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IN DEFENSE OF FATHER GRUNER: A SUMMARY

A defense committee has just completed a comprehensive and voluminous apologia for Father Gruner, answering in one place the assorted allegations against him by certain members of the Vatican apparatus, and placing the Father Gruner controversy in its proper perspective.

That perspective is the current unprecedented crisis of faith and discipline in the Church and the growing moral and spiritual crisis in the world at large. As early as 1903, Pope Saint Pius X (in his inaugural encyclical E Supremi) warned that the world was very possibly witnessing the beginning of the era of the anti-Christ prophesied in Sacred Scripture. Only fourteen years later, Our Lady appeared at Fatima to warn of the coming errors of Russia and the entire panorama of ecclesial and social crisis which we see today.

The following document is a summary of the full-length apologia, which in due course will be submitted to the Holy Father in response to Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos’ recent threat to "excommunicate" Father Gruner—a threat as incredible as it is unfounded.

Because it is a summary, this document necessarily avoids setting forth detailed arguments or citations to documentary evidence in support of its statements. These elements are provided in the full-length apologia, a 77-page document with numerous footnotes, which is available upon request to any reader who requires a fuller presentation.

Early Years of the Apostolate

Father Nicholas Gruner, S.T.L., S.T.D. (Cand.), a Canadian citizen, was ordained a Catholic priest in 1976 at Frigento, Italy, in the Diocese of Avellino. He was ordained in Avellino with the expectation of joining the English-speaking Franciscan community of Frigento to be organized around a traditional Catholic rule of life and sound orthodoxy. When the community did not materialize along the lines envisioned, the Bishop of Avellino was only too happy to release Father Gruner from his diocese since Father Gruner could not speak the local dialect and could never have a canonical mission in Avellino. (Father Gruner was not even allowed to deliver a sermon unless it was written out in advance and checked for linguistic errors.)

On June 5, 1978 the Bishop gave Father Gruner written permission (in the form of a decree) to live outside the Diocese of Avellino until such time as he could find another bishop to incardinate him. On the basis of this permission Father Gruner resumed his residence in Canada, where he became involved in a small Marian apostolate known as the National Committee for the National Pilgrim Virgin of Canada. (The apostolate was so named because it had custody of a statue of the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima blessed by Pope Paul VI.)

On June 15, 1978, Father Gruner was elected to the apostolate’s Board of Directors, after an Eastern Rite bishop who was the apostolate’s spiritual advisor strongly recommended that a priest be added to the Board. Father Gruner became President of the apostolate in 1981. Under Father Gruner’s stewardship the apostolate has become the world’s largest organization engaged in promoting the authentic Message of Fatima and Marian devotion in general. The apostolate’s publications and radio and television broadcasts reach millions of Catholics around the world.

Uncompromising Orthodoxy Provokes Opposition

Because of his staunch defense of Catholic orthodoxy, including the integral Message of Fatima, with its call for conversion of the whole world to the fervent practice of the Catholic faith, it was not long before Father Gruner began to incur the wrath of certain liberal-progressivist members of the Canadian hierarchy. His first significant problems arose in 1981, when the apostolate’s magazine, The Fatima Crusader, indirectly criticized the refusal of Toronto’s Cardinal Carter to oppose adoption of the proposed Canadian Charter of Rights, which contained no protection for the life of the unborn. One article noted that at least ten Canadian bishops were on record as being opposed to the Charter, unless the unborn were protected by an appropriate amendment. The Fatima Crusader showed that the Charter contradicted the teaching of Pius XI in Casti Connubii (not to mention John Paul II’s own teaching) that legislators have a positive moral duty to protect the unborn "by appropriate laws and sanctions."

Soon after that pro-life issue of the Fatima Crusader appeared, Father Gruner received

an "inquiry" from the Vatican Nuncio to Canada, who suggested that Father Gruner’s residence there was improper, even though in early 1979 Father Gruner had provided the same Nuncio with a copy of the Bishop of Avellino’s 1978 decree authorizing Father Gruner’s residence outside the diocese. There was even a rumor that Father Gruner would be "suspended" from the priesthood for some unspecified offense.

An Appeal to the Pope Brings Temporary Peace

In the summer of 1981, however, Father Gruner appealed to Pope John Paul II for protection in a document which was read to the Holy Father by his personal secretary during the Holy Father’s convalescence following the assassination attempt. After this, Father Gruner was able to continue his work without interference for many years.

