«She [the Virgin St. Mary] is the Mother of mercy, because she bore in her womb the very Face of divine mercy, Jesus»

Pope Francis, Homily on the Opening of the Holy Door of Mercy at Archbasilica of St. Mary Major, Jan 1st 2016


Last February, Aleteia has circulated a story which has been making the rounds on social media for some years now, appearing and resurfacing now and then. I think the first time I heard about this story, it was apocryphally attributed to Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen, but I can’t ascertain its accurate provenance.

Either way, it’s not as important where it came from, as it is what it says. According to this story, St. Peter came to Jesus, very alarmed since he saw a lot of souls entering Heaven without coming across the pearly gates where he stood guard with his keys. Jesus, on the other hand, tells him not to be concerned with that, for those souls were coming through another entrance opened by His Mother, through the prayer of the rosary.

I believe I heard this story in some way even before Pope Francis was elected. At the time, it was not very controversial. Nor is it now, don’t get me wrong…

But something changed in those very same Catholic circles where this story was once popular. Sure, Mary is still perceived as bypassing the authority of St. Peter… but now, Mary is not seen as opening entrances where the sinners may more easily enter Heaven.

No, on this new version of the story, Mary is viewed as someone who closes the door on the sinner’s face, the same door Peter opened. Or as someone who kicks out of Heaven the souls who just entered through the pearly gates unlocked by the petrine keys.

If this seems to you as a depiction of Mary that makes her unrecognizable, you would be right.

However, even if the rigorists who depict Mary this way may reject the description I just made, in practice that’s what they think of her. There is a sector of the Church, who is in opposition to Pope Francis (when not to all the pontiffs we’ve had since the 2nd Vatican Council) and at the same time, has a profound fascination with everything Marian.

Of course, there would be nothing wrong with it, if they simply used their influence and love for Tradition to promote all the Marian pieties of which they are so devout, like praying the rosary and novenas or nurturing Marian spiritual readings or if they preached about the many approved Marian apparitions, all for the edification of souls. The problem is that they will mix all these beneficial aspects of Marian piety with an enthrallment for private revelations, without distinction between the approved and unapproved ones, which are then twisted to foster conspiracy theories whose sole purpose is to sow dissent and disobedience against the Holy Father, thereby leading souls away from communion with the Church (and therefore, salvation).

This can be done in a very flamboyant way (most traditionalist sites and blogs who fight against the Pope have lots of Marian iconography all around), but also in more subtle ways. Cardinal Raymond Burke, arguably the most influential clergyman spearheading the resistance against Pope Francis, has alluded to conspiracy theories concerning the third secret of Fatima to promote the idea of an alleged Church apostasy, an idea that has been used to undermine Francis’ teachings and actions as pope. The Correctio filialis, written by laypeople and minor clergy and which purports to correct the Pope’s teachings, begins with a reference to being published on the day of the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. And the Profession by the Kazakshtan bishops, written to counter Amoris Laetitia, also ends with a reference to being published on the Day of the Holy Family and on the centenary of the Apparitions in Fatima.

In all of these instances, the intention is clear… since the Holy Father is the Vicar of Christ, judged by no one on this earth, bringing Mary into the equation is a way to usurp authority for those who don’t have any, but want to rebel.

It is, however, one of the most anti-Marian things to do. If we read the Holy Scripture carefully, we will see that those who were seeking power from their following of Jesus Christ, or those who were infected with a rigorist mindset (wanting to call down fire from Heaven to fall on the sinners) were the apostles, not Mary. In Scripture, Mary tends to avert the spotlight and instead to meditate things in silence, in the intimacy of her own heart, obeying almost without a word. The only time she seems to ask something from her Son, she is more concerned about the wellbeing of a couple of newlyweds, who had no more wine (a biblical symbol for joy)… and her intervention breeds more confusion than clarity (to use the terms preferred by anti-Francis dissenters), since it seems like she is forcing Jesus to do something when it is “not yet the time”. Of course, that’s not the case, for she says to the servants to do everything Jesus asks them to. In other words, obedience.

Obedience is the hallmark of Mary, and disobedience is what dissenters seek to justify at all costs. It is, therefore, an insult to Mary to weaponize her against Peter. I have no doubt that she who was so obedient to her Son would also be obedient to the one her Son chose as His Vicar.

I will then take this Marian month of May to try to dispel some of the conspiracy theories around the Holy Virgin. Of course, I won’t be able to address all the conspiracy theories out there, for they are legion. I will, however, bring focus to texts of mine (or texts of others) about Fatima, Akita and La Salette.

In every single one of these instances, I will bring attention to a crucial detail: the Church does not impose on the faithful that they have to believe in any particular private revelation. It does, however, say that we should be guided by the Church’s teachings, with submission to the authority of the Roman Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him.

