Fatima Book Update-1

Hi Everyone!

Now that it is public knowledge that I am writing my next book, I am able to share updates periodically with you. It was difficult keeping the lid on this thing, so I am glad to be able to share information and updates.

Believe it or not, something unexpected happened. While reading a text, I noticed a discrepancy. Once I pulled on that thread, a bunch of things came tumbling out. As a result, a new chapter was born. What is the subject? Well, that must remain unspoken at this time but I will say that it pertains to one of the most dearly-held components in the history of the conspiracies surrounding the third part of the secret.


Fr. Jaki’s book.

In other news, two new books have come in. From my recent interview with Michael O’Neill, I decided it was time to pick up Fr. Jaki’s book on the Miracle of the Sun.


Acta of PAMI wherein is found Ottaviani’s 1967 Allocution

Now that I also know that the Italian text of Cardinal Ottaviani’s 1967 Allocution exists, I picked up a copy of the fourth volume of PAMI’s Acta for under $10. At that price, I just could not refuse it!

While perusing the Acta book I noticed something about another address that was delivered by another participant. It explained a heretofore forgotten/unknown remark (at least in English) from Ottaviani during his Allocution. I will have to do some updating soon.

Lots going on folks and I am happy to share what I can. In the meantime, stay tuned! There is much more coming down the pipeline! Please pray for me.

My interview with Al Kresta has been archived! Click here to listen in!

Announcement of New Book Project

Dear Readers,

I am happy to announce my next book project tentatively entitled: On the Third Part of the Secret of Fátima.

For more information, please visit the following sites:

KJS Web Site Official Page

Facebook Page

Interview with Michael O’Neill (transcript here)

See also the updated post about my recent presentation in Fátima.
(In the published version, I had omitted the announcement made to my colleagues. It is herein restored)

More to come on this important project as it develops, so stay tuned!

Angry Birds and Private Revelation

One of the features of international travel on an airplane is watching movies. Those long hours of airtime seem to fly by rather quickly with a good movie or two. On the way back to the States from Fátima, I was able to watch Angry Birds. As I watched, a theme it contained jumped out at me, namely deception in private revelation and how we respond to it.

Angry Birds and Private Revelation:

In Angry Birds, the main character, Red, has a problem with anger. Everyone else around him lives in relative peace on an island, but he chooses to be an outcast. When some pigs come to the island and feign friendship through partying and entertainment, Red is suspicious. His well-founded concerns are summarily rejected by the other birds who have been wined, dined and shown a good time, and believe Red to be nothing more than a rude, angry upstart.

While watching Angry Birds, I noted how the pigs deceived the birds. They put on a festival which distracted and ingratiated the birds to the pigs. This ingratiation was used against Red to silence his “opposition.” The whole of the society was against him and no opposition was tolerated. Red cared enough to want to help himself and others, but was refused out of a mistaken notion of friendship and hospitality/charity.

As I watched Red struggle to warn about the pigs and their leader’s covering up of his lies, I was reminded how devious and clever are Satan’s deceptions and our helplessness. Sometimes, his machinations are so clever that, on the personal level, certain schemes often make the innocent out to be wrong, pillorying them in an attempt to pressure them to accept error and reject Jesus Christ.[1] On a professional level, they also force theologians back to the drawing board in order to discover the precise error. It is pain-staking, time-consuming work.

With respect to individual cases of private revelation, who among the average Catholic wants to, has the training, or has the time to put such energy and effort into long-term or deep examination of the facts of a case? Is it even the place of the average Catholic to do this sort of work? These questions are important to consider and not to be taken lightly. They touch upon some rather serious matters affecting the Church today, among them being ecclesiastical discipline and the proper relationship between the pastors of the Church and the lay faithful.

Private Revelation and Ecclesiastical Discipline:

In 1978 the Holy See established a set of norms and criteria to discern alleged private revelations. These norms are “indicative” and “not exhaustive” (indicativa, non taxativa), and intended primarily for local Ordinaries (usually Diocesan Bishops) for use in formal examinations.[2] There is, however, some application of the norms for the average Catholic in his or her own private assessment of a claim. Let us look at a particular criterion in the document as an example of how both applications work.

One of the criteria given in the norms concerns the “personal qualities” of the alleged seer(s). These qualities are specified as things like “psychological equilibrium” (aequilibrium psychicum) and “honesty and rectitude of moral life” (honestas et rectitudo vitae moralis).[3] This criterion is, arguably, one of the most sensitive because it concerns some very personal areas of the alleged seer(s). Many Catholics dare not examine or at least publicly discuss this area, usually upon grounds of charity and ignorance. Instead, they defer to the competent ecclesiastical authority.

There is wisdom in this approach. Many Catholics with an interest (vested or otherwise) in specific cases of alleged private revelation have a knee-jerk reaction against a non-authority figure publicly relaying negative aspects of an alleged revelation.[4] This fact is kind of like how, in Angry Birds, Red’s reputation for anger led him to have little standing in his society, which, in turn, affected how his warnings were received.

To many people, any such discussion on the personal qualities of an alleged seer will come across as an ad hominem attack. Here, a careful distinction must be made procedurally between “examine” and “publicly discuss.” It may not be wise to discuss publicly the personal qualities of the alleged seer(s).[5] Consider the very real possibility of a civil (perhaps even canonical) lawsuit, about which more shall be said further below.

Ecclesiastical Discipline and Social Communications:

The Vatican’s norms acknowledge the ability of contemporary social communication to disseminate information rapidly.[6] Various online services exist which provide very helpful tools to investigate alleged seers.[7] Any member of the faithful with an Internet connection has the potential to engage in such work, though many do not and not without reason. As was asked earlier, who has the time, energy and general wherewithal to do such work? What will they even do with this information once obtained? These are serious questions which must be asked.

Moreover, the task of a comprehensive examination belongs to the competent ecclesiastical authority. This authority has, according to the Vatican’s norms, “the serious duty of looking into [the matter] without delay and of diligently watching over it” (…ecclesiasticae Auctoritati competenti grave munus incumbit sine mora sese informandi atque diligenter invigilandi).[8] Anything which encroaches upon this responsibility is suspect and so the greatest tact is necessary.

