to Defend the Indefensible
Father Fox Continues
by Christopher A. Ferrara
This article is written to respond to three items posted on the "Fatima Family Apostolate" website operated by Fr. Robert J. Fox. These three items a "clarification" by the rector of the Fatima Shrine, an article by a so-called "scholar of Fatima," and a letter from the Vatican nuncio in Washington were posted by Fr. Fox in an apparent effort to stem mounting criticism of his dogged defense of the recent "interreligious" activities at the Fatima Shrine, which have provoked protests by concerned Catholics around the world.
On an April 25 EWTN program, Father Robert J. Fox ridiculed those Catholics resisting the new interfaith program at Fatima. He said all reports of interfaith activity at Fatima were mere "fabrications," and that Shrine Rector Guerra would never allow such things to take place. Less than two weeks later, a Hindu ritual was performed at Fatima with Rector Guerras approval. Now, Father Fox suddenly defends Rector Guerra permitting pagan worship at a Catholic altar, and he again attacks those Catholics who protest the pagan outrage at Our Ladys Shrine.
Readers of Catholic Family News and The Fatima Crusader are well aware of the leading role those publications have played in covering the major story that first emerged in October 2003, when the Fatima Shrines rector, Fr. Luciano Guerra, hosted an unprecedented "interreligious congress" at the Shrine. The congress was attended by John Vennari, Editor of Catholic Family News, who witnessed and tape recorded the lectures, and who reported the details of the Congress in late 2003.
In describing the congress, Guerra declared:
"The future of Fatima, or the adoration of God and His Mother at this Holy Shrine, must pass through the creation of a shrine where different religions can mingle. The interreligious dialogue in Portugal, and in the Catholic Church, is still in an embryonic phase, but the Shrine of Fatima is not indifferent to this fact and is already open to being a universalistic place of vocation."2
Readers will also recall that during Guerras congress attended by a motley crowd of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Anglicans, as well as Catholics the participants applauded Father Arul Irudayam, rector of a major Marian Shrine in Vailankanni, India, when he rejoiced that Hindus are now permitted to perform their religious rituals at his shrine. To leave no doubt about the "theme" of this conference, Guerras keynote speaker was none other than Father Jacques Dupuis, who was recently disciplined (however mildly) by the Vaticans Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith because of the religious indifferentism of his writings, which present all religions as means of salvation.
Dupuis declared that the purpose of the "interreligious dialogue" that was introduced into the Church after Vatican II is not to convert non-Catholics to the true religion, but rather to help "the Christian to become a better Christian, and the Hindu a better Hindu." Dupuis further declared that the worlds false religions are not only tolerated but "positively willed" by God as ways of salvation, and that "the religion of the future will be a general converging of religions in a universal Christ that will satisfy all."
Clearly unbowed by his mild Vatican censure, Dupuis even dared to denounce as "that horrible text" the infallible teaching of the Council of Florence that the Catholic Church "firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the Catholic Church before the end of their lives."
When Catholic Family News and The Fatima Crusader blew the whistle on the outrageous doings at the Fatima Shrine, Guerra erected a public relations barricade from behind which he and his various neo-modernist defenders have been lobbing one desperate grenade after another at The Fatima Crusaders publisher, Father Nicholas Gruner, and at CFNs John Vennari.
One of Guerras chief bomb-throwers has been Father Fox, whose Immaculate Heart Messenger magazine has been anything but immaculate in its nearly hysterical attacks on Father Gruner: "Father Gruner A Suspended Catholic Priest" screams one of the headlines Fox has published in an effort to divert the publics attention from what is going on at the Shrine.
As this publication has demonstrated time and again, Father Gruner is not "suspended".3 But, in any event, that is not the issue. Father Foxs "argument" in defense of Guerra is nothing but a lame ad hominem attack even a child can see is illogical: Father Gruner is "suspended," therefore nothing is amiss at the Fatima Shrine.
In addition to these illogical attacks on Father Gruners person, Fox and the others behind Guerras barricade have issued a series of "denials" which actually deny nothing, but rather only confirm the enormity of Guerras deeds. For example, Guerras response to Father Gruners whistle-blowing was to publish his first "clarification" (two months after his scandalous Congress) on the official web
site of the Fatima Shrine which contains the following statement:
4"And when it seems to us to be opportune, after what is happening in many other sacred places, this new basilica would be able to receive brothers from other faiths, who may want, in a brotherly manner, to know how we pray."
