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Fatima Center Reacts to Vatican Announcement Concerning Father Nicholas Gruner


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



May 16, 2001

Your Eminence:

This is a formal reply to your letter to Father Gruner of February 16, 2001. We address the accusations set forth in your letter, several of them quite new to the canonical proceedings. We also present a basic overall restatement of Father Gruner’s position, as developed more fully in his many submissions to your Congregation, the Apostolic Signatura and the Holy Father over the course of the canonical proceedings.

I. PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS

A. Your Letter Contains Many Fundamental Errors

We have been asked to prepare this reply because it does not appear that Father Gruner’s prior submissions in the canonical proceedings have been fairly and attentively considered by the members of your staff who were evidently involved in preparing your February 16th letter. As a result, the letter contains fundamental errors of fact and law in its description of Father Gruner’s “canonical situation.”

As just one of many examples, the letter asserts that Father Gruner could not be incardinated in Hyderabad on November 4, 1995 because he was already under suspension by the Bishop of Avellino as of that date (“ . . . any attempt at incardination, with your suspension still perduring . . . could not be validly undertaken.”). In truth, the Bishop of Avellino did not even threaten to suspend Father Gruner until May 16, 1996, more than six months after the Archbishop of Hyderabad had already issued his decree of incardination. Moreover, in February of 1996 Father Gruner sent the decree of incardination to the Bishop of Avellino, and (to ensure that every technical requirement was met) in March of 1996 had a copy of the Bishop of Avellino’s decree of excardination (issued in August of 1989) hand-delivered to the Archbishop of Hyderabad. Thus, the incardination was fully effectuated before any purported “suspension” or threat of “suspension” came from Avellino.

We can appreciate that Your Eminence may have not had the opportunity personally to review the voluminous acts in Father Gruner’s proceedings, and we understand that reliance on the research and drafting of staff members is part of the ordinary course of affairs in the work of Vatican congregations. Yet we are constrained to say that basic errors of this kind give rise to a reasonable fear that you may take action against Father Gruner based upon an incorrect understanding of his situation. It is our hope that if Father Gruner’s position is presented to Your Eminence by others, including persons of repute in the hierarchy, errors and misunderstandings will be rectified so that this entire controversy can indeed be resolved in “the Spirit of the Jubilee” invoked by your letter.

We will be entreating bishops, other priests and laity to appeal to Your Eminence and the Holy Father for a resolution of this matter that is just for all concerned, including Father Gruner. Accordingly, this reply will be circulated to bishops, priests and certain members of the laity, especially those who have consistently supported Father Gruner’s apostolate.

Your Eminence and his predecessors have caused to be circulated throughout the world a series of baseless and completely unprecedented denunciations of Father Gruner. We are sad to say that these include Your Eminence’s own false accusation that Father Gruner used “forged Secretariat of State documents ... to imply endorsement” of his apostolate. While this allegation does not appear in the February 16th letter (which instead accuses Father Gruner of “misinterpreting” authentic documents), it has yet to be retracted, more than ten months after Father Gruner requested a retraction from Your Eminence. We respectfully submit that any attempt to resolve this matter “in the Spirit of the Jubilee” would certainly have to include making amends to Father Gruner for the grave harm caused by Your Eminence’s publication of such a terrible falsehood.

In short, while the February 16th letter invokes the name of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, and professes great pastoral solicitude for Father Gruner, in practice the impression is given of an effort to destroy Father Gruner’s reputation and standing in the Church by any means necessary, as shown by Your Eminence’s false public accusation of criminal misconduct.

B. The Threat of Ultimate Penalties Is Contrary to Church Law

The February 16th letter threatens Father Gruner with“definitive provisions in the matter which would be painful for all concerned.” In July of 2000 your threat to “excommunicate” Father Gruner was publicly announced in communiques to bishops’ conferences in regions where Father Gruner’s apostolate enjoys strong episcopal support.

Since Your Eminence has already claimed (quite falsely) that Father Gruner is “suspended a divinis” and threatened him with excommunication (cfr. your letter of June 5, 2000), we can only assume that the phrase “definitive provisions” means either excommunication or reduction to the lay state, commonly known as defrocking.

We must note as a preliminary matter that the law of the Church forbids the imposition of excommunication or any other censure “except with the gravest moderation and only for the more grave offenses.” (Can. 1318) Given that Father Gruner has preached no heresy nor committed any moral offense which could possibly justify his expulsion from the Body of Christ or his reduction to the lay state, such penalties would be without precedent in the living memory of the Church. As we will demonstrate, Father Gruner has committed no offense, much less a grave offense warranting ultimate penalties. Therefore, the excommunication or defrocking of Father Gruner would simply be absurd—and would be seen as such by millions of the faithful.

C. True “Vigilance” over the Clergy Is Lacking

The February 16th letter claims that the constant attention to Father Gruner and his Marian apostolate, culminating in Your Eminence’s threat of “definitive provisions,” is nothing more than an exercise of the Congregation’s “vigilance over the fruitful pastoral ministry of priests.” The letter also claims that the Congregation has “acted pastorally” and only for the “salus animarum” (the salvation of souls). With all due respect, Your Eminence, given the state of the Catholic priesthood today these affirmations are very difficult to believe.

If Your Eminence sincerely believes that the Congregation has “acted pastorally,” then we respectfully request that you take a truly pastoral view of the way Father Gruner has been treated. Consider his treatment from the point of view of the many faithful who have had to endure the widespread doctrinal and moral corruption in the Church today.

Like the rest of the faithful in North America, we have suffered through the crisis of faith and morals now afflicting the Church in every nation. We have witnessed the almost daily reports of priestly scandals which have undermined confidence in the integrity of the priesthood, even though many good priests continue to honor their vows. In North America alone the incidents of sexual abuse of children and women by clerics cannot even be counted. The criminal and civil dockets of North American tribunals contain many claims against clerics on grounds that they either committed, failed to prevent or covered up sexual abuse of men and women.

Only weeks ago, after years of litigation, an American diocese finally admitted to a pattern of sexual molestation of altar boys by a number of its priests—more than 20 incidents were admitted in this one diocese alone. Even the Church in Africa is afflicted by priestly scandal. We were all ashamed to read the recent reports (acknowledged as true by the Vatican) of the sexual abuse and exploitation of nuns, including rape, by certain priests in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet the faithful do not see any threats of excommunication from your Congregation to any of these predatory clerics, who disgrace not only themselves but their innocent and holy brothers in the priesthood, while destroying the Church’s credibility in the eyes of the public.

As the Holy Father himself recognized in ordering the promulgation of Ex Corde Ecclesia, the very integrity of Catholic doctrine is threatened by clerical as well as lay theologians who do not adhere to the Magisterium in their teaching. More than ten years after its promulgation by the Holy Father, Ex Corde Ecclesia has still not been obeyed; the required oath of fidelity to Church teaching has yet to be implemented on any significant scale.

Open dissent from the Magisterium thus remains a widespread problem in the seminaries and Catholic colleges and universities of North America. Yet the faithful do not see any threats of excommunication or defrocking directed by Your Eminence to any of the priests who undermine Catholic doctrine throughout the world.

Even if the defense of doctrine were said to be outside the competence of your own Congregation, neither do the faithful see the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or any other Vatican congregation threatening any heterodox priest with the penalties now being threatened against Father Gruner, whose Catholic orthodoxy is beyond reproach.

As Your Eminence surely knows, the current crisis in faith and discipline obtains throughout the Western world. This is evidenced most recently by the Holy Father’s just-disclosed private letter to the German Cardinals, which details a grave state of affairs for the Church in that country. As the Holy Father told the German Cardinals: “We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that more and more people are abandoning the active practice of the faith, or accepting only a portion of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.” As a result, wrote the Holy Father, the Church in Germany “has no inner vitality, and has lost credibility in the process.” So, the Holy Father himself confirms that the Catholic faith is dying in Germany and that the Church is no longer seen as credible.

The situation is little different in the rest of the West. Your Eminence, this can only be the result of a failure of the shepherds to guide their sheep. Yet we do not see your Congregation publicly threatening any of these bad priests with excommunication or defrocking, or even referring their cases to whatever congregation might claim jurisdiction for the imposition of such penalties.

D. True “Pastoral Care” Is Not Practiced

It is not as if these criminals in priestly garb merely escape just punishment, which is bad enough. No, the faithful see that many are even rewarded for their crimes with favorable transfers and promotions. The recent story of a convicted child-molesting priest in England who was allowed to resume pastoral responsibilities for many years, during which he molested again, is only typical. The predator was finally defrocked after his second conviction—at the age of 81! Another typical example is the English priest who was given pastoral duties after being convicted of abducting young boys.

This reward of evil conduct by priests is seen even at the highest levels of the Church. Your Eminence will recall the worldwide furor in the press when the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Sodano, publicly praised the writings of Father Hans Küng in his famous 1998 speech at the Lateran. The London Times rightly noted that Cardinal Sodano had praised “one of the Pope’s worst enemies.” In addition to his heterodox writings, which cast doubt on practically every Catholic doctrine and dogma, Küng has publicly condemned Pope John Paul II for what he calls “despotic rule in the Spirit of the Inquisition.”

Yet we do not see Your Eminence (or any other Vatican Congregation) directing public threats of excommunication or defrocking to Küng or any of his fellow priests who voice the same opinions. On the contrary, although Küng was nominally deprived of his credentials as a Catholic theologian by order of the Pope in 1980, he remains a priest in good standing and still teaches theology at the same university after his nominal “wrist slap”. Making a mockery of even this limited sanction, Cardinal Sodano referred to Küng in the aforesaid speech as “the German theologian.”

Then there is the scandal of American cardinals and bishops actually granting priestly faculties to priests of the “Patriotic Catholic Association” (PCA). The PCA is a schismatic organization created by the Chinese communists to replace the true Catholic Church in China, which has been driven underground by communist persecution.

Your Eminence, surely you are aware that in September 1995, the PCA “Bishops’ Conference” issued a “pastoral letter” calling upon all Chinese Catholics to support China’s Satanic population control policy, including forced abortion. The PCA’s constitution explicitly rejects allegiance to the pope, and the PCA has consecrated 100 bishops without a papal mandate. Yet we do not see any action by Your Eminence against these schismatic, communist-controlled priests who are offering Mass in American parishes in such places as New York and San Francisco. On the contrary, Archbishop Levada of San Francisco has claimed that “the apostolic ministry” of PCA priests is being “carried out according to directives received from the Holy See.”

So, the schismatic priests of a false, pro-abortion “church” created by the Chinese communists are rewarded with priestly faculties and “an apostolic ministry” in America with the Vatican’s approval, while Your Eminence threatens Father Gruner with excommunication or defrocking! Your Eminence, we hope you can appreciate why the faithful wonder how this preposterous situation can be reconciled with your professed concern for “the fruitful pastoral ministry of priests” and the “salus animarum” (the salvation of souls).

As a result of the Vatican’s own failure to take strong and decisive action against the crisis, throughout the West the great majority of those who still call themselves Catholics no longer follow any teaching on faith and morals with which they happen to “disagree.” Indeed, Catholics today are just as likely as Protestants and Jews to favor contraception and abortion.

In the United States it was the Catholic vote which elected Bill Clinton, a champion of partial-birth abortion, as President in 1992 and 1996; and in November 2000 the majority of Catholics voted for Al Gore, another champion of partial-birth abortion, in the last Presidential election. Likewise in Europe, Catholics routinely cast their votes for politicians whose policies are inimical to the Faith. We are confronted, therefore, with nothing less than a great apostasy throughout the Catholic world.

E. The Context of Your “Pastoral” Threat

This, then, is the context in which the millions of Catholics who support the good works of Father Gruner view Your Eminence’s recent threats against him: Errant clerics are ravaging the flock with false doctrine and shockingly amoral conduct in every nation, while remaining priests in good standing, and some are even rewarded for their behavior. The Vatican Secretary of State, who hounds Father Gruner, publicly praises the most notorious priestly dissenter from Catholic teaching since Martin Luther, while the Vatican condones the granting of priestly faculties to the members of a schismatic, pro-abortion “church” created by the Communist Chinese. Everywhere the Catholic faith is being abandoned. Yet in the midst of this ecclesial chaos and collapse, the faithful see that only one priest out of 405,000 in the world—a priest who has kept the Faith and kept his vows—receives from your Congregation a public threat of excommunication announced to entire bishops’ conferences.

Looking at the situation pastorally, as Your Eminence professes to do, can you not find it in your heart to understand why it is difficult to believe that this relentless pursuit of Father Gruner is motivated by “vigilance over the fruitfulness of the pastoral ministry of priests”? Can you not see that the great crisis in the Church today has resulted precisely from the lack of zealous and chaste priests like Father Gruner, who has spent his priestly life not only preaching the Message of Fatima, but promoting Marian devotion in general, publishing Catholic devotional literature throughout the world, and distributing millions of brown and green scapulars for the conversion and salvation of souls?

Your Eminence, can you blame the faithful for asking themselves why the Vatican threatens no “definitive provisions” to arrest the virtual self-demolition of the Church remarked by Pope Paul VI himself, while a faithful and eminently fruitful priest like Father Gruner is singled out for the ultimate canonical sanctions? Imagine, Your Eminence, how the faithful must feel when they see your Congregation devoting so much of its resources to persuading the world that Father Nicholas Gruner is some sort of threat to the good order of the Church who must be excommunicated or defrocked when he has done absolutely nothing contrary to faith and morals, but rather has spread the Faith and undoubtedly made many converts.

Are we wrong to wonder how much better the condition of the Church would be if those same resources were devoted to protecting the faithful from even one of the legion of dangerous ecclesiastical criminals who are allowed to remain within the bosom of the sacred priesthood?

We do not present these considerations to insult or provoke Your Eminence, but rather in the hope that Your Eminence will step back from this controversy for a moment and view it from the perspective of the many faithful who see a travesty of justice in the Church. We simply cannot accept that Father Gruner, who has done so much for the good of souls, should be the object of the severest possible punishments, while the widespread collapse of faith and discipline in the Church is barely addressed.

F. A Summary of the Matter

Before addressing Your Eminence’s specific allegations in detail, we wish to summarize the controversy surrounding Father Gruner, so that readers unfamiliar with it may see in brief why it has arisen and why we believe Father Gruner has been treated unjustly.

After 23 years of residence in Canada, during which Father Gruner has been engaged in an apostolate devoted to the Message of Fatima, your Congregation, without basis in law or fact, has ordered him to return to the Diocese of Avellino, where he was ordained in 1976, even though in 1995 Father Gruner was incardinated in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, whose Archbishop specifically approved Father Gruner’s apostolate.

This order is the end result of years of unprecedented behind-the-scenes coercion and maneuvering by elements in the Vatican Secretariat of State. The Vatican Secretariat of State, acting through your Congregation, seeks to use the appearance of law to silence Father Gruner’s very effective presentation of views concerning the Message of Fatima and its relation to the current crisis in the Church and the world.