Over the years the apostolate became a major force for promotion of the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an act requested by Our Lady of Fatima Herself in order to bring about Russia’s conversion and true peace in the world. The last surviving Fatima seer, Sister Lucia dos Santos, had said time and again that Our Lady told her the Consecration required specific mention of Russia in a solemn public ceremony conducted by the Pope together with all the world’s bishops. The apostolate thus found itself opposed by those who were claiming that the Pope had consecrated Russia in a 1984 ceremony at the Vatican which made no mention of Russia and in which the world’s bishops did not participate. (Sister Lucia herself stated publicly after the 1984 ceremony that it did not suffice to fulfill Our Lady of Fatima’s requests, although various non-authoritative sources later claimed she had "changed her mind.")

The Apostolate Targeted for Its Opposition to Ostpolitik

As the apostolate’s size and influence grew, it came to be targeted for suppression by members of the Vatican Secretariat of State, who regard the specific consecration of Russia as a diplomatic embarrassment that would run counter to the Secretariat of State’s policy of Ostpolitik. This policy requires the Vatican to avoid any confrontation with or condemnation of communist regimes which oppress Catholics in the hope that "dialogue" and diplomacy will gain concessions. Ostpolitik began with the infamous Vatican-Moscow agreement of 1962, under which the Second Vatican Council was shamefully constrained to remain silent about the evil of world communism in exchange for Moscow allowing two Russian Orthodox observers (controlled by the KGB) to attend the Council. During this period Ostpolitik was administered by Cardinal Casaroli, in the Vatican Secretariat of State. In a speech on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pope Paul VI, Casaroli admitted that Pope Paul was torn by doubts about the moral propriety of Ostpolitik, and that the Pope had wondered aloud if he was not betraying the Gospel by pursuing that policy. [CWN news report, August 31, 1998]

Ostpolitik continues in force today, as seen in the Vatican’s refusal to condemn or effectively oppose Communist oppression of the Catholic Church in China. The true Catholic Church in China has been driven underground and replaced with the schismatic "Patriotic Catholic Association" (PCA)—a creation of the communist Chinese regime. This pseudo-church condones China’s forced abortion policy, refuses submission to the Pope and has consecrated 100 bishops without a papal mandate. Yet the Vatican’s Cardinal Etechegaray recently concelebrated Mass with PCA bishops in China (in a Marian shrine the communists stole from the Catholic Church), while in American dioceses PCA priests are given faculties (permission to hear confessions and preach in Catholic churches) and allowed to celebrate Mass. Archbishop Levada of San Francisco claims the "apostolic ministry" of schismatic PCA priests is being conducted with Vatican approval. The Vatican has not denied this.

The Vatican Secretariat of State

Hatches a Scheme

In 1989 the Vatican Secretariat of State began to "activate" the Congregation for the Clergy as its tool in the suppression of Father Gruner’s apostolate. In May of 1989 the Bishop of Avellino wrote to Father Gruner to advise him that he had received "worried signals" about Father Gruner’s work–- from the Vatican Secretariat of State. A few weeks later (in July) Father Gruner received a letter from Cardinal Innocenti, then head of the Congregation, abruptly demanding that he find another bishop to incardinate him or else return to Avellino within 60 days. Since the Bishop of Avellino himself had given no such order, Father Gruner appealed it to the Holy Father, after which the order was abandoned. But Father Gruner’s opponents within the Secretariat of State would not be deterred.

On October 27, 1989, the Congregation’s secretary, Cardinal (then Archbishop) Agustoni instructed the Bishop of Avellino to implement a scheme which has bedeviled Father Gruner and the apostolate ever since: In a secret letter (recently uncovered in the course of Canadian litigation) Msgr. Agustoni instructed the Bishop to recall Father Gruner to Avellino unless he could find another bishop to accept him, and to pretend that the recall was the Bishop’s own idea. Meanwhile, the Congregation and/or the Secretariat of State issued "back channel" communications and dispatched representatives behind the scenes to block incardination by any bishop who might offer to accept Father Gruner. In all, three successive benevolent bishops were prevented by this scheme from honoring their offers to incardinate Father Gruner.

Once all offers of incardination had been blocked. Father Gruner would be accused of "failing" to find another bishop, and threatened with suspension if he did not return to Avellino to live in permanent exile. In essence, Father Gruner would be charged with "disobedience" for "failing" to obey an order his own accusers had prevented him from obeying.

