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Reprinted with permission of the petitioners.

A Canonical Petition to His Holiness John Paul II

Feast of St. Michael, September 29, 1996

His Holiness Pope John Paul II,
Vatican City,

Your Holiness:

Pursuant to Can. 1501 et seq., we, Coralie Graham, Mairead Clarke and Mary Sedore, do hereby petition Your Holiness for redress of grievances against Respondents Jose Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe, and their collaborators in the wrongful acts complained of in the accompanying formal Petition.

As explained more fully in the Petition, under Can. 1405 (1) 2, 3, Your Holiness is the only judge who is lawfully competent to hear this case, since Cardinals and, in penal cases, bishops, can be judged only by the Pope himself.

We lodge this Petition with Your Holiness as individual members of the faithful and as directors, members, employees or supporters of the National Committee for the National Pilgrim Virgin of Canada and the Servants of Jesus and Mary, Inc., lay apostolates for the promotion of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Her message at Fatima. We proceed under an official interpretation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, approved by Your Holiness, which states that members of a lay apostolate which does not have a juridical personality or even formal recognition in the Church may nevertheless pursue hierarchical recourses either singly or as a group. [AAS 80 (1988) 1818]

The Petition details Respondents’ systematic abuse of ecclesiastical power and authority over a period of years. Acting totally outside the proper channels of canonical procedure, they have wrongfully interdicted our apostolate and calumniated its members before the entire Church. In the process, our apostolate has never been charged by Respondents with any canonical offense whatsoever, and we have therefore been deprived of any recourse against their actions except to present this Petition to Your Holiness.

The wrongs detailed in the Petition are grave not merely because they injured us, but because they harm the Church as a whole by attempting to suppress an important apostolic work of the faithful (proclamation of the message of Fatima, which Your Holiness himself has proclaimed), and because Respondents have diminished the dignity and credibility of their respective offices by abusing them in the manner described.

We humbly request that Your Holiness admit this case, compel the respondents to join issue and then grant the relief we have requested against them.

Respectfully yours in Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

Mrs. Coralie Graham Mrs. Mary Sedore Mrs. Mairead Clarke

Respondents addresses are as follows:

Jose Cardinal Sanchez,
[Residence]
Via Rusticucci 13, 00193
Rome, Italy

Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe,
[Residence]
00120 Citta del Vaticano
[Office]
Congregazione Per Il Clero,
Palazzo delle Congregazioni,
PiazzaPio XII, 3; 00193 Roma

A Canonical Petition (Libellus) to His Holiness John Paul II

-by-

Coralie Graham, Mairead Clarke and Mary Sedore, et al,

in their individual capacities as members of the faithful, and as
directors, members, employees or supporters of
the National Committee for the National Pilgrim Virgin of Canada and the Servants of Jesus and Mary, Inc.,
lay apostolates for the promotion of devotion to
the Blessed Virgin Mary  and Her message at Fatima

Petitioners,

-against-

José Cardinal Sanchez
Mons. Crescenzio Sepe, and their
collaborators in the wrongful acts complained of

Respondents.

Pursuant to Cann.

208-233
212
215
221
278
299
1326
1329, §1
1375
1389
1S70 § 2,
1334 § 2,
1405 § 1, 2
1449 § 3
1501
1624

For Redress of Abuse of Ecclesiastical Authority and Calumny

Q. Whether a group of faithful, lacking juridical personality and even recognition envisaged in c. 299, §3, can legitimately make hierarchical recourse . . .

R. . . . affirmative as to individual members of the faithful acting either singly or together, provided they really have a grievance . . .

Decision of the Pontifical Commission
For Interpretation of Legislative Texts
—AAS 80 (1988) 1818

§

"Christ’s faithful may lawfully vindicate and defend the rights they enjoy in the Church, before the competent ecclesiastical forum in accordance with law."

— Can. 221

§

"[T]he  Roman  Pontiff  alone  has  the  right  to  judge . . . [2°]  Cardinals . . . [3°] and, in penal cases, Bishops."

— Can. 1405(1) 2° and 3°

Table of Contents of This Canonical Petition

I. Brief Summary of this Petition

II. The Hardship Caused by Respondents’ Acts

III. Facts of this Petition

IV. Specification of Charges

V. Canonical grounds for Petition

    A. Only the Roman Pontiff himself alone can judge this Petition

      1. This case having been lawfully introduced, a judgment must be issued after an investigation conducted by the judge ex officio

    B. Respondents should be punished strictly for abuse of their ecclesiastical authority

    C. Respondents should be strictly punished, and ordered to make reparation for, their false and malicious denunciations of our apostolate to ecclesiastical superiors and the faithful

    D. The penalties imposed on respondents should reflect the increased imputability resulting from the abuse of their offices.

    E. The penalties imposed on respondents, as the principal authors of the offenses committed, should also embrace those who collaborated with them in committing the offenses, even if the collaborators cannot now be identified.

