The 1998 Open Letter to the Pope
Most Holy Father:
We write to you on behalf of Father Nicholas Gruner, who has devoted his life to making known the Message of Fatima. Surely no one on earth understands the importance of that Message better than Your Holiness.
In 1917 the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, to whom you have dedicated your entire pontificate, and Whom you love with such filial devotion, appeared at Fatima to three shepherd children to deliver a divine summons to the Church and the world. That summons, the Message of Fatima, calls the entire Church to Eucharistic devotion and reparation, recourse to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and personal conversion. At Fatima the Mother of God also called for the collegial consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart as God's appointed means to bring peace to a warring world. She also imparted what has come to be known as the Third Secret of Fatima, whose mysterious contents have yet to be disclosed to the faithful at large, but which many believe is a grave warning about the state of the Church and the world in the latter part of this century.
Even secular history records that on October 13, 1917 Our Lady confirmed the authenticity of the Message of Fatima beyond all doubt: At the moment predicted by the three shepherd children, the most prodigious public miracle since the parting of the Red Sea was witnessed by more than 70,000 souls—believers and non-believers alike—who had gathered at Cova da Iria to see if the children were telling the truth about “the Lady”.
As your predecessor of blessed memory, Pope Pius XII, told a group of Fatima pilgrims 38 years later:
Holy Father, we recall vividly your two pilgrimages to Fatima following the attempt on your life on May 13, 1981—the very anniversary of Our Lady's first apparition at Cova da Iria. During your May 1982 Fatima pilgrimage you expressed the conviction that none other than Our Lady of Fatima had intervened to spare you from death on that fateful day, and you gave Her thanks. Echoing your predecessor, you declared that:
On that same occasion, Holy Father, you also made it clear that the Message of Fatima has not lost its importance over time but is today more important than ever:
Given the undeniable importance of the Message of Fatima in the life of the Church today—and in your own life, Holy Father—we cannot imagine a worthier apostolate than promoting a greater awareness of and adherence to that Message.
A Good Priest Under Fire
Your Holiness, for the past 20 years—his entire priestly life—Father Nicholas Gruner has been engaged in just such an apostolate. He has tirelessly preached the Fatima Message and promoted Marian devotion around the world, following his conscience and acting always within the law of the Church.
Yet today the good standing of this faithful priest, and the very existence of his Fatima apostolate, are being threatened by a few Vatican bureaucrats.
Your Holiness will recall that on July 12, 1995, an archbishop and a bishop, plus a number of priests and religious, as well as more than 9,000 concerned members of the laity published an Open Letter to Your Holiness, covering two full pages in Il Messaggero, Rome's largest daily newspaper. The Open Letter pleaded for your intercession on behalf of Father Gruner and his Fatima apostolate.
Your Holiness, as we explain in this appeal, the situation which prompted our first Open Letter has grown even worse. The basic procedural rights and respect for priestly dignity accorded to other priests, even those who notoriously promote false teaching or commit grave moral offenses, have been denied to Father Gruner. The campaign against Father by these Vatican bureaucrats has exceeded the bounds of reason and the strictures of Canon Law, developing a life of its own unrelated to any possible good of the Church. In short, it appears to have become a vendetta —against proclamation of the Fatima Message and the priest who is its most visible proponent.
Our Canonical Petitions Diverted
Your Holiness, before we decided to publish this second Open Letter, Father Gruner and a prominent lay supporter of the apostolate traveled to the Vatican in an effort to personally lodge with you two written canonical petitions.* One from Father Gruner himself and one from several lay people who serve as directors of his apostolate. Finally, the same formal petitions were handed to you by two benevolent bishops and a lay person during your general audience on November 20, 1996.
* Which according to Canons 1405 and 1406 only the Pope can judge.
As of May 13, 1997 ,** six months later, there has been no reply. In fact, members of your own staff, with apparent authority to receive documents for you, have refused to give their names, and have made it plain that there is no likelihood that you will ever read the petitions. We can only assume that even the canonical petitions presented to you in due legal form, (including substantial documentation) at the general audience have been whisked away and disposed of by those who would deny Father Gruner and the members of his apostolate the God-given right of all Catholics, even accused heretics , to have ultimate recourse to their Pope.
** As of August 31, 2000, almost 4 years later, there is still no reply.
Hence this second public plea to Your Holiness.
An Abuse of Power
Holy Father, over the past two years a few Vatican bureau crats have been systematically carrying out what they apparently believe is a foolproof plan to silence Father Gruner and destroy his Fatima apostolate without due process of Canon Law.
