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In Defense of the World Apostolate of Fatima

July 5, AD2015

Frank - Our Lady at Night

The World Apostolate of Fatima, USA Inc. recently published a biography of Sr. Lúcia—the last surviving visionary of Fátima (†2005)—entitled A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary (see my review here). The book itself was a translation of a Portuguese biography entitled Um Caminho Sob o Olhar de Maria and was published in 2013 by the Carmelite Sisters of Coimbra, Portugal. This translation was critiqued recently, and I would like to respond to the critique as a whole.

The critique makes two particular assertions for our consideration here. The first is an observation and the second is an erroneous claim. The observation concerns the translation of a key text within the new biography of Sr. Lúcia. The claim is that the publisher is “hiding” the “real” text. Before I respond, let me first briefly explain the matter at hand.

Background:

Back in February, I wrote an article entitled Is There a “Fourth Secret” of Fatima. In this article, I discussed the apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima within the context of some theories surrounding her message and the publication of a new biography of Sr. Lúcia. The principle theory identified in the article is what I labeled the “two-text” theory.[i] Those who subscribe to this theory were identified as “two-text theorists.”

After the publication of the Portuguese text of Um Caminho Sob o Olhar de Maria, the World Apostolate of Fatima, USA Inc. (WAF-USA) was given the rights from the Coimbra convent to publish the book in English translation. Unfortunately, the existence of the Portuguese biography was not announced too well in the English-speaking world.

The above changed when an Italian journalist learned of the biography and wrote about it in August, 2014. Said journalist wrote an article in which he discussed a revelatory piece of information from chapter 13 of the biography. This article was read and translated from Italian into English and published.[ii]

The new “revelation” in the biography is an indication that the third part of the secret of Fátima was comprised of what I will here call “visual” and “interpretative” components. The “visual” component was a supernatural vision and the “interpretative” one appears to be an as yet unknown explanation of the vision (it is presumed to have been given by Our Lady).

The biography states that the Virgin Mary appeared to Sr. Lúcia on January 3, 1944. This was after Sister had been ordered by her religious superiors to write down the third part of the secret. Sister was torn over obedience. Our Lady had said in 1917 not to tell the secret to anyone (except her cousin Francisco), but Sister’s religious superiors were ordering the contrary. Our Lady appeared to Sr. Lúcia in 1944 and said, “….be at peace and write what they command you, not, however, what is given to you to understand of its significance.”[iii]

In the above quotation, we see that Our Lady made the distinction between the “visual” and the “interpretative” components. She told Lúcia to write down what she saw, i.e. the “vision,” but not what she was given to understand of its meaning.[iv]

This was truly a revelation because for years it was debated whether or not there were words of Our Lady that explained the vision (which was published in the year 2000). Having the confirmation in Sr. Lúcia’s own handwriting that an interpretation did, in fact, exist—but which was not intended by Our Lady in 1944 for public consumption—was as valuable as it was remarkable. As remarkable as it is, the effort from two-text theorists has been rejuvenated.[v]

The “Observation”:

The recent critique makes the observation that there was a mistranslation of the above key text. On this simple point, I agree that the text was mistranslated. The WAF-USA’s translation is, “Be at peace and write what they order you, but do not give your opinion of its meaning.” A more literal rendering of the Portuguese text is what I gave above, namely, “….be at peace and write what they command you, not, however, what is given to you to understand of its significance.”

The mistranslation is particularly questionable because it makes the discourse of Our Lady to be about Sister’s opinion as opposed to an actual interpretation given to her by heaven. This mistranslation lends itself to the belief of two-text theorists that there is a cover-up of the third part of the secret of Fátima. This is why the critique in question states that WAF-USA is trying to “hide” something.

The Erroneous Claim:

While it is true that an error was made in translation, does it follow that there was a mistranslation with means to “hide” the truth? Just how did the text in question come to be mistranslated? I am in a position to address this matter and shall do so presently. WAF-USA has issued its own response. To shed further light, I would like to share my own personal story with WAF-USA’s roll-out of A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary.

For research purposes, I had contacted WAF-USA in February of this year (2015). I requested of the National Coordinator of WAF-USA, to read the Apostolate’s translation of chapter 13. To make a long story short, I was directed to the editor of the biography translation. We spoke at some length between phone and E-mail correspondence beginning on February 27. As the correspondence developed, I asked if it would be possible to read the entire book in advance to write a review for Catholic Stand.

At first, I was given permission to read chapter 13 only.[vi] This was given on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. This was the same day that the book had gone to the printer. By March 12, I had read the chapter and noted the above discussed mistranslation. I pointed it out to the editor and this was submitted to WAF-USA officials.