VI. Conclusion

VII. Prayer for Relief

VIII. Appendices

Most Holy Father:

We humbly submit to Your Holiness this written Petition against His Eminence José Cardinal Sanchez, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, and Mons. Crescenzio Sepe, the Secretary of said Congregation ("respondents").  Under the law of the Church, you alone, Holiness, can judge grievances against cardinals and, in penal cases, bishops. [Can. 1405]

This Petition is made by us as individual members of the faithful, who have the right to seek hierarchical recourse as individuals for harm done by the respondents to the apostolate in which we are engaged. [Cfr. decision of Pontifical Commission for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, AAS 80 (1988) 1818, construing Can. 299 §3]

We also make this Petition in accordance with our God-given right to appeal to the Supreme Pontiff—a right dogmatically defined by the Second Council of Lyons in 1274 and the First Vatican Council in 1870, and further codified in Can. 221 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law promulgated by Your Holiness.

I.
Brief Summary of this Petition

This Petition arises from respondents’ unjust statements and actions against the apostolate in which we have been engaged for many years as active members of the Christian faithful: namely, the National Committee for the National Pilgrim Virgin of Canada, a Canadian organization, and its United States affiliate, Servants of Jesus and Mary, Inc., popularly known collectively as the International Fatima Rosary Crusade ("the apostolate").

The statements and actions of the respondents, including canonically groundless public "declarations" issued in the name of the Congregation for the Clergy, were designed to create the false impression in the minds of our ecclesiastical superiors, the world episcopate and the faithful at large, that our apostolate is illicit because it lacks "permission of ecclesiastical authority" to conduct its activities. Respondents are well aware that no such permission is required under the law of the Church. On the contrary, the law of the Church guarantees our right to engage in the apostolate as a private association of the faithful incorporated under civil law. [Cann. 212, 215, 216, 299 and, generally, Cann. 208-223]

Respondents’ words and actions were further designed to induce our ecclesiastical superiors, the world episcopate, and indeed the entire Church, to shun our apostolate without just cause and without the canonical due process to which we are entitled as members in good standing of Christ’s faithful.

II.
The Hardship Caused by Respondents’ Acts

The apostolate is our life’s work and a means of support for many of its employees, who number in excess of one hundred.

We, the petitioners, have labored for years in the apostolate, earning wages far less than we might receive in secular employment, working 12 to 16 hours a day, and often around-the-clock. Like Father Gruner himself, we have committed our lives to this work out of devotion to Our Lady, believing firmly that Her message at Fatima is of crucial importance for the welfare of souls in this time of unprecedented crisis in the Church.  

Respondents have abused the power and prestige of their offices in an effort to destroy everything we have built up over the years. We are concerned, of course, about the temporal hardship to ourselves and our fellow workers in the apostolate. But much more than this, we are concerned about the spiritual loss which could result to countless souls who stand to benefit from the deeper understanding of Our Lady’s message at Fatima we have labored so hard to promote. Then, too, there are the many supporters of the apostolate who have donated their time and money, who have prayed and fasted, for the success of our work. We cannot allow their contributions to be rendered vain.

None of us has the power of a Cardinal or an Archbishop.  We cannot issue a prestigious "declaration" or "announcement" from the Vatican to correct what has been said in the declarations and announcements of respondents against us, issued in the name of the Congregation for the Clergy. We can only ask Your Holiness to help us remedy respondents’ abuse of their ecclesiastical authority before it causes even graver harm to our apostolate and those who benefit from it.

Thus, we respectfully implore Your Holiness to compel the respondents to make appropriate amends for their calumniation of our apostolate [Canon 1390 §3], and for their abuse of ecclesiastical authority [Can. 1389].

We further respectfully request that respondents and their collaborators be subject to the strict penalties envisioned by canon law for those who abuse their offices in the Church—not for the sake of vengeance, but to deter such abuse of authority in the future, so that other members of the faithful will not have to endure what we have endured at respondents’ hands.

III.
Facts of this Petition

(A) History of the Apostolate

Our apostolate was founded as a civil corporation in Ottawa, Canada in 1974, under the auspices of His Excellency, The Most Reverend Michael Rusnak, then auxiliary bishop of the Eparchy of Toronto in the Byzantine Rite. (He is now Ordinary of the Byzantine Rite for Slovaks in Canada.) The Board of Directors of the apostolate was comprised entirely of laity until 1978, when Father Nicholas Gruner became a member of the Board of the apostolate after having served since 1977 as its Executive Director.  Father Gruner was asked to serve by the Board after Bishop Rusnak insisted that a worthy priest be placed on the Board. The current Board of the apostolate consists of three priests, including Father Gruner, and two lay women—petitioners Coralie Graham and Mary Sedore. Petitioner Mairead Clarke is a member of the administrative staff of the apostolate.  Since 1981 the apostolate has included Servants of Jesus and Mary, Inc., a lay apostolic group formed under the laws of the United States.

Father Gruner was ordained in Frigento, Italy in the Diocese of Avellino in 1976. In 1978 Father was given written permission by the Bishop of Avellino to reside in Canada, his home country. Since then Father Gruner has been engaged in the work of our apostolate with the full knowledge of three successive bishops of Avellino, none of whom has ever prohibited his work as a member of our Board.