While such extensive examinations of the facts are proper to the competent authority, this fact does render the faithful impotent. Individual members of the faithful have the moral responsibility not to expose themselves to material that is (or could potentially be) injurious to faith and good morals. Thus, when presented with an alleged revelation, the faithful are bound to two things in particular:

  1. their duty to obey the ecclesiastical authority, and
  2. the Scriptural mandate to test the spirits (1 John 4:1).

In the first case, if the character of the alleged revelation is not established, then it is best to wait upon the competent authority’s decision before one declares their belief in an alleged revelation. If it is a question of a devotion being promoted, one needs to wait for a decision as well. The well-oiled machine envisioned in the Vatican’s norms presumes that such authority works “without delay” (sine mora) and issues directives to the faithful.[9] If the authority fails to do so, a vacuum is created, causing many of the faithful to fall back onto their own devices, which could potentially end in very real error.

To the second case, all of the faithful are obliged not to accept blithely a claim of private revelation. There still remains the fact of one’s measure of personal discernment. The catch, however, is that one’s understanding ought to be formed by proper catechesis and the imparting of at least a basic understanding of the duties and responsibilities of the faithful in these matters (of private revelation). Curiously, there seems to be little to no dissemination of this information to the faithful and error potentially abounds.[10]

Not a few of the alleged seers of today maintain a presence on the Internet either directly or indirectly.[11] This fact makes it relatively easy for individuals to do some modest, private research. This information can then be taken and weighed against the Church’s teachings and norms. Taken in conjunction with directives/advice from their own pastor, spiritual director or otherwise knowledgeable person, a system of discernment can be developed. Through this, the possibility of falling into error is severely mitigated, and authentic Christian charity is preserved.

While such a method is the ideal, it is oftentimes not what happens in fact. There remains the question of the fate of the information one has gathered in his or her personal examination of the facts. Contemporary social communication allows information to be published immediately and is an option readily available for those with the technological know-how. Ought one to take this route? From personal experience and those of others, it seems to me that there are some serious considerations one must factor before deciding to publish any such information.

Above all, there must be a reason to disseminate publicly the information. Usually, that reason is grave scandal and the necessity to warn others of it.[12] While a noble consideration, an individual must ask him- or herself to whom should information be revealed? It is relatively easy with contemporary technology to present information to the larger populus. What about simply communicating it only to the competent ecclesiastical Authority? This manner of proceeding is often not considered for various reasons.[13]

Some might object, saying that they have a right to express their opinion to the public. Pope Benedict XV taught that Catholics are free to express and defend their opinion in the public forum. He did so, however, with the caveat that certain conditions be met:

As regards matters in which without harm to faith or discipline – in the absence of any authoritative intervention of the Apostolic See – there is room for divergent opinions, it is clearly the right of everyone to express and defend his own opinion. But in such discussions no expressions should be used which might constitute serious breaches of charity; let each one freely defend his own opinion, but let it be done with due moderation, so that no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith or to discipline (Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, 23).

Considering this, let us ask a question. If we enjoy the ability to express and defend our opinion, does that mean we ought to express it? Not necessarily as prudence must be exercised. It is a fact that the lay faithful do not enjoy the same measure of canonical protections as does ecclesiastical authority (although the former are likewise not subject to the same level of accountability).

Consequences of Publishing:

People sometimes hastily hit the publish button not having considered potential consequences. Perhaps not all of the facts are known; one has to consider the character of the alleged visionary; there could even be some spiritual repercussions from a demonic source.

Regarding the character of alleged visionaries, there are those who threaten other individuals—even Dioceses—with lawsuits if something negative is said of him or her. This threat might impede a canonical investigation if the ecclesiastical authority allows itself to be intimidated. If there is no such threat, the alleged visionary might threaten (directly or indirectly) harm to someone in name, by reputation or professionally. On the lower end of possibilities, the alleged visionary may simply claim that he or she has been misrepresented or taken out of context. If true, it is then incumbent upon the individual to prove clearly the error and hopefully elicit a retraction.

When under duress, we show our true character; this is likewise true of alleged visionaries. They who at first come across as humble or pious sometimes show their true colors when challenged (either initially or over a period of time) by the competent ecclesiastical authority or individual members of the faithful. When negative elements arise under such duress, that is to be considered as belonging to the “fruit” of the claims.[14] Depending upon the specific action, it may also concern the “gravely immoral acts” (actus graviter immorales) criterion in the Vatican’s norms.[15]

In some cases, it can happen that alleged visionaries fear the loss of control. In response to this fear, they (or others) will react negatively and severely to people (even those who may give them credence) who, for example, attempt to ask questions.[16] The control may be about the visionary manipulating people, wearing them down so there is no resistance. It may be about guarding a carefully constructed narrative about one’s person, reputation or contacts/network of friends.[17] This last point conveys the image of making one seem important, well-liked by respectable people, etc. which adds credibility to the alleged seer.

Severely criticizing or even denigrating dissenters has the effect of setting an example to followers. In such cases, the alleged visionary typically has an exaggerated sense of importance about him- or herself.[18] Crossing him or her is thus seen as a “challenge” which must be answered. Their pride, after all, has been wounded and will not suffer such an affront. The form of the response will be different in accordance with the one who has “crossed” the alleged visionary.

In the case of a follower, such a one is more directly under the control and influence of the alleged visionary. Thus, more personal acts can be perpetrated such as ostracizing the person from an entire community of followers. The idea here is to knock a follower back into line through some form of public humiliation or manipulative control such as withholding love, affection or attention. This act also serves, at least indirectly, to give warning to other followers.

If it is a non-follower who crosses the alleged seer, doubt or questions regarding authenticity of the “message” or the messenger must be prevented. Depending on the gravity of the challenge, the “seer” must assert his or herself and the challenge addressed. As it is not a follower who has done the crossing, the response will not be as meaningful on a personal level but generally falls into the same line of public humiliation. An attempt will be made, usually under the form of an article or some other writing, to show the wrongness of the challenger. In a public setting, the challenge may be done gracefully, with the focus being on the argument of the challenger and not ad hominem attacks. Even if a more tactful response is issued, that does not mean all is well.

