More on Fr. Edouard Dhanis

Last year, I posted an English translation of an article written by Dr. José Barreto of Lisbon, Portugal, on the writings of Fr. Edouard Dhanis concerning Fátima.

While in Fátima this past June, I noticed that there was some discussion on Fr. Dhanis on an Internet forum. I am quite happy to see this discussion taking place as I discuss Dhanis in my book On the Third Part of the Secret of Fátima.

I noticed that Joachim Bouflet wrote a book about Fátima entitled Fátima: 1917-2017. I have found Bouflet, generally speaking, to be a good writer and I looked forward to reading his book. I saw that he, too, has written about Fr. Dhanis (pgs. 126-132). Overall, I think he wrote well of the situation with the Flemish Jesuit. I like how he appears to acknowledge the opprobrium to which Dhanis was subjected.

For your reading pleasure, I have worked-up an English translation (by no means a polished one) of Bouflet’s discussion. I hope he does not mind that I have done so.

The Hypothesis of a «Fátima-II»

In 1944, the Belgian Jesuit theologian Édouard Dhanis published in the journal Streven two long articles in the Flemish language in which he raises the question of continuity and coherence between the events of 1917 and the subsequent revelations of Lúcia, articles which, slightly reworked, will make the following year the subject of a small work translated into French.[i] He admits without difficulty the authenticity and supernatural character of the apparitions to three shepherd children, as well as the «miracle of the sun» — all the while raising the possibility that certain witnesses, if they are solid, have unconsciously amplified it—but he wonders why Lúcia began to speak of the appearances of the Angel only in 1936, twenty years after they occurred, and especially why the central theme of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is approached so late. It evokes the possibility of two different histories of Fátima, an ancient history, objectively documented until the years 1938-1940, and a new history, elaborated by Lúcia in her writings, a «Fátima-II» which makes [Dhanis] uncomfortable and which he endeavors to find, again in 1952, an explanation at the end of a long polemic:

Note also that a person can be sincere and have a sound judgment in everyday life but have a propensity to unconscious fabulation in a certain area or, in any case, recall with appreciable enrichments and modifications of memories twenty years old.[ii]

The questions of Father Dhanis relate to various points:

— the late relation of the apparitions of the Angel.

— the progressive revelation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a theme absent from the messages of 1917.

— the vision of hell, judged archaic and too pictorial:

The vision of hell corresponds to the idea that the children themselves made of hell … the seers received a very intense knowledge of the horror of sin and damnation and this knowledge evoked, bit by bit, a vision in their imagination.[iii]

— the progressive development of the secret:

We will come to the conclusion that over the years certain external events and spiritual experiences of Lúcia have enriched the original content of the secret. But we also maintain that the late drafting of the secret actually remains an echo of the mysterious words entrusted to the small shepherds of Fátima.[iv]

— the prophecies made post eventum [after the event] and sometimes inaccurate, as the announcement of a next war that would begin during the pontificate of Pius XI, while he died on February 10, 1939, well before the declaration of war, as well as the request for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, was judged at that time totally impossible.

The theses of Father Dhanis aroused strong reactions, very lively, among the closest authors «Fátima phenomenon» and will be an opportunity for Michel de la Sainte Trinité to settle his accounts (and the Catholic Counter-Reform), with a great deal of energy to impute motives, with what he disdainfully calls «the conciliar Church».[v] More measured, and especially better supported, various criticisms, including those of Jesuit Luis Gonzaga da Fonseca, in 1951[vi] and Agostinho Veloso[vii] underline the limits of the work of Fr. Dhanis, who did not have access to all sources; But no one disputes his good faith or the rigor of his analysis:

For Fátima, the critical attempt of Father Dhanis, S.J., provoked violent reactions (to discourage anyone who might have been tempted by an effort of the same kind). The intentions of Father Dhanis were loyal, his conclusions on the substance of things reserved; As to the mode of proceeding, it was simply that which governs historical criticism in every field, even that of the Holy Scripture. It was nevertheless treated as impious.[viii]

The approach of Fr. Dhanis — which in his theological commentary on the third secret of Fátima Cardinal Ratzinger, future Pope Benedict XVI, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, hails as «an eminent specialist of this question» — will have the merit of submitting to historical criticism the «Fátima phenomenon» considered as a whole. The polemic that emerged from it is, in the end, constructive, for it has obliged historians to undertake a rigorous work of exegesis, at the end of which it is evident that all the themes of Fátima-II are already implicitly evident in Fátima-I, as was explained at the end of a rigorous effort of historical criticism, by Fr. Joaquín María Alonso, Director of [the journal] Ephemerides Mariologicae and one of the best specialists on Fátima :

Here is the summary of our findings:

  1. Fátima presents a perfect unity in relation to the revelations which ended on October 13, 1917. All that followed was only a confirmation, a complement to them, or the accomplishment of what had been promised in 1917. There is nothing really new in the second part of the events and the message. Consequently, one cannot speak of a dichotomy, of «real» opposition between Fátima-I and Fátima-II.