First, the bureaucrats ruthlessly blocked Father Gruner's “incardination” by a series of bishops who offered to foster the good works of his apostolate by making him a priest of their dioceses. Every time an offer of incardination was extended to Father Gruner by a benevolent bishop, the Vatican bureaucrats privately and illicitly pressured the bishops into withdrawing their offers.
Next, the bureaucrats caused Father Gruner to be summoned from Canada , his home country, back to the diocese of his ordination in Italy after an approved absence of nearly 20 years. The only reason given for the order to return was Father Gruner's supposed “failure” to find another bishop—a “failure” which the bureaucrats themselves had arranged!
Now the bureaucrats have given Father Gruner, at age 55, exactly 29 days to abandon his Fatima apostolate, including an orphanage devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, his home, his personal affairs and all of his other attachments and commitments, and return to live in exile for the rest of his life in a remote Italian diocese which has not supported him or requested his services since 1978!
It is even worse, Your Holiness. When Father Gruner appealed this incredibly unjust sentence in a Church tribunal, his judges were the same bureaucrats who are trying to force him into exile! And when Father Gruner requested that these bureaucrats excuse themselves from his case because they were obviously not impartial judges, they replied that Father is not entitled to an impartial judge in “administrative proceedings”!
These biased judges then issued a decree stating that since Father Gruner had “failed” to find another bishop, this “failure” alone was good cause to order him back to Italy after 20 years. In essence, the bureaucrats have punished Father Gruner for failing to do what they themselves have prevented him from doing!
In short, Your Holiness, for the past two years these bureaucrats have been torturing Father Gruner like a cat with a mouse—supremely confident that he has no means to resist their power over him.
But the persecution does not end even there, Your Holiness. Using the vast apparatus at their disposal, the bureaucrats have actually taken measures to prevent bishops from obtaining visitors' visas to travel to Fatima conferences organized by Father Gruner's apostolate! For good measure, they have placed in the diplomatic pouches of the papal nuncios communiqués to every bishop in the world, directing them not to attend the apostolate's conferences even though the conferences were in full compliance with the Code of Canon Law.
But the bureaucrats were still not satisfied that they had done enough to ruin Father Gruner and his work: Calling upon the mass media at their disposal they issued misleading “declarations” in L'Osservatore Romano, Avvenire and on Vatican Radio stating that Father's apostolate does not have “approval of ecclesiastical authority”, when they know that no such approval is required by the law of the Church! (Canon 212, 215, 216) Of course, private apostolates operating without “approval of ecclesiastical authority” are commonplace in the Church today because Your Holiness himself has encouraged their formation in keeping with Vatican II's declaration on the apostolate of the laity, and the Code of Canon Law which Your Holiness personally promulgated in 1983. (Canons 208-229)
So many unprecedented actions against a lone Marian priest and his Fatima apostolate in Canada! A worldwide apparatus is mobilized against him! Yet, throughout the Church today faithless clerics and heretical associations are causing scandal and openly defying the teaching of Your Holiness on faith and morals, while the bureaucrats take no action against them.
Your Holiness, we do not believe the measures taken against Father Gruner have ever been taken against a priest who is guilty of no offense. Indeed, we do not believe such measures have been taken against any priest in living memory. We dare say that even Martin Luther was treated with more regard for his procedural rights and priestly status after he publicly mocked the Pope and rejected numerous defined doctrines of the Magisterium!
We can only view with amazement, Your Holiness, the spectacle of Father Gruner being treated like the worst kind of ecclesiastical criminal when he has committed no offense whatsoever against faith and morals. What can account for this incredible spectacle? It can only be Father Gruner's fearless proclamation of the full Message of Fatima. There is nothing else about this mild-mannered priest which could possibly excite such enmity.
It is certainly true, Your Holiness, that the collegial consecration of Russia and disclosure of the Third Secret are intensely controversial subjects in the Church today. Yet it is also true that many Catholics who are utterly loyal to Your Holiness, including Father Gruner, remain sincerely convinced that these two elements of the Message of Fatima are crucial to resolving the current crisis in the Church and the world.
As you know, Your Holiness, Jesus said to Sister Lucy regarding the Consecration of Russia requested by Our Lady of Fatima: “Make it known to My ministers that given they follow the example of the King of France in delaying the execution of My command, they will follow him into misfortune.” (August 1931)
Impelled by this grave warning of Our Lord to His Church, Father Gruner shares the conviction of many of the faithful that until the question of the collegial consecration has been settled definitively, Catholics must continue to do everything in their power to assure the full realization of Our Lady's requests at Fatima .
Your Holiness, is this a crime?
