Why Was the Third Secret of Fatima Not Released in 1960?

An Interview with - Antonio Augusto Borelli Machado

Catolicismo, October 2016, volume 66, number 790

Translated from the original Portuguese

On July 13, 1917, Our Lady communicated to the three little seers of Fatima a message that they should not reveal to anyone. When asked, shortly after the Apparition, what the Virgin had told them, they answered that it was secret. In this way it was soon learned that there was a secret in the Fatima Message.

In doing so, Our Lady obviously wanted to attract the world's attention to something very important, the content of which would only be made public at the time that Divine Providence deemed appropriate.

All this created an aura of mystery around Fatima and the Secret, which has grown over the years and decades, stressing thereby the importance of its contents.

The first two parts of the Secret were disclosed by Sister Lúcia, by inspiration of Our Lady, in the third Memoir, written by the seer on August 31, 1941. On January 3, 1944, at the request of the Bishop of Leiria and with appropriate permission from the Mother of God, Sister Lúcia wrote the third part of the Secret, which she had delivered to the Bishop through a carrier, in a sealed envelope with a note that it could not be released before 1960. Bishop José Alves Correia da Silva placed the envelope he received from Sister Lúcia inside another envelope, which he in turn sealed and kept in the vaults of the episcopal Curia.

In early 1957, the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asked that the document be sent to Rome. For this purpose, it was delivered to the Apostolic Nunciature in Lisbon, where the Nuncio, Archbishop Fernando Cento, took it to the Vatican, when it was filed in the Secret Archives of the Holy Office on April 4, 1957.

Requested by John XXIII on August 17, 1959, the Pope received the document from the hands of a Commissary of the Holy Office, opening it a few days later for the first time and reading it with the help of the Portuguese translator of the Secretariat of State. Having decided not to publish it, he returned it to the Holy Office.

That decision, predictably, caused great frustration around the world, giving rise to more reasonable or unreasonable predictions about the contents of the Secret.

The pontiffs that followed, Paul VI, and John Paul II initially, confirmed the decision.

John Paul II, when he went to Fatima on May 13, 2000, announced that the Third Secret was finally going to be revealed with an appropriate commentary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which occurred on June 26 of the same year.

On that date, in a formal ceremony presided over by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the Vatican Press Office, the text of the Third Secret was presented to journalists accredited to the Holy See, and then was published around the world.

At the time, the principal Vaticanologists were authorised to formulate questions for clarification.

One of these questions concerned specifically the reason that led the Holy See in 1960 to frustrate the global expectation that the Third Secret would be revealed in that year. Cardinal Ratzinger's response is highly revealing regarding the major reasons that guided the decision of the Holy See.

We could not neglect bringing such important information to the attention of our readers. For this purpose we asked our collaborator Benoît Bemelmans to interview in this regard a respected expert in this area, Antonio Augusto Borelli Machado, and from this came information that explains problems afflicting the Church and the world, in this long period of one hundred years that have elapsed since the apparitions of Fatima.

Although there is disagreement among experts as to whether or not the text released by the Vatican corresponds to the entire Third Secret, we publish the following interview in which the text of the Secret is taken, as released, without analysing or entering into polemics with other positions on the matter.

Catolicismo, Editorial Staff

* * *

Catholicismo – In 1960, the expectation that the Third Secret would be released reached its peak. But this revelation did not occur, causing great frustration. Only forty years later, at the end of the millennium, did the Holy See publish it. During the presentation, journalists asked about the reason for the delay. What was the explanation of Cardinal Ratzinger, who presided over the session?

Antonio Borelli Machado – When this part of the Secret was released on June 26, 2000, the Holy See decided to do it with a launching and a display of grand publicity, under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Journalists accredited to the Vatican were invited. Those present were given a copy of the booklet The Message of Fatima, containing the text of the Secret. The session was presided over by Cardinal Ratzinger, with the participation of Archbishop Bertone, secretary of the same congregation, and the director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Navarro Vals. Television stations from all over the world broadcast it live. After the presentations of Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Bertone, the director of the Press Office opened the floor to the journalists who were present, for them to formulate questions. Among these, three were specifically about the reasons that led the Popes to postpone the release of the Third Secret for exactly forty years after the expected date. The best articulated question was that of the writer and Vatican expert Gian Franco Svidercoschi, who was deputy editor of L’Osservatore Romano. His question (taken from the video of the session as provided by the Vatican Press Office) was as follows:

“Your Eminence: Let me talk about the why of the delay, of this prolonging of the prudence of the Church from 1960 until today. You somehow already answered, speaking specifically about the evolution of history. . . . There is also the description given by Archbishop Bertone of the various decisions made by the popes, the historical and political situations having changed. But I ask you: Did not the Church end up paying too high a price for this long silence, this long secret about the Secret? In the final analysis, does not the third part of the secret already contain the second part, while signalling the bishop dressed in white? Is not the third part of the Secret after all simply, say, the corollary of what is already said in the previous parts? This martyrdom [described in the Third Secret] already existed in 1960. Is there not a different way, on the part of the Church, not only in relation to Fatima, to take a position regarding private revelations – which do not affect the deposit of the Faith – and, therefore, could one have avoided causing this whole series of exploitations and scandals that occurred precisely because of this silence that lasted so long? Thank you.”