These views necessarily entail legitimate questions and objections concerning recent Vatican policies which do not at all lie in the realm of binding Catholic doctrine. We are speaking here of prudential judgments aimed at an accommodation with the forces of the world and other religions through Ostpolitik, “dialogue” and other novel initiatives never before seen in the Church. As we will discuss in greater detail further on, Father Gruner and millions of other Catholics believe in conscience that these novelties have contributed to the current crisis in the Church.

Believing this, they have the God-given right and even the duty to speak out for what they believe is the good of the Church (see Canon 212; 215 and L.G. 37). As the Code of Canon law promulgated by Pope John Paul II himself declares: “Christ’s faithful are at liberty to make known their needs, especially their spiritual needs, to the Pastors of the Church. They have the right, indeed at times the duty . . . to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church.” Can. 212, §2, 3 Nothing Father Gruner or the apostolate has said is beyond that liberty of discussion which the Church allows in matters not involving settled Catholic doctrine—a liberty your own Congregation has allowed even to those (such as Küng) who flagrantly abuse it.

Despite the legitimacy of the views expressed by Father Gruner—and indeed precisely because those views are legitimate and cannot be prohibited—the Secretariat of State and members of your Congregation have been attempting to silence him by means of what we can only call a scheme that runs throughout Father Gruner’s so-called “canonical situation.” This scheme is as follows:

• The Bishop of Avellino, who in 1978 gave Father Gruner written permission to live outside the diocese, would be pressured to revoke that permission and recall Father Gruner to Avellino unless he found another bishop to incardinate him. The application of this pressure was disclosed by the Bishop in May 1989, when he wrote to Father Gruner to advise of “worried signals” from the Vatican Secretariat of State concerning Father Gruner’s apostolate. (By 1989, the apostolate had become a major force for the promotion of the authentic Message of Fatima.)

• The Bishop would be pressured to recall Father Gruner even though there was no canonical mission for him in Avellino, where Father Gruner could not speak the local dialect. (Father Gruner had been ordained in Avellino only to join a proposed English-speaking Franciscan community which did not materialize along the lines envisioned.)

• At the same time the Bishop was being pressured to recall Father Gruner, all offers of incardination from benevolent bishops outside Avellino would be blocked by the Secretariat of State, acting in conjunction with your predecessors in the Congregation.

• Once all avenues of incardination had been closed, Father Gruner would then be accused of being “disobedient” because he had “failed” to find another bishop as ordered.

• After Father Gruner demonstrated that the Secretariat of State and your predecessors were unjustly preventing him from obeying the very order they had accused him of “disobeying,” Your Eminence would change the accusation. It would now be asserted that the Congregation had the right to prevent Father Gruner from being incardinated outside Avellino, because his “irregular condition” had to be “corrected.” The alleged “irregular condition,” however, involves nothing more than Father Gruner’s fully legitimate engagement in a full-time apostolate while living in Canada with the permission of his bishop—an arrangement fully permissible under the law of the Church.

In pursuit of this scheme your Congregation has issued various communications over the years, many of them secret, while the Congregation and the Secretariat of State have dispatched representatives in a coordinated campaign to coerce three successive benevolent bishops into withdrawing their offers to incardinate Father Gruner. The sudden appearance of nuncios or other emissaries to browbeat these benevolent bishops is clearly evidenced in the acts of Father Gruner’s proceedings.

Your Eminence continues to insist that Father Gruner return to Avellino even though these benevolent bishops have offered to incardinate him with permission to continue his apostolate in Canada, and even though the Bishop of Avellino had no objection of his own to such an arrangement. The law, immemorial custom and the constant practice of the Church have always allowed a priest to engage in work outside the diocese of his incardination with either the presumed or (as in Father Gruner’s case) express permission of his bishop. Today, thousands of priests live and work outside their dioceses under arrangements no different in principle from what these benevolent bishops offered Father Gruner. Indeed, Father Gruner had just such an arrangement with the Bishop of Avellino from 1978 until1994, when the Bishop was finally pressured to revoke the arrangement according to the scheme we have just described.

Despite the operation of the scheme, one of the three benevolent bishops, the Archbishop of Hyderabad, proceeded formally to incardinate Father Gruner in his Archdiocese, where Father Gruner’s apostolate alone supports 68 orphans and their orphanage and other good works. The Archbishop rejected the interference in his rights and declared in his decree incardinating Father Gruner that “Evil forces have conspired to destroy your work of love.” The Archbishop affirmed his incardination in a subsequent decree, despite the contention of your predecessors that the incardination is “tanquam non existens”—meaning “as if it were non-existent.” (They did not say the incardination is actually non-existent, but only that it is as if it were non-existent. What this signifies is far from apparent.)

Therefore, Father Gruner’s so-called “canonical situation” has been imposed upon him by certain members of the Vatican Secretariat of State and your Congregation. They themselves have prevented Father Gruner from “obeying” the Bishop of Avellino’s order to find another bishop. They themselves have prevented Father Gruner from “correcting” what Your Eminence now calls his “irregular condition,” which does not need correction in the first place. These non-existent “offenses” have been used as a pretext for suppressing legitimate views concerning Fatima which could not otherwise be suppressed, views held in common by Father Gruner and millions of like-minded Catholics.

The order to return to Avellino would require Father Gruner to abandon the apostolate and its 150 employees, leave behind his personal residence and affairs built up over a lifetime, and live in virtual exile until death in a foreign diocese which has never had any canonical mission for him and has made no provision for his support, medical care or old-age pension. By this wrongful sentence of exile, Father Gruner would be deprived of any priestly mission in the Church—at the very moment in Church history when there is a crisis in vocations and a dire shortage of priests.

Moreover, the order to return to Avellino after 23 years would require Father Gruner to enter Italy as an illegal alien in violation of Italian civil law on immigration, which the Church is bound to observe, and which she does observe as to every priest but Father Gruner. (Cfr. Can. 22) Italian civil law prohibits any priest from taking up permanent residence in Italy unless the Church has issued written guarantees for his support, medical care and old age pension and obtained a proper entry visa for the priest. If Father Gruner were to attempt to enter Italy as a permanent resident without these requirements having been fulfilled, he would be arrested and expelled at the point of entry—unless he were willing to lie and say that he was entering only for a short visit as tourist. Father Gruner has brought this problem to the attention of the Bishop of Avellino, who has done absolutely nothing to address it. For this reason alone the order is void and beyond the jurisdiction of your Congregation—or any Congregation—to issue. Not even the Apostolic Signatura can order a priest to enter another country in violation of that country’s immigration law. Neither the Congregation nor the Signatura has ever answered this obvious objection.

Standing above all these considerations, as compelling as they are, is the most important of all: the salvation of souls, which is the highest law of the Church. Father Gruner cannot in conscience “obey” an illegal and unjust order which would not only work his personal ruination but would threaten the existence of a legitimate apostolate which preaches the Gospel, promotes Catholic devotions and sacramental helps which have benefitted countless thousands of souls, and defends the integral Message of Fatima, which, as Our Lady Herself said, was given to men as an aid to the salvation of souls in our time.

G. Natural Justice and the Law of the Church Preclude Any Punishment of Father Gruner

For all these reasons, the order to return to Avellino is morally and legally impossible to obey. No tribunal on earth, be it civil or ecclesiastical, can legitimately convict someone of offenses which do not exist, order someone to violate the law or command him to stop preaching truths which are necessary for the salvation of souls. Therefore, as a matter of natural justice, any “suspension” or other penalty based on these false grounds would objectively have no force or effect before man or God.

Not only natural justice but Church law forbids any punishment of Father Gruner for the non-existent “offenses” Your Eminence alleges. The Code of Canon Law explicitly provides that “no one can be punished for the commission of an external violation of a law or precept [i.e., particular command] unless it is gravely imputable by reason of malice or culpability.” (Can. 1321, §1) Since the precept that Father Gruner “return” to Avellino is based upon concocted offenses which do not exist in the law of the Church, and since the precept is in itself manifestly void because it is legally and morally impossible to obey, there can be no punishment of Father Gruner because neither malice nor culpability is “gravely imputable” to him under Canon 1321. This would be true of any proposed penalty, let alone the ultimate penalties of excommunication or defrocking which would be so unwarranted as to be patently absurd.

Further, even if the precept had some basis in fact or law—and it does not—the law of the Church, in its mercy, recognizes that no one may be punished for violating a precept if “necessity or grave inconvenience” prevents compliance. (Can. 1323, 2E) Of necessity, Father Gruner cannot “obey” a precept which would require him to violate Italian immigration law. Also, the precept would manifestly cause “grave inconvenience” in that it would require Father Gruner to destroy his entire life’s work, abandon his home and personal affairs, and take up residence as an illegal alien in a foreign diocese which has made no provision for his support, medical care and old age.

Thus, while Your Eminence may show no mercy toward Father Gruner, Holy Mother Church does show mercy in her laws. No one can be punished for “failing” to obey a void order; or for “failing” to do what is illegal, impossible or even gravely inconvenient. The baseless precept to “return” to Avellino is all of these.

Meanwhile, Father Gruner’s detailed written appeals to the Holy Father have yet to be decided by His Holiness. It appears that these appeals have been diverted by representatives of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and that the Holy Father will never be allowed to read them. Nevertheless, until the Holy Father has been given the opportunity to hear the appeals (in accordance with the God-given right of the faithful to make recourse to the Supreme Pontiff), Father Gruner is morally justified in continuing to resist the abuses of power and authority which pervade the proceedings against him.

H. Your Claim of Express Papal Authority Is Open to Question

The February 16th letter claims that Your Eminence acts “in the name of the Holy Father” and by his “explicit instructions.” With all due respect, it is impossible to believe that the Holy Father would appoint Your Eminence to make false accusations of forgery or to commit the other abuses specified in the canonical complaint against Your Eminence which Father Gruner sent to the Holy Father on December 21, 2000. It is inconceivable that the Holy Father, if he is aware of the contents of that complaint, would appoint Your Eminence as judge in this matter when you have displayed such implacable hostility toward Father Gruner. (On the other hand, if the Holy Father has not been permitted to read the canonical complaint, then his alleged grant of a specific mandate to Your Eminence could hardly have been an informed decision.) The conflict of interest in which Your Eminence has embroiled himself precludes your involvement in any further proceedings. Your Eminence can hardly take actions in this matter at the same time the Holy Father is being asked to judge Father Gruner’s claims against you.

Given the manifestly deteriorating condition of the Pope and all the other circumstances of this controversy, we trust you will understand why Your Eminence’s claim of an explicit papal authorization cannot simply be accepted at face value. In any event, it seems to us that the phrase “in the name of the Holy Father” has become a formula for the notion that members of Vatican congregations may act as if they were the Pope without any specific papal mandate for their actions. Likewise, the phrase “explicit instructions” would have no more value than the amount of truthful information the Pope received before the alleged “explicit instructions” were given. In view of the way this entire controversy has proceeded, there is good reason to believe that these “specific instructions”—if indeed they exist—consist of nothing more than the Pope simply assenting to someone else’s proposal without knowing the whole truth of the matter.

Under the circumstances, it is only prudent to question what, if anything, the Holy Father has specifically authorized Your Eminence to do in this case. Is it not reasonable for Father Gruner to request concrete evidence of your specific mandate from the Pope to threaten excommunication, defrocking or other penalties?

I. A Papal Audience Is Needed To Ascertain Your Alleged Authority

Regarding the “will of the Holy Father” in this matter, we respectfully suggest that if “the spirit of the Jubilee” and pastoral concern for Father Gruner are really what motivate Your Eminence, then your Congregation ought to assist him in obtaining an audience with the Pope. In January 1990 Father Gruner traveled to Rome at great expense for what he thought would be a private papal audience with himself and another person, only to find that the appointment had been cancelled at the last minute.

The explanation given was that the Pope was “ill” that day, but on the very next day His Holiness showed no signs of this “illness” in conducting his usual affairs. As we have noted, it does not appear that the Holy Father has been allowed to read any of Father Gruner’s petitions or other communications to His Holiness over the past seven years of canonical proceedings. Thus, a papal audience seems the only way Father Gruner can convey his side of the controversy to the Holy Father.

The February 16th letter claims to express “the heartfelt and paternal appeal of the Vicar of Christ.” If the Holy Father is indeed personally involved in the matter, why not assist Father Gruner in having recourse to him? After all, direct recourse to the Supreme Pontiff is the God-given right of every member of the faithful, as reflected in the Code of Canon Law. (Cfr. can. 1417) Will you help Father Gruner obtain a papal audience? This would certainly be a concrete indication of your professed solicitude for Father Gruner, and would do much to dispel the impression of malice given by your false accusation that he engaged in the criminal forgery of Vatican documents. On the other hand, if Father Gruner’s petitions and other communications continue to be diverted from His Holiness and access to him denied, it will only be reasonable to conclude that the alleged personal involvement and “explicit instructions” of the Holy Father are, to say the least, open to question.

J. The Congregation Has No Jurisdiction in this Matter

Without evidence of special papal authorization, Father Gruner does not see any canonical basis for Your Eminence’s continued proceedings against him and thus declines to admit your jurisdiction in the matter. Father Gruner’s position is that proceedings are still pending in the Signatura. Your Eminence, on the other hand, claims that the Signatura has “definitively” decided all of the pending recourses and petitions—a claim which is manifestly false for five reasons:

First, Father Gruner has lodged three separate canonical appeals with the Supreme Pontiff, none of which has been decided.

Second, in November 1999 Father Gruner’s advocate (at the suggestion of the Signatura’s Archbishop Secretary at the time) filed with the Signatura the Archbishop of Hyderabad’s decree of March 10, 1999, which affirms his decree of November 4, 1995, incardinating Father Gruner in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad. In the March 1999 decree the Archbishop specifically rejects Your Eminence’s position that the incardination is “tanquam non existens,” and notes that he has reviewed all the pertinent documents and finds no defect in the incardination.

Third, in August 1999 the Bishop of Avellino was also presented with a copy of the Archbishop of Hyderabad’s March 10, 1999 decree. He has never disputed the validity of that decree.

Fourth, the Signatura has never addressed the Archbishop of Hyderabad’s reaffirmation of the incardination.

Fifth, neither the Signatura nor the Bishop of Avellino has ever addressed the patent illegality of an order requiring Father Gruner to take up permanent residence in Italy in violation of Italian immigration law and thus also in violation of canon law (Can 22).

Thus, it is simply not true that Father Gruner’s “canonical situation” has been “definitively resolved” by the Signatura. In any case, even under Your Eminence’s incorrect version of the facts, the matter is no longer with the Congregation. Therefore, the Congregation has no jurisdiction to make new accusations and threaten new penalties.