An Archbishop Decries the Injustice
Your Holiness, in November 1995 Father Gruner received a formal decree of incardination from a kindly Archbishop—one of the several prelates who have offered Father a haven from his persecutors. In this decree an Archbishop of 25 years' standing attests to the reality of Father Gruner's persecution by the bureaucrats:
It was not long before the Archbishop was caught in the bureaucrats' inexorable machinery of reprisal. Soon after he issued his decree incardinating Father Gruner, the Archbishop received a private communiqué from the bureaucrats directing him not to incardinate Father Gruner in his Archdiocese. The bureaucrats did not even feel obliged to give any specific reason for this unprecedented interference in the prerogatives of an Archbishop!
And so, yet another friend of Father Gruner and his Fatima apostolate is browbeaten into submission, as the cat-and-mouse game of the bureaucrats proceeds toward what they evidently believe to be its inevitable conclusion.
Please Help this Priest and 5,000,000
For the past several years, Your Holiness, we have watched helplessly as the bureaucrats' plans to silence Father Gruner and his Fatima apostolate un folded, while priests who busily under mine the common good of the Church with false teaching or unspeakable scandals are accorded their “rights” under Canon Law, or simply ignored by the same bureaucrats who have been hounding Father Gruner for years.
We appeal to you now, in this extraordinary forum, because it has become clear that Father Gruner will never receive justice in the Vatican congregations which these bureaucrats manipulate. Your Holiness, they have already “decreed” that Father Gruner is not even entitled to an impartial judge! The result in this case has already been determined, and the proceedings reduced to an empty sham: Father Gruner is to be silenced by any available expedient—unless, of course, Your Holiness intervenes.
Please stop the persecution of Father Gruner, Your Holiness. We ask this not because of any inordinate attachment to one man, but because the injustices being heaped upon this good priest by those who abuse their ecclesiastical offices cry out for rectification—all the more so at a time when assiduous respect is shown by these same bureaucrats for the reputations and procedural rights of faithless clerics who are inflicting incalculable harm on the Body of Christ. But there is an even larger question of justice and truth at stake in Father Gruner's case, Your Holiness. Since 1975 more than five million members of the Church have signed petitions pleading for the public and definitive collegial consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Your Holiness, the signers of these petitions are not dissident Catholics, like those in Germany and the United States who are even now circulating petitions audaciously demanding changes in the settled teaching of the Church on faith and morals—as if that were possible!
No, the Catholics who petition for the collegial consecration of Russia are utterly loyal to their Pope. And they know, Your Holiness, that the infallible Magisterium of the Church teaches that the faithful must have recourse to their Pope for ultimate redress of just grievances in the Church.
Your Holiness, Father Gruner has given voice to the concerns of many of these loyal Catholics, including all of us. Can we not be heard in a matter which concerns the good of the Church and the salvation of souls? Or will it really be the case that the ever-multiplying voices of dissent continue to be tolerated, while Father Gruner is mercilessly hounded, exiled and silenced for preaching the Message of Fatima?
Our Prayer for Relief
Holy Father, for the sake of this good priest, for the sake of the many faithful who share his sincere convictions, for the sake of justice in the Church, we beseech you to bring an end to the persecution of Father Nicholas Gruner. We pray that you will do so by graciously exercising your supreme Apostolic authority in his favor with these acts:
—Order the bureaucrats who are persecuting Father Gruner to cease and desist their unprecedented abuse of authority against him, and that they cease publishing lies and innuendo against him, and allow him to exercise freely his God-given rights as a priest and a member of the Catholic faithful to proclaim the full Message of Fatima, and to engage in a Fatima apostolate of clergy and laity.
—Decree that Father Gruner has the right to be released for service to any benevolent bishop who wishes to accept him, without fear of reprisal by the bureaucrats.
—Order the bureaucrats to cease their unprecedented and illegal interference in the jurisdiction and prerogatives of the benevolent bishops who have offered to incardinate Father Gruner in their dioceses, or who wish to support Father Gruner's apostolate in other ways, including attendance at its conferences.
We, the friends of Father Nicholas Gruner, humbly request that Your Holiness bestow these small tokens of your justice and paternal protection upon this priest, and by so doing give a sign of hope and encouragement to all of us—who are loyal to Your Holiness, who struggle daily to keep the Faith, and who will never forget the Heaven-sent Message of Fatima.
Written and distributed for acceptance on the 27th of May in the year of Our Lord 1997.
Humbly submitted and published in Rome , Italy , in the daily newspaper “Il Messaggero” on the 2nd of April in the year of Our Lord, 1998.
At this point in the Public Appeal 27 Catholic archbishops and bishops, more than 1,900 priests and religious, and more than 16,000 lay-people added their signatures in support of Father Gruner.