(offering of flowers) to "the Most Holy Mother" a/k/a Devi.puja, standing in precisely the spot a Catholic priest would stand when celebrating the Novus Ordo Mass. Furthermore, the rest of the group did not "stay down below," but rather three Hindu women went into the sanctuary, up past the altar, and proceeded to the statue to make their Shanti that stands in front of the statue of Our Lady. The Hindu priest then used that altar, which he faced, as the place for intonation of his prayer to Vishnu for altar This is an outright deception. First of all, the Hindu priest did not simply go up to the "image of Our Lady". After he did this, he positioned himself at the "The Hindu priest and a translator that he brought with him, went up to the image of Our Lady, while the rest of the group stayed down below."Father Guerra said,
A later "denial" by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, almost comically hinted at what was coming. On January 1, 2004 Fitzgerald told Zenit News: "As far as I know, there are no plans that the building is specifically designed for interfaith purposes. We recognize that Fatima is a place of pilgrimage for many religions [since when?] ... (T)he Shrine nonetheless retains [!] its Catholic identity."
A Wall Street litigator could not have crafted a more lawyerly statement than Fitzgeralds loophole-riddled "denial": As far as he knows the new Basilica is not designed specifically for inter-faith purposes, but Fatima is a place of pilgrimage for many religions (notice how Fitzgerald slipped that amazing bit of news into his remark) although the new structure will "retain" its "Catholic identity". That a Vatican prelate assures us that the worlds foremost Marian shrine will "retain" its "Catholic identity" is reason enough for alarm. Retain? This is like saying that St. Peters Basilica will "retain" its Catholic identity! What a strange thing to say but how very revealing it is about a place that could only be Catholic and nothing but Catholic in the first place. No, something was clearly up, but Guerra and his friends werent quite prepared to reveal what it was.
Under mounting public pressure to issue an unequivocal denial that the Fatima Shrine will not be opened to interreligious activity, Guerra told Spirit Daily in January 2004 that "We are very far from having Hindus or any Muslims pray in Fatima, except if they do it in private not in public liturgies or other services." Yet another denial that only provoked suspicion. To say that "we are very far" from allowing something is to suggest that at some point it will be allowed. Well, just how far was "very far"? It didnt take long for us to learn the answer: "very far" meant four months from the time of the Spirit Daily interview!
On May 5, 2004 a busload of Hindus, with Guerras express permission, arrived at the Cova da Iria, proceeded to the little Chapel of the Apparitions built on the very spot where Our Lady appeared and conducted a Hindu prayer service in this Catholic sanctuary. As the coverage by Portugals SIC television network showed on camera, a Hindu priest, wearing the vestments of a Hindu priest, went up to the altar in the Capelinha an altar consecrated for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass stood at that altar, and proceeded to intone the Shanti Pa, the Hindu "Prayer for Peace," for several minutes while the Hindu "pilgrims" sat in the "congregation".
The ceremony included a procession by three Hindu women into the sanctuary to make an offering of flowers to the statue of Our Lady, whom the Hindus described as "the Holy Mother" the Hindu term of endearment for the goddess Devi, as SIC reported. The offering of flowers, which was placed at the base of the statue, is an element of puja, or Hindu prayer, to a deity. Puja "is the act of showing reverence to a god, a spirit, or another aspect of the divine through invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals." During puja "an image or other symbol of the god serves as a means of gaining access to the divine."5 The offering of flowers to the deity is known as ala or Pushpam an "offering of garlands of flowers or just flowers."
When the Hindu ceremony was over, the Hindu priest was received by Guerra, who allowed himself to be decked out in a prayer shawl covered with verses from the Bhagavad Gita, Hinduisms "sacred book," which teaches that all of life is an illusion. As Vennari noted in his report:
"This book contains a story which illustrates a central tenet of Hinduism. Arjuna, a warrior, is on the eve of a great battle. He dreads the next day, because he knows he will have to kill his friends, relatives, teachers. Arjunas charioteer, who turns out to be the god Krishna in disguise, tells Arjuna not to fear the coming battle because none of it is real. No one is going to die. All of it, and all of life, is illusion. Arjuna then thrusts himself into the bloody conflict believing it to be his Dharma, his given path, to hack his friends and relatives to pieces. It is all illusion anyway. No one really dies. This is Hinduism in a nutshell. You are god, everything else is illusion."7