Letter to the Editor

Mr. Quirk;

Let me begin by saying that I am an avid reader of your Christian Democracy Magazine. I like its combination of pro-life and pro-labor viewpoints.

However, I have some concerns about a couple of articles. In the October 2014 Camel's Hair and Locusts article entitled "Lightning Flashes in a Clear Sky," the author seems to sow doubts regarding the completeness of the June 2000 revelation of the content of the 3rd Secret of Fatima. Also, in an earlier article from Fr. Mike van Cleve entitled "The False Self and the United States," the author promotes centering prayer, which is a technique that is condemned by many orthodox Catholics. An orthodox perspective on this technique can be found here: http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=346

I understand that you have to make your magazine appeal to a wide variety of people, including those that have strong disagreements with certain Catholic teachings. However, I think it would be prudent to contain some sort of warning that such articles do not present authentic Catholic teaching.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this email.

Thank you,

Thank you, Jason, for being an avid reader, and also for doing us the kindness of taking us to task when you perceive in us a departure from Catholic orthodoxy. While we certainly want to appeal to a wide variety of people, the strength of our position comes from conformity to Magisterial teaching. That is what we intend, and although it is the social doctrine of the Church that is our focus rather than the subjects about which you raise a concern (though both Father Mike Van Cleve and Phil Ropp have a different brief of business, unique to themselves), it is the aim of Christian Democracy to avoid the advocacy of anything that runs afoul of Catholic teaching.

Fatima is a subject about which I have no expertise. I do know that the apparitions at Fatima constituted a private revelation, and are not a part of the deposit of faith. While I personally believe that the Fatima apparitions are authentic, I would feel unauthorized to classify as a heretic anyone who doubted them. Regarding the revelation of the Third Secret, my limited knowledge of the subject leads me to believe that the Church has revealed it fully, because I have only seen assertions, rather than evidence, to the contrary. My objection to those who say otherwise is not because I think they are heretics, but because I think they are creating controversy and scandal without sufficient reason to do so. That said, I did not understand Phil Ropp to be sowing doubts about the completeness of the revelation of the Third Secret, but simply acknowledging that the controversy exists, a fact that cannot be doubted. He speaks for himself following my response.

As to centering prayer, that is something about which I am utterly unfamiliar. I have never engaged in it, nor have I ever seen it done. I looked at your link and at other sources, and I have found no Magisterial source that condemns the practice. I understand that there are those who hold that it involves elements that were warned against in Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation [1] put out in 1989 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But that document does not mention centering prayer, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason for me to assume it is covered therein, since it is easy to imagine that the opponents of the practice might well misunderstand its nature. I have also learned that there are those who trace the practice to the Desert Fathers. Even if I actively disagreed with the practice of centering prayer, I am not the Magisterium, and Christian Democracy cannot be so constricted.

Based on the foregoing, I retain my confidence in the sincere Catholic orthodoxy of both Father Mike Van Cleve and Phil Ropp. Of course, if there is any Magisterial basis for saying that any advocacy in opposition to Catholic doctrine has found its way onto our pages, then you, and others, are invited and encouraged to bring it to our attention so that the problem can be remedied. I thank you for your brotherly concern in this instance.

--Jack Quirk

Phil Ropp responds:

Dear Jason,

Thank you for reading Christian Democracy, and in particularly for your comments concerning my article, "Lightning Flashes in a Clear Sky." 

It was not my intent to "sow doubts" concerning the "authentic" teachings of the Catholic Church on the subject of the Third Secret of Fatima.  I use quotes here because there is, in truth, no authenticated Church teaching on the subject of the Fatima revelations, merely the statement of those within the hierarchy of the Church that the claimed appearances there of our Blessed Mother are considered "worthy of belief."  They are, and always will remain, the private revelations of the three seers, and, as in all such cases, the Church offers no authentication but merely provides an opinion -- and the warning to proceed with caution.  Belief or unbelief in what was witnessed in Portugal in 1917 is neither dogmatic nor doctrinal, and there is no penalty within the Church for either believing it or not.  The witness of every pope since this incident occurred is that it is worthy of our serious consideration, and this is what I reported.   

That being said, a more careful reading of my article shows that what I wrote concerning the possibility that the Third Secret has not been released in its entirety was not my own opinion on this, but was, rather, a reporter's view of the ongoing controversy surrounding it.  This controversy is centered in claims that Cardinal Bertone, who interviewed Sr. Lucia personally, lied in claiming that the Third Secret, as revealed by Pope Saint John Paul II in the year 2000, was the complete text.  While there are secular reporters and others inside and outside of the Church who make such claims, I limited the comments that I quoted indicating this might be so to high ranking and well respected figures in the Church such as then Cardinal Ratzinger, papal emissary to Pope Pius XII, Fr. Joseph Schweigl, and papal theologian to Pope Saint John Paul II, Cardinal Ciappi.  I deemed these men to be at least as reliable and/or well placed within the Church as Cardinal Bertone, and I presented this in my piece simply because this is where my research led me, and I felt it to be the most balanced and honest representation of the situation.

That brings us to this paragraph which is where I believe you took offense:

This mysterious part of the Third Secret then, should it exist, is concerned with this apostasy in the Church as well as a corresponding and understandable satanic infiltration that accompanies it. From our vantage point in time, we have seen the apostasy that exists within the Church presented to us daily in the news in the form of clergy abuse and the various other scandals, and we practicing and faithful Catholics have witnessed the liturgical and theological abuses that have resulted from the purposeful misinterpretation of the changes wrought by Vatican II.[26] As for the presence of a satanic infiltration in the Church, it was Pope Paul VI who famously remarked "...from some crack the smoke of satan has entered the temple of God."[27]

Given your concern for authentic Catholic teaching, which is a concern we certainly share, I assume we are in agreement on the subject of post-conciliar liturgical and theological abuses.  If you follow the link referenced in item 26 above, it will take you to a more lengthy work of mine on this topic that should be of interest to you. 

As for my remarks concerning apostacy and the ensuing corruption within the Church, this is a sad fact of our times, and  the possibility of the influence of satan in high places does much to explain how and why this might be possible.  Pope Francis has made some very pointed comments recognizing this corruption in the Church here and elsewhere.  Indeed, his very selection as pontiff was based, at least in part, upon an understanding that he was the right man at the right time to address and rectify this situation within the Curia.  We should pray for the Holy Father in his efforts to do this.  If there is a satanic infiltration within the Church as some have claimed, it can be noted that Pope Paul VI commented upon this firsthand back in 1972.  That's hardly breaking news, and the point I was trying to make is that the authentic teaching of the Church remains intact, and her mission goes on, despite this -- should it exist. 

As for "sowing doubts," there are those within the Church who are abundently capable of this with no help from me, and we should not accept the idea that every comment from any Vatican official carries the weight of authentic Catholic teaching.  The Magisterium simply does not work this way.  And, as for the appropriateness of reporting on such critical claims against those in authority within the Church, I cite Canon 212 of the Code of Canon Law:      

"In accord with the knowledge, competence and preeminence which they possess, [the Christian faithful] have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful, all with due regard for the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons."

With all such due respect,

Phil Ropp