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The Devil’s Final Battle

     For the past half-century, a bizarre story has been unfolding inside the Catholic Church that could have serious implications for the entire world.

     As this book explains, the crux of the story is a message from Heaven, and hence, a matter of faith and belief. This may make it seem to be of concern only to Catholics and Church officials, but there’s more to this story than that—much more.

     The message was conveyed in a manner that is unique in Church history, and its form and content are also unique. This puts it in a class by itself; it can’t be relegated to the broad category of "private revelations" experienced by various Catholic saints and mystics over the centuries. If it could, non-Catholics and even many otherwise devout Catholics would be free to ignore it. But ignoring this particular message is impossible for Catholics, and may also be unwise for everyone else on this troubled planet.

     The message in question was delivered by the Blessed Virgin Mary to three shepherd children near the little town of Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Far from being a private event, its delivery was accompanied by a public miracle witnessed by 70,000 people, and reported in newspaper headlines around the world. No other apparitions, not even those associated with the world-famous shrines at Lourdes in France and Guadalupe in Mexico, have been authenticated in this spectacular manner. This sets the apparitions themselves apart from all previous events of this kind, but that is only one unique aspect of Fatima.

     When the content of the message received by the children was revealed, it, too, was unique in the annals of Christianity. It contained a request, as well as a warning of punishments to come if the request were not granted. Never before has a message of this kind been reported, either in public or in private, by any witnesses to an apparition.

     As it does in all cases of this kind, the Vatican subjected the Fatima events to intense scrutiny. The Church is usually reluctant to endorse such things, as they are often quite subjective, and difficult to verify. In the case of Fatima, however, the Catholic hierarchy, from the local bishops of Portugal to a series of Popes in the Vatican, has unanimously regarded the Fatima apparitions as "worthy of belief." Pope John Paul II has gone so far as to say that the Message of Fatima "imposes an obligation" on the Church. This uniform hierarchical approbation over the years strongly reinforced the conviction of the Catholic faithful that the Fatima apparitions had conveyed an authentic message from Heaven.

     But then, on June 26, 2000, the Fatima story took a strange turn. On that day, the Cardinal in charge of Catholic doctrine at the Vatican and his immediate subordinate held a press conference which the Los Angeles Times described as an attempt at "gently debunking the cult of Fatima." The theme of the conference was that the Fatima prophecies are in the category of "private revelations" and that, in any event, they "belong to the past."

     What happened? How did the Fatima apparitions go from being officially declared worthy of belief to being officially debunked by a high-ranking Cardinal? And what about the message, with its request and its threat of punishment? These are questions any reasonable Catholic might well ask, given the strange behavior of Church leaders on this matter. But once the content of the message is considered, they are also questions every human being on earth might ask.

     The content of the Fatima message is largely concerned with matters of Catholic religion that lie entirely in the realm of faith and belief. One part of the message, however, has wider implications that warrant wider attention. This is the part that makes a request, and then warns of punishment if the request is not granted.

     The request is that Russia be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the Pope, together with all the Catholic bishops of the world. To those outside the Church, this ritual may have little meaning. Inside the Church, however, such ceremonies are a well-established tradition. Consecrations have a sanctifying effect, so in the eyes of Catholics, such a ceremony would be beneficial to Russia.

     Of course, performing this ceremony is something only the Catholic Church can do. However, the threat that accompanies the request extends well beyond the Catholic Church. If the consecration is done, says the message, "a period of peace will be granted to the world." But if it is not done, the message warns, then, among other things, "various nations will be annihilated."

     Is this a credible threat? Should non-Catholics and non-Christians worry about such a thing? At first glance, one might think not, but the question deserves closer examination. It isn’t necessary to believe this message definitely came from Heaven to give it some serious consideration. This is what gives Fatima its global dimension.

     Since the Vatican judged the apparitions believable, and the annihilation of nations may be at stake, one would think the consecration would have been performed long ago. After all, what it requires is a simple, traditional ceremony that obviously can do no harm to anyone. And if the message has even the remotest chance of being authentic, the benefit of performing the ceremony as requested could be of incalculable value. Given these circumstances, even the most skeptical of outsiders might well consider the consecration "worth a try."

