The Balamand Connection
In the offices of the Vatican Secretary of State there are exquisitely sensitive diplomatic alarms, attuned not to heresy, scandal or other threats to the Faith, but to the slightest breach at the perimeters of Ostpolitik and world ecumenism. In the spring of 1993, some 18 months before Father Gruner and the Apostolate would stage a second Fatima Conference in Mexico City, those alarms were tripped by an emergent situation in Romania and the Ukraine.
Now that the “former Soviet Union” had been “liberated”, it seemed likely that a significant number of Russian and Romanian Orthodox clergy and laity would commit the diplomatic gaffe of simply resuming the practice of the Catholic Faith, picking up where their forebears had left off when the Communists seized their “uniate” Catholic parishes, arrested their priests and bishops and installed Orthodox clerics in their places, most of them KGB operatives.
In Russia, it was not an easy matter for the Soviets to create an Orthodox Church consisting essentially of KGB spies. It took awhile to wean the Russian Orthodox Hierarchy of 50,000 priests down to a manageable 500 Soviet agents in clerical garb.1 The Metropolitan of the newly constituted spy-church, Sergei Stragodorsky, was mysteriously released from prison in 1927 and announced to the world that the Russian Orthodox Church had not been persecuted.2 He had apparently been persuaded to overlook the disappearance of 49,500 Orthodox priests.
The imminent recrudescence of Eastern Rite Catholicism should have been an occasion of great joy in the objective order of things, but for the schismatic Orthodox hierarchy, which had for so long enjoyed the use of Communist plunder, it was a grave emergency: several cathedrals and some 2,000 parish properties were already in dispute in Romania and the Ukraine, not to mention a potentially vast loss of forcibly-acquired adherents. The resulting hue and cry clearly posed a threat to the progress of Ostpolitik and world ecumenism in “the former Soviet Union.”
A “fix” was not long in coming. In June 1993 Vatican representatives and representatives of the Russian and Romanian Orthodox Churches (among others) met in Balamand, Lebanon, to discuss the “crisis” at the “VIIth Plenary Session” of the “Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.” The chief Vatican representative, from the Second Section of the Vatican Secretariat of State, was Edward Cardinal Cassidy, who also carried the title, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. The result of the meeting was “The Balamand Statement”. In this astounding document Cardinal Cassidy and the other Catholic representatives agreed that the Catholic Church would no longer seek either the conversion of the Orthodox or even their simple return to the Catholic faith of their forefathers:
At Fatima, Our Lady had prophesied that “In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me. Russia will be converted, and a period of peace will be given to mankind.” Not if the Second Section4 of the Vatican Secretariat of State had anything to say about it! After all, what did the Blessed Virgin Mary know about the exigencies of Ostpolitik and world ecumenism?
Consider: The Balamand Statement implicitly claims that when Our Lady spoke of the conversion of Russia, She, and therefore Her Divine Son, were espousing an “out-dated ecclesiology of return to the Catholic Church”. Contrary to Our Lord and Our Lady, Balamand teaches that “in the search for re-establishing unity there is no question of conversion of people from one Church to the other in order to insure their salvation.” Yet Our Lady of Fatima did speak unambiguously of the conversion of Russia to the Catholic faith, did She not? Was it therefore the position of Cardinal Cassidy and the Vatican Secretariat of State that Our Lord had allowed Our Lady to use the wrong word in the Message of Fatima? Did they suppose that Our Lady had not been advised by Her Son of future developments in the field of ecumenical relations which would render the term “conversion” rather quaint, and quite obsolete when applied to the adherents of Orthodoxy?
At Balamand, the bureaucrats had brought out a large rubber stamp and slammed it down on the Message of Fatima. And when the stamp was lifted the word “OVERRULED” appeared across the words of the Message. The Balamand Statement can only be seen as an insult to Our Lady of Fatima, and thus an infinitely graver insult to Her Divine Son, Whose message She had conveyed.
Yet one might at least find some solace in the fact that this arrant repudiation of the Message of Fatima lacked, and still lacks, formal papal approval. But this would be to ignore the reality of Church governance since the Second Vatican Council. Cardinal Cassidy's masterpiece of capitulation was promptly delivered to the Eastern Catholic primates by the Papal Nuncios, whose ascendancy as the Vatican's semi-secret diplomatic representatives began with the disastrous concordats of the Napoleonic era. With the Nuncial package came the implicit understanding that Balamand's “ecclesiological principles” and “practical rules” would, naturally, be implemented immediately—even though the Pope himself had not actually given such an order. Of course, a papal order was a mere formality. After all, Cardinal Cassidy was head of a Pontifical Council; therefore he acted with Papal authority, did he not? Not only that, the document had been delivered by a Papal Nuncio. Thus, it gave every appearance of being a Papal order, even if it contained no actual order from the Pope.
