The Third Secret Controversy—Part VII

The Strange Case of Cardinal Ottaviani


Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the most famous stories of dual personality.  In the Third Secret Controversy, a strange dual personality can be distinguished in Cardinal Ottaviani.  In fact, long before the controversy over the Vision Text began, a controversy had been brewing over the inexplicable words and actions of this well-known member of the Curia.

Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, thought of by most as a staunch conservative, had already shown this strange dualism during Vatican II.   While opposing many of the more liberal and modernist passages in the decrees, he occasionally would echo a liberal stand himself—for example, when he applauded the visit of Paul VI to the United Nations near the end of the Council.  In connection with the Third Fatima Secret, we have already seen that it was widely believed that he had informally encouraged the publication and distribution of the "Neues Europa text;" yet he appears to have denounced it later.  Much of the controversy has been over a discourse he gave on February 11, 1967. He was designated to speak at a meeting held to prepare for a Marian congress, to be held in Fatima some months later.  Paul VI used this occasion to make known his intention to continue to keep the Third Secret buried, and Cardinal Ottaviani was his chosen mouthpiece.  The Cardinal's discourse was a series of errors and ambiguities, which were later soundly criticized by Fatima experts.   Some assumed that the Cardinal was not really interested in Fatima, and simply had not taken the time to prepare his discourse carefully; others assumed that he was intentionally trying to deceive.  But the truth may lie elsewhere.

Cardinal Ottaviani did not obtain his high position, originally given him by Pope Pius XII, by being careless and slipshod in his work.  But his actions and words during and after Vatican II show that, in any given matter, he would always abandon his own opinions, beliefs and even principles, and simply do what he was told.  The question is, was he told to make so many factual errors in his discourse?

A possible solution to this mystery lies in a similarity between his position and that of so many prisoners of war in recent times.   Often these have been forced to make a recorded "confession" of their "war crimes;" but sometimes they would "poison the message" in order to make it clear that they were being forced to say something against their will.   Mispronounced words, factual errors and the like would be inserted, often without their captors' notice, to alert any listener that the whole message was bogus.   Could it be that Cardinal Ottaviani was doing the same thing?  For truly the errors that he made were inexplicable.  In the following excerpts, we will highlight in italics the errors, inconsistencies and ambiguities, more or less obvious.  There seems to be a pattern: every time the Cardinal says something false, which he was probably told to say, he accompanies it by a more obvious factual error or silly ambiguity.

"If it is a question of a Secret, how could I reveal it?  In any event, I will deal with some questions concerning the 'Secret of Fatima'."

The Cardinal knew very well that it was not because "it is a question of a secret" that he is unable to reveal it.  He knew that his listeners, and the whole world, were aware that the Third Secret was supposed to have been revealed in 1960.  Was he trying to be funny?  Or was he letting it be known that much of what he was about to say was false?

"The first time I was at Fatima was in 1955.   As I walked up the hill which was to lead me to the Cova da Iria, I was already edified by the piety, by the spirit of sacrifice and prayer demonstrated by so many people.  They were going up this hill, carrying their provisions and everything they needed to spend the night commemorating the event of October 13, 1917."

The Cardinal's visit was not on October 13, but rather on May 13.

"This huge crowd, which was in prayer, did not ask to know the mysterious Secret of Fatima.  It was already in possession of the most essential Secret, the one embossed upon the soul of whoever reads the Gospel attentively: the secret of the ladder to Heaven, whose steps are called Prayer and Penance."

Of course the crowd did not ask to know the Secret; they expected it to be revealed in 1960.  And certainly while prayer and penance are basic to the Message of Fatima, it is a gross over-simplification to say that they are "the most essential Secret."  Indeed, they are not a secret at all!   Clearly this is part of the official Vatican line to explain away the need to reveal the Third Secret.

"The Most Holy Virgin, while placing Her virginal foot upon the land of the Cova da Iria, which She thus sanctified, entrusted three messages to little Lucia. One concerned the most intimate feelings of Lucia about her family, the prediction that her little brother Francisco and her little sister Jacinta would soon take their flight to Heaven...

"The world has paid attention to Lucia's message.  In this message, there was the private part, concerning her brother and sister; there was the part concerning the whole world (it invited the whole world to prayer and penance); and finally there was the third part of the things confided by the Holy Virgin.  And those things She had confided (to Lucia) not for herself, not for the world—at least for the time being—but for the Vicar of Christ."

