Today, May 21, 2016, the Holy See Press Office has released, in its daily bulletin, a statement attributed to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The statement categorically denies the affirmation, reported here, from Fr. Ingo Dollinger, which speaks of a private conversation in which then-Cardinal Ratzinger spoke to Dollinger, a personal friend, about there being more to the Third Secret of Fatima than was published by the Vatican in June of 2000. Here is the full text of the Vatican statement:
Communiqué: on various articles regarding the “Third Secret of Fatima”
Several articles have appeared recently, including declarations attributed to Professor Ingo Dollinger according to which Cardinal Ratzinger, after the publication of the Third Secret of Fatima (which took place in June 2000), had confided to him that the publication was not complete.
In this regard, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI declares “never to have spoken with Professor Dollinger about Fatima”, clearly affirming that the remarks attributed to Professor Dollinger on the matter “are pure inventions, absolutely untrue”, and he confirms decisively that “the publication of the Third Secret of Fatima is complete”.
[00855-EN.01] [Original text: Italian – working translation]
As the Publisher of OnePeterFive, I wish to respond to this statement. One cannot take lightly a rebuttal from someone of the stature of Pope Emeritus Benedict. It is noteworthy that — to our knowledge — this is the first time since his abdication in 2013 that the Pope Emeritus has issued an official statement through the Vatican press office. With all that is currently troubling the Church, with all the confusion that now assails the faithful, this is the story which has prompted Benedict to break his silence. Clearly, this is a matter of unusual importance in the eyes of the Holy See.
This statement is received by us with filial respect and love for the Pope Emeritus. And yet, it presents a problem. It conflicts directly with statements we have reported, and accuses us of false “atrribution” and “invention.” It also flatly contradicts our source, Fr. Dollinger, not offering the possibility even of a misinterpretation, but rather, an accusation that the events he recounts are completely fabricated.
It is, in itself, a strangely perfunctory communique, and is presented in a way that prompts questions about its provenance and completeness. It is not a full, unabridged statement from Pope Emeritus Benedict; nor does it bear his signature. We are presented instead with pull quotes attributed to Benedict, and lacking the full context in which they originally appeared. Neither is it given to us to know who conducted this apparent interview with him, or how the questions were phrased.
We are, in other words, asked to take it on faith that the statement contains the authentic, complete, and ratified sentiments of the Pope Emeritus on the matter.
It is noteworthy that when we presented the words of Fr. Dollinger as reported by Dr. Hickson, we were accused by some of reporting unverifiable hearsay. But now we are given partial statements attributed to Benedict by an unnamed member of the Vatican communications staff — statements which implicate us, and also Pope Benedict’s old friend, Fr. Dollinger, in willful deception — and we are asked to believe that the matter is therefore settled?
I hope you will forgive my skepticism.
I have two questions about the semantics of this carefully-constructed statement. I believe they merit consideration.
First, I would like to draw attention to the portion which states, “the remarks attributed to Professor Dollinger on the matter ‘are pure inventions, absolutely untrue’.”
Dr. Maike Hickson, who personally called Fr. Dollinger, attests to the truth of what she recounted from that conversation. Inasmuch as the Vatican statement accuses her of “attributing” statements which are “inventions” to Fr. Dollinger, it is false. She did not imagine the conversation she had with Fr. Dollinger, she reported it, and I stand by her testimony with full confidence in her integrity, both as a journalist and as a faithful daughter of the Church.
Further, this morning Dr. Hickson telephoned Father Dollinger with the news of the Vatican statement, and at that time he again confirmed to her emphatically and clearly his previous remarks. In other words, he stood by his story.
We must also reiterate that Dr. Hickson’s original conversation with Fr. Dollinger could not have been an “invention” inasmuch as it was not original in its content. It was not an attempt to break news, but rather to seek direct confirmation of a story that had already been attributed to Fr. Dollinger years ago. As stated in Dr. Hickson’s original article, “This sensitive information pertaining to the Third Secret, which has been circulating among certain Catholic groups for a few years now, has now been personally confirmed to me by Fr. Dollinger himself…”
The first published account of Fr. Dollinger’s testimony (of which we are aware) appeared in an interview with Fr. Paul Kramer in Fatima Crusader in May of 2009. It has since been referenced in various Catholic publications and venues. Anecdotally, one of our commenters on the Fr. Dollinger story recalled that as a Brazilian, he had heard this same story from a priest who was a student of Fr. Dollinger in 2003 or 2004. (Fr. Dollinger was the rector of the Institutum Sapientiae in Brazil, where he taught moral theology.) The only thing new about our report is the direct confirmation made by Fr. Dollinger (in German, his native language) to Dr. Hickson, which she sought in an attempt to gain clarity on the matter.
Second, the communique quotes Pope Benedict as saying that “the publication of the Third Secret of Fatima is complete”. This is very cautious language, in a legal sense. If the Vatican has already published all that it intends to publish about the Third Secret of Fatima — even if there is more that they do not intend to publish — one would be technically correct in saying that “the publication is complete.” It does not in any way dispel the notion that a text written by Sister Lucia at the prompting of Our Lady as a means of interpreting the symbolic import of the Third Secret may yet exist.