A man’s character is judged not by public acts but rather by private ones. Some alleged visionaries are simply less than gracious. They can create an impressive image for the public eye, but deeper examinations can turn up some surprising results. Such examinations are, however, usually limited to the competence of professional theologians and other subject matter experts.[19] In any case, wisdom knows the difference and discernment sees the situation for what it is as St. Paul did with the energumen in Acts 16:16-18. Though the woman was telling the truth, St. Paul exorcized her on the spot because he saw that it was a demon speaking.


In Angry Birds, the other birds were having a grand old time with the pigs. Red is viewed as the proverbial “stick in the mud” for asking critical questions. It is the same with private revelation. People who question alleged visionaries are seen as interrupting the “party” and attacking those who are providing it. The party is, however, a lie, a fabrication, all smoke and mirrors designed to cheat and swindle people.

In spiritual terms, people are being cheated of their God-given dignity as children of the light. They are made to look foolish before God and man. It is really an indirect attempt by Satan at offending God who otherwise takes delight in His children. Red prevailed against the odds because he had the insight to ask questions, and the courage and fortitude to do what was right in consequence despite the cost to himself. May we Catholics learn from Red’s example and be willing to engage in the search for truth and the against evil so as to keep away the darkness and shine the light.


[1] Not long ago, I posted an article about Pope Leo XIII, Fátima and the 100-years’ discussion. In that post, I discussed how people often get defensive with private revelation as it gives people a security blanket against the ugly things of this world. Revealing a private revelation as false “tears away” that security, leaving people feeling very vulnerable. What often happens is that the one who demonstrated the falsity of the alleged revelation will be rebuked by the followers (asseclae) of the alleged seer.

[2] The more that I delve into the larger tradition behind the norms, the clearer the wisdom of the norms. Christian doctrine is meant to be savored over time. It does not work well with our contemporary “sound-byte” culture. It is the “quick-fix” answers that often create confusion.

[3] Normae S. Congregationis, Section I, Part A, sub-section b-1. Hereafter NC followed by Section, Part and sub-section.

[4] If stated in a private setting, this reaction may not be as severe, but can still be present depending upon the response of the individual receiving the information.

[5] This observation does not, however, mean that people are unable to investigate and examine facts for themselves, and perhaps influence others in private settings.

[6] Cf. NC Preliminary Note 1.

[7] This information is usually available in the promotional literature from the alleged seer(s), though is not necessarily a given—especially in cases of “anonymous” persons. Even then, one would be surprised at how quickly such anonymous persons can be identified.

[8] NC II:1.

[9] Consider also the words of Pope Benedict XVI in Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum (22):

Hence, therefore, whenever legitimate authority has once given a clear command, let no one transgress that command, because it does not happen to commend itself to him; but let each one subject his own opinion to the authority of him who is his superior, and obey him as a matter of conscience. Again, let no private individual, whether in books or in the press, or in public speeches, take upon himself the position of an authoritative teacher in the Church. All know to whom the teaching authority of the Church has been given by God: he, then, possesses a perfect right to speak as he wishes and when he thinks it opportune. The duty of others is to hearken to him reverently when he speaks and to carry out what he says.

[10] Sadly, instead of adopting a critical stance from the beginning, there is a general tendency for people to believe first, then (if they are so inclined) to question. This stance is a most serious error. Another example of error was pointed out in my book Refractions of Light. Much confusion arose over the actions of Pope Paul VI with the abrogation of canons 1399 and 2319 in the 1917 Code of Canon Law. People believed they could now promote alleged revelations without the approval of the Church. That interpretation was seriously flawed, the effects of which we see today with the profuse dissemination of unapproved and alleged revelations.

[11] On average, alleged contemporary visionaries take advantage of the Internet in order to disseminate their “messages.” While viewed primarily as working in favor of said visionary, it also works against him or her.

[12] One must also consider the nature of the information. Does the information already exist in the public forum? Was it information obtained privately from otherwise knowledgeable and reputable sources?

[13] Among these reasons, in my experience, are pride, thoughtlessness, impatience and ignorance.

[14] Cf. NC I:A:b:3.

[15] NC I:B:d.

[16] It is particularly more devious when alleged visionaries allow other people to do the pillorying for them. In so doing, they provide some measure of protection for themselves. This protection shields them from criticism, at least on a surface level.

[17] In Angry Birds, we see this when the leader of the pigs has to create another lie in order to cover up the first lie. Whether the attempt at pillorying is to a follower or not, the idea is to make an example so as to keep control. It is narcissism, which may pertain to the criterion in the Vatican’s norms on psychopathic tendencies within the alleged visionary (morbi psychici/tendentiae psychopaticae; cf. NC: I:B:e).

[18] The visionary becomes the “guru,” the one who “gets it” and is trying to lead others to “enlightenment.” These other people are then made to feel gratitude for this person. If such is not shown, that person is shunned. Followers are made to feel special, i.e. “love-bombing” especially the closer they become to the alleged visionary. If the followers do not “get it” likewise, they will do almost anything to obtain it. Here the social phenomenon of not wanting to be left in the lurch can be particularly devastating. The followers become insecure (a fact which does not go unnoticed by corrupt “seers”) and, sometimes, will defend the “visionary” in an attempt to curry favor with him or her. They will even attempt to defend what are otherwise indefensible actions by the alleged visionary as said person is perceived as unable to do wrong and “there must be an explanation.” Concerning such willful ignorance, there is nothing anyone can do. Such persons are to be left to Jesus in prayer. If the matter is public, then a public disavowal from the competent Authority may be necessary to save, for example, the reputation of a local church.

[19] It is not “usually” so because information has a way of finding people regardless of their state in life. For example, perhaps someone left the community surrounding an alleged visionary and this person relates to friends what he or she witnessed. Here, much caution must be exercised because the one relaying the information is typically negatively labeled by said community in an effort to downplay or cast doubt upon the gravity of his or her claims.


