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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Will Rome Lose the Faith? (La Salette Revisited)

Written by  By Solange Strong Hertz
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Our Lady of La Salette Our Lady of La Salette
Melanie’s Secret: Secret which the Blessed Virgin gave me on the Mountain of La Salette on September 19, 1846

Mélanie, I will say something to you which you will not say to anybody:

The time of the God's wrath has arrived! If, when you say to the people what I have said to you so far, and what I will still ask you to say, if, after that, they do not convert, (if they do not do penance, and they do not cease working on Sunday, and if they continue to blaspheme the Holy Name of God), in a word, if the face of the earth does not change, God will be avenged against the people ungrateful and slave of the demon. My Son will make his power manifest! Paris, this city soiled by all kinds of crimes, will perish infallibly. Marseilles will be destroyed in a little time. When these things arrive, the disorder will be complete on the earth, the world will be given up to its impious passions.

The pope will be persecuted from all sides, they will shoot at him, they will want to put him to death, but no one will be able to do it, the Vicar of God will triumph again this time. The priests and the Sisters, and the true servants of my Son will be persecuted, and several will die for the faith of Jesus-Christ. A famine will reign at the same time. After all these will have arrived, many will recognize the hand of God on them, they will convert, and do penance for their sins.

A great king will go up on the throne, and will reign a few years. Religion will re-flourish and spread all over the world, and there will be a great abundance, the world, glad not to be lacking nothing, will fall again in its disorders, will give up God, and will be prone to its criminal passions.

[Among] God's ministers, and the Spouses of Jesus-Christ, there will be some who will go astray, and that will be the most terrible. Lastly, hell will reign on earth. It will be then that the Antichrist will be born of a Sister, but woe to her! Many will believe in him, because he will claim to have come from heaven, woe to those who will believe in him! That time is not far away, twice 50 years will not go by.

My child, you will not say what I have just said to you. (You will not say it to anybody, you will not say if you must say it one day, you will not say what that it concerns), finally you will say nothing anymore until I tell you to say it! I pray to Our Holy Father the Pope to give me his holy blessing.

Mélanie, Shepherdess of La Salette, Grenoble, July 6, 1851


melanieThe message of LaSalette was confided by the Mother of God to Mélanie Calvat, the oldest of two young seers to whom she appeared in the French Alps in 1846. Attempts to discredit both the visionary and the heavenly message have never been wanting, for although the apparition was approved by the Holy See, the Secret itself was never promoted by the ecclesiastical establishment, despite papal recommendations and many Imprimaturs.  In fact the faithful were led to believe that it had actually been placed on the Index of Forbidden Books then in canonical vigor. Mélanie was accused of being psychologically unbalanced by her Bishop, who eventually was the one to go mad and never recover his sanity. She was persecuted to such a degree in her own country that for long periods she was forced to live incognito in Italy, where she died at the age of seventy-two.

Today the same old accusations which were leveled against her in her lifetime, which she continued to refute to her dying day, are resurging, not only from liberal sectors as before, but even from conservative champions of the traditional Mass. Her critics maintain that the text of the Secret with which we are familiar and which Mélanie first published in its entirety in 1879 under the Imprimatur of Bishop Salvatore-Luigi Zola of Lecce, Italy was her own expanded and embroidered version of our Lady’s real message, which Pius IX had requested her to submit to him in 1851. Emphasizing the difference in length between the two versions of the Secret, the short one set down in 1851 for the Pope and the longer one delivered to the public in 1879, some hold that Mélanie added to the original text information culled from contemporary apocalyptic literature then in circulation. Mélanie’s autobiographical writings, particularly those dealing with her abused childhood and her miraculous companionship with the child Jesus, are rejected as spurious by many.

At this juncture, when so much of what our Lady prophesied in the Secret is beginning to materialize, the enemy of mankind can be expected to utilize every means of discrediting a prophecy intended to lay open his machinations before the eyes of the faithful. Whereas the arguments which proved so effective in casting doubt on the Secret’s authenticity when it was first divulged are being refurbished with a vengeance, the hard facts which demolished them then have only been reinforced by subsequent events. Most of them can be found as good as new in a 40-page brochure in defense of the Secret which was published in French in 1922, bearing the Imprimatur, dated June 6 of that year, of no less an authority than the Dominican Fr. Albert Lepidi, then Master of the Sacred Palace and Permanent Consultor to the Congregation of the Index.