Simply stated, the answer that I received was that it was now very late in the editorial process; it was too late to make any changes. According to a notice by the Carmelite Sisters, the publishing date was slated for March 22, but this ended up being delayed until April 13. Those familiar with the publishing world know that a printing company needs a final copy in order to print. Once the final seal of approval is given, any further changes incur a fee.

Based on the above, WAF-USA was going to go with the translation “as is” but with the caveat that there was going to be a second edition. Moreover, if I understood correctly what I was told, there were already plans for a second edition even before I pointed out the error on March 12.

In sharing the above, I make no excuses for WAF-USA, nor am I trying to throw it under the bus. I share the story because the above-mentioned critique assigns a negative characterization to the intentions of WAF-USA. This is inaccurate simply because the Apostolate did not know of the mistranslation until it was essentially too late. They had every intention of correcting this error in the second edition.

Moreover, one should ask a very important question: was WAF-USA contacted prior to the publication of the critique? Consider also that for the last several months, I myself have made 3-4 attempts to contact the author of the critique, including once on E-mail. In the times that I called, message was left with a gentleman whose name escapes me. The past two calls in particular were to discuss important matters related to recent remarks on Fátima made by the critique’s author. None of my communications have received a response, written or verbal.

Conclusion:

I think that everything written above boils down to people needing to be more careful and diligent. All of us are duty-bound to inform ourselves. Moreover, people must consider that we are dealing with the simple reality of the messiness that is humanity and its being prone to making mistakes.

It is a fact that Um Caminho Sob o Olhar de Maria largely went unnoticed in the English-speaking world. This changed when the Italian journalist’s August 2014 article was publicized in that world. One can express a wish or desire for a better roll-out of the biography, but the fact is that we are dealing with some unique realities. First, there is the simple fact of working with cloistered nuns. Second, said book is in a foreign language and culture that, in my experience, is not too well understood in the English-speaking world.

For their part, all the Carmelite Sisters wanted was to tell the world of the beautiful soul of their fellow sister in religion, Lúcia of Fátima. Their primary goal is to show people a beautiful pathway to God through Mary as reflected in the life of Sr. Lúcia. Their aim is the interior life and Carmelite religious observance, not marketing strategies. They left the latter to the competency of others. This focus on the spiritual as opposed to the temporal has always been a terribly misunderstood, or at least little-appreciated, aspect of the history of Fátima and it is time that we give it its due. Let us be mindful of the fact that God uses poor instruments and that God’s power is made perfect in infirmity (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Having been privy to a part of the roll-out of A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary with the World Apostolate of Fatima, I can state that the folks at the Apostolate that I have met are honest and simple people who just want to serve God and Our Lady. Moreover, I understand that the Apostolate’s staff is very small and limited and that this affected the roll-out. Mistakes were made, but I am sure that any questions posed to the Apostolate are received and answered charitably.

Finally, let us also keep everything in proper perspective. We are discussing a sentence from a book wherein it is explicitly indicated by the Virgin Mary herself that at least as of January 3, 1944, certain information was not to be given to the public. Unless the Will of God ordained it to be communicated at a later time—and irrefutable evidence of this fact is provided to the public—one might just be arguing the Will of God and this can only displease the Almighty. This is the “state of the question,” all else notwithstanding.

Update: 8-31-15 A.D.:
I have updated Endnote iv to reflect more carefully the current terms of the debate on Fátima and the status quaestionis of the third part of the secret and Sr. Lúcia’s understanding thereof.


Notes:

[i] The theory states that the third part of the secret of Fátima has two parts. The first was revealed in the year 2000 by the Holy See, but, says the theory, it is allegedly covering up another text purported to be from Sr. Lúcia.

[ii] Fatima Crusader (Fall 2014, Issue 110, pages 22-26).

[iii] I am here using my own translation of the Portuguese.

[iv] This phrase is largely being interpreted to mean that there was some understanding of the vision given to Sr. Lúcia at an unspecified point in time. “Two-texts” theorists are interpreting the meaning given to Sr. Lúcia as continuing the debated phrase, “In Portugal, the dogma of the faith shall always be preserved…” from July, 1917. Here, Sister broke off the narration with a simple “etc.” hence the debate over whether there were more words of Our Lady. That there were more words of Our Lady is not necessarily a foregone conclusion at this time and is still a matter of debate.

[v] The critique against WAF-USA accuses the Apostolate of mistranslating the Portuguese text in the key area already discussed. The reader is reminded of the salient observation made in endnote 3 of my article Is There a “Fourth Secret” of Fatima? Though we respectfully disagree on some finer points, I do respect the professional accomplishments of this particular writer.