Those familiar with the Fatima apparitions hardly need to be reminded that Francisco and Jacinta were Lucia's cousins—not her brother and sister!  The rearrangement of the Three Secrets is also purely imaginary.   The announcement of the imminent deaths of Francisco and Jacinta is not part of the Great Secret at all.  All three parts concern the whole world—not just one.   And the Third Secret was never addressed exclusively to the Pope.

"And Lucia has kept the secret.  She has not spoken, which is not to say that some have not tried to make her speak.  Yes, there are 'secrets of Fatima' circulating, which are attributed to her.  Do not believe any of them!  Lucia has kept the secret.

"And then, what did she do to obey the Most Holy Virgin?  She wrote on a sheet of paper, in Portuguese, what the Holy Virgin asked her to tell the Holy Father.

"The Message was not to opened before 1960.   I asked Lucia: 'Why this date?'  And she answered me: 'Because then it will be more clear'."

Note that the Cardinal did not directly contradict the Neues Europa text, for it was not attributed to Sr. Lucia.  The insistence that the Third Secret was only for the Pope seems to have been the excuse given by the Vatican for keeping it secret.  Not any more, however, for this statement cannot be reconciled with the Vision Text, which the Vatican insists is the only contents of the Third Secret.  The last statement of Cardinal Ottaviani—concerning the 1960 date—would appear to be true.

"The envelope containing the 'Secret of Fatima' was given, still sealed, to the Bishop of Leiria... He gave it to the Apostolic Nuncio... who faithfully passed it on to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as the latter had requested, to prevent such a delicate thing, not intended to be given for general consumption to the public, from falling into foreign hands for whatever reason, even by chance.

"So the Secret arrived at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and—still sealed—it was handed to John XXIII... and, although the text was written in Portuguese, he told me later that he had understood it entirely.

"Then he placed the Secret himself in another envelope, sealed it and placed it into one of these archives which are like a deep, dark, dark well, to the bottom of which papers fall, and nobody ever sees any more of them. So, it is difficult to say where the Secret of Fatima is now."

When the Cardinal said these last words, he leaned down to the ground as if looking down a deep well.  After repeating the obvious error that the Third Secret was not for the public—contrary to the well-known facts—Cardinal Ottaviani does us a great favor.  He gives a clear indication of the existence of another text.  For Msgr. Capovilla has since made it clear that John XXIII required a translator for the "abstruse" text which he placed "in another envelope"—and this envelope has never been produced.  Also, the official Vatican claim concerning the Vision Text is that it was always in the archives of the "Holy Office"—the "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith"—of which Cardinal Ottaviani was prefect.  So the Cardinal must be speaking of a second text when he says "it is difficult to say where the Secret of Fatima is now.

Before concluding Cardinal Ottaviani would repeat several times the obvious untruth that the Third Secret was only for the Pope.  But in doing so, he again provides evidence of a second text:

"The Secret matters for the Holy Father, to whom it was addressed. He was the one to whom the Secret was addressed."

None of the envelopes known or claimed to be connected with the Third Secret are addressed to the Holy Father.  The Vision Text is "addressed" to God!  So again, Cardinal Ottaviani must be speaking of a different text.

Ten years later the review Madre di Dio asked the Cardinal the following questions: "1. Is there confirmation of everything which the Cardinal communicated on the third Secret, in the discourse of February 11, 1967?   2. Are the suppositions legitimate of those who say that the Holy See brought a part of the 'third' Secret to the knowledge of the great powers—and that it is known today thanks to diplomatic indiscretions?  3. Might the Secret be related to the present crisis of the Church, as some say?"

Not surprisingly the Cardinal dodged the first and last questions.  He only replied to the second:

"I must tell you that the many texts published in various journals are all the fruit of the supposition of those people who think they can deduce it from elements gathered from different books or publications.  The true text of the 'Secret,' written by the seer Lucia and sent to John XXIII, has really remained a secret, because [he] himself has revealed nothing of this matter. We are completely ignorant where he placed the text which was sent to him."

Sr. Lucia never "sent" the text to John XXIII.  But that he came into possession of a text has been confirmed by Capovilla.   It is obviously impossible for Cardinal Ottaviani to have been ignorant of the whereabouts of the Vision Text.  He must be speaking of another text.

Sadly, legalese, double-speak, ambiguity and back-tracking have become the all too blatant hallmarks of the Vatican.

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