Interview with Michael O’Neill

The following is a transcript of my interview with Michael O’Neill “The Miracle Hunter” of Relevant Radio.
It was recorded on October 13, 2016 and broadcast on October 16, 2016.

October 13th is one of those days that, just like May 13th, is one of the days that’s associated with Our Lady of Fátima. Of course, October 13th is the anniversary of the great Miracle of the Sun, the Fátima Sun Miracle. We’ve got someone today who is an expert in private revelation and he’s written a book, Refractions of Light, author Kevin Symonds. Welcome to the program today Kevin.

Hello Mr. O’Neill. Good to be with you today.

Thanks for joining us, and of course, October 13th, what a fantastic anniversary for anybody who likes miracles and those miracles that have lots of witnesses. We’ve got 70,000 witnesses supposedly in this great sun miracle at Fátima. What are we talking about here, I think there’s a lot of speculation/debate about what happened that day. What is the Miracle of the Sun?

The Miracle of the Sun was a solar phenomenon that occurred on October 13th, 1917 in Fátima, Portugal. Three shepherd children, Francisco & Jacinta Marto and their cousin, Lúcia dos Santos, had claimed since May 13th of the same year that the Blessed Virgin had been appearing to them in a place called the Cova da Iria. The Cova was a patch of land between the towns of Aljustrel and Fátima and which was owned by Lúcia’s family. The family’s animals were allowed to graze there during the day, and were tended to by Francisco, Jacinta and Lúcia.

On May 13th, while tending to the flock, the children saw what Lúcia later described as a flash of lightning—though it was in broad daylight and no sign of bad weather. Suddenly, there was a beautiful Lady standing on a nearby azinheira, a little holm-oak tree. The Lady spoke to the children, requesting them to come to this location on the thirteenth day of the month for six months in succession. The children did as was requested, except in August of that year when they were kidnapped by the local Freemasonic mayor, Arturo dos Santos, in a plot to extract from the children what they had learned from the Lady.

One of the things that they had learned from the Lady during these apparitions was that she promised to perform a miracle in October. The miracle would serve, by and large, as proof that was offered by heaven to lend credibility to the claims of the children. It was specifically predicted that the miracle would be on October 13th, 1917. Word spread quickly of this claim, and, on the specified day there was no less than 70,000 people present (according to most authorities on the subject as you mentioned earlier).

The day itself was very rainy. The earth was soaked, as were peoples’ clothing. Despite this inconvenience, people came anyway, and, at the designated time around noon, the Blessed Virgin appeared. She spoke briefly to the children and then performed the miracle. Lúcia, who later wrote about what she experienced, said that there appeared in the heavens Our Lady, St. Joseph and the Child Jesus. Lúcia drew people’s attention to the heavens, and they noticed that the sun was not behaving according to cosmic laws.

Various accounts of the Miracle of the Sun exist. Some describe it one way, others another, and a few even said they saw nothing with the sun. Most of those that saw something agree on a basic description: the sun came out from the clouds and acted as if it was going to fall to the earth, this was often referred to as the “dance of the sun.” It scared not a few people. All, however, could also look upon the sun without it hurting their eyes. After it was over, people realized that both the earth and their clothes were dry.

That’s really incredible. I guess I didn’t realize that when the visionaries looked to the sky they actually saw a vision of Mary prior to this event.

The three visionaries did, not the people there.[1] That was a result of the kidnapping of the children. The Miracle was supposed to be greater than what it in fact was but because the children had been kidnapped, Our Lady had said to them that the Miracle would not be as great. If I remember correctly, there was a statement as to how it exactly would have been greater and what the three children saw with respect to Our Lady, St. Joseph and the Child Jesus everybody would have seen had it not have been for their kidnapping.

That’s so interesting. What about people who weren’t on the site itself? Of course, we had 70,000 people staring up at the sun and thinking it was spinning towards the earth or approaching the earth. What about people who were not nearby? Were there any reports of the sun doing anything out of the ordinary?

Yes, since October 13th, 1917, people have tried to understand what this solar phenomenon was and they gathered as many witnesses as were possible. Interestingly enough, it turned out that the phenomenon was not just restricted to the Cova da Iria. In a number of places outside of the Cova, other people reported seeing the same behavior of the sun. One famous account came from a priest in India who, at the time, was in Portugal. He later wrote from India about his experience and his testimony agrees with the general description of the phenomenon that I just mentioned a moment ago. Interestingly enough, there was also an observatory that existed at the time and it was consulted for any reports of strange occurrences, to which the reply was “nothing at all.” It was a regular day as far as they were concerned.

So interesting. We have the witnesses on the site but people off the site didn’t necessarily see anything different going on. Now, we’ve heard skeptics and other people saying that this was a case of mass hallucination that maybe one person started shouting at the sun, shouting up saying “the sun is approaching” and then everybody got swept up in the fervor. What do we have to say about that?

Yes, there have been some who claim that the phenomenon was mass hallucination. There are three indications in particular that I would like to point out that question this assertion.

-1) First, there is the fact (mentioned earlier) that other people witnessed the Miracle of the Sun who were not present in the Cova da Iria. How could it be mass hallucination when other people saw the same phenomenon at some distance away?

-2) Secondly, there is something to be said for the fact that different people saw different things. If it was mass hallucination, wouldn’t everyone present have the same story? Also, it cannot be denied that even if they did not see the same thing (or anything at all), the earth and the clothes were dry—something that has not been explained to this day.

-3) Thirdly, we need to consider the fact that present in the Cova were many skeptics and atheists, a few of which were journalists who came with the expectation that nothing would happen. Their intention was to write up a story that would mock the cause of religion (which was then under heavy attack in Portugal by the liberal and freemasonic presses), and make people look like superstitious rubes or “country-bumpkins.” After the Miracle of the Sun, most of these journalists realized that they could not in good conscience write such a story. A famous example of this comes in the person of Avelino de Almeida of the newspaper O Século. He wrote up for the paper an article that has since become a standard piece of evidence for the Miracle of the Sun. I am not all too familiar with the details of his own life after the Miracle, but I believe it rattled his rationalistic mindset and that he was not quite the same afterwards.