     And yet, for reasons known only to a small group of Vatican officials, the Fatima request has not been granted, even though the Church has been aware of it for at least six decades. Time and time again, various formal consecrations have been performed, including one that named Russia explicitly, but in all cases, they have avoided fulfilling the specific requirements of the Fatima request: that the Pope and the Catholic bishops of the world consecrate Russia, by name, in a solemn public ceremony. The most recent example was a consecration of the world in Rome by Pope John Paul II and 1,500 visiting bishops in 2001. Many people thought the Pope might take that opportunity to fulfill the Fatima request, but to their disappointment, Russia was not mentioned.

     To both insiders and outsiders, the Vatican’s treatment of this matter seems strangely inconsistent with its own standards and traditions. It also seems to show a reckless disregard for the safety not only of the Catholic faithful, but the rest of humanity as well. If the Fatima threat is genuine, the price of the Vatican’s reluctance could be very high indeed—and it would be paid by all mankind.

     Under these circumstances, any reasonable person might ask why the Church persists in ignoring the message, and risking such catastrophic consequences.

     How and why this is happening is the subject of this book. The story it tells involves a mixture of facts and matters of faith. For non-believers, the facts may not prove conclusively that the message is authentic, but they go a long way in that direction—far enough to persuade many open-minded people to regard authenticity as a real possibility. And for those who share the Catholic faith, the facts go much further, affirming authenticity and raising alarming questions about the state of the Church hierarchy today.

     The story shows the Vatican undergoing a series of changes that caused it first to endorse Fatima, then to cast doubt on it, then to suppress it, and finally to discard it altogether. Tracing this process is difficult, as much of what happens in the Vatican is done in secret, and official attitudes must be decoded from pronouncements that are often cryptic.

     No one can see into the hearts and minds of the Vatican officials who have conspired to treat the Fatima message this way. They can only be judged by their actions, and by the logical consequences of their avowed positions. When these are analyzed, as they are in this book, a disturbing picture emerges of a Church divided against Herself, with the rift going right to the top.

     There is an ironic aspect to this story that will not be lost on unbelievers. The facts related in this book will convince many open-minded non-Catholics that the authenticity of Fatima is at least possible. If this can be said of outsiders, how much more convincing should the story be for Catholics? And yet, even as the story moves unbelievers towards belief, it seems to have the opposite effect on certain Vatican officials. Ironically, some of the people now least likely to believe in Fatima are among those who should be the most likely. Beliefs once central to the Catholic faith are now being abandoned not by the faithful who remain in the pews, but by some of the highest authorities in the Church.

     A further irony concerns the position of the Pope in this matter. Like all his predecessors since the Fatima apparitions occurred, John Paul II has openly and repeatedly professed his belief in the authenticity of the apparitions. He has visited the Fatima shrine three times, and attributes his survival of an assassination attempt in 1981 to Our Lady of Fatima. And yet, even the Pope seems powerless to prevent his own highest-ranking Cardinals from taking a very different view of Fatima. He was not present at the June 2000 press conference mentioned above, where two of the Vatican’s top officials made an effort to undermine the credibility of the Fatima prophecies and relegate them to the past.

     As several chapters in this book explain, the Message of Fatima also has political implications that may have influenced the way Vatican officials have handled it. The message asks for the consecration of Russia specifically, in order to convert that nation to Catholicism. To perform a ceremony with that overt intention runs counter to the so-called "Ostpolitik" the Vatican adopted first with regard to international communism, and more recently to the Russian Orthodox Church. In both these areas, the Vatican apparatus has abandoned the Church’s traditionally militant defense of Her teaching, agreeing to refrain from denouncing communism as evil, and to cease seeking the conversion of Russian Orthodox adherents. Hence, the Fatima message has been and still is "politically incorrect" in the context of current Vatican policy.

     One might suspect that the Vatican is refraining from consecrating Russia simply for these political reasons. But is that really credible? Given what is at stake, would the Vatican really risk the annihilation of nations just to avoid a diplomatic incident with the Russians? Would Russia really be seriously offended by a ceremony that, in effect, commends that country to the care of the Mother of God? And even if Russia were offended, what would they do about it? What could they possibly do that would be worse than the penalty for not consecrating Russia, namely, that "various nations will be annihilated"?

