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THIS DOCUMENT IS WRITTEN WITHOUT PREJUDICE TO FATHER
GRUNER’S CIVIL, CANONICAL AND NATURAL RIGHTS

 

May 16, 2001

Your Eminence:

This is a formal reply to your letter to Father Gruner of February 16, 2001. We address the accusations set forth in your letter, several of them quite new to the canonical proceedings. We also present a basic overall restatement of Father Gruner’s position, as developed more fully in his many submissions to your Congregation, the Apostolic Signatura and the Holy Father over the course of the canonical proceedings.

I.
PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS

A. Your Letter Contains Many Fundamental Errors

We have been asked to prepare this reply because it does not appear that Father Gruner’s prior submissions in the canonical proceedings have been fairly and attentively considered by the members of your staff who were evidently involved in preparing your February 16th letter. As a result, the letter contains fundamental errors of fact and law in its description of Father Gruner’s "canonical situation."

As just one of many examples, the letter asserts that Father Gruner could not be incardinated in Hyderabad on November 4, 1995 because he was already under suspension by the Bishop of Avellino as of that date (" . . . any attempt at incardination, with your suspension still perduring . . . could not be validly undertaken."). In truth, the Bishop of Avellino did not even threaten to suspend Father Gruner until May 16, 1996, more than six months after the Archbishop of Hyderabad had already issued his decree of incardination. Moreover, in February of 1996 Father Gruner sent the decree of incardination to the Bishop of Avellino, and (to ensure that every technical requirement was met) in March of 1996 had a copy of the Bishop of Avellino’s decree of excardination (issued in August of 1989) hand-delivered to the Archbishop of Hyderabad.1 Thus, the incardination was fully effectuated before any purported "suspension" or threat of "suspension" came from Avellino.

We can appreciate that Your Eminence may have not had the opportunity personally to review the voluminous acts in Father Gruner’s proceedings, and we understand that reliance on the research and drafting of staff members is part of the ordinary course of affairs in the work of Vatican congregations. Yet we are constrained to say that basic errors of this kind give rise to a reasonable fear that you may take action against Father Gruner based upon an incorrect understanding of his situation. It is our hope that if Father Gruner’s position is presented to Your Eminence by others, including persons of repute in the hierarchy, errors and misunderstandings will be rectified so that this entire controversy can indeed be resolved in "the Spirit of the Jubilee" invoked by your letter.

We will be entreating bishops, other priests and laity to appeal to Your Eminence and the Holy Father for a resolution of this matter that is just for all concerned, including Father Gruner. Accordingly, this reply will be circulated to bishops, priests and certain members of the laity, especially those who have consistently supported Father Gruner’s apostolate.

Your Eminence and his predecessors have caused to be circulated throughout the world a series of baseless and completely unprecedented denunciations of Father Gruner. We are sad to say that these include Your Eminence’s own false accusation that Father Gruner used "forged Secretariat of State documents ... to imply endorsement"2 of his apostolate. While this allegation does not appear in the February 16th letter (which instead accuses Father Gruner of "misinterpreting" authentic documents), it has yet to be retracted, more than ten months after Father Gruner requested a retraction from Your Eminence. We respectfully submit that any attempt to resolve this matter "in the Spirit of the Jubilee" would certainly have to include making amends to Father Gruner for the grave harm caused by Your Eminence’s publication of such a terrible falsehood.

In short, while the February 16th letter invokes the name of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, and professes great pastoral solicitude for Father Gruner, in practice the impression is given of an effort to destroy Father Gruner’s reputation and standing in the Church by any means necessary, as shown by Your Eminence’s false public accusation of criminal misconduct.

B. The Threat of Ultimate Penalties Is Contrary to Church Law

The February 16th letter threatens Father Gruner with "definitive provisions in the matter which would be painful for all concerned." In July of 2000 your threat to "excommunicate" Father Gruner was publicly announced in communiques to bishops’ conferences in regions where Father Gruner’s apostolate enjoys strong episcopal support.

Since Your Eminence has already claimed (quite falsely) that Father Gruner is "suspended a divinis" and threatened him with excommunication (cfr. your letter of June 5, 2000), we can only assume that the phrase "definitive provisions" means either excommunication or reduction to the lay state, commonly known as defrocking.