That’s so interesting that some skeptics have reconsidered what actually happened there. We’re talking today with Kevin Symonds. He’s an expert on Our Lady of Fátima and on private revelation, author of the book Refractions of Light. Kevin, when we look at…there’s been some attempts at scientific explanation. I’ve read some of these scientific journals and articles where they talk about crystals in the sky or some other exact perfect conditions that perhaps happened that day to give some sort of solar effect. What do we know about there, is there any merit to any of the scientific and pseudo-scientific studies that have come out about the Miracle of the Sun?

I would have to say that there’s not much merit to specifically the crystal thing that you mentioned because it still doesn’t explain how did three shepherd children, who were almost illiterate[2], know to be able to, you know, know enough to be able to point out a specific day and time and all that. That would be really straining it.

Over the years there have been some attempts at explaining the Miracle of the Sun that have been a little bit better than others. To the best of my knowledge, there is only one person who, in more recent times, made what some believe to be the best attempt at explaining the phenomenon. This person was the Benedictine monk Fr. Stanley Jaki…I am not sure how you say the last name. He was a professor at Seton Hall University in New Jersey and highly regarded for his efforts on Faith and Science. Coincidentally, he studied under Victor Hess who was one of the discoverers of cosmic rays. Father wrote a book that was researched and entitled God and the Sun at Fátima. The thesis of which, according to one who knew him, was that there may be “some sort of physical, scientific, or meteorological explanation” but that the event itself was “remarkably miraculous.” I personally find his thesis, as explained by this person, to be questionable, but, to be fair, I have not yet read the book and so reserve judgment until I read it. Father died in 2009 while visiting with friends in Madrid, Spain and I understand that his overall work is being employed in discussions currently taking place on the relationship of Faith and Science.

Interesting. I’ve always kind of been a little shocked that they tried to come up with a scientific explanation for it because why haven’t people seen it on other days or how could they have predicted that that day, like you said, those children, with obviously no scientific background, would be able to predict such an event? I always find it pretty interesting that there’s been some sort of attempts, at least, to explain it scientifically.

Now when we look at the Miracle of the Sun, of course that caps months and months of apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima to the three shepherd children and it was a very significant event, but what did it mean both for the apparitions themselves and then for the world? What does the Miracle of the Sun mean for the Church and the world?

When God does something, it is not meaningless and without import. In my studies on Fátima I have come across some truly gifted writers as well as met some truly blessed people who understand the heart and soul of Fátima. Part of the message of Our Lady was to call wayward men back to the Gospel, to the Person of her Son. This prophetic message, and I here mean “prophetic” in the biblical sense, was also bound up with the fate of mankind if it did not give up its sin and convert.

John Haffert, the founder of the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fátima, once made what I consider to be a very astute observation. I believe it was in his book Meet the Witnesses where he wrote that just as mankind had harnessed the power of the atom to make the atomic bomb, so it was that God showed His greater power through the Miracle of the Sun. I remember reading this interpretation and being very impressed by it as it fit the message of Our Lady of Fátima so well, as, for instance, she predicted World War II which saw the use of the atomic bomb, harnessing the power of the sun, you know?

Haffert’s interpretation stands as a beautiful reminder that God is God and we are not. The Miracle of the Sun was a true miracle, one that we could spend a very long time trying to decipher, but the heart of it is there: return to God, convert, and amend our lives; as Our Lady said, Do not offend our Lord God no more! For He is already much offended.

Oh that’s a great reflection there. We’re talking today with Kevin Symonds the author of the book Refractions of Light, and expert on Our Lady of Fátima. As far as I understand Kevin, you got an upcoming Fátima project yourself. Can you share with the audience a little bit about what you are working on?

Sure, as I just indicated, there’s so much about Fátima that we could spend a very long time to study it and barely scratch the surface.

Photo courtesy of Goya Producciones

Photo courtesy of Goya Producciones

Over the years, there have been various writers and others who have made attempts at understanding Fátima. Some of what they have written is very good while other interpretations are kind of questionable. These specific attempts have garnered much attention, and I believe that there is a strong pastoral and intellectual need to address some questions that have arisen, specifically on the famous third part of the secret of Fátima.

To this end, I would like to announce that my next book project is underway and tentatively entitled On the Third Part of the Secret of Fátima. I am happy to say that the work will be complete in time for the upcoming centenary. Information on this project, including how people can help, can be found on my web site (www.kevinsymonds.com).

Wonderful. Well, that’s exciting. Looking forward to reading that book, and your other book Refractions of Light is about the best book out there as far as I’m concerned about how the Church judges private revelation and answers all those questions that people may have. We thank you so much for joining us on today’s program, Kevin, and look forward to having you on the show in the future.

Alright, thank you very much, it’s good to be with you.

God bless. That was Kevin Symonds, author of the book Refractions of Light. Pick that book up if you’re interested in learning how the Church judges private revelation and miracles and also check out his web site (kevinsymonds.com) if you want to find out about his upcoming Fátima project.

[1] Clarification: Sr. Lúcia wrote in her fourth Memoir that when she drew attention to the sun it was because she saw the apparitions.

[2] Clarification: The children are said here to be “almost” illiterate because while none of the three could read in 1917, Lúcia’s mother, Maria Rosa, would read various faith stories and teach catechism.

Dhanis and Fátima: A Scholar’s Perspective


Dr. Barreto

Earlier this year I came across an interesting article written by Dr. José Barreto of the University of Lisbon on Fátima and Fr. Edouard Dhanis. Written in Portuguese, a friend of mine translated it into English for me. Unfortunately, I was not able to spend as much time going through it as I would have liked to do.

While in Fátima last month, Dr. Barreto’s article came up during a conversation. I renewed my interest in the article and contacted Dr. Barreto to request permission to publish the translation. He has graciously consented to do so. I provide it below for your reading pleasure.

The topic of Fr. Dhanis and Fátima is a very volatile one in certain circles of Catholics. Dhanis is famous for being the founding father of a critical school of thought on Fátima. He also famously made a distinction between the “old” history of Fátima with a “new” history that was based upon the later writings of Sr. Lúcia’s Memoirs.

