“All of us – yes, even you and I – are liable to be deceived.”
In this essay we will consider:
– Miracles as proof of Christ’s revelation
– The continuation of miracles in the Church
– Being too dependent on signs and wonders
– Credulity and false miracles
– The purpose of miracles, and the purpose of the promised conversion of Russia
– Has the Consecration already happened?
– Consecration by a man like Francis?
– Conclusions and cautions about emotional rollercoasters
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Miracles as proof of Christ’s revelation
In the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent, Our Lord condemns the Pharisees for saying that his authority and miracles came from the Devil.
Miracles are not a small affair in the life of the Catholic Church. It is a commonplace of fundamental theology that the revelation of Our Lord was established by the authority of miracles and prophecies. The theologian Michaele Nicolau SJ, in fact, states the following as one of his central theses:
“The primary criterion for proving the fact of revelation must be placed in miracles and prophecies.” (emphasis added).
This is confirmed authoritatively by Vatican I:
“In order that the submission of our faith should be in accordance with reason, it was God’s will that there should be linked to the internal assistance of the holy Spirit external indications of his revelation, that is to say divine acts, and first and foremost miracles and prophecies, which clearly demonstrating as they do the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are the most certain signs of revelation and are suited to the understanding of all.” (emphasis added)
It is also included in the second affirmation of the Oath Against Modernism:
“Secondly, I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time.”
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Image: The rods of Moses and Aaron transformed into serpents – the magicians of Egypt accomplished a similar feat as a magical trick. Wiki Commons.
We do not want to find ourselves in the position of rejecting true miracles. Elsewhere, Our Lord says:
“If I had not done among them the works that no other man hath done, they would not have sin: but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father.” John 15.24-5
This idea also appears in Our Lord’s parable of Dives and Lazarus. From Hell, the rich man Dives begs Abraham to send Lazarus. “the one-time pauper”, to warn his brothers about their imminent damnation.
‘Father, I beseech thee that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments.’
And Abraham said to him: ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them.’
But he said: ‘No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will do penance.’
And he said to him: ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.’ Luke 16.27-31
This parable warns us that we may be deceived into rejecting true miracles – but also that we have a more fundamental duty to be taught by religious authority.
Elsewhere, Christ is even more specific and terrifying about the consequences of rejecting true miracles:
“Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein were done the most of his miracles, for that they had not done penance.
‘Woe thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you.
‘And thou Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if in Sodom had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in thee, perhaps it had remained unto this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee.’” Matthew 11.20-4
The continuation of miracles in the Church
Historically, the Catholic Church has insisted on the importance of miracles against her opponents, particularly during the Reformation.
This is not the place to go into detail, but in short, Catholic writers insisted that if the Reformers had received a special, extraordinary mission to change the received religion, then they should be able to prove this, with miracles as divine testimony. The reformers denied this, and along with it, the importance of miracles and supernatural phenomenon as signs of credibility.
The situation is not identical, because (in most places) the Catholic Church’s credentials have already been established. But as Mgr. Ottaviani wrote in 1953:
“Once the Church was established, the charisms, as is understandable, diminished, but did not disappear.
“The assistance of the Holy Ghost and the presence of Christ in His Church will last until the end of ages, and this presence still manifests itself by supernatural signs: by miracles.”
It will not do to claim that miracles simply no longer happen, or are unnecessary, or to talk as if there was something shameful about them. In relation to the crisis in the Church, there is also no need to rule out a resolution confirmed by miracles – and perhaps such confirmation could be linked to the revelations at Fatima.
However, this resolution can only be one that accords with what the Church has always taught about herself. No miracle could “cancel out” this teaching.
Being too dependent on signs and wonders
Having seen the importance that Our Lord and his Church place on miracles, and on not hardening our heart to them, we should also consider another aspect of our attitude towards miracles.
On two occasions in St Matthew’s Gospel, Our Lord condemns the pharisees for asking for a sign:
“An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.
“The men of Ninive shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they did penance at the preaching of Jonas. And behold a greater than Jonas here.” Matthew 12.39-41
And in St John’s Gospel, Our Lord says:
“Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not.” John 4.48
We have already seen in the parable of Dives and Lazarus, that we have a fundamental duty to be submissive to the Church.
