Rorate Caeli

‘The Council and the Eclipse of God’ - PART IX. On this Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, Don Pietro Leone describes how the ‘minimalists’ sought to ‘minimize’ Our Lady’s role in the Church as well as addressing the battle that arose to consecrate the world to Her Immaculate Heart.


Detail of a mosaic on the facade of the Cathedral in Siena, Italy

D.    Our Blessed Lady


Our Blessed Lady is, as we have noted above, at the same time the most glorious member of the Church, and Her model.


 i) ‘To Us it seems that we should resolutely dissent from those prophets of doom (profeti di sventura), who always announce the worst, as though the end of the world was coming. In the present state of human events, in which humanity appears to be entering into a new order of things, there are to be seen rather the mysterious plans of Divine Providence’ (Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, opening speech of the Council by Pope John XXIII).


The phrase ‘the prophets of doom’ in text (i) refers, as the Pope had explained a little before, to those who take a pessimistic view of contemporary society, amongst whom it is reasonable to understand those who upheld the message of Fatima. Pope John had read the third secret of Fatima in 1959. It contained three parts: in the first a vision of Hell into which many souls were seen to fall; in the second the end of the First World War was prophesied, as well as the outbreak of a Second World War and the diffusion of communism if the world did not convert. The remedy was also given, that is the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; the third part contained a vision of the death of the Pope, of the hierarchy, clergy, and faithful [1].


The Pope commented: ‘It does not concern the years of my pontificate’ [2]. Professor de Mattei gives as the Pope’s motive for not publishing the third secret: ‘the strident contrast between ‘the prophets of doom’ of the message of Fatima, and the optimistic, prophetic stance of the new Pontiff who inaugurated the Second Vatican Council.’


When, during the Council, 510 heads of dioceses, archdioceses, and patriarchates from 76 countries were to beg Pope Paul VI to consecrate the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in conformity with the secrets of Fatima, the liberals (in the persons of Cardinal Bea and the French and German Bishops) prevailed upon him not to do so [3]. Notwithstanding this failure, the Pope announced at the end of the third Session that he would send a golden rose to Fatima ‘to entrust to the care of this Heavenly Mother the entire human family…’


 ii) ‘… the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith…’ (LG 58)


Text (ii) suggests that Our Lady grew in Faith on witnessing the miracles of her Divine Son and His words on the Kingdom of Heaven, whereas of course such supernatural actions and words were only an external confirmation of the Faith that she already possessed in her Son’s Divinity.


 iii) ‘… the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the church under the titles of advocate, helper, benefactress, and mediatrix.’ (LG 62)


 iv) ‘… Let them [theologians and preachers] carefully refrain from whatever might by word or deed lead the separated sisters and brothers or any others whatsoever into error about the true doctrine of the church’ (LG 67).


Text (iii) asserts that Our Lady is invoked by the Church as Mediatrix. To clarify the meaning of such a title one must obviously make both a negative and a positive point: one must explain how the role of Our Lady is subordinate to that of Our Lord, but one must also explain in what her mediatory role consists. The passage quoted continues with three caveats stressing her subordinate role to ‘Christ the one Mediator’, but saying nothing about her mediatory role, except for the very general allusion to ‘manifold co-operation’. What is however even more notable about the text, apart from this negativity, is its doctrinal poverty: the fact that it suppresses her full title ‘Mediatrix of all Graces’. This full title had been the subject of a vehement attack from the part of Father Rahner, whose rejection of the doctrine had been seconded by the Fulda Conference [4].


The full title had appeared in the original schema, but had met with the disapproval of the Protestant observers and the Bishops of the Liberal group. Liberal Cardinals such as Léger, Döpfner, Bea, Alfrink, Liénart, as well as Pope John XXIII, did not even want the title ‘Mediatrix’ included in the final version. Pope John had called it ‘inopportune and even harmful’ [5]. Eventually the liberals, in an accord reminiscent of the machinations of opposing political parties, agreed not to oppose the inclusion of ‘Mediatrix’ if the conservatives did not insist on the title ‘Mother of the Church’ [6].  


Text (iii) was therefore a compromise text between two conflicting parties. In the field of Mariology the parties are described as ‘maximalist’ and ‘minimalist’. The former party represented the traditional Catholic veneration towards Our Lady, the modern phase of which derives from the apostolic and literary works of St. Louis Marie de Montfort and of St. Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori. This party viewed Our Lady as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces, and desired the latter role to be proclaimed as dogma by the Council. The minimalist party, by contrast, viewed the role of Our Lady as subordinate to that of the Church, of whom she was only a member and model [7].

Minimalists attacked the Mariology of their opponents by claiming that it was not supported by Revelation [8]; that it was ‘excessive’, ‘feverish’, at least partly ‘pathological’ and that it did not correspond to the requirements of La Nouvelle Theologie  [9]; that it should be ‘purified’ [10]; although the most common objection, as voiced in text (iv), was simply that it was prejudicial to ecumenism [11].

Although the majority of the Fathers shared the maximalist outlook, the conservative group (the Coetus Internationalis Patrum) had not yet been able to organise itself sufficiently to co-ordinate any effective counter-offensive. Furthermore, Father Laurentin, as a journalist-theologian, had the media on his side. The result was a victory for the minimalists. (RdM ibid.).

'The Most Holy Mary - 'Mother of the Church'

Although they did not succeed in eliminating reference to the mediatory role of Our Blessed Lady entirely, the minimalists were able to prevent the Council from:


-           designating her as Mediatrix of ‘all Graces’;

-           solemnly pronouncing her Motherhood of the Church;

-           dedicating a separate scheme to her alone;

-           consecrating the world to her Immaculate Heart.


Notwithstanding these ‘successes’, however, the Liberals were to receive a heavy blow on the last day of the Session, when Pope Paul proclaimed in his closing address ‘for the glory of the Virgin Mary and for our own consolation, The Most Holy Mary as Mother of the Church.’ Father Küng and leading Protestants were indignant and Liberals were afterwards to call the week in question, for this and for other reasons, ‘Black Week’, but the Holy Spirit had intervened in honor of His Immaculate Spouse, despite all their efforts to the contrary. What is more, the Pope also announced his intention to send a golden rose to Fatima to ‘entrust to the care of this heavenly Mother the entire human family…’, considered by Father Wiltgen as at least a partial reply to the request to consecrate the entire world to her Immaculate Heart. [12][1].


The Queen of Heaven  
by Sandro Botticelli

In conclusion to this first chapter, we see how the Council erodes Catholic teaching on the intimate nature of the Church: on the Church as a Mystical Body, as a Hierarchy, and as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. This effectively deprives Her of any supernatural quality whatsoever, reducing Her to the level of a purely human society, such as those of the non-Catholic Christians and of the other Religions, with which she is consequently obliged to interact with as an equal.


[1] we shall not here enter into the question of whether there were further revelations concerning the current apostasy of the hierarchy, which have been up to the present day been suppressed by the same hierarchy.

[2] RdM II 5a

[3] MD rl ch.10

[4]  MD ibid.] RdM p.321

[5] RdM IV 6

[6] MD pjc ch.10

[7] RdM IV 6

[8] Father Congar

[9] Father Laurentin

[10] Cardinal König

[11] Father Laurentin, Cardinal Koenig, Father Rahner, Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, RdM IV 6

[12] MD ibid