The Modernist Deconstruction of Fatima
For, as we have seen, everything in their system is explained by inner impulses or necessities. (Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, 21)
Absolutely bedrock to all popular devotion to Our Lady of Fatima is the simple, and absolutely accurate, belief that Our Lady actually came to Fatima in 1917. Two persons (Lucia and Jacinta) both saw her and heard her words. One person (Francisco) saw her, but did not hear her words. Others saw or heard various things that indicated her presence. The experience (what God allowed for those present to experience) did indeed differ for various individuals. But over and above all these variations is the fact, absolutely foundational to popular devotion and belief in Fatima,that Our Lady was there. She was there not just in some ubiquitous fashion as she is in the hearts of all those who have devotion to her. And she was present in a way over and above any unique grace or impulse present in the hearts and minds of individual believers. She was there, in Person – right above that particular, small holmoak.
Pope Benedict XVI does not believe this.
In a Papal press conference (it was scripted – the interviewer was Fr. Lombardi) on the flight to Fatima, the Pope had the following to say about the Fatima Apparitions:
"In 2000, in my presentation, I said that an apparition – a supernatural impulse which does not come purely from a person’s imagination but really from the Virgin Mary, from the supernatural – that such an impulse enters into a subject and is expressed according to the capacities of that subject. The subject is determined by his or her historical, personal, temperamental conditions, and so translates the great supernatural impulse into his or her own capabilities for seeing, imagining, expressing; yet these expressions, shaped by the subject, conceal a content which is greater, which goes deeper, and only in the course of history can we see the full depth, which was – let us say - 'clothed' in this vision that was accessible to specific individuals."
This interpretation – that the visions of Fatima – do not deal in any way with exterior perceptions of the senses, but rather with an interior impulse which is then translated into imaginative forms of seeing is simply a kind of repetition of what then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in the year 2000 in his theological interpretation of the publication of what the Vatican alleged to be the full contents of the Third Secret:
"In these reflections we have sought so far to identify the theological status of private revelations. Before undertaking an interpretation of the message of Fatima, we must still attempt briefly to offer some clarification of their anthropological (psychological) character. In this field, theological anthropology distinguishes three forms of perception or 'vision': vision with the senses, and hence exterior bodily perception, interior perception, and spiritual vision (visio sensibilis - imaginativa - intellectualis). It is clear that in the visions of Lourdes, Fatima and other places it is not a question of normal exterior perception of the senses: the images and forms which are seen are not located spatially, as is the case for example with a tree or a house… It is also clear that it is not a matter of a 'vision' in the mind, without images, as occurs at the higher levels of mysticism. Therefore we are dealing with the middle category, interior perception. For the visionary, this perception certainly has the force of a presence, equivalent for that person to an external manifestation to the senses. Interior vision does not mean fantasy, which would be no more than an expression of the subjective imagination. It means rather that the soul is touched by something real, even if beyond the senses. It is rendered capable of seeing that which is beyond the senses, that which cannot be seen—seeing by means of the 'interior senses'. It involves true 'objects', which touch the soul, even if these 'objects' do not belong to our habitual sensory world."
Pope Benedict XVI flatly denies that the apparitions of Our Lady in any way involved phenomena which were perceived exterior to the seers themselves. The “visions” were derived totally from interior impulses which were then translated by the seer’s mind and imagination, dependent upon his or her own “historical, personal, and temperamental conditions,” into an interior vision which has a “force of presence” so strong to him or her that it becomes “equivalent for that person to an external manifestation to the senses.”
It is important to realize that what we are dealing here is not an across-the-board denial of the supernatural origin of these apparitions. Benedict believes the impulses to have been of supernatural origin. Nor does he deny that there is genuine faith present in the Fatima visions. The Pope in fact states, “For us, Fatima is a sign of the presence of faith…” Rather, what the Pope is denying is the objectivity of the visions. Any objects that were present were totally interior, and not exterior. In other words, Our Lady was not out there, above that particular holmoak. Her only unique presence at Fatima was to be found within the seers themselves.
