«Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling. Hence, our most important pastoral task with regard to families is to strengthen their love, helping to heal wounds and working to prevent the spread of this drama of our times.»
— Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia #247
On my previous articles, I explained that it is wrong to hold Fatima itself accountable for the misinterpretations conspiracy theorists willingly create out of it to, contrary to the message of Fatima, inspire distrust against the Holy Father. I have proposed three ways in which dissenters engage in such misinterpretations:
- The Consecration of Russia
- The Third Secret
- The letter Sister Lucia (one of the seers) sent to Cardinal Caffarra
Both me and Mike Lewis have already addressed points no. 1 and 2. On this article I would like to comment on claim no. 3. In 2008, Cardinal Caffarra gave an interview to the magazine “Voce di Padre Pio” talking about some correspondence he had with Sr. Lucia when he was facing resistance on his mission to set up the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family. Later, in 2017, this story resurfaced yet again. In an exclusive interview to Aleteia, the Cardinal said:
«And so, I thought to write to her [Sister Lucia]. So I wrote, but simply saying: “The pope wanted this Institute. We are going through a very difficult time. I ask you only to pray.” And I added: “I do not expect a reply.” Her prayers were enough for me.
To my great surprise, after not more than two or three weeks, I received a reply. It was a hand-written letter and quite long. I have given sworn testimony of what the letter said. The letter ended, saying (in 1983 or 1984): “Father, a time will come when the decisive battle between the kingdom of Christ and Satan will be over marriage and the family. And those who will work for the good of the family will experience persecution and tribulation. But do not be afraid, because Our Lady has already crushed his head.”»
So far there is nothing wrong with this. It is indeed a fact that the Catholic Church is nowadays fighting a decisive battle against ideological forces which want to deviate Marriage and Family away from their ontology, by encouraging premarital intercourse, divorce, contraception, abortion and the legal recognition of homosexual unions as marriage. It is a fact that this is one of the reasons why the Church faces great opposition from the world, since the world does not understand the Church’s stance on these matters.
However, this otherwise orthodox statement has been used to sow dissent within the Church. In 2017, when this story reappeared, Cardinal Caffarra had already publicly issued, along with three other cardinals, the dubia which have been used by certain sectors of the Church to rail against the full implementation of Amoris Laetitia (AL).
For these dissenters, then, AL is part of the attack Satan has unleashed against marriage and family. Therefore, according to them, AL must be opposed. Dissenters are interpreted as those who “work for the good of the family”, and every resistance they receive for their dissent, along with the consequences they face for their disobedience, becomes the prophesied “persecution and tribulation”. They then receive from this letter a reassurance that their dissent will triumph in the end, so they are justified in every action they take.
But is this interpretation correct?
Well, first of all, we don’t (as far as I know) have access to the actual content of the letter to properly examine the exactness of this quote. I do believe the contents of the letter were presented accurately, for there is nothing strange in what Sr. Lucia has written there in the context Cardinal Caffarra referred to (i.e. the implementation of the pontifical institute). However, it would be very interesting to read the actual wording and the paragraphs immediately before and after.
Secondly, we don’t know if the current battle is indeed the last one Sr. Lucia was referring to. Just because the battleground is the same, it doesn’t mean the battle is the same.
But, most importantly, we must bear in mind that Sr. Lucia is engaging here in an act of prophecy. And prophecy can never be too straightforward, otherwise it would impact its own ability to be fulfilled. The Old Testament and the Book of Revelation are filled with prophecies, but those are shrouded on a mantle of symbolism that makes it hard to pin it on a concrete reality. We should always be very wary not to restrain any given prophecy to a predetermined model in our heads, otherwise we may become like those who thought they knew the date of the Apocalypse from a literal reading of Revelation, or like those who eschewed Jesus because He didn’t fulfill their idea of what a (secular) Messiah should be. God is true to His promises, but not to our interpretations of them, borne out of our limited views of reality.
