RECOURSE TO THE SUPREME PONTIFF
from a decree of the Apostolic Signatura, dated July 10, 1999
in the cause of
FATHER NICHOLAS GRUNER, S.T.L.
CARDINAL GILBERTO AGUSTONI, former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura and former Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, ARCHBISHOP ZENON GROCHELEWSKI, former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, CARDINAL ANGELO INNOCENTI, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, CARDINAL JOSE SANCHEZ, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, ARCHBISHOP CRESCENZIO SEPE, former Secretary for the Congregation for the Clergy, and BISHOP ANTONIO FORTE, Bishop of the Diocese of Avellino,
under cann. 1389, 1391, 1401 and 1405 and 1406 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.
I submit this recourse to Your Holiness in keeping with the God-given right of all Christs faithful to have recourse to the Supreme Pontiff for the redress of just grievances in the Churcha right defined by the First Vatican Council and the Second Council of Lyons. As Your Holiness knows, the right of direct and immediate recourse to the Supreme Pontiff by any member of the faithful takes precedence over any canonical procedures established for the lower tribunals of the Church. can. 1417, § 1. The faithful can always turn immediately to their Pope for help.I. Introduction
This document also serves as my formal complaint and formal request for penal sanctions against the prelates named above. According to the 1983 Code of Canon law promulgated by Your Holiness, the Supreme Pontiff alone hears complaints of abuse of authority and other violations of ecclesiastical law against Cardinals, legates of the Holy See and (in penal cases) bishops. Can. 1405, § 1, 2, 3. The incompetence of any other tribunal to hear such complaints is absolute. Can. 1406, § 1. Thus, under the law promulgated by Your Holiness himself, only Your Holiness can consider this complaint.
On November 20, 1996, Your Holiness received two related canonical libelli on similar grounds against Cardinal Sanchez, Archbishop Sepe and their collaborators. These libelli were placed into your own hands at the general audience of that date, as shown by photographs of the event taken by the photographer for LOsservatore Romano. One of these prior libelli was my own, and the other was lodged by lay directors and employees of the apostolate in which I have been engaged since 1978.
As to my own prior libellus, in accordance with can. 1506, I now hereby respectfully request that Your Holiness perform the duty he has assigned to himself by declaring your admission or rejection of the libellus. I further respectfully request that this new libellus be incorporated with my prior libellus for a joint decision by Your Holiness as to both libelli.
The matters addressed herein have also been the subject of two Open Letters to Your Holiness, the second of which was signed by 10 archbishops, 17 bishops, more than 1,900 priests and religious and more than 16,000 members of the laity, who have supported me in my efforts to obtain justice from the above-named prelates. The first signatory of the second open letter is His Grace Saminini Arulappa, the Archbishop of Hyderabad for the past 27 years, in whose diocese I was incardinated on November 4, 1995, although the above-named prelates would have it that this incardination is "non-existent." I hope and pray that Your Holiness has been able to read both Open Letters and will give them due consideration in deciding this matter.
For your convenience, Holy Father, I have arranged the matters presented in this libellus under the following headings:
I. Facts - 1976-1999
IV. My Final Plea
I. Facts - 1976-1999
Although the procedural history of my case is rather tortuous, the matter is fundamentally very simple. Permit me to provide this brief summary of what has already been amply set forth in the prior complaints and Open Letters.
I am a Canadian citizen who in 1976 was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Avellino, Italy, after obtaining my bachelors decree and licentiate in Sacred Theology with high honors at the Angelicum, and completing my doctoral courses at the Angelicum with higher honors. I was ordained in the diocese of Avellino because I had intended to join a planned English-speaking Franciscan community in the town of Frigento. When that community did not materialize as I had expected, I was unable, despite a diligent search, to find an English-speaking Franciscan community which would afford a Marian apostolate. Among the other problems I encountered was that none of the Franciscan communities I investigated could ensure that I would not be compelled to distribute the Blessed Sacrament in the hand a practice I am to this day bound in conscience to regard as a sacrilege. (Indeed, the public has seen Your Holiness himself refuse to distribute Communion in the hand.)
Since I was not able to speak the local Italian dialect in Avellino, the Bishop of Avellino had no canonical mission for me. Because of the language barrier, I could not hear confessions or even deliver a sermon unless it was entirely written out and approved in advance. When I ultimately decided not to join a Franciscan community, the Bishop of Avellino at the time, His Excellency Pasquale Venezia, was pleased to give me permission to reside outside his diocese, for no one had ever contemplated that I would spend my entire priestly life in a place where I could not have a canonical mission. This permission is stated in Bishop Venezias decree of June 5, 1978, which he sent to me in Canada.
As Providence would have it, in 1978 I was elected to the board of directors of the apostolate known as the National Committee for the National Pilgrim Virgin of Canada, which had custody of a Pilgrim Virgin statue of Our Lady blessed by your predecessor, Pope Paul VI. My election came after a Catholic bishop of the Eastern rite who was the apostolates spiritual director insisted that a priest be named to the board.
Your Holiness may recall that your own personal secretary at the time, Monsignor McGee, congratulated me on my election to the apostolates board in his letter of January 31, 1980. Since then Your Holiness himself has twice bestowed his gracious apostolic blessing upon me and the apostolate (April 18, 1990, February 1, 1993), although Archbishop Grochelewski has dismissed your blessings as empty gratuities in his last decree against me as Prefect of the Signatura.