No statement is herein made on the person or work of Fr. Edouard Dhanis. All that is being provided is Dr. Barreto’s discussion of the events 50 or so years after the fact. If someone happens to notice any issue(s) with translation, please contact me.
-Kevin J. Symonds

Institute of Social Sciences – University of Lisbon

José Barreto

Edouard Dhanis, Fátima and World War II

It may have gone unnoticed to most readers of the “Theological Commentary” of Cardinal Ratzinger, published at the time of revelation of the “third secret” of Fátima[i], the name which the author mentions there of the theologian Edouard Dhanis, praised by the current prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as an “eminent scholar” on matters relating to apparitions and divine revelations to seers.[ii] For reasons I explain below, this mention is, in fact, something very significant and unprecedented. Moreover, Dhanis is the only theological authority cited in the text of Ratzinger, if we discount the eighteenth century Pope Benedict XIV and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, current Vatican Secretary of State.

The reference to Dhanis did not escape, however, the attention – and disapproval – of certain sectors of Catholic traditionalists and integralists, who hold a long and open polemic that is increasingly acute with the Vatican, even around the interpretation of the Fátima Message. These ultra-conservative currents, of a school of thought close to that of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (d. 1991), remain very active in America and Europe around, for example, the Fatima Crusader magazine, founded by Canadian Father Nicholas Gruner, and the Contre Réforme Catholique movement, directed by French priest Georges de Nantes. Such movements have developed great efforts to impose a particular interpretation of the Fátima message, particularly with an anti-ecumenical and anti-Vatican II sense. In that attempt to appropriate Fátima for the doctrinal purposes of their movements, the traditionalists do not tire of denouncing the critical work of the theologian Dhanis, who died a quarter century ago. They even accuse his writings of a harmfulness greater than the attacks on Fátima by atheist and anticlerical authors[iii] – despite Dhanis’s having always been a theological authority recognized by the Church, with a reputation of being moderate, unlike the other theologians considered controversial. The praise for Dhanis in that “Theological Commentary” of 2000 provoked strong reactions in the traditionalist international media, who came to make insinuations of various kinds on the position of Cardinal Ratzinger regarding Fátima.[iv]

But who is Dhanis, anyway? The Belgian Jesuit theologian Edouard Dhanis (1902-1978) was a professor at Louvain, rector of the Gregorian University, a Holy Office consultant, Special Secretary of the Synod of Bishops and a member until his death of the International Theological Commission, presided over by the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger. Father Dhanis has been for a long time rightly regarded as the founder of the Catholic critical interpretation of Fátima. It was his writings on the subject, published since 1944 by Belgian Flemish or French Catholic magazines, which opened up the international theological debate about Fátima.[v] Without ever putting into question the overall value of the apparitions or the good faith of the seers, Dhanis pointed out “shadows,” “trouble,” “difficulties and “doubts” that the reading of the new version of Fátima had caused him, in contrast to the old version. By new version Dhanis understands the version of Fátima such as it was written, since the end of the 30s, by authors who were taking notice of the said “Memoirs” written by the seer Lúcia since 1936, while the old version was, for him, that which was described in the previously elaborated histories, therefore without knowledge of the said “Memoirs” of the seer.[vi] This Fatimological dichotomy, which Dhanis was the first to point out, was later popularized in the abundant literature both of apologetical as well as a critical nature, under the names of Fátima I (old version) and Fátima II (new version).

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Richard Salbato

While in Fátima last month, I referred to Rick Salbato in my first blog post. Rick recently went to his eternal reward and I would like to take a moment to focus upon the life, work and person of Rick.

Salbato is the author two published books: The Miracle of Damascus (also a video) and The Tongues of Satan, both written under the pen tongues-satanname “The Publican.” The Miracle of Damascus focuses on Myrna Nazzour and her claims to be receiving private revelations and various mystical phenomena. The Tongues of Satan is, essentially, an autobiography of Salbato’s life prior to and just after his conversion. The book also features commentary on the Charismatic Movement. In addition to these books, Salbato founded the web site Unity Publishing.

In reading his writings (books or web site), one very quickly comes to see that Salbato was no stranger to controversy. Because of his topics, combined with a strong and oftentimes combative writing style, Salbato became a controversial figure, dare I say, persona non grata. He wrote often on the subject of private revelation and his writing style indicated a direct and gruff personality, one that was off-putting to some people.

While Salbato’s writings are many, few appear to have known much about the man and his person. It is no secret that Salbato and I knew each other for several years. He went to his eternal reward on February 24, 2016 surrounded by family in California. When he was alive I dared not write about him to respect his wishes. In death, I am no longer so bound.


Richard “Rick” Salbato

My acquaintance with Salbato began in January, 2002. I was doing some research on the Internet when I came across Unity Publishing. Being extremely well read in Catholic thought and affairs, Salbato presented information in the light of Catholic teaching in such a way that I had not previously much considered (or, at least, valued). I wrote him an E-mail, an act which led to a more than a decade long correspondence and friendship.

Over the years as I continued my research into private revelation, Salbato continued to offer help and guidance here and there. In the summer of 2005, I was preparing for a trip to Europe and Salbato invited me to stay with him in Portugal as he was then living in Fátima. This invitation was significant because the visit afforded me a more in-depth opportunity to learn about the man, his character and personality. He was not just an “Internet friend” or a faceless avatar.[i] The time in Fátima was a blessing and a couple of events help to describe Salbato and his personality.

I wrote above that Salbato’s writings made him a controversial figure, especially for those on private revelation. His strong stances on specific cases made him unpopular, and, dare I say, a bane.[ii] What most people did not know about him, however, was that Salbato was rather well-connected, up to and including contacts in the C.I.A.[iii] The fact of his connections came out especially during and after my visit with him in Fátima.

Rick's Apartment in Fatima.

Rick’s Apartment in Fatima.