One of the prelates who received the Balamand Statement via Nuncio was the Cardinal Archbishop of Lviv in the Ukraine, His Eminence Myroslav Lubachivsky. Cardinal Lubachivsky wrote to Cardinal Cassidy to assure him that:
How distressing to note that on April 24, 1990, Cardinal Lubachivsky had written to Father Gruner to encourage his work in spreading awareness of the need for the Collegial Consecration of Russia, which he clearly agreed had not been effected in 1984 as the anti-Fatima forces were now claiming:
Only three years later, this same prelate would feel obliged to forget the conversion of Russia—on the strength of a non-binding statement by a theological commission meeting in Lebanon, negotiated by a Vatican bureaucrat of no greater hierarchical status than his own. And this despite the fact that it was atheistic Russia which had committed the genocide of 20 million of his own people and stolen their priests, bishops and churches from them. Simply because a Nuncio had delivered a document from the Vatican apparatus, this prince of the Church would immediately abandon any effort to exercise his Divine commission of promoting the return — yes, the return— of the Ukrainian Orthodox to the one true Church of Christ. Instead, he would now agree to view the perennial teaching of the Magisterium on the spiritual state of schismatics just as the Balamand Document said it should be viewed: “the outdated ecclesiology of a return to the Catholic Church.”
And so a mere bureaucratic decree would become the policy of the Holy Catholic Church in Eastern Europe. It would soon come to pass that entire villages seeking to return to Rome would be told by Catholic bishops that a return was no longer necessary. No, they were to remain in the schismatic church in which their forefathers had been forcibly transplanted by Communist barbarians. The crisis was over. Mission accomplished. The world was safe for Ostpolitik and world ecumenism. Without the Collegial Consecration which would have made the conversion of Russia a certainty, the Balamand Document was all that was needed to keep it from happening.
The Balamand Statement recalls another tragic blunder of Vatican diplomacy in which defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory: Just as the Cristeros in the mid 1920's seemed to be turning the tide against the Masonic revolutionaries who were ravaging Mexico, U.S. Ambassador Morrow and Vatican representatives negotiated an agreement under which they would lay down their arms in exchange for paper promises of amnesty and respect for the religious liberty of Catholics.7 Following the orders of the Vatican, the Cristeros laid down their arms, only to be hunted down and butchered by the Masons.8 The corpses of faithful priests and laity would festoon trees and telephone poles in Mexico for many years to come.
The Balamand debacle, like the betrayal in Mexico, shows how the Mystical Body has been pulled to the ground and immobilized by a thousand Lilliputian strings emanating from Vatican secretariats, councils and commissions which form no part of the divine constitution of the Church. It typifies the modus operandi by which the virtue of obedience in faithful clerics like Cardinal Lubachivsky is exploited by bureaucrats issuing documents which have the appearance of a command, but which in reality command nothing. These vaporous non-orders have acquired the power to negate Tradition, and even to overrule the plain words of the Mother of God.
It would be Father Gruner himself who unearthed another spectacular example of this phenomenon in May of 1995, at a public address by Alfons Cardinal Stickler on the subject of the Traditional Latin Mass. In response to Father Gruner's written question, the Cardinal revealed to the audience that in 1986 a group of nine Curial Cardinals assembled by Pope John Paul II himself, all with doctorates in Canon Law, had voted 8-1 in closed session that Pope Paul VI had never actually ordered the suppression of the Traditional Mass, and that its celebration had never ceased to be entirely permissible under Church law.9 Incredibly, the Pope had been unable to determine just what his predecessor had ordered in promulgating the New Mass. In fact, the actual suppression of the Traditional Mass had been accomplished entirely through the decrees of Vatican congregations and commissions, and not by any explicit Magisterial act of Paul VI. As the vote of the Cardinals made clear, bureaucrats had obliterated the entire liturgical tradition of the Roman Rite without a single actual order of the Pope suppressing it!
Thus has the Catholic Church been governed for the past 30 years.
In the early summer of 1994, a year after Balamand, news of the Apostolate's plan for a Mexico conference on the Message of Fatima reached the bureaucrats of the Secretary of State, and the alarm bells rang once again: What?—a gathering of bishops to discuss the “conversion of Russia”, after Vatican representatives had just negotiated an agreement promising not to convert the Russians? This was intolerable.
The first employees of the Secretary of State to be mobilized in any crisis are the Nuncios. Should the Nuncios be mobilized on a global scale against a lone Canadian priest and his Marian apostolate, they could present a formidable force which might well annihilate plans for the Mexican conference. Unthinkable? It should have been. Yet that is exactly what happened in the summer and autumn months of 1994.
1. Iain Colquhoun, What Happened in 1929, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 47, Summer 1994, pg. 29.
3. Eastern Churches Journal, Vol. 1, pgs. 18-25.
4. The second section of the Secretariat of State has the particular job of forming and maintaining relations with civil governments. The 1997 Annuario Pontifico, pg. 1814 describes the functions of the second section more indepth.
5. Eastern Churches Journal, Op. Cit., pg. 34.
6. The Fatima Crusader, Issue 33, Summer 1990, pg. 11.
7. Solange Hertz, Beyond Politics, Santa Monica, CA, 1995, pg. 170.
9. Catholic Family News, August 1995, pg. 13.