[vi] I later received the entire book in PDF format on March 24 for the purpose of my review.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Kevin Symonds was born and raised in Massachusetts. He attended Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio where he obtained his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Theology with emphasis in the classical languages. He has published Internet and magazine articles and resides in Texas. His first book, "Refractions of Light: 201 Answers on Apparitions, Visions and the Catholic Church" is now available at Amazon.

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  • Carolyn C

    Of Course it was Chapter 13.

  • John Preiss

    Good work, Kevin

  • Chris Ferrara

    I am the author of the critique you mention. I made no claim that the WAF is “hiding” the real text of the Third Secret. I am quite sure they don’t have it. That coverup, as Antonio Socci notes, took place in the Vatican.

    What WAF has hidden with its false English translation are the real words of Lady in the Portuguese edition of the new biography, as I say here: http://fatima.org/perspectives/ts/perspective749.asp

    Nevertheless, I find it odd that Mr. Carollo, in his “defense” of the mistranslation–which was no defense at all–fails to mention any of the facts you bring to light here: i.e., that WAF KNEW the translation was false but “went with it” anyway. The excuse that text corrections at the final stage involve a fee is ludicrous. You don’t publish a false translation of the words of the Mother of God because you don’t want to pay a fee for correcting the proof copy before printing. Please!

    Once again, a defender of WAF offers a “defense” that only makes WAF’s position worse.

    Finally, the idea that Our Lady never wanted her explanation of what the vision means to be published is laughable: “Here is a vision, but never tell anyone what it means.” Surely you can’t be serious.

    • sam

      Chris, I know this post is 2 months old, so forgive me. I have a question and this is off topic. Would you know exactly what Our Lady of Fatima meant when She stated that the ‘errors of Russia’ would spread throughout the world if the consecration did not happen? What exactly are these errors? And why didn’t Our Lady just come out and say that ‘communism’ would be the errors of Russia? Any advice/links would be great.
      thanks

  • a French Chef

    This is the sort of thing that is driving me from the Church. This is what the devoted choose to waste their time on? More angels on the head of a pin crap.

    • One does himself a disservice in indicating his lack of interest by repeating a stale, snide remark. No one in the history of western thought ever pondered, ‘How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?’ or thought that ‘the earth is flat’. Those are just snide remarks. By the way, who could be possibly be interested in the Open in Scotland? It’s just cow pasture pool.

    • a French Chef

      Please continue to waste resources (human and otherwise) on pointless ponderous nothing. Not one soul is saved by esoteric mental masturbation. No one parish is enriched, not one baptism secured. You dismissive prig – you may think this is a snide stale remark and the church is losing ground – but hey, you got the ribbon color correct in one of your books. Good for you.

    • Kevin Symonds

      a French Chef,
      If you are going to comment about an article concerning the message of Our Lady of Fatima, please stick to the topic and do not offend the Blessed Virgin with such remarks.
      Thank you for your cooperation.

    • a French Chef

      Frivolous castriti

    • Kevin Symonds

      I have not been rude with you. Please do not be rude with me. Remember that unconditional love deserves a reward.

  • Shawn Albert

    Just wondering if the standards you attempting to hold Chistopher Ferrara to are the same standards you hold WAF to? People can debate all they want if WAF mistranslated on purpose or not until the cows come home, but there is absolutely no way WAF can be held innocent of intentionally lying abourt the Fatima message. For example WAF (and others) claim that Sister Lucy said that the Consecration of Russia has been done. However, on the very occasion of the 1984 consecration, the Pope, John Paul II,used these words:

    “In a special way we entrust and consecrate to you those individuals
    and nations which particularly need to be thus entrusted and consecrated.”

    “Enlighten especially the peoples whose consecration and entrustment
    by us you are awaiting.”

    This can be found by looking up in the EWTN library for the words of the various consecrations that have taken place over the years. The words of the 1884 conscecration have been available from “Losservatore Romano” since 1984, and from EWTN since 1998.

    So, tell me, what could “you” (meaning the Blessed Virgin Mary) possibly be “awaiting” MMMmmm….. only a willfully blind fool can’t answer that question.

    Sister Lucy said the consecration was done, we keep being told over and over. There are even typewritten/word processor “documents” with Sister Lucy’s signature which we are told came from her that claim it was done.

    Interesting that she never claimed it was done until 1989, and in that 5 years is on record stating that it WAS NOT done in 1984.

    Also, isn’t it a bit strange that nowhere is Sister Lucy ever recorded on tape actually saying it was done. Every single time it is a 2nd or 3rd hand reports of what she is alleged to have said.

