permission of the petitioners.
A Canonical Petition to
John Paul II
of St. Michael, September 29,
Holiness Pope John Paul II,
Pursuant to Can. 1501 et seq., we, Coralie
Graham, Mairead Clarke and Mary Sedore, do hereby petition Your Holiness
for redress of grievances against Respondents Jose Cardinal Sanchez
and Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe, and their collaborators in the wrongful
acts complained of in the accompanying formal Petition.
As explained more fully in the Petition,
under Can. 1405 (1) 2, 3, Your Holiness is the only judge who is lawfully
competent to hear this case, since Cardinals and, in penal cases, bishops,
can be judged only by the Pope himself.
We lodge this Petition with Your Holiness
as individual members of the faithful and as directors, members, employees
or supporters of the National Committee for the National Pilgrim Virgin
of Canada and the Servants of Jesus and Mary, Inc., lay apostolates
for the promotion of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Her Message
at Fatima. We proceed under an official interpretation of the 1983 Code
of Canon Law, approved by Your Holiness, which states that members of
a lay apostolate which does not have a juridical personality or even
formal recognition in the Church may nevertheless pursue hierarchical
recourses either singly or as a group. [AAS 80 (1988) 1818]
The Petition details Respondents’ systematic
abuse of ecclesiastical power and authority over a period of years.
Acting totally outside the proper channels of canonical procedure, they
have wrongfully interdicted our apostolate and calumniated its members
before the entire Church. In the process, our apostolate has never been
charged by Respondents with any canonical offense whatsoever, and we
have therefore been deprived of any recourse against their actions except
to present this Petition to Your Holiness.
The wrongs detailed in the Petition are
grave not merely because they injured us, but because they harm the
Church as a whole by attempting to suppress an important apostolic work
of the faithful (proclamation of the Message of Fatima, which Your Holiness
himself has proclaimed), and because Respondents have diminished the
dignity and credibility of their respective offices by abusing them
in the manner described.
We humbly request that Your Holiness admit
this case, compel the respondents to join issue and then grant the relief
we have requested against them.
yours in Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Mrs. Mary Sedore Mrs.
are as follows:
Sanchez, Archbishop Crescenzio
Via Rusticucci 13, 00193 00120 Citta del Vaticano
Rome, Italy [Office]
Congregazione Per il Clero,
Palazzo delle Congregazioni,
Piazza Pio XII, 3;
Canonical Petition (Libellus) to His Holiness John Paul II
Graham, Mairead Clarke and
Mary Sedore, et al,
in their individual capacities as members
of the faithful, and as
directors, members, employees or supporters of
the National Committee for the National Pilgrim Virgin of Canada and
the Servants of Jesus and Mary, Inc.,
lay apostolates for the promotion of devotion to
the Blessed Virgin Mary and Her Message at Fatima
Mons. Crescenzio Sepe, and their
collaborators in the wrongful acts complained of
Redress of Abuse of Ecclesiastical Authority and Calumny
1390 § 2,
1334 § 2,
1405 § 1, 2
1449 § 3
Q. Whether a group
of faithful, lacking juridical personality and even recognition envisaged
in c. 299, §3, can legitimately make hierarchical recourse ...
R. ... affirmative
as to individual members of the faithful acting either singly or together,
provided they really have a grievance ...
of the Pontifical Commission
for Interpretation of Legislative Texts
— AAS 80 (1988) 1818
may lawfully vindicate and defend the rights they enjoy in the Church,
before the competent ecclesiastical forum in accordance with law.”
Pontiff alone has the right to judge
... [2°] Cardinals ... [3°] and, in penal cases, Bishops.”
Can. 1405(1) 2° and 3°
of Contents of This Canonical Petition
Brief Summary of this Petition
II. The Hardship
Caused by Respondents’ Acts
III. Facts of
V. Canonical Grounds
Only the Roman Pontiff himself alone can judge this
This case having been lawfully introduced, a judgment must be
issued after an investigation conducted by the judge ex officio
should be punished strictly for abuse of their ecclesiastical
Respondents should be strictly punished, and ordered to make
reparation for, their false and malicious denunciations of our apostolate
to ecclesiastical superiors and the faithful
The penalties imposed on respondents should reflect the increased
imputability resulting from the abuse of their offices.
The penalties imposed on respondents, as the principal authors
of the offenses committed, should also embrace those who collaborated
with them in committing the offenses, even if the collaborators cannot
now be identified.
VII. Prayer for
We humbly submit to Your Holiness this
written Petition against His Eminence José Cardinal Sanchez,
former Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, and Mons. Crescenzio
Sepe, the Secretary of said Congregation (“respondents”). Under
the law of the Church, you alone, Holiness, can judge grievances against
cardinals and, in penal cases, bishops. [Can. 1405]
This Petition is made by us as individual
members of the faithful, who have the right to seek hierarchical recourse
as individuals for harm done by the respondents to the apostolate in
which we are engaged. [Cfr. decision of Pontifical Commission for the
Interpretation of Legislative Texts, AAS 80 (1988) 1818, construing
Can. 299 §3]
We also make this Petition in accordance
with our God-given right to appeal to the Supreme Pontiff—a right dogmatically
defined by the Second Council of Lyons in 1274 and the First Vatican
Council in 1870, and further codified in Can. 221 of the 1983 Code of
Canon Law promulgated by Your Holiness.
