QUESTION: I have listened to interesting debates between Catholics and Protestants concerning various doctrines. I have yet to hear a debate between them concerning Fatima or any other Marian apparitions. Can you direct me to one?

ANSWER: If there are debates about Fatima and the apparitions I am not aware of any.  

The subject of Fatima and Marian apparitions have no bearing on the Catholic Faith and the Marian doctrines.  Any Marian apparitions belong to private revelation and are thus not binding on Catholics.  Catholics are free to reject or accept the Marinan apparitions and any prophesies associated with them. We do not build doctrine around them, rather they flow from doctrine. The purpose of a private revelation or apparition would generally be to highlight an existing doctrine and call the people of a particular place to greater conversion.  

There would also not tend to be debates with atheists over apparitions either since, again, they have no bearing on the Catholic Faith or Catholic doctrine.  If they didn't actually happen nothing in the Catholic Faith is impacted.

In short from my view there does not seem to be a reason for Catholic apologists spending a lot of time trying to debate the subject of apparitions since their truth or falsity does not impact the Catholic Faith.

This is not to say that the Church does not think they are credible or worthy of belief however.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I wasn't aware that Catholics are free to reject official approved Marian apparitions. For those Catholics who reject them, are they allowed to conclude that the apparitions are from the devil and still be in good standing with the Church?

While Catholics are free to accept or reject the Marian apparitions, at the same time I don't think they are free to conclude they are of the devil.  Something that is officially approved by the Church cannot be of the devil.  

When I say they are officially approved by the Church I mean that the Church approves of the sites as Holy.  That means Catholics may make pilgrimages to the sites, retreats, etc.  

I think it is one thing for a Catholic to say "Well, that stuff might be fine for some, but not for me. I don't think Mary really appeared, I think it was just the over active imaginations of people.

It is quite another to say of an approved Holy Site "That is of Satan."  


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Father Dave Bechtel


I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.


I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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