Disseminated by the St. Augustine Society under the title “The Apparition of the Most Blessed Virgin on the Mountain of La Salette,” it bears a facsimile of the Imprimatur with Fr. Lepidi’s signature, plus the following words in his own hand: Ces pages ont été écrites pour la pure vérité, “These pages have been written solely in the interests of truth.” The first half of the brochure contains Mélanie’s own account of the apparition, together with the full text of the Secret, which she set in writing in Castellamare, Italy on the feast of our Lady’s Presentation, November 21, 1878 and which received an Imprimatur the following year from the local Ordinary, Bishop Zola. The second half is devoted to contemporary testimonials in defense of the Secret, the whole closing with an ecclesiastically approved Prayer to the Most Blessed Trinity for the canonization of Mélanie Calvat.

Seven letters from Bishop Zola to various dignitaries figure among the contents. Privileged to authorize the first publication of the Secret in its entirety with his Imprimatur, he never wavered in his convictions concerning La Salette, nor in his veneration for its messenger. Not only have his letters lost nothing of their force with passing time, but hindsight considerably sharpens their focus. A sampling of the longest and most informative one are offered here in translation. The Bishop wrote it May 24, 1880 in reply to questions addressed to him by Fr. Isidore Roubaud, one of the few French priests who dared undertake Mélanie’s defense in the face of the dogged opposition mounted by Masonically influenced bishops like Mgr. Ginoulhiac of Grenoble, successor to the saintly Mgr. Bruillard, in whose diocese the apparition had taken place and had been originally approved.

Bishop Zola writes, “I deeply deplore France’s current opposition to the heavenly Message of La Salette. We are already on the eve of the terrible chastisements with which the Mother of God threatened us because of our prevarications, and yet we prefer to reject the warnings of so tender and merciful a Mother rather than profit from her lessons, the only act on our part which could diminish the intensity of the afflictions divine wrath has in store for us. In this I recognize the work of our ancient enemy, who has the greatest interest in exploiting every means, especially among God’s ministers, ut videntes non videant et intelligentes non intelligant....

“Only on July 3, 1851 did Melanie herself put her Secret in writing for the first time, at the Providence convent in Corenc, by order of Mgr. de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, in the presence of Mr. Dausse, head of the Department of Civil Engineering, and Mr. Taxis, Canon of Grenoble Cathedral. Mélanie filled three large pages at one sitting, without saying anything or asking any questions.” [In the account of the incident given by Bishop William Ullathorne of Birmingham, England in The Holy Mountain of La Salette in 1854, Mélanie asked the meaning of the words infallibly and Antichrist, and how to spell the latter, but there are no other discrepancies.] “She signed without re-reading, folded her Secret and put it in an envelope. She addressed it thus: ‘To His Holiness Pius IX, in Rome.’

“The next day, the fourth of July, the Secret is personally rewritten by Mélanie at the Bishop’s palace in Grenoble, with the purpose of drawing a clear distinction between the dates of two events which are not supposed to happen at the same time. Having put in only one date the first time, Mélanie was afraid that the Pope might not understand correctly on that account, and some equivocation might result. On July 18, Mr. Gérin, Curate of the Cathedral of Grenoble, and Mr. Rousselot, Honorary Vicar General, both saintly priests advanced in years and highly respected in every regard, delivered to His Holiness Pius IX the letters of the Bishop of Grenoble and those of Maximin [the other little seer] and Mélanie, containing their Secrets.

“Melanie did not send His Holiness Pius IX all of the Secret which she recently published, but only what the Blessed Virgin had inspired her to write at the time from that important document, along with many things relevant to Pius IX personally. Nevertheless, on the basis of information which I guarantee you is very accurate I know that the reproaches addressed to the clergy and religious communities were identical to those contained in that part of the Secret given to His Holiness Pius IX. Later the blessed shepherdess of La Salette imparted other parts of the Secret to different people when she felt the proper time had arrived to disclose them. But the Secret in its entirety was made public only in the little work written by Mélanie herself and printed at Lecce in 1879 at the request and expense of a pious person.

“In 1860 one of Mélanie’s directors obtained a manuscript of the Secret at Marseille. It was transmitted to me in 1869, when by order of Mgr. Petagna, Bishop of Castellamare di Stabia, I was Mélanie’s spiritual director. On January 30 Mélanie put this same document into the hands of the Abbé Felician Bliard, with a declaration of its authenticity and her signature, but with certain small blank spaces, indicated by dots and etc...., to replace those parts of the Secret which she felt she should not reveal yet. The part about priests and religious, almost in its entirety, was there in its proper place. The Abbé Bliard sent a certified copy from Nice on February 24, 1870 to Fr. Semennenko, Consultor of the Index at Rome and Superior of the Polish seminary. He did the same for several Church dignitaries. Nevertheless the Secret of the shepherdess of La Salette had already been spread everywhere in manuscript form, especially among religious communities and the clergy.