Brief Summary of this Petition
This Petition arises from respondents’
unjust statements and actions against the apostolate in which we have
been engaged for many years as active members of the Christian faithful:
namely, the National Committee for the National Pilgrim Virgin of Canada,
a Canadian organization, and its United States affiliate, Servants of
Jesus and Mary, Inc., popularly known collectively as the International
Fatima Rosary Crusade (“the apostolate”).
The statements and actions of the respondents,
including canonically groundless public “declarations” issued in the
name of the Congregation for the Clergy, were designed to create the
false impression in the minds of our ecclesiastical superiors, the world
episcopate and the faithful at large, that our apostolate is illicit
because it lacks “permission of ecclesiastical authority” to conduct
its activities. Respondents are well aware that no such permission is
required under the law of the Church. On the contrary, the law of the
Church guarantees our right to engage in the apostolate as a private
association of the faithful incorporated under civil law. [Cann. 212,
215, 216, 299 and, generally, Cann. 208-223]
Respondents’ words and actions were further
designed to induce our ecclesiastical superiors, the world episcopate,
and indeed the entire Church, to shun our apostolate without just cause
and without the canonical due process to which we are entitled as members
in good standing of Christ’s faithful.
The Hardship Caused by Respondents’ Acts
The apostolate is our life’s work and
a means of support for many of its employees, who number in excess of
We, the petitioners, have labored for
years in the apostolate, earning wages far less than we might receive
in secular employment, working 12 to 16 hours a day, and often around-the-clock.
Like Father Gruner himself, we have committed our lives to this work
out of devotion to Our Lady, believing firmly that Her Message at Fatima
is of crucial importance for the welfare of souls in this time of unprecedented
crisis in the Church.
Respondents have abused the power and
prestige of their offices in an effort to destroy everything we have
built up over the years. We are concerned, of course, about the temporal
hardship to ourselves and our fellow workers in the apostolate. But
much more than this, we are concerned about the spiritual loss which
could result to countless souls who stand to benefit from the deeper
understanding of Our Lady’s Message at Fatima we have labored so hard
to promote. Then, too, there are the many supporters of the apostolate
who have donated their time and money, who have prayed and fasted, for
the success of our work. We cannot allow their contributions to be rendered
None of us has the power of a Cardinal
or an Archbishop. We cannot issue a prestigious “declaration”
or “announcement” from the Vatican to correct what has been said in
the declarations and announcements of respondents against us, issued
in the name of the Congregation for the Clergy. We can only ask Your
Holiness to help us remedy respondents’ abuse of their ecclesiastical
authority before it causes even graver harm to our apostolate and those
who benefit from it.
Thus, we respectfully implore Your Holiness
to compel the respondents to make appropriate amends for their calumniation
of our apostolate [Canon 1390 §3], and for their abuse of ecclesiastical
authority [Can. 1389].
We further respectfully request that respondents
and their collaborators be subject to the strict penalties envisioned
by canon law for those who abuse their offices in the Church—not for
the sake of vengeance, but to deter such abuse of authority in the future,
so that other members of the faithful will not have to endure what we
have endured at respondents’ hands.
Facts of this Petition
(A) History of the Apostolate
Our apostolate was founded as a civil
corporation in Ottawa, Canada in 1974, under the auspices of His Excellency,
The Most Reverend Michael Rusnak, then auxiliary bishop of the Eparchy
of Toronto in the Byzantine Rite. (He is now Ordinary of the Byzantine
Rite for Slovaks in Canada.) The Board of Directors of the apostolate
was comprised entirely of laity until 1978, when Father Nicholas Gruner
became a member of the Board of the apostolate after having served since
1977 as its Executive Director. Father Gruner was asked to serve
by the Board after Bishop Rusnak insisted that a worthy priest be placed
on the Board. The current Board of the apostolate consists of three
priests, including Father Gruner, and two lay women — petitioners Coralie
Graham and Mary Sedore. Petitioner Mairead Clarke is a member of the
administrative staff of the apostolate. Since 1981 the apostolate
has included Servants of Jesus and Mary, Inc., a lay apostolic group
formed under the laws of the United States.
Father Gruner was ordained in Frigento,
Italy in the Diocese of Avellino in 1976. In 1978 Father was given written
permission by the Bishop of Avellino to reside in Canada, his home country.
Since then Father Gruner has been engaged in the work of our apostolate
with the full knowledge of three successive bishops of Avellino, none
of whom has ever prohibited his work as a member of our Board.
Our apostolate is dedicated to the worldwide
promotion of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in particular
Her Message at Fatima. Our activities include exposition around the
world of one of the Pilgrim Virgin statues personally blessed by your
predecessor, His Holiness Paul VI, publication of The
Fatima Crusader magazine, various
congresses and gatherings of the faithful regarding the Fatima Message
and its import for our time, and radio and television broadcasts concerning
the Fatima Message throughout North America. Many of these activities
are conducted under the title of the International Fatima Rosary Crusade.
