Fatima: Is Benedict the “Pope” Jacinta saw?
At Fatima was a quiet, largely unknown vision reported a while after the formal apparitions by the young girl, Blessed Jacinta Marto, who in her vision one day "saw" the Holy Father praying alone in a room while people outside "shouted ugly things and threw rocks through the window." Another time, Jacinta saw a Pope who had gathered a huge number of people together to pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Again, it seemed like some kind of crisis moment.
We think of it at a time when the Pope seems under siege, with people (particularly the media) tossing all kinds of things at him. If not a crisis, many seem to want it to become one (possibly even some in the halls of the Holy See, and if not there, proximate offices).
Is Benedict the "Pope" Jacinta saw?
There are certainly rocks being thrown at him. In fact, no Pope has been under such public attack -- verbally -- in decades, perhaps not since Jacinta's vision.
In the course of one week, the Vatican saw itself the subject of news accounts that had to do with the mysterious death of a girl whose father worked at the Vatican and who disappeared in 1983. Some believe it was related to a sex ring and may even have involved a priest. Investigators searched for her remains in the tomb of a gangster who had been buried at a Rome basilica (after making a substantial donation).
The media had a field day with this. It was great fodder and certainly an embarrassment but was nearly overshadowed by developments at the Vatican bank, whose head had been forced out over issues of sloppy management and failing to clean up the image of a bank that has been accused of corruption, money laundering, and less than transparent conduct. This is a bank that was operated so poorly that the United States listed it as a concern as far as potential money laundering.
That was followed by the revelation that the Pope's private butler -- one of a handful with access to the papal apartments, and the Pontiff's own desk -- had allegedly stolen documents from the Vatican and the Pope's own office -- that desk -- having to do with the messy internal affairs including the bank.
Many saw cardinal opposing cardinal with speculation that forces behind the scenes had used the butler to embarrass Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who oversees the bank and has been at the center of a number of Vatican missteps. Accounts have claimed that other cardinals and bishops and priests are concerned that the Cardinal is not only causing mayhem at the Vatican but has lined up support in the College of Cardinals by stacking it with his own personal favorites, while the Pope has been at a distance, more interested in theological matters. The College is the body that will elect the next Pope.
"The biggest scandal to rock the Vatican in decades widened Monday with the Pope's butler, arrested for allegedly having confidential documents in his home, agreeing to cooperate with investigators — raising the specter that higher-ranking ecclesial heads may soon roll," said Fox News.
Many press reports called it the greatest crisis for the Vatican in recent times or at least hoped it would become so, although that depiction seems strange in light of the sexual abuse scandals in Ireland and the United States, which are probably the biggest Church scandals since the high Middle Ages.
But it is palace intrigue -- and politics -- that seem most attractive, right now, to the media.
"Pope Benedict got no rest on Sunday from a leaks scandal when an Italian newspaper published documents showing that his butler was not the only person in possession of confidential correspondence indicating a Vatican in disarray," said Reuters yesterday (6/3/12) -- as the media largely ignored the one million who reportedly attended an open-air papal Mass in Milan. That does not speak of a collapsing Church (in fact, the number of Catholics -- and priests -- keep expanding).
Many in the secular world want to believe that the Vatican is in a state of chaos and that Benedict has lost control and should go -- or that least Cardinal Bertone will be forced out.
Meanwhile, there is real persecution. In the U.S., there is the almost complete disregard for bishops by the federal government in the matter of the health-care mandate, and comedians as well as public figures are taking unprecedented shots at the Church. Last weekend, USA Today had a full-page advertisement in its money section by a group of atheists (the Freedom from Religion Foundation) that was headlined, "It's time to quit the Catholic Church."
Even nuns are on the attack. Also last week, the national board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious -- the largest umbrella organization of nuns in the U.S. -- brazenly defied Rome, saying a recent Vatican order to reform the organization due to doctrinal and other errors "was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency."
There is no doubt that the Church needs urgent improvement. Its bureaucracy has significantly stifled its spirituality, something that is also acutely noticeable at the diocesan and parish levels. The Church moves very slowly -- perhaps much too slowly -- and seems not to understand modern media (stoking the flames of the press last week by so publicly displaying emotions about the "Vati-leaks" scandal, which thus far is not really a scandal so much as a breach of internal trust and perhaps bureaucratic infighting). Benedict is obviously very different than John Paul II, whose force of personality transcended bureaucracy (and washed away internal wrangling). There is too much worldliness and too little prayer in certain quarters of the Vatican. This has left an opening, and while the media has not been as harsh on the Church as it has been on Penn State as far as sex scandals (the Church has had more than four thousand accused abusers since 1950, and they have been in virtually every diocese), some reporters are salivating at the current consternation -- and trying to make sure such consternation does take place.
If it doesn't, the media will create it. It will keep throwing stones.
In her biography of Jacinta, seer Lúcia dos Santos had already established that Jacinta had told her of having had many personal visions outside of the Marian visitations; there was that one involving a Pope .
Sister Lúcia, when questioned about the Third Secret, recalled that the three seers were very sad about the suffering of the Pope, and that Jacinta kept saying: Coitadinho do Santo Padre, tenho muita pena dos pecadores! ("Poor Holy Father, I feel a lot of pity for the sinners!" which may also have referred to the 1981 shooting of John Paul II).
Ironically, at this time when the Vatican seems so under siege, and during the very week of an acute Vatican uproar, Benedict exhorted those in attendance as he closed out the month of Mary during a Rosary procession to look towards the Blessed Mother as an example of faith in turbulent times and the week before spoke about the Church militant.
"This evening we wish to draw from Mary's Immaculate Heart with renewed trust, allowing ourselves to be imbued with her joy which had its most profound source in the Lord. Joy, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, is a fundamental distinguishing characteristic of Christians. It is founded on hope in God, it draws strength from incessant prayer and it enables us to face trials and suffering with serenity,” he said.
It was incredible -- the Immaculate Heart! -- in light of Jacinta's vision nearly a hundred years ago.