This deconstruction of the objective reality of the Apparitions of Fatima also reaches to the actual Message of Fatima. In his interview en route to Fatima, Pope Benedict also said the following:
"The important thing is that the message, the response of Fatima, in substance is not directed to particular devotions, but precisely to the fundamental response, that is, to ongoing conversion, penance, prayer, and the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity."
These words could not be more false. It is certainly true that the Message of Fatima is a call to prayer, penance, and the theological virtues. But the specific substance of the Message of Fatima, a specificity without which it would cease to be the Message of Fatima, are the particular devotions Our Lady requests and demands.
In the July Apparition, and after the vision of Hell, Our Lady said:
"You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart."
In other words, this particular devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the substantive way by which God wishes to lead people to penance, conversion, and all the rest. Our Lady said to Lucia, “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.” Our Lady also says:
To prevent this [WWII and the evils enumerated below], I shall come to ask for the consecration to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays, If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.”
And, of course, there is the rosary. In the very first Apparition she states, “Pray the Rosary every day in order to obtain peace for the world;" she repeats this request in every Apparition; and in the final Apparition on October 13, she simply identifies herself as Our Lady of the Rosary.
Therefore, Pope Benedict’s statement that the message of Fatima “in substance is not directed to particular devotions” is an absolute falsification. Hundreds of millions of people died violent deaths in the 20th century precisely because the particular devotions of Fatima were not substantive enough to Catholics. What is more, the invasion of the Church by the “errors of Russia” and of Modernism (the “fellow-traveler” of Communism), which have caused the spiritual death of untold millions (especially children) through loss of the Faith, is the direct fruit of this selfsame failure to live the specific devotions of the Message of Fatima.
In my own conversion story, I mentioned that I started praying the rosary before I converted. This was accompanied by a growing love of Our Lady of Fatima which was generated by reading William Thomas Walsh’s wonderful little book Our Lady of Fatima. I am convinced that it was this attraction and love for Our Lady, and the praying of the rosary, which softened my heart sufficiently for God’s grace to be able to gain access to my heart and mind in order ”that I might see.” The specific devotions and prayers of Fatima are a way of spiritual childhood offered to a mankind grown old and hardened in false sophistication, pseudo-intelligence, and pseudo-science. It is this Gift which is rejected in the words of Joseph Ratzinger.
On May 13, 2010, approximately 500,000 pilgrims gathered in Fatima with Pope Benedict XVI. We may presume that virtually all were there because they believed Our Lady actually came to Fatima in 1917, and offered a specific path for mankind to return to God. Their Pope does not believe. And in his disbelief lies the present and future path to our chastisement.
How the Modernist Mind Works
In order to see how all of this works – how those supernatural realities which the healthy Catholic mind and heart believe to be objective in the fullest sense of the word are translated into solelely interior phenomena – we must first understand something of the Modernist mind-set, and of how it effects to the redefinition and transformation of both the Catholic faith in general, and also the specific philosophical, theological, and dogmatically-used terms which are integral to this faith.
Pope St. Pius X, in his encyclical (On Modernism>, roots the entire Modernist enterprise in Agnosticism. We tend to use the word “agnosticism” to define the position of someone who rejects belief in God because he cannot prove or know that God exists. This is not how Pius X uses the term. The Modernist, in fact, often holds to a very strong belief in God despite the fact that, in accord with the definition of that term as employed by Pius X, he is very much an Agnostic. In fact, as we shall see, and strange as it may seem, it is Agnosticism which is the guardian and protector of the faith of the Modernist.
The Agnosticism of the Modernist is the direct fruit of the surrender and subjection of faith to modern science. For hundreds of years science has been pounding away at the tenets of Christian belief. We are, of course, most familiar with its assaults upon Holy Scripture, and upon those natural and historical statements in scripture of which most Christians are now embarrassed – such things as the six-day creation account, Noah’s flood, the descriptions of the earth as being the center of the universe and of the sun revolving around the earth. Some writers, for instance, see the entire Christian “retreat” as the product of the Galileo affair in which the Church subsequently backed off from geocentrism and the literal interpretation of the Bible which is usually tied to such a cosmology. But the assault against Christian belief runs much deeper than this. Rather than being something lying on the macrocosmic level, it is an assault conducted primarily in the microcosmic realm – on the level of the whole concept of created being and substance at its most fundamental level. It is, in other words, an assault on Catholic metaphysics.