     This book reveals and examines the political machinations that have clearly influenced attitudes towards Fatima among some high-level Vatican diplomats. There can be little doubt that the architects of the Vatican’s conciliatory "Ostpolitik" find the Fatima message inconvenient. But it still seems unlikely that these diplomatic considerations alone could persuade the Vatican to ignore a message from Heaven. For that to happen, something else must be at work, something deeper and darker than worldly politics.

     That deeper and darker ailment is the ultimate subject of this book. It reveals how the Catholic Church has been transformed in ways that have left many of the faithful confused. Meanwhile outsiders now see a church maintaining an appearance of normal function that only masks the radical transformation behind this facade.

     Viewed from afar, the Catholic Church appears to be an institution that changes only slowly and reluctantly. The process of reform initiated by Vatican II in the 1960s led to unprecedented changes in the Church (e.g., vernacular Masses, abandonment of distinctive clerical garb, etc.) that may have seemed dramatic to insiders, but were almost invisible to outsiders. Compared to secular trends in the latter half of the 20th Century, the Church seemed resistant to change, maintaining Her teaching on such things as priestly celibacy, ordination of women, contraception, divorce and abortion. In all these respects, the Church still seems firmly entrenched in positions She has maintained for centuries.

     But does this mean that Vatican leadership is resolutely traditionalist? Outsiders who rely on such things as the Pope’s public utterances might well think so. But as this book explains, insiders know better. The Catholic Church today is not what She seems, and the gap between public perceptions and actual realities is growing wider every day.

     While traditions have been officially upheld in certain respects, they have been abandoned or undermined in others. And while the positions still being maintained have been widely publicized, those being abandoned or undermined have been barely acknowledged. Catholics who once shared a common set of beliefs around the world now find themselves drifting in different directions in different places, following contradictory and uncertain leadership at all levels.

     The famously monolithic Catholic Church is no longer monolithic at all; it is full of fractures that this book traces to their sources. It shows us a fragmented Church leadership where the first fissure divides a Pope who is an ardent believer from his own immediate subordinates, who are anything but.

     Four of these high-ranking officials are examined closely in this book, which amply documents their role in attempting to "close the book" on Fatima as a politically incorrect expression of traditional Catholic belief. While it is impossible to be certain about their individual motivations, it is also impossible to avoid the conclusion that what they have been doing has contributed to the current crisis of faith and discipline in the Church.

     Many Catholic commentators have noted that in the post-Vatican II epoch, beliefs once shared by virtually all Catholics have now been marginalized, and reduced to cult status. Principal among these are beliefs in apparitions, miracles and prophecies. Over the centuries, the Catholic Church has raised to the rank of sainthood many hundreds, each of whom was canonized on the basis of miracles performed through his or her intercession. Many of these same saints experienced apparitions of Christ or the Virgin Mary. Catholic tradition affirms belief in a dialogue between earth and Heaven, mediated by visionary saints, who are called forth as prophets of their time and who authenticate their prophecies with miracles. Far from upholding this long-standing aspect of Christian belief, certain of today’s Vatican officials make a point of asserting that "private apparitions" can be disregarded as "not essential" to the faith—including the apparitions at Fatima, despite Fatima’s warning of global catastrophe.

     In general, the post-conciliar "updating" of the Catholic Church has left Catholic beliefs reduced to a shrunken core, and even that core is challenged at high levels. Widely-published (and openly heretical) "theologian" Hans Küng has received only a slap on the wrist for questioning such basic articles of faith as the resurrection and divinity of Christ.

     The plain fact is that it is no longer possible to determine clearly what some top Vatican officials actually believe. The key official in this regard is called the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Traditionally, this position is occupied by a man whose commitment to the preservation of Catholic doctrine is absolute and unquestionable. Today, the position is occupied by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a man whose statements concerning Catholic doctrine (in numerous interviews and even in certain official pronouncements) are so laden with ambiguity that even theological experts are unable to say with certainty what he actually believes in many areas.

     All this may seem irrelevant to outsiders, and in most respects, it is. It is of no concern to non-Catholics or non-Christians if Catholics attend the traditional Latin Mass or go to a modern vernacular Mass, or pray the Rosary or not. What Cardinal Ratzinger thinks about matters of Catholic doctrine generally means nothing to outsiders.

