When the Third and Fourth Memoirs of Sister Lúcia were written in 1941, Our Lady’s prophecies about the Second World War, Russia’s spreading its errors, and ultimately Russia’s conversion, very quickly attracted attention. Two prominent members of the hierarchy gave very different interpretations of these prophecies, which were influenced by the politics of their native countries. Cardinal Schuster of Milan saw the collaboration of Italian soldiers with the Germans against Russia as involving “the most beautiful and complete victory of Roman Catholicism over Bolshevism,” whereas Cardinal Hinsley of Westminster interpreted the defense of Russia, by Russian troops fighting against the Nazis, as “a heroic defense of their country by the Russian people."1 José Barreto, the Portuguese author presenting this historical background, introduced his analysis of the question of Russia’s conversion by mentioning the more recent traditionalist current within the Church, which, among the clergy and their lay following, was led by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre2 – and, aligned with them in questions concerning Fatima, by Father Nicholas Gruner and his Fatima Crusader, as well as by the French priest Abbé Georges de Nantes and his Contre-Réforme Catholique. José Barreto characterizes these groups as being anti-ecumenical and anti-Vatican Council II, which was related to one important concern: If Our Lady of Fatima spoke about the conversion of Russia, the interpretation of her words depends upon whether this conversion is understood as a return of the Russian Orthodox to the Catholic Church, or merely in a political sense as the abandonment of the errors of Communism, but while retaining Russian Orthodoxy as the official religion of the Russian State, the status it holds under Vladimir Putin. Archbishop Lefebvre’s analysis of the present crisis facing the Church centered around a more specific crisis within the priesthood, which he devoted the final decades of his life to address. Priests, he wrote, were forgetting the central duties of their priestly life, the celebration of Mass, and the administration of the Sacraments, replacing these with preaching as their primary mission.3 To fill this spiritual void resulting from an altering of their priestly vocation, they turned inevitably to political issues, even when not clearly identified as such, but presented instead as works of charity and social justice.4 This trend was not merely by accident but was related to a new ecclesiology inseparable from the orientation of the Second Vatican Council. The Council, in particular in its decree on the Church in the Modern World, made this new orientation – affecting priests, religious and laity alike – sufficiently clear. Its relation to the question of Fatima has been analyzed in detail by Brazilian Fatima scholar Antonio Borelli Machado. As Dr. Borelli Machado explained,5 Cardinal Ratzinger cited this new orientation at the press conference given in the Vatican at the time of the publication of the Third Secret of Fatima on June 26, 2000. If this new direction created a crisis in the priesthood, as Archbishop Lefebvre explained, it likewise occasioned a response from among the laity. When the Catholic nation of Chile succumbed to the election of the Communist Salvador Allende as president in 1970, it did so because the archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez, suggested to Chilean Catholics that they could vote for a Communist candidate. Thus the clergy’s involvement i n politics, which Archbishop Lefebvre was warning about, saw one of its clearest manifestations in this South American country. While these events were taking place, however, they brought a vigorous response from the traditional Catholic laity, led by the Chilean TFP, through the guidance of their international founder, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, and thoroughly documented in a work of 440 pages in the English translation, The Church of Silence in Chile.6 Considering this summary history of the Church in our times, we can see more clearly the significance of what is currently happening in Ukraine. The Ukrainian hierarchy led the Catholic world in requesting the consecration of Russia as asked for by Our Lady of Fatima. The temptation to interpret Our Lady of Fatima’s reference to the conversion of Russia in a personal and subjective manner, rather than as a return of the Russian Orthodox to the Catholic Church, reduces Our Lady’s promise for the triumph of Her Immaculate Heart to mere ecumenical dialogue and political diplomacy. But the war in Ukraine demonstrates that it is precisely this policy that has failed, and Russia, rather than converting, becomes even bolder and more aggressive. This present crisis inspired the Ukrainian bishops to take a different direction, petitioning Rome to consecrate Russia as Our Lady of Fatima had requested. For such a consecration is not a mere ecumenical gesture, but profoundly more. When the Pope and the bishops throughout the world consecrated Russia, a non-Catholic country – the majority of whose citizens do not fall under the direct jurisdiction of the Catholic Church – the hierarchy exercised what St. Robert Bellarmine taught was the indirect jurisdiction of the Catholic Church over temporal society. This moral authority of the Church over all of human society is unique to the Catholic Church alone and is a manifestation of the universal Kingship of Our Lord Himself. The conversion of Russia, therefore, represents a conversion of that nation to the Catholic Church, as Catholic traditionalists have consistently interpreted the promise of Our Lady of Fatima. And the recent consecration of Russia by the Catholic hierarchy is a first step in that direction. _______________________
1 This is analyzed in detail by Portuguese author José Barreto, who based his analysis on that of the American Jesuit historian Father Robert Graham in Civiltà Cattolica, vol. 132, 1981. Cf. José Barreto, “Edouard Dhanis, Fátima e a II Guerra Mundial,” Instituto de Ciências Sociais - Universidade de Lisboa, originally published in Brotéria, vol. 156, nº 1, January 2003, pp. 13-22.
2 Archbishop Lefebvre denied that he himself was the leader of the traditionalist movement worldwide, for he saw this reaction of Catholics as an expression of their own faith, not as a movement that he himself had organized. Mention of his leadership here refers only to the fact that, as an archbishop and founder of a priestly society, he emerged as the most prominent spokesman within the broader traditional Catholic reaction to the crisis in the Church.
3 Cf. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, “The Priest and the Present Crisis in the Church,” A Remnant Reprint, reprinted from The Remnant, June 1, 1972.
4 "The priest takes on a leading role in the world-wide revolution against institutions, against all structures, whether these be political, social, ecclesiastical, parochial or those based on the family. Nothing more remains. Communism has never found more effective agents than these priests.” Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ibid.
5 Antonio Borelli Machado, “Why Was the Third Secret of Fatima Not Released in 1960?,” Appendix to Fatima and the Third Secret: A Historical Examination Based on a Letter of Sister Lucia and the Carmelite Biography (Boonville, NY: Preserving Christian Publications, 2017), pp. 43-62. http://www.pcpbooks.net/docs/fatima-and-third-secret.pdf
Dr. Borelli Machado cites the following statement of Cardinal Ratzinger at the June 26, 2000 press conference: “In 1960, we were at the threshold of the Council, this great hope of being able to reach a new positive relationship between the world and the Church, and also to open a little the closed doors of Communism. The same was true also in the time of Pope Paul VI: we were still, so to speak, in the assimilation of the Council, with so many problems, that this text [the third Secret] would not have had its proper placement…” [p. 46]. Later in the interview Dr. Borelli Machado comments:
"Thus, instead of warning Catholics of the Chastisement announced by Our Lady of Fatima, the Second Vatican Council proposed establishing good relations between the Church and the world, sponsoring the advent of an era of joy and hope
for humanity in our day.
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6 The Chilean Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, The Church of Silence in Chile: The TFP Proclaims the Whole Truth (New Rochelle & Cleveland: Lumen Mariae Publications, 1976). Cardinal Silva Henríquez’s approval of Catholics voting for Communists is documented on pages 103-106.