To this, Cardinal Ratzinger replied without hesitation:

"Certainly the decision of the three Popes not to publish the secret – because also the current Pope [John Paul II], in 1981, did not want to publish it – was a decision that was not dogmatic, but prudential. And one can always argue about the wisdom of a decision, if politically another prudential judgment would have been preferable. Therefore, one should not dogmatise this attitude of the Popes. However, considering retrospectively, I will say: certainly we paid a price for the speculations that occurred in recent decades. But on the other hand, I think it was appropriate to wait for a moment to have a vision in retrospect. 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. The same was true soon after the attack [against John Paul II]: to come out immediately at that time with this text would not have produced, it seems to me, a sufficient understanding. I think, without dogmatising this decision, but personally with sincere conviction, I think it was good, all in all, to wait a little later until the end the century, to have a more global view, and to better understand the true imperative and true indications of this view."

Catholicismo – Therefore Cardinal Ratzinger recognises that the disclosure of the Secret in 1960 would upset very important policies that the Holy See had in mind . . . What are those goals that would be harmed by the disclosure of the Third Secret at that time in the twentieth century?

Antonio Borelli Machado – Three political and religious goals of primary importance marked the Church's life in the second half of the twentieth century, mentioned in succession by Cardinal Ratzinger in his response:

1) The ralliement (agreement, adherence) of the Church with the modern world: "this great hope of being able to reach a new positive relationship between the world and the Church";

2) The Vatican's Ostpolitik, that is, the ralliement of the Church with Communism: the hope "to open a little the closed doors of Communism";

3) The implementation of the Council’s directives aimed at promoting this double ralliement, which were the cause of "many problems" of "assimilation" of the conciliar innovations by the Catholic world.

Catholicismo – In what way does the Third Secret of Fatima collide with these goals?

Antonio Borelli Machado – The Third Secret consists of a vision that shows "an Angel with a flaming sword," which, "flashing, gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire." Now, a world that God wants to punish in this way is a world that is provoking the divine rejection... It was not a world that would authorise "this great hope of being able to reach a new positive relationship between the world and the Church." Therefore, to disclose the Third Secret in 1960 would have been moving in the opposite direction of the ralliement of the Church with the modern world.

I use here the word ralliement in reference to the famous policy of Leo XIII towards secular states installed in the world in the wake of the French Revolution, in particular, the secularist republic in power in France. As you know, that pontiff came to regret, in his old age, the failure of his hopes.

Concerning the ralliement of Leo XIII, see the book by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, [Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII]

In the Second Vatican Council, influential Council Fathers were animated by similar optimism to promote a ralliement of the Church with the modern world – in perfect harmony with Leo XIII. If they had devoted due attention to the two parts of the Secret of Fatima by then already revealed, they might perhaps have moderated their optimism: it suffices to pay attention to the phrase "various nations will be annihilated," contained in the second part of the Secret. The revelation of the third part in 1960, if widely disseminated, with appropriate commentaries – one thinks of the "great city half in ruins". . . – it could open their eyes; or at least make them understand that Catholic public opinion would not comprehend such a ralliement, something which might possibly deter them from taking this step.

As churchmen were determined to achieve, at any cost, this accommodation with the world, they had to opt for the non-disclosure of the Third Secret and pay the price of estrangement that this would produce among Catholics, as indeed occurred.

Catholicismo – Such a great punishment hanging over the world indicates that the conduct of human society is in contradiction with the principles that God wanted to establish within it. Is it possible to highlight the point in which this contradiction essentially lies?

Antonio Borelli Machado – For the public of our day to understand how far the world is from the right order of things it is appropriate to quote a famous text of Leo XIII:

"There was a time when the philosophy of the Gospel governed States. During that age, the influence of Christian wisdom and its divine power penetrated the laws, the institutions, the customs of peoples, all categories and all relations of civil society. Then the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, solidly established in the degree of dignity that is due to her, was everywhere flourishing, thanks to the favour of princes and to the legitimate protection of magistrates. Then the priesthood and the empire were linked together by a happy concord and by the friendly exchange of good offices. Organised in this way, civil society produced fruits superior to all expectations, fruits the memory of which remains and will remain, enshrined as it is in numerous documents which no artifice of its opponents will be able to corrupt or obscure" (Encyclical Immortale Dei, of November 1, 1885, n° 28).

