November 22, 1999
SENT REGISTERED MAIL
His Holiness Pope John Paul II
As the annexed recourse and canonical libellus make clear, a grave injustice has been perpetrated in your name by prelates in the Vatican, who claim to be acting with the “ordinary executive vicariate power” of you yourself, Your Holiness, as the “hierarchical superior” of every bishop in the Church.
These prelates have used their claimed “ordinary executive vicariate” papal authority to order several benevolent bishops not incardinate me, and to order to the Bishop of Avellino not to excardinate me—even though I have committed no offense against faith, morals or the Code of Canon Law.
Having overridden the will of four different bishops in the matter of my excardination-incardination, these prelates have the temerity to accuse me of failing to correct my “irregular condition.”
Based on this “irregular condition”—an offense which does not exist in the Code of Canon Law—these prelates would have me return, after an absence of over 20 years, to the Diocese of Avellino, where I have never been given a canonical mission, and never (neither before nor after my ordination) been supported. Indeed, I even paid for my own education.
These prelates refuse to allow me to be incardinated in peace in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, where my apostolate supports an orphanage. The Archbishop of Hyderabad has issued a decree of incardination calling my apostolate “God's work.” Yet these prelates brazenly declare that my incardination in Hyderabad would not be of service to the Church there.
As the former Prefect of the Signatura admitted to an eminent canonist, this case is not about my incardination or excardination, but about what I say. These prelates are intent upon silencing me because I preach the Message of Fatima with a candor they do not like. They have abused and exceeded their authority to obtain a result they cannot otherwise obtain.
And they have done this in your name, Holy Father.
The wrongful acts detailed in the recourse and libellus threaten not only my natural and priestly rights, but those of 240,000 diocesan priests and every bishop in charge of a diocese anywhere in the Catholic Church. The “ordinary vicariate power” claimed by these prelates would make them de facto popes whose dictates would undermine the ordinary and immediate jurisdiction of bishops as the rulers of their own dioceses, as solemnly affirmed by the First Vatican Council. What is at stake here is nothing less than the divine constitution of the Church.
Three years ago, Holy Father, at your general audience of November 20, 1996, you received in your hand copies of canonical libelli against two of these prelates and their collaborators alerting you to their abuse of authority, and seeking relief under a provision of the Code Canon law (promulgated by you yourself, Your Holiness) which reserves such cases exclusively to the Roman Pontiff. The photographer for L'Osservatore Romano provided us with photographs of Your Holiness receiving the libelli from three different people: a bishop, an archbishop and a layman. Yet I have received no response from Your Holiness, even though their shameless abuse of power continues.
Indeed, it was only two months ago (September 3, 1999) that these prelates first claimed to be acting with your authority and in your name. Before then, they at least pretended that the bishops they had browbeaten were acting of their own volition. As you can see, Holy Father, your continued silence has only increased their audacity. Now they assert the right to act as de facto popes, who do not even have to provide any grounds for what they do.
If your silence continues Holy Father, then these prelates who claim to be acting in your name will in a certain sense be proven to be accurate, for having known of their misdeeds—and misdeeds indeed they are—you did nothing to stop them.
And, even if they are acting de facto in your name, they still do not have legitimate authority to do so, because what they have done is intrinsically unjust.
Not even a Pope can have his officials of whatever rank command under pain of serious penalty a priest to find a benevolent bishop, and then secretly work behind the scenes to make it impossible for that priest to find any benevolent bishop anywhere in the world, and then publicly proclaim that priest is disobedient for having “failed” to find a bishop. Not only is such a practice malicious, it makes a mockery of the whole promise of priests' obedience and the Church's legal system.
For these and other reasons explained in the accompanying libellus, justice obliges Your Holiness to correct the gross abuses of authority by the prelates named therein. If Your Holiness will not act, then their injustices, like all injustices, will ultimately be corrected by Our Lord Himself. It would surely be better that the correction come from Your Holiness now, lest they continue the damage they are doing to the Church.
