Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Secret

By Christopher A. Ferrara, 248 pages.

Christopher Ferrara, an American lawyer, implies that the Vatican is more interested in saving its own skin than in saving humanity. To support such an outrageous claim, he turns to a never-ending litany of dubious evidence. The author contends that the Vatican has left out an important part of the third prophecy of Fatima, a secret that points to “an apocalyptic crisis of the faith in the Church starting from the top.”

The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to 3 shepherd children near Fatima, Portugal in 1917 for 6 consecutive months starting on May 13. On October 13, as she had promised, the sun danced in front of 70,000 witnesses. Our Lady of Fatima left 3 messages for Lucia, the oldest of the children (the other 2 only saw the apparitions). The first 2 messages are well-known, and concern a vision of hell and a prediction about the end of WWI and the start of another war, obviously WWII.

The third secret is the biggie, and was not to be made known until a later date. Sister Lucia – she became a Dorothean and then a Carmelite nun – gave information to the Vatican about this third prophecy, which she instructed was not to be opened until 1960.

Ferrara aims to undermine Vatican II. As a radical right-wing Catholic, he shares more with radical left-wing thinkers such as Hans Kung than with more centered Catholics. Like Kung, Ferrara takes on the magisterium in an assortment of ways, and with a less-than-respectful tone. Ferrara portrays various Vatican officials, especially Cardinals Sodano, Bertone, and Ratzinger, as misrepresenting and withholding the truth.

The Secret traces the work of an Italian journalist who covers the Vatican and is a faithful Catholic. Antonio Socci came to believe that the Vatican had been less than forthcoming about the third secret, and wrote a book about it. Then Cardinal Bertone with another journalist answered these claims with a book of their own, as well as TV shows and other events to contradict Socci.

In his best in-your-face style, Ferrara writes that “There is a secret not revealed, and the Vatican, for whatever reason, is hiding it from the world, while the prominent Catholic layman who makes this grave accusation is being attacked, but not answered, by a Vatican prelate.”

The basic and severe theological error at the heart of The Secret is more damaging than his flamboyant, hard-to-follow, million-facts-a-page style. Ferrara subscribes to determinism: “The very nature of true prophecy is that it unerringly predicts what comes to pass.”

Cardinal Ratzinger discussed this theological issue in his June 26, 2000 “Theological Commentary” on the matter of the third secret and the Fatima apparitions. This brilliant commentary reminds us of the basic truth of Christian freedom, which is that through prayer, repentance, and Christian living people can change the world and break free from the terrible effects of human sinfulness. Humans are free in Christ. The more negative prophecies of Our Lady of Fatima will come to pass if people don't repent, pray, and receive the Eucharist. Doing these things will create a better future.

For Ferrara, Fatima has superseded the Bible and Catholic tradition. Because of this, he reads all sorts of crazy stuff into the events and words of Fatima and the hierarchy's handling of it. This becomes very tiresome, as it is next to impossible to follow Ferrara's leads, which are usually just his interpretation of the “real meaning” of some Cardinal's remarks or of something said or done by Sister Lucia.

The following sentence gives a good sense of how much this book is based on reality and how much on a very creative imagination: “While the real Pope has retained ultimate authority, in practical terms he has largely been seduced to rubber-stamping the Secretary of State's daily management of Church affairs.”

Good grief! Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the 2 most genuinely authoritative leaders the world has had in decades, are really led around the Vatican by an old Italian Cardinal?

This book reads like a Dan Brown novel, with all the sensationalism read into otherwise bland or innocent-sounding statements, and with mountains of disrespect shown for the hierarchy. It serves no purpose other than to agitate faithful Catholics. Best to read something by Pope Benedict XVI and drop this book.

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