Under Father Gruner’s stewardship, our
apostolate has grown to the point where it now employs over 100 people,
both Catholic and Protestant, has 100,000 active supporters around the
world, publishes a magazine (The
Fatima Crusader) with a circulation of 500,000, and reaches a
potential audience of many millions through Sunday television broadcasts
throughout North America and daily radio broadcasts throughout the world.
Our apostolate also funds an orphanage
in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, India, having the care of fifty children;
feeds a number of other children in Brazil; and distributes millions
of scapulars and rosaries throughout the world.
Father Gruner and the apostolate have
received blessings and good wishes from Your Holiness himself on several
occasions, including your formal Apostolic Blessings in 1990 and 1993.
Your 1990 Apostolic Blessing was extended personally to petitioners
Coralie Graham and Mary Sedore.
Your Holiness, the apostolate is not merely
Father Gruner’s “personal initiative”, as the respondents have said
in one of their many improper and irregular public “declarations” in
the name of the Congregation for the Clergy. Rather, the apostolate
is the undertaking of many members of Christ’s faithful, who believe
it to be their proper apostolic work in the Body of Christ. We are confident
that our apostolate is fully in keeping with the freedom of Christ’s
faithful to establish and direct associations on their own initiative
for charitable or pious purposes under the law of the Church, and especially
the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Your Holiness in view of the teaching
of Lumen Gentium on the role of the laity in the Church. [Cann.
208-223; 299] Further, the same Code of Canon Law specifically recognizes
the right of diocesan priests like Father Gruner to direct, and
even establish on his own, apostolates such as ours. [Can. 278]
It is no secret, of course, that our apostolate
expresses the concern of many of the faithful that Our Lady’s request
at Fatima for the specific Consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate
Heart has yet to be done by all of the world’s bishops in union with
the Pope, and that failing this Consecration, Russia will not convert
but will continue to spread her errors throughout the world.
It is also true that our apostolate has
implored the Holy See to disclose the Third Secret of Fatima to the
world. We believe that the Third Secret is clearly an urgent warning
for our time — a warning the entire Church was expecting to hear in
1960, only to receive the news that the Secret would not be disclosed.
In the 36 years which have followed, it becomes ever more apparent
that the Secret contains a warning and instructions of utmost importance
to the Church in this time of unprecedented crisis.
The Consecration of Russia and the Third
Secret are certainly matters of high controversy in the Church. Yet
we know Your Holiness will understand that we cannot ignore our conscientious
conviction that the good of the Church requires us to communicate to
the sacred pastors and others of Christ’s faithful our legitimate concerns
about these matters. In so doing, we are only exercising that
legitimate freedom of the laity enunciated Lumen Gentium (par.
37) and the current Code of Canon Law (Can. 212, etc.).
(B) The Present Controversy
In 1992, the respondents and others
began a systematic effort to discredit and ruin the Apostolate,
evidently because its activities are disfavored by respondents and other
elements of the Vatican apparatus.
It is most significant that respondents
have never attempted to interdict our apostolate in a manner consistent
with canonical due process; for indeed there is nothing about our apostolate
which could properly be interdicted under the law of the Church. Rather,
the respondents, acting in their capacity as Prefect and Secretary of
the Congregation for the Clergy, have used the Apostolic Nuncios, the
pages of L’Osservatore Romano and Avvenire, and Vatican
Radio to make “declarations” which effectively interdict us without
due process by dishonestly implying that we are acting illicitly because
our activities “do not enjoy the approval of competent Ecclesiastical
As the respondents must be presumed to
know, the faithful do not need “approval of competent ecclesiastical
authority” to conduct a private apostolate or hold a conference
on Fatima. The Code of Canon Law promulgated by Your Holiness recognizes
the natural right of the faithful to meet and discuss their concerns
about Church affairs without any prior ecclesiastical approval whatsoever.
[Canons 212, 215 and 299] Thus, the respondents’ “declarations”
that the Apostolate’s Fatima conferences are “without approval of ecclesiastical
authority” are quite obviously designed to deceive the world’s
bishops and the faithful at large into believing that they would be
guilty of serious disobedience to the law of the Church if they supported
our work or attended one of our conferences.
Respondents can be expected to protest
that nothing in their “declarations” is overtly false, and that they
never meant to suggest there is anything illicit about the apostolate
or our activities in furtherance of it. Then let them explain, for example,
why some 25 bishops urgently interrogated us about the canonical propriety
of our Fatima Conference in Portugal ‘discussed below’ after respondents’
“declarations” were issued, or why so many bishops have cancelled their
trips to our conferences or rejected invitations following these “declarations”.
It is clear, Your Holiness, that this
campaign of deceptively ominous statements about “approval of competent
ecclesiastical authority”—which approval respondents know full well
is not required—amounts to a grave deprivation of our canonical rights
without due process or just cause, and a gross abuse of respondents’
In combination with this tactic against
our apostolate, respondents have further abused their ecclesiastical
authority by blocking every offer of incardination Father Gruner has
obtained from benevolent bishops around the world. At the same time,
respondents directed the Bishop of Avellino not to excardinate Father
in favor of a benevolent bishop. Then respondents directed the
Bishop of Avellino to order Father Gruner to return to Avellino, after
an approved absence of nearly 20 years, on grounds that he had “failed”
to be incardinated elsewhere! Your Holiness, the respondents have
deliberately prevented Father Gruner from carrying out the very order
they have instigated. This abuse of their authority has harmed not
only Father Gruner but ourselves.