Finally, in January of 1994 the Bishop of Avellino issued a letter stating that since Father had "failed" to find another bishop he must return to Avellino within 30 days. This letter was clearly the product of coercion by the Vatican Secretariat of State: it was issued only days after a face-to-face meeting in Avellino during which the Bishop told Father Gruner that he had no grievances against him and that he should return to Canada—where he had been with the Bishop’s permission since 1978. On this occasion the Bishop admitted that Father Gruner’s incardination by one of the three benevolent bishops who offered to accept him was being blocked by members of the Congregation, who themselves were following the "worried signals" of the Secretariat of State.

Nevertheless, on November 4, 1995 another of the three benevolent bishops, the Archbishop of Hyderabad, issued a decree formally incardinating Father Gruner in his Archdiocese, where the apostolate supports an orphanage. The Archbishop’s decree of that date rightly observes that: "Evil forces have conspired to destroy your work of love." The Archbishop was almost immediately subjected to coercion by the Secretariat of State in the form of a sudden visit by a Vatican Nuncio, who took a special plane flight from New Delhi to Hyderabad in order to browbeat the Archbishop while he was still recovering from open heart surgery. As a result, the Archbishop deferred implementation of his decree for a time, fearing reprisals against his Archdiocese.

Then, on May 16, 1996, the Bishop of Avellino (after having been ordered to do so by members of the Congregation) issued a second decree directing Father Gruner to return to Avellino. This decree threatens Father Gruner with "suspension" if he does not abandon his entire life’s work, the apostolate and its 150 employees, the orphanage supported by the apostolate, his residence and his personal affairs and take up permanent residence in Avellino within 29 days. The Bishop had no reason of his own to issue such an order, nor any need of Father Gruner’s services in Avellino, where Father Gruner could have no canonical mission due to the language barrier. Moreover, the Bishop had not provided one penny of support to Father Gruner since 1978 and had made no provisions for his support in the future, including medical coverage and old age pension required by law. The Bishop’s order, then, was motivated entirely by coercion from the Vatican Secretariat of State, acting through the Congregation for the Clergy.

Father Gruner promptly appealed the 1994 and the 1996 decrees by means of "administrative recourses" to the Congregation for the Clergy—which naturally upheld its own scheme to block Father Gruner’s incardination outside Avellino—and then to the Apostolic Signatura, where certain proceedings are still pending. Father Gruner has also filed three appeals with the Holy Father, who has apparently never been allowed to read any of them. (The Secretariat of State controls the flow of information into the papal household.) These appeals to the Pope are still pending.

As Father Gruner has pointed out in his recourses and appeals to the Pope, both the 1994 and 1996 orders to return to Avellino are obviously void: Father Gruner, a Canadian citizen, cannot be ordered to become a permanent resident of Italy without a proper visa, which the Bishop of Avellino has made no effort to secure. Italian immigration law, which the Church has bound Herself to observe (cfr. Canon 22), requires that the Bishop provide the Italian Consulate with financial guarantees for Father Gruner’s support, medical insurance and old age pension. Without such guarantees no visa can be issued, and Father Gruner would be arrested and deported if he tried to take up permanent residence in Avellino, unless he were to lie and say he was entering Italy only as a tourist. The Bishop of Avellino has never done anything to comply with these legal requirements—obviously because he has no real interest in Father Gruner’s return.

Prelates and Priests Come to Father Gruner’s Defense

In any case, as noted, Father Gruner was validly incardinated in Hyderabad in 1995. On March 10, 1999 the Archbishop of Hyderabad threw off the Secretariat of State’s coercion and affirmed his earlier incardination of Father Gruner. In his decree of that date the Archbishop declared:

"After due discernment, I am convinced that I am acting correctly though I was partly misled by influential people. I strongly feel that the good work he [Father Gruner] is doing in spreading devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary should not be hampered for the present, especially through undue canonical or juridical pressures. May Jesus Christ be praised!"

Neither the Bishop of Avellino nor the Signatura has addressed the reaffirmation of Father Gruner’s incardination in Hyderabad or the illegality of the orders to return to Avellino in violation of Italian immigration law. Those matters (among others) are still pending in the administrative recourses and before the Supreme Pontiff.

The Archbishop of Hyderabad was the first signatory on an Open Letter to the Pope, dated April 2, 1998. The Open Letter protests the unprecedented persecution of Father Gruner by operatives of the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Congregation. It is also signed by 9 other archbishops, 17 bishops, and 1900 priests and religious, and more than 15,000 members of the laity.

