There has always been controversy over the Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at La Salette on September 19, 1846, and in particular over the secret parts of the message of Our Lady. But that controversy came to a head in 1999, when Abbé Michel Corteville discovered the original letters of the two visionaries, addressed to Pope Pius IX in 1851, which had been buried in the Vatican archives for decades. Critics of the various versions of the Secrets of La Salette, published by the seers Melanie Calvat and Maximin Giraud in later years, felt vindicated when they learned that the original versions were quite short. Their triumph was short-lived, however, as Abbé Corteville soon published a thorough and scholarly study of the Apparition and Message of La Salette, which demonstrated that the visionaries intentionally revealed their secrets by degrees—the later versions being logical amplifications of the earlier. The entire story of this controversy, which has been much overshadowed by the controversy over the Third Secret of Fatima, is both fascinating and complex.
Benjamin Dausse was a prominent and devout layman of Grenoble, who enjoyed the complete confidence of Bishop de Bruillard. It was Dausse who was employed to supervise Maximin and Melanie at the first writing of their secrets. When Maximin had finished writing his secret, he exclaimed joyfully, “Ah, now I am completely free; I no longer have a secret, I am like other people.” Evidently he believed that he was no longer strictly bound by secrecy; since he had written the secret in the presence of Dausse, he saw no problem in verbally confiding its contents to this trustworthy person. He did so on July 12, 1851—just 9 days after writing the version that was sent to Pope Pius IX. A few weeks later, M. Dausse asked Maximin to give him some remembrance. Maximin gene-rously replied by writing the secret in a letter to M. Dausse, dated August 11, 1851. It is substantially the same as that sent to the Holy Father:
If my people are not converted what I say will happen sooner, otherwise it will happen later. Three quarters of France will lose the Faith and the other quarter will practice it with lukewarmness; then afterward the Faith will reappear in France. A Northern country, now Protestant, will be converted, and with the support of this country the other nations will convert. There will come a peace, and after that peace there will come a monster who will disturb the peace, and peace will come when all nations will be converted. The Pope's successor will be someone that nobody expects. He will not be Roman (written in the margin). The monster will come during the peace, and peace and the monster will come in the 19th or 20th century at the latest. You will not tell this to anyone. You will not tell this to anyone. This is all She told me.
Maximin Giraud shepherd
August 11 1851 at Grenoble.
Benjamin Dausse maintained that at the time of this writing—1851—the somewhat unlearned Maximin believed he was living in the 18th, rather than the 19th century. Thus the text could be corrected to read "20th or 21st century."
As we have seen, in August of 1853, the new Bishop of Grenoble, Achille Ginoulhiac, demanded that Melanie and Maximin divulge their entire Secrets to him. Maximin was clearly less reluctant to do so than Melanie; and so, on August 5, he delivered this, his last redaction of his secret, to Bishop Ginoulhiac:
An eagle will rise. When it becomes a bit big, it will turn on itself, and then it will rise higher. Then it will lose its feathers. Finally, featherless, it will fall onto daggers. There will occur, after its death, the chaos. Then a viper will come, which is now in the bosom of France. Then it will die. Then the son of Louis XVI will arrive; he will reign for a very short time. A great man will succeed him, and then, after restoring all things, he will retire. The East will punish the West. There will come great misfortunes to France in this war. But it will flourish ... Then in France three quarters of the population will lose the Faith, and the remaining quarter will keep it, but only weakly. Then two great nations will be converted. England will be the instrument by which all nations of the world will be converted. All this will happen between 1850 and 1860. The monster will pass the year 60. But wars, revolutions, etc. between 50 and 60. France will recover the Faith; then there will come a great king. The Pope will die; a French Pope will succeed him, and the king and the pope will be one. There will be only one religion and one kingdom. Then there will come a monster, which will ravage the peace, and disturb the Church. A great number (of men) will be its victim.
Melanie, on the other hand, who had kept a much longer secret, and who was perhaps more distrustful of certain members of the clergy, struggled much more with her conscience. Several days later she solved her dilemma by revealing more than her original version, but also making it clear that there remained "another secret." She actually wrote two copies, the first on August 12, in which she accidentally wrote "1853" as the year of the Apparition—the second on August 14, which had the date of the Apparition correct but was a bit shorter. The phrases missing in the second copy are given in italics below, and some misspelled words have been replaced by ellipses. Note that Melanie began using her father's last name—Mathieu, whereas previously she had used her mother's—Calvat:
J. M. J. Secret which the Holy Virgin told me on the Mountain of La Salette, September, 1846.
Melanie Mathieu, I am going to tell you something which you will not tell anyone until I tell you to do so.
If after you have told the people everything that I have said and everything I tell you again to say... if after that the world does not convert, if in a word... the earth does not change for the better, there will come great misfortunes; there will come a great famine and a war at the same time, all over France in the first place; then in Russia and in England; after these revolutions there will come a great famine in three parts of the world, in the year 1863, during which famine many crimes will be committed everywhere and especially in cities; but woe to the Ecclesiastics, to religious men and women; because they are the ones that attract the greatest evils that come upon the earth, My Son will also punish them in a terrible manner; after these wars and famines the people, for a short time, will recognize the hand of Almighty God that strikes them, religious will return to their duties; and peace will return, but it will be of short duration.