Nowhere is this assault more aptly described than in the writings of Joseph Ratzinger. In his 1970 book Being Christian, for instance, he writes:
“The concept of substance, with which the idea of change [the Eucharistic change] seems to be closely linked, appears to be completely unobjective [we shall see further on wherein the new “objectivity” lies] since the bread, considered from a physical and chemical point of view, is seen as a mixture of heterogeneous materials, made up of an infinite multitude of atoms which, in turn, are composed of an enormous number of elemental particles to which we can ultimately apply no certain concepts of substance, since we do not even know if their existence is corpuscular or undulatory.”
And he says something similar in his book Faith and the Future:
"Jumping over all the other affirmations of the Patristic age, that present obstacles to us today, let us take but a single example from medieval dogma, one that recently has aroused much interest: the doctrine of transubstantiation, of the essential change of the eucharistic offerings. As it is, the subtle meaning of this definition can be represented by the ordinary intellect only in a rough and ready manner, so that what is indicated is bound to seem for ever unattainable, especially as there is the additional difficulty, that the medieval concept of substance has long since become inaccessible to us. In so far as we use the concept of substance at all today we understand thereby the ultimate particles of matter, and the chemically complex mixture that is bread certainly does not fall into that category." (Faith and the Future, p. 14).
All of this, of course, requires a direct rejection of Thomistic metaphysics, and its absolutely essential understanding of the nature of substance, and the distinction between substantial and accidental being, which makes the Catholic understanding of the doctrine of Transubstantiation possible. As Joseph Ratzinger wrote in Karl Rahner’s 1971 collection of essays titled (in English) The Problem of Infallibility:
“I want to emphasize again that I decidedly agree with Kung when he makes a clear distinction between Roman theology (taught in the schools of Rome) and the Catholic Faith. To free itself from the constraining fetters of Roman Scholastic Theology represents a duty upon which, in my humble opinion, the possibility of the survival of Catholicism seems to depend.”
By “schools of Rome” Joseph Ratzinger of course meant the schools of philosophy and theology dominated by the figure of Garrigou-LaGrange, epitomizing the Thomistic revival called forth by Pope Leo XIII, and rejected by both Joseph Ratzinger and Karol Wojtyla. Notice that Joseph Ratzinger equates the possibility of the survival of Catholicism to the rejection of this Thomism. It is evident that this is so because he fully believed that in the face of what modern science had demonstrated about the nature of “substance,” the theological approach of traditional Roman Catholic theology (firmly rooted in the concepts and formulas of the Thomistic metaphysical structure of reality), had been proven untenable by modern science. It is in fact very revealing that in the Pope’s three recent General Audiences on the subject of Saint Thomas, absolutely no mention is made of this metaphysics. This, despite the fact that, according to Benedict, Thomas’ great contribution was the firm belief that faith and reason are in harmony. Such exclusion must be viewed as disingenuous, since Thomas’ entire effort at harmonizing faith and reason is absolutely rooted in his metaphysics, and cannot exist without this metaphysics. There absolutely cannot be a Thomistic (and therefore Tridentine) understanding of Transubstantiation without this metaphysics. The Pope’s silence is therefore deafening.
We are now in position to understand what Pius X meant when he rooted Modernism in “agnosticism.” Modernist agnosticism is constituted by a denial that the human mind can know anything about realities which are in any way beyond the phenomena analyzed by the empirical sciences. It ranges all the way from a denial that the human mind can prove the existence of God to the denial of such external phenomena as we have been discussing concerning the apparitions of Fatima, to the denial of the entire metaphysical structure of reality which we refer to as “Thomistic,” and which is foundational to so many Catholic doctrines – especially the dogma of Transubstantiation. Such “agnosticism” is, in other words, a retreat from “objectivity” in regard to all things both supernatural and metaphysical.
