In his writings on Fatima and Russia, the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen pointed out that the world has “become so used to judging temporal events in terms of other events,” that it has lost sight of that “greater standard of judgment, namely, the Eternal.” Michael Warren Davis, in an article for Crisis, has recently accused another archbishop, Carlo Maria Viganò, of having fallen into precisely this error, becoming so absorbed in worldly events, so “swept away by trends in modern politics,” that he has let “the clamor of current events drown out…the voice of God,” and “blind him to the evils of the Russian government.”
I strongly disagree. In fact, if we look at Viganò’s writings in the light of Sheen’s discussion of Fatima, we can see that just the opposite is true. Far from Viganò being the one drowning out the voice of God, it is actually the entire Western world that is guilty of drowning out not only the voice of God but even the very clear signs of His intervention in and movement through world events.
To understand this, we must step back and address what Mary meant when she spoke of Russia’s errors. The most common interpretation is that she was referring to the errors of communism. But there are several reasons to reject this interpretation. First, she spoke of these errors in her July appearance, months before the communists took over. The February Revolution had been a “bourgeois democratic” one that ended what had previously been seen as the divinely-appointed Tsarist monarchy. If Mary meant the errors of communism, why appear before the communists took over? Why appear when those at the time would have thought she was referring to the democratic revolution?
Further, communism was not newly spawned in Russia in 1917. By that time, it had been spreading its errors across Europe and the world for more than 70 years, and the Church had been sounding the alarm about it throughout those years. Neither it nor its spread were new to Russia. Third, if Mary meant communism, why not just say communism or communist errors? Why just errors?
Sheen points us in a different direction—specifically, to the year 1858. He asks us to look not only at the world events of that year but at the Eternal ones as well. Rejecting the commonly held view that the Modern Age started with the rise of science, something that is not at odds with Faith, he argues that it began instead with the writing of three seminal works: Darwin’s On the Origins of Species, Mill’s On Liberty, and Marx’s A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. In those three works, Man summarized the errors of the Modern Age and announced his independence from God: we were not divinely created but rather evolved from mere matter; there is no higher authority than man to which we must answer, freedom is license, the only laws are those we choose to make; and Man and history are driven by economics and politics not religion and certainly not anything spiritual.
These are not the errors of communism. They are the errors of modernism. They are errors that have to do with Modern Man’s denial of God, of Creation, of God’s Authority over Man, of any obedience due to Him. Sheen points out that what was effectively said in those works, in that year of 1858, was that all men are immaculately conceived, all born without Original Sin. For if there was no Divine Creation, then there was no Fall. No Fall, no Original Sin. If there is no Original Sin, then all men are born immaculate and free to be whatever they want to be, answerable to and in need of no higher authority.
Those were the key human events of 1858 to which Sheen directs us. He then shifts our attention to God’s response, His Eternal judgment, that occurred that very same year: the Apparitions at Lourdes. Mary appeared from Heaven and announced: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Sheen points out that at “the very moment the world was denying original sin, our Blessed Mother claimed the prerogative solely as her own…she alone and uniquely was immaculately conceived—everyone else was born in original sin.”
In the Blessed Mother’s appearance at Lourdes, Sheen notes, God answered Man’s arrogant claim of independence and provided proof of his errors. Her very appearance said yes, there is more than matter; yes, there is a God; yes, there is a Heaven; yes, Man was born in Original Sin; and yes, Man owes obedience to God and reparations for the sins committed against Him. Every error contained in those three seminal works was contradicted in that one announcement: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
Thus, Sheen says, began the Modern Age—not with science and reason, but with the denial of Original Sin and God’s response.
But Man did not take notice of, nor heed, that Eternal pronouncement, that Eternal judgment.
Instead, the modernist errors continued to be spread throughout Europe, along with all the other errors that went hand in hand with them: rationalism, socialism, communism, and all the others Pope Pius IX listed in Quanta Cura and its attached Syllabus of Errors. But that was in 1864. By 1917, those errors had existed and been spreading for another 50-plus years before the Russian Revolution and Mary’s appearance at Fatima. They were unique neither to Russia nor to communism. So, what was different about Russia that Mary would single it out?
The answer can be found in the pages of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum. In it, he gives the Church’s answer to communism: inequality and class conflict are not aberrations to be fixed, but rather they are a part of the human condition. Mankind lives in a fallen world, a world felled by man’s disobedience to God. Only through God and with God, through His Church, will peace and harmony be possible. All the sects, organizations, societies, fraternities, all the governmental solutions that communists and socialists think able to “fix” the world are futile and delusional. No organization or State, apart from God, will ever be able to bring peace to the world. Social problems cannot be solved apart from God and His Church.
If we look to all the writings of the Church throughout this time, what we see is increasing concern not just over the errors themselves but over the increasing belief that man could fix the human condition through the creation of a godless State, through the implementation of mere economic and political change. And that is what was new in Russia, in the February Revolution and to be completed in the Bolshevik one: the successful creation of a political body that incorporated all those errors—a secular State that, apart from any reference at all to God, claimed to be able to solve the problems inherent in the human condition; a State that said no to God, no to any authority higher than itself, no to natural law; and a State that would be powerful enough to spread those errors across the world. As Sheen put it, “Russia gave political form and social substance” to the “de-spiritualization of the Western world.”
The danger in believing Mary was pointing specifically to communism and to Russia lay in believing the problem is Russia and the error communism, when in fact the error is believing that man is nothing more than a rational animal who can fix all his social problems through the political and economic policies enacted by a secular State.