Persons consecrated to God will forget their religious duties and will fall into a great relaxation and finally a virtual oblivion of God; then everyone will forget his Creator and there will begin new chastisements, God will be angry against everyone; ... infallibly in the manner that I say, an evil man will reign over France, he will persecute religion, they will close churches, they will burn them; a great and long famine will come, accompanied by plague and a civil war; during the same time Paris will be destroyed, Marseille will be flooded, and during this time the true servants of God will receive the crown of Martyrdom; the Pope and clergy will be persecuted, but because they have been faithful, God will be with them, and the Head of the Church will win the Palm of Martyrdom, and some religious men and women as well; the Sovereign Pontiff will take up his arms and will be ready to march and defend the religion of My Son; he will ask without ceasing the Power of the Holy Ghost, as will also all those consecrated to God; (as religion will be persecuted everywhere, many religious men and women will renounce their Faith; oh! my Son will be offended by ministers and spouses of Jesus Christ); after this persecution there will be more than one before the end of the world.
There will be 3 years of calm, then the birth and the Reign of Antichrist will occur, who will be more than terrible; he will be born of a nun of a very austere order. This nun will be considered as the holiest of the monastery, (the father of the Antichrist will be a Bishop, etc. etc. Here the Blessed Virgin gave me the Rule, then She told another secret concerning the end times) and nuns who remain in the same convent will be blinded to the point that they will not recognize that Hell leads them.
The end of the world will not come to pass until after twice 40 years.
Sr. Marie of the Cross born Melanie Mathieu
Corenc, August 12, 1853
It is not our intention to give interpretations of, or even commentary on, the contents of the various versions of the Secrets. But it is useful to see their historical context clearly, in order to better understand the reasons behind all of the controversy. For example, it is not difficult to see that Bishop Ginoulhiac might have taken some of the content of the 1853 versions, like Maximin's allusion to an "eagle," as being critical of his friend Napoleon III; but his aversion to the Secrets may be better estimated by looking at some of the principle events of the period.
1789 was only the beginning of the French Revolution, which was marked by persecution of the Church, as well as by a series of conflicts and governments. In that year, the reigning King, Louis XVI, remained in power by compromising with the various forces of the revolution. By 1791 Louis XVI had agreed to become a "constitutional" monarch. By 1792 he was executed by guillotine. Then began the Reign of Terror, which was marked by thousands of executions ordered by the Revolutionary Government. It was during this time that the only surviving son of Louis XVI, the crown-prince or Dauphin, Louis-Charles (nominally Louis XVII), was taken into captivity by the Government. In 1795, under very suspicious and secretive circumstances, the Government announced that the Dauphin had died. The identity of the child that was buried was never really established, and rumors began to fly that the Dauphin had escaped and was being raised elsewhere. Over the years hundreds of individuals made claims to be the "Lost Dauphin." One of them, Karl Wilhelm Naundorff, had enough credibility to his story to attract a rather large following. (In the year 2000, DNA tests were allegedly negative for Naundorff and positive for the buried child; but this has been disputed.)
The First Republic proved to be as inept as it was evil. This led to its take-over by General Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799, who had himself proclaimed Emperor in 1804. We have already discussed his persecution of the Church, and in particular, his ill-treatment of Pope Pius VII, in previous issues. He conquered much of Europe in ensuing years, but was finally defeated at Waterloo in 1815, by a coalition of forces.
At his demise, the monarchy was restored, but with many compromises with the liberals and revolutionaries. The younger brother of Louis XVI began to reign as Louis XVIII, out of respect for the presumed dead Dauphin. At his death in 1824, his younger brother began to reign as Charles X. King Charles was less willing to compromise, but not strong enough to retain power. He was forced to abdicate in 1830 after three days of rioting in Paris–the July Revolution.
Charles was replaced by the son of the Duke of Orleans, Louis-Philippe, who became known as the Citizen-King. He had liberal sympathies, but his reign became more and more restrictive, especially of political and labor movements. The nephew of the first Napoleon, Louis-Napoleon, made two unsuccessful coup attempts. In 1848 more rioting in Paris caused the Citizen-King to abdicate, and the Second Republic was established. Elections were held in December and Louis-Napoleon, promising "all things to all men," was elected President.
At first he tried to please everybody; he even sent troops to Rome to protect Pope Pius IX from the armies of Garibaldi. Soon, however, the liberals and socialists began to protest. Louis suppressed all opposition and Karl Marx had to flee to London. When his term ran out, Louis proclaimed himself President for life. Then in 1852 he imitated his uncle and took the imperial title, Louis-Napoleon III (out of respect for his cousin, the first Napoleon's son, who was a prisoner of Austria).
Napoleon III reigned as France's last monarch until 1870, when he and his army were defeated in the Franco-Prussian war. In the ensuing confusion an anarchist/Marxist force took over the government of Paris. It was defeated by the national government, the Third Republic, with much bloodshed. At first a monarchist majority in the new Republic voted for a restoration of the monarchy via Henri, the grandson of Charles X. When Henri refused to accept the compromises proposed, the government elected a "temporary" President. The monarchy was never restored, and the Third Republic continued to violate the rights of the Church—especially with early 20th century laicism.
While we ought not to speculate whether or how any of these events may have been foretold by the Secrets of La Salette, we can feel certain about predictions in a different Apparition—that of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal to St. Catherine Labouré in 1830: "...Misfortunes will come crashing down on France. The throne will be overturned... The Cross will be treated with contempt... Blood will flow... There will be victims among the clergy of Paris; Monsignor, the Archbishop, will die." Just two weeks after the first Apparition, the throne of Charles X was overthrown. There was repeated bloodshed during this period, and three Archbishops of Paris died violent deaths: Affre—shot during the 1848 riots; Sibour—assassinated by an interdicted priest (who rejected the newly-defined Dogma of the Immaculate Conception and priestly celibacy) in 1857; and Darboy—executed by the Paris Commune in 1871.
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