We must note as a preliminary matter that the law of the Church forbids the imposition of excommunication or any other censure "except with the gravest moderation and only for the more grave offenses." (Can. 1318) Given that Father Gruner has preached no heresy nor committed any moral offense which could possibly justify his expulsion from the Body of Christ or his reduction to the lay state, such penalties would be without precedent in the living memory of the Church. As we will demonstrate, Father Gruner has committed no offense, much less a grave offense warranting ultimate penalties. Therefore, the excommunication or defrocking of Father Gruner would simply be absurd—and would be seen as such by millions of the faithful.

C. True "Vigilance" over the ClergyIs Lacking

The February 16th letter claims that the constant attention to Father Gruner and his Marian apostolate, culminating in Your Eminence’s threat of "definitive provisions," is nothing more than an exercise of the Congregation’s "vigilance over the fruitful pastoral ministry of priests." The letter also claims that the Congregation has "acted pastorally" and only for the "salus animarum" (the salvation of souls). With all due respect, Your Eminence, given the state of the Catholic priesthood today these affirmations are very difficult to believe.

If Your Eminence sincerely believes that the Congregation has "acted pastorally," then we respectfully request that you take a truly pastoral view of the way Father Gruner has been treated. Consider his treatment from the point of view of the many faithful who have had to endure the widespread doctrinal and moral corruption in the Church today.

Like the rest of the faithful in North America, we have suffered through the crisis of faith and morals now afflicting the Church in every nation. We have witnessed the almost daily reports of priestly scandals which have undermined confidence in the integrity of the priesthood, even though many good priests continue to honor their vows. In North America alone the incidents of sexual abuse of children and women by clerics cannot even be counted. The criminal and civil dockets of North American tribunals contain many claims against clerics on grounds that they either committed, failed to prevent or covered up sexual abuse of men and women.

Only weeks ago, after years of litigation, an American diocese finally admitted to a pattern of sexual molestation of altar boys by a number of its priests—more than 20 incidents were admitted in this one diocese alone. Even the Church in Africa is afflicted by priestly scandal. We were all ashamed to read the recent reports (acknowledged as true by the Vatican) of the sexual abuse and exploitation of nuns, including rape, by certain priests in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet the faithful do not see any threats of excommunication from your Congregation to any of these predatory clerics, who disgrace not only themselves but their innocent and holy brothers in the priesthood, while destroying the Church’s credibility in the eyes of the public.

As the Holy Father himself recognized in ordering the promulgation of Ex Corde Ecclesia, the very integrity of Catholic doctrine is threatened by clerical as well as lay theologians who do not adhere to the Magisterium in their teaching. More than ten years after its promulgation by the Holy Father, Ex Corde Ecclesia has still not been obeyed; the required oath of fidelity to Church teaching has yet to be implemented on any significant scale.

Open dissent from the Magisterium thus remains a widespread problem in the seminaries and Catholic colleges and universities of North America. Yet the faithful do not see any threats of excommunication or defrocking directed by Your Eminence to any of the priests who undermine Catholic doctrine throughout the world.

Even if the defense of doctrine were said to be outside the competence of your own Congregation, neither do the faithful see the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or any other Vatican congregation threatening any heterodox priest with the penalties now being threatened against Father Gruner, whose Catholic orthodoxy is beyond reproach.3

As Your Eminence surely knows, the current crisis in faith and discipline obtains throughout the Western world. This is evidenced most recently by the Holy Father’s just-disclosed private letter to the German Cardinals, which details a grave state of affairs for the Church in that country. As the Holy Father told the German Cardinals: "We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that more and more people are abandoning the active practice of the faith, or accepting only a portion of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church." As a result, wrote the Holy Father, the Church in Germany "has no inner vitality, and has lost credibility in the process." So, the Holy Father himself confirms that the Catholic faith is dying in Germany and that the Church is no longer seen as credible.