Moreover, your Congregation cannot continue to involve itself in this matter when the Bishop of Avellino himself has had nothing further to say since Father Gruner’s last written request to the Bishop for advice (in September 2000) concerning the obvious illegality of “his” purported order that Father Gruner, a Canadian citizen, take up permanent residence in Italy without a visa, or else enter the country under the false pretense of being a tourist. Despite this request for advice, the Bishop has made no effort to tender a proper visa or provide Father Gruner with the written financial guarantees required by Italian immigration law. It is obvious that Father Gruner’s “return” to Avellino is of no interest to the Bishop of Avellino. Consequently, Your Eminence has no grounds for continued interference in this matter.

K. You Did Not Propose Any Meeting — Father Gruner Did

In what seems to be an effort to make Father Gruner appear unreasonable, the February 16th letter claims that he “practically refused” to meet with the Congregation when it “proposed a personal meeting.” In truth, the meeting was not proposed by your Congregation, but by Father Gruner, in his letter to Your Eminence of July 12, 2000. Unfortunately, Your Eminence has thus far refused any personal meeting except on the basis that Father Gruner must consent to the total destruction of his life’s work and go into permanent exile in Avellino as an illegal alien with no canonical mission in the Church.

At any rate, Father Gruner did have a “personal meeting” with the Archbishop Secretary of your Congregation on February 20, 2001. Although the meeting was quite cordial, the Secretary (no doubt a well-intentioned man) seemed little familiar with the facts of Father Gruner’s situation and was apparently authorized to do nothing more than to convey a demand of absolute “obedience” to a void ab initio (from the beginning) order which would be morally and legally impossible for any human being to obey.

L. Your Claim of “Patience and Moderation” Is Contradicted by the Facts

In short, although the February 16th letter strives to give the impression of infinite patience and generosity with Father Gruner, the “spirit of the Jubilee” is nowhere evident in the way Father Gruner has been treated. To understand this clearly, one need only compare the unprecedented treatment Father Gruner has received with the indulgence shown toward so many real enemies of the Church. Father Gruner’s treatment has not been ameliorated during Your Eminence’s own tenure as Prefect of the Congregation. On the contrary, it has grown immeasurably worse, and now includes false accusations of criminal activity and groundless threats of excommunication and (it would appear) even defrocking. Such actions hardly evince the “patience and moderation” Your Eminence professes.

This, then, is where matters stood when Father Gruner received the February 16th letter, with its threat of ultimate canonical sanctions. We will now address the purported grounds for those sanctions.

II. FATHER GRUNER'S "CANONICAL SITUATION" IS ENTIRELY CONSISTENT WITH CHURCH LAW

A. The original accusation of “disobedience” has been abandoned.

In the canonical proceedings against Father Gruner we see a kind of “evolution” of the accusations against him, a constant shifting and changing of grounds. When one accusation is shown to be false, unfounded and even ridiculous another springs up to take its place. In the letter of February 16th alone three entirely new accusations—all spurious—suddenly appear for the first time. (We discuss these new matters below.)

The original accusation against Father Gruner, back in 1994, was that he was justly ordered to return to Avellino because of his “disobedience” in “failing” to find another bishop to incardinate him. But once it was demonstrated that this “failure” to find another bishop was caused by the illicit interventions of the Vatican Secretariat of State and your predecessors in the Congregation, who were systematically blocking all offers of incardination through browbeating and intimidation, this accusation became untenable in the eyes of the many faithful who support Father Gruner. After all, how could Father Gruner seriously be accused of “disobeying” an order by the very people who were preventing him from obeying it?

Then, more than four years later (and some two years after Your Eminence became head of the Congregation) a new accusation was devised. In 1998 it was claimed (for the very first time) that the Congregation had the right to block any and all incardinations outside Avellino because it allegedly possesses the “ordinary vicariate power” of the Pope himself. [This claim is discussed under Point II (e).] The exercise of this alleged “ordinary vicariate power” was supposedly justified on the basis of the claim (also newly introduced) that Father Gruner was guilty of being in an “irregular condition”—a condition which (conveniently enough) could not be corrected by any incardination that would allow him to continue his apostolate. As we will now demonstrate, the new accusation of “irregular condition” is just as groundless as the old accusation of “disobedience” in “failing” to find another bishop.

B. The alleged “irregular condition” is an invention designed for Father Gruner’s case.

Under the first heading of the February 16th letter, there is a discussion of what is now the basic claim against Father Gruner in the canonical proceedings: that he is guilty of being in an “irregular condition.” The term “irregular condition” appears nowhere in the Code of Canon Law. We are not aware of any priest (besides Father Gruner) who has ever been punished for an “irregular condition.” The alleged offense of being in an “irregular condition” appears to have been devised solely for Father Gruner’s case.

An examination of the facts shows that this “irregular condition” consists of nothing more than Father Gruner’s full-time engagement in a Marian apostolate while living outside the diocese of his incardination with the express written permission of his bishop. Relying on some passages from a Decree of the Apostolic Signatura dated July 10, 1999 (which for some reason was not published until September 8, 1999), the February 16th letter asserts that this “irregular condition” in and of itself justified recalling Father Gruner to the Diocese of Avellino in 1994 after an approved absence of some 16 years.

In the first place, the law of the Church makes it clear that no diocesan priest needs permission to join or found any private association of the faithful whose activities are consistent with faith, morals and the priestly state. This is not simply a matter of canon law, but the natural law itself. Priests are human beings who have the same right of association as other human beings, unless they freely renounce that right by taking some special vow of silence or enclosure, as do the members of some religious orders. Diocesan or “secular” priests like Father Gruner are ordained to live in the world and are under no such special vow. Thus, as stated in can. 278: “Secular clerics (i.e. priests ordained for a diocese) have the right of association with others for the achievement of purposes befitting the clerical state.” The Code of Canon Law (can. 299) further provides that “by private agreement among themselves, Christ’s faithful have the right to constitute associations for the purposes mentioned in can. 298 . . .” No decree of any tribunal, civil or ecclesiastical, can take away a priest’s God-given natural right of association with other human beings in legitimate undertakings, and no one has ever questioned the legitimacy of the apostolate in itself.

Indeed, the February 16th letter does not deny that Father Gruner has the God-given right to be involved in a Marian apostolate. Nevertheless, it tries to impose a false limitation on that right when it says that Father Gruner’s full-time involvement in the apostolate constitutes the so-called “irregular condition.” According to the February 16th letter, such involvement “precludes him [Father Gruner] from being entrusted with a responsibility by the competent authority.” This contention is false for three reasons, all of which are amply and repeatedly proven in the canonical proceedings:

First, the Bishop of Avellino made it clear from the start that Father Gruner could never have a canonical mission in Avellino, where he had been incardinated only in anticipation of joining an English-speaking Franciscan community in nearby Frigento, oriented around a traditional religious life and dogmatic orthodoxy. When it became clear that this English- speaking community was not going to materialize, the Bishop was only too happy to release Father Gruner from service to him, since Father Gruner could not speak the local dialect and could not even deliver a sermon unless it was written out in advance and checked for linguistic errors. Therefore, Father Gruner had no “responsibility” in Avellino which would be incompatible with a full-time Marian apostolate.

This is precisely why, in 1978, the Bishop gave Father Gruner a written decree granting him permission to reside outside the Diocese of Avellino—where he was not needed—until he could find some other bishop to incardinate him. No time limit was placed on this permission. Again and again Father Gruner repeats these (and many other) basic uncontested facts; again and again they are ignored.

Regarding the 1978 permission, we must note that the February 16th letter attempts to rewrite its terms some 23 years later in order to prejudice Father Gruner’s position. Quoting from a purported decree of the Signatura, Your Eminence contends that Father Gruner never had permission as such to reside outside the diocese of Avellino, but only permission to reside in a diocese which had first accepted him “ad experimentum with a view towards incardination.” Not only does the 1978 permission impose no such restriction, but earlier documents of your own Congregation admit that Father Gruner’s permission to reside outside the Diocese of Avellino was unrestricted. Congregation) wrote to the Bishop of Avellino, pressuring him to revoke “the authorization granted in your time to Reverend Gruner to reside outside the diocese . . . .”

There is no reference to any requirement of prior acceptance by another bishop ad experimentum. On the contrary, the same letter from the Congregation instructs the Bishop to base revocation of the 1978 permission on “the fact that after fully 10 years and innumerable solicitations he has not yet found a benevolent bishop . . .” There is not the slightest suggestion that Father Gruner had been required to find a bishop before he took up residence in Canada. Of course, Father Gruner has since found three benevolent bishops to incardinate him, whose offers of incardination were all blocked by the Vatican Secretariat of State, employing your Congregation according to the scheme we have earlier described. This letter is one of many secret communications your Congregation has issued against Father Gruner behind his back. A copy was provided to Father Gruner only recently by a sympathetic third party. That the Congregation should have to resort to misrepresenting a crucial document, while contradicting its own prior statements about the same document, only demonstrates the lack of any sound basis for the claims against Father Gruner.

Second, even if Father Gruner could have had some canonical mission within the diocese of Avellino, his canonical “condition” is no more “irregular” than that of thousands of other diocesan priests whose bishops allow them to live and work full-time outside the diocese of incardination in a wide array of occupations, many of them entirely secular. In this age of jet travel and high speed communications, including the internet, it is commonplace to find priests formally incardinated in one diocese while living and working thousands of miles away as students, teachers, university professors, scientists, writers (even of popular novels!), members of various sacred and secular institutes, heads of private apostolates and so forth. The city of Rome itself is full of priests who maintain only a formal connection with their bishops while pursuing full-time activities having nothing to do with parish work in their dioceses of origin. During the meeting on February 20th the Archbishop Secretary of your own Congregation admitted to Father Gruner the undeniable truth that this sort of arrangement is commonplace not only in Rome, but throughout the entire Church.

As Your Eminence knows, these commonplace arrangements are fully consistent with a priest’s obligation to serve the bishop who incardinates him. Incardination has never meant a requirement of literal physical presence within the borders of a diocese. Indeed, the canon pertaining to the residence of incardinated clerics provides merely that: “Clerics, even if they do not have a residential office, are not to be absent from their diocese for a considerable time, to be determined by particular law, without the at least presumed permission of their proper Ordinary.” (Cfr., can. 283) This canon explicitly recognizes the reality that a priest may live and work outside his diocese indefinitely so long as he has the permission of his ordinary, yet still be serving the diocese as envisioned by the law. Again, thousands of priests do precisely that. What is more, can. 283 requires only presumed permission for residence outside the diocese, whereas Father Gruner had written permission from the Bishop of Avellino by way of the 1978 decree, as well as oral and written affirmations of that permission over the next 16 years.

Third, no one has ever disputed that at least three benevolent bishops were willing to incardinate Father Gruner with permission to pursue his apostolate in Canada. There can be no denying that it is well within the authority of any bishop to allow one of his priests to engage in apostolic work in some other place as a form of service to the diocese. Whether work outside the diocese benefits the diocese is for the local bishop to determine by agreement with his priest, just as it should be in the case of Father Gruner.

In fact, at this very moment a portion of the donations flowing to Father Gruner’s apostolate supports an orphanage in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, where Father Gruner was duly incardinated in November 1995, as discussed at point I.(F). In addition, Father Gruner has conducted Marian pilgrimages in that Archdiocese, which have enlivened the faith of tens of thousands of Catholics in the region while attracting throngs of potential converts, drawn by the apostolate’s Pilgrim Virgin statue which was blessed by Pope Paul VI. Father Gruner’s apostolate has also distributed hundreds of thousands of scapulars and millions of copies of traditional Catholic devotional literature around the world. No wonder the Archbishop of Hyderabad declared in his decree of incardination: “Bureaucratic forces cannot stifle God’s work.”

It is simply not honest to contend that Father Gruner performs no service to the Archdiocese of Hyderabad with all these good works, but that he would be “serving” the Diocese of Avellino in the status of an illegal alien who cannot even speak the local dialect. The current Bishop of Avellino freely admitted that Father Gruner’s only function in Avellino, were he to return, would be to “say your prayers.” That is, Avellino would be nothing more than an ecclesiastical jail where Father Gruner would be wrongfully imprisoned for the rest of his life. This is not to suggest that a priest should not say his prayers (including the Divine Office) every day. But Father Gruner was ordained to do more than say his prayers. As a diocesan priest, he has the God-given vocation of being in the world to spread the Gospel. He did not take a vow of enclosure or silence, and it is contrary to divine justice itself to impose enclosure or silence upon him when he has done nothing to justify such punishment.

Ignoring all of these facts, the February 16th letter asserts that no matter what the benevolent bishops were willing to approve, the Congregation had the right to block Father Gruner’s incardination outside Avellino in the exercise of its “vigilance over the fruitfulness of the pastoral ministry” of priests. This claim implicitly denies the divine right of a local ordinary to reach agreements with his priests on how they will serve the diocese. According to this claim, the Congregation would literally have the right to dictate which parish or other assignment would be most “fruitful” for each of the world’s 250,000 diocesan priests at any given moment in their careers, overriding the decisions of the local bishop whenever it pleased. This notion that the Congregation micro-manages the “fruitfulness” of the ministry of 250,000 individual priests would in practice amount to a total absurdity. It appears to be another invention for the case of Father Gruner.

Besides, Father Gruner’s pastoral ministry is manifestly one of the most fruitful in the Church today. Yet it is proposed to destroy that ministry and reduce Father Gruner to the status of a manservant and pauper, living out his life in a diocese which has no mission for him but to sit in a room and “say your prayers.”

C: The False Claim of “Acephalous Activity”

The February 16th letter claims that Father Gruner’s conduct of a Marian apostolate in Canada constitutes “acephalous activity” or activity “without reference to the legitimate authority of the Church.” This is obviously false, for three reasons:

First, the Code of Canon law gives priests the right to join and establish such apostolates without any further permission of Church authority. Thus, the Code itself constitutes permission of “the legitimate authority of the Church”—namely, the Supreme Pontiff, who promulgated the Code.

Second, as we have already shown, three bishops were willing to authorize the apostolate as a valid form of service to their dioceses, and the Archbishop of Hyderabad has specifically authorized it by written decree. These bishops all represent “the legitimate authority of the Church.” [It should be noted here that even if a bishop merely gave Father Gruner permission to reside in Canada without any particular assignment beyond offering Mass for the diocese, absolutely nothing would prevent his engagement in the apostolate as a private activity permissible under the law of the Church (cfr. Cann. 298, 299, etc) which would ipso facto have “reference to the legitimate Authority of the Church.”]

Third, as Your Eminence knows, the problem of “acephalous clergy” addressed by the requirement of incardination refers only to priests who would presume to exercise a priestly ministry on a “wandering” basis, taking to themselves without express permission works that are reserved to the pastor of the parish. This situation has absolutely nothing to do with Father Gruner engaging in a private apostolate in Canada, which is no different in principle from the activities of thousands of other priests who live and work outside the dioceses of their incardination.