In Father Gruner’s own Petition to Your
Holiness, which is intended to be presented simultaneously with ours,
he sets forth the details of respondents’ many illicit, extra-canonical
interventions in his good faith efforts to be incardinated outside the
Diocese of Avellino. We will point out here only the most recent case,
involving the Archbishop of Hyderabad, in whose archdiocese our apostolate
supports the orphanage already mentioned:
Your Holiness, on or about March 18, 1996
the Archbishop of Hyderabad, who is the third bishop to offer
Father Gruner incardination since 1992, received a letter from the Respondent
Sanchez, acting in the name of Congregation of the Clergy, pressuring
him to withdraw his formal decree of November 4, 1995 incardinating
Father Gruner in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad. This letter was summarized
for us over the telephone by a functionary of the Archdiocese of Hyderabad.
This functionary also disclosed that the Archbishop fears providing
us with a copy of this secret letter without protocol number because
“he would be putting the whole diocese in trouble”. In other words,
the Archbishop fears an even greater abuse of ecclesiastical authority
by respondents, this time directed against his entire archdiocese.
How is it, Your Holiness, that the respondents
can exceed the authority of the Congregation by dictating to an Archbishop
whom he may incardinate in his own Archdiocese—especially when the priest
in question has no canonical or moral impediments to the exercise of
his priesthood. It should be noted, Your Holiness, that the Archbishop
has tried to support the apostolate in its difficulties with certain
elements of the Vatican apparatus. In his decree of incardination,
dated November 4, 1995, the Archbishop declared that:
“I hereby grant you all the faculties you
need for continuing your God-given mission on earth ... God will give
you great comfort and consolation through innumerable friends and well-wishers.
forces cannot stifle God’s work.”
Now, Your Holiness, the current Bishop
of Avellino, acting under pressure from the respondents, has decreed
(on May 16, 1996) that since Father Gruner “failed” to be incardinated
in another diocese, he will be suspended from the sacred priesthood
effective June 15, 1996 unless he returns to Avellino to live there
in exile until his death—with no ministry, no salary and no provision
for his old age. Father Gruner has appealed to the Congregation
for the Clergy from that unjust decree, and has thereby avoided the
proposed penalty for now. But his appeal will be considered by none
other than respondent Mons. Sepe himself, who, together with respondent
Cardinal Sanchez, the former Prefect of the Congregation, is the very
person who has arranged for Father Gruner’s exile to Avellino by improperly
interfering with his incardination by the Archbishop of Hyderabad. This
is truly a mockery of justice and due process.
Meanwhile, Father continues to function
as the head of our apostolate. We who depend upon him for spiritual
and temporal guidance in our work beseech Your Holiness to end this
campaign to destroy our apostolate by illicit means which are designed
to evade the just requirements of canon law.
(C) Our Open Letter to Your Holiness
Your Holiness will recall that one year
ago on July 12, 1995, we published in Il Messaggero an Open Letter
to Your Holiness from over 9,000 members of the faithful, regarding
the injustices committed against our apostolate by those who would destroy
it, and the efforts of those who surround Your Holiness to prevent you
from responding to our earnest petitions. In the hope of avoiding
scandal, we did not name the Vatican bureaucrats who were responsible.
Indeed, we would not have published the Open Letter at all if
the attacks against our work had not reached critical proportions.
Publication of the Open Letter was our
last resort before having canonical recourse to Your Holiness. But
the Open Letter has not deterred those who oppose communication to the
faithful of the full Fatima Message, and who try to crush any organized
effort by the faithful to petition for the Consecration of Russia and
disclosure of the Third Secret. The attacks against our apostolate have
only intensified, leading to the current injustices against us.
It is not personal pride in the Apostolate
which has led us to this Petition, Your Holiness, but our deep and abiding
conviction that the good of the Church requires that we continue this
Therefore, having no other canonical
alternative but this Petition, we now present it to Your Holiness with
the fervent prayer that you will intervene to remedy the wrongs done
to our apostolate, so that we may continue our work without the stigma
imposed upon us by respondents in a gross abuse of their authority and
prestige in the Church.
Specification of Charges
(1) According to a purported decree of
the Apostolic Signatura, dated May 15, 1995, (discussed below), on or
about January 12, 1992 respondent Cardinal Sanchez issued a “declaration”
in the name of the Congregation for the Clergy, stating that our apostolate
had “not received any canonical recognition and consequently ought to
be considered a personal and private initiative of [Father Gruner]”.
(Appendix 1) This statement is misleading, and therefore a calumny against
No canonical recognition, permission or erection is required for the
Apostolate [Cann. 212, 215, 216, 278, 299 and, generally, 208-223].
The apostolate has never been Father’s “personal and private initiative”.
It existed before he became a member of our Board, and over a hundred
people are involved in its work. Our honorary chairman at the inception
of the apostolate was the aforesaid Bishop Rusnak, on whose advice Father
Gruner was asked to serve as a Board member. Your Holiness, the apostolate
was the initiative of lay people, with Father Gruner contributing his
efforts to an apostolate that was already underway.