Father Gruner’s Persecutors Will Not Relent

Despite Father Gruner’s incardination in Hyderabad (where the apostolate supports an orphanage) his opponents in the Vatican bureaucracy will not relent in their effort to silence him by exiling him to Avellino. The former prefect of the Congregation declared the incardination in Hyderabad to be tanquam non existens—as if it were non-existent. In order to maintain this position, the former Prefect advanced the following circular argument: Father Gruner must return to Avellino because he had "failed" to find another bishop. Even though Father Gruner had a document of incardination from the Archbishop of Hyderabad (not to mention two offers in writing from two other bishops) and thus had found another bishop to accept him, he could not be incardinated in Hyderabad because he had been ordered to return to Avellino. He had been ordered to return to Avellino because . . . he had "failed" to find another bishop!

Eventually it became impossible to maintain this absurdity, especially after Father Gruner was able to demonstrate that it was members of the Congregation and the Secretariat of State themselves who had prevented Father Gruner’s incardination outside Avellino. Hence the current Prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, advanced a new argument. Now it is claimed that no matter how many bishops might offer to incardinate Father Gruner, he can never be incardinated by any bishop who would allow him to conduct his apostolate in Canada, because this would constitute "an irregular condition." Yet thousands of priests are engaged in full-time work of all kinds outside their dioceses of incardination, including private apostolates, in full conformity with the law, custom and practice of the Church. Therefore, there is nothing "irregular" about Father Gruner’s "condition." In fact, the very term "irregular condition" seems to have been invented for Father Gruner’s case. The term appears nowhere in the Code of Canon Law. In short, the offense of having an "irregular condition" simply does not exist. Charging Father Gruner with an "irregular condition" makes no more sense than charging a motorist for "irregular driving" when he has not violated any specific provision of the motor vehicle code.

New Accusations are Invented

When the Old Ones Fail

Recognizing that the accusation of "irregular condition" is just as absurd as the accusation of "disobedience" in "failing" to find another bishop, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos has been at work devising new accusations against Father Gruner.

First, on June 5, 2000, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos sent Father Gruner a letter threatening to excommunicate him if he did not abandon a perfectly legitimate civil suit for libel against a Monsignor McCormack, who has since become a Vatican employee. The suit, pending for the past 10 years, is perfectly permissible under the Code of Canon Law. In fact, there are innumerable civil claims now pending around the world against priests, bishops, and even cardinals for various wrongs. Msgr. McCormack had issued a libelous "notification" which falsely implied that Father Gruner is a clerical imposter who is raising money in violation of Church law, when in truth he was (and is) a priest in good standing (with a certificate to that effect from his bishop at the time), while the apostolate, a non-profit corporation, was and is fully authorized to solicit donations under civil law. Since McCormack rejected all efforts to settle amicably by means of a retraction, a libel suit was the only possible remedy for the tremendous damage his false statements had caused to the apostolate as a civil corporation.

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos’ threat of excommunication came only after the judge of the civil tribunal refused to dismiss the suit, noting that Msgr. McCormack’s libel had been read by millions in the North American press, causing great harm to Father Gruner’s reputation in civil society. Incredibly, when Father Gruner requested a meeting with Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos to discuss resolving the suit, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos replied that he could not involve himself in the civil forum. Yet he had just done precisely that by demanding withdrawal of the suit under threat of excommunication.

Next, on or about July 6, 2000, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos directed the Nuncio to the Philippines to issue a communiqué to the Philippine bishops which not only publicizes the threat of excommunication, but adds the accusation that Father Gruner used "forged Secretariat of State documents ... to imply endorsement" of his apostolate. This accusation is not only false but ridiculous. No such "forged" documents exist, and Cardinal Castillón Hoyos never identified any. He has since refused to retract the accusation, despite its obvious falsity.

Then, on February 16, 2001, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos sent Father Gruner a letter which threatens him with "definitive provisions in the matter which would be painful for all concerned." Given the prior threat of excommunication, the phrase "definitive provisions" could only mean either excommunication or defrocking. The February letter attempts to buttress this threat by launching three entirely new accusations—after seven years of canonical proceedings in which these accusations had never once been mentioned!

First, Father Gruner is accused of "inappropriate use of documents" from Church authorities. (Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos had abandoned his original accusation of using "forged" documents, without acknowledging that it was false.) This charge involves nothing more than the apostolate’s publication of two completely authentic papal blessings in parchment form (to Father Gruner and the apostolate), and a personal note to Father Gruner from the Pope’s personal secretary at the time, congratulating Father Gruner on his work with the apostolate and assuring him of the Pope’s blessings. There is absolutely no basis in fact, nor any basis in the law of the Church for the charge of "inappropriate use" of Church documents. It is another invention for Father Gruner’s case.