No doubt over the past 20 years Your Holiness has become acquainted with the apostolates work in promoting a greater awareness of the Message of Fatima and its profound relevance to the state of the Church and the world today. Your Holiness himself dramatically attested to the enduring relevance of the Fatima Message in his eloquent and moving address at Fatima on May 13, 1982. It was then that Your Holiness declared to the whole world that the Message of Fatima is so deeply rooted in Scripture and Sacred Tradition that the Church "feels it imposes an obligation on her", and that Our Ladys words at Fatima are "more relevant today than when She first appeared 65 years ago." These statements by Your Holiness summarize the very reasons I have devoted my priestly ministry to the Message of Fatima.
Although I had my bishops permission to reside in Canada, I encountered opposition to my work in the apostolate as early as 1981. In that year the apostolate published an article which criticized by implication (but not by name) a public statement of Cardinal Carter, then Archbishop of Toronto, to the effect that Catholics had no right to insist that Catholic moral teaching on the full humanity and right to life of unborn children be reflected in the proposed new Canadian constitution.1 Yet a petition calling for precisely such recognition had just been signed by another Canadian cardinal and 23 other Canadian prelates.
The article I published pointed out that all legislators, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, have an obligation before God to uphold the natural law, which forbids abortion, by enacting "appropriate laws and sanctions" (His Holiness Pius XI), and I made it clear that not even a cardinal can say otherwise, for this is the constant teaching of the Churchas Your Holiness has taught in Evangelium Vitae and so many other pronouncements.
Later in 1981, I was reliably informed that an effort was being made to have me suspended from the sacred priesthood! Your Holiness may recall that I wrote to you immediately to protest this action and that my letter was read to you by Msgr. Magee, while you were in the hospital for your second visit for treatment after the May 13, 1981 attempt on your life. Thereafter, the agitation against me appeared to subside.
In 1989, however, opposition to my work surfaced again. By this time the apostolate (staying always within the limits of free expression permitted to the faithful) had published a great deal of material about the Vatican-Moscow agreement, by which the Second Vatican Council was constrained from condemning or even mentioning the evil of communism, whose spread throughout the world (and even within the Church) was predicted by Our Lady of Fatima. In that year I received a letter from the new Bishop of Avellino, Gerardo Pierro, expressing his anxiety over what he described as "worried signals" from the Vatican Secretary of State. To date, Your Holiness, these "worried signals" have never been elaborated in any manner that would have given me a fair opportunity to respond and defend myself.
In July of 1989 Cardinal Innocenti, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, sent me a letter in which he stated that the Congregation had been following my "case" for some time and that the "Holy See" was "preoccupied" with me. I was unaware of any "case" or "preoccupation" of the Holy See over the past eight years, nor did Cardinal Innocentis letter give any explanation of these developments. Instead, the letter, without giving any real grounds, summarily ordered me to find another bishop or return to the Diocese of Avellino by September 30, 1989.
Since the Bishop of Avellino had not given me any such order himself, on August 21, 1989 I appealed directly to Cardinal Innocenti against his clearly ultra vires intervention. In my appeal I pointed out that the Congregation for the Clergy had no right to issue sua sponte orders that the Bishop of Avellino had not seen fit to issue by his own authority, and that Cardinal Innocenti was clearly exceeding the competence and authority of the Congregation. He never responded, nor did he make any effort to enforce his intervention, from which it can only be inferred that he conceded the intervention was groundless and ineffectual.
I also appealed against Cardinal Innocentis intervention directly to Your Holiness himself, in a letter I handed to you at a general audience in January of 1990.
After my appeal to Your Holiness, Cardinal Innocenti abandoned his ultra vires intervention and it was never mentioned again by him or by the Congregation. Instead, in October of 1989, Cardinal Innocenti and the Secretary of the Congregation at the time, Cardinal (then Archbishop) Agustoni, wrote privately to Bishop Pierro, advising him to recall me to the Diocese while giving the impression that the order came ex sesethat is, to pretend that the order was Bishop Pierros own idea and not Cardinal Agustonis. Thus, Cardinal Innocenti and Cardinal Agustoni attempted indirectly what the law forbade them to do directly.2 The very fact that they resorted to this subterfuge demonstrates that both prelates knew the July 1989 intervention of Cardinal Innocenti against me was illegal and void.
Under pressure from Cardinal Agustoni and Cardinal Innocenti, Bishop Pierro sent me a letter in November 1989 which threatened to revoke my permission to remain in Canada if I did not find another bishop in 30 days. Fortunately, Bishop Pierro never did recall me to Avellino. On the contrary, in a meeting with me in Avellino on January 25, 1990, and also in a series of letters, Bishop Pierro reaffirmed his predecessors permission for my residence outside the diocese. Indeed, at our meeting in January of 1990 Bishop Pierro stated that "to suspend you would be a mortal sin." He wished me well and told me to return to Canada. Furthermore, on August 4, 1989 Bishop Pierro issued to me a decree of excardination from the Diocese of Avellino (which I was able to use to achieve incardination in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, as I explain below).