Not a few people disbelieved Salbato when he claimed to have met Sr. Lúcia eleven different times. He spoke the truth and I can personally verify that he was on good terms with Sr. Lúcia’s convent. When I went to Portugal, Salbato was to pick me up at the airport in Lisbon. My baggage had not gone on the same flight with me—causing a delay—and I could not get word to Salbato. He left the airport to return to Fátima and he was gone by the time I was able to get out to the pickup area. When I finally got to Fátima, I went over to the information booth and sought help. Being a local, I figured someone had to know Salbato and how to contact him.

It turned out that the receptionist at the booth knew Salbato—except how to contact him. I mentioned that he knew Sr. [X] at the convent in Coimbra. This wonderful receptionist graciously called the convent and received Salbato’s number from one of the Sisters (Sr. [X], I believe). The receptionist wrote on the paper “Ricky” followed by the number. I went to a pay phone and, long story short, was able to connect with Salbato. If he was making up his claim about knowing the Carmelites in Coimbra, how did Sr. [X] know him well enough to use the diminutive for his name and provide his phone number?

The above question came in handy when, some days later, I met some good people who, regretfully, were among those who were quite skeptical of Salbato. They discussed with me his claim of having met Sr. Lúcia saying, “Kevin, Bishops come here [on pilgrimage] wanting to talk to Sr. Lúcia and not even they were able to do so. Why would Rick be able to meet her and not them?” Salbato had an advantage that these Bishops did not: he lived in Fátima and was friends with relatives of Sr. Lúcia. They visited her on a regular basis and he drove them to the convent.

I inquired of the above fact to him one day in private conversation. It is, after all, one thing to drive relatives to their visits with the famous surviving seer of Fátima; it is another thing to engage the seer in conversation. Salbato, respective of the family’s privacy (not knowing Portuguese helped tremendously), explained to me that he stood in the back and did not involve himself. Sr. Lúcia, however, motioned for him to come over and engaged him in conversation through a translator, thus began their visits.[iv] While I asked him to tell me the story, I never questioned Salbato and his claim. My time in Fátima showed me that he was telling the truth.

I recall four other things that Salbato discussed with me about Sr. Lúcia and/or her convent, three of which I shall mention here. The first was his explanation of how the Sisters choose a new postulant.[v] Second, that he had just helped the convent to purchase a computer so they could edit video footage of Sr. Lúcia around the convent.[vi] Third, and this might have been after my pilgrimage, he helped to coordinate the Sisters to watch a screening of The Passion of the Christ with Mel Gibson. On this last fact, Salbato himself wrote about it.

As I mentioned earlier, Salbato had a rather gruff personality—one that was very off-putting to anyone with a superficial understanding of him. If one were to read his autobiography present in The Tongues of Satan, they would see from whence came this gruff exterior. He was a sinner who had lived a hard life prior to his conversion, the details of which I leave for the leisure of the reader. There is one thing, however, that we discussed and which I believe will help people better appreciate the man and his work.

Prior to his conversion, Salbato would find it difficult to go to bed at night without the company of a woman. As he began his conversion, one of the things that he had realized was the miracle that takes place in the womb of a woman (and her concurrent dignity). He told me that once he realized this miracle, he immediately stopped treating women like objects. His book The Tongues of Satan indicates how well he lived this at first as he struggled to reform his life and grew in the grace of God.

Rick & Family

Rick & Family

Salbato was a devoted Catholic who spent much time reading, studying, and praying. Towards the end of his life especially, he worked for the betterment of his family.[vii] When talking to people about the Faith, he would take a no-holds barred approach and tell the truth to people whether they liked it or not. He was a defender of justice for the “little guy” and we talked about this in Fátima through a story he gave from his younger years. In short, he hated injustice. If he saw a smaller guy being beat up, Salbato would immediately intervene.

This “defender” theme carried over into Salbato’s work on private revelation, He would not brook any error against Holy Mother Church. If a claim to a private revelation contradicted the teaching of the Church, Salbato would examine and weigh the facts. He then marshaled these facts to formulate reasons and proceed to tell it as he saw it. In the fourteen years of our friendship, few who disagreed with Salbato were ever able to refute him.[viii] To my knowledge, when he received criticism from people who respected his work, these remarks were largely based upon his tone and tenor in communicating the information.[ix] This observation, admittedly, is one to which I also subscribe and any disagreements were handled with dignity and respect.

Salbato was reluctant to allow people to defend him in the public forum. In this, he lived the spiritual work of mercy to bear wrongs patiently. I state before the bar of history that although he had a gruff exterior, if people looked past said exterior, they would have found a man who was a very serious and faithful Catholic. Salbato understood what it meant to practice the Faith. I do not say he practiced it perfectly, but I aver that the man tried not only to live the Faith as he understood it but to defend it as well. He was devoted to God and to the Blessed Virgin Mary in such a way that nowadays is rare to witness.

There are many stories that could be said of Richard Salbato by those who knew and loved him. I am but one writer who is graced with some ability to capture, albeit poorly, something of the man. His life and work with upholding orthodoxy and orthopraxy with private revelation now prepares to be passed to the pages of history.

For now, I bid a fond farewell to a man from whom I have learned much and can truly say was a mentor to me. He was my friend, and I pray that if he has entered into the eternal beatitude of God that he remember us who yet languish in this vale of tears. If he be found guilty of sin and in need of purgation, then join me in prayer for the repose of his soul.

Requiem aeternam, dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis!

[i] The pilgrimage to Fátima was also significant that year because Sr. Lúcia had died three months prior. The place was abuzz with the news and after-effect of her death. Salbato even gave me two holy cards that were printed for her funeral and which he had obtained during the ceremonies that February.

[ii] I remember being on a retreat shortly after returning from Europe in 2005. The priest leading the retreat talked to everyone about a very famous case of alleged private revelation. He believed the claim and was telling about people who, he believed, taught lies about it. To this effect, he specified Rick Salbato and Unity Publishing. He was unaware of my friendship with Rick and just having spent ten days with him. I waited to speak with this priest about his mischaracterization until a more opportune and private moment.