The situation is little different in the rest of the West. Your Eminence, this can only be the result of a failure of the shepherds to guide their sheep. Yet we do not see your Congregation publicly threatening any of these bad priests with excommunication or defrocking, or even referring their cases to whatever congregation might claim jurisdiction for the imposition of such penalties.

D. True "Pastoral Care" Is Not Practiced

It is not as if these criminals in priestly garb merely escape just punishment, which is bad enough. No, the faithful see that many are even rewarded for their crimes with favorable transfers and promotions. The recent story of a convicted child-molesting priest in England who was allowed to resume pastoral responsibilities for many years, during which he molested again, is only typical. The predator was finally defrocked after his second conviction—at the age of 81!4 Another typical example is the English priest who was given pastoral duties after being convicted of abducting young boys.5

This reward of evil conduct by priests is seen even at the highest levels of the Church. Your Eminence will recall the worldwide furor in the press when the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Sodano, publicly praised the writings of Father Hans Khng in his famous 1998 speech at the Lateran. The London Times rightly noted that Cardinal Sodano had praised "one of the Pope’s worst enemies." In addition to his heterodox writings, which cast doubt on practically every Catholic doctrine and dogma, Khng has publicly condemned Pope John Paul II for what he calls "despotic rule in the Spirit of the Inquisition."

Yet we do not see Your Eminence (or any other Vatican Congregation) directing public threats of excommunication or defrocking to Khng or any of his fellow priests who voice the same opinions. On the contrary, although Khng was nominally deprived of his credentials as a Catholic theologian by order of the Pope in 1980, he remains a priest in good standing and still teaches theology at the same university after his nominal "wrist slap". Making a mockery of even this limited sanction, Cardinal Sodano referred to Khng in the aforesaid speech as "the German theologian."

Then there is the scandal of American cardinals and bishops actually granting priestly faculties to priests of the "Patriotic Catholic Association" (PCA). The PCA is a schismatic organization created by the Chinese communists to replace the true Catholic Church in China, which has been driven underground by communist persecution.

Your Eminence, surely you are aware that in September 1995, the PCA "Bishops’ Conference" issued a "pastoral letter" calling upon all Chinese Catholics to support China’s Satanic population control policy, including forced abortion. The PCA’s constitution explicitly rejects allegiance to the pope, and the PCA has consecrated 100 bishops without a papal mandate. Yet we do not see any action by Your Eminence against these schismatic, communist-controlled priests who are offering Mass in American parishes in such places as New York and San Francisco.6 On the contrary, Archbishop Levada of San Francisco has claimed that "the apostolic ministry" of PCA priests is being "carried out according to directives received from the Holy See."

So, the schismatic priests of a false, pro-abortion "church" created by the Chinese communists are rewarded with priestly faculties and "an apostolic ministry" in America with the Vatican’s approval, while Your Eminence threatens Father Gruner with excommunication or defrocking! Your Eminence, we hope you can appreciate why the faithful wonder how this preposterous situation can be reconciled with your professed concern for "the fruitful pastoral ministry of priests" and the "salus animarum" (the salvation of souls).

As a result of the Vatican’s own failure to take strong and decisive action against the crisis, throughout the West the great majority of those who still call themselves Catholics no longer follow any teaching on faith and morals with which they happen to "disagree." Indeed, Catholics today are just as likely as Protestants and Jews to favor contraception and abortion.

In the United States it was the Catholic vote which elected Bill Clinton, a champion of partial-birth abortion, as President in 1992 and 1996; and in November 2000 the majority of Catholics voted for Al Gore, another champion of partial-birth abortion, in the last Presidential election. Likewise in Europe, Catholics routinely cast their votes for politicians whose policies are inimical to the Faith. We are confronted, therefore, with nothing less than a great apostasy throughout the Catholic world.

E. The Context of Your "Pastoral" Threat

This, then, is the context in which the millions of Catholics who support the good works of Father Gruner view Your Eminence’s recent threats against him: Errant clerics are ravaging the flock with false doctrine and shockingly amoral conduct in every nation, while remaining priests in good standing, and some are even rewarded for their behavior. The Vatican Secretary of State, who hounds Father Gruner, publicly praises the most notorious priestly dissenter from Catholic teaching since Martin Luther, while the Vatican condones the granting of priestly faculties to the members of a schismatic, pro-abortion "church" created by the Communist Chinese. Everywhere the Catholic faith is being abandoned. Yet in the midst of this ecclesial chaos and collapse, the faithful see that only one priest out of 405,000 in the world—a priest who has kept the Faith and kept his vows—receives from your Congregation a public threat of excommunication announced to entire bishops’ conferences.

