The timeliness of this «Nota» could be disputed; but I think that no one would deny two excellent qualities in it: the pastoral zeal that inspired it and the general tone of discretion that it shows.
With all this everyone can see too — without sufficient cause in my judgment — it increases the negative attitude against the events of Garabandal. It advances from «Nothing obliges us to affirm the supernaturalness of the events» in the first «Nota» to stating in the second «Nota» that «The apparitions, visions, locutions, and revelations up to now cannot be presented or held to have a serious foundation for truth and authenticity.»
And the Apostolic Administrator had not personally seen or observed anything. He has based his opinion completely on the Commission, which also had not seen or observed the matter sufficiently.
Furthermore, it had not taken the precaution of proceeding with a legitimate investigation, questioning in an adequate manner the girls and the main witnesses: the girls' families, the village priest, and the honest people who closely followed the affair.(2)
It seems proper to have official regulations of a disciplinary character to avoid possible abuses or excesses. But why was there such a hurry to pronounce, even though provisionally, upon the character of events that were still going on and still had not been adequately studied? We can remember that at Lourdes and also at Fatima, the local diocesan chanceries waited until the end of the events —and until an authentic canonical process was concluded — before speaking out officially on the character of what had occurred.(3)
In the case of Garabandal there has always been an extreme rush on the part of the officials to speak out about what was going on . . . That was rather obscure . . . That was not convincing . . . That gave reasons for serious distrust . . . All that could be explained naturally . . . That, supernaturally, was nothing . . .
Well, let us return to the second and last «Nota» of Bishop Doroteo Fernández.(4) I have previously recognized the two values that it seems to hold: good pastoral zeal and a general tone of prudence; but I ought equally to point out some things that take away its value:
* The ambiguous use of the term Church, leading many people to mistake the chancery for the Church, as if the Church were confined to the chancery . . . as if all faithful Catholics were not also the Church, the same Church as the chancery, although with a different function.
* The usage of a similar ambiguity in appropriating to the chancery the exclusive right to a definitive judgment, thus excluding all individual judgments . . . as if in the Church of God those who are not of the chancery were not entitled to make a judgment on matters of opinion; that is to say, on matters upon which the ultimate authority has not pronounced an absolute decision.
* The bishop speaks of usurpation and intrusion . . . but to deny the legitimate rights of other persons, and to attempt to take away the rights that legitimately belong to them, is also usurpation and intrusion.
* There is also in the «Nota» a third discrepancy: placing in front of the faithful certain truths so that they would easily be led to believe that the diocesan chancery was the Church, and because of that to accept what the chancery said with «perfect, complete and humble submission.» This type of submission is due only to teachings that explicitly and unquestionably come from the Higher Magisterium. At the diocesan level, the charisma of infallibility does not apply; at the low level of a bishop, the final word in questions and teachings of the faith cannot be made. As a consequence, in front of the episcopal dictates — the dictates of one single bishop — we can be called upon for practical obedience and respect, but in no way are we required to give «perfect, complete, and humble submission» in our way of thinking . . .
* The «Nota» also says that the priests are placed at the side of the faithful as «teachers of truth in the Church». That is a very important part of their high mission; but it can be observed that they do not always fulfill it . . . We should accept them as such teachers when they give us the teaching and doctrine of the Church; but we do not owe them the same submission and trust when, concerning other matters, they give us their own personal opinions.
* Finally, it is impossible to accept this solemn double statement: «When God wishes to speak, He does it in clear and unequivocal terms; when He wishes to tell us something, His words do not allow tergiversation or obscureness.»(5)
It is hard to understand how a bishop, and moreover one who was an expert in Scripture as Bishop Fernández was, could sign his name to this. If anything appears clear in the Bible, it is that God is not accustomed to speaking like this . . . His words end in being clear and unmistakable to those well disposed souls who search wholeheartedly and apply themselves to meditation on His word, even though it is obscure and difficult. But the sayings of God begin almost always in the form of an insinuation or mysterious call that upsets, and even serves to cause the badly disposed to stumble, and because of this is the cause of the fall, and of the resurrection of many. (Luke 2:34)
The words of God to men are ordinarily a process of progressive communication that only becomes sufficiently clear in the end, and this only to souls with good will. It is like the coming of light at dawn; some hazy beginnings and dim rays that do not allow the distance to be viewed or shapes and profiles to be made out, going on to become the full splendor that shows us everything around us in detail.