     But what Cardinal Ratzinger thinks about apparitions, miracles and prophecies does matter. It matters because if he does not believe in the Fatima apparitions, disregards the Miracle of the Sun, and ignores the prophecies in the Fatima message, he may be putting the whole world at risk.

     The collapse of traditional belief thus emerges as the most plausible explanation for the Church’s otherwise inexplicable behavior with regard to Fatima. The traditional Catholic belief in apparitions, miracles and prophecies is at the heart of the Fatima story. Abandonment of belief in these things is what has transformed Fatima from something "worthy of belief" into a cult the Church’s doctrinal leader tries to discredit and debunk.

     Outsiders might wish this was entirely an internal Catholic matter, but it isn’t. One doesn’t have to be a Catholic to wonder about God, and how God might choose to communicate with humanity. People who lack faith in any particular religion usually don’t deny the existence of God, they simply don’t know whether God exists. In that state of uncertainty, how can anything be ruled out? God might well choose to communicate with the human race through the Message of Fatima, however bizarre that may seem to many people. As the Bible wisely tells us, God’s ways are not our ways.

     The ultimate issue is therefore not simply what the Catholic Church believes, but what this might mean for humanity as a whole. This situation invites everyone, Catholic or not, Christian or not, to consider the possibility that the Fatima message is authentic. Improbable as it may seem on the face of it, there are some persuasive pieces of evidence to support this idea. The Vatican’s own exhaustive investigation found none of the inconsistencies, contradictions or discrepancies that often invalidate events of this kind. Instead, they found everything in order. They also acknowledged the unique nature of the Miracle of the Sun, an event witnessed by thousands for which there is still no adequate scientific explanation.

     When the content of the message was more widely publicized in the 1940s, further support for authenticity began to accumulate. The message contained a series of prophecies, each of which has come to pass as predicted. These include the end of World War I, the election of Pope Pius XI, the start of World War II, and the expansion of communist Russia. The evidence has proved sufficient to elicit the belief of six successive Popes since the apparitions occurred, along with millions of Catholic faithful. It has also persuaded the Vatican, under the present Pope, to beatify the two deceased witnesses to the apparitions, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and to commemorate the Fatima apparitions in the Roman Missal, the official book of Catholic worship used by the Roman Catholic Church for the celebration of Mass.

     Yet another Fatima prophecy, which has only been partially revealed, is the Third Secret of Fatima. Evidence outlined in this book points strongly to a prediction of serious problems in the leadership of the Church, problems that bear an uncanny resemblance to what is actually happening in the Church today.

     Most Catholics have been stunned by the recent cascade of revelations of sexual abuse of children and teenagers by members of the clergy. Such a thing is completely unprecedented in Church history, even in medieval times, when many high-ranking prelates made a mockery of celibacy. In their search for an explanation for this appalling situation, both Catholics and others might well look to the still-unrevealed Third Secret.

     This book provides good reasons to believe that the Third Secret predicts exactly what is happening now. Scandals in the clergy are the beginning of the chastisement promised if the consecration is not done. While the whole world will ultimately be punished, the penalty falls first on the Church Herself. The withering of the Catholic priesthood and its moral degeneracy are just the first signs of a calamity that will ultimately engulf the whole of mankind.

     The fact that the four Vatican officials examined in this book have gone to great lengths to put the Fatima question to rest while still concealing the text of the Third Secret strongly supports this interpretation. Clearly, these officials still have something to hide. Otherwise, why not publish the document in question, and why not allow Sister Lucia dos Santos, the only surviving witness to the apparitions, to testify to its authenticity?

     When the whole story is told, it seems obvious that the real reason the Vatican won’t perform the consecration is because doing so would affirm the authenticity of the Fatima message. And doing that, in turn, would affirm the authenticity of the prophesied apostasy reaching even into the Vatican itself. Unbelieving officials are not about to indict themselves by heeding a message that points a finger at them. Instead, they have tried to bury the message, so as to avoid giving credence to that which the Vatican itself had earlier declared worthy of credence.

     In virtually any other era in the history of the Church, members of the top echelon in the Vatican would have been foremost among believers in a message from Heaven delivered in such convincing fashion. They would have lost no time in heeding it, and complying with its request. With the confusion that has followed the Second Vatican Council, and the rapid advance of secularism into every institution, including the Church, over the past 40 years, such a message is now being given a hostile reception even by certain Vatican officials. In ignoring the message, these prelates place themselves not only outside the ranks of believers, but even outside the ranks of non-believers possessed of common sense, because they aren’t even willing to give the message a try anyway—just in case.

