bishop Hnilica claims that Sister Lucy now believes that "The Pope has done all he can do, and God is satisfied" with the 1984 ceremony, even though it was virtually identical to the 1982 ceremony which she declared inadequate. That is, Clinton says that Bishop Hnilica says that Sister Lucy says a consecration of the world suddenly suffices for a consecration of Russia, contrary to everything Sister Lucy is on record as saying before.

      We need not concern ourselves with tracking down the source of Clinton’s double-hearsay, for we have Sister Lucy’s direct testimony to the world on the pages of L’Osservatore Romano, the Pope’s own newspaper. On May 12, 1982, the day before the attempted 1982 consecration, L’Osservatore Romano published an interview of Sister Lucy by Father Umberto Maria Pasquale, a Salesian priest, during which she told Father Umberto that Our Lady had never requested the consecration of the world, but only the consecration of Russia:

      This testimony was confirmed by Sister Lucy in a handwritten letter to Father Pasquale, a facsimile of which was also published by Father Umberto. (See this reproduction below.)

      In view of these undisputed facts, the claim that a consecration of the world is a consecration of Russia is something worthy of that other Clinton: It all depends on what you mean by Russia.

Translation of Sister Lucy’s handwritten note: "Reverend Father Umberto, ‘In replying to your question, I will clarify: Our Lady of Fatima, in Her request, referred only to the Consecration of Russia’ … Coimbra 13 IV-1980"

(signed) Sister Lucia


1. more than a person: namely, the idea that one must defend and embrace all the unprecedented ecclesial changes which have been imposed (with Vatican approval) in the name of Vatican II. The idea that the proper attitude for a Catholic is meek acceptance of a constant barrage of unheard-of innovations in the Church has produced tremendous damage. Every objective sign of the Church’s well being — from baptisms, to conversions, to Mass attendance, to vocations, to general belief in the doctrines of the faith by those who inhabit the neo-Catholic current as seen in a typical American parish today — demonstrates that the faithful have the right to object to the changes and work for their reversal. Instead, the neo-Catholics do nothing in the face of real harm to the Church, while their leaders condemn as "schismatics" Catholics who openly oppose the devastation of the vineyard. The results of the neo-Catholic idea speak for themselves.idea on the personal piety and faith of individual Catholics. On the contrary, the lively faith of many of those who live in the neo-Catholic current of the Church today, such as Mother Angelica, might well put to shame the faith of many so-called traditionalists. Of course, in many cases the converse is just as true. These terms are used to describe an no judgment whatever1. A note to dishonest critics: My use of the terms "neo-Catholic" and "neo-Catholicism" carries

2. The June 26, 2000, Vatican Commentary, "The Message of Fatima", stated that Sister Lucy confirmed in a letter of November 8, 1989, that the Collegial Consecration has been properly performed. The Vatican did not footnote this letter, most likely because it was a typewritten letter to a certain Mr. Walter Noelker, November 8, 1989, which long ago was proven to be a clumsy forgery. This is the only "evidence" that the Vatican advances to claim that Sister Lucy has said the Consecration has been done.

3. Disp. X, Sec. VI, N. 16.De Fide

4. June 27, 2000.Los Angeles Times was quite right to note that in his June 26, 2000, commentary on the Message of Fatima, Cardinal Ratzinger "gently debunked the cult of Fatima" — or at least attempted to. See "Catholic Church Unveils ‘Third Secret of Fatima’," Los Angeles Times

5. The

6. A copy of CFN’s February 2001 issue includes Father Gruner’s Canonical Complaint "To Whom Shall We Go?" and is available for $2.50 postpaid. It can also be accessed at 1st Edition, p. 280.Fatima Priest question about what he would say to the Pope about Fatima if he were the Pope’s confessor. See hypothetical

7. Perhaps Clinton is referring to Father Gruner’s answer to a (New York: Paulist Press, 1993), pp. 490-91.Paul VI8. See Hebblethwaite, Peter.

8. (1952), p. 589.Nouvelle Revue Theologique

9. Ibid.

10. p. 595.Ibid.,11.

12. Revue Streven, p. 213.

This article was reprinted with permission from the December 2001 issue of
Catholic Family News — a Roman Catholic monthly published 12 times a year.

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