On the other hand, if it is being suggested that a bishop cannot allow one of his own priests to engage in an extra-diocesan apostolate under any circumstances since this would always constitute “acephalous activity,” that suggestion ignores Church law, immemorial custom and the reality of life in the Church today, as we have shown. Furthermore, if an extra-diocesan apostolate or other full-time assignment per se constituted illegal “acephalous activity,” the Congregation for the Clergy would logically be obliged to discipline thousands of priests engaged in “acephalous activity” throughout the world, including Rome itself. How many of the innumerable priests engaged in full-time work outside their dioceses of incardination has the Congregation threatened with excommunication, defrocking or any penalty on grounds of “acephalous activity” constituting an “irregular condition”? We are confident the answer is none—except for Father Gruner.

D. The Spurious Citation to Vatican II

Amazingly enough, the February 16th letter cites the teaching of Vatican II, the most liberalizing Council in the history of the Church, for the proposition that a diocesan priest—by which is meant only Father Gruner—must serve his bishop by performing strictly diocesan functions within the physical confines of his diocese.

For all of the reasons just cited, neither the Code of Canon Law (which definitively interprets Vatican II’s teaching on incardination) nor the immemorial custom and common practice of the Church, nor the concrete circumstances of the priesthood today, lend any support to this notion. Again, it seems to have been invented solely for the case of Father Gruner.

E. A “Law” that Applies Only to Father Gruner

When all is said and done, the question of Father Gruner’s “canonical situation” is really quite simple: Can a bishop give one of his priests permission to reside and conduct a full-time apostolate in some other place? The answer, obviously, is yes. Yet this question is the very one which the Congregation and the Signatura have refused to address in seven years of canonical proceedings. As the February 16th letter (quoting the Signatura) states: “Indeed, leaving aside the question of by what right a Bishop in India or Brazil could permit a priest incardinated in his diocese to remain in Canada to pursue an apostolate there, it is immediately apparent in such circumstance the condition of Father Gruner would in no way have been corrected.”

Your Eminence, we ask you with all due deference: How can you “leave aside” the question whose answer would extinguish the entire claim that Father Gruner’s “condition” is “irregular”? How in good faith can you simply ignore the very heart of the matter?

But it is clear why the heart of the matter is ignored: Once it is conceded that the three bishops who wished to incardinate Father Gruner had the right to authorize his apostolate in Canada—and it must be conceded because the law, immemorial custom and common practice of the Church allow it—then what remains of Father Gruner’s “irregular condition”? Absolutely nothing. What does remain is the only possible motive for all of this striving to contrive a canonical offense where none exists: It is not that a priest is forbidden to engage in a private apostolate, but rather that certain members of the Vatican apparatus do not like this apostolate, yet do not have any real grounds for suppressing it. Therefore, suppression is being attempted under the false pretense of merely applying general principles of Church law. If only there were such determination to punish the many purveyors of heresy and scandal throughout the Church today!

From all of this one can only conclude that Father Gruner is being judged under a special rule of law which applies only to him. He, and he alone, is prohibited from pursuing an apostolate outside the diocese of his incardination—even with the permission of three successive bishops who offered him incardination with the intention that his apostolate would continue.

As Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, a “law” which applies only to one person is no law at all, but an unjust and arbitrary measure. Such a measure is contrary to the very purpose of law, which is to set a standard of conduct equally applicable to all the members of a given community, so that they will be able to govern their behavior without fear of arbitrary punishment. But arbitrary punishment is, we respectfully suggest, the very aim of the actions now being taken against Father Gruner.

F. A false and misleading chronology which omits all the crucial facts.

As shown in the preceding discussion, Father Gruner had written permission to reside outside the Diocese of Avellino from 1978 until January 31, 1994, when the Bishop, bowing to the coercive measures we have described, first recalled Father Gruner to the diocese.

Contrary to the plain facts, however, the February 16th letter asserts that “the first instructions to return were made in 1977,” and that your Congregation has “acted pastorally, with patience and moderation, for more than twenty years.” These assertions are supported with a highly selective “chronology” of correspondence which is easily exposed as a deceptive contrivance:

First, the chronology cites a letter from the Bishop of Avellino in August 1977 advising Father Gruner to find a bishop within 30 days, but the same chronology conveniently omits Father Gruner’s two letters in reply, asking whether he should return to Avellino, and the Bishop’s ultimate answer in the form of the aforesaid June 5, 1978 decree giving Father Gruner permission to remain outside the Diocese of Avellino until he found another bishop. The omission of these three crucial documents does not serve the cause of honest discussion.

Second, the chronology cites a letter from the Nuncio to Father Gruner in October 1978 which wrongly accused him of being outside his diocese without permission. But it fails to mention that Father Gruner immediately telephoned the Nuncio, told him of his written permission to reside in Canada, and arranged a meeting in January 1979, at which Father Gruner showed the Nuncio the Bishop of Avellino’s decree of June 5, 1978. At this, the Nuncio acknowledged that Father Gruner had the right to be in Canada and that he was not a “vagus” priest. Father Gruner heard nothing further from the Nuncio or any other Church authority for the nearly three years.

Third, the chronology quotes a letter from the same Nuncio in December 1981, advising that the Congregation had instructed him to intervene “to regularize your stay in Canada.” But it fails to mention that Father Gruner had already sent a written appeal to the Holy Father, Cardinal Oddi (then head of the Congregation) and the Bishop of Avellino when he heard of rumors to suspend him, evidently because his staunch pro-life activism had offended Cardinal Carter of Toronto. During a visit to Rome in August 1981, Father Gruner met with the Pope’s personal secretary, Father McGee, who told him that he had read Father Gruner’s appeal aloud to the Pope while His Holiness was recovering in Gemelli hospital after the assassination attempt. During the same visit to Rome, Father Gruner was told personally by Msgr. Usai, then an official of your own Congregation, that it was “the Nuncio”—that is, the Vatican Secretariat of State—and not the Congregation that was causing problems for Father Gruner in Canada. After brief inquiries from the Nuncio in December 1981 and March 1982, Father Gruner had no further difficulties for the next six years.

Fourth, while the chronology strives to create the false impression of constant conflict with your Congregation for “more than twenty years,” it fails to mention that during the period 1982 to 1988 Father Gruner repeatedly went in person to the Congregation to speak with its Undersecretary, Msgr. Zanone, about what he should do. On each occasion Msgr. Zanone told Father Gruner that the Congregation had no problem with his activities and that he should carry on as before.

Fifth, continuing the suppression of crucial evidence, the chronology fails to mention that Father Gruner had various faculties from Canadian bishops (for preaching, hearing confessions, etc.) from 1978 to 1988, even though such faculties were never legally necessary for his work. Why would bishops extend faculties to a priest who was supposedly in a state of “disobedience” and conflict with your Congregation since 1977?

Sixth, the chronology quotes a letter from the Bishop of Avellino to Father Gruner in May of 1989, reciting “worried signals” form the Vatican Secretariat of State—which is true enough!—and vague complaints that certain nameless Canadian bishops “did not like” Father Gruner’s apostolate. But the chronology fails to mention that what these nameless bishops “did not like” was the apostolate’s steadfastly traditional Catholic orientation in a country whose hierarchy had openly dissented from Humanae Vitae, and which to this day is deeply afflicted with heterodoxy and sexual scandal. These anonymous accusers also did not like the presence of a traditional Catholic priest in a cassock, who will not distribute communion in the hand. For that matter, much of the Canadian hierarchy (like the German hierarchy) “does not like” the teaching of the Pope himself on various matters of faith and morals, as Father Gruner’s apostolate has pointed out more than once.

Seventh, the chronology cites a letter from the Bishop of Avellino to Father Gruner, dated November 15, 1989, which is offered to suggest that the bishop “revoked” Father Gruner’s permission to remain in Canada. But the chronology leaves out the next five years of correspondence and events! Why? Evidently, because subsequent correspondence from the Bishop confirms Father Gruner’s continued permission to reside in Canada. For example, on December 23, 1989 the Bishop wrote to thank Father Gruner for his good wishes and to advise him to continue to look for another bishop while residing in Canada. There is not the slightest suggestion that Father Gruner was obliged to return to Avellino. This letter followed a meeting with Father Gruner’s representative in that same month during which the Bishop orally renewed the permission to reside in Canada. There was a further meeting in Avellino between the Bishop, Father Gruner and his representative on January 25, 1990. On this occasion the Bishop, clicking his heels together for emphasis, stated as follows: “I hereby renew the permission my predecessor gave you.” He also said “to suspend you [Father Gruner] would be a mortal sin,” but that he would have no choice but to do so if pressured by the Secretariat of State. After this, Father Gruner had no difficulties with the Bishop of Avellino concerning his incardination for another four years. In fact, during this period the Bishop sent further correspondence (including a certificate of good standing in April of 1990) all of which reflects Father Gruner’s continued permission to be outside the diocese. None of these facts has ever been denied by ecclesiastical authority. Yet every one of them is omitted from the “chronology.”

Eighth, for some reason the chronology omits a letter of July 24, 1989 to Father Gruner from Cardinal Innocenti, then head of your Congregation, which purports to order Father Gruner to return to Avellino in 60 days (by September 30, 1989), even though the Bishop of Avellino had given no such order himself. It also fails to mention that Father Gruner appealed this improper intervention immediately to the Congregation and to the Pope in a document he personally handed to the Holy Father at a general audience in January 1990. After this, Father Gruner received no communications from the Congregation for the next five years.

Ninth, jumping from November 1989 to May 16, 1996, the chronology cites the Bishop of Avellino’s decree ordering Father Gruner to return to Avellino under threat of suspension—an order issued under coercion by the Secretariat of State, acting through the Congregation. But the chronology fails to mention that by this date Father Gruner had already received a decree of incardination in Hyderabad.

This, then, is the “chronology” of Father Gruner’s alleged “disobedience” for “more than twenty years.” As we can see, it is carefully contrived to conceal the simple truth:

• From 1977 until at least 1994 Father Gruner had the continuous permission of his bishop to reside in Canada.

• The only adverse communication Father Gruner received from the Congregation for the Clergy in those 16 years was one letter from Cardinal Innocenti in July of 1989, which was abandoned after Father Gruner appealed it to the Holy Father in January 1990.

As for the past seven years, of course, Father Gruner has been engaged in canonical appeals which have stayed the unjust and illegal order to return to Avellino. Those appeals hardly constitute “disobedience.” Since 1994 Father Gruner has done nothing more than avail himself of the same legal procedures the Congregation assiduously respects when dealing with heretics and child molesters in the priesthood.

In short, we are forced to conclude that the chronology is designed to mislead the uninformed reader. In charity, we have assumed that this chronology (like the rest of the February 16th letter) was prepared for Your Eminence by another, since it does not seem you have read the acts of Father Gruner’s case. Whoever prepared the chronology certainly did read the acts, however, and knew precisely which documents to omit in order to create the false impression that the Congregation has been counseling Father Gruner “with patience and moderation for more than twenty years.”

Whether or not Your Eminence had prior knowledge that this chronology is misleading, now that we have brought the problem to Your Eminence’s attention we respectfully suggest that you reconsider you current course of conduct. If Your Eminence’s threat were carried out, Father Gruner would be the only diocesan priest in living memory to be excommunicated by a direct sentence of the Vatican. Your Eminence has a duty before God not to impose this unprecedented penalty based on “evidence” which is clearly shown to be contrived and defective. The “vigilance” Your Eminence professes to exercise must extend, first of all, to the allegations in your own letter, for which Your Eminence alone is ultimately responsible.

G. Father Gruner’s incardination in Hyderabad is illegitimately questioned.

As the previous discussion makes clear, the plan to block Father Gruner’s incardination by any bishop willing to approve his Marian apostolate did not work to perfection. Having realized the illicit, unprecedented and unjust nature of the interventions against Father Gruner, the Archbishop of Hyderabad decided to honor his decree incardinating Father Gruner, which he had issued November 4, 1995.

The decree of incardination speaks the truth when it says that “Evil forces have conspired to put an end to your work of love.” In affirming his decree with a further decree on March 10, 1999, the Archbishop of Hyderabad even more courageously declared as follows:

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!

The same Archbishop is the first signatory on an Open Letter to the Pope (published April 2, 1998 in Il Messaggero, a daily newspaper in Rome) which protests the persecution of Father Gruner by operatives of the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Congregation. (The Open Letter is also signed by 9 other archbishops, 17 bishops, and 1900 priests and religious.) The Archbishop is a powerful witness to the truth in this matter: Father Gruner has been subjected to arbitrary rules and abuses of power, not the impartial exercise of “vigilance over the fruitfulness of the pastoral ministry of priests.”

In the end, the attack on the validity of the incardination in Hyderabad depends on nothing more than the wrongful interference of Your Eminence, Your Eminence’s predecessors and the Vatican Secretariat of State in the normal relations between a priest and his bishop. Whatever trivial objections are made to the form of the incardination papers could easily be remedied if normal customs, laws and practices were allowed to operate in Father Gruner’s case. The Congregation’s purported technical objections to the incardination are an attempt to exalt form over substance—exactly the opposite of what Church law requires. Church law is based on substantial justice, and the overriding concern is what the legislator really intended. (Cfr. can. 17)

No one can seriously deny that the Bishop of Avellino really intended that Father Gruner be excardinated in favor of another bishop, since there could never be any canonical mission for him in Avellino. This constant readiness to excardinate Father Gruner the moment he found another bishop is reflected in all the pertinent documents issued by the Bishop, beginning with the original decree of June 5, 1978 and continuing until January 31, 1994, when the Bishop (under coercion) recalled Father Gruner to Avellino for the first time in 16 years—and this only a few days after the Bishop had told Father Gruner in person that he had no grievances against him and that he should go back to Canada! In fact, in the case of the first Indian bishop who wished to incardinate Father Gruner, the Bishop of Avellino freely admitted in writing that he could not allow it only because the Congregation had “tied his hands,” and that he could do nothing until he heard from Your Eminence’s predecessors, who were clearly carrying out the demands of certain members of the Secretariat of State.

We noted at the beginning of this reply the fundamental error of the February 16th letter where it asserts that on the date of the incardination in Hyderabad (November 4, 1995) Father Gruner was already under suspension by the Bishop of Avellino. This is obviously false. The only order the Bishop of Avellino had issued as of that date was the aforementioned decree of January 31, 1994, recalling Father Gruner to Avellino. This decree carried no penalty of suspension. Again, there was not even a threat of suspension from Avellino until six months after the decree of incardination from Hyderabad had been issued and the necessary papers had been delivered to both the Bishop of Avellino and the Archbishop of Hyderabad.

Moreover, the contention that incardination in Hyderabad was precluded by the January 31, 1994 order to return to Avellino involves a non sequitur. That Father Gruner had been ordered (unjustly and illegally) to return to Avellino did not preclude the exercise of his canonical right to transfer to another diocese should another bishop be willing to accept him. (Cfr., can. 270) The Archbishop of Hyderabad was one of three such bishops.