  2. Lúcia, certainly, wrote much to «interpret» the events and the message of Fátima. And her interpretation has great value. But it is necessary not to do anything other than «interpretation». The critics of Fátima did not always make this distinction between the «revealed» message and the manner of its exposition. The best historian of Fátima wrote these lines which we approve: «The events of Fátima do not depend on three seers, when we look at them in the light of history. It was not they who gave them their historical character, but the irrefutable testimonies of thousands of people. The astonishing solar phenomena of October 13, 1917, which we are about to study, are historical realities which even the seers themselves could not now contradict, if by chance they rise from their tombs to pretend that they have seen nothing» [C. BROCHADO, Fátima a luz da Historia, Lisboa, 1948, p. 261].

  3. If the documents do not allow us to establish a dichotomy on the plan of the revelation, they allow it in terms of the «redaction» and «disclosure». Thus, we can continue talking about «Fátima-I» and «Fátima-II». However, this dichotomy not only has no negative consequences for the whole of the facts and the message, but it also reveals an aspect of divine providence over the relationships of Fátima with the present history of the Church.

  4. The dichotomy with respect to the disclosure and editing should be judged on the basis of the supernatural prudence that guided the leaders of Fátima. There was never an disloyal attitude on their part.

  5. The documents prove that Lúcia, in her literary work, did not invent anything «heterogeneous» [diverse] about the facts and the message of Fátima.

  6. Despite the fact of the secret and long-held silence [about it], there are positive signs that historically prove the perfect convergence of the facts and the message between «Fátima-I» and «Fátima-II». The best-informed critic, Fr. Dhanis, acknowledges: «The pilgrimage of Fátima presents itself with serious guarantees as a result of the merciful intervention of the sweet Mother of God, it contributes greatly to spreading devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to which it seems bound forever; The Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ encourages it; It seems to us that it would be proof of smugness by frowning upon such grace. We have already mentioned this in our pamphlet; it is nice we end this article by repeating it» (New. Rev. Théol., 84 (1952), p. 606).[ix]

Above all, the publication in 1992 of the five volumes of the Documentação critica de Fátima demonstrated the perfect consistency and continuity between the 1917 apparitions, the angelophanies of the previous year and the subsequent revelations to Sister Lúcia.[x] The sources show that as early as September 1917, even before the end of the apparitions of the Virgin, the three children spoke of the apparitions of the Angel to Canon Formigão, who recommended silence on this subject; and «the parents of the little seers knew, from the time of the apparitions, that they recited some formula that they called the Prayer of the Angel, without knowing who had taught it to them»[xi], a prayer which concerns [il est question] the Immaculate Heart of Mary; Finally, during her last illness in 1920, Jacinta made many confidences to those close to her, which evoke several themes of the secret: the persistent [lancinante] preoccupation of souls near damnation, the necessity of reparation, the evocation of war and of the chastisements to come.[xii]

Bouflet’s Citations:

[i] É. Dhanis, « Bij de verschijningen en de voorzeggingen van Fatima », Streven, 1944, p. 129-149 et p. 193-215; À propos des apparitions et du secret de Fatima. Contribution critique, Bruxelles, 1945. [KJS Note: Here I wonder if Bouflet made a mistake. I am unaware that Dhanis ever had his book translated into French. My understanding was that it remains in Flemish and then quoted in other languages]

[ii] É. Dhanis, « A propos de « Fátima et la critique », Nouvelle Revue Théologique, 84 (juin 1952), p. 589.

[iii] É. Dhanis, « Bij de verschijningen… », Streven, p. 197.

[iv] Ibid., p. 201.

[v] Voir Frère Michel de la Trinité, Toute la Vérité sur Fatima – La science et les faits, I, chap. I, « La solution moderniste du père Dhanis – Le secret contesté », p. 11-40.

[vi] L. G. da Fonseca, « Fátima e la critica », revista Brotéria, maio 1951, p. 505-542.

[vii] A. Veloso, « Ainda algumas confusões e erros sobre Fátima », revista Brotéria, fevereiro 1953, p. 170-191.

[viii] R. Laurentin, Cahiers Marials, janvier-février 1961, no 25, p. 29.

[ix] J. M. Alonso, « Histoire “ancienne” et histoire “nouvelle” de Fatima », dans Vraies et fausses apparitions dans l’Église [coll.], Paris, Lethielleux, 1973, p. 89-91.

[x] Documentação critica de Fátima, Fátima, Santuário de Fátima, com o patrocinio cientifico do Centro de estudos de história religiosa (CEHR), Faculdade de teologia da Universidade católica portuguesa (Lisbõa), 13 tomes en 5 vol., 1992-2011.

[xi] C. Barthas, Fátima 1917-1918. Histoire complète des apparitions et de leurs suites, p. 49.

[xii] J. M. Alonso, « Histoire ancienne… », p. 58-99.