“In 1873 Fr. Bliard published the document just as he had received it from Mélanie in 1870, with his own scholarly comments, in a brochure called ‘Letters to a Friend about the Secret of the Shepherdess of La Salette’. This brochure appeared in Naples with the approbation given on April 30, 1873 by the curia of His Eminence Cardinal Sixtus Riario Sforza, Archbishop of Naples. I myself can certify the authenticity of this approbation, as well as the authenticity of the letter which I sent to Abbé Bliard dated May 1, 1873, a letter which was printed on the first page of the said brochure after my promotion to the See of Ugento.

“On receiving Mélanie’s Secret from Mr. Bliard, Mr. C.R. Girard, the learned director of La Terre Sainte in Grenoble, published it early in 1872 in his book called The Secrets of La Salette and Their Import. This brochure was only the first of five very important little works which appeared later by the same author and were intended to vindicate and confirm the revelations of La Salette, as well as to defend them against the attacks of their enemies. These works by Mr. Girard were honored by the endorsement and blessing of His Holiness Pius IX and the support of many Catholic theologians and bishops. . . .

“I will also say that during my many years as Abbot of the Canons Regular of the Lateran at Santa Maria di Piedigrotta in Naples, I had occasion in my capacity as Superior of that Order to maintain relations with very respected prelates and princes of the Roman Church. They were rather well informed in regard to Mélanie and her Secret. Almost all had received that document. Well then! Every one of them without exception judged very favorably of that divine revelation and the authenticity of the Secret. I shall confine myself to mentioning among others: Mgr. Petagna, Bishop of Castellamare di Stabia, who had the good shepherdess of La Salette under his guardianship for several years; Mgr. Mariano Ricciardi, Archbishop of Sorrento; His Eminence Cardinal Guidi; His Eminence Cardinal Sixtus Riario Sforza, Archbishop of Naples. . . . These revered and saintly Pastors always spoke to me in such wise as to confirm me strongly in my belief, now become unshakeable, in the divinity of the revelations contained in the Secret of the shepherdess of La Salette. Furthermore I have it from an incontrovertible source, that our Holy Father Leo XIII also received that document in its entirety.

“I am mindful, Reverend Sir, that the Secret contains some very harsh truths where the clergy and religious communities are concerned. Such revelations are approached with sinking hearts and fearful souls. If I dared I would ask our Lady why she didn’t order them buried in eternal silence. But who are we to question her who is called the Seat of Wisdom? Our task is to draw profit from her lessons.”



The good Bishop goes on to point out that there is considerable precedent both in Scripture and hagiography for rebuking the clergy in public, citing the Psalms, the Prophets, the Fathers of the Church and other sacred authors, not to mention revelations made to saints from St. Catherine of Siena on down to Bl. Anna-Maria Taigi. Nonetheless he warns that prophecy makes use of a language all its own, not meant to inspire contempt of those we are bound to respect. Reproofs aimed at the clergy in general must not be taken as addressed to all without exception, for “in the bosom of the Church there are always pastors and ministers outstanding for their learning and holiness,” besides the fact that “the divine Mother’s range of vision takes in the entire universe, and her chaste eye is offended by many things we can neither know nor even suspect. . .

“As for the Secret printed in Lecce, I assure you that it is identical to the one given to me by Mélanie in 1869. In the latter she simply filled in those small omissions and reservations which, when all is said and done, hardly added or subtracted anything from the substance of the document. I had my episcopal commission examine it according to the rules of the Church; and having found no reason to oppose the publication of the Secret, my Vicar General accorded his permission to print in the terms ‘NIHIL OBSTAT, IMPRIMATUR,’ to the person who desired to publish it at his own expense in accordance with his pious intentions. This approval as it appears at the end of the brochure was in fact given on November 15, 1879. The brochure was truly and entirely written by Mélanie Calvat, shepherdess of La Salette, whose surname was Matthieu. It is impossible to cast any doubts on the authenticity of this brochure.

