Perhaps the feverishly antagonistic reaction from that group of priests pushed the Commission at Santander to publish a new «Nota» on the matter of Garabandal. Bishop Beitia Aldazábal, who was no longer titular bishop of the diocese, but who continued at its head as Apostolic Administrator, honored this «Nota» with his approval and signature, although there are reasons to doubt that he personally was in full accord with what was officially declared. The «Nota» was dated July 8th, and inserted into the Boletín Oficial del Obispado of that month:
«Our pastoral duty obliges us to write this Nota . . .
The Bishopric of Santander has received extensive documentation during these years on everything that has happened there. It has not closed its file on this matter. It always gratefully receives all the evidence for judgment that is submitted to it.
There have been three official Notas that have appeared up to this moment, trying to orientate the judgment of the faithful. This Nota will be the fourth, and its conclusion: the same as that of the preceding Notas.
The Commission that studied the credentials of these matters has not found reasons to modify the judgment already pronounced, declaring that there is no evidence of a supernatural character in the phenomena of which it made a careful examination . . .»
As an illustration of the «extensive documentation» received and of the «careful examination» made, we cite here an extract—up to now, never responded to by the chancery—from Fr. Laffineur in the book, L’Etoile dans la Montagne:
«This is the fourth anniversary of the apparitions. Yes, four years earlier, on June 18th, 1961, everything began . . .
But in four years the Commission has never had the time to bring before them either the visionaries, or their families, or even the pastor of the parish (and for our part we might add: nor any of the witnesses who might have shown themselves favorable to the supernatural character of the phenomena). Inconceivable, the French would say, and all those who know the history of Lourdes and Fatima. Yes, inconceivable, but true. More than true, unfortunately!
The Commission was content with emissaries, some of whom we know; and we know all the harm that they caused in the little village, left to itself in the middle of events that we infinitely beyond it.»
Fr. Laffineur and his French companions had a good occasion to see how the Commission of Santander carried on its work—by their personal experience on the morning of June 24th, six days after the message, during their return trip from Garabandal . . . Anyone wishing to know the remarkable and astounding experiences they had with the Commission, can read them in the L’Etoile dans la Montagne.(13)
But let us return to the bishop’s «Nota».
«Nevertheless, we state here that we have not found any reason for ecclesiastical censure with regard to condemning either the doctrine or the spiritual recommendations that have been promulgated in this affair, in so far as they are directed to faithful Christians. Rather they contain exhortations to prayer and sacrifice, to Eucharistic devotion, to devotion to Our Lady in traditional
praiseworthy forms, to the holy fear of God offended by our sins.
They simply repeat ordinary Church doctrine in these matters.
We accept the good faith and religious fervor of the people who go to San Sebastián de Garabandal, and who merit the deepest respect; and we wish to call upon that same religious fervor so that they, relying fully on the hierarchy of the Church and its magisterium, comply with the closest exactness to our repeatedly published recommendations.»
It can be assumed that these paragraphs were the personal part of Bishop Beitia; perhaps the sole part of the whole «Nota» that was composed by him. But there are serious indications that he, in the middle of his confusion with regard to Garabandal, personally came to be closer to its acceptance than its rejection . . . And so? Mysteries of God. Or, perhaps, simply mysteries of man.
During the days in which the fourth «Nota» was composed—the second and last «Nota» from Bishop Beitia—his bewilderment on this matter had to be increased by the abrupt change taking place in Father Luis López Retenaga.
From the end of 1962, that priest, mentioned so many times in our story, had been confronting the bishop of Santander as the most convinced and qualified defender of the authenticity of the Garabandal events. But, suddenly, inexplicably—or perhaps it was too explainable, as some might say—he made a complete about-face, changing his enthusiastic defense not just into doubt, but into an outright opinion that all the events could well be considered the result of diabolical intervention. Something of what happened to Father Retenaga can be read in Star on the Mountain: «A priest stopped believing in Garabandal.» (His name is not given).
Upsetting? But not too much. Garabandal was continuing to be, more and more fiercely, a sign of contradiction. But was that not the same thing that had been prophesied for Jesus Himself? (Luke 2:34)
Here on earth, we remain suspended between light and darkness.
Only a fool would pretend that the affairs of God have the 2+2=4 clarity that we like to see in the affairs of men!
13. On May 1st, 1969, Father Laffineur gave a conference at Lisieux, France and in it he reminisced about his meeting on June 24th with the one who had been the secretary, lawyer, judge, and everything else in the Commission:
«All my responses were interrupted beforehand, giving a feeling that there could be nothing else than what was unfavorable to Garabandal . . . And listen to this. When I had finished my statements (which took place in a restaurant! The ultimate scandal in canon matters!) he said to me, Sign it.
I answered, I won’t sign this thing.
Then I saw what none of you could have imagined: with his own handwriting, at the bottom of what had been written, he calmly put my first and last name in large capitals . . . How can this be called canon law? When some of my friends from Germany passed through Santander sometime later, he assured them that I had given a deposition in front of the Commission against Garabandal, and that the deposition was signed by me.»