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

 

May 16, 2001

III.

New Charges Are Introduced Without Due Process

It seems Your Eminence recognizes after all that Father Gruner’s non-existent "irregular condition" hardly suffices to justify excommunication, defrocking or whatever other baseless sanctions may be in the offing. Yet in seven years of canonical proceedings nothing besides the illusory "irregular condition" (or the formerly alleged "disobedience" in "failing" to find another bishop) has ever been proposed to explain why Father Gruner should be punished at all, let alone subjected to the ultimate canonical penalties.

In view of the lack of any real "case" against Father Gruner, the February 16th letter seeks to build a new "case" ex post facto. Departing completely from basic norms of justice and canon law, the letter suddenly introduces three entirely new accusations to the proceedings. These are: (a) "inappropriate use of documents" from Church authorities; (b) "recourse to civil forums against ecclesiastics"; (c) "you turned the faithful against the legitimate Church authorities." None of these charges is supported by any canonical authority. The letter fails to cite a single provision of the Code of Canon Law. The letter also fails to identify any particular infraction of any specific law of the Church. We are constrained to say, therefore, that these three new charges are just as illusory as the charge of "irregular condition."

These new charges are introduced for the first time after seven years of canonical proceedings and without benefit of any new canonical process, which in any case would have to be commenced by the competent local ordinary before it ever reached the Congregation via hierarchical recourse. Your new and fundamentally unfair procedure violates the norm of justice that "Once determined, the terms of the controversy cannot validly be altered except by a new decree, issued for a grave reason, at the request of the party, and after the other parties have been consulted and their observations considered." (Can. 1514) In layman’s terms, it is unjust to add new charges against the accused in the middle of his trial on the original charge. In this case, the "trial" was supposed to concern Father Gruner’s legitimate resistence to being forced to return to Avellino against the law and his natural rights, based solely on his alleged "disobedience" of an order he was deliberately prevented from obeying, or an "irregular condition" which does not exist.

Instead of following canonical due process and natural justice, the February 16th letter simply recites three additional accusations, pronounces Father Gruner guilty without a hearing, and then threatens him with excommunication or reduction to the lay state unless he makes "amends" for these newly discovered "offences"—of which Father Gruner has only just been advised for the first time in the entire 25 years of his priestly ministry.

With all due respect to your Congregation, Father Gruner declines to participate in yet another canonical "short-cut" designed solely for his case. He insists upon the same canonical rights the Congregation respects when dealing with accused heretics and suspected child molesters. These include (1) A canonical proceeding commenced by the competent local ordinary. (2) A full and detailed specification of the alleged offenses, including the applicable canons. (3) The right to defend himself against the charges before any judgment is made. (4) A hearing before the local ordinary at which Father Gruner and his advocate would be able to appear in person, after an ample opportunity to prepare a defense. Not one of these elements of due process has been observed over the past seven years of proceedings. This process would be followed (in the event of any adverse judgment by the local ordinary) with a hierarchical recourse through the various levels, including the Apostolic Signatura and other competent tribunals (including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). If need be, Father Gruner would at some point appeal to the Supreme Pontiff.

Without waiving any of Father Gruner’s rights in this regard, or admitting that Your Eminence has any jurisdiction over this matter, we provide the following partial indications of Father Gruner’s defense to these new accusations, which he would present in full if he were given the opportunity to defend himself before a competent tribunal. We feel it necessary to give these indications since it is clear the February 16th letter is designed for general publication (or at least private circulation to influential persons) in order to justify the absurd penalties it threatens.

A. There was no "inappropriate use of documents"
from Church authorities.

On July 6, 2000 the Secretariat of State directed the nuncio to the Philippines to deliver a communiqué concerning Father Gruner to all the Philippine bishops. Among many other falsehoods, the communiqué advises that Father Gruner used "forged Secretariat of State documents ... to imply endorsement" of his apostolate. This accusation is attributed to Your Eminence, and you have not disputed Father Gruner’s letter of July 12, 2000, pointing out that the nuncio identifies you as the source and requesting a retraction by Your Eminence. The accusation is, of course, false and ridiculous. No such forged documents ever existed, nor did Your Eminence ever identify any. We must say that Your Eminence’s refusal to retract this demonstrably false allegation undermines Your Eminence’s entire credibility in this matter.

Instead of conceding that you made a false accusation of criminal activity, Your Eminence substitutes a new falsehood in its place. The February 16th letter claims that Father Gruner is guilty of "inappropriate use" of authentic Church documents, abandoning altogether the original accusation of forgery. When one examines this accusation, however, one finds it based on nothing more than the apostolate’s entirely legitimate publication of a note of congratulations to Father Gruner signed by the Pope’s personal secretary, Monsignor McGee, on January 31, 1980 (which Your Eminence wrongly characterizes as a document of the Secretary of State), papal blessings of April 18, 1990 and February 2, 1993 in parchment form (obviously designed for display and publication), and a certificate of good standing which the Bishop of Avellino issued to Father Gruner on April 8, 1990.

Without offering the slightest proof, the February 16th letter suggests that the Supreme Pontiff knew nothing of Father Gruner’s status and that the note of congratulations from Father McGee and the papal blessings were all empty gratuities. However, the documents speak for themselves, and they preclude any claim of "erroneous interpretation." We will now discuss them briefly.

1. The note of congratulations from the Pope’s secretary.

First, the 1980 note from the Pope’s personal secretary, Monsignor McGee (copy attached), reads as follows:

    I wish to acknowledge receipt of, and to thank you for the copies of The Fatima Crusader; also to congratulate you on your appointment as Vice President and Executive Director. I wish to assure you of the blessing of the Holy Father and of my own kind regards as I remain yours sincerely in Christ. (signed) Father John McGee. (emphasis added)

We note that the February 16th letter omits the following words of the Pope’s secretary in the quotation from his letter: "and of my own kind regards, as I remain yours sincerely in Christ." Evidently, the drafter of the letter thought it politic not to reveal the good personal relations between Father Gruner and the Pope’s personal secretary, who (as we have mentioned) read aloud to the Pope Father Gruner’s 1981 appeal to His Holiness. This omission would also serve the aim of portraying Father Gruner as a despised outcast, an enemy of "the Holy See" and a criminal forger of Vatican documents.

The February 16th letter asserts that "it is in no way proven that Monsignor McGee had information about [Father Gruner]’s condition as being outside the diocese of his incardination."23 Even if the Holy Father did not know of Father Gruner "being outside the diocese of his incardination," what of it? Father Gruner had permission to be outside the diocese, as did thousands of other priests at the time. We notice that the letter is very careful to avoid saying that Father McGee and the Pope had no knowledge of Father Gruner’s activities, as opposed to his place of residence. Perhaps this is because the files in Father Gruner’s "case" contain documents which establish that the Pope certainly knew about Father Gruner’s work with the apostolate. In addition to the copies of The Fatima Crusader magazine, which Fr. McGee very probably gave to the Pope in 1980, there are Father Gruner’s 1981 appeal to the Holy Father and the 1989 appeal which Father Gruner personally handed to the Holy Father in January of 1990. These documents clearly explain Father Gruner’s activities and the unjust opposition to them.