Looking at the situation pastorally, as Your Eminence professes to do, can you not find it in your heart to understand why it is difficult to believe that this relentless pursuit of Father Gruner is motivated by "vigilance over the fruitfulness of the pastoral ministry of priests"? Can you not see that the great crisis in the Church today has resulted precisely from the lack of zealous and chaste priests like Father Gruner, who has spent his priestly life not only preaching the Message of Fatima, but promoting Marian devotion in general, publishing Catholic devotional literature throughout the world, and distributing millions of brown and green scapulars for the conversion and salvation of souls?

Your Eminence, can you blame the faithful for asking themselves why the Vatican threatens no "definitive provisions" to arrest the virtual self-demolition of the Church remarked by Pope Paul VI himself, while a faithful and eminently fruitful priest like Father Gruner is singled out for the ultimate canonical sanctions? Imagine, Your Eminence, how the faithful must feel when they see your Congregation devoting so much of its resources to persuading the world that Father Nicholas Gruner is some sort of threat to the good order of the Church who must be excommunicated or defrocked when he has done absolutely nothing contrary to faith and morals, but rather has spread the Faith and undoubtedly made many converts.

Are we wrong to wonder how much better the condition of the Church would be if those same resources were devoted to protecting the faithful from even one of the legion of dangerous ecclesiastical criminals who are allowed to remain within the bosom of the sacred priesthood?

We do not present these considerations to insult or provoke Your Eminence, but rather in the hope that Your Eminence will step back from this controversy for a moment and view it from the perspective of the many faithful who see a travesty of justice in the Church. We simply cannot accept that Father Gruner, who has done so much for the good of souls, should be the object of the severest possible punishments, while the widespread collapse of faith and discipline in the Church is barely addressed.

F. A Summary of the Matter

Before addressing Your Eminence’s specific allegations in detail, we wish to summarize the controversy surrounding Father Gruner, so that readers unfamiliar with it may see in brief why it has arisen and why we believe Father Gruner has been treated unjustly.

After 23 years of residence in Canada, during which Father Gruner has been engaged in an apostolate devoted to the Message of Fatima, your Congregation, without basis in law or fact, has ordered him to return to the Diocese of Avellino, where he was ordained in 1976, even though in 1995 Father Gruner was incardinated in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, whose Archbishop specifically approved Father Gruner’s apostolate.

This order is the end result of years of unprecedented behind-the-scenes coercion and maneuvering by elements in the Vatican Secretariat of State. The Vatican Secretariat of State, acting through your Congregation, seeks to use the appearance of law to silence Father Gruner’s very effective presentation of views concerning the Message of Fatima and its relation to the current crisis in the Church and the world.

These views necessarily entail legitimate questions and objections concerning recent Vatican policies which do not at all lie in the realm of binding Catholic doctrine. We are speaking here of prudential judgments aimed at an accommodation with the forces of the world and other religions through Ostpolitik, "dialogue" and other novel initiatives never before seen in the Church. As we will discuss in greater detail further on, Father Gruner and millions of other Catholics believe in conscience that these novelties have contributed to the current crisis in the Church.

Believing this, they have the God-given right and even the duty to speak out for what they believe is the good of the Church (see Canon 212; 215 and L.G. 37). As the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II himself declares: "Christ’s faithful are at liberty to make known their needs, especially their spiritual needs, to the Pastors of the Church. They have the right, indeed at times the duty . . . to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church." Can. 212, §2, 3 Nothing Father Gruner or the apostolate has said is beyond that liberty of discussion which the Church allows in matters not involving settled Catholic doctrine—a liberty your own Congregation has allowed even to those (such as Küng) who flagrantly abuse it.

