They’re widening the roads to the Portuguese hill town of Fatima, stepping up train service, building 1,500 prefab houses, and talking about a helicopter landing pad. Chartered airline tours from the United States are selling at $505 to $895 a seat.

To hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics who venerate the Virgin Mary, May 13 is the fiftieth anniversary of her first reported appearance to three illiterate peasant children at Fatima. Since the apparitions won church recognition in 1930, Fatima has become one of the world’s major Marian shrines, centering on a large basilica with a 213-foot tower. Even in an off year, Fatima draws 1.5 million pilgrims (who get special indulgences in purgatory for making the trip) and 17,500 masses are recited.

Why Fatima? Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, perhaps America’s leading Catholic apologist, points out that Fatima was the name of Mohammed’s daughter and that in Islam she ranks second only to Mary among women. Thus, the Fatima miracles are “a pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people.”

The Fatima fiftieth, besides heightening piety and tourism, will be a boost for Mariology, that much-neglected topic of the post-Vatican II era. Major theological meetings are scheduled at Fatima in May and August. Pope Paul VI has named Curia Cardinal da Costa Nunes as his representative, and there is talk that he himself will come.

Part of the excitement about Fatima is the CIA-style story of the “third secret” told by Mary to the children. Twenty-four years after the fact, Sister Lucy, the only one of the three children still living, said they had seen a vivid vision of Hell in July, 1917. Mary had then asked frequent recitations of the Rosary and special masses, and had warned that unless Russia were consecrated to “My Immaculate Heart,” there would be wars and church persecution.

But a third part of Lucy’s rendition was put in a sealed envelope to be opened in 1960. Just last month, Cardinal Ottaviani confirmed rumors that Pope John XXIII got the envelope from Portugal in 1960, opened it, decided not to make the secret public, and “put it in one of those Vatican archives that are like a bottomless well.”

With Sister Lucy silenced by the church, curiosity continues and rumors linger. Presbyterian preacher Paul H. Rutgers complains this month in the Camden, New Jersey, Catholic weekly about “churchmen playing ‘I’ve Got a Secret.’ ” He hints that the Vatican uses secrets to “keep the interest up.”

There has been some speculation that Paul, who has a strong interest in Mary, will endorse with his full dogmatic power the generally-held ideas that Mary is “Co-Redemptrix” and “Mediatrix.” The Fatima anniversary would be a logical time. But Father Juniper Carol, founder of the Mariological Society of America, who would like to see new elevation of Mary, doubts Paul will do it because “he has been bending over backwards to be sympathetic to you Protestants.”

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Mary is quite contrary for Catholics and Protestants in an ecumenical age. In fact, she is probably the most divisive issue next to the papacy. Is she a humble Jewish peasant girl, the Queen of the Universe, or both?

The history of attempts to explain Mary has strange twists. The Koran teaches she was born without sin and lived a sinless life—an approximation of the “immaculate conception” dogma. Thomas Aquinas, the giant of medieval Catholicism, rejected the idea. But Martin Luther believed it (despite a couple of lapses), prayed to Mary, and taught she was the “Mother of God” and a virgin all her life—which covers most of the distinctive beliefs Catholics hold today (see box below).

After the Reformation, Catholic devotions and Marian theology began to rise, reaching a high point in the mid-twentieth century. Meanwhile, Protestant interest in the Saviour’s mother faded. But in 1967, many think Catholic Mariology has passed its high point, and some Protestant scholars are trying to revive interest in Mary.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Catholic University announced it will offer a summer course on the role of “Our Lady in Protestant Theology.” The teacher, Father Donal Flanagan of Ireland’s St. Patrick’s College, is writing a book on Mariology after Vatican II.

The ecumenical mood has reached even Father Carol’s Mariologists. Next year, Arthur Cochrane of Dubuque Theological Seminary (Presbyterian) will speak to the society. Cochrane has said that “God adopted us in Mary’s one son to be His children, and in this sense to be Mary’s children.”

In January, Arthur C. Piepkorn of Concordia Seminary (Missouri Synod Lutheran) became the first non-Roman to speak to the Mariologists. Starting with the Bible as understood by “the primitive church,” Piepkorn thinks considerable agreement can be reached on Mary as Theotokos (Mother of God), her “place in the church as the first of the redeemed,” the “probability of her intercession for the church,” and other aspects of honor.

