My Debate Argument

I would like to provide to the general public the text that I had prepared for the debate. The event was a little late and so some things had to be shortened, unfortunately. Nevertheless, I present what I had prepared, with some slight editing for online format.


Αξιον εστίν ως αληθώς μακαρίζειν σε την Θεοτόκον,
την αειμακάριστον και παναμώμητον και μητέρα του Θεού ημών.
Την τιμιωτέραν των Χερουβείμ
και ενδοξοτέραν ασυγκρίτως των Σεραφείμ
την αδιαφθόρως Θεόν Λόγον τεκούσαν,
την όντως Θεοτόκον, Σε μεγαλύνομεν.

Good evening. Today’s debate is whether the third part of the secret of Fátima has been fully revealed. I am here to represent the position that the third part was revealed in the year 2000 and that we have not engaged in a serious study of it using the tools given to us by the Church’s great tradition. This is regrettable as there is much to consider both theologically and historically, especially given the fact that our knowledge and understanding of the history of Fátima is, at this time, subject to expansion and deepening. Having said this, I shall now outline briefly how the third part was written down as upon this history revolves much of today’s debate.

In 1943, Sr. Lúcia was ill. She might have died and taken the third part with her. Bishop José da Silva ordered her to write it down. She obeyed after experiencing anguish over obedience, not terror, that ended with an apparition of Our Lady in January, 1944. Previously, we knew the fact of this apparition. Its details, however, were not. This lacuna was filled in 2013 by the Carmelite Sisters of Coimbra. Their biography on Sr. Lúcia, Um caminho sob o olhar de Maria, revealed that Sister had written a private account of the apparition wherein Our Lady ordered Sr. Lúcia to “write what they command you, but not that which is given to you to understand of the meaning.”[1]

This command hints at a previously unknown understanding given to Sr. Lúcia. Historically, at what point in time was this understanding imparted? Theologically, what kind of impartation was it?[2] We do not at this time possess answers from Sister to these questions, but we do know that Our Lady had commanded Sister not to reveal the understanding. The booklet The Message of Fatima (TMF) that published the integral text of the third part provides an example of Sister’s obedience. In TMF’s recounting (28ff) of the April, 2000 meeting with Sr. Lúcia, the following words are attributed to Sister, “I wrote down what I saw; however it was not for me to interpret it, but for the Pope.” In response, Cardinal Ratzinger stated Sister “had received the vision but not its interpretation” (TMF 39). She said no such thing; Ratzinger missed Sister’s nuance.

The text in TMF contains the totality of the third part in visual terms. An interpretation, however, of these visuals is left to the Pope. Happily, Sister provided some explanation in her May, 1982 letter to Pope John Paul II which was partially published in TMF (8-9). Whether or not, however, this letter contains the totality of the “understanding” of the vision’s meaning is unclear at this time, though it certainly would not contradict it. Prophetic insight into events had been given to Sister. The Church, however, would see the prophecy unfold through time.

Sr. Lúcia’s integral text from 1944 describing the vision is now public, having been made so by the Holy See in the year 2000. We now know this text came after a previously unknown command of the Queen of Heaven from January, 1944. What remains for us now is to understand the ramifications of this command. It is, for example, impossible for a second text to have been written in 1944 with explanatory words of Our Lady. Moreover, it has not been proven that Our Lady rescinded her 1944 command prior to the text being read by John XXIII in 1959. Thus, the famous “Capovilla Envelope” theory circulating since November, 2006 is in doubt, as is the claim that this alleged envelope is supposedly being withheld by the Holy See on the grounds of “mental reservation.” In this light, continued requests for such a document might actually be hurting the cause of the traditional movement by casting doubt upon its credibility to say nothing of scholarship.

On a spiritual note, the situation herein outlined forces us to keep Our Lady’s message before us, offering a path leading to God, provided that we adhere to Faith, Hope & Charity. Instead of requesting the Holy See to release an alleged second text, efforts should be spent utilizing the tools that are available to us in our great tradition so as to delve deeper into the rich symbolism of the vision and any potential applications. Meanwhile, as more information becomes available to us on Fátima, our understanding will only be enhanced. Thank you for your attention.


First question: Was the text released by the Vatican in the year 2000 complete?
4-minute answers, 2-minute rebuttals.

I am presuming “the text” referenced in the question means the specific text of the vision dated January 3, 1944 and not the overall text of the booklet The Message of Fatima (TMF). If my understanding is correct, then I am forced to state that the question is flawed. In argument, one must pay attention to predicates not just subjects. The question is predicated upon a mischaracterization or undervaluing of the TMF booklet. Allow me to explain.