Despite the legitimacy of the views expressed by Father Gruner—and indeed precisely because those views are legitimate and cannot be prohibited—the Secretariat of State and members of your Congregation have been attempting to silence him by means of what we can only call a scheme that runs throughout Father Gruner’s so-called "canonical situation." This scheme is as follows:

  • The Bishop of Avellino, who in 1978 gave Father Gruner written permission to live outside the diocese, would be pressured to revoke that permission and recall Father Gruner to Avellino unless he found another bishop to incardinate him. The application of this pressure was disclosed by the Bishop in May 1989, when he wrote to Father Gruner to advise of "worried signals" from the Vatican Secretariat of State concerning Father Gruner’s apostolate.7 (By 1989, the apostolate had become a major force for the promotion of the authentic Message of Fatima.)

  • The Bishop would be pressured to recall Father Gruner even though there was no canonical mission for him in Avellino, where Father Gruner could not speak the local dialect. (Father Gruner had been ordained in Avellino only to join a proposed English-speaking Franciscan community which did not materialize along the lines envisioned.)

  • At the same time the Bishop was being pressured to recall Father Gruner, all offers of incardination from benevolent bishops outside Avellino would be blocked by the Secretariat of State, acting in conjunction with your predecessors in the Congregation.

  • Once all avenues of incardination had been closed, Father Gruner would then be accused of being "disobedient" because he had "failed" to find another bishop as ordered.

  • After Father Gruner demonstrated that the Secretariat of State and your predecessors were unjustly preventing him from obeying the very order they had accused him of "disobeying," Your Eminence would change the accusation. It would now be asserted that the Congregation had the right to prevent Father Gruner from being incardinated outside Avellino, because his "irregular condition" had to be "corrected." The alleged "irregular condition," however, involves nothing more than Father Gruner’s fully legitimate engagement in a full-time apostolate while living in Canada with the permission of his bishop—an arrangement fully permissible under the law of the Church.

In pursuit of this scheme your Congregation has issued various communications over the years, many of them secret,8 while the Congregation and the Secretariat of State have dispatched representatives in a coordinated campaign to coerce three successive benevolent bishops into withdrawing their offers to incardinate Father Gruner. The sudden appearance of nuncios or other emissaries to browbeat these benevolent bishops is clearly evidenced in the acts of Father Gruner’s proceedings.9

Your Eminence continues to insist that Father Gruner return to Avellino even though these benevolent bishops have offered to incardinate him with permission to continue his apostolate in Canada, and even though the Bishop of Avellino had no objection of his own to such an arrangement. The law, immemorial custom and the constant practice of the Church have always allowed a priest to engage in work outside the diocese of his incardination with either the presumed or (as in Father Gruner’s case) express permission of his bishop. Today, thousands of priests live and work outside their dioceses under arrangements no different in principle from what these benevolent bishops offered Father Gruner. Indeed, Father Gruner had just such an arrangement with the Bishop of Avellino from 1978 until1994, when the Bishop was finally pressured to revoke the arrangement according to the scheme we have just described.

Despite the operation of the scheme, one of the three benevolent bishops, the Archbishop of Hyderabad, proceeded formally to incardinate Father Gruner in his Archdiocese, where Father Gruner’s apostolate alone supports 68 orphans and their orphanage and other good works. The Archbishop rejected the interference in his rights and declared in his decree incardinating Father Gruner that "Evil forces have conspired to destroy your work of love." The Archbishop affirmed his incardination in a subsequent decree, despite the contention of your predecessors that the incardination is "tanquam non existens"—meaning "as if it were non-existent." (They did not say the incardination is actually non-existent, but only that it is as if it were non-existent. What this signifies is far from apparent.)

Therefore, Father Gruner’s so-called "canonical situation" has been imposed upon him by certain members of the Vatican Secretariat of State and your Congregation. They themselves have prevented Father Gruner from "obeying" the Bishop of Avellino’s order to find another bishop. They themselves have prevented Father Gruner from "correcting" what Your Eminence now calls his "irregular condition," which does not need correction in the first place. These non-existent "offenses" have been used as a pretext for suppressing legitimate views concerning Fatima which could not otherwise be suppressed, views held in common by Father Gruner and millions of like-minded Catholics.