The Vatican Secretariat of State, however, had no intention of allowing Father Gruner to exercise the same rights as any other priest. Hence your predecessors pronounced the incardination in Hyderabad “tanquam non existens” and Your Eminence now takes the same position. But why is the incardination “non-existent”? Your Eminence and his predecessors have proposed two circular arguments in this regard.

From 1994 until 1999 it was claimed that the incardination was “non-existent” because Father Gruner was not “canonically free” to be excardinated from Avellino. And why was he not canonically free to be excardinated? Because he had been ordered to return to Avellino. But why had he been ordered to return to Avellino? Because he had “failed” to find another bishop to incardinate him. But was not the Archbishop of Hyderabad another bishop? Yes, but Father Gruner could not be incardinated in Hyderabad because he had been ordered to return to Avellino!

In 1999 a new circular argument was proposed: Even though the Archbishop of Hyderabad (not to mention two other bishops) was willing to incardinate Father Gruner, the Archbishop could not do so because of Father Gruner’s “irregular condition.” But what was “irregular” about Father Gruner’s condition? He was conducting an apostolate “without reference to the legitimate authority of the Church.” But was not the Archbishop of Hyderabad a legitimate authority of the Church who was willing to approve the apostolate? Yes, but the Archbishop could not incardinate Father Gruner because of his “irregular condition”!

Both of these circular arguments leave us once again at the very heart of the matter, which the February 16th letter fails to address by acknowledging the undeniable truth. For to acknowledge the truth that a bishop could approve the Canadian apostolate is to admit that the threatened canonical penalties have no basis in law or fact, and that the accusations of “disobedience” and “irregular condition” are empty fictions.

H. The alleged “competence” of the Congregation to interfere in Father Gruner’s incardination.

For years your predecessors in the Congregation denied the illicit interventions we have been discussing here. They consistently claimed they were merely upholding independent judgments of the Bishop of Avellino. But it eventually became impossible for them to maintain this pretense in the face of mounting evidence of their behind-the-scenes interference in Father Gruner’s rights.

No longer able to deny the evidence of your predecessors’ interference in Father Gruner’s incardination, Your Eminence (in 1998) suddenly adopted an entirely new position. Admitting that your predecessors had been blocking Father Gruner’s incardination all along, you now claim that they had the right to act in this manner because they (and you) possess the “ordinary vicariate power” of the Pope himself and are “the hierarchical superior” of all the world’s bishops. If that were really true, then why did the Congregation pretend for so many years that it was merely upholding the Bishop of Avellino’s own decisions? Consider the recently uncovered letter from Cardinal Innocenti and Archbishop (now Cardinal) Agustoni to the Bishop of Avellino in October 1989, instructing the Bishop to recall Father Gruner to Avellino while pretending this was his own idea. This letter alone proves that the Congregation knew it had to appear to respect the Bishop’s authority and that it had no right to order Father Gruner’s return to Avellino directly if the Bishop himself had not given such an order.

As Father Gruner has amply demonstrated in his formal replies before the Congregation and the Signatura, the claim that the Congregation is a “vicariate” Pope which can order bishops to do what it pleases is an attack upon the divine constitution of the Church. As the First Vatican Council solemnly and infallibly taught, each bishop is the ruler over his own diocese by divine right. You and your predecessors assert, to the contrary, that the Congregation has the final say over whether a bishop may incardinate or excardinate a particular priest, and that the members of the Congregation, being “vicariate” popes or “vicars” of the Vicar of Christ, can prevent an incardination or an excardination for any reason or no reason at all, even if the bishops involved have no grounds of their own to deny the priest his rights.

The same notion seems to be at work in the other Vatican congregations, whose members also claim to be de facto Popes or “vicars” of the Pope who act “in the name of the Holy Father.” The Vatican is now apparently peopled by numerous “vicariate” popes who operate without any specific papal mandate for their various decisions. Indeed, the only one who has not been heard from over the past seven years of proceedings is the Holy Father himself. Especially with the Holy Father’s condition deteriorating, the result of this theory of the vicariate papacy is a substantial undermining of true papal authority, which is divided among various factions in the Vatican.

And on what grounds was this alleged “vicariate” papal authority exercised against Father Gruner? Solely on the grounds that Father Gruner’s “irregular condition” had to be “corrected.” But what was “irregular” about Father Gruner’s “condition” if three bishops were willing to give him permission to continue his apostolate in Canada, and if, moreover, such arrangements between a priest and his bishop are in accord with the law, immemorial custom and common practice of the Church? Here, yet again, we come to the heart of the matter, which is ignored because it reveals that the claims against Father Gruner rest on nothing but thin air.

I. The argument from authority cannot eliminate the truth.

As we have shown, Your Eminence’s contentions regarding Father Gruner’s “canonical situation” and the incardination in Hyderabad do not correspond to the facts, the law or the reality of life in the Church. Your Eminence draws most of his contentions from purported decisions of the Apostolic Signatura, as if to say that the authority of this Tribunal precludes any possible demonstration of Father Gruner’s true situation. But as Saint Thomas teaches, contra factum non argumentum est—against a fact there is no argument. The argument from authority cannot overcome an argument based upon the objective truth.

Thus, no tribunal, no matter what its authority, could issue a binding decree that, for example, white is black or that 2 + 2 = 5. Likewise, the Apostolic Signatura, no matter what its authority, cannot judge Father Gruner to be guilty of canonical offenses which do not exist in the law but were invented to give the appearance of legality to his unjust punishment. Nor can the Apostolic Signatura, the Congregation for the Clergy or the Bishop of Avellino order Father Gruner to break the law by taking up permanent residence in a foreign county without a proper visa, or compel him to lie about the purpose of his visit so as to gain entry under the false pretense of being a mere visitor.

The Church, above all institutions on earth, is bound to recognize that no decree or penalty can be valid unless it corresponds to truth and justice. (Cfr. Can. 1321) Therefore, the argument from authority is unavailing. The objective truth is that Father Gruner is guilty of no actual offense and that the order to return to Avellino is, in any case; in esse ab initio (null and void in itself from the beginning) and furthermore is legally and morally impossible to obey. Therefore, Father Gruner cannot legitimately be deemed “suspended,” much less “excommunicated” or defrocked on the basis of that order. This is all that matters under the law of the Church and before God and man.

III. NEW CHARGES ARE INTRODUCED WITHOUT DUE PROCESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. The two papal blessings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. The certificate of good standing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. The libel suit against Soul Magazine .

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

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

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

2. The libel suit against Msgr. McCormack .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Father Gruner cannot be punished for defending his “viewpoints.”

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

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

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

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

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

IV. FATHER GRUNER IS PERSECUTED BECAUSE HE POSES AN OBSTACLE TO A "NEW ORIENTATION" OF THE CHURCH

Although we have taken great pains to address the various accusations in the February 16th letter, it is perfectly clear that this controversy really has nothing to do with Father Gruner’s non-existent “irregular condition,” his pursuit of bona fide civil claims, his publication of authentic Church documents, or some old quotations from magazines and a book. As we said at the outset, this case involves nothing but 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.

Where the crisis in the Church is concerned, the Message of Fatima implicates the sudden appearance after Vatican II of an entirely new ecclesial “orientation”: a novel “opening to the world,” bringing about a “dialogue with the world,” as opposed to the Church’s perennial role of mother and teacher to an erring and fallen humanity which needs to be saved from the fires of hell.

A. The Emergence of Ostpolitik

This new orientation was first seen in the emergence of Ostpolitik, which we have mentioned several times. We will say a few more words about it here.

Ostpolitik is a prudential policy of “ecclesial diplomacy” crafted by the Vatican Secretariat of State during the height of Soviet repression of the Catholic Church. This policy, still in effect today, requires that the Church refrain from condemning or actively opposing communist regimes, but instead engage in “dialogue” and cooperation with the communists. Ostpolitik is a striking departure from the teaching of Blessed Pius IX, Saint Pius X, Leo XIII, Pius XI and Pius XII that communism is an evil which the Church cannot fail to oppose. The Magisterium has always taught that the Church has a duty to condemn and oppose the evils of the world, and especially that unprecedented worldwide systematization of evil known as communism. Before Vatican II there were more than 200 papal condemnations of communism and socialism. The pre-conciliar Popes consistently taught that no Catholic can in any way collaborate with communism or communists, even in seemingly neutral enterprises.

Ostpolitik was necessarily also a departure from heaven’s admonition at Fatima concerning Russia, the very cradle of world communism. As Sister Lucy told Father Fuentes (the promoter of the cause of Jacinta and Francisco) on December 26, 1957: “Many times, the Blessed Virgin told me and my cousins, Jacinta and Francisco, that Russia is the instrument of chastisement chosen by Heaven, to punish the whole world unless we obtain beforehand the conversion of that poor nation.” It is still so today, as Russia continues to export weapons of mass destruction to China and terrorists in the Middle East, while readying itself for the eventuality of total war.

Ostpolitik began with the infamous Vatican-Moscow agreement, under which the Second Vatican Council was scandalously constrained to say nothing against the evil of world communism, in exchange for the dubious privilege of having two Russian Orthodox (i.e., KGB) observers attend the Council. Ostpolitik was implemented unswervingly after the Council by the late Cardinal Agostino Casaroli when he was Vatican Secretary of State, even though, as we have noted, Paul VI was torn by doubts over the moral propriety of remaining silent during the communist persecution of the Catholic Church, including the imprisonment and execution of millions of the faithful. Casaroli openly admitted that he had to convince Paul VI “to stay with his (Casaroli’s) policy.”

A strong argument can be made that Ostpolitik only prolonged the persecution of Catholics under Soviet communism by forcing the Church to refrain from using her public moral authority to condemn the repression. After all, have we not been told that it was only John Paul II’s public opposition to the communist regime in Poland (especially during his visit there) which finally brought about its fall and with it the alleged “collapse of the Soviet Union”?

Yet Ostpolitik continues to be implemented under the tenure of Cardinal Sodano, who oversees the Vatican’s refusal to condemn or oppose Communist persecution of the “underground” Catholic Church in China. Instead of condemning the brutal repression of loyal Catholics by the Red Chinese, the Vatican “dialogues” with the Chinese Communists and their “Patriotic Catholic Association” (PCA). As we mentioned earlier in this reply, the PCA condones abortion, rejects the primacy of Peter and has consecrated 100 bishops without a papal mandate since its creation during the reign of Pius XII, who condemned the PCA’s illicit consecrations most strongly.

Despite these facts, the Vatican’s Cardinal Etchegaray very recently concelebrated Mass in China with some of the schismatic PCA bishops at a Marian shrine which the communists stole from the Catholics they drove underground. It is reported that recently PCA bishops were cordially received by certain members of the Curia (but not the Pope himself) during a visit to Rome, as if they were legitimate successors of the apostles. The PCA even claims that the Pope himself approved the recent consecration of a PCA bishop. (The Vatican refuses to confirm or deny this, thereby lending credence to the claim.) In North America, not only are PCA priests given faculties, as we have mentioned, but candidates for priesthood in the PCA are being trained in “Roman Catholic” diocesan seminaries. The “Catholic” North American bishops who have opened their seminaries to these candidates for the priesthood in a schismatic communist “church” claim that the Vatican approves. North American “Catholic” charities send substantial donations to the PCA and there are even reports that the Vatican’s own coffers are helping to support this schismatic organization, which the Vatican does not deny. At the same time, the “underground” Catholics receive little or no assistance from Rome or anywhere else, even though many are in prison and suffer terribly for their loyalty to the Roman Catholic faith.

In view of this latest example of Ostpolitik in action, an Open Letter to the Vatican has been published by the Cardinal Kung Foundation, named after the great martyr who suffered almost unbelievable persecution by the Chinese Communists for 30 years, including year after year of solitary confinement in prison. Cardinal Sodano and other Vatican officials. The Letter calls for an explanation of the Vatican’s refusal to do anything concretely to help the persecuted Chinese Catholics. The Open Letter also details the dismaying evidence that the Vatican is not only turning a blind eye to Chinese communist oppression of faithful “underground” Catholics, but actually lending support to and legitimating the communist schismatic PCA. See “An Open Letter to Vatican Officials” at http://www.cardinalKüngfoundation. org/cpa/openletter.html. and the other materials at that website. The Open Letter is addressed to various Vatican officials, including Cardinal Sodano, and is signed by Cardinal Kung’s nephew, Joseph Kung. The letter asks many questions about the Vatican’s conduct and rightly asks the Vatican to clarify its position on the PCA and the loyal “underground” Catholic Church in China. So far, Cardinal Sodano and the others have refused to answer any of the questions posed, leaving the faithful to conclude that reports of the Vatican’s actual support of the PCA are true. The Open Letter concludes with a statement no less forthright than those for which Your Eminence threatens to “excommunicate” Father Gruner: “For many, it appears that the Holy See itself struggles internally between the attraction to political expediency and fidelity to the divinely established communion with the Successor of Peter.” Father Gruner has ably chronicled this very state of affairs for the past twenty years, and this—not any consideration of faith and morals—is why Cardinal Sodano has contrived to silence him.

B. Ostpolitik Is at Odds with the Message of Fatima

Now, it is clear to millions of the faithful, including Father Gruner, that the diplomatic policies of Cardinal Casaroli and his successor, Cardinal Sodano, cannot be reconciled with the Message of Fatima. Our Lady came down to earth and invoked an unprecedented public miracle in order to impress upon the Church and the world the necessity of: devotion to Her Immaculate Heart; the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart; the resulting conversion of Russia to the Catholic Faith, and with it the worldwide triumph of the Immaculate Heart—all of which would mean a period of peace, true peace, for mankind. She did not come to preach “dialogue” and negotiation with atheistic communists and their “ex-communist” successors who continue to promote a de facto atheistic regime of abortion, contraception and divorce in Russia. And Our Lady also warned that if Russia were not consecrated in the manner She had requested— by the Pope, in a solemn public ceremony together with the world’s bishops, identifying Russia as the object of the consecration—then Russia would spread its errors throughout the world, the Holy Father would have much to suffer, the good would be martyred, there would be wars and persecutions against the Church, and “various nations will be annihilated.”

Father Gruner has not hesitated to express his conviction concerning this opposition between Ostpolitik and the Message of Fatima, thus incurring the wrath of the Vatican Secretariat of State. But no matter what Cardinal Sodano thinks, no matter what penalties are imposed on Father Gruner, the faithful can see with their own eyes that the terrible events predicted by Our Lady of Fatima are still unfolding and that Ostpolitik cannot prevent them from happening. Millions of Catholics continue to believe that only the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart, in precisely the manner Our Lady requested, can turn the tide.