The booklet is, as we know, the official publication of the third part of the secret of Fátima by the Holy See. Not only does it provide Sr. Lúcia’s integral text from 1944, but the booklet also provides some important hermeneutical keys from Sister to understand the vision. Providing these keys is important because, as is evident from an isolated reading of the vision itself, there is nothing from Sr. Lúcia as to how to interpret the vision. It is a description-only document. No word or commentary from Sister in 1944 accompanied the description to help people understand what it meant. After the revelation from the Carmelites of Coimbra in 2013, we now know the reason for this omission: Our Lady herself ordered it so.[3] By itself, this fact would indicate a negative answer to our question: no, the 1944 text is not “complete.” Such is, thankfully, not the end of the story.

The lack of an explanation was apparent to the Holy See, hence why it provided interpretive keys from Sr. Lúcia to help the public to understand the vision, chief among these keys being her May, 1982 letter to Pope John Paul II.[4] Thus, the TMF booklet provides what was lacking with the 1944 text alone: some indication of the vision’s meaning. We can, therefore, see that the booklet approaches the subject in a two-pronged fashion: providing Sister’s integral text from 1944 as well as offering her own indications from later in life. Text and indications together form an inseparable unity and the 1944 text cannot now be read apart from this context.

One cannot say that the 1944 text alone is “complete” precisely because there never was any note from Sister in 1944 that explained the vision owing to Our Lady’s command. If, however, we consider “the text published in 2000” to be the entire TMF booklet, then one can make a reasonable argument that not only did we receive Sister’s integral text from 1944, but also some indications from her to understand this text’s meaning.[5] This fact is without prejudice to my earlier observation about whether Sr. Lúcia’s entire understanding is contained in her May, 1982 letter.

In short, given the facts, we must hold that the 1944 text released by the Vatican in the year 2000 is “complete” insofar as it was written in accordance with Our Lady’s express command in 1944 and supplemented later with various indications from Sister that facilitated the text. Together, they provide a clearer picture and we can only work with what we have. Thank you.

 Second Question: If yes, why does the document sound “incomplete?”
4-minute answers, 2-minute rebuttals.

First, I want to be clear on this question: it pertains to Sr. Lúcia’s text from 1944 sounding “incomplete.” We are not talking about the famous phrase about Portugal and the dogma of the Faith, which is characterized by some as “incomplete.” That said, the question is subjective. To one person, the document may not sound “incomplete” while to another perhaps it does.

For those who think it sounds incomplete, they might expect what Chris once called a “soundtrack” with explanatory words of Our Lady.[6] Now that we know about Our Lady’s command in 1944, we can certainly understand why there was no such “soundtrack” and the theory that the Vatican is withholding another document is in doubt. Whatever was the understanding given to Sr. Lúcia, she would have deliberately omitted it when she wrote down the vision in 1944.[7]

Consider as well that Sr. Lúcia’s May, 1982 letter to John Paul II clarified that the vision refers to Our Lady’s words in the second part of the secret.[8] Regretfully, this letter has been downplayed and its authenticity questioned or impugned. It is unfortunate because the letter explains much, up to and including being a tacit denial of a second, explanatory text. Sister wrote in 1982 that John Paul II was “anxious” to know the meaning of the vision. Why would he be “anxious” to know the meaning of the vision if there was already another text with explanatory words of Our Lady that he had already allegedly read?[9]

Moving along, there is another oversight that, I suspect, has influenced not a few people. In his book La verdad sobre el secreto de Fatima: Fatima sin mitos, Fr. Joaquín María Alonso observed that the secret is an organic whole.[10] During my collegiate studies, I read that St. Athanasius once said that “we distinguish [between Persons] to show how They are united.” His point is applicable here.[11] Understanding the organic unity is one of the important hermeneutical keys to the vision.

Here I must issue a charitable criticism: the organic unity of the secret has not been well-developed within the larger ethos of the traditional movement. For example, when the text published in 2000 said nothing explicit about an apostasy in the Church, some discredited the text based upon this fact. As the text did not satisfy a preconceived expectation, anything out of sync with that expectation is deemed false. Arguments are construed to preserve the expectation—now really a narrative—at all costs, even at the expense of common sense, logic and proper theological method.[12] For example, a general pattern has arisen whereby some have reduced the third part of the secret to a physical chastisement. Therefore, in order to relate Fátima to a crisis of faith (the prior expectation), they require another text with words of Our Lady that would either A) explain the vision in relation to this crisis or B) give an additional discourse specifically describing a crisis. Aquinas, summarizing the Church’s general tradition on prophecy, explains that physical things can represent spiritual things.[13] Pope Benedict, in 2010, understood this teaching and explained during his flight to Lisbon how both the physical and spiritual aspects are represented in the vision. It has been falsely claimed that Benedict was talking about a missing document when he was, in fact, talking about the vision published in 2000.