Second, Father Gruner is accused of "recourse to civil forums against ecclesiastics," when (as just noted) such recourse is not only perfectly permissible under Church law, but quite commonplace today. Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos renewed his demand that Father Gruner drop the libel suit against Msgr. McCormack or be excommunicated. Oddly enough, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos deferred to the civil forum in another case, ordering reinstatement of a suspected child molester priest after his conviction was overturned on appeal, even though the local bishop had independent evidence of a further risk of sexual misconduct by this priest. Thus, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos is guided by the civil forum when it comes to acquitting suspected child molesters, but refuses to follow the civil forum when it allows a libel suit to go to trial!

Third, Father Gruner is told that "you turned the faithful against the legitimate Church authorities." This accusation is based on nothing more than a few quotations from articles mostly written by others in The Fatima Crusader magazine (the articles are all at least six years old!), and two pages from a 384-page book by Frere Francois on the Message of Fatima (part of 1000-page, four volume work by this author) which the apostolate published seven years ago. The quotations express legitimate criticisms (sometimes blunt in tone) of diplomatic policies of the Vatican bureaucracy, including Ostpolitik and the bad advice the Pope has been given to avoid consecrating Russia by name. Assuming powers and jurisdiction he does not have, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos arbitrarily demands a "retraction" by Father Gruner of any and all articles by apostolate writers which the Cardinal deems objectionable. There is no claim that any of the articles in question are contrary to faith or morals. Rather, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos seems to object to their tone and to any "criticism" per se of the Vatican Secretariat of State and other Vatican prelates, whom he apparently identifies with the person of the Pope.

Yet Vatican diplomacy has been criticized no less strongly by many others in the Church, including the prominent priest-journalist Father Peter Hebblethwaite, Father Ulysses Floridi, S.J (in his book-length critique of Ostpolitik entitled The Vatican and Moscow) and the late Cardinal Josef Suenens, who denounced the Vatican nuncios as "spies." In the entire Catholic Church only Father Nicholas Gruner is taken to task for publishing legitimate opinions in this area. Why? Obviously because his apostolate is singularly effective in promoting those opinions. The attempt to impose canonical sanctions on Father Gruner because his apostolate expresses views Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos unilaterally deems unacceptable has no precedent in the living memory of the Church. Nor does the Congregation for the Clergy have any authority to act as the censor of a private apostolate’s publications.

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos also complains about the apostolate’s petitions to the Holy Father and its "campaigns" in defense of Father Gruner, presumably including the Open Letter to the Pope signed by the Archbishop of Hyderabad and 26 of his fellow bishops. But the faithful have a God-given right to petition the Holy Father for redress of grievances in the Church, a right solemnly defined by the First Vatican Council and codified in the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

(Cfr. Cann. 212, 1417) There is simply no basis in Church law for punishing a priest because petitions are submitted to the Pope on his behalf by fellow Catholics.

Given the prevalence of heterodox literature promoted by many priests, nuns and even certain bishops throughout the Church today, about which the Vatican does almost nothing, the threat to excommunicate Father Gruner because of some old articles in The Fatima Crusader magazine, two pages from a seven-year-old book, and various petitions to the Pope is simply ludicrous. But here, at last, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos has admitted that the real target all along has been what Father Gruner’s apostolate says about the Message of Fatima, not any concern about where he should be incardinated.

In short, the three new charges have no more substance than the charge of "disobedience" in "failing" to find another bishop or the charge of "irregular condition." The entire "case" against Father Gruner, therefore, consists of trumped-up accusations concocted to give the appearance of law to an illicit effort to suppress his apostolate’s expression of legitimate views on the Message of Fatima. At the same time that Father Gruner is relentlessly hounded with baseless and ever-shifting allegations, the Church is gravely afflicted by innumerable clerics who promote heresy or engage in unspeakably immoral misconduct while being allowed to remain priests in good standing. Not one of these clerical malefactors has been threatened with expulsion from the Catholic Church. Indeed, Father Gruner appears to be the only priest out of 405,000 in the world who is now facing a public threat of excommunication—when he has done absolutely nothing contrary to faith or morals.

