Let me add a quick note: I am not here saying that Communism is not an error, that the Fatima secret does not refer to Communism as among the errors of Russia, or in any way trying to rescue the reputation of the murderous Soviet regime. Not at all.
Again, our touchstone for truth, our way of testing to see what is erroneous and what is real is the teaching of the Church, and the Church has condemned, fought, and often overcome Communism.
However, I reiterate: Our Lady spoke of the errors (plural) of Russia (not the Soviet Union). To presume that the errors of Russia referred to in Fatima must only refer to Communism, one must overlook the way that "anything in the name of" also characterized tsarist rule in Russia.
And perhaps the easiest way to make the point that there was something dramatically wrong with pre-revolutionary Russia is simply to point to Rasputin.
Mistaken in his own lifetime for a holy man, Rasputin slept his way through Russian high society, held enormous sway over Tsarina Alexandra because she believed him the only person who could heal her son of hemophilia, and before he died, had so hollowed out the Russian government through his control of the royal family that the revolutions of 1917 followed.
How did such a man not just gain access to the ruling classes, but to the imperial family itself? How did such a strange figure become so immensely consequential in Russia?
"Anything in the name of."
The tsarina would do anything in the name of her son's health. The tsar would do anything in the name of his wife. And under the absolutist rule of the tsar, the whole of Russia would do anything in the name of the tsar...until they'd suffered beyond endurance, and turned to do anything in the name of eating; anything in the name of survival; anything in the name of changing the status quo.
It should be a matter of fascination for historians that the Russian Orthodox hierarchy wasn't able to serve as an immune system against Rasputin's ascent. Indeed, his place in the royal family exposes another toxic element of the pre-revolutionary period: There was a lot of occultism extant in Russia at the time. In "Occultism as a Response to a Spiritual Crisis," Dr. Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, professor emeritus of history at Fordham University, writes:
The occultism of prerevolutionary Russia is important, firstly because aspects of the most popular doctrines—Spiritualism, Theosophy, and Anthroposophy—became embedded in the wider culture; secondly because occultistsAnd a few more notes, working from the teachings of the Church.
who emigrated after the Bolshevik Revolution gained European and American admirers who disseminated their ideas; and thirdly because ideas drawn from the above doctrines were recycled (with some modifications) in the 1960s and after in both the Soviet Union and the West. ...
- Tsarism, like the royal absolutism of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in England, claimed for the secular monarch authority over the sacred, over the Church, in a way that the Catholic Church has made clear is illegitimate.
- Further, such centralization of power in, essentially, a despot leads to the creation of a national church, an ecclesial community that quickly attaches to its membership criteria of patriotism, and membership in a particular ethnicity or nation.
- That means that on both theological and political grounds, any sort of communion with the bishop of Rome, let alone abiding under his authority as the Vicar of Christ, becomes difficult to impossible for nationalist churches or ecclesial communities.
But the rot didn't stop with World War II. Rather, World War II was both caused by the errors of Russia and helped launch the errors of Russia into geo-politics as the ordinary means of policy and statecraft. More on that to follow.