However, even if we admit the letter was presented accurately, and that the current ideological battle on Family and Marriage is indeed the last battle between God and Satan, and that we should really read this prophecy literally…
… there is a problem with the interpretation being propagated by those who dissent from AL: they assume they are the ones fighting for the good of the family, on the side of God. They assume this without a thought, without even taking a minute to ponder how much of their predetermined ideas they are reading into the prophecy, so that their interpretation is not obvious to anyone who doesn’t share their narrative. Like in any conspiracy theory, the conclusion is a given for them, and everything follows from there.
Wars are not as simple as that, though. They assume this battle has only two fronts. And they assume they are fighting on the right side, just because they are fighting what they perceive to be Satan in one front. However, we know that reality is a bit more complex.
Assuming the war metaphor, Pope Francis is not battling on the side of Satan here. In fact, he is acting as a physician on a field hospital. There was a time when we had to focus on the battlefront, but now there have been many who have been wounded on this battle. Francis is searching the battlegrounds for wounded people to take to the field hospital for healing, so that they may return eventually to the fighting.
But there are some soldiers who try to thwart him at all costs. They see a wounded person and they ask: “Can you walk on your own?” When the wounded reply they can’t, these soldiers leave them to die unaided, because it’s more important to shoot the enemy. Trouble is, they think the doctor who is working on their side may be an enemy, for they are highly suspicious that he may be carrying enemies into the field hospital. However, can we really say those who are shooting the military doctor are fighting on the allies side… or are they fighting (even if inadvertently) on the side of the enemy?
Francis has never yielded to the anti-Family and anti-Marriage forces. In the AL chapters that precede the controversial 8th chapter (the one talking about how to tend to the wounded), Francis never ceases to decry the «culture of the ephemeral» (AL #39) at the base of our current cultural decline. He said very clearly that «there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family» (AL #251), that «any breach of the marriage bond is against the will of God» (AL #291) and that «the Church strongly rejects the forced State intervention in favour of contraception, sterilization and even abortion» (AL #42).
Therefore, Francis is an ally, not an enemy. Nevertheless, he also recognizes that this cultural decline has produced many casualties, people who are now entangled in difficult situations out of which it is very difficult to get out of. He seeks to facilitate their return to a full communion with the Church by having them initiate a path of conversion that, though imperfect at first, may in the end help them regularize their situation and live in accordance with God’s plan.
There is indeed a war raging between God and Satan on the battleground of Family and Marriage. However, we must understand that Family and Marriage are not the ultimate goals either for God or Satan. The true objective is the salvation (or damnation) of souls.
Having acquired this perspective, we can conclude that we have enemies in two fronts:
- Those who attack Family and Marriage to lead souls away from Christ
- Those who attack the casualties of the first attackers, so that the fallen souls will not be helped to be led back to Christ.
In this we may reasonably conclude that the opposition Pope Francis has endured because of AL (in everything similar to the opposition his predecessors endured because of their teachings, even if those who were defending the papacy then are now the aggressors) is the “persecution and tribulation” Sr. Lucia warned us about.
This fills me with hope because, as Sr. Lucia has assured us, Our Lady has already crushed the Devil’s head. The war may seem desperate at this point, but it has already been won. Those who labor against the Church have already lost. In the meantime, I urge every reader to side with the Holy Father’s work for the good of the family (not just on a legislative and political level, but by helping to bring Christ to the broken families of concrete living people), instead of multiplying the persecutions and tribulations against the Pope. If you do not heed this warning, then you are in fact trampling on the lesson given by the actual and real Third Secret of Fatima.
[Photo credits: “Cardinal Carlo Caffarra” by Maurizio Lupi, Wikimedia Commons]
Pedro Gabriel, MD, is a Catholic layman and physician, born and residing in Portugal. He is a medical oncologist, currently employed in a Portuguese public hospital. A published writer of Catholic novels with a Tolkienite flavor, he is also a parish reader and a former catechist. He seeks to better understand the relationship of God and Man by putting the lens on the frailty of the human condition, be it physical and spiritual. He also wishes to provide a fresh perspective of current Church and World affairs from the point of view of a small western European country, highly secularized but also highly Catholic by tradition.