But some or all of the prelates identified in the caption of this document continued to look for a way to force my return to Avellino and interfere in my work, even though I had done nothing wrong and Bishop Pierro did not wish me to return. Among other things, in October of 1992 Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe issued a misleading announcement in LOsservatore Romano which stated that the conference staged by my apostolate at Fatima "has not been approved by the competent ecclesiastical authorities." [Declaration of Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe published as a Vatican Bulletin in LOsservatore Romano, N. 41 - 14 October 1992, English edition and also in the Italian edition a week before. The "declaration" has been circulated repeatedly since then, even as late as October of 1999.] Not only did I have such approval from the Bishop of Fatima-Leiria, but such approval was not even necessary in the first place, as the 1983 Code makes clear. cann. 208-228, 278, 299.
On January 13, 1994 I met with the new Bishop of Avellino, His Excellency Antonio Forte in Avellino. We discussed an offer of incardination which I had received from the Bishop of Simla-Chandigarh, which would have fulfilled my obligation to find another bishop. Bishop Forte had already sent me a letter which stated that he was being prevented from excardinating me by Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe. Thereafter the Bishop of Simla-Chandigarh had been pressured into withdrawing his offer by a completely extraordinary intervention of the Nuncio to Indiawho was evidently following the "worried signals" of the Vatican Secretary of State. During our meeting of January 13, Bishop Forte assured me that despite these developments he himself had no complaints against me. When I asked Bishop Forte what I should do he told me to return to Canada.
And yet, Holy Father, on January 31, 1994, only 18 days later, Bishop Forte issued a decree which accused me of being a "vagus" priest because I was living in Canadawhere he had just told me to go!and further accused me of "scandals" (Italian version) and "outrages" (English version) requiring my amendment under can. 1339when he had just told me had no complaints against me! Your Holiness, there can be only one conclusion: this decree was the product of coercion from above; an abuse of ecclesiastical authority.
Holy Father the abuse of authority only intensified from this point forward.
In May of 1994, I received a written offer of incardination from the Bishop of Anapolis, Brazil, thereby fulfilling for the second time, in writing, my obligation to find another bishop. (There were other offers made orally by still other bishops.) Knowing of the coercion being applied from above the Bishop of Anapolis told me in his offer of incardination that it must remain confidential until it took effect on July 16, 1994. After an extraordinary intervention by Archbishop Sepe, however, the Bishop wrote on July 13, 1994 to say that he had no choice but to withdraw the offer.
On November 4, 1995, I received a formal written decree of incardination from the Archbishop of Hyderabad, thus fulfilling for the third time my obligation to find another bishop. Your Holiness, my apostolate entirely supports an orphanage in that Archdiocese, where the apostolate recently contributed the cost of building a new facility for the orphans. I have also conducted Marian pilgrimages in the Archdiocese which have attracted tens of thousands of Catholics and potential converts, who came to see the very Pilgrim Virgin statue blessed by your predecessor for just such a purpose.
Evidently referring to unjust coercion from Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe, the Archbishop of Hyderabads decree of incardination (dated November 4, 1995) states that "Evil forces have conspired to destroy your work of love Bureaucratic forces cannot stifle Gods work." However, after completely unprecedented interventions by the Papal Nuncio and Cardinal Sanchez, the Archbishop wrote me in March of 1996 to say that he could not honor his decree, although he never revoked it.3 It was later revealed that Cardinal Sanchez had declared to the Archbishop that my incardination in Hyderabad was "non-existent"!
In addition to all of this unprecedented interference in priestly and episcopal rights by the aforesaid prelates, the Vatican Secretary of State has circulated notices against me to every bishop in the world via the nuncios, and has even interfered with consular issuance of visas to bishops who wished to attend my apostolates conferences on Fatima in Portugal (1992), Mexico (1994), Rome (1996) and Hamilton, Canada (1999)an audacious violation of the bishops freedom and dignity as successors of the Apostles. The Nuncios, employing personal visits, faxes and other forms of contact, have constantly pressured bishops and priests not to attend any of my apostolates Fatima conferences.
In short, Holy Father I and my apostolate were effectively interdicted throughout the entire Church, even though we have committed no offense. This is truly unprecedented in the annals of canon law.
Despite my incardination in Hyderabad, on May 16, 1996 Bishop Forte issued his second decree against me, advising that I would be suspended from the sacred priesthood if I did not return to Avellino in 29 days. After an approved absence of more than 16 years, I was supposed to abandon immediately my apostolate and its 150 employees, the orphanage it supports, my residence and all my personal affairs, and then proceed to violate Italian immigration law by illegally returning, at the age of 54, to an Italian diocese which has no canonical mission for me, and whose bishop had never supported me or even requested my presence since 1978. The Bishop of Avellino obviously had no legitimate motive of his own for issuing such an absurdly unjust order, but rather was motivated by illicit pressure from Cardinal Agustoni, Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe, acting in concert. Yet the Bishop made himself an accomplice to their scheme by not defending his own jurisdiction as the Ordinary of Avellino. And all this, Your Holiness, even though three other bishops would gladly have incardinated me in their own dioceses.
Holy Father the prelates named above are so intent upon perpetrating this injustice that they have willfully ignored Italian immigration law, which forbids foreigners to take up permanent residence in Italy without the proper visa. Issuing orders blindly at the behest of the Congregation and the Secretary of State, Bishop Forte has never made the slightest effort to comply with the requirements for religious visas under Italian law, including written guarantees to the Italian consulate for my lifetime financial support and medical coverage and a formal letter to the Consulate confirming my acceptance as a permanent resident under the Bishops sponsorship. These legal requirements bind the Church, which does not claim to be exempt from Italys immigration laws. Indeed, there are a number of cases in which priests and religious have been expelled from Italy for failure to comply with its immigration requirements. Without the proper visa I would be expelled from Italy upon entry, unless I were willing to lie about the purpose of my visit.