It is not, however, a retreat into nothingness. Rather, it is a retreat into the interior of man. As I mentioned earlier, such “agnosticism” is not to be identified with a negation of faith or belief. And since both faith and belief must be constituted by faith and belief in something – in other words, there must continue to be objects which constitute the content of this faith – then the whole concept of objectivity in regard to belief is itself transformed. At the beginning of this article, I quoted the following from Pascendi: “For, as we have seen, everything in their system is explained by inner impulses or necessities. These impulses manifest themselves in our consciousnesses, in accord with our own personal history and temperament, as the objects of our faith.
This whole process of retreat from the objective content of our faith into an alleged “interior objectivity” is characterized by Pope Pius X with the name Immanentism. It is certainly legitimate to speak of the objectivity of interior phenomena, including supernatural graces, inspirations and visions. But when such interior “objectivity” is used as a substitute for, or denial of, what has always been traditionally considered to involve substantial, exterior, objective spiritual realities (including such things as Dogma, the Deposit of Faith, the historicity of the Gospels), then we find ourselves in the presence of Immanentism. And, of course, it is reflected strongly in Joseph Ratzinger’s denial of any exterior, substantial objectivity in the Fatima Apparitions.
We see this transfer of the concept of objectivity into the interior realm especially in philosophical Phenomenalism which, while being at one with Kantian idealism in its surrender to the agnosticism produced by subjection of the faith to reductive- analytical physical science as analyzed above, yet seeks a remedy to Kantian skepticism through the alleged discovery of objectivity in regard to faith and morals within consciousness itself. This is the source of the various forms of Personalistic-Phenomenalistic philosophies which have dominated the philosophy and theology of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
It is important at this point to make a distinction between the “pure” Modernist and what Pius X designates as the “moderate” Modernist. Full-blown Modernism is virtually identifiable with Pantheism. To transfer the entire content of the faith into the interior of man, and to his evolving consciousness and “impulses,” logically leads to identifying God with evolving consciousness and therefore with His creation. But Modernism is subject to many variations and degrees. Its innate tendency, as I have already noted, is constituted in a retreat from the “objectivity” of the faith in the face of reductive analytical science, a retreat which requires the immanentization and “spiritualization” of all sorts of Catholic truths and dogmas. But there is a great variation in the extent to which individual dogmas are subject to this intimidation. For instance, one may believe in an Infinite God, or the Incarnation, or the Resurrection, or the founding of the Catholic Church by Christ without undue fear that science will prove one wrong. Certainly, some scientists and others will attack these beliefs, but they are pretty much beyond the scope of being “scientifically” proven impossible or false. But the same is not true of a dogma like transubstantiation, which invades the realm of the very constitution of physical substance.
The great sign of contradiction which is the dogma of transubstantiation is that it claims that physical substances (bread and wine) are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. For analytical science, as Joseph Ratzinger pointed out so well, the whole concept of “substance” is either invalid, or it is reducible to some sort of atomic, sub-atomic particles or waves or super-strings, or whatever. But the whole point of the doctrine of Transubstantiation is that physical substances are changed, and that what remains of the appearance of bread and wine after the consecrations are only “accidens” – belonging to those categories of being which can be measured, etc., but do not in any way comprise the essence of what a physical substance is.
For the Modernist, or as in the case of Joseph Ratzinger, for the “moderate” Modernist, the doctrine of Transubstantiation must somehow be “immanentized,” or, in the terminology of Joseph Ratzinger (explored in several of my articles), “essentialized.”
Absolutely paramount to this "essentialization," physical change of substance must be denied. In the year 2000 there appeared (in German) Cardinal Ratzinger’s book God and the World, Believing and Living in Our Time (English edition Ignatius Press, 2002). The Work actually consists of conversations with journalist Peter Seewald. In their discussion of the Real Presence, Mr. Seewald makes the following statement concerning Cardinal Ratzinger’s proclaimed belief in transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist: “But anyone can see that the wine remains wine…” Cardinal Ratzinger’s reply is as follows:
“But this is not a statement of physics. It has never been asserted that, so to say, nature in a physical sense is being changed. The transformation reaches down to a more profound level. Tradition has it that this is a metaphysical process. Christ lays hold upon what is, from a purely physical viewpoint, bread and wine, in its inmost being, so that it is changed from within and Christ truly gives himself in them [emphasis mine].”