— «When God wishes to speak, He does it in clear and unequivocal terms.»
Yes, like the ancient prophets in the Old Testament. Read any one of them, and you will see how clearly and unequivocally they are understood from the first reading . . . Yes, as in many other passages of the last prophecy of the New Testament, the Apocalypse, where whole chapters are still waiting a substantial clarification.
Jesus Himself, the Word from the Father, communicated certain things with immediate and crystal clearness; but in many others . . . How did He answer Nicodemus? (John 3: 1-14) Or the woman of Sicar? (John 4: 4-14) Or those hearing His parables of the kingdom of heaven? (Matthew 13: 10-15) Or those who were listening to Him in the synagogue at Capharnum on the day following the multiplication of bread? (John 6: 60-66) Or how did He answer those who surrounded Him at the end of His life, with the vehement demand: How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are really the Messiah that we are waiting for, tell us one time plainly. (John 10: 24)(6)
— «When He wishes to tell us something, His words do not allow tergiversation or obscureness.»
Yes, because of this, in the Church there have never appeared heretics and teachers of error, who always try to base their doctrines on texts of the Word of God . . .
What the bishop says in his second note should be compared with what St. Peter wrote centuries ago in his second epistle (3: 15-16):
Think of Our Lord's patience as your chance to be saved. Our brother Paul, who is so dear to us, told you this when he wrote to you with the wisdom that is his special gift. He always writes like this when he deals with this sort of subject, and this makes some points in his letter hard to understand; these are the points that unlearned and unbalanced people distort, in the same way as they distort the rest of scripture — to their own perdition.
It seems then that the Bishop of Santander errs notably when he writes, or puts his signature beneath the statement that «When God wishes to speak, He does it in clear and unmistakable terms; when He wishes to tell us something, His words do not allow tergiversation or obscureness.»
If the bishop and his commission members wish to use this double statement as a doctrinal basis to arrive at the disqualification of the events of Garabandal, since all the things there are not very clear, it would have to be said that the disqualifiers do not shine like brilliant stars.
Its mysterious and obscure beginning can be a good sign in favor of Garabandal, as it would make us see Garabandal in the pattern that God is accustomed to use when He unveils Himself to men. Only at the end of a certain process will what He wishes to tell us become sufficiently clear; and then not to everyone, but only to those who do not obstruct His many mercies; who do not prefer the darkness to the light. (John 3: 19)
2. What I am stating in this paragraph has already been shown in the preceding chapters.
3. In Lourdes, the ecclesiastical verdict came after four years of waiting (1858-1862); in Fatima, after thirteen (1917-1930).
4. Months later, Bishop Doroteo Fernández was reassigned from Santander — where, according to what had been said, he hoped to remain as the titular and residential bishop — to Badajoz, where he was the Apostolic Administrator until 1971.
5. God does not ordinarily speak in the way that Bishop Fernández mentions in his «Nota» in order to permit us to walk always on the difficult but meritorious path of faith. How difficult faith is!
With regard to this, very frequently things are at the same time:
1. Sufficiently clear so that souls who are basically good end up seeing them.
2. Sufficiently obscure so that those who always find reasons for not believing — souls with bad dispositions — may not see.
For judgment I came into this world;
That those who are blind, may see;
And those who see, may become blind. John 9:39)
The same miracles of Our Lord, that Bishop Doroteo points to in his «Nota» as the prototype of clear and authentic supernatural actions, do not have a result so clear for everyone . . . This can be seen in those trying today to demyth the Gospel, finding in it the stone that crushes them to powder as Scripture states.
6. Anyone want another example? Here is one described in Matthew 11: 2-15 and in Luke 7: 18. John the Baptist called two of his disciples and sent them to Jesus with this question, Are you he who is to come or do we look for another?
The question was stated in clear and unmistakable terms to put Jesus in the position of affirming Himself openly as the Messiah or the Christ. But how did Jesus answer?
He put before those sent a series of prodigies saying to them: Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the gospel is preached to the poor. And fortunate is the one who is not scandalized in me.
This was no clear and unmistakable answer, but a very mysterious one. It was sufficiently clear so that certain souls would understand it, and sufficiently obscure so that those without a good disposition toward the light would be confused.
How significant is the final sentence, Fortunate is the one who is not scandalized in me. Or according to a more literal translation from the Greek, Fortunate is the one whom I do not cause to stumble. Evidently, in the works and in the sayings of Jesus, the badly disposed are able to find a cause or basis for turning away and being repelled.