The True Motive At Work: A Conflict Between Fatima

and "the New Orientation"

The astounding campaign to silence Father Gruner is part of an overall campaign to neutralize the Message of Fatima, so that the Vatican bureaucracy can pursue its policies of Ostpolitik and "dialogue" with the powers of the world, without hindrance by public movements for the consecration and conversion of Russia. Thus, on June 26, 2000 (at the very moment Father Gruner was being threatened with excommunication) the Vatican conducted its famous press conference to publicize release of the text of a vision contained in the Third Secret of Fatima. At the press conference Msgr. Bertone and Cardinal Ratzinger introduced their joint commentary on the Message of Fatima. This commentary claims that the Third Secret relates entirely to past events, culminating in the 1981 attempt on the Pope’s life. Yet the vision itself shows the Pope and many members of the hierarchy being shot dead by an army as they kneel at the foot of a large wooden cross after having traversed a half-ruined city. Even the secular press derided the Bertone/Ratzinger "interpretation." The commentary asserts that the Consecration of Russia was accomplished in 1984—in a ceremony which made no mention of Russia and did not involve the world’s bishops. The commentary further asserts that the triumph of the Immaculate Heart prophesied in the Message of Fatima occurred 2,000 years ago at the Annunciation, even though Our Lady of Fatima said: "In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph, the Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, which will be converted, and a period of peace will be given to the world."

Ratzinger’s portion of the commentary even dares to suggest that the Immaculate Heart means any heart which has achieved "interior unity" with God, and that therefore devotion to the Immaculate Heart means simply conforming oneself to God’s will. Ratzinger attacked the credibility of the entire Message of Fatima by suggesting that the Third Secret contains images and "intuitions" Sister Lucia may have gained from reading spiritual books, and by citing as his only "authority"on the Message the neo-modernist Jesuit, Edouard Dhanis, a notorious, intellectually dishonest Fatima critic who refused even to examine the official Fatima archives! The Los Angeles Times was quite correct in reporting that at the June 26th press conference Cardinal Ratzinger had attempted to "debunk the cult of Fatima."

At the conclusion of the press conference, Cardinal Ratzinger mentioned Father Gruner by name, telling the world press that Father Gruner must submit to "the Magisterium" on the question of whether Russia has been properly consecrated. The Magisterium, that is the teaching office of the Church exercised by the Pope alone or together with the Catholic Bishops, has made absolutely no pronouncement on the subject. Quite the contrary, the Pope’s spontaneous remarks during and after the 1984 ceremony clearly indicate that he believes the specific consecration of Russia has yet to be done. (See L’Osservatore Romano, March 26-27, 1984) There is good reason to think that the Pope believes this because (as revealed in the November 30, 2000 issue of Inside the Vatican) his closest advisors have told him not to mention Russia by name in any consecration ceremony.

On June 27, 2000, only one day after the Message of Fatima was explained away, the Vatican staged an event seemingly designed to convey the distinct impression that the era of Fatima, and with it our Our Lady’s prophesy of the conversion of Russia, is finished once and for all. None other than Mikhail Gorbachev was seated as the guest of honor between Cardinals Sodano and Silvestrini at a news conference to celebrate—of all things—Cardinal Casaroli’s Ostpolitik. Mr. Gorbachev is the living embodiment of the errors of Russia from which Our Lady of Fatima sought to deliver us. Gorbachev, who recently admitted he is still a Leninist, uses his tax-free foundations to promote the elimination of four billion people from the world’s population through abortion and contraception. When he was head of the Soviet Communist Party, Gorbachev publicly defended the genocide of 1.5 million Afghans by the Russian Army, including countless children whose heads or limbs were blown off by bombs disguised as toys. (Although Gorbachev later presided over the withdrawal from Afghanistan, where the Russians were losing badly, he never repudiated his earlier defense of the invasion.)

But Vatican diplomacy is not the only motive at work in the persecution of Father Gruner: the Message of Fatima, with its call for the conversion of Russia and the whole world to the Catholic religion in order to save souls from hell, is at odds with the Church’s entire new "ecumenical" and pan-religious orientation since the Vatican II, of which Ostpolitik is only a part. As even Cardinal Ratzinger has conceded in various books and interviews, the new post-conciliar orientation has led to gravely harmful changes in the life of the Church (especially in her liturgy). The changes have provoked confusion and massive defections among the laity, and a profound loss of priestly and religious vocations. Because of their steadfastly traditional Catholic orientation and frank criticism of the bad fruits of the new orientation, Father Gruner and the apostolate are viewed as intolerable by those members of the Vatican apparatus who promote the new orientation unswervingly, along with the attendant Vatican diplomacy.