Our apostolate is dedicated to the worldwide promotion of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in particular Her message at Fatima. Our activities include exposition around the world of one of the Pilgrim Virgin statues personally blessed by your predecessor, His Holiness Paul VI, publication of Fatima Crusader magazine, various congresses and gatherings of the faithful regarding the Fatima message and its import for our time, and radio and television broadcasts concerning the Fatima message throughout North America.  Many of these activities are conducted under the title of the International Fatima Rosary Crusade.

Under Father Gruner’s stewardship, our apostolate has grown to the point where it now employs over 100 people, both Catholic and Protestant, has 100,000 active supporters around the world, publishes a magazine (Fatima Crusader) with a circulation of 500,000, and reaches a potential audience of many millions through Sunday television broadcasts throughout North America and daily radio broadcasts throughout the world.  

Our apostolate also funds an orphanage in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, India, having the care of fifty children; feeds a number of other children in Brazil; and distributes millions of scapulars and rosaries throughout the world.

Father Gruner and the apostolate have received blessings and good wishes from Your Holiness himself on several occasions, including your formal Apostolic Blessings in 1990 and 1993. Your 1990 Apostolic Blessing was extended personally to petitioners Coralie Graham and Mary Sedore.

Your Holiness, the apostolate is not merely Father Gruner’s "personal initiative", as the respondents have said in one of their many improper and irregular public "declarations" in the name of the Congregation for the Clergy. Rather, the apostolate is the undertaking of many members of Christ’s faithful, who believe it to be their proper apostolic work in the Body of Christ. We are confident that our apostolate is fully in keeping with the freedom of Christ’s faithful to establish and direct associations on their own initiative for charitable or pious purposes under the law of the Church, and especially the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Your Holiness in view of the teaching of Lumen Gentium on the role of the laity in the Church. [Cann. 208-223; 299] Further, the same Code of Canon Law specifically recognizes the right of diocesan priests like Father Gruner to direct, and even establish on his own, apostolates such as ours. [Can. 278]

It is no secret, of course, that our apostolate expresses the concern of many of the faithful that Our Lady’s request at Fatima for the specific consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart has yet to be done by all of the world’s bishops in union with the Pope, and that failing this consecration Russia will not convert but will continue to spread her errors throughout the world.

It is also true that our apostolate has implored the Holy See to disclose the Third Secret of Fatima to the world. We believe that the Third Secret is clearly an urgent warning for our time —a warning the entire Church was expecting to hear in 1960, only to receive the news that the Secret would not be disclosed.  In the 36 years which have followed, it becomes ever more apparent that the Secret contains a warning and instructions of utmost importance to the Church in this time of unprecedented crisis.

The Consecration of Russia and the Third Secret are certainly matters of high controversy in the Church.  Yet we know Your Holiness will understand that we cannot ignore our conscientious conviction that the good of the Church requires us to communicate to the sacred pastors and others of Christ’s faithful our legitimate concerns about these matters.  In so doing, we are only exercising that legitimate freedom of the laity enunciated Lumen Gentium (par. 37) and the current Code of Canon Law (Can. 212, etc.).

(B) The Present Controversy

In 1992, the  respondents and others began a systematic effort  to discredit and ruin the Apostolate, evidently because its activities are disfavored by respondents and other elements of the Vatican apparatus.

It is most significant that respondents have never attempted to interdict our apostolate in a manner consistent with canonical due process; for indeed there is nothing about our apostolate which could properly be interdicted under the law of the Church.  Rather, the respondents, acting in their capacity as Prefect and Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, have used the Apostolic Nuncios, the pages of L’Osservatore Romano and Avvenire, and Vatican Radio to make "declarations" which effectively interdict us without due process by dishonestly implying that we are acting illicitly because our activities "do not enjoy the approval of competent Ecclesiastical Authority."  

As the respondents must be presumed to know, the faithful do not need "approval of competent ecclesiastical authority" to conduct a private apostolate or hold a conference on Fatima. The Code of Canon Law promulgated by Your Holiness recognizes the natural right of the faithful to meet and discuss their concerns about Church affairs without any prior ecclesiastical approval whatsoever. [Canons 212, 215 and 299]  Thus, the respondents’ "declarations" that the Apostolate’s Fatima conferences are "without approval of ecclesiastical authority"  are quite obviously designed to deceive the world’s bishops and the faithful at large into believing that they would be guilty of serious disobedience to the law of the Church if they supported our work or attended one of our conferences.

Respondents can be expected to protest that nothing in their "declarations" is overtly false, and that they never meant to suggest there is anything illicit about the apostolate or our activities in furtherance of it. Then let them explain, for example, why some 25 bishops urgently interrogated us about the canonical propriety of our Fatima Conference in Portugal ‘discussed below’ after respondents’ "declarations" were issued, or why so many bishops have cancelled their trips to our conferences or rejected invitations following these "declarations".

It is clear, Your Holiness, that this campaign of deceptively ominous statements about "approval of competent ecclesiastical authority"—which approval respondents know full well is not required—amounts to a grave deprivation of our canonical rights without due process or just cause, and a gross abuse of respondents’ ecclesiastical authority.