However, the governments of our day, consistent with the secularism that they profess, feel themselves free from the obligation of adjusting the norms of individual and social behaviour to the Ten Commandments of the Law of God, and of giving to the Church "the degree of dignity that is due to her." As a result, they implant throughout the world every kind of transgression against the natural and divine Laws, such as divorce, abortion, homosexual union, etc.

Thus, the secularism of the State, which proclaims itself neutral in matters of Religion and Morals, reveals itself as the obstinate enemy of the Catholic Church and of Christian Morality. And it is a constant of history: he who declares himself neutral between truth and error, in reality positions himself in favour of all the errors against the one truth. Such is the position of secularism in the face of the true Church.

Secularism is not neutral in matters of religion, but militantly atheistic. And this is indicated by Leo XIII, in the same encyclical Immortale Dei: "With regard to religion, to think that it is indifferent to have disparate and contrary forms simply amounts to not wanting or choosing or following any of them. It is atheism minus the name" (paragraph 37).

Secularism is, therefore, the "no religion" of the modern world, that is, atheism; doctrinal and practical atheism, which pervades all society. Over this hovers the Message of Fatima, which warns: either society converts and does penance, or there will come a Chastisement of cosmic proportions.

How does one nourish "this great hope of being able to reach a new positive relationship between the world and the Church"? – For those people who were animated by such a hope, it was absolutely not suitable that the Third secret would be revealed in 1960 . . .

Catholicismo – When did there arise in the Church that desire to establish a "positive relationship" with the world?

Antonio Borelli Machado – The word world appears in the Gospels sometimes with a generic meaning, and at other times to designate those who did not accept the preaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ and opposed Him. In this second sense it appears, for example, in the Gospel of St. John, in verses 18 and 19 of chapter 15: "If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before you" (Jn 15:18). And then immediately: "But because you are not of the world . . . therefore the world hates you" (Jn 15:19).

This same fate applies to all the disciples of Christ, from that time until the present day. Hence the fact that the more lukewarm portion of the Catholic camp tries to cool the hatred of the world by entering into compromise with it. It is in the fallen nature of man and is therefore manifested in all periods of Church history. It suffices to open its compendiums in order to observe this fact.

With this there is a characteristic that is easy to observe: those who give in to this temptation seek to remain halfway between truth and error.

Let us go directly to modern times: Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536), the celebrated humanist, promoted "a spirit of reaction against scholasticism, of freedom of thought and the simplification of Christianity," [Guillermo Fraille, Historia de la filosofía, BAC, Madrid 1991, 3rd ed., Volume III, p. 74] which led to an attempt to get closer to Luther – which failed because of the bellicose nature of the latter. Thus, from the Protestant Pseudo-Reformation and the Renaissance, a current of thinking among Catholics, largely inspired by Erasmus, tried to enter into collaboration with the errors of their time.

The idea of a rejoining of the Church with the world emerging from the French Revolution was advocated by liberal Catholics of the nineteenth century, beginning with Félicité de Lamennais, soon afterwards condemned by Gregory XVI (1831-1846).

Pius IX (1846-1878) summarised the errors of Catholic liberalism in the Syllabus praecipuorum nostrae aetatis errorum (Syllabus of the principal errors of our time) of December 8, 1864, which he synthesises in proposition 80: "LXXX. The Roman Pontiff can and should reconcile and adapt himself to progress, liberalism and modern civilisation."

It should be noted at the outset that the Church's opposition was not against progress itself, but against what this brought of revolutionary in its wake in order to demolish what the society of the time, already decaying, kept of good and in conformity with the principles of natural and Christian order.

The firm position of Pius IX, however, was in contrast with that of the Pontiff who succeeded him, Leo XIII (1878-1903), who promoted in France the policy of ralliement with the republic born from the French Revolution, which was alluded to above (cf. 2nd Question). This Pontiff hoped that such a policy, conducted with firm determination throughout his pontificate, would be continued by successive Popes. That certainly would have happened if his Secretary of State, Cardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tíndaro, had been elected Pope, as was expected. The unforeseen election of Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto, with the name of Pius X (1903-1914), rendered unfulfilled the immediate continuation of this policy.

It resurfaces already in a manner well-defined, in the mid 1930s, in the Pontificate of Pius XI (1922-1939), on the wings of optimism and openness to the world advocated within the development of Catholic Action.

In the intellectual field, an analogous position was fed by authors who were much appreciated in these same circles of Catholic Action, especially Jacques Maritain with his book Humanisme intégral (1936).

Since then, the attitude of ralliement with the modern world has continued to clearly manifest itself in liberal Catholic circles, but was only publicly adopted, almost a half century later, by Pope John XXIII (1958-1963). In the opening speech of the Second Vatican Council (October 11, 1962), referring to those who "in the present conditions of human society, are only able to see ruins and calamities," the Pope declares, "But to Us it seems we must disagree entirely with those prophets of doom, who always announce unfortunate events, as if the end of the world were imminent" (subtitle Opportunitas celebrandi Concilii).