Only Adherence to Tradition is Severely Punished

On this score it is highly revealing that at a time when so much of the Church is in a state of open rebellion against the Faith (as the Holy Father himself lamented in his March 2001 letter to the German Cardinals), the only time Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos has ever used the word "rebellion" in any of his disciplinary pronouncements was to describe a supposedly too-strict adherence to Catholic traditions by seminarians of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, who are deemed to be insufficiently "inserted" into what Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos calls "the ecclesial reality of today." Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos suppressed the Fraternity’s election of its own superior general, installing a candidate to his liking, and ordered removal of the Fraternity’s seminary rectors—measures he would never dare to take against any of the religious orders (such as the Jesuits) who have been undermining Catholic doctrine for decades. Thus, the only Catholics punished as "rebels" today are not those who are actually in rebellion against the Magisterium and the Church of all ages, but rather those who resist the new orientation by holding fast to Catholic Tradition. The new orientation, this "ecclesial reality of today" described by Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, has become the only thing the Vatican will defend with swift action and harsh punishments. No less than Cardinal Ratzinger has admitted as much:

It is intolerable to criticize decisions which have been taken since the Council; on the other hand, if men make question of ancient rules, or even of the great truths of the Faith—for instance, the corporal virginity of Mary, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the immortality of the soul, etc.—nobody complains or only does so with the greatest moderation . . . All this leads a great number of people to ask themselves if the Church of today is really the same as that of yesterday, or if they have changed it for something else without telling people. [Address to the Chilean Bishops, 1988]

The persecution of Father Gruner and his apostolate is only one of many examples which demonstrate that today we are truly facing a state of affairs very much like that decried by Saint Basil the Great at the height of the Arian heresy: "Only one offence is now vigorously punished—an accurate observance of our fathers’ traditions. For this cause the pious are driven from their countries and transported into deserts . . . Religious people keep silence, but every blaspheming tongue is let loose" As the late great German bishop Rudolf Graber noted in his book about the current crisis: "What happened over 1600 years ago (during the Arian heresy) is repeating itself today but with two or three differences: Alexandria is today the Universal Church, the stability of which is being shaken, and what was undertaken at that time by means of physical force and cruelty is now being transferred to a different level. Exile is replaced by banishment into the silence of being ignored, killing by assassination of character." This indeed is what is happening to Father Gruner: he is threatened with banishment into silence and the assassination of his character. Meanwhile, "every blaspheming tongue is let loose."

There is No Argument Against a Fact

Saint Thomas Aquinas taught the maxim contra factum non argumentum est—against a fact there is no argument. No authority, not even God Himself, can decree to be true that which manifestly is not true. No Church tribunal, no Vatican prelate, can declare that the Eiffel Tower is in the middle of Saint Peter’s Square and expect anyone to believe it. Nor can any Catholic be legitimately punished for refusing to profess that the Eiffel Tower is in the Vatican.

Hence, no matter what Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos or any other prelate may say, Father Gruner cannot be suspended, excommunicated or defrocked on the basis of an "irregular condition" or other "offenses" which do not exist. Nor can Father Gruner be lawfully ordered by anyone to violate Italian immigration law by taking up permanent residence in Italy without the proper visa or the legally required provisions for his support, medical care and old age.

Likewise, the faithful cannot be ordered to believe that Russia was "consecrated" to the Immaculate Heart 17 years ago, and is therefore now "converted," when there are 3.5 million abortions in that nation each year, the Russian population is declining at an unprecedented rate, the Catholic Church is legally forbidden to "proselytize" (i.e., teach the Faith and seek converts) among the Russians, and Russian society is in a state of spiritual, moral and material disintegration even worse than before the supposed "fall of communism" in 1991. Nor can the faithful be required to believe that when Our Lady of Fatima said "In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph," She meant 2,000 years ago, or that the Immaculate Heart is any heart which conforms itself to God’s will, or that a vision of the Pope being shot dead by an army is the same as John Paul II not being killed by a lone assassin.

What is Really At Stake

When all is said and done, the Father Gruner controversy really has nothing to do with his non-existent "irregular condition," his pursuit of bona fide civil claims, his publication of .

authentic Church documents, old quotations from magazines and a book or any other trumped-up charge the Vatican apparatus may concoct in the future. This controversy involves simply and only an attempt to give the appearance of legality to the unlawful suppression of Father Gruner’s legitimate views, shared by millions of Catholics, on the Message of Fatima and its relation to the present crisis in the Church and the world. Nothing else could explain why certain prelates in the Vatican have spent so much time and expended so many resources on a campaign against a priest who has kept the Faith and kept his vows, while notorious clerical heresy and scandal go unpunished throughout the Church.