First, it is quite clear that in the above passage Cardinal Ratzinger denies any change in the physical substance of the bread and wine. The doctrine of Transubstantiation demands the assertion that the entire physical substance of the bread and wine be changed, and cease to exist It should be needless to say that a physical substance cannot cease to exist without its “physical nature” being changed. It is obvious therefore that Cardinal Ratzinger is here identifying the “physical nature” of the bread and wine with their accidental properties, and is therefore denying both Transubstantiation, and the metaphysics necessary to this doctrine.
Second, Cardinal Ratzinger throws crumbs to the “traditional” view that this is a “metaphysical” process, but he certainly does not use the word “metaphysical” in any way even close to a Thomistic sense. Thomistic metaphysics, as I have said, demands that we consider that the entire physical substance of bread and wine are changed. Cardinal Ratzinger, on the other hand, proposes that what really happens is some “metaphysical” process by which these substances remain physically unchanged and Christ “gives himself in them.”
In the seven pages of the interview which deal with the Eucharist, Cardinal Ratzinger uses the word “transubstantiation” or “transubstantiated” four times. But while repeatedly using the word, he is personally contradicting the Church’s defined doctrine of Transubstantiation – that the entire substance of the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, only the accidents (appearances) remaining – and is instead embracing consubstantiation (the belief that Christ is in, under, or with the bread) under the guise of transubstantiation. It only makes sense, therefore, that on the previous page of this book he states that “Luther held out (against Calvin, etc.) in favor of transubstantiation here, with great emphasis….” The Cardinal had simply changed the meaning of the word transubstantiation so that it is similar to the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation. The notion that Luther held on to the belief in Transubstantiation is a total absurdity. He detested both St. Thomas and the doctrine of Transubstantiation. In his Large Catechism he writes: “What then is the Sacrament of the Altar? Answer: It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in and under the bread and wine…” As the Lutheran Formula of Concord states, “Just as in Christ two distinct unchanged natures are inseparably united, so in the Holy Supper the two substances, the natural bread and the true natural body of Christ, are present together here upon earth in the appointed administration of the Sacrament.” (#37). The Lutheran formulation for the real presence is “in pane, sub pane, cum pane” – “in the bread, under the bread, with the bread (#38).
Obviously, Joseph Ratzinger is relatively “safe” with such a formulation of the nature of Christ’s Real Presence. After all, how is science going to prove that Christ isn’t in the bread in some mysterious, “metaphysical” way?
But it is in the nature of such rejections of the hard realities of the actual doctrine of Transubstantiation that such “substitute” explanations are seldom satisfying. I do not believe, therefore, that Joseph Ratzinger has any real consistent explanation for this doctrine (just as Luther never did). However, immanentization, and the evolutionary view of revelation and truth which is its constant companion (see my article The Quintessential Evolutionist), requires no such consistency. Since there is nothing absolutely substantial, there is no real need for consistency since truth and revelation are themselves evolving relationships, and therefore always subject to “essentialization.”
But there are a couple more examples of Joseph Ratzinger’s attempts to explain the nature of the Real Presence. The first is taken from his 1970 book Being Christian:
“Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or the silent visit to a church cannot be, in its full sense, a simple conversation with God conceived as locally circumscribed. Expressions such as ‘God lives here’ and the idea of holding a conversation with a God who is localized are an expression of the Christological mystery and the mystery of God, that inevitably shocks the thinking man who knows that God is omnipresent. When one tries to justify “going to church” by the notion that one has to visit God and he dwells only in that place, one’s justification is meaningless and is rightly rejected by modern man. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is connected with our Lord who, by his historic life and passion, has become our ‘bread’; that is to say, who, by his incarnation and death, has become the one whose arms are open to receive us. Such adoration is directed, then, to the historic mystery of Jesus Christ, to the history of God with man, a history which approaches us in the Blessed Sacrament. And it is related to the mystery of the Church: being related to the history of God with man, it is related also to the whole ‘body of Christ, to the community of the faithful, through whom and in whom God comes to us” (P.80).
