From Karl Keating’s latest E-letter.
A few years ago the Vatican released the text of the Third Secret of Fatima. You may remember the cover story we ran in “This Rock.” The Third Secret concerns an attack on a “bishop dressed in white,” and the Vatican said the image referred to the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.
Some Traditionalist groups, which have acted as though Fatima were their own wholly-owned subsidiary, objected to the Vatican’s interpretation. They went so far as to claim that the Third Secret, as given by the Vatican, was bogus and that the real Third Secret has yet to be released.
Without quite saying it, they implied that the Holy Father and the prelates involved in the release of the Third Secret were liars inasmuch as they passed off as genuine a story that was quite false.
Now there is a new twist. Other Traditionalists are saying that the Third Secret, as given, is basically correct, but the “bishop dressed in white” is not to be understood as the Pope. That bishop really was Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Society of St. Pius X. (Lefebvre was excommunicated in 1988 when he consecrated four bishops without papal approval. He was not reconciled before his death.)
The people who are proposing this new interpretation say it explains why the Third Secret was kept secret for so long. Rome was embarrassed by Lefebvre’s opposition to Vatican II and would have felt in an awkward position if it became known that Fatima, the Pope’s favorite private revelation, gave an imprimatur to a prelate who was in opposition to the Pope.
Interesting idea, but it doesn’t wash.
The Third Secret was given long before Vatican II and long before Marcel Lefebvre was known to anyone outside of the African see that he administered. If this Traditionalist interpretation were correct, the Third Secret would have been considered innocuous–almost meaningless–in, say, 1960, and there would have been no reason for Pope John XXIII to have kept it secret after he was presented with the text.
But the Third Secret was kept secret for another forty years, which suggests that he and his successors understood it to have a clear meaning, one which, for whatever reasons, they thought should be withheld from public consumption.
I appreciate the Lefebvrists’ devotion to their leader, but they do their cause no favor by trying to shoehorn him into the Fatima revelation. In fact, they make their cause look a little ridiculous when they offer up their interpretation.
Still, I give them credit for cheekiness. I wonder whether someone at the other end of the spectrum will take a cue from them and will propose that the “bishop dressed in white” really was Joseph Bernardin.