The order to return to Avellino would require Father Gruner to abandon the apostolate and its 150 employees, leave behind his personal residence and affairs built up over a lifetime, and live in virtual exile until death in a foreign diocese which has never had any canonical mission for him and has made no provision for his support, medical care or old-age pension. By this wrongful sentence of exile, Father Gruner would be deprived of any priestly mission in the Church—at the very moment in Church history when there is a crisis in vocations and a dire shortage of priests.

Moreover, the order to return to Avellino after 23 years would require Father Gruner to enter Italy as an illegal alien in violation of Italian civil law on immigration, which the Church is bound to observe, and which she does observe as to every priest but Father Gruner. (Cfr. Can. 22) Italian civil law prohibits any priest from taking up permanent residence in Italy unless the Church has issued written guarantees for his support, medical care and old age pension and obtained a proper entry visa for the priest. If Father Gruner were to attempt to enter Italy as a permanent resident without these requirements having been fulfilled, he would be arrested and expelled at the point of entry—unless he were willing to lie and say that he was entering only for a short visit as tourist. Father Gruner has brought this problem to the attention of the Bishop of Avellino, who has done absolutely nothing to address it. For this reason alone the order is void and beyond the jurisdiction of your Congregation—or any Congregation—to issue. Not even the Apostolic Signatura can order a priest to enter another country in violation of that country’s immigration law. Neither the Congregation nor the Signatura has ever answered this obvious objection.

Standing above all these considerations, as compelling as they are, is the most important of all: the salvation of souls, which is the highest law of the Church. Father Gruner cannot in conscience "obey" an illegal and unjust order which would not only work his personal ruination but would threaten the existence of a legitimate apostolate which preaches the Gospel, promotes Catholic devotions and sacramental helps which have benefitted countless thousands of souls, and defends the integral Message of Fatima, which, as Our Lady Herself said, was given to men as an aid to the salvation of souls in our time.

G. Natural Justice and the Law of the Church Preclude Any Punishment of Father Gruner

For all these reasons, the order to return to Avellino is morally and legally impossible to obey. No tribunal on earth, be it civil or ecclesiastical, can legitimately convict someone of offenses which do not exist, order someone to violate the law or command him to stop preaching truths which are necessary for the salvation of souls. Therefore, as a matter of natural justice, any "suspension" or other penalty based on these false grounds would objectively have no force or effect before man or God.

Not only natural justice but Church law forbids any punishment of Father Gruner for the non-existent "offenses" Your Eminence alleges. The Code of Canon Law explicitly provides that "no one can be punished for the commission of an external violation of a law or precept [i.e., particular command] unless it is gravely imputable by reason of malice or culpability." (Can. 1321, §1) Since the precept that Father Gruner "return" to Avellino is based upon concocted offenses which do not exist in the law of the Church, and since the precept is in itself manifestly void because it is legally and morally impossible to obey, there can be no punishment of Father Gruner because neither malice nor culpability is "gravely imputable" to him under Canon 1321. This would be true of any proposed penalty, let alone the ultimate penalties of excommunication or defrocking which would be so unwarranted as to be patently absurd.

Further, even if the precept had some basis in fact or law—and it does not—the law of the Church, in its mercy, recognizes that no one may be punished for violating a precept if "necessity or grave inconvenience" prevents compliance. (Can. 1323, 2E) Of necessity, Father Gruner cannot "obey" a precept which would require him to violate Italian immigration law. Also, the precept would manifestly cause "grave inconvenience" in that it would require Father Gruner to destroy his entire life’s work, abandon his home and personal affairs, and take up residence as an illegal alien in a foreign diocese which has made no provision for his support, medical care and old age.

Thus, while Your Eminence may show no mercy toward Father Gruner, Holy Mother Church does show mercy in her laws. No one can be punished for "failing" to obey a void order; or for "failing" to do what is illegal, impossible or even gravely inconvenient. The baseless precept to "return" to Avellino is all of these.