In combination with this tactic against our apostolate, respondents have further abused their ecclesiastical authority by blocking every offer of incardination Father Gruner has obtained from benevolent bishops around the world. At the same time, respondents directed the Bishop of Avellino not to excardinate Father in favor of a benevolent bishop.  Then respondents directed the Bishop of Avellino to order Father Gruner to return to Avellino, after an approved absence of nearly 20 years, on grounds that he had "failed" to be incardinated elsewhere! Your Holiness, the respondents have deliberately prevented Father Gruner from carrying out the very order they have instigated. This abuse of their authority has harmed not only Father Gruner but ourselves.

In Father Gruner’s own Petition to Your Holiness, which is intended to be presented simultaneously with ours, he sets forth the details of respondents’ many illicit,  extra-canonical interventions in his good faith efforts to be incardinated outside the Diocese of Avellino. We will point out here only the most recent case, involving the Archbishop of Hyderabad, in whose archdiocese our apostolate supports the orphanage already mentioned:

Your Holiness, on or about March 18, 1996 the Archbishop of Hyderabad, who is the third bishop to offer Father Gruner incardination since 1992, received a letter from the Respondent Sanchez, acting in the name of Congregation of the Clergy, pressuring him to withdraw his formal decree of November 4, 1995 incardinating Father Gruner in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad. This letter was summarized for us over the telephone by a functionary of the Archdiocese of Hyderabad. This functionary also disclosed that the Archbishop fears providing us with a copy of this secret letter without protocol number because "he would be putting the whole diocese in trouble". In other words, the Archbishop fears an even greater abuse of ecclesiastical authority by respondents, this time directed against his entire archdiocese.

How is it, Your Holiness, that the respondents can exceed the authority of the Congregation by dictating to an Archbishop whom he may incardinate in his own Archdiocese—especially when the priest in question has no canonical or moral impediments to the exercise of his priesthood.  It should be noted, Your Holiness, that the Archbishop has tried to support the apostolate in its difficulties with certain elements of the Vatican apparatus.  In his decree of incardination, dated November 4, 1995, the Archbishop declared that:

"I hereby grant you all the faculties you need for continuing your God-given mission on earth ... God will give you great comfort and consolation through innumerable friends and well-wishers.

Bureaucratic forces cannot stifle God’s work."

Now, Your Holiness, the current Bishop of Avellino, acting under pressure from the respondents, has decreed (on May 16, 1996) that since Father Gruner "failed" to be incardinated in another diocese, he will be suspended from the sacred priesthood effective June 15, 1996 unless he returns to Avellino to live there in exile until his death—with no ministry, no salary and no provision for his old age.  Father Gruner has appealed to the Congregation for the Clergy from that unjust decree, and has thereby avoided the proposed penalty for now. But his appeal will be considered by none other than respondent Mons. Sepe himself, who, together with respondent Cardinal Sanchez, the former Prefect of the Congregation, is the very person who has arranged for Father Gruner’s exile to Avellino by improperly interfering with his incardination by the Archbishop of Hyderabad.  This is truly a mockery of justice and due process.

Meanwhile, Father continues to function as the head of our apostolate. We who depend upon him for spiritual and temporal guidance in our work beseech Your Holiness to end this campaign to destroy our apostolate by illicit means which are designed to evade the just requirements of canon law.

(C) Our Open Letter to Your Holiness

Your Holiness will recall that one year ago on July 12, 1995, we published in Il Messaggero an Open Letter to Your Holiness from over 9,000 members of the faithful, regarding the injustices committed against our apostolate by those who would destroy it, and the efforts of those who surround Your Holiness to prevent you from responding to our earnest petitions.  In the hope of avoiding scandal, we did not name the Vatican bureaucrats who were responsible.  Indeed, we would not have published the Open Letter at all if the attacks against our work had not reached critical proportions.

Publication of the Open Letter was our last resort before having canonical recourse to Your Holiness.  But the Open Letter has not deterred those who oppose communication to the faithful of the full Fatima Message, and who try to crush any organized effort by the faithful to petition for the Consecration of Russia and disclosure of the Third Secret. The attacks against our apostolate have only intensified, leading to the current injustices against us.

It is not personal pride in the Apostolate which has led us to this Petition, Your Holiness, but our deep and abiding conviction that the good of the Church requires that we continue this work.  

Therefore, having no other canonical alternative but this Petition, we now present it to Your Holiness with the fervent prayer that you will intervene to remedy the wrongs done to our apostolate, so that we may continue our work without the stigma imposed upon us by respondents in a gross abuse of their authority and prestige in the Church.

IV.
Specification of Charges

(1) According to a purported decree of the Apostolic Signatura, dated May 15, 1995, (discussed below), on or about January 12, 1992 respondent Cardinal Sanchez issued a "declaration" in the name of the Congregation for the Clergy, stating that our apostolate had "not received any canonical recognition and consequently ought to be considered a personal and private initiative of [Father Gruner]". (Appendix 1) This statement is misleading, and therefore a calumny against us, because:

—No canonical recognition, permission or erection is required for the Apostolate [Cann. 212, 215, 216, 278, 299 and, generally, 208-223].