Moreover, the Bishop has made no provision whatsoever for my old age over the past 21 years because he was quite content not to have to support me in any way. Am I, a Canadian citizen who is now nearly 60 years old, seriously expected to return in Italy as an illegal alien after an absence of 21 years, only to be cast out as a pensionless pauper once the above-named prelates have accomplished their purpose of destroying my apostolate? How can this result be deemed just when there are three bishops who would gladly incardinate me, while allowing me to continue my work and support myself in Canada in an arrangement no different than that permitted to thousands of priests around the world?
Your Holiness, even if Bishop Fortes order were otherwise validand clearly it is not valid, because there was no just cause for the order and I am already incardinated in Hyderabadthe order is legally and morally impossible for me to obey. No one in my situation could possibly obey such an order. It amounts to a virtual sentence of life imprisonment and forfeiture of all temporal goods, even those necessary to my basic sustenance in old age. When one considers that the Bishop of Avellino has absolutely no need of my services, and that three other bishops have offered to incardinate me, it becomes apparent that the order to return is nothing but a malicious punishment devoid of even a semblance of justification under the law of the Church.
Of course, I made recourse to the Congregation and then the Apostolic Signatura against both of the Bishop of Avellinos decrees ordering me to return. But these recourses were all decided by none other than Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe, the same prelates who had been acting against me for years.
I will not burden Your Holiness with the many details of the proceedings in both recourses. It will suffice to set forth the most prominent features of their gross injustice:
Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe declared in both recourses that my "failure" to find another bishop was "just cause" to recall me to Avellino, when it was the Prefect and Secretary of the Congregation themselves who had prevented my incardination in three different dioceses. In their decrees upholding the "Bishops" orders to return to Avellino, Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe refused even to acknowledge their illicit interference with my incardination elsewhere.
Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe further declared that the Bishop of Avellino had "grave reasons" to deny me excardination from the Diocese of Avellino, when in fact he had no reason, as he admitted to me in January of 1994, and it was only Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe themselves who had blocked my excardination. In their decrees Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe neglected even to mention that it was the they themselves, not the Bishop, who had prevented my excardination!
Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe declared that my incardination in Hyderabad was "non-existent" because I was not "canonically free" to be excardinated.4 I was not "canonically free" because I had been ordered to return to Avellino. But I had only been ordered to return because I had supposedly "failed" to find another bishop. Yet it was Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe who had prevented me from finding another bishopincluding the Archbishop of Hyderabad, whose incardination of me Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe had declared "non-existent." In essence, these two prelates declared that I am to be punished for failing to do what they themselves have deliberately prevented me from doing.
When I requested the recusal of Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe on grounds that the very prelates impeding my rights should not be sitting in judgment on my rights, they replied that the right to an impartial judge "is not foreseen in the legislation" on "administrative proceedings." In other words, according to Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe, in promulgating the 1983 Code of Canon Law Your Holiness did not foresee the basic natural right to an impartial judge in proceedings which could result in a priests suspension from the exercise of Holy Orders, including the offering of Masses for the release of souls from Purgatory, the propitiation for sins by the living, and for the well-being of the whole of humanity.
Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe declared that my incardination in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad would not be of any utility to its Archbishop, when my apostolate supports an orphanage there and the Archbishop himself has declared the apostolate to be "Gods work." Your Holiness, how can the members of your own curia seriously maintain that a priest whose work supports an orphanage in a diocese is of no use to the diocese? It is absurd.
Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe declared that my incardination in Hyderabad would be "fictitious" because I would not actually reside there. Yet priests throughout the Church work in dioceses other than the diocese of incardination and no one claims their incardinations are "fictitious." Can. 283 states merely that priests "are not to be absent from their diocese without at least the presumed permission of their ordinary." Thousands of priests have such permission, and my permission was in writing. Why am I alone, of all priests, held to a requirement of physical presence in the diocese of incardination when such a requirement does not exist in the law of the Church?
Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe declared that I was a "vagus" priest. Under pressure from these prelates, the Bishop of Avellino made the same false accusation only days after he himself had told me to return to Canada under my longstanding permission to be there! The Bishop calls me a "vagus" for going where he told me to go!
Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe declared that I was "disobedient" because I had remained in Canada despite the orders to return. But how could it be "disobedient" to make recourse against unjust orders so that the orders will not take effect? What would be the point of a recourse if I had to incur the very harm I was legitimately trying to avoid through the recourse?
My recourses to the Signatura fared no better, given that they were first introduced under the Prefecture of none other than Cardinal Agustoni, the very prelate who secretly instigated my return to Avellino in 1989, with instructions that the Bishop pretend it was his own idea. The history of the process in the Signatura is briefly summarized as follows:
In both of my recourses the Apostolic Signatura refused to admit my case for a discussion by all the judges of the tribunal. It simply declared my recourses "manifestly without any foundation whatsoever" and upheld all of the Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepes decisions against me. During more than five years of canonical proceedings, the Signatura refused to acknowledge that Cardinal Agustoni, Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe had been intervening against me behind the scenes in an unprecedented manner. It was not until its latest decree of July 1999 that the Signatura finally conceded that these interventions had been occurring, although it now asserted (for the first time in my entire case) that all of the interventions were "vicarious" exercises of papal authority carried out in your own name, Holy Father.