Meanwhile, Father Gruner’s detailed written appeals to the Holy Father have yet to be decided by His Holiness. It appears that these appeals have been diverted by representatives of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and that the Holy Father will never be allowed to read them. Nevertheless, until the Holy Father has been given the opportunity to hear the appeals (in accordance with the God-given right of the faithful to make recourse to the Supreme Pontiff), Father Gruner is morally justified in continuing to resist the abuses of power and authority which pervade the proceedings against him.

H. Your Claim of Express Papal Authority Is Open to Question

The February 16th letter claims that Your Eminence acts "in the name of the Holy Father" and by his "explicit instructions." With all due respect, it is impossible to believe that the Holy Father would appoint Your Eminence to make false accusations of forgery or to commit the other abuses specified in the canonical complaint against Your Eminence which Father Gruner sent to the Holy Father on December 21, 2000. It is inconceivable that the Holy Father, if he is aware of the contents of that complaint, would appoint Your Eminence as judge in this matter when you have displayed such implacable hostility toward Father Gruner. (On the other hand, if the Holy Father has not been permitted to read the canonical complaint, then his alleged grant of a specific mandate to Your Eminence could hardly have been an informed decision.) The conflict of interest in which Your Eminence has embroiled himself precludes your involvement in any further proceedings. Your Eminence can hardly take actions in this matter at the same time the Holy Father is being asked to judge Father Gruner’s claims against you.

Given the manifestly deteriorating condition of the Pope and all the other circumstances of this controversy, we trust you will understand why Your Eminence’s claim of an explicit papal authorization cannot simply be accepted at face value. In any event, it seems to us that the phrase "in the name of the Holy Father" has become a formula for the notion that members of Vatican congregations may act as if they were the Pope without any specific papal mandate for their actions. Likewise, the phrase "explicit instructions" would have no more value than the amount of truthful information the Pope received before the alleged "explicit instructions" were given. In view of the way this entire controversy has proceeded, there is good reason to believe that these "specific instructions"—if indeed they exist—consist of nothing more than the Pope simply assenting to someone else’s proposal without knowing the whole truth of the matter.

Under the circumstances, it is only prudent to question what, if anything, the Holy Father has specifically authorized Your Eminence to do in this case. Is it not reasonable for Father Gruner to request concrete evidence of your specific mandate from the Pope to threaten excommunication, defrocking or other penalties?

I. A Papal Audience Is NeededTo Ascertain Your Alleged Authority

Regarding the "will of the Holy Father" in this matter, we respectfully suggest that if "the spirit of the Jubilee" and pastoral concern for Father Gruner are really what motivate Your Eminence, then your Congregation ought to assist him in obtaining an audience with the Pope. In January 1990 Father Gruner traveled to Rome at great expense for what he thought would be a private papal audience with himself and another person, only to find that the appointment had been cancelled at the last minute.

The explanation given was that the Pope was "ill" that day, but on the very next day His Holiness showed no signs of this "illness" in conducting his usual affairs. As we have noted, it does not appear that the Holy Father has been allowed to read any of Father Gruner’s petitions or other communications to His Holiness over the past seven years of canonical proceedings. Thus, a papal audience seems the only way Father Gruner can convey his side of the controversy to the Holy Father.

The February 16th letter claims to express "the heartfelt and paternal appeal of the Vicar of Christ." If the Holy Father is indeed personally involved in the matter, why not assist Father Gruner in having recourse to him? After all, direct recourse to the Supreme Pontiff is the God-given right of every member of the faithful, as reflected in the Code of Canon Law. (Cfr. can. 1417) Will you help Father Gruner obtain a papal audience? This would certainly be a concrete indication of your professed solicitude for Father Gruner, and would do much to dispel the impression of malice given by your false accusation that he engaged in the criminal forgery of Vatican documents. On the other hand, if Father Gruner’s petitions and other communications continue to be diverted from His Holiness and access to him denied, it will only be reasonable to conclude that the alleged personal involvement and "explicit instructions" of the Holy Father are, to say the least, open to question.