The February 16th letter goes on to say (quoting a purported decree of the Signatura) that "it is astonishing that Father Gruner attributes to the Supreme Pontiff the congratulations expressed by Monsignor (now Bishop) McGee."24 This is another demonstrable falsehood. The issue of The Fatima Crusader in which Msgr. McGee’s note was published merely recites the fact that the Pope’s blessing was conveyed by Msgr. McGee. Nowhere does the article ever attribute Msgr. McGee’s personal congratulations to the Supreme Pontiff. This is yet another example of how Your Eminence’s draftsman has mischaracterized the apostolate’s literature—something Your Eminence would have known had he read the material himself before issuing threats of excommunication.

It cannot in any event be denied that Fr. McGee personally assured Father Gruner of the Pope’s blessings for his activities. Did he lie? Your Eminence, we ask you with all respect to state the claim forthrightly: Does the Congregation contend that the Holy Father knew nothing of Father Gruner’s activities when he gave his blessing through Msgr. McGee in 1980? Clearly, whoever drafted the February 16th letter hesitates to have Your Eminence say so.

2. The two papal blessings.

Concerning the two papal blessings, it is claimed that Father Gruner was guilty of "erroneous interpretation" because the blessings were published to give the impression that "the Fatima Crusade (sic) enjoys the blessing of the Holy Father." But they were never published for that purpose, nor does The Fatima Crusader magazine ever give them that interpretation. This accusation is a "straw man." The papal blessings were published merely to demonstrate that Father Gruner was not some clerical imposter but a priest in good standing, recognized as such by even the Holy See.

In particular, the papal blessing of 1993 (see attached) reads as follows:

    The Holy Father paternally imparts his Apostolic Blessing to Father Nicholas Gruner for his sixteen years priestly service and for his very important apostolic work with the"Fatima Crusader" as a pledge of heavenly favours. (emphasis added)

Where, exactly, is the "erroneous interpretation" of this document, Your Eminence? It manifestly recites the Pope’s specific blessing of Father Gruner’s involvement in the apostolate and the publication of The Fatima Crusader, which it calls "very important apostolic work."

There is a significant self-contradiction in Your Eminence’s claims on this point: The February 16th letter (citing the Signatura) claims that the papal blessings do not imply papal approbation because they were issued by the Apostolic Almoner "without the Supreme Pontiff being involved in any way." Although the Apostolic Almoner is specifically authorized to extend blessings in the name of the Supreme Pontiff, these are dismissed as empty gratuities because the Pope did not give them personally. Yet when it comes to the actions taken against Father Gruner, in which the Pope was not involved in any way at all, we are told that these actions have the full weight of his personal authority based on an alleged specific mandate whose existence has never been demonstrated. There seems to be a curious variability to this notion of "vicariate" papal authority.

In any case, long before the papal blessing was issued in 1993, the Pope had received abundant information about Father Gruner’s activities through the copies of The Fatima Crusader delivered to him in 1980, and the two appeals from Father Gruner to His Holiness in 1981 and 1990. Thus, the suggestion that the Holy Father blessed an apostolate of which he knew nothing has no support in the evidence.

3. The certificate of good standing.

As for the alleged "inappropriate" use of the certificate of good standing from the Bishop of Avellino, the February 16th letter (at p. 9) falsely alleges that the Bishop demanded the certificate be returned because Father Gruner published it in the Summer 1990 issue of The Fatima Crusader. In truth, the Bishop’s letter of July 18, 1990 demanding return of the certificate was sent before the Summer 1990 issue of The Fatima Crusader was published. The Bishop (no doubt under pressure from the Vatican Secretariat of State) had not objected to publication in the magazine (of which he was unaware at the time), but rather to Father Gruner mailing copies of the certificate to various detractors, including the Archbishop of Toronto.

Here we note that Your Eminence’s own reference to the Bishop’s letter of July 18, 1990 undermines the claim of Father Gruner’s "twenty years" of "disobedience," because this very letter advises Father Gruner to continue looking for another bishop while residing in Canada, and does not even suggest that he must return to Avellino.

At any rate, we fail to see how Father Gruner committed a canonical offense of any kind by either mailing or allowing the apostolate to publish the certificate to demonstrate that he is a bona fide priest. What canon or principle of morality did this violate? The certificate stated the truth, and in publishing it the apostolate told the truth. What indeed would be the point of a certificate of priestly good standing if the priest could not present it as proof of his bona fides?

In short, we are mystified by this claim of "inappropriate use of documents from Church authorities." Does Your Eminence seriously propose such a flimsy accusation as grounds for the excommunication or defrocking of a priest—or indeed any other penalty? We hope Your Eminence will reconsider, if for no other reason than the Congregation’s own credibility. Meanwhile, it is only fair to inquire when, if ever, Your Eminence will retract the original false accusation that Father Gruner forged documents of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

B. Recourse to civil forums against ecclesiastics
is entirely permissible under Church law.

The February 16th letter cites two pending libel actions in the civil tribunal of Toronto. As Your Eminence knows, both of these actions are fully permissible under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which contains no prohibition of suits against ecclesiastics in the civil forum. Accordingly, there are numerous suits now pending against ecclesiastics in civil tribunals throughout the world, as we have already mentioned.

That Father Gruner objected to a suit against himself in 1978 (later dismissed as groundless) is completely beside the point. The 1978 lawsuit was governed by the 1917 Code of Canon Law, under which civil suits against ecclesiastics could be punished with a just penalty—which provision was dropped from the 1983 Code. Is it now suggested that only Father Gruner is still subject to the 1917 Code? If not, then what was the purpose of this reference besides obfuscation and distraction?

Father Gruner’s pending civil claims are no different in principle from pending claims against priests, monsignors, bishops, archbishops and even cardinals for various civil wrongs, including sexual molestation, adultery, extortion, embezzlement, breach of fiduciary relationship, alienation of affection and clerical malpractice. The clerical defendants in these cases routinely raise the defense that they cannot be sued for wrongs committed in "the exercise of their specific ministry," to quote your phrase, and the civil courts routinely deny this defense. Yet we do not see the Congregation (or any other Church authority) threatening penalties against the plaintiffs in any of these cases. Here again Father Gruner is held to a standard which applies to no one else in the Church.

With these facts in mind, let us discuss the two pending claims by Father Gruner which are illegitimately proposed as grounds for excommunication or defrocking.

1. The libel suit against Soul Magazine.

The February 16th letter refers to a libel action in which Father Gruner "cited" the Bishop of Fargo. The letter fails to mention, however, that on October 10, 1997 this action was dismissed as to the Bishop at Father Gruner’s specific request. The Bishop has not been a party to this action for more than three years, and Father Gruner does not wish him to be a party.

This appears to be another example of Your Eminence’s lack of familiarity with the details of this controversy. Yet one would rightly assume that before launching threats of excommunication or other severe sanctions, Your Eminence would make certain that he knows the facts. Given that the facts are so well documented, it seems incumbent upon Your Eminence (in the exercise of "pastoral vigilance") to inquire into why Your Eminence’s draftsman/researcher has so grossly misinformed you. Is it incompetence or malice which is at work in this and the many other factual errors in your draftsman’s work, which Your Eminence has signed, evidently without verifying its factual accuracy.

It must be noted that the Bishop of Fargo had been named only as a pro forma party by Father Gruner’s Canadian barrister because the Bishop was listed as the legal publisher of Soul Magazine, the Blue Army’s publication in which the libelous material appeared. The actual author of the libels was the magazine’s lay editor, who has since been dismissed by the Blue Army for various reasons, including his continued publication of false statements about Father Gruner. The suit continues as to the lay editor and the Blue Army, and no law of the Church forbids it. Your Eminence simply has no right to interfere in this suit by demanding its dismissal under threat of canonical penalties.