—The apostolate has never been Father’s "personal and private initiative". It existed before he became a member of our Board, and over a hundred people are involved in its work. Our honorary chairman at the inception of the apostolate was the aforesaid Bishop Rusnak, on whose advice Father Gruner was asked to serve as a Board member. Your Holiness, the apostolate was the initiative of lay people, with Father Gruner contributing his efforts to an apostolate that was already underway.

(2) On October 8, 1992, respondents published another statement which appeared in L’Osservatore Romano and Avvenire, and was also broadcast on Vatican Radio, in which they again falsely "declared" that our Fatima conference in Fatima, Portugal "has not been approved by competent ecclesiastical authorities" and that "Father Nicholas Gruner does not have faculties from the Diocese of Leiria, Fatima to perform ministerial acts." (Appendix 7) These calumnies were republished in the English edition of L’Osservatore Romano on October 14, 1992. (Appendix 8) They are calumnies against us because:

—The Bishop of Fatima actually did give permission for our conference on October 7, 1992. This permission was witnessed by three Archbishops: Toppo, Cardoso-Sobrinho, and Limon (now deceased).  Archbishop Sobrinho can be seen on video tape referring to this permission on October 8, 1992 at the opening session of our Fatima Conference.  Archbishops Cardoso-Sobrinho and Toppo are still acting as the ordinaries of their Archdioceses.
—Even without such permission, our conference was perfectly licit since, under the canons already cited, absolutely no permission is required for a private gathering of the faithful and bishops to discuss matters which concern the good of the Church.
—Father Gruner had no need of faculties to perform "ministerial acts" in the Diocese of Leiria-Fatima in order to help organize a private conference of the faithful to discuss the Fatima message.

Thus, the October 8, 1992 "declaration" by the Respondents was a deliberate attempt to mislead the world’s bishops and the faithful by creating the false impression that the Fatima conference in Fatima, Portugal was being conducted in violation of Church law, and without required "faculties", and that anyone who attended the conference would be violating a canonically valid monitum of a Curial office, when in truth the "declaration" by respondents lacked any canonical foundation whatsoever and was merely a gratuitous abuse of their authority and prestige in the Church. Respondents’ 1992 "declaration" was issued without any canonical process to determine the liceity of our apostolate, or any opportunity for its members, including ourselves, to be heard in defense of our work.

(3) According to a letter from Apostolic Nunciature of the Philippines (Appendix 9), on July 9, 1994 respondent Cardinal Sanchez issued a communiqué repeating and republishing the calumnies contained in respondents’ October 1992 "Declaration" in L’Osservatore Romano and directed the Papal Nuncios to tell the bishops of the world "not to accept the invitations of [Father Gruner]" to attend the apostolate’s Fatima conference in Mexico City in November 1994. The July 9, 1994 communiqué adds a new calumny: That the hierarchy of Portugal was "embarrassed" by our 1992 Fatima conference when it learned of Father Gruner’s "irregular situation" in the Church.  This, of course, is a blatant lie: There was nothing "irregular" about Father Gruner’s situation; he had express written permission from his bishop to reside outside the Diocese of Avellino and his bishop had never once prohibited his activities in our apostolate.

We have letters from India, Portugal, Mexico, the United States, Kenya and elsewhere (Appendix 11-20)  reflecting this further illicit use of the nunciatures to "interdict" Father Gruner and our apostolate’s Fatima conferences without any canonical due process or even notice to us. The repetition of these calumnies was all the more egregious because the respondents certainly knew by that date that the Bishop of Fatima had given permission for the 1992 Fatima Conference and that canon law authorized every one of our planned activities, none of which required Father Gruner to have any special "faculties to perform ministerial acts".

In connection with this deceptive propaganda, respondents used the Nuncio to Mexico to pressure Bishop Flores, Secretary General of the Mexican Episcopal Conference (CEM), to break a contract with us to use the meeting facilities of the CEM for our conference—after we had paid a deposit of $5,000 in good faith and spent many thousands more in reliance on the agreement for publicizing the event worldwide (including over 100,000 posters), delivering invitations to the worlds’ bishops, travel arrangements for bishops and speakers at the conference and innumerable other expenses. We were forced to relocate the conference to a first-class hotel in Mexico City at an additional cost to the apostolate of approximately USA $20,000, plus approximately USA $10,000 for translation services at the hotel which were far more expensive than those of CEM.

Even those bishops who were not swayed by the misleading "announcements" and pressure tactics of respondents and their agents were still prevented from attending the conference when Bishop Flores, apparently acting at the behest of the respondents, instructed the Mexican Secretary of State to deny entry visas to bishops seeking to attend.  Only a few bishops who had Vatican passports, or who requested visitor’s visas without mentioning the Conference, were able to travel to Mexico City for the event.

The end result of this gross abuse of ecclesiastical authority was that the number of bishops who had attended our conference dropped from the 120 who had agreed to attend to less than ten bishops, who were able to overcome all the obstacles placed in their paths by respondents. Although the Conference went ahead as scheduled, our efforts were very substantially damaged. We were distressed and disheartened at this trampling of our rights by the members of your Curia, who clearly felt they could act with impunity and without regard to the effect their actions would have on many others besides their intended "targets", Father Gruner and our apostolate.  