Even when the Signatura finally admitted in its July 1999 decree that Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe had indeed been intervening against me for years, it claimed that they had "vicarious papal authority" to do so. Yet the Signatura has never even attempted to explain by what authority prelates in the Vatican can order a priest to find another bishop, then order bishops not to incardinate that same priest, then order the original bishop not to excardinate the priest, and then declare that the priest is "disobedient" because he did not find another bishop to incardinate him"! Does "vicarious papal authority" include the right to engage in such tyranny? Is Your Holiness willing to allow this conduct to be cloaked in your name?
Cardinal Agustoni ruled against me in my first recourse (from the order of January 31, 1994) even though it was he himself , in his letter of October 28, 1989, who told the Bishop of Avellino to issue such an order and to pretend that it was the Bishops own idea. Only after Your Holiness received a copy of Cardinal Agustonis letter (which the Cardinal evidently believed I would never discover) did he finally recuse himself from the case, but not before he had rule against me in the first recourse and made procedural decisions in the second recourse.
Although my advocate in the first recourse was so gravely ill that he never transmitted to me Cardinal Agustonis decree of May 15, 1995 until 17 months after it was rendered, the Signatura denied me any right to appeal the decree, stating that it was my fault for failing to appeal within 15 days. Yet the Signatura had never sent me a copy of the decree directly, although it has done so with every other decree in my case. In essence, I was deemed solely at fault for not appealing within 15 days a decree which my advocate and the Signatura failed to provide me!
To compound the injustice, the Signaturas decree of January 20, 1998 accuses me of dealing "fraudulently" with the Archbishop of Hyderabad by allegedly showing him the 1978 decree of Bishop Venezia in order to obtain incardination in Hyderabad in November of 1995. This was allegedly a "fraud" because my right to excardination had supposedly been "revoked" by the order to return of January 31, 1994.5 In the first place, I had never shown the Archbishop that decree. More important, Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe did not declare to me that the Bishop of Avellinos 1994 decree had "revoked" my right to excardination until their decree of September 20, 1996nearly a year after I was already incardinated in Hyderabad. Thus, I am accused of "fraud" by the Churchs highest tribunal for having failed to predict the future! Although the Promoter of Justice later conceded that the allegation of "fraud" was erroneous, the Signatura has never retracted it.
The Signatura further declared that I should be suspended from the priesthood because I had been warned about my supposed "disobedience" by the Bishop of Avellino. But there was no such "warning", nor any "disobedience" in the first placeunless making recourse against an unjust order constitutes disobedience of the order, in which case the canons providing for hierarchical recourses and the suspension of penalties are meaningless.
Carlo Martino, the advocate retained to defend the actions of Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe against me, published in his memoriale the monstrous insult that I should be "cast forth from the bosom of the priesthood." He did not bother to offer a single factbecause there are noneto justify such an outrageous statement. This "advocate" was manifestly unqualified to defend "ecclesiastical authority", but was clearly appointed to assuage the animus of his brother, Archbishop Renato Martino, the Secretariat of States observer at the United Nationsan organization which my apostolate (along with Cardinal Ratzinger) has publicly criticized quite strongly.
Finally, Your Holiness, on July 10, 1999 the Signatura issued a "definitive decree" against me. This document is the capstone to a monument of injustice.
Holy Father, in the course of the proceedings I had already demonstrated the many factual errors in the decrees of the Congregation and in the Votums submitted by the Promotors of Justice in my case. Among other things, I demonstrated that I had never been guilty of any "scandals" and or "outrages", nor any "fraud" upon the Archbishop of Hyderabad, nor any other conduct which would justify casting me from "the bosom of the priesthood." Yet even though these errors had been clearly demonstrated, the Signatura would only declare in this latest decree that:
"Even if there should be errors in the exposition of the facts, the appearance of the facts or the motives (reasons), the decision can nevertheless be just and legitimate."
In other words, according to the Signatura, the decisions in my case are "just and legitimate" despite any and all errors of fact or errors in reasoning! All that matters is the result.
In this "definitive decree" the Signatura has abandoned any claim of "scandals", "outrages" or "fraud," and now contends merely that I was rightly ordered to return to the Diocese of Avellino simply and only because my "irregular condition" had to be remedied.
And what is this "irregular condition"? A review of the Signaturas decree will show that it consists of nothing more than residing in Canada with my bishops written and oral permission while conducting an apostolate I had every right to conduct under cann. 299 and 278.
As for my permission to reside in Canada, the Signatura has now declared that I never had such permission under Bishop Venezias 1978 decree, but only permission to live in Canada if I was first accepted by a Canadian bishop. But that is not what the Bishops decree says. In fact, in its own prior decree the Signatura conceded that I had permission to reside in Canada until at least July 17, 1990. (In truth, the permission was not revoked until at least the Bishop of Avellinos decree of January 31, 1994, if in fact his decree of that date were truly legal.) The Signatura blatantly contradicts itself and changes the plain meaning of a crucial document!
As for my involvement in the apostolate, the Signatura does not deny that the apostolate is legitimate and that no permission is needed for it: "[W]e are not dealing here with the legitimacy of the private association (for which it seems the Church does not ask recognition, as in can. 299 § 3) . . ."
