Fátima & Conflicting Dates

One of the stronger secondary arguments for the existence of a second text of the third part of the secret of Fátima concerns a conflict of dates. Cardinal Bertone and Joaquín Navarro-Valls gave two different dates in relation to when Pope St. John Paul II first read the text of the third part of the secret. Based upon this conflict, an argument has been made for the existence of a second text. I shall discuss this matter, in brevis, first by providing a general explanation, followed by a brisk examination of the facts with some questions and a general conclusion.

General Explanation

When John Paul II was in Fátima for the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta Marto in May, 2000, it was publicly announced that the third part of the secret was going to be released. Around this time the director of the Vatican’s press office, Dr. Joaquín Navarro-Valls, made some remarks. According to an article published by a Victor L. Simpson of the Associated Press (AP). Dr. Navarro-Valls is reported to have commented that John Paul first read the third part of the secret shortly after his election in October, 1978.

Forty-four days after the beatification, on June 26, 2000 was held the press conference that released the text of the third part in a booklet entitled The Message of Fatima. Present for the conference was Cardinal Ratzinger in his capacity as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Also present were (then) Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone as the Secretary of the CDF and Dr. Navarro-Valls as the press office director. The conference can be broken down into two parts, the first being the delivering of prepared remarks by Ratzinger and Bertone. The second was a Q&A session with the assembled journalists.

During the Q&A, Luigi Accatoli of the Italian publication Corriere della Sera was the first to pose a question. Accatoli noted a remark from Bertone’s introduction in The Message of Fatima that John Paul read the text after the assassination attempt in May, 1981. Accatoli, based upon his question to Bertone, seemed to be under the impression that it might have been read earlier by the Pope. Bertone was very direct in his response, telling Accatoli that he was very sorry to have to tell him that his “presumption is not reliable news” (…presunzione non è notizia certa…).

At that point, Navarro-Valls interjected and asked Bertone to elaborate. Bertone specified that John Paul II read the text after the assassination attempt while he was in the Gemelli hospital. Bertone appears to have based his statement upon the records within the archives of the CDF. It seems as though procedural rules at the CDF require that records be kept; who requests a document, when they request it, and who delivers it are all documented. Finally, a record is made as to when the document is returned. Based upon these records, Bertone stated that it was 1981, not 1978 when John Paul II first read the third part of the secret.

The conflict between the two statements from Navarro-Valls in May, 2000 and then by Bertone forty-four days later is apparent. From this conflict, it has been deduced that the existence of a second text (that the Vatican does not want the public to see) would explain the contradiction. Because Bertone and Navarro-Valls offer conflicting dates, ought this fact be seen as evidence for the existence of a second text? Not necessarily.

Critiquing the Deduction

First, let us consider the fact that we do not possess the whole story. After some moderate research, I was able to find the article from Victor Simpson with the claim that Navarro-Valls gave the date of 1978. This article indicates that Navarro-Valls’ statement was pulled from a larger interview, about which more shall be said in the next paragraph. For now, we note that there is lacking in the public forum a video or at least a transcript of this interview. A partial video (without the remark in question) is available on YouTube from the AP featuring Navarro-Valls in Fátima, and another (not from the AP) is in French.

From these videos, apparently recorded on or around May 13, 2000, it appears that Navarro-Valls was making informal remarks to journalists. What facts he had prepared in advance are not clear. Without a prepared statement, it is easy to confuse facts or to misspeak. An example of the confusion resulting from ex tempore remarks can be found in Cardinal Ottaviani’s own 1967 Allocution on Fátima. Thus, while the matter of Navarro-Valls making the remark about the date of 1978 appears not to be in question, it would be very wise to verify the context of the remark.

By “context” is meant both the placement of the claim within the narrative as well as the nature of ex tempore remarks. Verifying these should be done prior to making the serious accusation that the Holy See has engaged in a cover-up. Has anyone who believes in the alleged cover-up ever performed this follow-up work? To date, this question remains open.

Secondly, has anyone who accuses the Vatican of a cover-up ever tried to contact Navarro-Valls and directly ask him about this matter? Never, in any of the readings that I have come across, have I heard that such attempts were made. From whence did Navarro-Valls receive his information? Did he talk with John Paul personally on this point? Perhaps Navarro-Valls was simply mistaken? The remark was made prior to the publication of The Message of Fatima. Did Navarro-Valls know about the 1981 date in May, 2000 or was he himself later corrected by the booklet’s publication?

Thirdly, it is further claimed that Navarro-Valls did not contradict the report on the date of 1978 being the first time that John Paul II read the text. This claim is questionable. As was noted above, the issue was raised during the Q&A session of the June, 2000 press conference. People have been quick to point out Bertone’s statement on the dates. They are, however, not as fast to point out its context—a context that could be interpreted as a correction of the public record.

Here is the scene of the press conference: the floor is opened up to the journalists and Accatoli is the first. He asks his question about the dates and Bertone responds. Something very noteworthy then occurs: Navarro-Valls interjects and asks Bertone to clarify! Bertone does so and gives the answer with the mention of the Pope’s time in the hospital in 1981. The next journalist (Andrea Tornielli) is then called upon and the subject changed.

Let us ask some questions. Would Navarro-Valls contradict, openly and in a public setting, the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? Would not such an act do more to undercut the presentation of The Message of Fatima than if Navarro-Valls said nothing? Moreover, did Navarro-Valls truly do nothing? It is impossible to say such because of his interjection. If Navarro-Valls had been mistaken, was he tacitly corrected at the press conference? Or, conversely, had he read the booklet after May 13, realized his own mistake, and made his interjection as a way of discreetly correcting the public record and help him to save face?

General Conclusion

The argument, though secondary, of the conflicting dates of 1978/1981 does not of itself prove that there are two texts of the third part of the secret of Fátima. There are aspects of the story that are inconclusive. Until these aspects are better known, the open nature of the matter makes unreliable the conflict of dates as proof of a second text. Thus, to accuse the Holy See of a cover-up using this argument would be very unwise.

The preceding article is not an excerpt of my upcoming book
On the Third Part of the Secret of Fátima