Even worse, there is the indignity of bishops being browbeaten and treated like children by respondents, who have completely disregarded the rights and prerogatives of the episcopate, and the duty of bishops to tend to the spiritual needs and listen to the spiritual concerns of the members of their flocks. Where is respondents’ respect for the college of bishops? Do they believe that the entire world episcopate is subject to their personal authority and oversight? The authority of a bishop in his diocese is part of the divine constitution of the Church.  With all due respect to the Congregation for the Clergy, Our Lord did not provide for the governance of the world’s bishops by Respondents, reducing the bishops to the mere functionaries of the Curia.  

(4) According to a letter from the Nuncio of India (Appendix 10), on or about January 3, 1996, respondents again repeated and amplified their calumnies in yet another communiqué issued to the world’s bishops through the nuncios (and republished by the United States Catholic Conference) in response to our plans to hold a third Fatima conference in Rome later this year. (See, e.g., Appendix 21-22)  The January 1996 communiqué, quoted verbatim at Appendix 21, contains the following calumnies signed by respondent Mons. Sepe:

—That no bishop should attend the Fatima Conference in Rome because the Congregation for the Clergy has "volumes of dossiers in the archives" regarding Father Gruner.  

The contents of the "volumes of dossiers in the archives" are not specified, but the false implication is that they contain evidence of canonical crimes or moral impediments on Father’s part, when in fact Father has an unblemished 20-year record as a priest whose faithfulness to the Magisterium and moral probity are beyond question. His only "offense" was to "fail" to be incardinated outside the Diocese of Avellino, after respondents themselves prevented him from being incardinated.

—That the conference in Rome "includes activities which the Reverend Gruner has developed without ecclesiastical permission, and which are not sparing of any criticisms of Church authorities."

As high functionaries of the Church charged with the duty to know and follow canon law, respondents knew, or certainly should have known, that absolutely no "permission of ecclesiastical authority" is needed for us or Father Gruner to "develop activities" for a private conference of the faithful. On the contrary, the law of the Church (Cann. 212, 215, 216, 299 and many others) positively encourage such private initiatives by the faithful. Moreover, it was utterly false for respondents to state that the "activities" being planned for the conference in Rome are "not sparing of any criticisms of Church authorities."

The activities at our Fatima conferences have never been characterized by unsparing criticism of Church authorities. Rather, we have presented respectful resolutions and petitions regarding the Consecration of Russia and the Third Secret, which petitions we are entitled to present in accordance with our freedom of ecclesiastical discourse under Cann. 212, 215, 216 and 299, and the others cited.  For example, we have included with this petition the Fourteen Resolutions adopted at our Mexico City Fatima Conference in 1994 — resolutions drafted with the assistance of seven bishops. (Appendix 26-27)

The phrase "not sparing of any criticisms of Church authorities" is, therefore, a gratuitous calumny, designed to instill fear in the world’s bishops that mere attendance at our conference would mark them as disobedient to "Church authorities"—that is, the respondents, who seek to interdict our activities without due process of canon law, or even an opportunity for us to be heard in our own defense.

—That the Bishop of Avellino has ordered Father Gruner to return to Avellino "so that this priest might not continue his harmful activities."

In truth, the order to return to Avellino makes no reference any "harmful activities" by Father, but is based solely on his alleged "failure" to be incardinated in another diocese, which incardination the respondents themselves have tried to prevent at every turn by illicit coercion outside the proper channels of canon law.  The phrase "harmful activities" is another gratuitous calumny against our work. No "harm" to the Church from our activities has even been specified, much less proven canonically. Our activities involve nothing more than the sincere apostolic work of many faithful Catholics employed by the apostolate, only one of whom is Father Gruner.

(6) The "announcements", "declarations" and illicit private interventions and "arm-twisting" by respondents have inflicted grave harm on our apostolate.  Unless respondents’ abuse of ecclesiastical authority is repaired by corrective actions, which only Your Holiness can require of them, the damage we have suffered will never be remedied. We believe we are entitled to have the good name of our apostolate restored by those who have unjustly damaged it in their zeal to convict and silence one priest, Father Nicholas Gruner, who himself has committed no offense whatsoever.

V.
Canonical grounds for Petition.

A. Only the Roman Pontiff himself alone can judge this Petition.

Can. 1405, §1 provides that:

"It is the right of the Roman Pontiff himself alone to judge . . .

2°cardinals;

3°legates of the Apostolic See and, in penal cases, bishops . . ."

Furthermore, "the incompetence of other judges is absolute in the cases mentioned in can. 1405." Can. 1406, §2.

Since Respondent Sanchez is a cardinal, whereas Respondent Sepe is a bishop in a penal case, Your Holiness has sole and exclusive jurisdiction over this Petition.  

We are constrained by the law of the Church to seek relief from Your Holiness, and him alone, in accordance with the right of all Christ’s faithful to "vindicate and defend the rights which they enjoy before a competent ecclesiastical court in accord with the norm of law." Can. 221, §1. We must, with all humility, turn to you.

1.  This case having been lawfully introduced, a judgment must be issued after an investigation conducted by the judge ex officio.