Another Missouri Synod scholar who wants to interest Protestants in Mary—Yale’s Jaroslav Pelikan—thinks it’s ironic that the Protestants “most vociferous in defending the virgin birth are the most closed to Roman Catholic rapprochement, and those who sit lightly on the virgin birth are the most friendly to Roman Catholics.”

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Pelikan says Catholics, especially in devotion and speculation, isolate discussion of Mary from Christ, while Protestants overlook “the Christological context. You cannot long speak about Christ without dealing with Mary.”

Closer yet to the Roman view are the “Catholics” within the Anglican communion. In a 1957 survey of superiors at Anglican monasteries, all twenty-five who responded believed Mary is the Mother of God, sixteen believed in the immaculate conception, and fourteen believed in the assumption. The Catholic-leaning U. S. weekly Living Church, in a random survey among all U. S. Episcopal clergy, found that a substantial minority believed Mary was a virgin all her life and a fair number held other Roman Catholic doctrines. Episcopalians interested in promoting honor and devotion to Mary can join the Living Rosary of Our Lady or the Society of Mary. Last summer, Living Church marked the traditional Feast of the Assumption by declaring Mary to be the Mother of God and asking the denomination to “commemorate St. Mary on her traditional ‘birthday into eternity.’ ”

Most Episcopal advocates of the new Mariology are conservatives. An exception is Norman Pittenger, who wrote a semi-official doctrinal guide with lames A. Pike and has opposed the historical Virgin Birth. Pittenger has called for a “chastened” devotion to “our Lady” and has asked non-Romans to recognize her “unique place.”

If Mary was not the virgin mother of the Son of God, however, special honors seem irrelevant to most. By and large, the big names of modern Protestant thought have taken a low view of Mariology. Mary has been diminished by Emil Brunner’s denying that the Virgin Birth is an essential doctrine; by Rudolph Bultmann’s calling it a myth and saying the deity of Jesus refers to his significance for faith rather than his nature; and by Paul Tillich’s asserting that Jesus only became the Christ to his followers.

Conservative Protestants outside the Lutheran and Anglican camps are often disinterested, if not antagonistic. No doubt this is a reaction against such Catholic extremism as the 1965 English translation of Mary of Nazareth by Igino Giordani, which carries the imprimatur of Cardinal Spellman. The book says the “divinely enlightened” St. Gertrude declared that “the three Divine Persons have in (Mary) a Daughter, a Spouse, and a Mother; and under these three titles love her with an infinite love.” Thus, Mary is apparently the mother of God the Father and Holy Spirit as well as Son.

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Giordani speculates that Mary was at the Last Supper, “was crucified with him” in vicarious suffering, became “an authority” in the apostolic church and thus helped Paul and John in their New Testament writings, and visited Ephesus and other mission frontiers. He also believes “the building up of the New World was accomplished with the inspiration and help of Mary.”

Similarly, Richard Cardinal Cushing considers Mary the “patroness of America,” tracing the idea back to Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria. He calls the grandiose Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D. C., a “luxury gift to Mary” in return for her blessings on America. The shrine, largest Catholic church in the United States and seventh-largest in the world, is still being completed. Two chapels will be dedicated this year.

Marian Primer: Meaning Of Key Terms

Mother of God—Developed in the early church with the idea of Jesus’ full deity (Jesus is God, Mary is his mother). Affirmed at Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431). Retained by some Reformation statements. Title appears in the Mass and “Hail Mary,” is used by Eastern Orthodoxy and “high” Protestants.

Perpetual Virginity—Mary never had sexual intercourse, and bore only Jesus. Widely held in early Church. Made doctrine at Chalcedon (451), thus believed by Eastern Orthodox. Defended by Luther. Appears several times in the Mass. Held by many Anglicans, some Lutherans.

Immaculate Conception—Mary was conceived without original sin and lived a sinless life. Idea has long, complex development. Generally accepted in Catholicism by fifteenth century. Some Reformation writers held her sinless or near-sinless in deeds. Declared Catholic dogma in 1854. Believed by many Orthodox but not as essential doctrine.

Assumption—Mary, at the end of her earthly life, was assumed in body and soul, directly into heaven. Marked by a holy day in most Eastern churches by the fifth century, later in the West, and came into common belief. After immaculate conception decree, eight million Catholics petitioned pope to make assumption a dogma. Decreed in 1950; those who dare to deny or doubt it have cut themselves off from Catholic faith. Believed by most Orthodox but not as essential doctrine.