The apostolates legitimacy cannot be denied, given the natural right of the faithful, including diocesan priests, to establish and form private associations without episcopal approval, as envisioned by cann. 299 and 278. Yet the Signatura now contends that my work in this admittedly legitimate apostolate is somehow inconsistent with the priestly state. But how could a legitimate apostolate be inconsistent with the priestly state? The Signatura does not say.
The Signatura further asserts that the apostolate would be inconsistent with my priestly state even though the Archbishop of Hyderabad has praised it as "Gods work" and would gladly give me permission to continue my work while residing in Canada.
Your Holiness, the Apostolic Signatura seriously contends that my work in providing an orphanage and Marian pilgrimages in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad does not constitute "collaboration with the bishop" as required by incardination. Yet all over the world priests "collaborate" with their bishops by doing work far less beneficial to their respective dioceses. Indeed, many priests are absent from their dioceses for private secular study, teaching in secular universities and other employments of no direct benefit to the diocese of incardination. Yet the direct and substantial benefit I provide to the Archdiocese of Hyderabad is mysteriously deemed insufficient "collaboration."
And, even more absurd, I am told that I would be "collaborating" with the Bishop of Avellino by returning there and doing nothing except languishing for the rest of my life in a place where I could never have a canonical mission!
Your Holiness, the latest decree asserts that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, I can do to cure my supposed "irregular condition" except to return to the Diocese of Avellino. No matter how many other bishops would incardinate me elsewhere, no matter how many permissions I could obtain to reside in Canada, no matter how much benefit my apostolate would actually provide to other dioceses, my condition would remain "irregular" unless I physically reside in a diocese which does not need me, has not supported me for 23 years, and has no priestly mission for me within the diocese.
As for the legal reality that I cannot reside permanently in Italy because I am not an Italian citizen, the Signatura simply denies reality and asserts that Italian immigration law poses no impediment to my permanent residence in Avellino, even though the Bishop of Avellino has done nothing to secure a proper visa for me. Yet, in its own prior decree the Signatura asserted that immigration law was an impediment to my residence in Hyderabad! Again the Signatura blatantly contradicts itself, abandoning all consistency in order to reach the preordained result. Of course, this contradiction results from the Signatura striving to uphold its contention that permanent physical residence is required for incardination in a diocese. To the contrary is the common experience of thousands of priests, who reside outside the diocese of incardination with their ordinarys permission, as expressly authorized by the law of the Church. (cfr. can. 283)
It must be noted that the first signatory of this latest decree is none other Arcbhishop Zenon Grochelewski, who freely admitted to advocate Franco Ligi in January 1997 that my case "Is not about Father Gruners incardination. Its about what he says. He causes division." Yet there is no mention of this alleged "division" in any of the Signaturas or the Congregations decrees. On the contrary, the Signatura concedes that my apostolate is legitimate in itself.
Thus, the very Prefect of the Signatura who signed this "decree" against me is the very one who admits that the proceedings against me are a sham which conceals an effort to silence a priest who cannot otherwise be silenced.
And so, Your Holiness, after years of canonical proceedings the Signatura has finally conceded that the only basis for the orders against me is an "irregular condition" consisting ofperfectly legal conduct no different in kind from that of thousands of other priests. The decree proposes to punish me for an offense which does not even exist.
Meanwhile, having reduced their case against me to the non-existent offense of having an "irregular condition", the named prelates have left behind a record of proceedings littered with false (but never retracted) allegations against me, including these:
That I "extorted the sacred priesthood". [January 3, 1989 letter from the Congregation for Clergy, signed by Cardinal Innocenti and Cardinal Agustoni, on information and belief, and referred to at n.14, 1° of the Votum prepared by Rev. Frans Daneels, O. Praem, Promotor of Justice]
That the Fatima conference staged by my apostolate at Fatima Portugal "has not been approved by the competent ecclesiastical authorities." [Declaration of Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe published as a Vatican Bulletin in LOsservatore Romano, N. 41 - 14 October 1992, and circulated repeatedly since then, even as late as October of 1999]
That I am de facto vagus priest. (Decree of Bishop Forte, January 31, 1994; Decree of Congregation for Clergy, September 20, 1996, p. 8)
That I am guilty of "scandals" (Italian version) and "outrages" (English version). (Decree Bishop of Avellino, issued January 31,1994 but erroneously dated January 31, 1993.)
That I dealt "fraudulently" with the Archbishop of Hyderabad. (Signatura, January 20, 1998, n.2)
That I am disobedient and persisted in my disobedience after a "warning." (Signatura, January 20, 1998 27338/96, n. 4)
That I should be "cast forth from the bosom of the priesthood." (Memoriale of Carlo Martino.)
That I am guilty of an "irregular condition." (Signatura, July 10, 1999, passim)
But, Your Holiness, I have still not touched upon the most pernicious aspect of the proceedings in my case.
After having failed for years to address the Congregations illicit interference in my excardination-incardination (pretending all along that the Bishop was acting for his own good motives), the Signatura has finally conceded in its latest decree that the Congregation did in fact directly intervene against me many times, but now claims that the Congregation was entitled to do so "in the name of the Supreme Pontiff with ordinary executive vicariate power as the hierarchical superior of the bishops." That is, the Signatura now asserts that the Congregation for the Clergy had the power to act at will against me in your name and with your full authority, whether or not any recourse was pending before it.