But in the view of the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Consecration of Russia by name is a terribly undiplomatic thing for the Pope and the bishops to do. This is why the pope’s cardinal-advisor (very possibly Cardinal Sodano himself or Cardinal Ratzinger) publicly revealed that the Holy Father has been urged not to mention Russia in any consecration ceremony. Here, then, is a very direct conflict between the heavenly Message of Fatima and the human diplomacy of Ostpolitik. For this reason the Vatican Secretariat of State has long wished to suppress any continued public movement for the specific Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart. That means suppressing Father Gruner’s apostolate.

Nevertheless, Your Eminence, the faithful who have informed themselves are not so foolish as to believe that Russia could have been “consecrated” in a ceremony from which any mention of Russia was deliberately omitted so that it would not appear to the Russian Orthodox that Russia was the object of the Consecration. Father Gruner can hardly be threatened with the severest possible punishments simply because he remarks the obvious: that Russia cannot be consecrated without mentioning the place!

C. The Post-conciliar “Reforms” and the New Orientation

The policies of the Vatican Secretariat of State at issue here are only part of a vast array of unprecedented changes in the post-conciliar Church which make up the new orientation. A growing number of the faithful believe these changes have induced the ecclesial crisis we are now experiencing. We speak of the great aggiornamento of Vatican II: the new “ecumenism” and “interreligious dialogue;” the new liturgy, suddenly imposed upon the faithful in place of the once-untouchable ancient Mass of our forefathers; the new rule of life in seminaries, monasteries and convents; the new refusal to issue anathemas against heresy, and so many other unparalleled novelties which have been visited upon the Church since the Council. These novelties have undeniably induced confusion and defection among clergy and laity alike, and with it a profound and sudden loss of vocations, as every vital statistic of the Church demonstrates.

Your Eminence himself declared in a recent interview that “one of the pastoral emergencies of our time and which everyone is having to address is to show that the Church today is the same Church it has always been . . .” This is a truly remarkable admission: Why should it be necessary to show that the Church is the same as it has always been, unless by some disaster there had arisen serious doubt of it? Has Your Eminence not indicated with this remark that, just as in the time of Arius, the continuity with apostolic and ecclesiastical tradition has suffered a substantial rupture in vast areas of the Church? Is this not the very reason only a tiny minority of Catholics today, by the grace of God, still hold fast to all the teachings of the true Magisterium, including the teachings on marriage and procreation which the vast majority of nominal Catholics has abandoned? Can Your Eminence not admit the possibility that the total collapse of faith and discipline described in the Holy Father’s letter to the German cardinals, and which is also apparent throughout much of the Catholic world, is in large measure a direct result of radical post-conciliar “reforms” never before attempted in Church history—reforms which obscured the clarity of Catholic teaching and undermined the confidence of the faithful? Is Your Eminence not characterizing as an “emergency” the very results of this new orientation we describe, consisting of so many drastic changes in the life of the Church?

And yet while implicitly admitting the harmful results of this new orientation, Your Eminence strives to defend it and to explain to the faithful how what is utterly novel is really in line with Tradition. You declare in the same interview that “the Spirit says things that are new and old at the same time.” Your Eminence, what could this possibly mean? Are you speaking here of divine revelation? Catholics know that Revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, and that Vatican I taught infallibly that the Magisterium cannot give us any new doctrines. What, then, are these things you say “the Spirit” is telling us today, these things which are old and new at the same time? How is it that the faithful were never told of these old yet new things before the Second Vatican Council?

Enigmatic statements like “new and old at the same time” are typical of the loss of clarity and precision of expression and thought among so many in the Church today. The faithful are losing sight of the Church’s infallible and unchangeable dogmas in the haze of currently prevailing ambiguities. Is this not the reason the Third Secret begins with Our Lady’s prophesy that “In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved.” Did She not foresee the current condition of the Church: confusion in teaching, lax enforcement of Catholic orthodoxy, and a consequent spread of error among a great portion of the faithful, including very many clergy? And is this not why Cardinal Ratzinger, speaking in 1984, said that the Third Secret describes “dangers to the Faith and the life of the Christian, and therefore the life of the world”? Has the situation in the Third Secret not reached its most critical phase when a priest like Father Gruner can be threatened with excommunication, while notorious heretics, pedophiles and other malefactors among the clergy are either left alone or minimally punished?

D. Only Adherence to Tradition is Vigorously Punished

Looking at the vast panorama of this unprecedented crisis, we see a striking parallel with the state of the Church as lamented by Saint Basil the Great in 372 A.D., at the height of the Arian heresy, when only Saint Athanasius in the East, Saint Hilary and Saint Eusebius in the West, and their few followers stood fast in defense of the Faith. As St. Basil wrote: “Only one offence is now vigorously punished—an accurate observance of our father's 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”

Our own senses and reason tell us that today Your Eminence presides over much the same situation. This is not a rash opinion, but a manifest fact. In 1973 the late Bishop Graber of Regensburg published a book on the parallel between the Arian heresy and the current crisis. He began by remarking what is obvious to anyone with eyes to see: “What happened over 1600 years ago 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.”

Your Eminence, we believe that this very situation is the reason Father Gruner is relentlessly pursued while the Church’s true enemies are largely left alone. Instead of being banished to the desert, Father Gruner is accused of non-existent canonical offences, publicly denounced without grounds, and threatened with expulsion from the Church and the loss of his priestly ministry. Instead of killing his body, an attempt is made to kill his reputation as a priest by falsely accusing him of “disobedience” and even the crime of forgery. Meanwhile, throughout the Church “every blaspheming tongue is set loose.”

And Father Gruner is hardly alone in suffering this unholy disparity of treatment. How is it that the faithful never see any bold and decisive punitive action from any Vatican congregation against anyone except Catholic clerics who “accurately observe the traditions of our fathers”? Although the Church is afflicted by errant bishops on every continent, even bishops who facilitate abortion or engage in deviant sexual behavior, only Archbishop Lefebvre and the four bishops he consecrated in 1988 are declared excommunicated. Why? Because the consecrations were done without an apostolic mandate, in an effort (however mistaken one may claim it to be) to preserve Catholic Tradition. Yet when the schismatic, communist Chinese “Patriotic Catholic Association”—which condones forced abortion—consecrates one hundred bishops without an apostolic mandate, the Vatican’s response is to send Cardinal Etchegaray to concelebrate Mass with some of them, in a chapel the communists stole from the loyal Catholics who have been driven underground! Your Eminence, can you not appreciate the scandal and the outrage this sort of duplicity causes among the faithful?

We note with great sadness Your Eminence’s own recent precipitous actions against the priests and traditional Catholic seminaries of the papally-chartered Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. To quote the Pope’s motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, the Priestly Fraternity was erected to accommodate priests who “may wish to remain united to the successor of Peter in the Catholic Church while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions.” (The phrase “their spiritual and liturgical traditions” is a startling confirmation of the new orientation we describe, since “their traditions” are none other than the traditions shared by every Catholic of the Roman Rite before the reforms of Vatican II.) Overriding the clear will of the overwhelming majority of the priests in that Fraternity, Your Eminence suspended their election of a superior general of strong traditional orientation, imposed a new superior general more to your liking, and then removed the rectors of the Fraternity’s two seminaries. When a journalist with 30 Days magazine asked you why you “arbitrarily decided to appoint [a new] superior general,” you replied that you thought the “Fraternity’s members must be helped in their endeavor to strike a balance between their original charism . . . and the outcome of their insertion within the ecclesial reality of today.” Helped, Your Eminence? For the sake of this so-called “ecclesial reality of today” you annihilated the rightful autonomy of the Fraternity, a group of loyal and pious priests, by means the Vatican would never dare to employ with any of the priestly associations and orders (such as the Jesuits) who have been in open rebellion against the Faith for decades. What is to account for this disparity?

We believe the answer can be found in your letter suppressing the Fraternity’s election, wherein Your Eminence states that the Ecclesia Dei commission will watch carefully over the Fraternity’s seminaries and houses in order “to avoid and combat a certain spirit of rebellion against the present-day Church . . .” Rebellion, Your Eminence? Rebellion against what? The priests of the Fraternity adhere to every Catholic doctrine; they do not disgrace the Church with sexual misconduct; they wear the cassock and present to the world an image of the priesthood which can only inspire confidence and more vocations. Rebellion against what?

Here we come to the crux of the matter: the “spirit of rebellion” which excites such immediate action from Your Eminence does not mean the ongoing rebellion against faith and morals in every nation, concerning which the Vatican does little or nothing. No, the “rebellion” which arouses Your Eminence to take actions the Vatican would never otherwise contemplate, is a “rebellion” precisely and only against this “present-day Church,” this “ecclesial reality of today.” Is Your Eminence not with these telltale phrases revealing that you think the Church of today really is different from the Church of yesterday, even if you profess that it is the same? Is it not apparent from Your Eminence’s own words and deeds that it is only the new orientation which the Vatican will fight vigorously to defend, while tolerating (if not positively encouraging) the collapse of faith and discipline throughout the world?

Your Eminence, we cannot see any other possible explanation for why wholly orthodox priests like Father Gruner are treated like rebels, while the true rebels, the clerics who depart from Catholic doctrine and moral teaching, never face any but the most minimal discipline, if even that. Is it not the case that the true rebels escape any really serious punishment precisely because they adhere to the new orientation, the defense of which seems to have become the prime imperative in the post-conciliar Vatican? Have we not arrived at a situation in which the only unforgivable “heresy” is to resist the new orientation? Has the Church not suffered incalculable harm from the demand for blind “obedience” to this orientation, even at the expense of ecclesiastical and apostolic traditions?

This is not merely our opinion in the matter. No less than Cardinal Ratzinger has admitted as much himself. In his 1988 address to the bishops of Chile, he made the following remark which confirms what we are saying:

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. I myself, when I was a professor, have seen how the very same bishop who, before the Council, had fired a teacher who was really irreproachable, for a certain crudeness of speech, was not prepared, after the Council, to dismiss a professor who openly denied certain fundamental truths of the Faith. 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.

E. The Important Example of a Priest from Sessa Arrunca

The catastrophe brought on by the new orientation can be seen on a large scale, as in the case of the Church in Germany, and also most poignantly on a small scale in the case of individual priests, who (like Father Gruner) try as best they can to restore what the new orientation has wrecked.

In January of this year the Italian review Il Giornale reported on the case of one such priest, Father Louis Demornex, who has three parishes in Sessa Aurunca, Italy, not far from Avellino. His case is quite illustrative of why priests like Father Gruner are hounded and persecuted while wolves in sheep’s clothing roam free.

One day Father Demornex decided to begin offering Mass in his parishes according to the traditional rite in Latin. The so-called “Tridentine” Mass was the very core of Catholic civilization for more than 15 centuries, until it was suddenly suppressed after Vatican II for the sake of a new, more “ecumenical” rite of Mass in the vernacular. Father Demornex returned to the Old Mass to avoid the irreverence toward the Blessed Sacrament which the new rite has engendered. As he himself put it: “the consecrated fragments are profaned [by communion in the hand] . . . the priest does not purify his hands or washes them and throws out the water . . . Whoever does this no longer believes that each fragment is Jesus Christ, whole and entire, and that is heretical. Or they do believe, and that is sacrilege.” Nor could Father Demornex continue any longer to say Mass while facing the people rather than God on the altar: “It distracts me, I risk losing my recollection.”

It is hardly surprising that when Father Demornex restored the traditional form of Catholic worship, there was a general revival of the entire Catholic faith in his parishes—just as there would be throughout the Church if the traditional Mass were likewise restored. Whereas few people went to Mass in Sessa Aurunca before, now (as one parishioner reported) “the participation is massive, there is great catechesis taking place, Catholic Action has been revived, [along with] so many devotions considered by many to be pastimes for the elderly, [but] which instead are aids along the road of Faith.”

But Father Demornex’s bishop, a fierce defender of the new orientation, would have none of it. Father Demornex soon received a letter from the Bishop advising him that “you are wandering openly from the liturgical dispositions now in force” and that “you are free to choose another diocese which better suits your ideas.” (If only Father Gruner were given such a choice!) Out of a sense of “obedience,” Father Demornex left his parishes and resigned as pastor. In his letter of resignation to the Bishop he said: “I have committed the unpardonable error of being fond of and stimulated by pre-conciliar motives.” That is, he had departed from the new orientation, an offense which is “unpardonable,” even if clerical heresy and sexual misconduct are not.

But the faithful would not hear of it. Hundreds of them signed petitions and demonstrated in front of the chancery, demanding Father Demornex’s return. The Bishop, taken aback, declared “I did not send him away.” After only eight days, Father Demornex returned to his parishes. He continues, at least for the moment, to offer the traditional Mass and to preside over a resurgence of the Catholic faith among his flock.

In July of 2000, Father Demornex received a sympathetic letter from none other than Cardinal Ratzinger, to whom Father Demornex had written for help. The letter states that “what you say about the laicization of priests, about liturgical anarchy and about the many profanations of the Eucharist is unfortunately true.” Yet the Cardinal went on to say that if Father Demornex’s bishop were to order him to leave the parish, “from the formal and juridical point of view it is his right . . . You know well that I cannot advise you to rebel.” Here, in a few words, the Cardinal exposes the very notion at work in the persecution of Father Gruner and every priest like him: a false “obedience” to the new orientation is exalted above everything, even the good of souls. A priest is told that he must “obey” his bishop’s unjust command to cease restoring the integral Catholic faith, even if this means acquiescence in what the Cardinal himself admits is “the laicization of priests . . liturgical anarchy and . . .the many profanations of the Eucharist.” The most important thing is not that the priesthood is being laicized, that the liturgy is in a state of anarchy, or even that God Himself in the Holy Eucharist is being profaned. No, the most important thing is that the bishop be “obeyed” in whatever he commands.

But, Your Eminence, this is not right; this is not just; this is not Catholic. The saints and the doctors of the Church have unanimously taught that one may licitly resist the unjust command of a prelate which would harm the common good the Church, even if that command should come from the Supreme Pontiff himself. Thus, for example, the eminent theologian Francisco de Suarez, praised by Saint Pius V as a “pious doctor” of the Church, rightly observed that if the Pope “tries to do something manifestly opposed to justice and to the common good, it would be licit to resist him.” All the more so a local bishop, or even a member of a Vatican congregation.

It is very significant that the only help Cardinal Ratzinger would offer Father Demornex was to say that “the Lord never imposes the weight of a cross upon you without helping you to bear it.” But of course, that is hardly the point. It is not a question of the personal suffering of Father Demornex, any more than it is a question here of the personal suffering of Father Gruner. What is at stake in the current crisis is the good of the Church and the salvation of souls. What is at stake is that which is due to God Himself. Therefore, the real cross a priest must carry today is to resist the very harm to souls Cardinal Ratzinger admits is occurring throughout the Church. To do this is to risk punishment and even “excommunication” for “disobedience.” It is far easier not to resist, but rather to “obey” by acquiescing in the auto-demolition of the Church. Far easier, that is, in this life. But not in the life to come.