When Mary appeared at Fatima, her first announcement was this: “I am from Heaven.” As God responded to Mankind’s announcement of its separation from Him in 1858, so He responded in 1917 to its erection of a godless State as the new path to human happiness and freedom: Mary stepped into time and announced that Heaven exists. And if Heaven exists, then there is a higher authority. Salvation and redemption will not come from a man-made State but from God and only from God. And to prove this, to drive the message home, Mary would appear six times. And on the last one, she would bring direct proof from Heaven, a miracle that would prove the lie that man is the highest authority on earth and fully capable of fixing that earth as he alone wills it to be fixed.
But even with a miracle witnessed by tens of thousands, Modern Man again said no and did not heed the message.
And the Soviet State grew and did indeed spread its errors across the world. Not the errors of communism, but rather the modernist errors that man is independent and can create his own path to utopia by means of the secular State. Throughout the West, in country after country, man began to turn to the government, the State, to solve more and more of his social problems. Care of the poor shifted to the State. Mediation of class conflict shifted to the State. Alleviation of discrimination, racial conflicts, income inequality: all shifted to the State. Individual charity was replaced by State-run charity.
Even the Church turned to the State to solve society’s problems, man’s human condition, and she shifted her focus to influencing public policy. Every social problem came to be seen as fixable through a new State policy, a new institutional or systemic change. It was only a matter of time until they were also seen as the result of poor government policy, not a wound in man’s human nature. Everything was fixable through the State, not by healing hearts and souls through grace attained through the Church God created to heal men’s souls.
Sheen drives home the point again and again that the errors were not specific to Russia or communism. They caught fire in capitalist countries as easily as they did in communist ones. He notes that there is “a closer relation between communism and monopolistic capitalism than most minds suspect. They are agreed on the materialistic basis of civilization; they disagree only on who shall control that basis, capitalists or bureaucrats.” And further, he says: “Capitalistic economy is godless; communism makes economics God…. Capitalism denies that economics is subject to a higher moral order. Communism says that economics is morality.”
In fact, he highlights how the Church is as opposed to monopoly capitalism as it is to communism. The errors permeate both. Both reduce man to a mere economic animal. Both use the State to rule.
The issue isn’t Viganò being blind to the evils of the Russian government. It is the West that is blind to the evils that have permeated its own existence to its very core. It is the modernist Church that is blind to the evils of thinking it right to replace sacraments with social action, taking government money to feed bellies at the expense of feeding souls.
Viganò looks at the WEF, the IMF, the UN, NATO, the EU, and all the other associations that have risen in the West and sees them not in terms of other worldly events but in terms of the Eternal. He sees them as Pope Leo XIII saw the secular associations of his day: efforts by man to fix the world apart from God and His Church.
He sees, too, that what they are trying to do is create a new, even more powerful State than the Russian one Mary warned us about, a Global State with the declared goal of creating a New World Order and a new transhuman creature. Modernism stripped man of his spiritual nature. Transhumanism seeks to strip him of his most basic human nature, reducing him to a mere machine, perfected by technology and microbiology.
Viganò has not become absorbed with politics. He has become absorbed with the Eternal, with seeing the Eternal in the affairs of the day, including both those things God seems to be moving as well as those things Satan seems to be moving. We don’t know if the Consecration occurred as Mary asked, but Viganò asks us to look at world events not just in terms of other world events, but in terms of spiritual events. What we do know is that the Soviet State collapsed in 1989. And we know that since that time, Russia has been undergoing a Re-Christianization while the entire Western world has been experiencing its De-Christianization.
Viganò asks us to see that it isn’t really Russia, or communism, or capitalism that we are battling but rather the Principalities, the Satanic forces that seek to enslave all men to a godless Global State. He asks us to consider that God is giving Russia—re-Christianizing Russia—the chance to atone for its sins by being the very thing that prevents that Global State from being created.
And is that so hard to imagine? Is it not just like our God? To let Russia atone for its sins and be the means of saving many souls?
And is this not also just like Our God: To once again respond to man’s rejection by guiding us to Him and Our Blessed Mother Mary? Is it not just like Him that, on the Marian feast day of the Annunciation of God’s Incarnation, the most modernist pope in the history of the Church got down on his knees and called the entire world, East and West, to likewise fall to its knees, every bishop, all people, on our knees, and not just recognize, finally, the Immaculate Conception, but more—to consecrate ourselves, and our entire world, to her Immaculate Heart, the Immaculate Heart of the Immaculate Conception, thereby saying, at last, after all these years, after all these appearances, finally: yes, there is a God; yes, there is a Heaven; yes, we are more than mere matter; yes, we are all sinners; and yes, we must obey God and make reparations for our sins.
In turning our eyes and our hearts to Mary, are we not finally conceding, agreeing with Pope Leo XIII, that apart from God, there will be no peace? Apart from God, no merely human institution, no godless State—no matter how big, how global—is going to save us.
And is that not just like our God? The most modernist pope of all time—leading the world to renounce the most fundamental errors of modernism?
Is it not a fitting way for the Eternal to announce the end of the Modern Age?
At just that moment when man can’t even define what a woman is, God reminds us that it is to a woman that He has given the power of overcoming evil, a woman who will crush the head of the Serpent. Modern Man lost Jesus. His Mother has returned to help us find Him. She has experience in that.