And so, Father Gruner will shoulder whatever bogus penalty may be imposed upon him, including a preposterous "excommunication" based upon nothing. If God permits this, then God’s will be done. Father Gruner would not be the first to have suffered such an injustice in the Church’s long history. Even a great saint like Athanasius, almost alone in fighting the Arian heresy, had to endure the indignity of being "excommunicated" by the Council of Milan—a judgment which today discredits that Council and tarnishes the memory of Pope Liberius, who approved it. Thus, Pope Liberius was the first Pope not to be canonized [cfr. Annuario Pontificio, p. 9], while Saint Athanasius is a great saint and doctor of the Church. Although Father Gruner would be the first to protest that he is no Athanasius, he and we can profit from the saint’s example.

In any case, the law of the Church is merciful and just, even if Father Gruner’s persecutors are not. Church law recognizes that no penalty can operate against one who is not guilty of any actual offense. (Cfr. Can. 1321) Therefore, it would not matter if Father Gruner were pronounced "suspended," "excommunicated" or defrocked. There being no basis for these penalties, the sentence would be void and of no effect before God and the Church.

No matter what penalty is imposed on Father Gruner—indeed, all the more so because of it—the faithful will continue to believe what the evidence and their own reason tell them is true. And even if they were wrong in some respect concerning Fatima, they and Father Gruner have the right in conscience to believe as they do unless contrary evidence is fairly presented, rather than peremptory demands for "obedience" in matters where there is liberty in the Church. We can only hope and pray that Father Gruner’s persecutors will be moved by grace to recognize this liberty in the case of Father Gruner, even as they do with so many among the priesthood who abuse their liberty so shamefully.

But infinitely more important than due liberty in the Church are the merits of the Message of Fatima itself. For if Father Gruner and those who support him are right, then what is at stake in this controversy is nothing less than the salvation of millions of souls and true peace for all mankind. As Our Lady said: "Many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them." This is why She appeared at Fatima 84 years ago to make known Her requests for the Consecration of Russia, the daily Rosary and the First Saturday communions of reparation for man’s sins. "If My requests are granted, many souls will be saved and there will peace," Our Lady of Fatima promised.

Have Her requests been granted? Can the present state of the Church and the world, especially Russia, honestly be assessed as the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart which She promised as the fruit of the Consecration She requested? Have Ostpolitik and the post-conciliar experiment with a new ecclesial orientation produced any improvement in the spiritual and moral condition of the world? Or has the condition of the world not grown vastly worse? Is it not time, then, for the Church to go back to telling the world—very simply, as Our Lady of Fatima did—that many souls are being lost to eternal hellfire for lack of prayers and sacrifices for sinners, for lack of devotion to the Immaculate Heart, for lack of the Catholic Faith?

These are questions we pray certain powerful cardinals and bishops in the Vatican will ponder in their hearts before they take any further precipitous actions against Father Nicholas Gruner. The same questions should concern all the faithful, even those who may have been

bystanders to this controversy until now. For the case of Father Nicholas is only symptomatic of a vast spiritual crisis which affects each and every man, woman and child on the face of God’s earth.

Summary completed May 17, 2001 by "The Committee for the Defense of the Priesthood"

Our Lady of Fatima, Pray for Us!

 

 

A PETITION TO HIS HOLINESS, JOHN PAUL II:

Holy Father, we hereby petition you to exercise your supreme jurisdiction over the Church to bring an end to the persecution of Father Nicholas Gruner by certain prelates in the Vatican, who cloak themselves in your "vicariate" authority.

Holy Father, it is a scandal and a disgrace that this faithful priest, who has done nothing wrong, is being subjected by these prelates to groundless threats of excommunication and defrocking, and numerous other unprecedented interventions against the exercise of his rights as a priest, while clerics who engage in unspeakable misconduct or spread heresy in every nation are allowed to remain priests in good standing.

Holy Father, it is an outrage that the appearance of law is being used to silence Father Gruner’s legitimate views on the Message of Fatima, while those who threaten the very integrity of the Faith in all manner of publications and pronouncements receive no punishment or the most minimal of sanctions.

Holy Father, it is an insult to your own exalted office as Vicar of Christ that the men who are abusing their power against this one innocent priest claim to be doing so in your name, and by your authority.

Holy Father, for the sake of justice and equity in the Church, and for the sake of truth itself, we ask you to extend your paternal protection to Father Gruner, and to ensure that he and the millions of faithful who share his concerns, including ourselves, are given their rightful place in the Church.

 

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