As I stated in my followup to our original article, one needn’t assume that the popes who have potentially concealed additional information relating to the Third Secret have lied to us; if they fear that the information it contains will cause severe damage to the Church in some way, they may be using broad mental reservation in their concealment of the portion of the text in question. There is also the issue, raised by Marco Tosatti, of internal questioning within the Vatican apparatus about which portions of an additional explanatory text, if it exists, can be attributed to Our Lady, and which to Sister Lucia. If there were sufficient doubt, one could conceivably conceal such a text while remaining technically correct stating that the full secret (ie., the portion that they were confident came from Our Lady) had been revealed. The legalistic sense, therefore, is noteworthy in this regard.
I believe that beyond the questions raised by the text of the communique, there are other known facts which simply do not add up in this statement as attributed to Pope Benedict. The language is strong, even harsh, and it seems uncharacteristic in that regard. Benedict has a reputation for kindness and gentleness, and the source of the information he is refuting comes from a long-time friend – a friendship that his statement does not deny.
The statement also appears to close the door emphatically on the question of any further undisclosed import in the Third Secret. And yet Benedict’s own position on this issue has seemingly evolved over the past 16 years, and it would be difficult to characterize it as a settled matter. On June 26, 2000, when the Vatican announced the text of the Third Secret of Fatima, it was accompanied by a theological explanation by then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In it, he said:
And so we come to the final question: What is the meaning of the “secret” of Fatima as a whole (in its three parts)? What does it say to us? First of all we must affirm with Cardinal Sodano: “… the events to which the third part of the ‘secret’ of Fatima refers now seem part of the past”. Insofar as individual events are described, they belong to the past. Those who expected exciting apocalyptic revelations about the end of the world or the future course of history are bound to be disappointed. Fatima does not satisfy our curiosity in this way, just as Christian faith in general cannot be reduced to an object of mere curiosity. What remains was already evident when we began our reflections on the text of the “secret”: the exhortation to prayer as the path of “salvation for souls” and, likewise, the summons to penance and conversion.
But as Pope Benedict, Ratzinger travelled to Fatima in May of 2010. And at that time, he offered a somewhat different interpretation. From his airplane on May 11, 2010:
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. So it is true that, in addition to the moment indicated in the vision, there is mention of, there is seen, the need for a passion of the Church, which naturally is reflected in the person of the Pope, yet the Pope stands for the Church and thus it is sufferings of the Church that are announced. The Lord told us that the Church would constantly be suffering, in different ways, until the end of the world.
Two days later, at a Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, 2010, Pope Benedict said:
We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete.
Christopher Ferrara, a noted expert and author on the topic of Fatima, recounted the following earlier this week, related to Antonio Socci’s book on the topic:
[I]t should be said that, in fact, the Popes themselves have not told us that the Message has been fully revealed. The vision pertaining to the Secret was not revealed until 2000, after which John Paul II observed a conspicuous silence concerning the controversy over the completeness of the revelation. And in 2010, as Socci has put it, Benedict not only declined to say that all had been revealed but rather “reopened the dossier” on the Third Secret by alluding to contents that clearly do not appear in the vision. Further, Benedict sent Socci a note thanking him for publishing The Fourth Secret of Fatima (which I translated into English), even though it accuses the Vatican apparatus of concealing a pertinent text.
For his part, in a blog post dated May 12, 2007, Socci relates that he keeps
the letter Benedict XVI wrote to me about my book, thanking me “for the sentiments it inspired in me.” [per i sentimenti che l’hanno suggerito] Words that comfort in the face of insults and accusations…
The inspiration for Dr. Hickson to seek out confirmation from Fr. Dollinger came, in part, from the new testimony of Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, who recently published formerly private information regarding an additional portion of the Third Secret which indicated an “infiltration of the Church to the very top.” This information, according to Dr. von Hildebrand, was revealed to her and her late husband in 1965 by Monsignor Mario Boehm, a former editor of the official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.
Is Dr. von Hildebrand also to be accused of inventing her story? What of the late Cardinal Ciappi, the papal theologian to Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II? It is Ciappi who is widely credited with the public revelation of the information that Alice von Hildebrand has now confirmed: “In the Third Secret it is foretold, among other things, that the great apostasy in the Church will begin at the top.”
There is a great deal that does not add up. There are many questions left unanswered. We offer our sincere prayers for the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and our gratitude that he broke his silence to address this open question.
At the same time, we are being asked to believe that we are being lied to by our sources. That we are being deceived by individuals in the last years of their life, with nothing apparent to gain. Individuals who have established strong reputations as noteworthy and orthodox Catholics, and whose reputations have now been put on the line by presenting an alternate version of events.
This is a great deal to ask, and we must respectfully request, therefore, that we be given a complete response — a full, unaltered, and witnessed statement from the Pope Emeritus himself. The filtered words of the Vatican Press office do not suffice.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.