(2) On October 8, 1992, respondents published
another statement which appeared in L’Osservatore Romano and
Avvenire, and was also broadcast on Vatican
Radio, in which they again falsely “declared” that our Fatima conference
in Fatima, Portugal “has not been approved by competent ecclesiastical
authorities” and that “Father Nicholas Gruner does not have faculties
from the Diocese of Leiria, Fatima to perform ministerial acts.” (Appendix
7) These calumnies were republished in the English edition of L’Osservatore
Romano on October 14, 1992. (Appendix 8) They are calumnies against
The Bishop of Fatima actually did give permission for our conference
on October 7, 1992. This permission was witnessed by three Archbishops:
Toppo, Cardoso-Sobrinho, and Limon (now deceased). Archbishop
Sobrinho can be seen on video tape referring to this permission on October
8, 1992 at the opening session of our Fatima Conference. Archbishops
Cardoso-Sobrinho and Toppo are still acting as the ordinaries of their
Even without such permission, our conference was perfectly licit since,
under the canons already cited, absolutely no permission is required
for a private gathering of the faithful and bishops to discuss matters
which concern the good of the Church.
Father Gruner had no need of faculties to perform “ministerial acts”
in the Diocese of Leiria-Fatima in order to help organize a private
conference of the faithful to discuss the Fatima Message.
Thus, the October 8, 1992 “declaration”
by the Respondents was a deliberate attempt to mislead the world’s bishops
and the faithful by creating the false impression that the Fatima conference
in Fatima, Portugal was being conducted in violation of Church law,
and without required “faculties”, and that anyone who attended the conference
would be violating a canonically valid monitum of a Curial office,
when in truth the “declaration” by respondents lacked any canonical
foundation whatsoever and was merely a gratuitous abuse of their authority
and prestige in the Church. Respondents’ 1992 “declaration” was issued
without any canonical process to determine the licitness of our apostolate,
or any opportunity for its members, including ourselves, to be heard
in defense of our work.
(3) According to a letter from Apostolic
Nunciature of the Philippines (Appendix 9), on July 9, 1994 respondent
Cardinal Sanchez issued a communiqué repeating and republishing the
calumnies contained in respondents’ October 1992 “Declaration” in L’Osservatore
Romano and directed the Papal Nuncios to tell the bishops of the
world “not to accept the invitations of [Father Gruner]” to attend the
apostolate’s Fatima conference in Mexico City in November 1994. The
July 9, 1994 communiqué adds a new calumny: That the hierarchy of Portugal
was “embarrassed” by our 1992 Fatima conference when it learned of Father
Gruner’s “irregular situation” in the Church. This, of course,
is a blatant lie: There was nothing “irregular” about Father Gruner’s
situation; he had express written permission from his bishop
to reside outside the Diocese of Avellino and his bishop had
never once prohibited his
activities in our apostolate.
We have letters from India, Portugal,
Mexico, the United States, Kenya and elsewhere (Appendix 11-20) reflecting
this further illicit use of the nunciatures to “interdict” Father Gruner
and our apostolate’s Fatima conferences without any canonical due process
or even notice to us. The repetition of these calumnies was all the
more egregious because the respondents certainly knew by that date that
the Bishop of Fatima had given permission for the 1992 Fatima Conference
and that canon law authorized every one of our planned activities, none
of which required Father Gruner to have any special “faculties to perform
In connection with this deceptive propaganda,
respondents used the Nuncio to Mexico to pressure Bishop Flores, Secretary
General of the Mexican Episcopal Conference (CEM), to break a contract
with us to use the meeting facilities of the CEM for our conference
— after we had paid a deposit of $5,000 in good faith and spent many
thousands more in reliance on the agreement for publicizing the event
worldwide (including over 100,000 posters), delivering invitations to
the worlds’ bishops, travel arrangements for bishops and speakers at
the conference and innumerable other expenses. We were forced to relocate
the conference to a first-class hotel in Mexico City at an additional
cost to the apostolate of approximately USA $20,000, plus approximately
USA $10,000 for translation services at the hotel which were far more
expensive than those of CEM.
Even those bishops who were not swayed
by the misleading “announcements” and pressure tactics of respondents
and their agents were still prevented from attending the conference
when Bishop Flores, apparently acting at the behest of the respondents,
instructed the Mexican Secretary of State to deny entry visas to bishops
seeking to attend. Only a few bishops who had Vatican passports,
or who requested visitor’s visas without mentioning the Conference,
were able to travel to Mexico City for the event.
The end result of this gross abuse of
ecclesiastical authority was that the number of bishops who had attended
our conference dropped from the 120 who had agreed to attend to less
than ten bishops, who were able to overcome all the obstacles placed
in their paths by respondents. Although the Conference went ahead as
scheduled, our efforts were very substantially damaged. We were distressed
and disheartened at this trampling of our rights by the members of your
Curia, who clearly felt they could act with impunity and without regard
to the effect their actions would have on many others besides their
intended “targets”, Father Gruner and our apostolate.
Even worse, there is the indignity of
bishops being browbeaten and treated like children by respondents, who
have completely disregarded the rights and prerogatives of the episcopate,
and the duty of bishops to tend to the spiritual needs and listen to
the spiritual concerns of the members of their flocks. Where is respondents’
respect for the college of bishops? Do they believe that the entire
world episcopate is subject to their personal authority and oversight?
