Bertone vs. Socci

Christopher A. Ferrara


Cardinal Bertone attempts an answer to Antonio Socci’s explosive book accusing the Vatican of covering up the Third Secret of Fatima, but the Cardinal only succeeds in embarrassing himself and confirming the suspicions of the faithful.

In the midst of the motu proprio mania there has been an enormously important development in the controversy surrounding the Third Secret of Fatima.  Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, has published a small book, The Last Visionary of Fatima, which attacks the Italian intellectual Antonio Socci for having concluded in his own book, The Fourth Secret of Fatima, that the Vatican is concealing a text of the Third Secret.  Socci’s conclusion brings to a rolling boil the long-simmering conviction among the faithful that, as Mother Angelica put it on her national television show in 2001, “we didn’t get the whole thing.”

Reviewing the evidence marshaled primarily in traditionalist sources, Socci—abandoning his own prior defense of the Vatican’s position—concluded that that there is indeed a withheld text of the Secret that undoubtedly contains the words of the Blessed Virgin accompanying the vision of the “bishop dressed in white” published by the Vatican in June of 2000, which the Vatican claims is the Third Secret in its entirety. The missing words of the Virgin would constitute the “soundtrack” of the vision, explaining how a limping Pope comes to be executed by a band of soldiers on a hill outside a ruined city full of cadavers.  Socci (along with virtually every serious traditionalist and non-traditionalist Fatima expert) is now convinced that the missing words follow the Virgin’s statement “In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will always be preserved, etc.”—the “etc” having been added by Sister Lucy to hold the place for the spoken contents of the Third Secret. As Socci puts it in his book (based on the testimony of those who have read the Secret), the missing words “preannounce an apocalyptic crisis of the faith in the Church starting at the summit,” accompanied by “dramatic events for humanity.”

Of course, Bertone had to do something, for the publication of Socci’s book meant that this issue would no longer be a contest between the Vatican apparatus and those who can be dismissed haughtily with the demagogic labels “Fatimist” and “extreme traditionalist.” Socci is a highly respected mainstream Catholic commentator who has conducted press conferences for both Bertone and the former Cardinal Ratzinger.  Bertone had no choice but to attempt an answer.

But, as Socci shows in his response to Bertone’s book in the Italian newspaper Libero, Bertone’s effort is a major embarrassment to him and to the Vatican—a disaster, in fact, because it leaves untouched the entire case in support of the thesis that the Vatican is hiding part of the Secret, while raising still more doubts about Bertone’s credibility.   At the same time, Bertone demeans his high office by recklessly hurling invective at Socci, pronouncing his contentions “ravings,” calling him a deliberate liar (“mendace”), and even accusing him of the tactics of Freemasonry, which has to be one of the most ironic remarks of the post-conciliar epoch.  Bertone acts like a desperate, wounded man instead of the Vatican Secretary of State.

Utilizing an obscure Vaticanist (a reporter on the Vatican beat) to toss him a series of softball questions, Bertone’s book, aside from its insults of Socci, is essentially 140 pages of meandering “answers” that fail to address the merits of a single one of Socci’s well-supported arguments. For example, as to the key contention that the missing words of the Virgin are found within Sister Lucy’s “etc.,” Bertone does nothing more than restate the contention without answering it.   Small wonder, for it was Bertone and his collaborators who (as Socci discusses in his book) deliberately evaded the telltale “etc” by detaching it from integral text of the Fatima message and relegating it to a footnote without explanation in the Vatican’s official commentary on the Third Secret.

To take another example, regarding the substantial evidence (including three eyewitnesses and a photograph) that the missing one-page text containing the Virgin’s words was kept separately in the papal bedchamber rather than in the Holy Office archives, where the four-page text of the vision was maintained, Bertone ducks the issue by stating that a one-page text was never in the archives, while saying nothing about what, if anything, was in the papal bedchamber.  Having conspicuously failed to deny that a missing text was in the bedchamber, Bertone suddenly announces, for the first time ever, that some seven years ago Sister Lucy told him during an unrecorded interview that the four-page text of the vision “is the Third Secret and I have never written other.”