In his exchange with St Thomas, Christ praises those whose Faith is based on this authority, rather than being real eyewitnesses to miracles:
“Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen and have believed.” John 20.29
Credulity and false miracles
Why is this? We must take seriously the possibility that we may be deceived by false miracles. We may be deceived by charlatans, or by a superstitious attitude which sees miracles and demons behind merely natural events. This, in turn, can cause a scandal for those outside the Church.
Even more dangerously, we may be deceived by false miracles from the Devil. I am not going to go into how to recognise a true miracle, but it would be the height of pride to assume that false miracles would only deceive “other people”.
In the book of the Apocalypse, in English, the word “signs” appears four times, and all four refer to the false miracles of diabolical origin – and we are told that “the beast” which worked these signs “seduced them that dwell on the earth.” That will no doubt include many Catholics – including those who think that they are impervious to deceit.
Our Lord warns that there will be false Christs and false prophets whose apparent miracles will be so convincing as to convince almost everyone.
“Then if any man shall say to you, Lo here is Christ, or there: do not believe him. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect. Behold I have told it to you, beforehand.
“If therefore they shall say to you, Behold he is in the desert: go ye not out. Behold he is in the closets: believe it not.” Matthew 24.23-26
It is also worth quoting the entirety of the second chapter of St Paul’s Epistle to the Thessalonians, with emphases added:
St Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, Chapter II
“And we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and of our gathering together unto him: that you be not easily moved from your sense nor be terrified, neither by spirit nor by word nor by epistle as sent from us, as if the day of the Lord were at hand.
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition who opposeth and is lifted up above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself as if he were God.
“Remember you not that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
And now you know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh: only that he who now holdeth do hold, until he be taken out of the way.
“And then that wicked one shall be revealed: whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: him whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power and signs and lying wonders: and in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish: because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: that all may be judged who have not believed the truth but have consented to iniquity.
“But we ought to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, beloved of God, for that God hath chosen you first-fruits unto salvation, in sanctification of the spirit and faith of the truth: whereunto also he hath called you by our gospel, unto the purchasing of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast: and hold the traditions, which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle.
“Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God and our Father, who hath loved us and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope in grace, exhort your hearts and confirm you in every good work and word. 2 Thess 2 (Emphasis added)
It is interesting that St Paul links a great falling-away from the Church, the appearance of the Antichrist, the removal of a person (labelled the “katechon”) holding the Antichrist back, a proliferation of error, false miracles – and prescribes standing fast and holding to tradition as the antidote.
There are certainly many parallels here with our current situation, which should make us pay even more attention to the possibility of false miracles leading us into error.
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The purpose of miracles, and the purpose of the promised Fatima miracle as an example
St Thomas Aquinas tells us the purpose God intends by working miracles:
“[T]he Holy Ghost provides sufficiently for the Church in matters profitable unto salvation, to which purpose the gratuitous graces are directed. Now just as the knowledge which a man receives from God needs to be brought to the knowledge of others through the gift of tongues and the grace of the word, so too the word uttered needs to be confirmed in order that it be rendered credible. This is done by the working of miracles, according to Mk. 16:20, ‘And confirming the word with signs that followed’: and reasonably so.
“For it is natural to man to arrive at the intelligible truth through its sensible effects. Wherefore just as man led by his natural reason is able to arrive at some knowledge of God through His natural effects, so is he brought to a certain degree of supernatural knowledge of the objects of faith by certain supernatural effects which are called miracles.” (Emphasis added).
In other words, miracles are intended by God as signs confirming revealed words and doctrine, rendering them credible.
Now – being specific about Fatima and the consecration of Russia, let us consider 1) the miracle promised; and 2) what it is that the miracle is intended to vindicate. To do so, let us return to the original apparitions in Fatima in 1917.
In July 1917, after showing the children the vision of Hell, Our Lady said:
“You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart.
“If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end, but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the reign of Pius XI.
“When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine and persecutions against the Church and the Holy Father.
“To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays.
“If My requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.
“In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted, and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world.” (Emphasis added)
We see here that Our Lady gives a simple conditional promise: If Russia is consecrated, then Russia will be converted. She also states that Russia certainly will eventually be converted, and that her Immaculate Heart will triumph.