The authority of a bishop in his diocese is part of the divine constitution
of the Church. With all due respect to the Congregation for the
Clergy, Our Lord did not provide for the governance of the world’s bishops
by Respondents, reducing the bishops to the mere functionaries of the
(4) According to a letter from the Nuncio
of India (Appendix 10), on or about January 3, 1996, respondents again
repeated and amplified their calumnies in yet another communiqué issued
to the world’s bishops through the nuncios (and republished by the United
States Catholic Conference) in response to our plans to hold a third
Fatima conference in Rome later this year. (See, e.g., Appendix
21-22) The January 1996 communiqué, quoted verbatim at
Appendix 21, contains the following calumnies signed by respondent Mons.
That no bishop should attend the Fatima Conference in Rome because the
Congregation for the Clergy has “volumes of dossiers in the archives”
regarding Father Gruner.
The contents of the “volumes of dossiers
in the archives” are not specified, but the false implication is that
they contain evidence of canonical crimes or moral impediments on Father’s
part, when in fact Father has an unblemished 20-year record as a priest
whose faithfulness to the Magisterium and moral probity are beyond question.
His only “offense” was to “fail” to be incardinated outside the Diocese
of Avellino, after respondents themselves prevented him from being
That the conference in Rome “includes activities which the Reverend
Gruner has developed without ecclesiastical permission, and which are
not sparing of any criticisms of Church authorities.”
As high functionaries of the Church charged
with the duty to know and follow canon law, respondents knew, or certainly
should have known, that absolutely no “permission of ecclesiastical authority” is needed for us or
Father Gruner to “develop activities” for a private conference of the
faithful. On the contrary, the law of the Church (Cann. 212, 215, 216,
299 and many others) positively encourage such private initiatives
by the faithful. Moreover, it was utterly false for respondents to state
that the “activities” being planned for the conference in Rome are “not
sparing of any criticisms of Church authorities.”
The activities at our Fatima conferences
have never been characterized by unsparing criticism of Church
authorities. Rather, we have presented respectful resolutions and petitions
regarding the Consecration of Russia and the Third Secret, which petitions
we are entitled to present in accordance with our freedom of ecclesiastical
discourse under Cann. 212, 215, 216 and 299, and the others cited. For
example, we have included with this petition the Fourteen Resolutions
adopted at our Mexico City Fatima Conference in 1994 — resolutions
drafted with the assistance of seven bishops. (Appendix 26-27)
The phrase “not sparing of any criticisms
of Church authorities” is, therefore, a gratuitous calumny, designed
to instill fear in the world’s bishops that mere attendance at our conference
would mark them as disobedient to “Church authorities”—that is, the
respondents, who seek to interdict our activities without due process
of canon law, or even an opportunity for us to be heard in our own defense.
That the Bishop of Avellino has ordered Father Gruner to return to Avellino
“so that this priest might not continue his harmful activities.”
In truth, the order to return to Avellino
makes no reference to any “harmful activities” by Father, but is based
solely on his alleged “failure” to be incardinated in another diocese,
which incardination the respondents themselves have tried to prevent
at every turn by illicit coercion outside the proper channels of canon
law. The phrase “harmful activities” is another gratuitous calumny
against our work. No “harm” to the Church from our activities has even
been specified, much less proven canonically. Our activities involve
nothing more than the sincere apostolic work of many faithful Catholics
employed by the apostolate, only one of whom is Father Gruner.
(6) The “announcements”, “declarations”
and illicit private interventions and “arm-twisting” by respondents
have inflicted grave harm on our apostolate. Unless respondents’
abuse of ecclesiastical authority is repaired by corrective actions,
which only Your Holiness can require of them, the damage we have suffered
will never be remedied. We believe we are entitled to have the good
name of our apostolate restored by those who have unjustly damaged it
in their zeal to convict and silence one priest, Father Nicholas Gruner,
who himself has committed no offense whatsoever.
Canonical grounds for Petition.
A. Only the Roman Pontiff himself alone
can judge this Petition.
1405, §1 provides that:
is the right of the Roman Pontiff himself alone to judge . . .
of the Apostolic See and, in penal cases, bishops . . .”
Furthermore, “the incompetence of other
judges is absolute
in the cases mentioned in can. 1405.” Can. 1406, §2.
Since Respondent Sanchez is a cardinal,
whereas Respondent Sepe is a bishop in a penal case, Your Holiness has
sole and exclusive jurisdiction over this Petition.
We are constrained by the law of the Church
to seek relief from Your Holiness, and him alone, in accordance with
the right of all Christ’s faithful to “vindicate and defend the rights
which they enjoy before a competent ecclesiastical court in accord
with the norm of law.” Can. 221, §1. We must, with all humility, turn
1. This case having been lawfully
introduced, a judgment must be issued after an investigation conducted
by the judge ex officio.
since judgment in this case is reserved by the law of the Church to
Your Holiness alone, it is Your Holiness who, by his own decree in promulgating
the Code of Canon Law, is subject to the obligation to proceed with
the case now that it has been legitimately introduced by this Petition.
Can. 1452 §1.