    I don’t care what people CLAIM Sister Lucy said. I want absolute incontrovertible proof that she did say. Show me the tape where she states it was done. Then explain how we are supposed to ignore the Pope’s own publicly recorded statement on the very occasion of the 1984 “consecration”

    And just to solve the controversy, why didn’t John Paul II order Sister Lucy to stand up in front of the cameras at Jacinta and Francisco’s beatification, and tell the world that it was done? Would have been so easy, controversy solved. But Nooooo.

    Do you really think Sister Lucy would have said the consecration had been done in 1984? If so, then why wasn’t she ordered in front of the cameras to say so?

    Believe what you want. I choose to believe the stated on record (and uncontested though widely ignored) words of Pope John Paul II as opposed to highly contested “words of Sister Lucy”

    As a footnote, Louis Kaczmarek wrote a book copyright 1986 titled “The Wonders She Performs” in which he makes references to the 1984 consecration, but he never states in that book that it was done. And Kaczmarek was NOT a Father Gruner fan.

    Or maybe the Blue Army before it surrendered and became WAF, still had some balls left.

  • Michael

    Just wondering if you are aware of this that surfaced in 2010. There are photographic images of the original in her handwriting, with what looks like a thumbprint on the page. It corresponds to the description of those who have seen it (I.E. a single page, about 20-25 lines, etc.:

    Now I will reveal the third part of the secret;
    This part is the apostasy in the Church! (1)
    Our Lady showed us a vision of someone who I describe as the ‘Pope’, standing in front of a praising multitude.
    But there was a difference with a real Pope, the evil
    look, this one had eyes of evil. (2)
    Then after a few moments we saw the same Pope entering
    a church, but this church was like the church of hell, there is no way to describe the ugliness of this place, it seemed like a fortress made of gray cement, with broken angles and windows like eyes, there was a beak on top of the building. (3)
    We then looked up at Our Lady who said to us:
    you have seen the apostasy in the Church, this message can be opened by The Holy Father, but must be announced after Pius XII and before 1960. (4)
    During the kingdom of John Paul II the cornerstone from Peter’s tomb must be removed and transferred to Fátima.
    Because the Dogma of faith is not preserved in Rome, her
    authority will be removed and given to Portugal. (5)
    The cathedral of Rome must be destroyed and a new one built in Fátima. (6)
    If 69 weeks after this command is announced Rome continues it’s abomination, the city will be destroyed. (7)
    Our Lady told us this is written, Daniel 9 24-25 and Mathew 21 42-44. (8)

    The church described is the basilica of the Holy Family in Fatima. John Paul 2 indeed sent a fragment from St Peter’s tomb. You can find the image on several questionable sites, but its a fascinating story nonetheless

    • Harry Flynn

      That’s bunk.

    • Michael

      I’m not sure if that’s the start of a conversation or its end…anyway, I’m happy to believe that it’s bunk, but to date nobody is addressing this. I won’t give a link to any web sites, but the document really is worth looking at. If it’s fake it is extremely well executed. The handwriting is perfect, and the letter is exactly as it was described by those who saw the third secret.
      I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, but there has been an incredible amount of mishandling of this issue by the Vatican, including the final secret that they released. Anyone who has followed this story was left baffled by what they released – yet compelled by faith to acknowledge that the matter is settled. It is made no easier by the clear evidence (see the Synod of 2014) that there is a cabal in the Vatican attempting to derail anything doctrinal.
      I am not wedded at all to the notion that it is real, but I am also very uncomfortable with the elephant in the room, and many devout Catholics are obedient to the point that they ignore its existence.
      Thanks for your eloquence.

    • Harry Flynn

      Tell me, Michael, who said it was about 25 lines?

    • Michael

      I believe Bishop John Venancio. Cardinal Ottaviani had also stated that it was hand written on a single sheet of paper.

    • Harry Flynn

      Michael,
      Venancio said no such thing. Moreover, where did Ottaviani make this statement?

    • Michael

      Okay, well Venancio is quoted many places. Ottaviani said it at a press conference in 1967. Maybe you have information no one else has….?
      I have to say that the case for this is made within context as well. Are you familiar with Our Lady of Good Success, and Aikita, Japan? They make the same assertion, though leave out the word “apostasy”

    • Harry Flynn

      Michael, the only information I possess is already available for public consumption.

      Venancio said no such thing. Neither did Ottaviani give a press conference in 1967. On February 11, 1967, he was at a formal function (celebration) at the Antonianum in Rome wherein he gave an allocution on Fatima.

      During his allocution, Ottaviani said the third part of the secret was written on a piece of paper. That’s all he said.