Further details revealed to Sister Lucie
In 1929 in Tuy, Our Lady appeared again to Sister Lucie and in a certain vision stated:
“The moment has come when God asks the Holy Father to make, in union with all the bishops of the world, the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means.”
From this, we have again our answer to the first point, namely what the promised miracle will be: it will be the conversion of Russia and a period of peace.
Regarding the second point – what the miracle is intended to vindicate, Sister Lucie reports Our Lord’s answer:
“When Sister Lucy asked Him why He would not convert Russia without the Pope making this consecration, Our Lord responded: ‘Because I want My whole Church to recognise that consecration as a triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to extend its cult later on and place devotion to this Immaculate Heart beside the devotion to My Divine Heart… The Immaculate Heart of Mary will save Russia. It has been confided to Her.’” (Emphasis added)
Let’s summarise this part of the message of Fatima, its conditional promise and stated rationale:
- Following the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the pope and all the bishops.
- Russia will be converted and there will be a period of peace.
- And the reason for this is to cause the whole Church to recognise that this consecration was a triumph of the Immaculate Heart.
Has the Consecration already happened?
Some believe that the consecration has already been done, either by Pius XII or by John Paul II. For various reasons, few today believe that Francis’s 2022 attempt accomplished anything.
The teaching authority of the Church is above any interpretation of private revelation – and she is not beholden to the opinions or desires of individuals, even of Sister Lucie. However, one does not need to have asked Sister Lucie’s opinion to see that Pius XII’s consecration did not fulfil the conditions specified for the consecration.
Similarly, we who are traditionalists should not be too overawed at a) the modernist Vatican b) telling us that the post-1958 Sister Lucie said that c) John Paul II’s consecration “of the world” was “just as Our Lady asked, on 25 March 1984” – see here for more. Our minds are capable of seeing that one thing is not the other.
What about the effects? Under these readings, we have been in a period of peace since either date. But while there has been a sort of relative peace for many of us, there have been multiple wars and bloodshed since that time. This is not to mention what Archbishop Lefebvre called “World War III” – the worst crisis in the Church’s history. Is this a worthy interpretation of “a period of peace”?
Under these readings, the conversion of Russia was accomplished with the fall of the USSR and some apparent revival of Russian Orthodoxy. Is this a worthy interpretation of “the conversion of Russia”? Conversion, in the language of the Faith, is to the Catholic Church. Conversion from atheistic communism to Photian schism is not conversion in a meaningful sense.
Further, such ideas of peace and conversion are hardly “triumphs”, nor are evidently effects of a supposed consecration to the Immaculate Heart.
Could we say that it has happened, but that it was too late for the miracle? After all, Sister Lucie relays the following message from Heaven:
“Like the King of France they will repent and do it, but it will be late. Russia will have already spread its errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecutions against the Church: the Holy Father will have much to suffer.” (emphasis added)
There are indeed some versions of this text which read “but it will be too late” – but according to the Portuguese memoirs, the phrase is “mas será tarde” (p 196) – which does not seem to clearly indicate that it will be too late.
But even if we accepted the qualifying “too”, we would have to ask: Too late for what? Certainly it has been too late to prevent Russia spreading its errors, wars and persecutions – but that does not mean that it is too late for the conversion of Russia or the period of peace. Our Lady said that Russia will be converted and a period of peace will be given to the world.
Indeed when the words “too late” do appear in this context, they say this:
“It will never be too late to have recourse to Jesus and Mary.” (Emphasis added)
Now, if Pius XII’s consecration had been done in the way Sister Lucie specified, perhaps we would need to accept the understandings of peace and conversion above – or, perhaps more likely, we would be justified in dismissing Fatima altogether: these results do not seem to match the promises and, as stated, the Church is not beholden to private revelations.
But given that there is a serious doubt and discrepancy about a) how Pius XII made his consecration and b) both John Paul II’s consecration and his claim to the papacy, I think we are justified in saying that it has not yet been done.
Now, I assume that we believe the revelations. We believe that when the consecration is done properly – as it will be, eventually – the promises will follow. But a part of it being done “properly” is that it is done by the Roman Pontiff.