Thus we see in the case of Father Demornex, as also throughout the Church, how the virtue of obedience is being used to destroy true obedience—the obedience of faith. “We must obey God rather than men,” said Saint Peter, the first Pope. Yet those who do not obey God, those who engage in open rebellion against His Word within the ranks of the sacred priesthood, escape any real punishment so long as they conform to the new orientation, which has become de facto a kind of super-dogma more important than the Faith itself.

Your Eminence, in considering all that we have just said, we ask you to search your heart for the answer to this question: Are we not today facing the same awful situation lamented by Saint Basil the Great during the Arian heresy: “Only one offence is now vigorously punished—an accurate observance of our father's traditions.”?

F. The New Orientation Collides with the Message of Fatima

For all of the reasons we have expressed, we believe it is apparent that the new orientation as a whole is irreconcilable with the authentic Message of Fatima, which Father Gruner’s apostolate has so effectively kept alive as a subject of discourse in the Church. For the Message of Fatima speaks, quite simply, of the conversion of the entire world to the Catholic religion in order to save souls from hell. This is the traditional orientation of the Church. It is seen even in the vision of the Archangel Michael at Fatima, who placed the consecrated Host on the tongue of the Fatima seer in an evocation of the ancient traditional Mass, whose offertory makes it clear that the Mass is offered for the propitiation of the world’s sins and for the salvation of the elect, not for the flowering of pan-religious peace and brotherhood.

It is undeniable, Your Eminence, that the generality of Churchmen today no longer preach the message that souls are saved from eternal hellfire through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, who brings all souls to Her Son in the ark of the one true Church He founded. Indeed, the Pope himself publicly admitted to the Italian journalist Vittorio Messori that the traditional Catholic teaching on the Last Things—death, judgment, heaven, hell, purgatory—is no longer heard in her preaching and catechesis. The Pope even admits that the salvation of the individual soul “does get lost” in the “the vision proposed by the Council”—the novel “vision” of a world progressing as one great collective toward the salvation of humanity.

Nor do modern Churchmen teach any longer the Social Kingship of Christ over every man and every nation, as expounded so marvelously, only a few years before Vatican II, in Pius XI’s enyclical Quas Primas. Instead, the newfangled “civilization of love” proposes that the adherents of all religions, or no religion at all, will find some illusory mode of living in peace and harmony without the agreement of everyone to shoulder the sweet yoke of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. But, Your Eminence, this very notion of a pan-religious brotherhood of man was condemned in the strongest possible terms by Pope Saint Pius X in his apostolic letter Notre Charge Apostolique:

No, Venerable Brethren, We must repeat with the utmost energy in these times of social and intellectual anarchy when everyone takes it upon himself to teach as a teacher and lawmaker——the City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it; society cannot be set up unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work; no, civilization is not something yet to be found, nor is the New City to be built on hazy notions; it has been in existence and still is: it is Christian civilization, it is the Catholic City. It has only to be set up and restored continually against the unremitting attacks of insane dreamers, rebels and miscreants. OMNIA INSTAURARE IN CHRISTO.

How different is the new orientation from the teaching of this great pope and all his predecessors! How different from the prophesy of the Mother of God at Fatima, who appeared only seven years after the publication of Notre Charge Apostolique to declare that Russia would be converted and that the Immaculate Heart would triumph in the world.

Father Gruner is one of those priests (and he is by no means alone) who still preaches the conversion of the whole world to Christ and His holy religion, and this through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of His Mother, the Mediatrix of all Graces. For after all, the Message of Fatima only recapitulates the divine commission of Our Lord Himself: “Go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost . . . He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; he who believes not shall be condemned.” Yet it is this very commission to save each individual soul by faith and baptism—the very heart of the Church’s mission on earth!—which has become obscured in the post-conciliar epoch, as the Holy Father himself admitted to Messori.

Father Gruner suffers persecution, then, because he dares to say what is manifest: that the Message of Fatima, and all that it represents, cannot abide with the new orientation of the Church; that what we are now witnessing is a great struggle between the perennial Catholic faith recalled for us at Fatima and the novelties now being pursued so unswervingly by certain members of the post-conciliar Vatican apparatus. If these novelties are to be maintained in force by these men, then the Message of Fatima as Catholics have always understood it must be disposed of—along with Father Gruner and the views he represents.

G. A New Version of Fatima Is Foisted Upon the Faithful

We have mentioned that on June 26, 2000 the Vatican staged a press conference at which the text of a vision contained in the Third Secret of Fatima was published, along with a commentary by Cardinal Ratzinger and Monsignor Bertone. The obvious aim of this press conference was to put an end to the traditional understanding of the Message of Fatima. As The Los Angeles Times noted, the press conference “gently debunked the cult of Fatima”—or rather attempted to do so.

This event was clearly staged with Father Gruner and his apostolate in mind. Mentioning Father Gruner by name, Cardinal Ratzinger suggested to the world press that the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart was accomplished in 1984 and should no longer concern us. Monsignor Bertone’s commentary declares that “all further discussion or request [for the Consecration] is without basis.” Yet instead of producing Sister Lucy to testify that the Consecration has been accomplished, Msgr. Bertone offered only an 11-year old computer-generated note, purportedly signed by Sister Lucy, which contains factual errors Sister Lucy would never have made. Why did the Vatican fail to produce the only living witness, relying instead on a very old letter of dubious authenticity, whose recipient was not even identified? Was it perhaps because Sister Lucy would not say to Cardinal Ratzinger or Msgr. Bertone what was expected of her?

Cardinal Ratzinger also said at the press conference that Father Gruner should submit to “the Magisterium ” on this question. But the Magisterium—the official teaching office of the Church exercised by the Pope alone or the Pope together with all the Catholic bishops—has never taught that Russia was consecrated to the Immaculate Heart in 1984 or at any other time. This is only the opinion of Cardinal Ratzinger and certain other prelates in the Vatican, who are not the Pope and cannot exercise the Magisterium for him. For the Pope’s part, his own spontaneous remarks during and after the consecration ceremony in 1984 made it clear that he still considers that the specific consecration of Russia has yet to be accomplished.

It does not take a schooled theologian to see that Cardinal Ratzinger’s commentary on the Message of Fatima was calculated to deprive the Message of any particular prophetic significance for our time by reducing it to nothing more than a generic prescription for personal penance and conversion. Gone is Our Lady’s prophetic warning about the consequences of failing to heed Her request for the Consecration of Russia, including the annihilation of various nations. Cardinal Ratzinger’s commentary simply passes over in silence the question of Russia’s conversion. Gone also is the prophesy of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart throughout the world, following the conversion of Russia. According to Cardinal Ratzinger, the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart is not something that will occur “in the end” as Our Lady of Fatima said. No, according to Cardinal Ratzinger it happened 2,000 years ago when the Virgin Mary agreed to become the Mother of God. Yet Our Lady of Fatima did not speak of the Annunciation. She spoke of future events: “In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, which will be converted, and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world.”

The Ratzinger commentary even dares to suggest that the Immaculate Heart is the heart of anyone who does God’s will, and that devotion to the Immaculate Heart means, therefore, conforming one’s own will to the Divine will, rather than establishing devotion to Her heart in every nation, most especially Russia. By means of this “interpretation” Our Lady of Fatima’s declaration that “God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart” was shorn of its distinctively Catholic content and reduced to nothing more than an exhortation that everyone should do God’s will.

As for the Third Secret itself, the commentary asks us to believe that Sister Lucia’s vision of a Pope and many members of the hierarchy being killed by bullets and arrows at the foot of a large wooden cross, after they have traversed a half-ruined city, refers to nothing more than John Paul II escaping death at the hands of a lone assassin in St. Peter’s Square. Even the secular press was openly derisive of this “interpretation” of the Secret.

By the end of the press conference the world was assured that the Message of Fatima is entirely a thing of the past, except for prayer and penance. The Bertone commentary went so far as to propose this absurdity: “The decision of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to make public the third part of the ‘secret’ of Fatima brings to an end a period of history marked by tragic human lust for power and evil . . .” Your Eminence, we ask you with all due deference: Who in his right mind could believe such a thing about the state of the world today?

H. Cardinal Sodano Honors Gorbachev to Demonstrate the New Orientation

As if to underscore the point that the story of Fatima is now to be considered a closed book, on the day after the June 26th press conference the Vatican’s new orientation was put on grand display when none other than Mikhail Gorbachev was seated as the guest of honor between Cardinals Sodano and Silvestrini at a Vatican news conference to celebrate—of all things—Cardinal Casaroli’s Ostpolitik.

Here again the mentality of Ostpolitik was at work in the Vatican: Mikhail Gorbachev is the living embodiment of the errors of Russia from which Our Lady of Fatima sought to deliver us. Gorbachev has recently admitted that he is still a Leninist. This atheist, this proponent of a godless New World Order, uses his tax-free foundations to promote the elimination of four billion [4,000,000,000] 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. Yet this defender of genocide, this world leader of Satan’s culture of death, was honored with a seat between two princes of the Church—only one day, Your Eminence, after Cardinal Ratzinger and Msgr. Bertone attempted to “debunk the cult of Fatima.”

The same Cardinal Sodano who honors the likes of Gorbachev and praises the heretical Hans Küng, oversees the effort to destroy Father Nicholas Gruner, the “Fatima priest.” Could the faithful have been given a clearer demonstration of the new orientation than this?

I. The Secretariat of State Has Directed The Interventions Against Father Gruner .

The hand of the Vatican Secretariat of State is evident in all the unprecedented, illicit interventions against Father Gruner discussed in this reply. We recall here the Bishop of Avellino’s own admission in 1989 that “worried signals” from the Vatican Secretary of State were coercing him to act against Father Gruner.

Due to the post-conciliar changes in the constitution of the Roman curia, the Vatican Secretariat of State has become the de facto ruler over Church affairs. Since the restructuring of the Roman Curia in 1967 by order of Paul VI—but actually designed and carried out by Cardinal Jean Villot—the heads of the various Roman dicasteries have all been able to behave like dictators. Before Vatican II the Roman Curia was structured as a monarchy. The Pope was the Prefect of the Holy Office, while the Cardinal in charge of the day-to-day business of the Holy Office was the second-in-command. The other dicasteries were of lower rank, and while having their own authority and jurisdiction, were subordinate to the Holy Office. This arrangement was entirely in keeping with the divine constitution of the Church: the Pope, the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, was at the head of the chain of command.

But, when Cardinal Villot engineered the restructuring or perestroika of the Roman Curia, the Holy Office was renamed and, far more important, it lost its supreme position in the Curia. The Curia was restructured in such a manner that the Cardinal Secretary of State was given power over all the other dicasteries, including the former Holy Office, of which the Pope was no longer prefect.

According to the traditional arrangement, under the Pope and his Holy Office, Faith and Morals were the pre-eminent factors determining curial policies. In the post-conciliar arrangement under the Cardinal Secretary of State and his dicastery, the Party Line of the Secretary of State is the supreme determining factor in the formulation of policy, reducing the role of the Holy Father to the function of a figurehead and rubber stamp in service of the de facto dictatorship of the Secretary of State. That dictatorship has been exercised in the case of Father Gruner. We recall the following facts:

Already in 1978, Father Gruner had received a letter from the Apostolic pro-Nuncio, Archbishop Angelo Palmas, accusing him of being a “vagus”, i.e. a vagabond cleric who is not incardinated anywhere. The charge, of course, was ridiculous, since Father Gruner had been incardinated in Avellino since his ordination to the diaconate, so he was not a “vagus.” Nor was he a fugitive, since he had written permission to reside outside the diocese of Avellino. The matter should have ended there—and would have, were it not for the fact that the Secretariat of State became actively involved behind the scenes in the persecution of Father Gruner.

Eleven years after Msgr. Palmas’ first intervention, he invited Father Gruner to visit him at the Nunciature in Ottawa, for the purpose of discussing Father Gruner’s status and his activities. Father Gruner explained his status as that of a priest incardinated in Avellino with the written permission of his ordinary to reside outside of the diocese. His activities, Father Gruner explained, were the daily celebration of the Mass, recitation of the Divine Office and promoting the message of Our Lady of Fatima. Palmas remained implacable: “You are not incardinated,” he said, denying all the evidence presented to him.

Upon inquiry at the Congregation for the Clergy, Father Gruner learned from an official of the Congregation that it was Palmas himself, not the Congregation, who was exerting pressures to get Father Gruner ordered back to Italy. Palmas, being a nuncio, is an agent of the Secretary of State. He would not have acted without orders from the then Secretary of State, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli. The direct intervention of the Secretariat of State was confirmed by the investigation of Father Paul Kramer, who made inquiries with trusted sources inside the Vatican bureaucracy and was informed that Archbishop Palmas had no personal interest in Father Gruner’s “case” but was merely carrying out Casaroli’s orders.

After this followed all of the interventions we have discussed, which arose during the tenure of Casaroli’s successor, Cardinal Sodano. As noted earlier, the Congregation for the Clergy, having been prevailed upon by the Secretary of State to intervene, even went so far as to send a written protocol signed by Cardinal Innocenti and Archbishop Agustoni urging Bishop Pierro to issue an order recalling Father Gruner to Avellino, while specifically mentioning that it must appear as though the bishop were issuing the precept strictly upon his own initiative without any involvement of the Congregation.

The hand of the Secretary of State is seen in various Nuncios’ interventions against Father Gruner in the 1994 and 1996 Bishops’ Conferences. This theme is developed further in the Canonical recourses over the past 7 years. In this regard, it should also be noted that since the restructuring by Cardinal Villot (the Perestroika) of the Vatican Bureaucracy, the Secretary of State to this day has certain powers over the Supreme Court of the Catholic Church - the Apostolic Signatura.

It is an established fact that according to the special norms that govern the Roman Curia, the Secretary of State has the power to secretly intervene and forbid the Signatura from hearing a case.

The most famous example of this is the 1975 suppression of the Society of St. Pius X, when Archbishop Lefebvre appealed to the Signatura on a Friday on very strong legal grounds. The following Monday it was announced in the press that the Signatura did not accept the appeal because a “higher authority” had ordered the Signatura to reject the appeal. Cardinal Sabatini subsequently identified the “higher authority” as Cardinal Villot, then Secretary of State, not Pope Paul VI.

Your Eminence himself in a letter referred to this “higher authority” in October 2000. When Father Gruner wrote to you October 24, 2000, to ascertain the identity of this “higher authority”, you remained silent until your letter of February 16, 2001. Tellingly, on February 19, 2001 Father Gruner’s representative attempted to make an appointment for Father Gruner with Cardinal Sodano, only to receive an obviously prepared response from Cardinal Sodano’s assistant that “Father Gruner must obey. He must go to the Congregation for the Clergy.” It is evident that Cardinal Sodano is intimately familiar with, and in fact ordered, your letter of February 16th, which had been mailed to Father Gruner only 3 days before.