2. The libel suit against Msgr. McCormack.

The other libel action, filed in 1990—nearly 11 years ago—involves the former Vice-Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Toronto, a Msgr. McCormack. In June of 1990 Msgr. McCormack issued a libelous "notification" which clearly implied that Father Gruner is a clerical impostor who was soliciting funds in violation of Church law—in short, that he is a fraud and a thief.

On the very date the libel was published, Father Gruner was in possession of the aforementioned certificate of good standing from the Bishop of Avellino, which he had requested precisely to refute detractors like McCormack. (In fact, Father Gruner had mailed a copy of the certificate to the Archbishop of Toronto weeks before the libelous statement was issued by his Vice-Chancellor, McCormack.) Furthermore, the apostolate is a bona fide charitable corporation operating under the law of Canada and has every right to solicit donations from the public under civil law. McCormack’s libel was published not only in Toronto, but throughout North America in various secular newspapers, where it was read by millions of people, both Catholic and non-Catholic. The libel caused severe damage to the apostolate as a civil corporation. All demands for amicable settlement by retraction were refused by McCormack, and there was no alternative but to pursue a civil claim for libel.

For ten years neither Your Eminence, nor your predecessors, nor any other Church authority even suggested that the libel action was in violation of Church law, for indeed it is not. Then, on February 29, 2000, a judge of the civil tribunal was presented with a motion by McCormack’s lawyer to have the suit dismissed on grounds that it involved solely a matter of internal Church discipline. The judge specifically ruled that Father Gruner’s claim "is not merely a matter that requires an adjudication of a religious dispute but has to do with the effect of the publication of a statement on the reputation of a public figure in the community at large." The judge further ruled that the ecclesiastical courts could not offer any effective remedy because they lack an independent judiciary and cannot provide payment of adequate reparatory damages for a civil wrong.25 Accordingly, the judge denied McCormack’s motion to dismiss and ordered that the case proceed to trial. The judge also ordered McCormack to pay $11,000 toward Father Gruner’s legal fees, which he did.

Suddenly, on June 5, 2000, Your Eminence wrote to Father Gruner and threatened him with excommunication if he did not abandon the suit! Since McCormack had become a Vatican employee (working for Cardinal Ratzinger) during the pendency of the suit, your threat gives the appearance of an extortionate attempt to use your authority to gain an improper advantage in a civil forum for one of your collaborators in the Vatican. Indeed, Your Eminence implicitly conceded the impropriety of this threat when Father Gruner requested a meeting with you to discuss the civil claim and you abruptly disavowed any effort to involve yourself in the case: "Please be advised that as the aforementioned action [against Msgr. McCormack] pertains to the civil forum, not the ecclesiastical, the resolution of such could not come under the jurisdiction of this Congregation. It is essential that the distinction between the civil and the ecclesiastical fora be well understood and maintained."26

Nevertheless, on the final page of the February 16th letter, you renew the extortionate threat to excommunicate (or defrock) Father Gruner if he does not abandon a perfectly legitimate civil proceeding. Evidently, Your Eminence has suddenly reversed his own earlier abstention from the civil forum.

Here we note that Your Eminence has taken an entirely different approach to another suit against an ecclesiastic. The Australian press reports that you have personally ordered the reinstatement of a priest convicted at trial for sexually molesting a former altar boy. You ordered the reinstatement after the civil tribunal reversed the conviction. You took this action even though the local bishop had developed independent evidence that the priest posed a substantial risk of further sexual abuse of children. According to the press account, your decree "noted that [the priest] had been exonerated by the civil judicial system . . .The Congregation also implicitly criticizes [the Bishop] for applying the standards of balance of probabilities and unacceptable risk . . . instead of the criterion of proof used in the civil courts, which is beyond reasonable doubt . . ."27

So, in deference to a finding in the civil forum, Your Eminence ordered the reinstatement of a priest whom the bishop believed posed a risk of child molestation, and you required that the bishop be held to the civil court’s burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt when dealing with this priest in the future. Yet when a civil tribunal in Father Gruner’s libel suit rules that his claim does not involve simply a matter of Church governance but a real civil wrong worthy of trial, you refuse to defer to the civil tribunal and threaten Father Gruner with ultimate canonical penalties unless he abandons the suit! Your Eminence, can you not see that here yet again you are applying one standard to Father Gruner and another to everyone else in the Church?

Finally, on this point it must be said that in no way can McCormack’s libel be considered "the exercise of [his] specific ministry" in the Church, as Your Eminence contends—the very contention the civil tribunal rightly rejected. In the first place, Father Gruner was neither a resident nor a priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto. Thus, McCormack had no jurisdiction over Father Gruner, much less a civil corporation operating in the Diocese of St. Catharines. More important, as the civil judge noted, no one has a "specific ministry" to spread lies about another throughout the press in North America. Even if McCormack was only doing the bidding of your predecessors in the Congregation and/or the Vatican Secretariat of State (a possibility which seems very likely considering his subsequent "reward" of a Vatican position), not even Vatican officials have the right to spread lies which damage the reputation of another in civil society.

In short, the civil tribunal decided that Father Gruner’s claim of a civil libel merited trial. The Congregation has absolutely no jurisdiction and no right to interfere in that decision. Your Eminence admitted as much in declining to discuss the case with Father Gruner because "it is essential that the distinction between the civil and the ecclesiastical fora be well understood and maintained." Therefore, this continued demand that Father Gruner abandon legitimate civil proceedings or suffer "definitive provisions . . . which would be painful for all concerned" must be viewed as an abuse of power and even a form of extortion. Yet Your Eminence continues on this course even though, by your own admission, you have no right to do so. What conclusion can one draw except that your actions are motivated by animus toward Father Gruner, or that you too act under orders from the Secretary of State, Cardinal Sodano?

3. An egregious error which is typical of the February 16th letter.

The February 16th letter (at p. 10) falsely asserts that on June 5, 1996 Father Gruner received a "warning" from the Congregation that he must "retract" his libel action. The false implication is that when Father Gruner commenced his suit against the Blue Army on July 25, 1996, he did so in defiance of the Congregation’s "warning" of June 5, 1996.

In truth, there was no such warning from the Congregation. Rather, Your Eminence sent a letter to Father Gruner on June 5, 2000, discussed above, in which you threaten to excommunicate him unless he abandons his legitimate claim against Msgr. McCormack.

At the very least, such egregious errors demonstrate that Your Eminence could not have read the February 16th letter very carefully before you committed your signature to it. Yet on the basis of the claims in that very letter, Your Eminence threatens to make Father Gruner the first diocesan priest in living memory to be cast from the Mystical Body of Christ—for unheard-of "offenses" which do not even exist in law!

Your Eminence, we ask you to consider how the credibility of your Congregation is affected when gross mistakes like these are presented as "evidence" over the signature of its Cardinal-Prefect. The impression given is that accuracy and truth do not matter to the Congregation, but only the preordained result.

C. Father Gruner has not "turned the faithful against
the legitimate Church authorities."

For the first time in seven years of canonical proceedings the Congregation now complains about the apostolate’s publications and petitions to Rome. Here, at last, comes an admission of the true motive behind the proceedings against Father Gruner: to suppress his apostolate’s publications because they say things that certain members of the Vatican apparatus do not like, but cannot legitimately censor.

