A reader writes:

I teach RCIA, and sometimes sit in on our Confirmation classes that are happening simultaneously. One of the ladies that teaches Confirmation began with an overview of the Marian Apparitions at Fatima. This was nice, but then she started talking about the consecration of Russia, which I had always read was done, and that Sr. Lucia and PJII confirmed this in writing. I mentioned this before she got further, and she basically just sort of ignored me. She also said something to the effect that the Church affirms that we are “obligated” by the messages of these Apparitions. I know we are not bound by private revelation, but she called this “public revelation” even. I’m not sure she knows what she’s saying.

I’m really uncomfortable with this. I know that there is a fringe element with the Church that believes that the institutional Church is covering-up the “true” third secret, and that the consecration was not valid, despite the statements of Sr. Lucia and JPII. The implications of their accusations are not good: for instance, our present Pope (God bless him) is implicated in their accusations. I’m worried that this is sowing seeds of division, and I want to be able to point this lady towards what the truth is. Can you help me?

She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Fatima is emphatically private revelation. Public revelation closed with the death of the apostles.

CCC 66 “The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The consecration of Russia (and the world) was done by Pope John Paul II on March 25, 1984. Sr. Lucia, who oughtta know, said this fulfilled the request Our Lady of Fatima made. Likewise, Sr. Lucia testifed on multiple occasions that the Third Secret revealed in 2000 was what she had written down. You can see it and read Joseph Ratzinger’s interpretation of it here.

I’d recommend three things to get a grip on a) the complexities of private revelation and b) Fatima. For an overview of the fascinating question of private revelation, I’d take a look at Chapter 3 – Private Revelation, Marian Apparitions and Sundry Tales of the Unexplained in Mary, Mother of the Son: Volume 3 – Miracles, Devotion, and Motherhood. I found this to be the single most interesting chapter to research and write and think you will find it helpful. Second, I’d highly recommend Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s A Still Small Voice: A Practical Guide on Reported Revelations, which is all about how to navigate your way around claims of private revelation and separate wheat from chaff. Finally, with respect to the sundry claims of conspiracy that tend to swirl about in fringe circles when it comes to Fatima, I strongly recommend the well-research and accessibly written Fatima for Today by Fr. Andrew Apostoli.

As it happens, I just finished writing a study guide on this book, as well as on The 13th Day and Finding Fatima, so I’ve gotten pretty familiar with the details of this extraordinary event. I have no doubt Our Lady appeared at Fatima. I also have no doubt that some people are filled with conspiracy theories based on their own paranoia. What they show is that no Catholic mistakes Mary for another God but lots of Catholics mistake her for another Pope.

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