Mediatrix—“No one can approach Christ except through his Mother” (Pope Leo XIII, 1891). “My salvation depends upon Mary’s mediation in union with Christ, because of her exalted position as Mediatrix of all Grace …” (catechism in My Sunday Missal). Vatican II used the title and said Mary’s “intercession continues to win for us gifts of eternal salvation,” but added that this shouldn’t detract from Christ as the “one Mediator.” Not an article of Roman faith as such.

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Co-Redemptrix—Mary suffered with Christ “and nearly died with Him when He died,” thus she “may rightly be said to have redeemed the human race with Christ.” (Pope Benedict XV, 1918). “The Virgin of Sorrows shared the work of redemption with Jesus Christ” (Pius XI, 1923). Widely held, but not dogma.

Death On The Compound

A 26-year-old woman missionary teacher was stabbed to death this month in Bandung, Indonesia. Miss Patricia May Groff, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, had just begun her work in January. She served under the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

A few hours after Miss Groff’s body was found on the mission compound, police arrested a 20-year-old man. He said he had killed her for someone whose name he refused to disclose. According to the Indonesian press agency Antara, the man behind the murder is a Chinese.

Miss Groff was trained at Nyack Missionary College and Oneonta, New York, State Teachers College.

Resurrection In New Zealand

A major controversy over the resurrection of Christ has stirred New Zealand’s Presbyterians. It started last year with a provocative series of articles in the denomination’s Outlook magazine by Lloyd Geering, Principal of Knox College in Dunedin.

Broadly, what Geering did was deny the historicity of the resurrection stories along the lines of Howard Williams, a prominent London Baptist who said in 1964 that it doesn’t matter whether the empty tomb created the faith of the disciples or the faith of the disciples created the empty tomb.

To conservatives, however, it matters as much as the difference between truth and falsehood. Alarmed church members formed the Association of Presbyterian Laymen. The clergy rallied to Geering’s side with some strength, and there seemed real danger of a split in the denomination.

The Dunedin Presbytery met in a mood of apprehension late in 1966. A carefully worded compromise saved the day for the scholars and disarmed the laymen. It said that many Presbyterians do not agree with Geering’s thesis, but that it “does not deny the resurrection of Christ.” The statement also supported “the principle of free inquiry in all matters concerning the Christian faith.”

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It is doubtful that the end has been heard of this matter. The conservatives feel that they have surrendered much for unity, and that Knox is still in the hands of those not to be trusted to propagate traditional doctrines. It will be interesting to watch future recruiting for the ministry, and the likely growth of coherence among the denomination’s conservative laymen.


Keeping Tabs On Red Religion

Many American Christians see the National Council of Churches as giving aid and comfort to the Communist world through leftist-oriented reports and pronouncements. Few realize that the council also sponsors the best running account of Communist repression of religion: the semimonthly newsletter Religion in Communist Dominated Areas.

Last year RCDA made public the growing anti-government dissent among Orthodox and Baptists in the Soviet Union. This month it is printing details on the Baptist uproar gleaned from an atheistic Ukrainian publication. In the works is a report on what RCDA calls “brutal suppression of religious activities of dissenting Baptists in Kiev and other places.”

RCDA consists largely of direct translations of articles selected from more than one hundred Soviet, East European, and Chinese publications. A brief comment accompanies each article. The maroon-trimmed first page always features a photograph or drawing. The February 15 issue showed a satirical cartoon from a Moscow publication contrasting the Oriental lines of an old shrine with the sleek, squared-off look of a modern building.

RCDA is put out by a pair of experts on Eastern Europe. The editor, 72-year-old Paul Anderson, an Episcopalian, served as a YMCA representative in Russia through the Bolshevik Revolution after a four-year stint in China. He has written two books on religion in Russia and has served as negotiator and translator in clergy exchange visits between the United States and the Soviet Union.

RCDA’s managing editor is the Rev. Blahoslav Hruby, 55, a Czech-born linguist who fled the Gestapo on a bicycle and crossed the Pyrenees on foot before coming to the United States. He was a U. S. Army intelligence officer during World War II and worked for Radio Free Europe before joining the council. He and his wife can together handle translations from twenty languages. They live in a Manhattan apartment with their 16-year-old daughter, who spent last summer taking intensive Chinese language training at Columbia University. Between issues of RCDA, Hruby likes to go mushroom-picking (“I specialize in edible mushrooms”).