But even here the February 16th letter avoids addressing the merits of what the apostolate says, since this would require a judgment by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where Father Gruner and the apostolate would have the right to defend their views. Instead, departing completely from canonical norms and natural justice, the February 16th letter vaguely alleges that the apostolate’s publications "have turned the faithful against legitimate Church authorities." The letter demands a "retraction" of unspecified "offences" which are alleged to reside in a few quotations from the apostolate’s publications, and declares Father Gruner guilty of these "offences" before he has even had any opportunity to defend, clarify or explain the quoted statements.

Before we discuss what little "evidence" is presented for this claim, we must say that it is difficult to know, in the first place, what is meant by the phrase "you have turned the faithful against the legitimate Church authorities." This phrase appears nowhere in the Code of Canon Law, and is not tied to any specific law of the Church. Aside from the evident non-existence of this alleged offense, there are other obvious questions, including: Which members of the faithful have been "turned against" which Church authorities? What is meant by "turned against"? Does this mean that some members of the faithful have been persuaded by publications of Father Gruner’s apostolate that certain prudential policies pursued by members of the Vatican apparatus are gravely wrong—as Pope Paul VI himself suspected concerning Cardinal Casaroli’s Ostpolitik, for example?28 It is now a canonical crime to persuade people that fallible human policies such as Ostpolitik are not good for the Church, or that it was wrong to advise the Pope to abandon the specific Consecration of Russia merely because it would offend the Russian Orthodox (as if the Mother of God were lacking in diplomacy)?

We have already pointed out that the members of the faithful, including priests, have the God-given natural right to express their concerns about matters affecting the Church in those areas where the Magisterium has not precluded freedom of discussion. This natural right is expressly recognized by the 1983 Code. (Cr. cann. 212, 215, 751, among others.) Your Eminence cannot by his mere ipse dixit extinguish that right in the case of Father Gruner. The very quotations presented in the February 16th letter demonstrate that what the apostolate published is either true or eminently arguable, and thus in the realm of free opinion and discussion. The Congregation has no authority to forbid or punish such discussion. Furthermore, even if there were some legitimate objection to the content of the apostolate’s publications, this would be a matter for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose jurisdiction cannot be circumvented by a letter from your Congregation reciting various accusations followed by a pronouncement of guilt.

As we note, the February 16th letter does not even attempt to discuss the merits of Father Gruner’s views on the matters in question. Indeed, it makes no claim that the publications quoted contain anything contrary to truth, faith or morals. Instead, the complaint seems limited to the tone of a few statements loosely attributed to the person of Father Gruner, even though in almost every case they were authored by others for publications which Your Eminence claims Father Gruner "controls."

With all due respect we pose these questions to Your Eminence: Does Father Gruner "control" the minds of the various authors whose views were published by the apostolate —a distinct civil corporation with its own board of directors? Has this curious "control" test been applied to any of the many priests involved in organizations which publish books, periodicals and journals expressing opinions contrary to faith and morals? These publications can be found in almost every diocese, and some can even be purchased at a famous bookstore in Rome owned by the Vatican itself. How many of these clerical publishers of error have been threatened with excommunication or reduction to the lay state on the grounds that they "control" the choice of words employed by others? We feel confident in our belief that the answer is: not one.

The February 16th letter speaks of "language in public that could not but arouse hatred toward that same authority." But which "authority" is "hated" because of which particular language of Father Gruner? No evidence of this "hatred" is provided. Instead, the letter quotes a few sentences (written by others) which do not incite hatred against anyone, but merely express legitimate disagreement with certain non-doctrinal notions or prudential decisions emanating from the Vatican bureaucracy. Is legitimate disagreement with an authority over some particular prudential matter (such as Ostpolitik) now to be equated with a hatred of that authority?

The February 16th letter rather contemptuously describes those who are persuaded of some point in the apostolate’s publications as "poorly informed persons or those who know only one side of the story." In what respect are they poorly informed? And what is the other side of the story? The letter does not say.

Although no canonical basis is given for this accusation of "turning the faithful against the legitimate authorities," this may be a reference to can. 1373, which was mentioned in passing in Your Eminence’s letter to Father Gruner of June 5, 2000. This canon provides that a cleric who "publicly incites his or her subjects to hatred or animosity against the Apostolic See . . . because of some act of ecclesiastical authority or ministry . . . or provokes his or her subjects to disobedience against them, is to be punished by interdict or some other just penalties."

First of all, this canon (not to mention natural law) requires that there be a canonical process with a right of defense—not simply a letter from someone suddenly announcing that Father Gruner is guilty and must "retract" his alleged "offences" in certain passages from magazines or a book. Moreover, this canon applies only to clerics who have subjects to incite in the first place—for example, a parish priest with a congregation or a bishop with a diocese. Father Gruner has no subjects. Further, one cannot violate this canon merely by expressing opinions which someone in the Congregation deems objectionable. The alleged offender, after an opportunity for defense, must be proven guilty of actually inciting hatred or disobedience against the Apostolic See. Not only has Father Gruner been given no opportunity to defend himself, Your Eminence has not even made a unilateral attempt to prove that Father Gruner has incited his non-existent "subjects" to actual hatred or disobedience against the Apostolic See. The only thing proven is that the apostolate’s publications and petitions have expressed criticism (sometimes rather blunt in tone) of the fallible actions of certain Vatican prelates, not "the Holy See." If public criticism of Vatican prelates were per se a violation of can. 1373, then the Congregation would be obliged to excommunicate much of the Catholic hierarchy—beginning with Hans Küng, who (as we have mentioned) has publicly condemned the Pope himself as a despot.

We compare this novel approach to Father Gruner with the seemingly endless indulgence the Vatican displays toward numberless clerical dissenters from the Faith who constantly abuse their natural right to freedom of expression. Is it not these true rebels, Your Eminence, who have "turned the faithful against the legitimate Church authorities"— and first and foremost Almighty God Himself? How many doctrinal dissenters among the priesthood today have been threatened by any Vatican congregation with excommunication or defrocking because they have turned the faithful against divine authority? How many priests have been threatened with such penalties for any publication of any kind, no matter how erroneous or offensive to the Faith? We feel confident in saying, once again, that the answer is none.

Now we will discuss the "evidence" adduced in support of Your Eminence’s new accusation.

1. The quotations from The Fatima Crusader magazine
     contain nothing contrary to faith, morals or Church law.

To prove that Father Gruner has "turned the faithful against the legitimate Church authorities" the February 16th letter provides a few short quotations from 23 years worth of articles in The Fatima Crusader, nearly all of them written by persons other than Father Gruner. None of the quotations is more recent than 1995! Surely, if these statements from more than five years ago had truly caused "hatred" of the "legitimate Church authorities," Father Gruner would have heard from those "authorities" before now.

The quotations in question are characterized in a manner which ranges from the tendentious to the outrightly false. Let us examine them in order:

    The Fatima Crusader, Winter 1989, p. 7 reports a formal criticism of the activity of the then Cardinal Secretary of State, Agostino Casaroli, in the exercise of his responsibilities . . . other formal activities of the Holy See were vehemently attacked and repudiated . . . diplomatic activity of the Holy See was directly judged as being ‘immoral’ . . .