“Here now is what concerns Mélanie personally: This pious girl, this virtuous and privileged soul whom wicked people have tried to vilify by making her the butt of their detestably gross calumnies and proud disdain, I can attest before God is in no way deceitful, crazy, deluded, prideful or motivated by self interest. On the contrary, I had occasion to admire the virtues of her soul, as well as the qualities of her mind throughout the period of time I had her under my spiritual direction, that is to say from 1868 to 1873. After that, being no longer able to undertake her direction as a consequence of my promotion to the see of Ugento as Superior of the Canons Regular, I still continued to keep in contact with her by correspondence. To this day I can affirm that her edifying life, her virtues, her writings have deeply impressed on my heart the sentiments of respect and admiration which in all justice I must entertain in her regard.

“In 1879 our Holy Father Leo XIII deigned to honor Mélanie with a private audience and also charged her with compiling the rules for the new Order recommended and requested by Our Lady of La Salette under the title of the Apostles of the Latter Days. In order to complete a draft of this kind, the ex-shepherdess stayed in Rome for five months at the convent of the Salesian Sisters. During this time she became better known and more highly esteemed, especially by these good nuns, who furnished favorable reports very much to the credit of the blessed shepherdess of La Salette.

“I know from my own sources of information that when Mr. Nicolas, a lawyer from Marseille was in Rome on Holy Saturday 1880, he was commissioned by His Holiness Leo XIII to put out a brochure explaining the Secret in its entirety, so that the public might understand it properly. I feel sure these particulars will suffice to strengthen you in your conviction. I could tell you very much more, but,” concludes the Bishop of Lecce, “that would require a book, not a letter.”

+

The same year that Bishop Zola wrote to Fr. Roubaud, Mgr. Cortet, Bishop of Troyes, was making every effort to have the Secret put on the Index on the pretext that it “was causing trouble in France.” When his request continued to meet with refusal on the part of the Holy Office, he threatened its Secretary, Cardinal Caterini, with the withdrawal of Peter’s Pence “if something was not done in his favor.” Under duress the Cardinal ended by writing him a letter dated August 8, 1880, in which he stated that the work in question had been remitted to the Inquisitors, who found it proper to reply that “it was not pleasing to the Holy See that the said work be delivered to the public,” and expressed the desire that “wherever copies have been distributed, they be removed, insofar as possible, from the hands of the faithful. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .” (sic)

When the authentic Latin text of the letter was published seventeen years later in Ami du Clergé, the last sentence terminated in an extended series of dots as above, testifying to a number of missing words. Eventually Fr. Roubaud learned that the dots stood for a phrase laying down the condition--“if as the Bishop affirms, the Secret was causing trouble in France.”   This qualification had been expurgated wholesale, along with the rest of the sentence, which instructed the authorities to “leave it in the hands of the clergy, so they may profit by it.”

Bishop Cortet had been so disappointed on receiving this communication that rather than publish it in his diocese, he sent it to his friend Bishop Besson of Nîmes, who put out an adulterated version. Not only were the extenuating words left out of the prohibition but gratuitous additions were made to the effect that the Inquisitors “deem worthy of the highest praise the zeal you have shown in denouncing this work to them,” and “that the Holy See has regarded its publication with the greatest displeasure.”   Removing the copies from circulation was furthermore reported to be the “express wish” of the Holy See.

Needless to say, this letter brought the dissemination of the Secret to a standstill in France as far as the establishment was concerned. From Italy Mélanie would write Fr. Roubaud, “Don’t worry about what the devil does by means of men; the good Lord permits it to strengthen the faith of the true believers. One of the persons I addressed in Rome belongs to the Congregation of the Index and the other to that of the Holy Office, or the Inquisition, which is the same thing. Neither one nor the other knew anything about Cardinal Caterini’s letter. That’s why they said it was a party acting independently of the Pope and even of the Congregations of the Index and the Inquisition.”

According to the brochure, “The two people Mélanie refers to are Cardinals, one of whom was Cardinal Ferrieri. Mgr. Pennachi, Consultor to the Index, on being questioned by Mélanie, told her the same thing as the two Cardinals. It is clear from Mélanie’s letter that Cardinal Caterini, by an ordinary private letter, had falsely implicated his colleagues in the Holy Office, and even the Holy See; for which the Cardinal’s secretary, who had drafted it, apologized to Mgr. Zola, adding that his hand had been forced.” Because poor Mélanie was unable to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the letter had indeed been sent without the Pope’s knowledge, she believed herself bound to comply with its strictures to the end of her life. Privately she admitted that the letter had “poisoned her existence” by making it impossible for her to fulfill the mission confided to her by our Lady, at least in France.

