Fátima and Apostasy: A Response to Michael Lewis

Several months ago, an elderly Fátima scholar was discussing with me the theology presented within Our Lady’s message at Fátima, making a distinction between “high” Fátima theology and “low” Fátima theology. In regard to current events within the Church—particularly those involving Pope Francis—I believe such a distinction can provide some instructive insight.

“Low” Fátima refers to general or practical concepts of Our Lady’s message such as praying the Rosary, making sacrifices, the Five First Saturdays devotion, etc. “High” Fátima refers more to the theological ramifications of the message, including Our Lady’s declaration concerning a specific girl suffering in Purgatory “until the end of the world,” the rich symbolism in the visions, as well as inferences from these symbols, the nature of chastisements, etc.

The distinction between “high” and “low” Fátima came to mind while I read an article on the web site Where Peter Is, appearing on April 24, 2018.[1] It was written by commentator Mike Lewis and entitled Urban Legends and Conspiracy Theories: A Hallmark of Papal Critics.[2] The article discussed Fátima in relation to the term “apostasy,” a frequently used term of late, relative to discussions of the Church’s grave crises. Lewis made the following observation: “While the term [apostasy] appears often in the claims and writings of the Fatima conspiracy theorists, the word appears neither in the Church-approved messages of Fatima or in any of the subsequent elocutions or statements by Sr. Lucia….”[3]

This seems to be correct. The word “apostasy” is not used either by Our Lady in 1917 or in subsequent statements from Sr. Lúcia (at least in her published writings). Lewis stops there, but does the word “apostasy” have to be used to describe the reality within the message of Fátima? Just as the word “Trinity” is not found in Holy Scripture, it does speak of the Trinity in fact. Are there, then, any indications that might demonstrate (directly or indirectly) apostasy within the message of Fátima?

In fact, there are.

Within Our Lady’s famous July 13, 1917 discourse at Fátima, there is the communication of the famous secret of Fátima and its three parts. In her third Memoir (1941), Sr. Lúcia revealed the first two: the vision of hell and, subsequently, the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the prediction of World War II and if, what Our Lady called, the “errors of Russia” were allowed to spread, various consequences of this upon the world and the Church. Most scholars consider these errors to be the atheism and materialism brought on by the system of Communism and their deleterious effects upon Faith. This analysis makes sense in the light of the passage in question as well as what time has shown us.

In the second part of the secret, Our Lady warned about the spread of the errors of Russia provoking wars, persecution, the annihilation of nations, and that the Holy Father will suffer much.[4] The history of the twentieth century clearly demonstrates this fact. So far, nothing about apostasy—or is there? One must consider Our Lady’s salient phrase at the end of the second part of the Secret: “In Portugal, the dogma of the faith shall always be preserved etc.”

This phrase remains subject to much debate.[5] One opinion holds that if Portugal will preserve the dogma of the Faith amidst such a tumultuous period of history, the dogma of the Faith will not be preserved elsewhere. If so, how exactly will this “non-preservation” of the Faith manifest? Will it manifest in one form or take on many different forms? Will it be sudden or gradual, wholesale or individual?

One can see the complexity of the matter at hand as some critical interpretations of Our Lady’s message at Fátima depend upon the answers to these questions. This is why the complex matters here expressed are proper to “high” Fátima theology. How, then, can we begin to address these questions? I believe it would be wise to look to our great Catholic tradition (theological, philosophical and historical) for guidance with respect to these more advanced matters on Fátima. Let us look at some considerations using logic and the facts of history.

One of the goals of Communism was global expansion. Pope Pius XI warned against Communism’s tactic of expansion by infiltration and co-opting of various structures—even ecclesiastical ones—in his 1937 Encyclical Divini Redemptoris. Thirty-five years later, Pope Paul VI himself identified that a revolutionary spirit (a trademark of Communism) was characteristic of the twentieth century. He said this four years after the infamous revolt against his Encyclical Humanæ Vitæ.

What would be the end result of a growing influence of Communism and its revolutionary spirit especially within Western society? The obvious answer would be to turn society toward Communism, with its inherent atheism and materialism. Both ideologies are diametrically opposed to the Catholic Faith, and only result in conflict. For those who already possess the Faith, the idea is to turn them from the Faith. This “turning” could manifest differently such as through the promotion of sin in society, heresy, schism, or—more to our focus—the total abandoning or repudiation of the Faith.[6]

The total abandoning or repudiation of the Faith is the very definition of apostasy. St. Thomas Aquinas explained in his Summa Theologiæ that apostasy “denotes a backsliding from God” which “may happen in various ways according to the different kinds of union between man and God.” He then elaborates upon three ways that a person can commit apostasy: 1) by abandoning religious life or [Holy] Orders; 2) by man “rebelling in his mind against the Divine commandments,” and 3) by withdrawing from the faith entirely (called “apostasy of perfidy”).[7]

Returning to Lewis’ contention concerning the term “apostasy,” it appears to be, at best, short-sighted, if not erroneous, because the actual word does not appear, as Lewis observed, in any of the available texts. Yet, when we look at the description of apostasy according to our Catholic tradition (which, one should note, is omitted by Lewis in his article), along with the available Fátima documentation and the historical record of the twentieth century itself, we see displayed a much different picture than what Lewis has drawn.