The above quote is a masterpiece of deconstruction of Catholic belief and doctrine. It should be immediately experienced as immensely offensive by anyone in possession of the Catholic faith.
Finally, there is this quote, taken from Cardinal Ratzinger’s book God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life (Ignatius Press, 2003), The following is taken from one of its chapter titled The Presence of the Lord in the Sacrament:
“The transformation happens, which affects the gifts we bring by taking them up into a higher order and changes them, even if we cannot measure what happens. When material things are taken into our body as nourishment, or for that matter whenever any material becomes part of a living organism, it remains the same, and yet as part of a new whole it is itself changed. Something similar happens here. The Lord takes possession of the bread and the wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different.” (God is Near Us, p.86) [emphasis mine]
The above is a piece of pure Modernistic mush. As Cardinal Siri said, “The words flee.”
As I have said, Joseph Ratzinger does not flinch from using the word “Transubstantiation,” or of even claiming his own personal belief in this doctrine. He did so on June 17 in an address at St. John Lateran. Here are his words:
“In fact, with the consecration of the bread and wine they become his true body and blood. Saint Augustine invited his faithful not to pause on what appeared to their sight, but to go beyond: "Recognize in the bread -- he said -- that same body that hung on the cross, and in the chalice that same blood that gushed from his side" (Disc. 228 B, 2). To explain this transformation, theology has coined the word "transubstantiation," a word that resounded for the first time in this Basilica during the IV Lateran Council, of which in five years will be the 8th centenary. On that occasion the following expressions were inserted in the profession of faith: "his body and his blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar, under the species of bread and wine, because the bread is transubstantiated into the body, and the wine into the blood by divine power" (DS, 802). Therefore, it is essential to stress, in the itineraries of education of children in the faith, of adolescents and of young people, as well as in "centers of listening" to the Word of God, that in the sacrament of the Eucharist Christ is truly, really and substantially present.”
As analyzed by Pius X, one of the most enduring characteristics of the Modernist mind-set is “double-mindedness”, or the exposition of contrary or contradictory teachings at different times and different situations. While speaking to the faithful, for instance, he may sound very orthodox and make use of all sorts of traditional formulations of dogma, etc. But at other times, and especially in professional circles or in his scholarly writings, he acts a very different part. I believe that this is due not so much to any concerted effort to deceive, but rather because of his own evolutionary posture in regard to the concept of truth. Truth, rather than being a systematic “Deposit of Faith,” is enmeshed in an historically evolving relationship between God and man which is therefore in a constant dialectic with itself (again, I think it very important to read The Quintessential Evolutionist in order to understand Joseph Ratzinger’s position in this regard). But neither dialectical growth nor evolution can occur if there is total chaos. Both stability and change are therefore integral to evolution – both conservative and liberal, dogma and revolution, thesis and anti-thesis. As Pius X says in Pascendi, the Modernist seeks not to destroy authority [or established dogma], but “to stimulate it.” The Pope who believes in evolution must therefore fill both roles. He must embody both the principle of conservative stability and that of revolutionary change. This is the source of that roller coaster ride which orthodox Catholics have endured over the past 45 years.
Evolution is, in fact, a kind of “third leg” (along with agnosticism and immanentism) upon which Modernism is founded. Evolution is the primary vehicle by which all substantiveness is dissolved in regard to Catholic doctrine. In Thomistic metaphysics, no substantial form can “evolve” into something different. There can only be destruction and replacement. The same may be said of “substantive” Truth. There can therefore be no evolution of dogma as long as Thomistic metaphysics rules.
But with the rejection of Thomistic metaphysics, and with evolution as the dominant mind-set, we can still claim to believe in all sorts of things that seem traditionally Catholic, while at the same time dissolving the rigid boundaries of absolute truth which once made change impossible. This is so because the concept of evolving relationship has replaced substantial being as the fundamental concept of the new philosophical approach to reality. Objectivity can then become immersed in a seductive and changeable subjectivity, with no one really having noticed that the whole Catholic world of objective, absolute Truth and Revelation has been inverted.