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After Melanie’s death in 1904 the enemies of La Salette hoped to deal the final blow to the Secret. Putting the capstone on the falsehoods and misrepresentations already in circulation, a decree was promulgated on December 21, 1915 which ordered “the faithful of all countries to abstain from treating or discussing this said question under whatsoever pretext or form, either in books, pamphlets or articles signed or anonymous, or in any other way.” Although the action is duly recorded in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis for December 31 of that year, certain irregularities were soon noted in its regard.

To begin with, it carries signatures of no Cardinals or members of the Sacred Congregation, but only that of its notary, Luigi Castellano. There is moreover no mention of the date on which the Holy Office presumably met to vote this piece of legislation, nor any reference to its ever having been submitted to Pope Benedict XV for final approval. Although the decree forbids all discussion of the Secret and specifies penalties to be imposed on transgressors, no censure whatever is attached to the work itself, as would be expected in the circumstances. There is not even a prohibition against possessing, reading or distributing it!

In other words the alleged “decree” which has been brandished like a club over the heads of the faithful for over eighty years to prevent their hearing a message addressed “to all our Lady’s people,” has apparently never enjoyed the force of law. The faithful both lay and clerical are now, and have always been perfectly free, without exception, to avail themselves of the high ecclesiastical authorizations which were originally granted to the Secret by the Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Sforza and Bishop Zola of Lecce, not to mention those of Cardinal Ferrieri and Cardinal Guidi. So what were they waiting for?

Not only had Pope Leo XIII accepted the account of the apparition and the Secret, delivered to him personally by Mélanie on two separate occasions, but as Bishop Zola pointed out, in 1880 this same Pontiff had charged the attorney Nicolas of Marseille “to draft a brochure explaining the whole Secret so that the general public could understand it properly.” When his brochure, which has provided so much of the substance of these lines, was reprinted under Fr. Lepidi’s Imprimatur in 1922 after years of oblivion, the adversaries of La Salette were bound to react, inasmuch as any clear exposition of the facts relating to the unjust suppression of the Secret could not fail to renew public interest in it.

An unfortunate incident played into their hands when an ill-advised partisan of the Secret, a certain Dr. Grémillon of Montpellier, took it upon himself to distribute a thousand copies of the brochure to all ranks of the clergy. Under cover of the brochure’s Imprimatur and using a pseudonym, he appended to its legitimate contents an injurious twelve-page letter dated February 2, 1923 in which, among other things, he labeled the priesthood as a whole as “sewers,” taxed St. Thomas Aquinas with “obscurantism” and wound up by declaring that the Pope should impose the Secret of La Salette on the faithful as an article of faith. The copies were expedited in wrappers proclaiming, “Big News! A voice from heaven! A message from the Blessed Virgin is declared authentic by the Vatican. A bludgeon blow to the clergy. See a letter at the end from Dr. Henry Mariavé to the Abbé Z., dean of a parish in Montpellier.”

Reaction on the part of the Holy Office was swift. On May 10, 1923 a decree was issued “proscribing and condemning” the entire brochure, designated by the title “The Apparition of the Most Holy Virgin on the Mountain of La Salette on Saturday, September 19, 1845.” That the apparition took place in 1846 and not in 1845 would alone serve to invalidate the decree, besides the fact that for over 43 years Mélanie’s account of the happening had incurred no condemnation whatsoever from any authorized quarter. To make matters worse, the Holy Office took its fateful action in a session held on the previous day, when Fr. Lepidi was ill and unable to make an appearance, either to defend the Imprimatur he had accorded the original publication or to repudiate the unauthorized letter which had been attached to it.

Could the brochure have suffered condemnation without Dr. Grémillon’s outrageous letter? Ultimately the responsibility lay with the reigning Pope, who was then Pius XI. As it was, he was placed in the uncomfortable position of apparently proscribing what three predecessors, Pius IX, Leo XIII and St. Pius X, had actively promoted, and what, in the case of the brochure itself, one of them had actually mandated. As the years rolled on, the wistful conclusion reached at the time by many of the bewildered faithful is being heard with increasing frequency as time goes on: “The Holy Father is a prisoner in the Vatican, at the mercy of his entourage for his information!” Be that as it may, the Secret of La Salette finally broke free of all restrictions when Paul VI abolished the Index of Forbidden Books in 1966. By then, of course, the Church had already entered the “frightful crisis” foretold by the Secret, and there was no turning back the events which began unrolling.

Read 11809 times Last modified on Friday, August 29, 2014

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