The "formal criticism of the activity of Cardinal Casaroli" was nothing more than the legitimate opinion of Joseph Terelya, who spent 23 years in Soviet labor camps and prisons for committing the "crime" of remaining a Ukrainian Catholic instead of entering the Russian Orthodox Church controlled by the KGB. Mr. Terelya rightly objected to Cardinal Casaroli attending celebrations staged by the Kremlin to commemorate "1,000 years of Christianity in Russia" in 1988, when it was the Kremlin which persecuted Ukrainian Catholics by violently annexing the Ukraine, executing or imprisoning all their priests and bishops and forcing them to join the schismatic Orthodox Church. Mr. Terelya noted that Cardinal Casaroli was legitimating the Communist persecution of Catholics by going to the Kremlin to celebrate "the Millennium of Christianity," which is rightly celebrated in the Ukraine, not in the godless Kremlin, which persecuted the Ukraine. He further noted that Cardinal Casaroli’s presence in the Kremlin gave credence to the lie that the Ukraine belonged to Russia.

Your Eminence, how can it seriously be suggested that the publication of Mr. Terelya’s legitimate opinions—shared by millions of outraged Ukrainians—is a canonical offense justifying the excommunication or defrocking of Father Gruner? With all due respect, Your Eminence, by what right do you attempt to use the power of your office to punish Father Gruner for the legitimate views expressed by a dry martyr of communist persecution who is still banished from his own country and still suffers terribly from the physical effects of his ordeal?

As for "activities of the Holy See" being "vehemently attacked," "repudiated" and declared "immoral," the article in question, by Father Paul Leonard Kramer, B.Ph., S.T.B., M.Div, merely expresses the view that Cardinal Casaroli’s Ostpolitik, as seen in the Vatican-Moscow Agreement, should be repudiated by the Vatican because (as Pius XI and Pius XII taught) it is immoral to collaborate and dialogue with communists and to remain silent in the face of the great evils they perpetrate against the Church and the whole world. Nowhere does the article’s author himself "repudiate" or "vehemently attack" anyone.

Now, as we have mentioned, even Pope Paul VI had severe doubts about the morality of Casaroli’s Ostpolitik and worried that he was betraying the Gospel by pursuing it. Cardinal Casaroli himself admitted this in a public interview.29 What is more, criticism of Vatican diplomacy, especially Ostpolitik, is nothing new and is hardly unique to Father Gruner’s apostolate. Consider, for example, Moscow and the Vatican, by the Jesuit Alexis Ulysses Floridi, S.J. On page 35 of this book appears the following legitimate opinion regarding contemporary Vatican diplomacy, including Ostpolitik:

    In light of the Second Vatican Council more and more Catholics consider contemporary Vatican diplomacy inconsistent with the teaching of the Council Fathers and harmful to the life of the Church. Increasingly, Vatican diplomats are seen as symbols of collusion with the ‘mighty of this world’ and of insensitivity to the humble and oppressed . . . Father Raymond Leopold Brukberger, a French Dominican priest, accused the Pope [Paul VI] of keeping silent over the persecution of Christians on the other side of the Iron Curtain: ‘Believing more in diplomacy than in charity,’ wrote the Dominican, ‘the Pope renders useless the efforts of the faithful.’

Your Eminence, surely even you would agree that the opinion published by Father Floridi—which includes a very harsh direct criticism of Paul VI—is even stronger in its implications than the opinion of Father Kramer you profess to find so offensive. Yet we did not see the Vatican threatening Father Floridi with excommunication or defrocking. Why? Clearly it is because Father Gruner’s apostolate has been singularly effective in giving wide exposure to precisely the same legitimate views expressed by Father Floridi. While the Secretariat of State no doubt felt it could ignore Father Floridi’s rather obscure book, it obviously sees the need to repress the equally legitimate views of Father Kramer and other apostolate writers by means of canonical trickery and trumped-accusations against Father Gruner—including this newly concocted accusation of "turning the faithful against the legitimate authorities of the Church."

When one considers the Vatican’s laxity toward the purveyors of damnable errors against the Faith, one can only be outraged by this attempt to turn a legitimate opinion of Father Kramer concerning Vatican diplomatic policies into a canonical offense by Father Gruner. This "procedure" is completely unheard-of in the Church.

    The Fatima Crusader, Sept.-Nov. 1989, on the cover: "Some Vatican Officials illegally attempt to silence and suppress Our Lady of Fatima and Father Gruner," whilst on page 4, "public support" against the proposed action of the Holy See, is formally sought.

    Again in 1989 The Fatima Crusader promoted a campaign to collect signatures, asking the faithful: "please intervene now to stop Cardinal Innocenti (then exercising by Pontifical appointment, the office of Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy) from carrying out his threatened and unjust sanctions against Father Gruner".

In the first article Father Paul Kramer and Coralie Graham (the editor of The Fatima Crusader) object to the aforementioned intervention of Cardinal Innocenti in July of 1989, which (as we have noted) was abandoned after Father Gruner appealed against it to the Holy Father.

In the second article the faithful are provided with a brief petition to send to the Holy Father, asking for his intervention against the threatened actions of Cardinal Innocenti. Here we are confronted with what can only be seen as a deliberate falsification of the quoted text. Your draftsman, by using a deceptively cropped quotation, makes it seem that The Fatima Crusader was asking the faithful themselves to stop Cardinal Innocenti’s intervention: "The Fatima Crusader promoted a campaign to collect signatures, asking the faithful: ‘please intervene now to stop Cardinal Innocenti . . . from carrying out his threatened and unjust sanctions, etc.’"

Your draftsman knew very well that the only thing the faithful were asked to do by The Fatima Crusader was to sign a petition which contains a request that the Holy Father "‘please intervene now, etc.’" The faithful were never asked to intervene themselves. This was no innocent mistake. Your draftsman had to have known that he was misleadingly extracting a text from the petition to the Pope and presenting it as if it were a call to action by the laity. Thus, your draftsman fraudulently concocted "evidence" that Father Gruner was stirring up "rebellion" among the faithful, when they were doing nothing more than exercising their God-given right to petition the Supreme Pontiff for redress of grievances in the Church—a right Vatican I solemnly and infallibly defined as Catholic doctrine.

By what right does a Vatican congregation threaten to punish a priest because some of his supporters object to a "proposed" action against him and petition the Holy Father to prevent it because it would be unjust and illegal? By no right at all.

Here we must say it is obvious that Your Eminence has never read the articles you cite from The Fatima Crusader. You have issued threats of excommunication and defrocking based on the false characterization of those articles by someone on your staff. If Your Eminence had read the articles you would have been aware of your draftsman’s trickery here and elsewhere. Or, if you have read them, then it pains us to say you are objectively as guilty of dishonesty as he. In either case, we are constrained to insist that you are obliged before God and the Church to retract this and all the other falsehoods in your February 16th letter, along with your false allegation of criminal forgery.

    The Fatima Crusader, Winter 1989, p. 19: "You say I am causing scandal, because I repeat this Fatima Message, and apparently thereby am lessening the prestige due to the Pope and due to the Vatican. I reply by pointing out that the Pope and the Vatican will have much less prestige when Communist Russia enslaves the whole world and executes the Pope and enthrones an anti-Pope in the Vatican. As the prophecy of Our Lady of La Salette, given in 1846 talk [tells] us that Rome will be the headquarters for the anti-Christ".