[iii] In my book Refractions of Light, I discussed in endnote 97 Salbato’s claim to me that he had indeed verified a famous quote attributed to Pope Urban VIII. I constructed my discussion in that endnote and the Q&A (#127) very carefully because I would not go against him unless I possessed absolute certitude, hence why I qualified my words.

[iv] I recognize that this act might contradict the idea that Sr. Lúcia was forbidden to speak to anyone outside of those approved by the Holy See. I call attention to a simple and terribly overlooked fact in the history of Fátima. The public, to the best of my knowledge, has never seen a copy of a specific written and official document that gives the exact terms of who was and was not allowed to see Sister and under what terms. There are bits and pieces of information scattered throughout a number of sources, but never is an entire document provided. Moreover, a new biography on Sr. Lúcia indicates that it was not a “gag order” placed on Sister by Rome, but rather her own wish to be hidden from the prying eyes of the world and curiosity seekers. It is in the light of these considerations (and perhaps others) that one must weigh Sister’s beckoning to Salbato.

[v] This selection is a story about which I do not believe prudent to reveal without the permission of the Sisters, which I do not have.

[vi] I am not sure what became of this project, though if memory serves it became a DVD that was published.

[vii] Rick moved back home to California in order to be with his family. I pray the family does not mind if I reveal that he told me that his motives were, at least in part, because, “my grandson needs me.” It betrayed a great love that Rick had for his family.

[viii] Attempts were made in various places to discredit Rick but in fourteen years I never saw a whole-scale rebuttal. I believe these remarks to be largely from people with little to no grasp on the person of Richard Salbato, and, in some cases, no firm understanding of Church doctrine and practice.

[ix] I should be clear to state that it was not impossible to argue a point with Salbato. I myself had done so, but, as stated above, only when there was absolute cause to do so.

Ratzinger and Christian Prophecy

Recently, I read a very helpful interview between Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Niels Christian Hvidt entitled The Problem of Christian Prophecy.

There are some very helpful remarks in this interview. I strongly encourage everyone to read it. I offer the text below (I have cleaned it up a little bit) in case the web site is no longer available.

The Problem of Christian Prophecy

30Giorni, No 1 – 1999

Christianity always carries within it a structure of hope

“It is increasingly urgent that the authentic structure of promise and fulfilment inherent in the Christian faith be presented in a comprehensible and liveable way.”

Interview with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

by Niels Christian Hvidt[1]

To most theologians, the word “prophecy” suggests the prophets of the Old Testament, John the Baptist or the prophetic dimension of the Magisterium. The theme of prophets is only rarely addressed in the Church. And yet the history of the Church is packed with prophetic figures, many of whom were not canonized until later though during their lives they had transmitted the Word, not as their own but as the Word of God.

There has never been any systematic reflection on the particularity of the prophets, on what distinguishes them from the representatives of the institutional Church and how the word revealed by them is related to the Word revealed in Christ transmitted to us by the apostles. No theology of Christian prophecy proper has ever been effectively developed. Indeed, there are very few studies on this problem.[2]

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger addressed the concept of Revelation very early on in his activity as a theologian and to considerable depth. His abilitation thesis on Die Geschichtstheologie des hl. Bonaventura (Saint Bonaventura’s Theology of History)[3] had had such an innovative impact at the time that it was initially rejected.[4] At that time, the Revelation was still conceived as a collection of divine propositions. It was primarily considered a question of rational pieces of knowledge. But in his research, Ratzinger found that in Bonaventura the Revelation refers to the action of God in history in which the truth is gradually unveiled. The Revelation is the continuous growth of the Church in the fullness of the Logos.[5] It was only after this text was notably cut back and re-drafted that it was accepted. Since then, Ratzinger has sustained a dynamic understanding of the Revelation in the light of which “the Word (Christ) is always greater than any other word, and no other word could ever fully express it. Indeed, words partake of the inexhaustible fullness of the Word. For the Word, they open up and therefore grow in the encounter with every generation.”[6]

Any theological definition of Christian prophecy may only be arrived at within the context of this dynamic concept of Revelation. As far back as 1993, Cardinal Ratzinger was saying that “in-depth research was urgently needed to establish what being a prophet means.”[7] And this is why we asked the Cardinal to meet us to discuss the theme of Christian prophecy.

In the history of the Revelation in the Old Testament, it is essentially the word of the prophet that paves the critical way for the history of Israel, accompanying it throughout. What is your thinking on prophecy in the life of the Church?

JOSEPH RATZINGER: First of all, let’s dwell for a moment on prophecy in the Old Testament. To avoid any misunderstanding, it should be clearly established who the prophet really is. The prophet is not a soothsayer. The essential element of the prophet is not the prediction of future events; the prophet is someone who tells the truth on the strength of his contact with God; the truth for today which also, naturally, sheds light on the future. It is not a question of foretelling the future in detail, but of rendering the truth of God present at this moment in time and of pointing us in the right direction. As far as Israel is concerned, the word of the prophet has a particular function in that, in the sense that the faith is essentially understood as hope in Him who will come. For, a word of faith is always the realization of the faith especially in its structure of hope. It leads hope on and keeps it alive. It is equally important to underline that the prophet is not apocalyptic, though he may seem so. Essentially, he does not describe the ultimate realities but helps us to understand and live the faith as hope. Even if, at a moment in time, the prophet must proclaim the Word of God as if it were a sharp sword, he is not necessarily criticizing organized worship and institutions. His mandate is to counter the misunderstanding and abuse of the Word and the institution by rendering God’s vital claim ever present; however, it would be wrong to reconstrue the Old Testament as antagonistic dialectics between the prophets and the Law. Given that both come from God, they both have a prophetic function. This is a very important point to my mind because it leads us into the New Testament. At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses is presented as prophet and he too presents himself as such. He tells Israel: ‘God will send you a prophet like me.’ What does ‘a prophet like me’ mean? Again according to Deuteronomy – and I think this is the decisive point – Moses’ particularity lay in the fact that he spoke with God as with a friend.[8] I tend to see the node or the root of the prophetic element in that ‘face to face’ with God, in ‘talking with Him as with a friend.’ Only by virtue of this direct encounter with God may the prophet speak in moments of time.

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