Thus, it is also evident that the “higher authority” Your Eminence referred to in October 2000 is the same “higher authority” which manipulated the Signatura in the Lefebvre case: namely the Vatican Secretary of State.

In another striking parallel with that unjust treatment of Archbishop Lefebvre, a purported decree of the Signatura, dated September 29, 2000 (a fax copy only received for the first time on April 6, 2001) rejects Father Gruner’s legally unassailable petition for restitution without any discussion or grounds whatsoever, citing, a secret “norm” governing the Apostolic Signatura.

Apparently however another secret norm, the same norm cited by Cardinal Sabattani to justify the Signatura’s immediate rejection without grounds of the well founded Lefebvre appeal, on orders of the Secretary of State is the real norm operating in Father Gruner’s case too.

J. Following Cardinal Sodano, Your Eminence Preaches A “New” Fatima Revised for the New Orientation

In the February 16th letter, under the heading “Authentic Marian Apostolate,” Your Eminence denies that the unprecedented measures taken against Father Gruner “have been aimed at the silencing of the Message of Fatima.” But in your own explanation of what you say constitutes the “authentic Marian apostolate,” you reveal all the more clearly that the traditional understanding of the Message of Fatima is no longer accepted or tolerated by the proponents of the new orientation.

Your Eminence says that “the Blessed Mother appeared to the three little visionaries in the Cova da Iria at the beginning of the century, and marked out a program for the New Evangelization which the whole Church finds itself engaged in, which is even more urgent at the dawn of the third millennium.” No, Your Eminence, we must respectfully but firmly disagree: Our Lady did not come to announce “the New Evangelization,” a slogan which describes an ineffectual campaign to stimulate the dying faith of those who are already Christian. Nor did Our Lady come to announce any of the other obscure slogans which have overrun the Church in the past forty years: “ecumenical dialogue,” “interreligious dialogue,” “solidarity,” “the civilization of love,” “inculturation,” and so forth. She came, Your Eminence, to announce the Old Evangelization, the perennial Gospel of Jesus Christ, Who is the same yesterday, today and forever—the selfsame Christ who warned the world that “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; he who believes not shall be condemned.”

Our Lady of Fatima uttered no slogans but only the simple Catholic truth: that many souls are burning in hell for lack of the Catholic Faith; that to save souls God ordains it necessary to establish in the world—not just among those who are already Catholics—devotion to Her Immaculate Heart; that Her Immaculate Heart must triumph through the Consecration of Russia to that Heart; that only by this means can there be true peace in our time. And Our Lady of Fatima also gave us a warning about the consequences of failing to heed Her requests: wars and persecution of the Church, the martyrdom of the good, the suffering of the Holy Father, the suffering of the whole world—all of which are occurring at this very moment in history—and then, if we continue to ignore Her requests, “various nations will be annihilated”, Our Lady said.

Your Eminence, where can one find any of these elements in your rendering of the Message of Fatima? Where is Heaven and where is hell, for you speak only vaguely of “Ultimate Realties”—a term any Mason would find acceptable? Where is the triumph of the Immaculate Heart? Where are the consecration and conversion of Russia? Where are the warnings of Our Lady? Where indeed is the Message of Fatima at all?

Contrary to all the evidence of what is happening in Russia today, you insist that Father Gruner and everyone else must believe that the 1984 ceremony at the Vatican was a valid consecration of Russia, and you claim that the Ratzinger/Bertone commentary “definitively closed any further argument in this regard.” Yet we know that Cardinal Ratzinger himself has stated that the commentary binds no one and is not an act of the Magisterium. In any case, Russia shows no signs of the conversion promised by Our Lady of Fatima but is rather descending ever deeper into spiritual and moral corruption, along with the rest of the world. There is no argument against a fact. The faithful cannot be ordered to believe by any authority something which is plainly contrary to reality. Here we must say, in all candor, that Your Eminence evinces the same determination as your collaborators in the Vatican to close the book on Fatima forever, or at least to change it into something else, like “the New Evangelization.” But the book will not be so easily closed, and the Message cannot be changed, for it comes from God through His Blessed Mother.

Your Eminence asserts that “reduction of the rich doctrinal and catechetical content [of the Message of Fatima] to some particular aspects often takes a polemical form or even becomes unbelievable, at least it generates confusion among the faithful, ending in the weakening of the authentic message itself.” This is an obvious fallacy: If Father Gruner’s apostolate has emphasized those aspects of the Message which have been neglected and suppressed for the sake of the new orientation, he is only presenting the Message in its integrity, not “reducing” it in any way. Nor does Father Gruner claim—as Your Eminence contends—that his apostolate is “the only authentic expression” of the Message of Fatima. This is another “straw man” of an allegation. Father Gruner has never claimed anything more than that his apostolate presents the Message of Fatima in all its aspects, even if other apostolates do good work in promoting certain elements of the Message.

Your Eminence, we ask you to consider your accusation from the perspective of the many people who share Father Gruner’s legitimate convictions. We are convinced that it is you and your collaborators who have wrongly emphasized parts of the Message of Fatima to the complete exclusion of its specific prophetic content for our time. In conscience we believe that it is certain members of the Vatican apparatus, Your Eminence included, who have engaged in polemics and false interpretations, causing “confusion among the faithful, ending in the weakening of the authentic message itself.”

• Did we not read Cardinal Ratzinger’s commentary, which undermines the entire credibility of the Message by suggesting that the vision in the Third Secret is made up of “images which Lucia may have seen in devotional books and which draw their inspiration from long-standing intuitions of faith”?

• Did not Cardinal Ratzinger aim a dagger at the very heart of the Message by citing as his only “authority” on Fatima the neo-modernist, “progressive” Jesuit, Edouard Dhanis, who was notorious for his constant and quite dishonest effort to attribute the entire prophetic content of the Message to the pious imaginings of Sister Lucia? Dhanis even refused to examine the Fatima archives at the urging of his fellow Jesuits. He preferred to issue his opinions without examining the evidence!

• Did not even the secular press recognize that Cardinal Ratzinger and Msgr. Bertone had aimed to “gently debunk the cult of Fatima”?

• Has not Your Eminence himself sought to re-cast the Message of Fatima as nothing more than an announcement of “the New Evangelization,” concerning which Our Lady said not one word?

It is clear to us, Your Eminence, that Father Gruner is wrongly accused of precisely what his accusers themselves are doing. To accuse the other of your own offense is a very old polemical technique. But no polemic can rewrite the Message of Fatima or make us believe what our senses tell us is not true. Nor can Your Eminence change reality with any “penalty” you may impose on Father Nicholas Gruner.

V. THE FAITHFUL CANNOT BE DECEIVED NOR THE TRUTH BURIED

We can assure you, Your Eminence, that Father Nicholas Gruner is far from alone in rejecting the shameful treatment of Our Lady of Fatima and Her heaven-sent message. Father Gruner is not the only one who was outraged at the sight of Mikhail Gorbachev seated between two princes of the Church only one day after the effort to consign Fatima to the past. If the faithful, to quote your phrase, have “turned . . . against the legitimate Church authorities” on the question of Fatima, is it not because what we are asked to believe by certain prelates in the Vatican simply does not correspond to reality?

Your Eminence, we can see for ourselves that Russia could not possibly have been consecrated to the Immaculate Heart 17 years ago, 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 forbidden to proselytize the Russian people, and Russian society is in a state of spiritual, moral and material disintegration even worse than before the supposed “fall of communism” in 1991.

Your Eminence, no matter what Cardinal Ratzinger says, we can see for ourselves that when Our Lady of Fatima said that in the end Her Immaculate Heart will triumph, that Russia will be consecrated, that Russia will convert, and that a period of peace will be given to the world, She was not referring to an event which happened 2,000 years ago.

Your Eminence, we can see for ourselves that (contrary to what Cardinal Ratzinger says) we can never have an Immaculate Heart like that of the Mother of God, no matter how perfectly we conform ourselves to His will, for Mary—alone among all human creatures—was conceived without Original Sin, never committed even the slightest personal sin, and will occupy the highest place in Heaven of all creatures for all eternity.

Your Eminence, we can see for ourselves that when Cardinal Ratzinger dared to demote the one Immaculate Heart to the level of anyone’s heart in potentia, he was flirting with blasphemy.

Your Eminence, we can see for ourselves that the vision of an unidentified Pope and members of the hierarchy being shot dead by an army (in an apparent public execution) has no relation to the current Pope not being shot dead by a single assassin.

Your Eminence, we can see for ourselves that the good news of the Pope’s survival could not possibly be the culmination of the Secret which the Vatican suppressed for forty years, including 19 years after the failed assassination attempt.

And finally, Your Eminence, we can see for ourselves that the answer to the crisis in the Church and the world is not “the new Evangelization” or the “civilization of love,” but the world’s embrace of the one true religion and worldwide devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as announced in the authentic Message of Fatima.

So, Your Eminence, Father Gruner and his apostolate are only giving voice to what millions of Catholics already believe, because the simple faithful you denigrate as “poorly informed” can understand their own faith and the simple words of Our Lady of Fatima. Father Gruner is the object of persecution, therefore, simply and only because he says to the world what millions of the faithful are saying to each other. Silencing him will not silence all of those voices.

No matter what you do to 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 very probably true. And even if they are wrong in what they believe, do they not have the right to believe it in conscience until contrary evidence is fairly presented, rather than peremptory demands for “obedience” in matters where there is liberty in the Church? Can Your Eminence not respect this right, even as you do with those who abuse their liberty so shamefully throughout the Church?

VI. A PLEA FOR JUSTICE AND CHARITY

Your Eminence’s letter of February 16th speaks of the spirit of the Jubilee and invokes the name of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, but is the rest of what it says really in keeping with such admirable pious sentiments? Will they not be seen by many as empty pleasantries to mask a shameful effort to ruin a faithful priest who has done nothing wrong?

And now that we have set forth in great detail the demonstrable errors and inconsistencies which pervade the February 16th letter, we must ask: Can Your Eminence continue in good conscience to employ that letter as a statement of valid grounds for the unprecedented excommunication or defrocking of a chaste and faithful priest? Can Your Eminence expect the faithful to accept any punishment of Father Gruner for reasons so obviously specious, so plainly contrived?

Although he would be the first to say that he is only one priest among many, Father Gruner does in fact stand for the cause of so many faithful Catholics who find themselves buffeted and wounded by a crisis like no other which has ever afflicted the Church and the world. Not only he, but the people who find themselves in deep sympathy with him, deserve their place in the Church.

But the case of Father Gruner involves infinitely more than merely due liberty in the Church for legitimate views on Fatima, even if this would be reason enough to cease the persecution of Father Gruner. For if Father Gruner and those who agree with them are right in what they say, what is at stake in this controversy is nothing less than the salvation of millions of souls. Our Lady of Fatima promised that if Her requests were granted many souls would be saved. From this it necessarily follows that if Her requests are not granted many souls will be lost for all eternity in the fires of hell. For one terrifying moment, which was almost too much for humans to bear, Our Lady allowed the three children to see the many souls burning in eternal hellfire. She did this precisely in order to demonstrate the absolute urgency of Her requests.

Therefore, we end this reply with a plea for justice and charity and true concern for the “salus animarum,” the salvation of souls. Our plea will be addressed to the Holy Father himself, who will receive a copy of this reply. It is evident to us that while Your Eminence expresses certain pious sentiments in the letter of February 16th, your actions bespeak animus (hostility) toward Father Gruner and a determination to reach a preordained result (your already decided sentence) without regard to the requirements of truth and justice. This is why, on December 20, 2000, Father Gruner was compelled by your actions to lodge with the Supreme Pontiff a canonical complaint against Your Eminence for abuse of power, as provided by Canon 1405.

If Your Eminence continues to assert a personal mandate from the Pope (the existence of which is not demonstrated), we would hope that in view of the plain conflict of interest, you would recuse (withdraw) yourself from any further participation in this controversy. Church law (cfr. can. 1448, §1) and the natural law itself prevent you from judging a matter in which you have a marked hostility toward the party before you—a hostility demonstrated beyond doubt by your singular and totally unwarranted threat of excommunication against Father Gruner, alone among the 250,000 priests over whom Your Eminence is supposed to be exercising “pastoral vigilance.”

We ask Your Eminence to consider the evidence of his own indulgence toward the many clerics who betray the Bride of Christ, and compare it with your treatment of Father Gruner, who undeniably acts out of love for the Church, whether or not one agrees with him. The Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy was honest enough to admit as much himself, when he met with Father Gruner and embraced him this past February. Accordingly, Father Gruner will request that the Holy Father remove you from this matter, if you do not remove yourself, since your bias and hostility are manifest.

Those who seek the destruction of Father Gruner may succeed by means of the “definitive provisions” Your Eminence now threatens. If God permits this, then God’s will be done. Rest assured, however, that should it ever prove necessary, someone else will take Father Gruner’s place. His example will only serve to enliven our dedication to the truth. No penalty imposed on him will stop the questions or the search for answers, nor will it end the cause of promoting the authentic message of Our Lady of Fatima.

And even if Father Gruner’s detractors are finally able to have him declared “excommunicated” or stripped of his priestly standing, their victory will only be apparent. For such penalties would be seen as an outrage by the many faithful who understand too well the disparity of justice in the Church today, and have had their fill of it. And, as we have mentioned, the law of the Church itself declares void any punishment, much less excommunication or defrocking, of one who is not morally culpable of an actual offense. Likewise, threats of punishment in such cases are also void and of no effect. (Cann. 1318, 1321) Nor do we believe that God Himself would recognize such penalties against a priest who spoke the truth as best he could in a time of unparalleled ecclesial crisis. 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 had to suffer the indignity of being “excommunicated” by the Council of Milan—a judgment which today discredits that Council and tarnishes the memory of the Pope who approved it.

At the close of Your Eminence’s letter you say: “I will entrust this intention to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” We dearly hope and pray that Your Eminence will do precisely this. For if you do, we are confident you will not fail to find in the great recesses of that Immaculate Heart justice and charity toward Father Gruner. And once you have found justice and charity toward him, we are just as confident that what you now contemplate doing will fade from your own heart, to be replaced with that solicitude toward one’s subjects which the Church counsels in all prelates: Bishops and all ordinaries must be pastors not persecutors. They must rule their subjects but not dominate them. They must love their subjects as brothers and sons...

If you approach Father Gruner as a brother; if you cease trying to dominate and destroy him; if you act as a pastor and not as a persecutor, then this long affair will properly conclude where it all began: with a faithful priest and his Marian apostolate, exercising the due liberty of sons and daughters of the Holy Catholic Church. May Christ and His Blessed Mother have it so.

Respectfully yours in Christ the King and Mary Immaculate Our Queen,

Father Paul Kramer

Christopher A. Ferrara

Robert Fioretti

Mrs. Mary Sedore

Mrs. Coralie Graham

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