The obligation imposed on the judge to
proceed includes, even in matters judged by Your Holiness, the obligation
to investigate the matter ex officio, and the judge can even
supply for the negligence of the parties in furnishing proofs. Can.
1452 §2. Thus, Your Holiness ought to investigate on his own initiative
the conduct of the respondents so as to uncover that evidence which
has undoubtedly been concealed from us due to the extra-canonical and
ultra vires manner in which
respondents have acted.
With all due respect, therefore, we must
insist upon our right to have this matter investigated and then judged
by Your Holiness, under the law of the Church you have promulgated for
the benefit of the faithful, including priests.
B. Respondents should be punished strictly
for abuse of their ecclesiastical authority.
Can. 1389 provides that “one who abuses
ecclesiastical power or function is to be punished in accord with the
seriousness of the act or omission, not excluding deprivation of office.
Respondents, acting as Prefect and Secretary
of the Congregation for the Clergy, have clearly abused their authority
by issuing public “declarations” to the faithful and the world episcopate
falsely implying that we are functioning in violation of the law of
the Church, when they know very well that our activities are perfectly
licit and require no permission of ecclesiastical authority, given the
rights of free association and expression on the part of laity and diocesan
priests envisioned in Cann. 208-223, 278, 299, and others.
Respondents have used their power and
influence in the Church to intimidate bishops and the faithful into
shunning our apostolate, even though there is nothing illicit about
its activities. Unable to find any basis in the law of the Church for
interdicting our work per se, respondents have resorted to extra-canonical calumny and coercion
in their effort to destroy our apostolate. What is more, even if there
were some basis for interdicting our work — and clearly there is not
— such interdiction would be within the competency of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith. Respondents, as members of the Congregation
for the Clergy, had no jurisdiction whatsoever to issue “declarations”
effectively interdicting, and thus severely damaging, a private association
of the faithful founded under the civil laws of Canada and the United
States pursuant to Cann. 212, 215, 216 and 299. Our organization is
in no way subject to respondents’ gratuitous decrees and bulletins,
issued from their office in Rome without canonical process or even prior
notice to us.
In sum, respondents’ actions were a patent
abuse of their ecclesiastical authority in violation of Canon 1389.
In justice, respondents should be strictly punished for abuse
of their authority. Their actions have harmed not just Father Gruner,
but all of us whose lives are devoted to the apostolate whose destruction
respondents have plotted — there is no other word for it, Your Holiness.
Under the law of the Church, only Your Holiness can impose upon
respondents an appropriate punishment and due restitutionary measures.
C. Respondents should be strictly punished,
and ordered to make reparation for, their false and malicious denunciations
of our apostolate to ecclesiastical superiors and the faithful.
Can. 1390, §2 provides that “one who furnishes
an ecclesiastical superior with [a] calumnious denunciation of an offense
or who otherwise injures the good reputation of another person can be
punished with an appropriate penalty”; and Can. 1390, §3 provides that
“a calumniator can be coerced also to make a suitable reparation.”
Respondents have calumniated us by falsely
suggesting in “declarations” issued to the world episcopate and the
faithful at large that our work is illicit for the lack of some required
“permission of ecclesiastical authority”, and that the head of our apostolate
is functioning without required “faculties”. Moreover, respondents falsely
stated in the abovementioned “declarations” regarding the 1992 Fatima
Conference in Portugal that our Conference had no ecclesiastical permission,
when in fact permission had been given by the Bishop of Fatima, even
though it was not required under Church law.
Respondents have labored to create, and
have indeed created in the minds of many bishops and faithful, the false
impression that our chosen apostolic work violates the law of the Church
because we have not received totally unnecessary “permission
of ecclesiastical authority”, or because Father Gruner did not receive
mythical “faculties to perform ministerial acts” in the dioceses where
our private conferences have been held.
This is calumny, Your Holiness, because
it uses “half-truths that convey the impression of what is untrue.”
[McHugh and Callan, Moral Theology, §2030 (c)]. Moreover,
respondents calumniated us in our work by implying that the President
of our apostolate, Father Gruner, is guilty of canonical crimes or moral
impediments documented in “volumes of dossiers in the archives” of the
Congregation for the Clergy, when in fact Father has never been charged
with any canonical offense whatsoever, other than the “offense” of “failing”
to be incardinated outside the Diocese of Avellino, which “failure”
is the work of respondents themselves.
Your Holiness, justice requires that respondents
be punished, and ordered to make reparation for, their systematic attempt
to interdict our work without canonical due process, thereby violating
our basic rights as members of Christ’s faithful.
Here again, only Your Holiness can impose
the penalty and order reparation to be made. At the very least, respondents
should be compelled to undo the damage caused by their misleading “declarations”
and “announcements” to the faithful and the world episcopate.
D. The penalties imposed on respondents
should reflect the increased imputability resulting from the abuse of
Can. 1326, §1, 2° provides that
judge can punish more severely
than a law or precept has stated: . . . 2° a person who has been
given some dignified office or who has abused authority or office in
order to commit the offense.”
This canon contemplates an enhanced punishment
based upon the increase of imputability which should result from the
deliberate abuse of a high office in the Church. Because respondents
have abused the authority of their respective offices to circulate calumnies
against our apostolate and to browbeat bishops, priests and members
of the faithful into shunning it without canonical due process, justice
requires that they be punished all the more severely.