We are puzzled, Your Eminence. Where is the canonical offense in Father Gruner making a prediction which turned out to coincide rather remarkably with the vision of the Third Secret published eleven years later? What law of the Church did he violate when he expressed the view that for the protection of the Holy Father and the hierarchy the Message of Fatima must be heeded? And where is the wrong in simply quoting from the authentic apparition of Our Lady of LaSalette, who warned: "Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the anti-Christ"?

    The Fatima Crusader, Winter 1990-1991, published a photograph of Sister Lucia on its cover with the headline "Silenced", whilst the inside pages accuse "the local ecclesiastical authorities of Leiria" of coercion, also some other "unscrupulous elements in the hierarchy of the Church" of orchestrating a campaign of falsification of the Message of Fatima, concluding: "Sister Lucia has the right to speak out, with or without the permission of her superiors or the bishop or even the Pope" (p. 9).

This paraphrase omits key words and deprives the material of its proper context. The actual quotation, from an article by Father Kramer, is as follows: "unscrupulous elements in the hierarchy of the Church are orchestrating a campaign to misrepresent and distort her [Sister Lucia’s] own words in such a manner that falsifies the message of Our Lady of Fatima." Based on this opinion of Father Kramer canonical penalties are to be imposed against Father Gruner? On what possible grounds? Are all members of the hierarchy now exempt from public criticism by anyone who writes for Father Gruner’s apostolate?

There is a very misleading omission from the quotation, which begins "Sister Lucia has the right to speak out, with or without the permission of her superiors or the bishop or even the Pope . . ." The rest of the sentence, which Your Eminence’s draftsman decided to leave out, is as follows: "because it is her right according to the Natural Law that she be able to defend her reputation in public since those who distort and falsify the message of Fatima, have done so in a public manner that misrepresents her and damages her reputation." Your Eminence, where is the canonical offense in the opinion that one’s vow of obedience does not take precedence over the natural right (and in this case the duty) to defend one’s own reputation?

    On page 13 one is informed that only Cardinal Ratzinger can give authorization for a meeting with Sister Lucia.

The article in question states a public fact! The author, Mr. David Boyce, quotes Father Kondor, the official postulator for the causes of Jacinta and Francisco, as well as the chaplain to the Coimbra Carmel, Msgr. A. Duarte de Almeida. Mr. Boyce asked Father Kondor: "To whom must one ask permission to speak to Sister Lucy?" Father Kondor answered: "One must ask only Cardinal Ratzinger, for neither the bishop of Fatima nor the bishop of Coimbra can grant it." Mr. Boyce reports that Msgr. de Almeida gave the same answer to three witnesses on February 19, 1990: "in order to meet Sister Lucy, it is necessary to obtain Cardinal Ratzinger’s permission."

So, Your Eminence, you actually threaten Father Gruner with the ultimate canonical sanctions because a layman published a factual account of what two unimpeachable sources have said about the severely restricted access to Sister Lucia!

    The Fatima Crusader, Winter 1995, with regard to the Roman Curia in the exercise of its service to the Petrine ministry, used the following expressions: "a few bureaucrats in the Secretariat of State of the Vatican"; "the interference of the Vatican bureaucrats ..."; "... a clique of power-mad bureaucrats in the Vatican, completely unchallenged and unchecked, dictate to bishops what they can and cannot do with poised [poison] pen letters, false accusations, innuendo and libel" (p.24); "lies and hostile acts are nothing new, alas, in the life of the Church. Her history is lettered [littered] with the spiteful ravings of bureaucrats motivated by jealousy, power madness, or imagined threats to theirs authority [their ‘authority’]"; "... the less than savory practices of intimidation and coercion that taints the office of the Secretary of State of the Vatican" (p. 25).

Whoever drafted the February 16th letter somehow fails to mention that this article is a report summarizing and commenting upon the views of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo—a high-ranking Vatican employee at the time! Archbishop Milingo was protesting efforts by the Vatican Secretariat of State to prevent him and other bishops from attending one of the apostolate’s Fatima conferences. These efforts included the Secretariat of State’s deployment of nuncios to prevent the issuance of entry visas to bishops by the Mexican government. To refer to this article without mentioning that it discusses the views of one of the Vatican’s own employees is to engage in an outright deception.

At any rate, on what grounds can Father Gruner be punished for his discussion and comment upon opinions of Archbishop Milingo concerning the very bureaucracy which employed him? Did the Archbishop not have every right to protest the Secretariat of State’s illicit interference in his God-given right to travel and to associate with his brother bishops? Further, since Archbishop Milingo has not been threatened with any penalties for expressing his views, on what grounds can Father Gruner be punished merely for discussing them?

Here we note that Father Peter Hebblethwaite, a prominent Catholic author who has written a definitive biography of Paul VI (from a rather liberal perspective), once criticized Archbishop Giovanni Benelli, the Vatican’s deputy Secretary of State, as "repressive, secretive, mysterious . . . at odds with the best thinking of the Church."30 No less than Cardinal Leo J. Suenens, who drafted the conciliar document Gaudium et spes, publicly denounced the Secretariat’s nuncios as "Vatican spies."31 It seems, then, that Your Eminence’s newly-minted offense of "turning the faithful against the legitimate authorities" does not apply to anyone in the Church, high or low, except Father Nicholas Gruner. Everyone else retains the freedom to make legitimate criticisms of the Vatican bureaucracy.

    Even the person and activities of the Supreme Pontiff himself, in spite of your reiterated formal words of submission and esteem, were treated to acerbic criticism and subjective interpretation: "The Pope is dependent on his Bishops. The bishops are dependent on the bureaucrats. The Pope is then at the mercy of those same bureaucrats who tried to sabotage the Conference." (The Fatima Crusader, Winter 1995, p. 24).

Here again we are dealing with an article about the views of Archbishop Milingo, a Vatican employee. Further, the proposed interpretation of the quotation bears no relation to the words quoted: there is no criticism of the Pope whatsoever, let alone "acerbic" criticism. On the contrary, Archbishop Milingo portrays the Pope as the victim of his own bureaucracy. Millions of Catholics believe this, and the current disastrous condition of the Church attests that they are right. Besides, the law of the Church does not punish criticism, even if it were of the Pope, merely because it is "acerbic." This is yet another unheard-of "offense" charged to Father Gruner.

Further, the February 16th letter here (and elsewhere) asserts an equivalence between members of the Vatican bureaucracy and the person of the Pope, as if criticism of the former were criticism of the latter. But the law of the Church does not envision any such equivalence. On the contrary, Church law authorizes canonical lawsuits against any member of the Vatican apparatus who abuses his power, and these suits are reserved to the judgment of the Supreme Pontiff. (Cfr., cann, 1401, 1405.) Father Gruner has filed just such a proceeding against Your Eminence, for reasons which should be obvious from this entire presentation. Will Your Eminence now accuse Father Gruner of filing a canonical lawsuit against "the Supreme Pontiff" merely because it has been filed against yourself?

    [C]riticism and interpretation of the gestures and words of the Holy Father himself had already previously appeared: cf. The Fatima Crusader, February-April 1989, pp. 26-27: "... the words he [the Pope] added at this point indicate clearly the Pope knew then that the consecration of the world done that day did not fulfill the requests of Our Lady of Fatima ... This clearly shows he knows Our Lady is awaiting the Pope and bishops to consecrate certain people to Her".