The text of the vision is much more profound than how it has been understood by some within the traditional movement. For whatever reason, the tools within our tradition appear not to have been employed in a critical study of the given text. I hope we might discuss further the matter of the text and apostasy during the Q&A following tonight’s debate. Thank you.

Third Question: If no, why is the Vatican claiming that it published everything?
4-minute answers, 2-minute rebuttals.

The Vatican is claiming that it published everything because it did publish everything it had that was germane to the matter. Moreover, it has not been demonstrated that the Holy See, in the year 2000, had knowledge of the distinction made by Our Lady in 1944. If the Holy See itself was unaware of this distinction, how can one fault the Holy See for its presentation and subsequent responses? As I said earlier, the Vatican recognized that the 1944 text had no explanation—hence the publication of the relevant text from Sister’s May, 1982 letter.

The Vatican is not hiding the alleged “Capovilla Envelope,” or, as it is also known, the “fourth secret” of Fátima. Such speculation began with the assertions of Dr. Solideo Paolini in 2006 who claimed that Capovilla verbally told him “Per l’appunto!” in reference to a second text after providing Paolini with a copy of his 1967 reserved note.[14] These items have been used as the proverbial “smoking gun.” Neglected, however, were the numerous other statements made by Capovilla over the course of 30-40 years, which, when examined closely, and in tandem with the 1967 reserved note, depict a different scenario than the second envelope theory.

In those statements, Capovilla’s infamous note was written not on Sister’s envelope, but on an apparently separate piece of paper that was attached to the envelope—in Italian: allegata alla busta. The 1967 reserved note has Paul VI speaking of the note as “on” (sul) the envelope. If a note was attached to the envelope, then it makes perfect sense to speak of the text of the note being “on” the envelope. Moreover, the note being “on” the envelope was already present in Capovilla’s other testimonies. Thus, the only “new” thing here with the 1967 reserved note was the novelty of the document itself! A careful comparative study demonstrates this fact.

Proof for the above is demonstrated in Bertone’s appearance on Porta a Porta. Capovilla’s note was clearly not on the envelope. What happened, then, to his note? The answer to this question is, I regret to say, still a lacuna in our knowledge in the history of the third part of the secret. I cannot help, however, but note that no one has asked a fundamental question. What policies are observed by the Vatican Archives in its classification/archiving of materials? Do they have a role to play in this matter?[15] Until these questions are answered, what will now be the defense of the “fourth secret” theory? To make acerbic remarks that refute nothing of these observations, or that Capovilla wrote two notes? Parce nobis, Domine!

On another note, I would like to ask why the advocates of the second-text theory have not treated Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s unequivocal denial to Yves Chiron of a second text. Published in April, 2016 on TradiNews, his denial is prior to the article of Dr. M. Hickson that sparked the Vatican’s press communique on May 21, 2016. Benedict’s letter was made in a moment of calm and without controversy. For all sakes and purposes being, however, this letter has been ignored, despite the fact that it has been available in English since June of last year. Its unequivocal denial of a second text rules out the “mental reservation” argument. What will the response here be, that Benedict has engaged in sheer malice?

In conclusion, insisting on a second envelope and text despite the facts and careful analyses could do harm to the credibility and scholarship of the traditional movement. I reiterate what I said earlier: we need to look at our great and noble tradition and make what reasonable conclusions that can be made with the materials available to us. Thank you.

Conclusion (3 minutes each).

In conclusion, we have heard a lot of back-and-forth this evening and seen much evidence that may be a lot to take in at once. I wish to reiterate, however, that the Carmelites’ biography completely and irrevocably changed the discussions and debates over the third part of the secret. Since the publication of the third part in the year 2000, many questions had been posed concerning some discrepancies. I would like to affirm that some of these questions or observations were good.  Those who, for example, pointed out that something seemed missing with the third part of the secret were correct. In the light of the Carmelites’ revelation, we now know why.

Unfortunately, the observation was associated with claims to the existence of an alleged second text about which the Holy See was said to be exercising a “mental reservation” to cover-up.[16] Such claims form part of what I called in my book the “hermeneutic of suspicion and conspiracy.” While this hermeneutic possessed some good questions over certain discrepancies, it sought to answer these questions from within the framework of viewing as suspect the Holy See. It placed in opposition the so-called “Fatimists” against the “Party-Line” of the Vatican. These two largely derogatory terms themselves were a further cause for division. At present, both sides, appear to be at a stand-still with occasional flare-ups occurring in accordance with some new development.