With the promulgation of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, by Paul VI (1962-1978), at the end of the Council (1965), the policy of ralliement with the modern world was finally enacted and extended to the whole globe. The pastoral line advocated by Gaudium et Spes does not constitute a novelty conceived by the Council Fathers of Vatican II, but the effective implementation of a "pastoral" as advocated by Lamennais in 1830!

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.

Such was a subliminal effect produced simply by the title given to the conciliar document – Gaudium et Spes – which expressed, regardless of its complex content, new and benevolent dispositions that the Council assumed before the world of our days.

The Message of Fatima, however, went in a diametrically opposite direction!

Catholicismo – This notion of the coming great Chastisement is also not very much present in commentaries on the Third Secret made by scholars and preachers . . .

Antonio Borelli Machado – Nevertheless, it is present in the principal commentator, which Cardinal Ratzinger certainly was . . .

Indeed, in the interpretation of the Third Secret made by him, and which completes the booklet The Message of Fatima, it is said:

"The key word in this part of the 'secret' is the threefold cry: 'Penance, Penance, Penance!' It returns us to the thought of the beginning of the Gospel: Paenitemini et credite evangelio' (Mk 1:15). To understand the signs of the times means to accept the urgency of penance, conversion, faith. This is the right answer to a historical period characterised by great dangers, which will be outlined in the successive images . . . . The angel with the flaming sword on the left of the Mother of God recalls similar images of the Apocalypse: it represents the threat of judgment which looms over the world. The possibility that this might be reduced to ashes in a sea of fire, today no longer appears in any way as pure fantasy: man himself prepared, with his inventions, the sword of fire" (The Message of Fatima, p. 24, Vatican English online version).

The conclusion is clear: the world of today – the modern world – is set before the following alternatives:

a) either it converts, and such a conversion involves abandoning the false principles on which it is made, and thus ceases to be secular, atheist ..., "modern";

b) or it does not convert, and will be reduced to ashes by fire.

In the second hypothesis, on its ruins will arise a new civilisation, which St. Louis de Montfort named the Reign of Mary (Treatise on True Devotion, n° 217) – in perfect harmony with the Message of Fatima: "Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph" (Second Secret).

Catholicismo – Could this be said to be the central point of the Message of Fatima?

Antonio Borelli Machado – Exactly. The imminence of a great Punishment.

Many preachers imagine that by announcing it they would scare their listeners, and therefore they do not do it. Nevertheless the mission of the prophets has often been to call the people to penance, announcing punishments.

If they are listened to, the punishment will be avoided. If they are not heard, the punishment will be let loose.

It is a matter of fidelity to Our Lady to proclaim the Message of Fatima in its entirety.

In fact, there are a considerable number of souls who, by themselves, have formed the notion of the disorder of the modern world, and that without an extraordinary intervention of Providence, this world has no remedy. Such souls cultivate the hope of this intervention in the secret of their hearts, and they would feel confirmed by hearing the same diagnosis from the lips of the pastors of the Church.

Therefore, it is not to be feared that such souls would be frightened by the prophecy of Punishment; on the contrary, they will exult with the harbinger of the victory of good over evil. As the prophet Simeon was comforted to see the Messias in the arms of the Blessed Virgin: "Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word, in peace; because my eyes have seen thy salvation" (Lk 2: 29-30).

The fact is that, without the mention of the Punishment, the Message of Fatima is emptied of its specific character for the present day. One does not understand how the core point of this Message is omitted.

Preachers should not therefore fear that their hearers might be frightened. For some it will be the confirmation of what they thought, and a consolation! For those who are startled, it will serve as a warning, perhaps an occasion to open their souls to the grace of Fatima.

Nor is it enough to say – as many do – that the Message of Fatima, by the fact that one preaches prayer and penance, is in perfect conformity with the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is true, and it is good that they say it. But it is also necessary to emphasise the enormity of the

Punishment that hangs over the world. Only then will a large number of souls be moved to serious penance. And only then can they constitute the living stones of the Reign of Mary that will come!

Catholicismo – With reference to Communism, the use of word ralliement may seem excessive. Could one not say that the Vatican Ostpolitik aimed only at alleviating the persecution unleashed by Communist governments? Cardinal Ratzinger expressly refers to "opening a little the closed doors of Communism."

Antonio Borelli Machado – This involves a process. At first, the Ostpolitik seems only a relaxation, a cessation of hostilities. Then, this détente becomes a normal interaction. Finally, it ends in cooperation for a common purpose. But this purpose is not chosen in a common agreement: it is that which benefits the Communist partner. Thus, it produces in the Catholic partner a gradual abandonment of inalie