Within that documentation, we do find several references to Sr. Lúcia’s concerns about the Faith.[8] Here, I will provide one striking piece of information that was only just revealed to the public in October, 2013—a new apparition of Our Lady—that touches upon this matter.

In 1979, the revolt against the Church (and, by extension, the Faith) concerned Sr. Lúcia so much that Our Lady appeared to her on December 31 in order to comfort her. Our Lady said to Sr. Lúcia on this occasion:

God has heard your prayer and sent me to tell you that it is necessary to intensify your prayer and your work for the union of the Church, of the bishops with the Holy Father and of the priests with the bishops to lead the people of God on the paths of truth, faith, hope and love, united in Christ their Savior.[9]

As of 1979, if everything was fine regarding the issues specified here by Our Lady, why would God send her to earth in order to request the intensification of Sr. Lúcia’s prayer and work? Clearly, something was amiss and serious enough for such an extraordinary grace to be afforded to Sr. Lúcia. What was going on that troubled her so much? It was witnessing the effect of the spreading of Russia’s errors and their influence on people to revolt against the Faith and the Church. Her concern was such that she wrote, like St. Padre Pio, to Pope Paul VI to encourage him amidst the revolt.

An examination from the “high” Fátima theology perspective demonstrates that one can discern a warning against the danger of apostasy within Our Lady’s message even if the actual word is not used. Lewis’ desire to clarify some misconceptions about Fátima is noble and he makes some other Fátima-related observations in his article that are noteworthy. His one argument on apostasy, however, emanates from the perspective of a “low” Fátima theology, which provided a short-sighted vision of the message of Fátima unequal to the argument being made. As one sympathetic to Lewis’ desire to dispel myths and falsehoods among us, I respectfully and charitably encourage him to exercise caution before taking such a heavy-handed public stand on Fátima and its relation to apostasy.


[1] The writers for this web site are listed as Adam Rasmussen, Brian Killian, John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe, Daniel Amiri, Lillian Vogl, Mike Lewis, Paul Fahey, Pedro Gabriel and Pete Vere. I am not a subscriber to this web site and I only recognize one name on its list of contributors.

[2] There are four articles that discuss Fátima. The other three articles are written by Pedro Gabriel, a native of Portugal. Their titles are Reclaiming Fatima (May 13, 2018); Fatima’s Third Secret – Don’t Shoot Down the Pope (May 16, 2018); and Fatima and the War on Marriage (May 23, 2018).

[3] My response to Lewis shall focus solely upon the topic of Fátima in relation to apostasy. It is not my intention to address the debates about Pope Francis that are the raison d’etre of the Where Peter Is site.

[4] This is why it is perfectly intelligible in this context for Our Lady to comment (at the end of the second part of the secret) to three Portuguese children about the state of Portugal during such a sorry state of affairs.

[5] For years, the phrase had been thought to be the opening words of the third part, but evidence now exists which questions this interpretation. See chapter 9 of my book On the Third Part of the Secret of Fátima.

[6] As we are focusing upon the question of apostasy in the message of Fátima, we are not going to address the possibility of heresy within the message, though it is quite possible to do so (cf. Irmã Maria Lúcia de Jesus e do Coração Imaculado, Como vejo a mensagem. 2ed. [Fátima, Portugal: Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, 2007], 57).

[7] Consider as well the discussion of Pope St. John Paul II in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa (7-9). In speaking about a “dimming of hope” within Europe, the Holy Father wrote that as of 2003, the times seemed to be one of “bewilderment” with a “loss of Europe’s Christian memory and heritage” that is “accompanied by a kind of practical agnosticism and religious indifference” (emphases mine). In paragraph 9, John Paul II then sternly observed that “European culture gives the impression of ‘silent apostasy’ on the part of people who have all that they need and who live as if God does not exist” (emphases author’s).

This “silent apostasy” spoken of by the Holy Father did not suddenly appear out of nowhere. It is preceded by events of the twentieth century (and further back in time)—events that were broadly predicted by Our Lady at Fátima. I will even add that recent events in Ireland have now questioned whether we are dealing with a “silent” apostasy.

[8] The references are too many to point them out here and so I will instead refer the reader to the following references:

“Calls” from the Message of Fatima; Como vejo a mensagem (English: The Message of Fatima); Um caminho sob o olhar de Maria (English: A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary); Memórias e cartas de Irmã Lúcia.

[9] 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. 1ed. (Coimbra, Portugal: Edições Carmelo, 2013), 391.

Read this paper on Academia.edu!

2 thoughts on “Fátima and Apostasy: A Response to Michael Lewis

  1. Pingback: Urban Legends and Conspiracy Theories: A Hallmark of Papal Critics – Where Peter Is

  2. Pingback: Fátima and Apostasy: An Addendum | Kevin J. Symonds

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