In defense of this position, the Promoter of Justice has now revealed all manner of additional interventions, decisions and declarations against me, going back many years, all of them taken without any notice to me or opportunity to make recourse against them. These included a notification by Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe (dated September 27, 1993), secretly imposing conditions on my incardination in Simla-Chandigarh which would require me to abandon the apostolate and to reside forever in India, with "no possibility" of residing elsewhereeven with permission! No other secular priests in the entire Catholic Church, not even openly heretical priests, are placed under such restraints!
There is also a letter from the Congregation in January of 1989 containing the outrageous accusation that I "extorted the sacred priesthood."
Although I have demanded copies of the pertinent documents from both the Congregation and the Signatura (see attached letters), they have never been provided.
Holy Father, if the Congregation for the Clergy can issue sua sponte orders to bishops in such matters as whom they will incardinate or excardinate, without even giving any grounds for the orders or notice to the priest, then what remains of "that power of ordinary and immediate episcopal jurisdiction by which the bishops, who placed by the Holy Spirit, have succeeded to the place of the Apostles as true shepherds, individually feed and rule the individual flocks assigned to them . . . ", as solemnly defined by the First Vatican Council? And what of Pastor bonus, your own apostolic constitution defining the authority of the Congregation , which states that the Congregation was formed "without prejudice to the right of bishops . . .".
Moreover, under this thesis what becomes of the secular priests legal relation to his bishop? With all due respect, Holy Father, at my ordination I did not make a promise to obey the Congregation for the Clergy, but the bishop who ordained me. And that obedience is conditioned on the bishops own obedience to the law of the Church respecting the rights and dignity of priests. Any priest has the right to excardination if his bishop displays open animus towards him, or the bishop has no need for him, and a benevolent bishop is disposed to accept him elsewhere. That is precisely my situation, Holy Father. Yet the Congregation proposes that it has the power to force a priest and a bishop to remain tied to each other forever, even when neither party would benefit from the relation.
That the thesis adopted by the Signatura cannot possibly be correct is shown by the Congregation for the Clergys own failure to mention it in any of its own decrees in my case. Not once did the Congregation even suggest that it had the authority to intervene against me on its own initiative as the "hierarchical superior" of all the bishops, in an exercise of "vicarious" papal authority. At all times the Congregation acted as if the Bishop of Avellino alone had the authority to order my return to Avellino, and its decrees speak only of affirming the actions of the Bishopnot the Congregations own actions which it refused to address. On the one occasion when the Congregation openly attempted a sua sponte intervention against menamely, Cardinal Innocentis letter of July 24, 1989the intervention was abandoned and was never mentioned again, once I appealed against it both to Cardinal Innocenti and to Your Holiness as a clearly illegal act. Indeed, when I appealed that illicit intervention directly to Cardinal Innocenti himself (and to Your Holiness also) he never responded to my appeal, thus conceding that my appeal was meritorious and that his actions against me were wrong.
This is precisely why, in their secretive letter to the Bishop of Avellino in October of 1989, Cardinals Innocenti and Agustoni requested that the Bishop recall me to his diocese and pretend it was the Bishops own idea. Is this the course of action one would take if he really believed he had the vicarious power of the Pope at his disposal and that he is "hierarchical superior" of all the bishops? If the Congregation really had such sweeping power, then why did it not simply decree my suspension in 1989 for refusing to obey its "papal" decree of July 24th of that year? Why was the July 24th intervention never mentioned in the Congregations later decrees accusing me of disobedience to ecclesiastical authority? Surely, disobedience to the July 24th intervention would have been the first example of "disobedience" the Congregation would mention, if in fact that intervention was a legitimate exercise of "executive vicariate power" in the name of Your Holiness.
Your Holiness, their own silence and furtive conduct demonstrate the falsity of the claim they now assert to justify their unprecedented abuses of power. Will even the divine constitution of the Church be compromised to justify what these prelates have done?
I respectfully pray that Your Holiness consider in summary the sheer audacity of the injustices perpetrated in your name:
In July 1989 I am illicitly ordered by Cardinal Innocenti to be incardinated by another bishop or return to Avellino immediately.
When that illicit intervention did not succeed (because I appealed it to Your Holiness), Cardinals Innocenti and Agustoni secretly instructed the Bishop of Avellino to recall me and to pretend that it was his idea.
The Bishop of Avellino (under constant pressure from Cardinals Agustoni, Innocenti and Sanchez, as well as Archbishop Sepe) ordered me to find another bishop. But when I found other bishops, Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe ordered the Bishop of Avellino not to excardinate me!
At the same time Sanchez and Sepe ordered three benevolent bishops in succession not to incardinate me!
Then these same prelates accused me of "disobedience" and "an irregular condition" because of the very circumstances they themselves deliberately created by variously abusing and exceeding their authority.
My apostolate and I are interdicted throughout the Church by the Secretary of State when we have committed no offense.
At the conclusion of this process, the many false accusations against me are now cavalierly abandoned in favor of the new theory of an "irregular condition", and no effort is made to retract the falsehoods.
Holy Father, is this how you wish the prelates who serve you to exercise their offices?
Your Holiness, my views on the Message of Fatima are certainly not unfamiliar to you, nor will I burden you with a defense of those views in this document. Yes, it is true that I do not agree with those who say that the Consecration of Russia was accomplished by Your Holiness in the ceremony of March 25, 1984. Yes, I have indeed pleaded with Your Holiness to disclose the Third Secret of Fatima, which I am firmly convinced contains information vitally important to the Church of this epochfor why else would Our Lady have consigned it to the Church of our time? And yes, I have been critical of that orientation in post-conciliar thinking which has carried us away from the faith as expressed at Fatima and toward an increasingly harmful accommodation to the world. Was it not Your Holiness himself who admitted in Crossing the Threshold of Hope that the pastors of Church have "lost the courage to preach the threat of hell?", and that the Last Things are no longer mentioned in the Churchs preaching and catechesis?