Consecration by a false pope
This essay was written in the short period before Francis consecrated Russia and Ukraine. At that time, there was much debate on what might happen, and what the different outcomes might mean about other questions – such as the validity of his claim to the papacy.
We have seen that the conversion of Russia and the consecration are to be linked together in a way compelling enough to vindicate the devotion to the Immaculate Heart.
We have seen St Thomas saying that vindicating or confirming something is the very purpose of a miracle. What does he say about who can work a miracle?
“Miracles are always true witnesses to the purpose for which they are wrought. Hence wicked men who teach a false doctrine never work true miracles in confirmation of their teaching, although sometimes they may do so in praise of Christ’s name which they invoke, and by the power of the sacraments which they administer. If they teach a true doctrine, sometimes they work true miracles as confirming their teaching, but not as an attestation of holiness.” (Emphasis added)
In other words, St Thomas grants that even the teacher of a false doctrine may sometimes work a true miracle in confirmation of a true doctrine. A miracle may be worked through such men – not in favour of all their doctrine, but in favour of a particular point.
If we were to consider the 2022 “consecration”, our question goes further than that. In terms of the text above, we would not be considering Francis in terms of his morality, but rather in terms of him being a false pope.
The miracle was promised as vindication of the Immaculate Heart, on the condition of the pope consecrating Russia with the bishops. Could the same promised miracle vindicate the Immaculate Heart without also indirectly vindicating the papal claim of the man leading the consecration?
If, in 2022 or at any other time, we were to see some miraculous event following the consecration by a false pope, what should we conclude?
First, we should consider whether what happens really is a miracle. We have lived through years of deception, the like of which many of us never dreamed was possible. It would be foolish to let our guard down here.
Some step in the right moral direction (like the abolition of some immoral law) would not be sufficiently compelling. We should also remember that the promised miracle was specifically the conversion of Russia (and a period of peace).
The conversion of Russia to the Catholic Faith would surely be a true moral miracle. But the end of the current war or a ceasefire would not really be a compellingly miraculous event. Such things could be staged – does anyone deny the untoward closeness between Francis and world leaders? – and ceasefires regularly occur in wars, even at apparently unlikely times.
Now, perhaps such a thing could provoke both blessing and punishment. In reference to the 2022 consecration, our friend Louie Verrecchio referred to the Memorare prayer, and suggests that Our Lady will not despise the petitions of the many faithful who sincerely fly to her protection on the 25th March – even if there will also be grave chastisement for others. Perhaps there could be a true outpouring of grace and blessings following this consecration.
But at present, we are talking here about an effect short of the promised conversion of Russia – something like an outpouring of grace (or even different miracle) do not raise the problems we are considering here.
This brings us to the second consideration. We should recall why we hold Francis and recent predecessors to be false popes. The problems of Vatican II present us with a choice between holding to traditional theology about the Church, or to these men’s claims. The traditional theology to which we refer includes that of Church membership and loss of office, the infallibility of canonizations, the four marks, and the Church as a visible institution and a visible unity of faith.
This traditional theology and Francis’s claim are mutually exclusive. This traditional theology, coming with the sanction of the Church, is also more certain than any purported miracle or any individual man’s claim to an office.
It is easy to see from St Thomas how someone like Francis might work another miracle vindicating some truth; it is also easy to see how an outpouring of grace – or perhaps even a different miracle – could vindicate the Immaculate Heart without vindicating Francis’s claim or his errors. But, in the context of the Fatima revelations, the promised miracle of Russia’s conversion depends on the consecration being done by the pope.
But we have already concluded that we cannot hold to traditional theology and Francis’s claim to be the pope. Without certain changes on his part, which would remove this incompatibility, such a vindication of his claim would (as is impossible) call into doubt that traditional theology.
I cannot see how this can be otherwise. I would be very interested to hear any suggestions as to how the Immaculate Heart can be vindicated by this consecration without also vindicating Francis’s claims: I would like a converted Russia and a period of peace as much as anyone else.
Conclusion and Cautions – the emotional rollercoaster
I believe that we should all have remained very cautious about the 2022 consecration, and anything that purports to come from it. I certainly did not rule out the possibility of Francis converting and publicly professing the Faith beforehand. This seemed unlikely, humanly speaking, and in fact did not happen. But the conversion of Saul also seemed unlikely.