      In 2007, Cardinal Bertone went on an Italian TV program called “Porta a Porta” and revealed for the first time the text of the third secret on camera for an audience. The clips on YouTube.* Notice that Bertone pulls out a single sheet of paper folded twice containing Sister Lucia’s text.
      Thus, Ottaviani’s statement in 1967 is upheld. All that Bishop Venancio made a comment on was his measurements of the document that he measured through an envelope, may I add. Apparently, he did not know (or at least did not state) that the paper was folded.

      *When on YouTube, type in “Cardinal Bertone, Porta a Porta” and find the video from user “MMBetania.”

    • Michael

      That all sounds correct. So no irrefutable proof either way, really. But I am not a fan of conspiracies, and I bring this up NOT because I have that as my agenda but because what’s obvious about this is the BUNK that is rarely acknowledged and gives credence to such ideas:

      That an atmosphere of clerical apostasy is rampant in the clergy (see Ireland and Germany, for two easy examples) IS bunk!

      That the Holy Father is seemingly (or can be “spun” as) embracing the world governance aspirations of an organization as questionable as the UN IS bunk!

      That Traditionalist Catholics are marginalized by progressivist priests, bishops and laity IS bunk!

      That in my own parish I must fight rebellious activism in the form of pastors and parishioners who make it nearly impossible to raise four children within the Faith IS bunk!

      The rampant abuses of the liturgy ARE bunk!

      That Tradition-hating organs can Call themselves “Catholic” (I.E the National Catholic Reporter) but Tradition-minded organizations (i.e. Michael Vorris) are forbidden IS bunk!

      That I could keep at this for days with examples IS bunk.

      The reason that this issue fascinates me is precisely because of the marginalization of so many of us not only by society but so often by the very Faith home that we treasure. We are sold out so often by our hierarchy! It is impossible lately to say we can trust very many of them. That is a tremendous crisis and this…document…or whatever it actually is…very clearly expresses what is happening for so many of us who ask for nothing more than to be able to pray within the Church of the ages. That is why it is worth discussing…..

    • Harry Flynn

      I disagree, Michael. This 2010 “version” of the alleged third part of the secret bases itself upon a misconception of the actual text that Sister wrote in January, 1944.

      What happened was, the “25-27 lines” remark came from Frere Michel in his 3-volume book series “The Whole Truth About Fatima.” It was an opinion, not based on having seen the document.

      Even if Bishop Venancio told Frere Michel that it was 25-27 lines, it is obvious that he was mistaken. Venancio never opened the envelope and thus did not know the paper inside was folded. If he did speculate on the lines to Frere Michel, it was based upon not knowing this fact.

      Thus, anyone claiming to possess a text of 25-27 lines is clearly lying or, at best, in possession of a forgery.
      The evidence cannot be disputed.

    • Michael

      You don’t present evidence so much as question the credibility of a witness. I’m not sure that your case is very strong. …As I say that the hierarchy has outdone themselves bringing their credibility into question is at the forefront of paying any interest in the matter at all. I remain unconvinced either way.

    • Harry Flynn

      The evidence is in Frere Michel’s book. Read the text in question and tell me what it says. If you would like, I will scan the page and send it to you on E-mail.

      It truly comes down to a simple misunderstanding of Frere Michel’s sentence.

    • Michael

      Harry, please see muy response to Kevin Symonds below.
      God bless.

    • Kevin Symonds

      Michael, Flynn did not question the credibility of a witness. He questioned people’s understanding of said witness.

    • Michael

      Right. I’m having very little success making the point intended. My fault, so let me try again. The Third Secret is, to my mind emblematic of the rift within the Church that we see now. By the time they released it, why would any of us believe them? Anyone with eyes to see has to be questioning the credibility of anything coming from Rome, and, paradoxically, the more so the more closely one holds to Catholic doctrine.
      Put this another way: is it possible that to be a Tridentine Catholic is now heresy? That is to say, if you stopped studying the Faith after Trent and lived that catechesis alone, should you not still be in God’s grace (and that’s really all that should matter…), and yet what has that Faith to do with the one currently being reconfigured in Rome?
      How can we trust these men?

    • Harry Flynn

      Michael, your original post was about a forgery from 2010. I responded to that and keep my discussion to that. If you wish to discuss anything else other than the forgery, then we have no business.

    • Michael

      Yes: straining a gnat and swallowing a camel. I understand perfectly

    • Harry Flynn

      If you think so poorly about your original post & question, Michael, then why should I?

      We have no further business. Peace to you.

  • Woodwind Song

    Thank you for this! God bless you!

  • Guy McClung

    This is so clear-many thanks, Kevin. Guy McClung, San Antonio