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RCDA grew out of a research project occasioned by a visit of American churchmen to the Soviet Union. Members of the delegation liked the information so well they suggested a continuing report. The newsletter was begun in the spring of 1962 with financial help from United Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Methodists.

RCDA runs eight pages per issue and costs ten dollars a year. It is now mailed to people in fifty countries, but circulation totals a mere 1,600, including many free copies sent to Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The publication costs the NCC’s International Affairs Commission about $40,000 a year, and in 1966 the project went $17,000 in the red despite hundreds of hours of volunteer labor. Continuing deficits seem likely unless circulation can be substantially increased.

Competition for the budget dollar is keen among NCC agencies, and some people have campaigned against RCDA. They contend the reports do not contribute to the principle of coexistence.

But Hruby, a part-time Presbyterian minister, can preach a sermon of rebuttal on that point. “A fruitful dialogue cannot take place if we do not know the facts,” he says.

“The Communist governments are sensitive to this kind of publication,” Hruby adds, “and they seem to be less offensive in their policies concerning churches behind the Iron Curtain because they know that violations against religious freedom in the Soviet Union are reported. It is apparent that the Soviet Embassy and other embassies of Communist countries are eager to have good relations with RCDA.”

Fixing Easter

Slowly and quietly the Christian world moves toward adoption of a fixed date for Easter. Most likely choice: the first Sunday in April.

Since the Council of Nicaea in 325, Western Christians have observed Easter according to the Gregorian Calendar, on the Sunday after the first full moon of spring—which means anywhere between March 22 and April 25. Most Eastern Orthodox calculate the date a little differently.

A fixed date for Easter came up for discussion several weeks ago in the British House of Lords. The body reserved decision until after the World Council of Churches Fourth Assembly in 1968. The WCC is conducting a survey among member churches. The Second Vatican Council endorsed a fixed date but did not specify any preference.

Race-Track Evangelism

Despite threats of unseasonal tropical showers on Barbados, West Indies, the grandstands at Garrison Savannah race course—built for last November’s independence celebration—were filled to overflowing night after night.

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The occasion was a crusade led by San Francisco evangelist Bob Harrison and Philadelphia singer Jimmie McDonald. Between meetings, the team went from one end of the 166-square-mile, ham-shaped island to the other. They spoke at high schools and were heard on radio by a large part of the coral island’s 250,000 people. They lunched with the Governor-General, headed a Rotary Club program, and held a prison service.

Setting aside finer points of theology and practice, clergymen from nine groups ranging from Bajan Pentecostalists to Irish Methodists cooperated in the campaign. Each service was climaxed with an invitation to commitment. Some 530 converts were recorded.


These Modern Neros

Shakespeare might have had a word for last month’s strange affair at Cambridge University—“a Roman by a Roman valiantly vanquished.” The occasion seemed unpromising of high drama: an address on “The Proper Formation of Conscience” given to the (Roman Catholic) Fisher Society by seventy-three-year-old Archbishop Thomas Roberts, S. J. Widely regarded as the enfant terrible of the English hierarchy because of liberal views on contraception, intermarriage, and abortion, the retired prelate was sharing something of this with his student audience when he was stopped in full flight by the acting chaplain, Father Joseph Christie, a fellow Jesuit.

Christie accused the archbishop of heresy and terminated the meeting. “The time comes when a man must stand and be counted,” valiantly said this spiritual counselor of 600 undergraduates, “and my time has come.… People are sick and tired of listening to criticism of the holy Church, and it is time someone stood up against it.”

For his part the archbishop, who retired in 1950 from the see of Bombay, said it was like accusing a judge of being crooked, and demanded that the heresy charge be justified or withdrawn. Father Christie, evidently rather enjoying the whole business, said he did not “give a damn” about the reaction, and added with modest satisfaction, “It must be the first time that an archbishop has been stopped in his tracks like that.”

Meanwhile English Roman Catholicism is deeply divided over the sacking of a Dominican priest-editor. Petty bickering at high level involving the Apostolic Delegate in London and the Dominican Master-General in Rome has spread to the English bishops. Four of these and (incredibly) Cardinal Heenan himself have associated themselves with the lay movement protesting editor Herbert McCabe’s dismissal.