Some said that we who reject Francis’s claim must have been conflicted at the prospect of the consecration. This is an astonishing idea: there could be no conflict, in the sense of even considering putting aside the traditional theology which led us to our conclusion.
That said, no one wants to be the man refusing to acknowledge a true miracle – but we should be circumspect. Let us recall again the word of Our Lord:
“There shall arise false Christs and false prophets and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect.” Matthew 24.24.
Only a very foolish and proud man could hear these words and assume that they do not apply to him, as if he were sure he was among the elect, or somehow immune to deception. Given the lies and deception of recent years, we should be constantly on guard. Having seen through things previously is no guarantee for the future.
As a further thought, we should be aware of the emotional manipulation going on at present. The men in the Vatican know perfectly well how the consecration should be done – and chose to do it in the way they did.
The week before the 2022 consecration was called “an emotional rollercoaster”. Consider the range of emotions we probably all saw friends experiencing in the space of a week:
- Elation at the announced consecration
- Worry about it not involving the bishops
- Frantic writing and praying to get the bishops involved
- Relief that Francis announced that they would be involved
- Anxiety about whether the “invitation” would be sufficient
- Ecstasy at the idea that Ratzinger was confirmed to be participating
- Devastation when Francis said it would be a consecration of “humanity”
- Relief at seeing the published prayer
- Agitation at “terra del Cielo”, fearing it means the consecration is to Pachamama
The emotional rollercoaster was understandable, but still sad to watch. Anyone who sees his own emotional states described here, should be aware that his peace was on the end of a bit of string. I repeat: the men in the Vatican know the “requirements” perfectly well, and it appears that they were playing games with the Catholic world’s emotional state, or trying to cause adrenaline fatigue.
Rather than allowing oneself to be pulled this way and that, I recommend reading the “Ottaviani Intervention” which we published on this very topic, in which Ottaviani advises: “Be less hasty to get excited.”
As I said above, we at The WM Review believe in the importance of Fatima, and we want the conversion of Russia and a period of peace as much as anyone else. We do not want to reject true miracles any more than we want to accept false ones. We also want to make sure we understand what is and is not being vindicated by whatever might happen.
We must all watch and pray that we are not led into temptation. Let’s keep our eyes open and our wits about us. We must hold fast to the traditional doctrine of the Church, and stay mindful that all of us – yes, even you and I, dear reader – are liable to be deceived.
Apparitions and Theology
1. The King of France, Fatima and the Crisis in the Church
2. How should Catholics treat private revelations when studying theology?
3. Initial Thoughts on the Consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart
4. An “Ottaviani Intervention” on Signs and Wonders
5. Possible Miracles, Possible Deception: How credulity can lead us to ruin
6. Fatima, Theology and the Crisis: What should be their relationship?
Why the Rosary and the Immaculate Heart are Fatima’s Two Last Remedies (M.J. McCusker)
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 Vatican I, Session 3: 24 April 1870, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Chapter 3. https://www.papalencyclicals.net/councils/ecum20.htm
 St Pius X, Oath Against Modernism, 1910, https://www.papalencyclicals.net/pius10/p10moath.htm
 Msgr. Alfredo Ottaviani, Assessor of the Holy Office, Later Cardinal and Secretary of this same Supreme Sacred Congregation, published in the official Vatican newspaper: L’Osservatore Romano, February 4, 1953. Available from The WM Review.
 Ottaviani, ibid.
 Apocalypse 13.14
 Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima Vol. I. Also available here: https://crc-internet.org/our-doctrine/catholic-counter-reformation/whole-truth-fatima/6-july-13.html
 Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima Vol. II. Also available online here: https://crc-internet.org/our-doctrine/catholic-counter-reformation/the-whole-truth-about-fatima-volume-2/2-6-the-great-revelation-of-tuy-god-asks-for-the-consecration-of-russia.html
 Frère Michel Vol. II, available here: https://crc-internet.org/our-doctrine/catholic-counter-reformation/the-whole-truth-about-fatima-volume-2/2-6-the-great-revelation-of-tuy-god-asks-for-the-consecration-of-russia.html