Certainly the abuse of a high ecclesiastical
office entrusted to the holder by the authority of Christ’s Church is
among the gravest of offenses against God. That is why the cited canon
calls for enhanced punishment in this case, not excluding removal from
E. The penalties imposed on respondents,
as the principal authors of the offenses committed, should also embrace
those who collaborated with them in committing the offenses, even if
the collaborators cannot now be identified.
Can. 1329, §1 provides that:
“If the penalties established against
the principal author are inflicted ones (ferendae
sententiae), then those who collaborate to commit an offense through
a common conspiracy but who are not expressly named in a law or precept
are subject to the same or lesser severity.”
Justice requires that those who assisted
the authors of an offense in committing the offense, and without whom
the offense could not have been committed, should share in the punishments
inflicted. This canon envisions equal punishment for a violation
of law committed by “several people working together, e.g.,
conspiracy to restrict legitimate church freedom or
the use of church goods, or to
intimidate various church personnel.” (Commentary, The Code of Canon Law, American Canon Law Society.)
This case involves precisely a conspiracy
to “restrict legitimate church freedom” and “to intimidate church personnel”
through the abuse of ecclesiastical office. The conspiracy has involved
not only the acts of respondents, but many of the Papal Nuncios who
have cooperated in bearing their messages and conducting their illicit
private interventions against our work, as well as other members of
the Curia and the various national hierarchies whom we are unable to
identify because their activities have occurred outside the proper channels
of canon law.
Accordingly, the penalties imposed on
respondents ferendae sententiae should apply with equal
force to all those who have collaborated with them in committing the
offenses complained of.
It was Your Holiness himself who told
the world during his May 13, 1982 pilgrimage to Fatima that “The message
of Fatima is more relevant and more urgent today ...”; that the Message
is “addressed to every human being”; that the Message “imposes
an obligation on the Church.”
No competent authority in the Church has
ever stated that our apostolic work in promoting this very Message is
in any way contrary to faith or morals; nor could such a sentence ever
be pronounced against us, for we are doing nothing more than what the
law of the Church permits regarding the apostolate of the laity.
Your Holiness, we come before you as faithful
Catholics engaged in a licit apostolate which is inspired in no small
measure by your own respect for, and public statements about, the Message
of Fatima, however much we believe in conscience that the Message has
yet to be fulfilled by certain actions of the Holy See.
we ask of Your Holiness in this Petition is that we be accorded the
same rights accorded every other member of the Church under the Code
of Canon Law Your Holiness promulgated: the right to be heard in the
expression of our concerns about the state of the Church, and the right
to be free from the abuse of ecclesiastical authority.
Prayer for Relief
we, the petitioners, request of Your Holiness the following relief:
(A) That respondents be subjected to a
just penalty, including censure or removal from office, for abuse of
their ecclesiastical authority in violation of Can. 1389;
(B) That respondents be subjected to a
just penalty, including censure or removal from office, for their calumniation
of our apostolate in violation of Can. 1390;
(C) That respondents be ordered by Your
Holiness to make reparation for their offenses in the following manner:
(1) By publishing in L’Osservatore
Romano, Avvenire and Vatican Radio, with the same frequency and
in the same languages as prior statements by respondents in those fora,
declarations advising, on the authority of Your Holiness, as follows:
that we do not require permission of ecclesiastical authority to engage
in the apostolate known as International Fatima Rosary Crusade, including
conferences on Fatima to which bishops, priests, religious and the faithful
are invited, nor is Father Gruner, our President, required to obtain
such permission to function as head of the apostolate or to help organize
(ii) that the conference to be held by
the apostolate in Rome later this year likewise does not require such
permissions, and that any bishop, priest, religious or member of the
faithful is free to attend;
(iii) that all prior “declarations” or
“announcements” purportedly issued by the Congregation for the Clergy
suggesting that our apostolate lacked necessary ecclesiastical permission
for its activities, including past and future Fatima conferences, are
(2) By issuing to every bishop and papal
nuncio a statement, by authority of Your Holiness, containing the same
information as set forth in paragraphs 1 (i)-(iii);
(3) By directing that all of the prayed
for corrective statements and declarations be made unambiguously, unequivocally
and with dispatch, so that any member of the faithful and any
bishop who might wish to attend our Fatima conference in Rome can be
apprized of the truth about the apostolate in time to make an informed
decision about whether to attend.
(D) That respondents be ordered to provide
us with copies of the prayed for corrective declarations and statements
immediately, with express permission to publish them in any forum we
deem appropriate for the remedy of their falsehoods against us and the
(E) That respondents be ordered to refrain
from any further public or private “announcements”, “declarations” or
other statements stating or implying in that there is anything illicit
about the apostolate, our activities in furtherance of the apostolate,
or the activities of Father Gruner as the apostolate’s head, or that
we, Father Gruner, or the apostolate lack “permission of ecclesiastical
authority” for our activities;
(F) Such other relief as Your Holiness
deems just and proper.
Respectfully submitted this 29th day of
Mrs. Coralie Graham
Mary Sedore Mrs. Mairead Clarke