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From Wales, however, warnings by the Archbishop of Cardiff professed to smell anarchy in the “new crusade against authority” led by “the modern Neros who fiddle while Rome burns.” The allusion may be obscure, but that it was widely welcomed among the lower echelons underlines the fact that to be a Roman Catholic in England today is a perplexing business.


Germany: The New Resistance

Strong resistance to modern theology is developing in Germany. A confessional movement known as “No Other Gospel,” focal point of the resistance, is gaining momentum rapidly.

Early in January the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, obviously skeptical of the NOG movement, published a tongue-in-cheek interview with Dr. Gerhard Bergmann, one of its leaders. But by the end of the month the magazine was inviting another spokesman for NOG to write a critical review of the liberal theology that the movement opposes.

The influential weekly Christ und Welt warned, “People are clearly mistaken who use the slogan ‘modern theology against congregational piety’ and presume that on the one side we have the theologians and on the other a more or less emotional, traditionalistic and thus vague piety. For on the other side we discover quite a number of influential theologians, and not just the older ones, but generally speaking, the theological youth.”

German Lutheran bishops devoted an entire session in mid-January to the current theological unrest. Clearly afraid of a split, they tried to keep contemporary German theology and the NOG movement within ecclesiastical bounds. But their indictment of modern theology was much stronger than their indictment of the Bible-defending conservatives represented by NOG.

The bishops warned NOG not to forget “the inherent tension of God’s Word in human mouths.” The modern theologians were told not to forget that the “Crucified One is more than an example of solidarity; he heals the world and reconciles us to God.” Both groups were asked not to judge each other falsely.

NOG grew out of a small group of concerned pastors who several years ago began meeting in the town of Bethel and soon were known as the Bethel Circle. The leaders were Paul Tegmeyer—who died recently—and Helmuth Frey. These pastors wanted to do something about the growing influence of theologian Rudolf Bultmann upon the young theologians. They said that 80 per cent of the German pulpiteers were preaching a message conditioned by Bultmannian presuppositions and methodology.

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Their concern was at first shrugged off by most German church leaders, who didn’t even find time to discuss the matter personally with the men of Bethel. But a new situation developed when philosopher Dorothee Sölle, a German exponent of the death-of-God theology, spoke at the mammoth Christian Kirchentag convention in Cologne in 1965.

Within a few months the Bethel Circle had blossomed out into a statewide organization to oppose Bultmannian and post-Bultmannian theology, to defend scriptural authority, and to call the church back to her confession. A mass meeting on March 6, 1966, in Dortmund drew a crowd of 20,000. The speakers included Dr. D. Wilm, moderator of the Church of Westphalia, which claims 3,619,114 members and is the biggest and most conservative of the West German regional churches.

The Dortmund meeting sparked formation of committees in all the independent regional churches. In the Rhineland eighty-six pastors and elders formed a working committee. In Brunswick 100 pastors published Eighteen Theses Against Modern Theology. In Lower Saxony independent confessional groups met and formed a provincial union. Since then these regional groups have formed a national organization led by Westphalian pastor Rudolf Bäumer.

NOG made headlines when it requested a meeting with the Kirchentag presidium and got it. The Kirchentag movement sponsors a five-day assembly every other year with a climaxing rally that draws hundreds of thousands. When Kirchentag leaders took time out for discussion with NOG, people realized that the new movement was something more than a small group of conservative grumblers.

NOG asked the Kirchentag presidium to avoid speakers who repudiate biblical and confessional truths and specifically requested the rejection of two proposed speakers: Dr. Heinz Zahrnt and Dr. Ernst Käsemann. The presidium refused. Instead, it asked NOG to appoint some men who would be received as speakers and chairmen on the platform of the 1967 Kirchentag in Hannover. NOG turned down the compromise proposal.

Thus the discussion ended in a deadlock. NOG let it be known that it would boycott this year’s Kirchentag, declaring that what is clearly forbidden for a local church (namely, to invite a preacher who rejects biblical truths) must also be forbidden for the Kirchentag.

Not all German Protestant conservatives are happy about NOG. Some feel that even though it is a revolt against extreme forms of modern theology it does not insist upon complete scriptural authenticity. One conservative professor observed that NOG representatives “are fighting us evangelicals who accept the truths of the whole Bible.”

Not until the Hannover Kirchentag is held the last week in June will the influence of the competing movements be more clear.


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