     The Bible offers an enlightening example in this regard. The Fourth Book of Kings (4 Kings 5:1-15, in some Bibles it is referred to as 2 Kings 5:1-15) tells the story of Naaman, the leader of the Syrian army, whose king sent him to the prophet Eliseus in Israel to seek a miraculous cure for his leprosy. Without actually meeting him, Eliseus sent Naaman instructions to bathe seven times in the river Jordan, in order to be cured. Naaman was indignant that Eliseus didn’t come to administer his cure personally. Merely bathing in the Jordan, he felt, couldn’t possibly be any better than bathing in any of Syria’s fine rivers. Rejecting the prophet’s instructions as trivial, Naaman prepared to depart, but his advisers dissuaded him. They argued that, if the prophet had asked him to perform some arduous feat to be cured, Naaman would have done it. So why not do the very mundane thing that had been asked instead? In effect, they said to him: Why not try it, since it’s such a simple thing? Naaman agreed to give it a try on this basis, and sure enough, on his seventh washing in the Jordan, his leprosy disappeared.

     There is a striking parallel between this miraculous Biblical event and the attitude now being taken by the Vatican regarding the consecration of Russia. Like Naaman, Vatican officials seem unable to believe that something as simple as a consecration could deliver a benefit as momentous as genuine world peace. And they are so obdurate in their position that won’t even allow the remedy to be tried, despite repeated appeals over many decades from millions of the faithful, including thousands in the Catholic clergy.

     To outsiders, it may seem incredible that a tiny group of highly-placed doubters can block an action so ardently desired by huge numbers of believers. To understand this, it is necessary to understand the structure of the Church, which is very different from a democracy. Bishops of the Catholic Church are not selected by the faithful, nor even by their peers. They are chosen by the Pope and consecrated by him or (more usually) by an existing bishop, and the power conferred on them by this consecration comes directly from God. Once consecrated, each bishop is ultimately answerable to God alone and, under God, owes obedience in Church matters to the Pope alone.

     Given the temper of the times and the administrative style of the present Pope, it is certain the Pope will give no direct order to all the bishops unless there is a general consensus among them first of all.

     What all this means is that it is ultimately up to the bishops of the Church, who number about 4,500, to agree voluntarily to do the consecration as requested. Given their wide powers over appointments, promotions and other privileges, it is easy for the small group in charge at the Vatican to prevent such a spontaneous agreement from ever emerging.

     Today, it is obvious to everyone in the Catholic clergy that speaking out on Fatima is a one-way ticket to oblivion for any priest, bishop or even Cardinal. So most bishops are silent on the matter, regardless of what they actually think or believe. The same is true for priests, who are even more vulnerable to punishment for being "politically incorrect."

     This book also mentions the repressive treatment of the "Fatima Priest," Father Nicholas Gruner, who has devoted himself to the promotion of the Fatima message at great personal cost. The Vatican’s efforts to silence him, which have even included the threat of excommunication, stand in sharp contrast to the lenient treatment of hundreds of other priests, and even bishops and Archbishops, who have been embroiled in allegations of sexual molestation of minors. The sorry state of the Catholic clergy today is epitomized by this contrast between the treatment of Father Gruner and that accorded to Catholic clergy who are actually guilty of serious crimes.

     The Catholic Church has in its hands a remedy that might do something no one else knows how to do—bring peace to this endlessly war-torn world. Based on the compelling case presented in this book, those who are preventing this remedy from being tried have much to answer for. They owe both the Catholic faithful and the world an explanation for their conduct. Further, given its importance to the world at large, the cover-up of the Fatima message is even more an occasion for public outrage than the episcopal cover-ups of priestly sexual misconduct that have been exposed in the year 2002 by the press.

     The final chapter of this book offers some suggestions as to what individuals, both believers and non-believers, might do to persuade the leaders of the Catholic Church to act in both the Church’s own best interest and that of the whole human race. As this book makes clear, both Catholics and non-Catholics have much to gain and a great deal to lose if the Message of Fatima continues to be ignored by the very men who are charged to follow its imperatives.

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