J. The Congregation Has No Jurisdiction in this Matter

Without evidence of special papal authorization, Father Gruner does not see any canonical basis for Your Eminence’s continued proceedings against him and thus declines to admit your jurisdiction in the matter. Father Gruner’s position is that proceedings are still pending in the Signatura. Your Eminence, on the other hand, claims that the Signatura has "definitively" decided all of the pending recourses and petitions—a claim which is manifestly false for five reasons:

First, Father Gruner has lodged three separate canonical appeals with the Supreme Pontiff, none of which has been decided.

Second, in November 1999 Father Gruner’s advocate (at the suggestion of the Signatura’s Archbishop Secretary at the time) filed with the Signatura the Archbishop of Hyderabad’s decree of March 10, 1999, which affirms his decree of November 4, 1995, incardinating Father Gruner in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad. In the March 1999 decree the Archbishop specifically rejects Your Eminence’s position that the incardination is "tanquam non existens," and notes that he has reviewed all the pertinent documents and finds no defect in the incardination.

Third, in August 1999 the Bishop of Avellino was also presented with a copy of the Archbishop of Hyderabad’s March 10, 1999 decree. He has never disputed the validity of that decree.

Fourth, the Signatura has never addressed the Archbishop of Hyderabad’s reaffirmation of the incardination.

Fifth, neither the Signatura nor the Bishop of Avellino has ever addressed the patent illegality of an order requiring Father Gruner to take up permanent residence in Italy in violation of Italian immigration law and thus also in violation of canon law (Can 22).

Thus, it is simply not true that Father Gruner’s "canonical situation" has been "definitively resolved" by the Signatura. In any case, even under Your Eminence’s incorrect version of the facts, the matter is no longer with the Congregation. Therefore, the Congregation has no jurisdiction to make new accusations and threaten new penalties.

Moreover, your Congregation cannot continue to involve itself in this matter when the Bishop of Avellino himself has had nothing further to say since Father Gruner’s last written request to the Bishop for advice (in September 2000) concerning the obvious illegality of "his" purported order that Father Gruner, a Canadian citizen, take up permanent residence in Italy without a visa, or else enter the country under the false pretense of being a tourist. Despite this request for advice, the Bishop has made no effort to tender a proper visa or provide Father Gruner with the written financial guarantees required by Italian immigration law. It is obvious that Father Gruner’s "return" to Avellino is of no interest to the Bishop of Avellino. Consequently, Your Eminence has no grounds for continued interference in this matter.

K. You Did Not Propose Any Meeting — Father Gruner Did

In what seems to be an effort to make Father Gruner appear unreasonable, the February 16th letter claims that he "practically refused" to meet with the Congregation when it "proposed a personal meeting." In truth, the meeting was not proposed by your Congregation, but by Father Gruner, in his letter to Your Eminence of July 12, 2000. Unfortunately, Your Eminence has thus far refused any personal meeting except on the basis that Father Gruner must consent to the total destruction of his life’s work and go into permanent exile in Avellino as an illegal alien with no canonical mission in the Church.

At any rate, Father Gruner did have a "personal meeting" with the Archbishop Secretary of your Congregation on February 20, 2001. Although the meeting was quite cordial, the Secretary (no doubt a well-intentioned man) seemed little familiar with the facts of Father Gruner’s situation and was apparently authorized to do nothing more than to convey a demand of absolute "obedience" to a void ab initio (from the beginning) order which would be morally and legally impossible for any human being to obey.

L. Your Claim of "Patience and Moderation"Is Contradicted by the Facts

In short, although the February 16th letter strives to give the impression of infinite patience and generosity with Father Gruner, the "spirit of the Jubilee" is nowhere evident in the way Father Gruner has been treated. To understand this clearly, one need only compare the unprecedented treatment Father Gruner has received with the indulgence shown toward so many real enemies of the Church. Father Gruner’s treatment has not been ameliorated during Your Eminence’s own tenure as Prefect of the Congregation. On the contrary, it has grown immeasurably worse, and now includes false accusations of criminal activity and groundless threats of excommunication and (it would appear) even defrocking. Such actions hardly evince the "patience and moderation" Your Eminence professes.

This, then, is where matters stood when Father Gruner received the February 16th letter, with its threat of ultimate canonical sanctions. We will now address the purported grounds for those sanctions.