The article in question, by Jane McAuley and Coralie Graham, makes no "criticism" of what the Pope said. Nor are any "gestures" of the Pope criticized. Rather, the article merely reports that both during and after the 1984 consecration ceremony the Pope spontaneously added to the prepared text a phrase clearly indicating that he himself considered that the specific consecration of Russia had not been accomplished. Before 200,000 people in Saint Peter’s Square, after he had pronounced the words of the consecration formula, the Pope declared to the Virgin Mary: "Enlighten especially the people whose consecration and entrusting you are awaiting from us."32 Three hours later, before 10,000 witnesses inside Saint Peter’s Basilica, His Holiness referred again to "those peoples for whom you yourself are awaiting our act of consecration and entrusting."33

Your Eminence, why would the Pope say that the Virgin was still awaiting the consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart if the consecration had just been done? This is no criticism of the Pope, but a legitimate discussion of what he seems to have meant to say. Indeed, we now know from Inside the Vatican magazine that a cardinal described as "one of the Pope’s closest advisors" specifically counseled His Holiness not to make mention of Russia in the consecration ceremony because this would offend the Russian Orthodox.34 Was the Pope, then, trying to signal to the world that the Consecration had been deferred based on this advice to him? What else could his spontaneous comments possibly mean?

And now, twelve years later, an article from The Fatima Crusader by two lay people is cited by Your Eminence and a "retraction" demanded from Father Gruner, because the Pope’s own words were reported and an obvious inference drawn from those words. Your Eminence, what precedent is there in the entire history of the Church for this procedure?

    In the Spring Volume of 1991, page 4, the same magazine published your following comment, again about the Holy Father: "Has the Pope done all he can to fulfill this most solemn duty of his? - No. He has not. But he has been convinced by his advisors (some of whom, I think, do not believe in Our Lady of Fatima) the [that] he has done all he can. The Pope has, in January 1991, publicly stated he did all he could to stop the war in the Gulf, but if he had done the Consecration of Russia, the Gulf war would never have taken place. He thinks that he can do no more because he is opposed by some bishops and he does not seem to know how to overcome their opposition."

Here again the obvious sense of the words is ignored. The article in question merely reports Father Gruner’s opinion that the pope’s advisors have convinced him that the specific consecration of Russia is not possible. As we have just noted, the truth of this opinion has been confirmed by Inside the Vatican, which reported the high-ranking cardinal’s advice that the Pope make no mention of Russia. The same cardinal-advisor is also quoted as saying: "Let us beware of becoming too literal-minded." Evidently, this cardinal considers himself more prudent than the Mother of God!

Since when can a Vatican congregation threaten a priest with ultimate canonical sanctions for expressing the true opinion that the Pope was persuaded by his advisors not to mention Russia in any consecration to the Immaculate Heart? On what grounds can Father Gruner be punished for debating the wisdom of a cardinal’s manifestly debatable advice?

    The Fatima Crusader accuses the Supreme Pontiff of keeping quiet, whilst the "persecution" against you continued. cf. Sept.-Nov. 1989, p. 16-17.

Here we are confronted with a pure invention. The article in question concerns the persecution of many priests, not simply Father Gruner, because they are "faithful to the laws protecting the Blessed Sacrament." The article also discusses a petition to the Holy Father to protect priests who cannot in conscience administer communion in the hand because it leads to so many sacrileges. The article says absolutely nothing about "the Supreme Pontiff keeping quiet." On the contrary, it observes that the petition was diverted from the Pope by the Vatican Secretariat of State and turned over to your Congregation—which did absolutely nothing.

It is outrageous to claim that this article accuses the Pope of "keeping quiet" about the petition when the article clearly states that the Pope never received the petition in the first place. But this is only typical of the "evidence" adduced in support of the charge of "turning the faithful against the legitimate Church authorities."

    The criticism of the reigning Pontiff continued and assumed greater proportions, when following the revelation by him of the Third Secret of Fatima, the Fatima Crusader, with your approval, fomented suspicion regarding the truth of what was announced and published (cfr. The Fatima Crusader, Summer 2000).

The article in question had nothing to do with the Pope, but rather with the Vatican press conference on June 26, 2000 at which Cardinal Ratzinger and Monsignor Bertone published the text of a vision contained in the Third Secret along with their commentary. Cardinal Ratzinger explicitly stated that the faithful are not bound to accept the commentary, which is described as only an "attempt" to interpret the Third Secret. The Pope did not write or sign this commentary, nor did the Pope play any role in the June 26th news conference. The equation of two Vatican prelates with the person of the Pope expresses once again the untenable view that prelates in Vatican congregations are all "vicariate" Popes.

The same issue of The Fatima Crusader also contains an article (See Appendix A) which presents a number of compelling questions (some of them also raised by the secular press) about whether there is an additional text of the Third Secret containing "the words of Our Lady which She confided to the three children as a Secret"—the very phrase the Vatican itself used in1960 when it announced the suppression of the Secret. Surely Your Eminence is aware that the people of Portugal, and Catholics around the world, have expressed dismay and even outrage about the text released on June 26, whose contents are hardly something the Vatican would have kept hidden for more than 40 years. If (as we are supposed to believe) the Secret refers only to the 1981 assassination attempt against the Pope, why was it kept hidden for another 19 years after that? If (as Cardinal Ratzinger now tells us) the Secret reveals nothing apocalyptic, nor any future event, nor anything we did not already know from Sacred Scripture, then why was it kept under lock and key for forty years?

There are no canonical grounds to punish a priest for airing legitimate questions which are being posed both privately and publicly by lay people, priests, monsignors and even bishops around the world. In airing these questions Father Gruner’s apostolate has not attributed any deliberate deception to the person of the Pope himself—who for all we know may now be at the mercy of the actions of others, given his seriously declining condition in recent years. In fact, it is a matter of public record in the Portuguese press that the Vatican Secretariat of State tried to prevent the Pope from going to Fatima to beatify Jacinta and Francisco on May 13, when His Holiness revealed his decision to publish the Secret. The Pope was forced to announce his visit through the Bishop of Fatima after the Secretariat of State falsely advised that the beatifications would be done in Rome as part of a ceremony involving numerous other beati!35

Is it now forbidden for an organization of Catholics to publish what millions of the faithful are already thinking and saying to each other? Only for Father Gruner’s apostolate, it seems.

Truly, Your Eminence, this entire inquisition into The Fatima Crusader magazine is an embarrassment to you and your Congregation. That your draftsman had to resort to dredging up this sort of "evidence" will only further demonstrate to the faithful that there are no legitimate grounds for the punishment of Father Gruner.

We ask you to consider dispassionately this spectacle of staff members in your Congregation poring over back issues of The Fatima Crusader for "evidence," while the entire world is being flooded with heterodox literature undermining every doctrine and dogma of the Catholic Faith, including the binding doctrinal pronouncements of John Paul II himself on such matters as contraception, abortion and women’s ordination. Can you not see how ridiculous this whole procedure must appear to those who have any knowledge of the condition of the Church today?

2. The apostolate’s "campaigns" and "petitions" are an
     exercise of the God-given rights of the faithful

The February 16th letter also complains of "continuous public campaigns against persons and institutions of the Holy See," but fails to identify either the "campaigns" or the "institutions." The letter also complains that Father Gruner "made an attempt to exert pressure on the Holy Father" by publishing what you call a "circular letter to the bishops of the world."

Are we to understand that Father Gruner is guilty of "turning the faithful against the legitimate authorities of the Church" because his apostolate has circulated petitions in his defense? Since when is it a canonical offense for Father Gruner and his supporters to exercise their God-given right to petition the Supreme Pontiff for redress of grievances in the Church? By what authority can Father Gruner be punished for this legitimate activity on his behalf? What law of the Church does it violate?