It is, therefore, extremely illogical for me that we should heed any particular revelation warning us of a general apostasy involving the Roman Pontiff. Since we are not bound to believe any particular revelation, but are bound to the teachings of the Pope, it would seem a low blow from God’s part that my salvation should hinge on me heeding a private revelation commanding me to disobey the Pope’s teachings.

Dissenters who rail against the Pope usually quote St. Paul on Gal 1:8: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema”.

But it seems to me that those who use private revelations to go against the well-founded and biblical authority of the Pope are the ones St. Paul is warning us about on that passage. By using private revelations to postulate an apostasy involving the Pope, they are the ones adding something to the gospel besides Mt 16:18, where Jesus sets the Church on Peter, the Rock, promising him that the gates of Hell should not prevail.

As such, I do not believe Mary should be a pretext for that. She never wanted to add anything to her Son’s message, only to submit and obey to the gospel which was given to her and us. A gospel that includes Mt 16:18.

May Mary shine her light on everyone who reads these articles, so that every reader may get to know her as she really is, as the Mother of Mercy who, with her Son, wants every sinner to be saved. Amen.

[Photo credit: Aleteia, author unknown; Fair use]

Pedro Gabriel

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.

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    • Mike Lewis says:

      We actually have a piece on the German proposal coming up later this week. The endtimes stuff as well, maybe.

        • Cheeky Lawyer says:

          What’s the point? That there are lots of other heterodox bishops around the world?

          • Yaya says:

            What’s the point?

            Thing is some, if not many, folks have been doing “whatever they want” when it comes to Holy Communion for years regardless of who’s pope, cardinal or bishop.

            We can’t police them no matter how many are wanting the Vatican to “lay down the law.”

            It is a sad reality but one that requires much prayer from those of us who are doing our best to live the faith by following Jesus.

          • Mike Lewis says:

            Well, assuming that the implication of suggesting we write about it is that Francis has not offered his opinion of this one case, you might be interested in defending the previous popes for ignoring it many times.

          • Cheeky Lawyer says:

            So where in that article does it show bishops appealing to the Holy See to resolve a dispute between a faction who adhere to the Church’s teaching and those who don’t? That this has gone on doesn’t say anything about whether the question was presented to Rome. (And in one case it was and the South African bishops had to revise their guidelines.) Here it was. If only there were a principle or an office that could guarantee unity and resolve such disputes . . .

          • Mike Lewis says:

            So it’s better for a pope to ignore it than to start a process that will come up with a workable (and unanimous) solution?

            You don’t think that any of this is due to a disproportionate prejudice against this pope? Last I checked, the pope has jurisdiction over the conditions that allow properly disposed, baptized, non-Catholic Christians to receive sacraments from the Catholic Church – as when St. John Paul II implemented an expansion through the 1983 code.

  1. Yaya says:

    Gracias a Dios ya a la Madre de Dios!

    Thank you so much for this solid piece on our Virgencita Maria. I take comfort in knowing how much Papa Francis loves her and how much our Lady watches over him.
    Amid all the chaos tossed at him, he would be so lost without her tenderness. May sh continue to be his refuge as she brings him ever closer to our Lord and Savior.

  2. carn says:

    “It is, therefore, extremely illogical for me that we should heed any particular revelation warning us of a general apostasy involving the Roman Pontiff. Since we are not bound to believe any particular revelation, but are bound to the teachings of the Pope, it would seem a low blow from God’s part that my salvation should hinge on me heeding a private revelation commanding me to disobey the Pope’s teachings.”

    From my point of view it would extremely illogical that my salvation would hinge on being obedient to some Pope’s teaching when i cannot say for certain, what that teaching actually is.

    A willing act of disobedience requires first to know, what obedience would call for.

    For example what Cheeky Lawyer links above:

    If i would live in Germany and my spouse is protestant, what should i do and say as a catholic obedient to the Pope, if my spouse ponders about receiving communion in the Catholic Church and asks me for advice?

    The day before yesterday or so, it would have been clear, i would have to inform my spouse that probably becoming catholic first would be required (obedience requires to describe some matter of Church teaching/rules as correctly as i can given my knowledge and the circumstances).

    Today i might have to suggest that .. well .. i do not know; wait and see what the German bishops which according to some other bishops have no authority to break with canon law in this decide, then wait some months (how long?) for the guranteed calls to the Pope to clarify this issue to fade due the Pope not answering and then go to some priest and talk about spiritual need, etc.; but that would only mean receiving in Germany or maybe even in a certain area, cause when we are on vacation in Poland or Austria different rules apply; but actually with a silent Pope obedience might require to restate respective canon law, as silence does not invalidate law, and advise that what is produced by the German bishops is to be ignored as it cannot invalidate canon law.

    A willing act of disobedience requires first to know, what obedience would call for.

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