No one can denyindeed, no one has deniedthat the opinions I have expressed concerning Fatima are all within the liberty of expression enjoyed by loyal sons of the Church, of which I am one. Moreover, the same opinions are shared by tens of millions of Catholics around the world, who can see for themselves that Russia has not converted, that the world is a much more dangerous and immoral place than it was fifteen years ago, that the Church is deeply in crisis, that the promises of Fatima have not been fulfilled.
Throughout the Church, Your Holiness, priests and nuns who openly defy Church teaching escape legitimate discipline or receive minimal punishments after decades of open disobedience, as the case of Gramick and Nugent demonstrates. Your own Secretary of State, Cardinal Sodano, lavishly praised Hans Kung in a recent address at the Lateranthe same man who denies numerous doctrines and dogmas of the faith and publicly accused you of "despotic rule in the spirit of the Inquisition." Yet while enemies of the Church roam free around the world, I am threatened with suspension from the sacred priesthood for expressing views whose legitimacy my persecutors have not even attempted to question.
Will Your Holiness allow me to be punished unjustly by men who do not have the honesty to declare openly what they privately admit: that my case is not about upholding the law of the Church, but about contriving some way to silence a priest they cannot otherwise silence? Will Your Holiness allow my case to become an example of justice in the Vatican tribunals: a process of groundless accusations, secret interventions, biased judges who militate behind the scenes against the very parties before them, willful ignorance of the true facts, cynical self-contradictions and changes of position, all aimed at achieving a preordained result, no matter what justice may require?
What is worse, will Your Holiness allow the perpetrators of this travesty to claim that they are merely carrying out your will? Is this really how you yourself would treat me, Holy Father? Would you do this to one of your sons?
You are the Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Catholic Church, the tribunal of last resort for all the faithful. I ask you now for what I cannot obtain from the members of your curia, because they are determined that I shall not have it under any circumstances. I ask you for justice, Holy Father. I ask you to issue a papal decree:
(a) setting aside the groundless decrees against me by the Bishop of Avellino, the Congregation for the Clergy and the Signatura,
(b) declaring that I may be incardinated by any benevolent bishop I choose who would be willing to have me,
(c) exacting a just penalty against the named prelates for their abuse of power and false allegations against me, and
(d) commanding said prelates to retract their falsehoods.
I ask these things not only for my sake, but for the sake of justice in the Church, for the sake of the rights of priests and bishops around the world, and for the integrity of the Churchs divine constitution, which for too long has been compromised by abuse of power on the part of those who consider themselves de facto popes.
Even more important than these concerns, Holy Father, is the need for free discussion on the subject of the Message of Fatima, according its merits. If what I believe about Fatima is true (and many millions of Catholics share my views) than the silencing of any effective Fatima apostolate causes incalculable harm to the common good of the Church, and indeed the world at large.
Therefore, when men who claim to act in your name harass me, impede my work, discredit me in the eyes of my fellow Catholics and try to silence me forever by exiling me in a foreign diocese which has no need for me, they damage not only me but the Church and the world. This is not because I possess any special merit, but because of the divine imperatives of the Message of Fatima itself. Our Lady Herself said "If my requests are not granted...the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, entire Nations will be annihilated."
As I pray for justice, Holy Father, I pray also for your pontificate, that Our Blessed Mother may guide you in Our Lords ways toward the safety and peace of the Church, and the world, in the next millennium.
Humbly submitted this 22 day of November, in the
Year of Our Lord 1999.
Father Nicholas Gruner, S.T.L.
1. The day after he made this statement, Cardinal Carter suffered a stroke. His life was saved through the prompt diagnosis of a prominent Canadian physician who has long been my personal friend and a strong supporter of my apostolate.
2. By Providence, Cardinal Agustonis letter was uncovered years later in the course of a civil litigation in Canada. After I sent a copy of the letter to Your Holiness (in January of 1997), along with my protest against his sitting in judgment of my case in the Signatura, Cardinal Agustoni recused himselfbut not before he had already ruled against me in my first recourse to the Signatura.
3. It must be noted that Archbishop Arulappa publicly protested this browbeating by Vatican officials when he, along with 9 other archbishops and 17 bishops, signed the Open Letter to Your Holiness, published on April 2, 1998. The Archbishop again reaffirmed his decree of incardination in a subsequent decree dated March 10, 1999, which states as follows:
May Jesus Christ be Praised!"undue canonical or juridical pressures. . I strongly feel that the good work he is doing in spreading devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary should not be hampered for the present, especially through though I was partly misled by influential people"Having reviewed the documents of Father Nicholas Gruner, including the letter from the Diocese of Avellino, dated August 4, 1989, I am satisfied that my decree of November 4, 1995 incardinating Father Gruner into the Archdiocese of Hyderabad is valid and effective, and he is validly incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Hyderabad from that date
After due discernment, I am convinced that I am acting correctly
that this was what he had meant to do!some two years later 5. The Bishop of Avellino never declared this himself in his January 31, 1994 decree or at any other time, until the Congregation informed him