Moreover, since judgment in this case is reserved by the law of the Church to Your Holiness alone, it is Your Holiness who, by his own decree in promulgating the Code of Canon Law, is subject to the obligation to proceed with the case now that it has been legitimately introduced by this Petition.  Can. 1452 §1.

The obligation imposed on the judge to proceed includes, even in matters judged by Your Holiness, the obligation to investigate the matter ex officio, and the judge can even supply for the negligence of the parties in furnishing proofs. Can. 1452 §2.  Thus, Your Holiness ought to investigate on his own initiative the conduct of the respondents so as to uncover that evidence which has undoubtedly been concealed from us due to the extra-canonical and ultra vires manner in which respondents have acted.  

With all due respect, therefore, we must insist upon our right to have this matter investigated and then judged by Your Holiness, under the law of the Church you have promulgated for the benefit of the faithful, including priests.

B. Respondents should be punished strictly for abuse of their ecclesiastical authority.

Can. 1389 provides that "one who abuses ecclesiastical power or function is to be punished in accord with the seriousness of the act or omission, not excluding deprivation of office. . ."

Respondents, acting as Prefect and Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, have clearly abused their authority by issuing public "declarations" to the faithful and the world episcopate falsely implying that we are functioning in violation of the law of the Church, when they know very well that our activities are perfectly licit and require no permission of ecclesiastical authority, given the rights of free association and expression on the part of laity and diocesan priests envisioned in Cann. 208-223, 278, 299, and others.

Respondents have used their power and influence in the Church to intimidate bishops and the faithful into shunning our apostolate, even though there is nothing illicit about its activities. Unable to find any basis in the law of the Church for interdicting our work per se, respondents have resorted to extra-canonical calumny and coercion in their effort to destroy our apostolate. What is more, even if there were some basis for interdicting our work—and clearly there is not—such interdiction would be within the competency of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Respondents, as members of the Congregation for the Clergy, had no jurisdiction whatsoever to issue "declarations" effectively interdicting, and thus severely damaging, a private association of the faithful founded under the civil laws of Canada and the United States pursuant to Cann. 212, 215, 216 and 299. Our organization is in no way subject to respondents’ gratuitous decrees and bulletins, issued from their office in Rome without canonical process or even prior notice to us.

In sum, respondents’ actions were a patent abuse of their ecclesiastical authority in violation of Canon 1389.  In justice, respondents should be strictly punished for abuse of their authority. Their actions have harmed not just Father Gruner, but all of us whose lives are devoted to the apostolate whose destruction respondents have plotted—there is no other word for it, Your Holiness.  Under the law of the Church, only Your Holiness can impose upon respondents an appropriate punishment and due restitutionary measures.

C. Respondents should be strictly punished, and ordered to make reparation for, their false and malicious denunciations of our apostolate to ecclesiastical superiors and the faithful.

Can. 1390, §2 provides that "one who furnishes an ecclesiastical superior with [a] calumnious denunciation of an offense or who otherwise injures the good reputation of another person can be punished with an appropriate penalty"; and Can. 1390, §3 provides that "a calumniator can be coerced also to make a suitable reparation."

Respondents have calumniated us by falsely suggesting in "declarations" issued to the world episcopate and the faithful at large that our work is illicit for the lack of some required "permission of ecclesiastical authority", and that the head of our apostolate is functioning without required "faculties". Moreover, respondents falsely stated in the abovementioned "declarations" regarding the 1992 Fatima Conference in Portugal that our Conference had no ecclesiastical permission, when in fact permission had been given by the Bishop of Fatima, even though it was not required under Church law.

Respondents have labored to create, and have indeed created in the minds of many bishops and faithful, the false impression that our chosen apostolic work violates the law of the Church because we have not received totally unnecessary "permission of ecclesiastical authority", or because Father Gruner did not receive mythical "faculties to perform ministerial acts" in the dioceses where our private conferences have been held.

This is calumny, Your Holiness, because it uses "half-truths that convey the impression of what is untrue." [McHugh and Callan, Moral Theology, §2030 (c)].  Moreover, respondents calumniated us in our work by implying that the President of our apostolate, Father Gruner, is guilty of canonical crimes or moral impediments documented in "volumes of dossiers in the archives" of the Congregation for the Clergy, when in fact Father has never been charged with any canonical offense whatsoever, other than the "offense" of "failing" to be incardinated outside the Diocese of Avellino, which "failure" is the work of respondents themselves.

Your Holiness, justice requires that respondents be punished, and ordered to make reparation for, their systematic attempt to interdict our work without canonical due process, thereby violating our basic rights as members of Christ’s faithful.

Here again, only Your Holiness can impose the penalty and order reparation to be made. At the very least, respondents should be compelled to undo the damage caused by their misleading "declarations" and "announcements" to the faithful and the world episcopate.

D.  The penalties imposed on respondents should reflect the increased imputability resulting from the abuse of their offices.

Can. 1326, §1, 2° provides that

"A judge can punish more severely than a law or precept has stated: . . . 2° a person who has been given some dignified office or who has abused authority or office in order to commit the offense."

This canon contemplates an enhanced punishment based upon the increase of imputability which should result from the deliberate abuse of a high office in the Church. Because respondents have abused the authority of their respective offices to circulate calumnies against our apostolate and to browbeat bishops, priests and members of the faithful into shunning it without canonical due process, justice requires that they be punished all the more severely.