Such a state of affairs cannot continue. It is certainly not what Our Lady at Fátima wanted for her children. The intent, therefore, for my book is to begin to heal this division.[17] As I wrote in the introduction, my book is an attempt, not a definitive response to all of the questions. The Church has been martyred enough in the past several decades from division and arguments resulting from the spread of errors contrary to God and His doctrines and dogmas that help us go to Heaven. It is time for open and honest dialogue. The traditional movement is marked with good people who love the Church and are deeply concerned for her future in these troubled times. A dialogue will only happen, however, in a spirit of honesty, integrity and—above all else—true Christian caritas on both sides of the discussion. I hope by my presence here today, we can begin this process. Thank you.

[1] Carmelo de Santa Teresa – Coimbra, Um Caminho sob o Olhar de Maria: Biografia da Irmã Lúcia de Jesus e do Coração Imaculado, O.C.D. 1e. (Coimbra, Portugal: Edições Carmelo, 2013), 266.

[2] Cf. ST II-II, q.173, a.3.

[3] Thus, the notion of an alleged second text written in 1944 with explanatory words of Our Lady is defeated.

[4] Despite some attempts at questioning the authenticity of this letter, the Carmelites have provided more information about the circumstances surrounding it in their biography (Um caminho sob o olhar de Maria, 416-417). As to the Vatican’s own explanation of the interpretation, this is not a focus in the present discussion, though certainly of interest to many people.

[5] Note that my focus is here upon what Sr. Lúcia indicated. I distinguish this information from what the Holy See said about her indications. I leave open the question of the Holy See’s interpretation. We are free to do so as Cardinal Ratzinger stated during the June 26, 2000 press conference. He did not, let us note, leave us free to challenge the honesty and integrity of the TMF booklet.

[6]The Secret Still Hidden, p. 3.

[7] Moreover, as prophetic understanding can be communicated to the mind of a prophet in different ways, it is not a foregone conclusion that this understanding was imparted by words from Our Lady after the famous “etc.”.

[8] Perhaps people would have expected Sr. Lúcia, at least, to say something about the vision itself in the 1944 text? Well, she did not, but she did in her 1982 letter.

[9] While Chris does not envisage this question in The Secret Still Hidden, I understand that from his perspective, such is one of the reasons why he might think the 1982 letter to be inauthentic. This manner of proceeding, however, would be an example of “defending the narrative” at all costs that I will discuss momentarily. Moreover, Chris has written that the Vatican omitted this phrase and he questioned why. The reason certainly could not have been malicious as the phrase actually helps the Vatican by offering a tacit denial of a second, explanatory text.

[10] From his observation, we can reasonably state that Sr. Lúcia spoke of the one secret having three parts so as to make distinctions about each and speak accordingly. Chris knows this distinction because he notes it in his book (9), but what about others?

[11] Such is partly why I took great pains in my book to refer to the third part not as the “Third Secret” but as the “third part of the secret.” I wanted to emphasize, at the expense of convenience, the organic unity of the one secret.

[12] James Hanisch revealed that Fr. Gruner once asserted that Our Lady appeared twice to Sr. Lúcia—on January 2 and again on the 3, respectively (published posthumously in The Fatima Crusader). Did Our Lady forget something? Moreover, in this article, Hanisch says that the command from Our Lady is proof for a second text.

[13] Cf. ST I, q. 1, a.9.

[14] There is no doubt that Capovilla and Paolini communicated, but the real question is what was said? No independent proof has been provided by Paolini for his assertion. Is there an audio recording of this conversation? A video? If so, why have one, the other or both not been published? Paolini himself in Brazil in 2007 called upon the Holy See to publish everything. Why would Paolini himself withhold information if he had it? Perhaps Chris has come prepared tonight with this information for us? If so, why wait until now to reveal it?

[15] Moreover, Capovilla himself denied to Marco Tosatti, that the third part of the secret speaks of an apostasy in the Church. Thus, Capovilla—the star witness who supposedly proves that a second text exists with explanatory words of Our Lady—contradicts those who believe this alleged second text speaks about apostasy in the Church.

[16] I have tonight advocated the position that our knowledge and understanding of Fátima is subject to expansion and deepening. Our knowledge is incomplete. This fact alone should make us cautious against ways of proceeding that could later be a cause for personal embarrassment if not discrediting.

[17] This is why the terms “traditionalist,” “Fatimist,” etc. are not used in my book unless necessary.

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