452 Kraft Road
Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada
May 16, 2001
Dario Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy,
Palazzo delle Congregazioni
Piazza Pio XII, 3
Vatican City,00193 ROME
I write in reply to Your Eminences letter of February 16, 2001, which threatens me with "definitive provisions in the matter which would be painful for all concerned" unless I meet Your Eminences various demands. I will not address those demands here, since I do not recognize your jurisdiction in this matter, for the reasons I give below.
Your threat of "definitive provisions" follows upon the threat in your letter of June 5, 2000 that I will be "excommunicated" if I do not abandon a perfectly legitimate civil proceeding against Msgr. McCormack which has been pending for the past 11 years in the Toronto tribunal. You demanded withdrawal of the suit only after Msgr. McCormacks effort to have it dismissed was rejected by the tribunal, which ruled that I have a valid claim for damage to my reputation in civil society because McCormack circulated (in newspapers read by millions) a libelous statement falsely implying that I am a clerical impostor and a thief.
The suit is perfectly permissible under the 1983 Code of Canon Law. In fact, in refusing my request to meet with you to discuss a possible resolution of the suit, Your Eminence replied that."and maintained that the distinction between the civil and the ecclesiastical fora be well understood essential. . . . It is could not come under the jurisdiction of this Congregation "as the aforementioned action pertains to the civil forum, the resolution of such Therefore, you have employed an extortionate threat of "excommunication" in an unlawful attempt to influence a civil matter over which you admit you have no jurisdiction.
In addition to these two threats of ultimate canonical sanctions, there is also your false public accusation that I am guilty of employing "forged documents" of the Vatican Secretariat of State "to imply endorsement" of my apostolate. You caused this calumny to be circulated to the bishops of the Philippines in a communique dated July 6, 2000, wherein you also published your threat to have me "excommunicated."
Your Eminence knows very well that no such "forged documents" ever existed and that your accusation is demonstrably false and completely ridiculous. Yet Your Eminence will not retract this outrageous falsehood, despite my repeated requests for a retraction.
Your letter of February 16th refers to "many patient and caring attempts," "pastoral charity," and "understanding and prudence" in your and your predecessors dealings with me. Of course, this claim is preposterous. You and your predecessors have employed coercion, secret correspondence to benevolent bishops, browbeating, threats, extortion and outright lies in an attempt to destroy my apostolate and interfere in my rightful incardination by bishops who favor my work.
You have sought to blacken my name and ruin my good standing in the Church, resorting even to false accusations of criminal misconduct. The disparity between the way you have treated me and the tolerance and respect for due process you observe in dealing with sexual predators and heretics among the priesthood is simply shameful.
Your letter of February 16th claims that you are acting "in the name of the Holy Father and by his explicit instructions." Given your conduct in this matter, including your publication of the false accusation that I am guilty of criminal forgery of Vatican documents, I do not accept your representation as credible. I hereby request that you provide documentary evidence of a specific mandate from the Supreme Pontiff to engage in your current activities against me.
Without a specific papal mandate, you do not have any jurisdiction over me in this matter. The function of the Congregation for the Clergy was exhausted when my canonical recourses from the order to return to Avellino proceeded to the Apostolic Signatura. Moreover, the Signatura has yet to address the Archbishop of Hyderabads decree of March 10, 1999, affirming my valid incardination in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad. The Bishop of Avellino has likewise failed to address this decree. Nor has the Signatura ever addressed the obvious illegality of an order that I "return" to the Diocese of Avellino for the rest of my life, when any attempt by me to enter Italy as a permanent resident would violate Italian immigration law, which the Church is bound to follow. (Cf. Canon 22) For the past 23 years the Bishop of Avellino has failed and refused to comply with the legal requirements for my permanent residence in Italy, including written guarantees of a living wage, medical care and an old age pension. The Bishop has never provided me with one penny of support since 1978 because he obviously has no need for my services nor any desire of his own that I "return" to Avellino after nearly a quarter of a century.
The matter having left the Congregations jurisdiction long ago, you have no right to initiate new proceedings, make new accusations or threaten new penalties against me without any due process before the competent local ordinary and without any demonstrable specific mandate from the Pope. Therefore, I do not intend to address the particular contents of your letter of February 16th, whose principal allegations have already been refuted in exhaustive detail in my various submissions over the past seven years of canonical proceedings, with which you apparently have little or no familiarity.
Nor will I address the three entirely new accusations you attempt to launch against me for the first time in these proceedings, evidently in a last-minute effort to give the appearance of substance to the non-existent "case" against me. These allegations are: (1) that I have engaged in "inappropriate use of documents from Church authorities," (2) that I have made "recourse to civil forums against ecclesiastics in the exercise of their specific ministry," and (3) that I have "turned the faithful against the legitimate Church authorities." Aside from the fact that these new allegations are further inventions, completely unsupported by any reference to the law of the Church, the Congregation for the Clergy has no right to initiate a penal process which has not been commenced by the competent local bishop, with a full opportunity for defense. Yet you declare me guilty of these newly concocted allegations in the same letter which announces them for the first time!
While I will not be addressing the particulars of your February 16th letter, a lengthy reply is being sent to you. The reply has been prepared under the auspices of The Committee for the Defense of the Priesthood, an organization formed to defend orthodox priests who are being persecuted under the absurd disparity of justice which is so evident in my case.
To prepare the reply the Committee retained a group of consultors from various disciplines, who are intimately familiar with the acts and proceedings in my canonical recourses. The reply has been prepared solely for the purpose of setting the record straight, given that your February 16th letter is replete with factual errors and misrepresentations by whoever drafted the letter for you. The Holy Father has been provided with a copy of this reply in connection with my request that you be removed from any further participation in this controversy due to your obvious bias and hostility, not to mention your lack of jurisdiction.
In that connection, please consider this letter as a formal request that you recuse yourself from this matter. I make this request under Cann. 1447, 1448 §1 and 1449 on grounds of your bias and marked hostility. This request is also based on the disqualification envisioned in Canon 1447, which prohibits a judge from hearing the same matter again after he has already entered an adverse judgement against a party. It is impossible for you to give even the appearance of justice in this matter. You have already falsely accused me of the crime of forgery and threatened me with "excommunication" if I do not abandon a perfectly legitimate civil claim. Further, you cannot possibly continue to judge this matter at the same time I am requesting that the Holy Father penalize your abuses of power as detailed in the canonical complaint against you dated December 20, 2000, sent to His Holiness December 21, 2000 and received at the Papal household on January 4, 2001. [I enclose herewith a copy of that complaint for your study in case it has not been forwarded to you already.]
Finally, while not admitting your jurisdiction in this matter, I remain willing to meet with you if an acceptably impartial mediator is appointed to conduct the meeting. I have requested as much from the Supreme Pontiff. You should not be opposed to this procedure, given your claim that "patient and caring attempts," "pastoral charity," and "understanding and prudence" are what characterize your approach to me.
Meanwhile (and unless I receive satisfactory documentary proof of a specific papal mandate for your current activities), I shall regard any further threats, penalties or proceedings you may issue as gratuitous, without jurisdiction and consequently void.
Respectfully yours in Christ,
Father Nicholas Gruner
Enclosed with this letter:
- The 74 page Response to the Cardinals February 16, 2001 letter, with 6 pages of footnotes.
- A copy of the December 20, 2000, 26-page Canonical Complaint sent to His Holiness (together with proof of delivery of January 4, 2001).
- 9 Appendices to the December 20, 2000 Canonical Complaint totaling 96 pages.