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Are the Secrets of Fatima Legitimate?   

This week’s question comes from Jarrod who asks a uniquely Roman Catholic question. He writes, “If nothing is to be added or taken from God’s Holy Word, why did the Catholic church accept the so-called Secrets of Fatima?”

To bring our readers up to speed, the Secrets of Fatima came from a series of “showings” or visions given to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal during the First World War. According to reports, these three children were visited by Mary, the mother of Jesus, on six occasions between May and October on the 13th of each month in 1917. During these “visits” the children were told that war was punishment for sin and that God would continue to punish the world for disobedience through wars, hunger, and persecutions of the church. They were also told that the remedy for this was obedience in prayer and in doing acts of good will. 

On July 13th the children were given three “secrets” by Mary. The first two “secrets” were subsequently made public. The first “secret” was a revelation of what hell was like and came with an admonition for prayer for those outside the Kingdom of God. The second was a “prophesy” of coming wars with a specific note that if Russia was consecrated by the Church that there would be peace. This second “secret” also included a word of hope that her “Immaculate Heart” would triumph some time after Russia was consecrated, a prophesy of ultimate peace. The third “secret” was not revealed until 1944 when the last of the shepherd children, Lucy dos Santos, committed the “secret” to paper, sealed it, and sent it to the Pope via her local bishop. This third “secret” was kept a secret for many years and elicited much speculation. However, that speculation came to an end in June of 2000 when the third “secret” was finally published with the Vatican’s blessing [for a facsimile of the “third secret” and it’s translation visit the Walton Tribune’s Website and click on our Links to Sites of Interest].

What is relevant to our question, however, is the seriousness bestowed on this third “secret.” According to many quotes made by a number of Bishops and even the Popes themselves, the revelations from Fatima are “worthy of belief.” So, how does this set with the notion that “nothing is to be added or taken from God’s Holy Word”?

There are several responses. One response, of course, would be that in this matter the Vatican is mistaken and the words from the shepherd children of Fatima are at best delusional or at worst fabrications. And yet I remember not so many years ago the thousands of pilgrims who made their way to Conyers, Georgia to call on Nancy Fowler and to witness her “showings.” However, there are those who would discount all forms of contemporary communications from God (or Mary or Jesus) and would label such “showings” as fake or worse. The only problem with this notion is that it discounts the possibility that God is actively reaching out to us.

So, can we “believe” the shepherd children’s “secrets” and remain faithful to the Bible?

The biblical reference to “not adding or taking away anything from God’s Holy Word” is found in Revelation 22.18-19 “I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” The problem is, however, that although the book of the Revelation was probably the last of the biblical works to be written, it was written before any collected form of “the Bible” existed. Indeed, it would be over 100 years before a collection of letters and writings of the early church would be circulated, and over 200 years before these books would be compiled and accepted as “the Bible.” The words of Revelation 22.18-19, then, refer only to the book of the Revelation, and to no other book or collection of books (including “the Bible”). 

But what about beliefs outside the Bible? Is it okay to believe something not implicitly contained in the Bible?

The Bible nowhere suggests that prophesy ended with the writings of John (the author of the Revelation). Instead, there is an implicit suggestion that there will always be prophets—some to be disbelieved and some to accept (cf.,1 Thessalonians 5.20-21), but “test the spirits to see if they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4.1).

The bottom line, then, is to weigh all the teachings of the “secrets” of Fatima, or of Nancy Fowler, or of your priest, minister, or pastor against the teachings of scripture (love God, love others, make disciples) and respond appropriately. The shepherd children said, “Pray.” The message to Nancy Fowler was “Pray.” And I believe even Jesus suggested we should pray. I don’t think I’d be hasty about “not believing” words and directives like that.

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