Since the Vatican Secretariat of State is clearly preventing the Pope from reading the private petitions which Father Gruner and his supporters have sent His Holiness over the past seven years, public petitions are the only alternative. For example, the aforesaid Open Letter to the Pope was signed by the Archbishop of Hyderabad, 9 other Archbishops, 17 bishops, and 1900 priests and religious (not to mention 16,000 members of the laity), who were all exercising their God-given right to petition the Supreme Pontiff. How many of these signatories have been threatened with any canonical penalty because they have petitioned the Pope on behalf of Father Gruner? Obviously, the answer is none.

Your Eminence may recall that when the suspect theologian Karl Rahner was placed under censorship by the Holy Office just before Vatican II, Father Rahner "made an attempt to exert pressure" on Bl. John XXIII by having prominent Cardinals and even the German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, intercede with the Pope. In response to this "pressure" Pope John lifted the censorship and made Rahner a peritus at the Council—a decision many (including the eminent Msgr. Rudolf Bandas) believe was a disastrous mistake.

On what grounds is an orthodox priest like Father Gruner threatened with punishment for exercising the same right exercised by Father Rahner, whose heterodox theology has arguably caused grave damage to the Church? Once again we are mystified by this application of a singular standard of conduct to Father Gruner alone.

3. The opinions of Frere Francois contain
     no grounds for canonical sanctions against Father Gruner.

Concerning Fatima:Tragedy and Triumph by Frere Francois, which Father Gruner’s apostolate published in English seven years ago, the February 16th letter suddenly announces that approximately two pages in this 384 page book (which is only one volume of a four-volume work comprising nearly 1000 pages) contain objectionable material, described as "serious accusations against the venerated recent popes, including the present pope . . ."

Now, there is no question that Frere Francois believes the Holy Father has been deceived by the devil in his pursuit of world peace and brotherhood through the novelties of ecumenism, "interreligious dialogue" and contemporary Vatican diplomacy. These are indeed very strong words. But they are no stronger than the words of the Dominican priest quoted in Father Floridi’s book, who declared that Pope Paul VI cared more about Vatican diplomacy than charity toward the Catholic victims of communist repression.

While Your Eminence may personally find it displeasing, it is nevertheless within the due liberty of the faithful to express the view that this Pope—and indeed a number of popes throughout history—have been deceived by evil under the appearance of good. In making public apologies for the alleged failings of Church members, Pope John Paul II seems to believe precisely this about some of his own sainted predecessors. There is not a member of the human race besides Christ and the Virgin Mary who has not at one time or another been deceived by the devil in this way. The Pope is infallible in solemnly defining Catholic doctrine, but he is no more infallible than any other human being in his other acts and omissions. Did not Our Lord Himself say to the first Pope "Get behind me, Satan," when Peter thought he was giving his Master prudent advice? The history of the papacy is marked by many imprudent papal judgments which brought harm to the Church, and history records the protests of the many loyal Catholics, including canonized saints, who objected to a papal act or omission. The current Pope even feels obliged to apologize to the world for the alleged mistakes of his predecessors! What about the possibility of his own mistakes today?

Is it not at least fairly debatable that the Pope’s novel initiatives, which Frere Francois criticizes, have produced no good fruits, and that the condition of the world has only deteriorated more quickly as the vain search for a pan-religious brotherhood goes on? Consider just one example, Your Eminence: Last November the Pope gave away a Catholic Church on the Palatine Hill to the Greek Orthodox as an ecumenical gesture. Only a few weeks ago the head of the Greek Orthodox priests’ association in Athens reciprocated by calling the Pope "a two-headed monster" and a "wolf in sheepskin."36 Is it not obvious that the more the Pope abases himself with these unprecedented gestures, the less respect there is for his office as Vicar of Christ? Can it honestly be said that the Orthodox, the Protestants and the Jews are any closer to accepting the claims of the one true Church of Christ for all of the Pope’s initiatives over the past 23 years? Can it honestly be said that the world at large is closer to divine truth today than it was 23 years ago? On the contrary, the more the Church "dialogues" with the world instead of teaching it with the authority of God, the faster the world recedes from the truth.

As Pius XI taught in Quas Primas, there can be no peace worthy of the name without the Social Kingship of Christ over every man and every nation. This is the very thing Our Lady of Fatima came to proclaim when She said: "You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart . . . In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph." By what right, Your Eminence, can any Vatican congregation punish Father Gruner because his apostolate publishes a work which says (however bluntly) that the Pope has been deceived in this regard? If this is so, then does not charity require that someone say it? And even if Frere Francois were wrong in his opinion, even if his language has the bluntness of a French polemic translated into English, we are speaking, after all, about a few lines from a book Father Gruner endorsed for its general content on the Fatima message, not for those particular passages.

Your Eminence, given the condition of the Church today we must say that we are amazed: By what right does your Congregation leaf through a seven-year-old book, select a few passages, and then demand a "retraction" under threat of excommunication or defrocking—a retraction not from the author (who is threatened with no penalty whatsoever), but from a director of a private apostolate which published his work in English after it had already been published by the author’s own organization in French!

Is there no end to the unprecedented rules and procedures to be applied only to Father Gruner?

4. Father Gruner cannot be punished for
     defending his "viewpoints."

Under this heading we note the truly astonishing statement at the close of the February 16th letter that Father Gruner is to be punished because "you [Father Gruner] continued to defend, in every way possible, your viewpoints mentioned above, in written publications and in various languages, by audiovisual means and by presenting a unilateral vision of the problem in your magazine The Fatima Crusader." Your Eminence, since when in the Church can a morally and doctrinally sound priest be threatened with excommunication or defrocking because he defends viewpoints and presents a vision of the problem which Your Eminence deems "unilateral"? Where is the authority and jurisdiction for such a proceeding?

At the same time you hound Father Gruner with this new accusation, Father Hans Khng freely publishes his latest heresy-filled book, The Catholic Church: A Short History. In this book Khng persists in his denial that Christ founded an institutional Church, denies the Scriptural basis for the papal primacy, belittles the teaching of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas (telling us that Aquinas "was no Luther"!), and dares to say that Blessed Pius IX showed "the symptoms of a psychopath." When, Your Eminence, can we expect you to threaten Father Khng with excommunication or defrocking for his continuing public and notorious undermining of the Faith? Where is the Congregation’s "vigilance" when it comes to the real enemies of the Church like Küng?

In conclusion, we are amazed that a Vatican congregation could seriously propose to expel a faithful Catholic priest from the Mystical Body or reduce him to the lay state based on some magazine articles and a book written by others many years ago, containing nothing contrary to Catholic doctrine or good morals. The charge of "turning the faithful against the legitimate authorities of the Church," like the charge of "irregular condition," is an invention designed only for Father Gruner. It is otherwise unheard-of in the Church.

Viewing this new accusation in the context of the current ecclesial crisis, we can only conclude that avoiding embarrassment to certain members of the Vatican apparatus from criticism of their prudential decisions is considered a more pressing concern than punishing heresy or sexual misconduct in the priesthood. Your Eminence, what else could explain why a faithful priest like Father Gruner is facing a threat of excommunication or defrocking, while heretics, child molesters and even rapists are allowed to remain priests in good standing?

This astounding state of affairs prompts the next, consideration in our reply.