We are asked to believe that Sister Lucy uttered this never-before-mentioned phrase during one of three interviews conducted by Bertone, totaling ten hours, which, as Socci’s response notes, were “incredibly… not taped, nor filmed, nor transcribed.”  Bertone claims, however, that he “took notes”—a total of four minutes’ worth of phrases out of ten hours of alleged conversation. Socci rightly asks: “Why was such an important phrase not reported by Bertone in the official publication [in 2000]?”  Moreover, why was it not reported until Sister Lucy was dead, and could no longer deny anything? As Socci shows with this and other examples of alleged statements by Sister Lucy during the purported interviews, Bertone’s mysterious “notes” rather conveniently yield just what Bertone needs, just when he needs it—and not a moment sooner. Yet somehow not one of the same alleged statements of Sister Lucy found its way into the Vatican commentary of 2000, where they would have handily supported the Vatican’s position.  Indeed, Sister Lucy was kept incommunicado throughout the “revelation” of the Third Secret in that year, even though she was the only living witness to its true contents.

Socci’s response poses the $64,000 question that Bertone continues to duck: “[W]hy did the prelate not ask the visionary if she had ever written the sequel to the mysterious words of the Virgin suspended by etcetera (‘In Portugal the dogma of the faith will always be preserved’) which have always been considered by the experts the beginning of the Third Secret?  Very strange.” Or perhaps Bertone did ask her, and got an answer he does not wish us to know.  Perhaps the answer is in his “notes.”  But don’t expect these “notes” ever to see the light of day.

As Socci observes in his reply, Bertone’s book not only fails to answer any of the points he raised in The Fourth Secret of Fatima, but also “poses further problems.  I was even embarrassed to read a thing so bungled and self-wounding.”  For example, in order to bolster the Vatican party line that the Message of Fatima (and thus the Third Secret) belongs to the past because Russia has already “converted,” Bertone “credits the rumor that Gorbachev, in the historic visit to Pope Wojtyla of December 1, 1989, ‘made a mea culpa’ before the Pope”—a myth that was “officially denied by the Vatican Press Office on March 2, 1998.”

Another self-inflicted wound is Bertone’s statement that “Sister Lucy never worked with a computer.”  Here Bertone forgets that, when it was expedient for him to do so, he asserted precisely the opposite: that Sister Lucy “even used a computer” in 1989—a claim that, as Socci notes, “served to accredit certain letters that Sister Lucy had not written in her own hand and which contradicted everything she had said before on the consecration of Russia.” Bertone has thus undermined all claims that Sister Lucy was the author of those letters.

I could write an entire book—and have in fact been asked to do so—on the damning omissions, admissions and inconsistencies in Bertone’s attempt to answer Socci. Suffice it to say for now that Bertone has actually succeeded in helping Socci prove a cover-up.  Socci, indeed, is sticking to his guns: “It is evident that the ‘Fourth Secret’ of Fatima (or rather the hidden part of the Third) exists and in my book I think that I have demonstrated it.”

But Socci is not pleased by his vindication through Bertone’s flailing and ineffectual attacks.  As he explains: “For any author it would be a coup to see himself personally attacked by the Secretary of State without even a trace of argument. But for me it is a disaster, because I am a Catholic before a journalist. I would have preferred… to be confuted. Or else I would have wanted the Holy See to reveal the whole truth about the ‘Third Secret’ of Fatima, publishing—as the Madonna requested—the part still hidden.  Otherwise I would have preferred to be ignored, snubbed, boycotted.  It is one thing to be mistaken, another to evade, and that is precisely what Bertone has done: publicly exposing himself without responding to anything and on the contrary adding disastrous findings. For him and for the Vatican.”

It would be difficult to underestimate the importance of this development: a prominent and unimpeachable Catholic journalist and intellectual has publicly accused the Vatican of hiding a text containing a prophecy of the Virgin concerning apostasy in the Church and perhaps apocalyptic events for the world at large, and the Vatican offers no defense to the charge except a rambling collection of evasions and insults uttered by its Secretary of State.

Bertone’s book boasts an introduction in the form of a letter from Pope Benedict, which tellingly avoids any details of the controversy.  But, in a thickening of the plot, Socci reveals that he has a letter from the Pope “concerning my book, thanking me for ‘the sentiments which have suggested it.’”  Socci says that the Pope’s words are “comforting before the insults and coarse accusations” Bertone has hurled at him.  While Socci is understandably comforted by the Pope’s letter, however, it raises troubling questions: Why would the Pope thank Socci for a book that accuses the Vatican of censoring the very words of the Mother of God, while at the same time supporting his Secretary of State in the publication of an attack on Socci, filled with insults and evasions that only confirm the suspicions of the faithful?  If what Bertone says is true and what Socci says is false, then why did the Pope’s letter to Socci apparently contain not a word of rebuke or correction?

As we await the “imminent” motu proprio that may never come, we can know this much with certainty about the state of affairs in the Vatican: all is chaos.

May Our Lady of Fatima intercede for us soon, delivering us from the “diabolical disorientation” she herself predicted in the Third Secret.