Certainly the abuse of a high ecclesiastical office entrusted to the holder by the authority of Christ’s Church is among the gravest of offenses against God. That is why the cited canon calls for enhanced punishment in this case, not excluding removal from office.

E.  The penalties imposed on respondents, as the principal authors of the offenses committed, should also embrace those who collaborated with them in committing the offenses, even if the collaborators cannot now be identified.

Can. 1329, §1 provides that:

"If the penalties established against the principal author are inflicted ones (ferendae sententiae), then those who collaborate to commit an offense through a common conspiracy but who are not expressly named in a law or precept are subject to the same or lesser severity."

Justice requires that those who assisted the authors of an offense in committing the offense, and without whom the offense could not have been committed, should share in the punishments inflicted. This canon envisions equal punishment for a violation of law committed by "several people working together, e.g., conspiracy to restrict legitimate church freedom or the use of church goods, or to intimidate various church personnel."  (Commentary, The Code of Canon Law, American Canon Law Society.)

This case involves precisely a conspiracy to "restrict legitimate church freedom" and "to intimidate church personnel" through the abuse of ecclesiastical office. The conspiracy has involved not only the acts of respondents, but many of the Papal Nuncios who have cooperated in bearing their messages and conducting their illicit private interventions against our work, as well as other members of the Curia and the various national hierarchies whom we are unable to identify because their activities have occurred outside the proper channels of canon law.

Accordingly, the penalties imposed on respondents ferendae sententiae should apply with equal force to all those who have collaborated with them in committing the offenses complained of.

VI.
Conclusion

It was Your Holiness himself who told the world during his May 13, 1982 pilgrimage to Fatima that "The message of Fatima is more relevant and more urgent today . . ."; that the message is "addressed to every human being"; that the message "imposes an obligation on the Church."

No competent authority in the Church has ever stated that our apostolic work in promoting this very message is in any way contrary to faith or morals; nor could such a sentence ever be pronounced against us, for we are doing nothing more than what the law of the Church permits regarding the apostolate of the laity.

Your Holiness, we come before you as faithful Catholics engaged in a licit apostolate which is inspired in no small measure by your own respect for, and public statements about, the message of Fatima, however much we believe in conscience that the message has yet to be fulfilled by certain actions of the Holy See.

What we ask of Your Holiness in this Petition is that we be accorded the same rights accorded every other member of the Church under the Code of Canon Law Your Holiness promulgated: the right to be heard in the expression of our concerns about the state of the Church, and the right to be free from the abuse of ecclesiastical authority.

VII.
Prayer for Relief

WHEREFORE, we, the petitioners, request of Your Holiness the following relief:

(A) That respondents be subjected to a just penalty, including censure or removal from office, for abuse of their ecclesiastical authority in violation of Can. 1389;

(B) That respondents be subjected to a just penalty, including censure or removal from office, for their calumniation of our apostolate in violation of Can. 1390;

(C) That respondents be ordered by Your Holiness to make reparation for their offenses in the following manner:

(1) By publishing in L’Osservatore Romano, Avvenire and Vatican Radio, with the same frequency and in the same languages as prior statements by respondents in those fora, declarations advising, on the authority of Your Holiness, as follows:

(i) that we do not require permission of ecclesiastical authority to engage in the apostolate known as International Fatima Rosary Crusade, including conferences on Fatima to which bishops, priests, religious and the faithful are invited, nor is Father Gruner, our President, required to obtain such permission to function as head of the apostolate or to help organize its conferences;

(ii) that the conference to be held by the apostolate in Rome later this year likewise does not require such permissions, and that any bishop, priest, religious or member of the faithful is free to attend;

(iii) that all prior "declarations" or "announcements" purportedly issued by the Congregation for the Clergy suggesting that our apostolate lacked necessary ecclesiastical permission for its activities, including past and future Fatima conferences, are retracted;

(2) By issuing to every bishop and papal nuncio a statement, by authority of Your Holiness, containing the same information as set forth in paragraphs 1 (i)-(iii);

(3) By directing that all of the prayed for corrective statements and declarations be made unambiguously, unequivocally and with dispatch,  so that any member of the faithful and any bishop who might wish to attend our Fatima conference in Rome can be apprized of the truth about the apostolate in time to make an informed decision about whether to attend.

(D) That respondents be ordered to provide us with copies of the prayed for corrective declarations and statements immediately, with express permission to publish them in any forum we deem appropriate for the remedy of their falsehoods against us and the apostolate;

(E) That respondents be ordered to refrain from any further public or private "announcements", "declarations" or other statements stating or implying in that there is anything illicit about the apostolate, our activities in furtherance of the apostolate, or the activities of Father Gruner as the apostolate’s head, or that we, Father Gruner, or the apostolate lack "permission of ecclesiastical authority" for our activities;

(F) Such other relief as Your Holiness deems just and proper.

Respectfully submitted this 29th day of September, 1996.

Mrs. Coralie Graham Mrs. Mary Sedore Mrs. Mairead Clarke

et al.