Does your three year silence mean consent to the unlawful actions of your subordinates, Holy Father? Whatever you think of me and my apostolate, is this the way you wish your curial officials to behave? Are you not concerned about their serious compromise of the divine constitution of the Church?
Holy Father, my case will not go away. In the past three years millions of the faithful have become acquainted with it, including the 10 archbishops, 17 bishops, more than 1,900 priests and religious and more than 16,000 lay people who signed an Open Letter to Your Holiness in my defense, published in Italian on April 2, 1998 in Rome in Il Messaggero, the city's largest daily newspaper. Altogether over one million copies of the Open Letter have been circulated in Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and English.
This case has made millions of Catholics all over the world acutely aware of the intolerable double-standard under which heretics are shown obsequious deference for their rights, evading even minimal punishment for decades, while priests like myself are subject to immediate and brutal deprivation of due process and natural justice.
No, my case will not go away. The more injustices they heap upon me, the more they will be made known—not solely for my own sake, but for the sake of truth itself. As your sainted predecessor, Pope St. Gregory the Great, has told us: “It is better that scandals arise than that the truth be suppressed.” Not even my persecutors have ever questioned the truth of what I say.
There is only one way to bring an end to this case, Holy Father, and that is to do justice. Your Holiness has spoken often and eloquently in many places about justice and solidarity and human rights. Do your teachings on these things apply with equal force in the Holy Catholic Church? Or can they be dispensed with whenever it is deemed expedient by Vatican prelates who claim to be acting in your name?
Only Your Holiness can answer these questions. I pray that your answers will come soon, and with those answers, justice in my case. For the injustices done to me should no longer be allowed to impede the legitimate work of making more widely known to the members of the Church the Message of Our Lady of Fatima — in all its fullness.
Prot. N. 27338/96
RECOURSE TO THE SUPREME PONTIFF
in the cause of
FATHER NICHOLAS GRUNER, S.T.L.
under cann. 1389, 1391, 1401 and 1405 and 1406 of the
I submit this recourse to Your Holiness in keeping with the God-given right of all Christ's faithful to have recourse to the Supreme Pontiff for the redress of just grievances in the Church—a right defined by the First Vatican Council and the Second Council of Lyons. As Your Holiness knows, the right of direct and immediate recourse to the Supreme Pontiff by any member of the faithful takes precedence over any canonical procedures established for the lower tribunals of the Church. can. 1417, § 1. The faithful can always turn immediately to their Pope for help.
This document also serves as my formal complaint and formal request for penal sanctions against the prelates named above. According to the 1983 Code of Canon law promulgated by Your Holiness, the Supreme Pontiff alone hears complaints of abuse of authority and other violations of ecclesiastical law against Cardinals, legates of the Holy See and (in penal cases) bishops. Can. 1405, § 1, 2, 3. The incompetence of any other tribunal to hear such complaints is absolute. Can. 1406, § 1. Thus, under the law promulgated by Your Holiness himself, only Your Holiness can consider this complaint.
On November 20, 1996, Your Holiness received two related canonical libelli on similar grounds against Cardinal Sanchez, Archbishop Sepe and their collaborators. These libelli were placed into your own hands at the general audience of that date, as shown by photographs of the event taken by the photographer for L'Osservatore Romano. One of these prior libelli was my own, and the other was lodged by lay directors and employees of the apostolate in which I have been engaged since 1978.
As to my own prior libellus, in accordance with can. 1506, I now hereby respectfully request that Your Holiness perform the duty he has assigned to himself by declaring your admission or rejection of the libellus. I further respectfully request that this new libellus be incorporated with my prior libellus for a joint decision by Your Holiness as to both libelli.
The matters addressed herein have also been the subject of two Open Letters to Your Holiness, the second of which was signed by 10 archbishops, 17 bishops, more than 1,900 priests and religious and more than 16,000 members of the laity, who have supported me in my efforts to obtain justice from the above-named prelates. The first signatory of the second open letter is His Grace Saminini Arulappa, the Archbishop of Hyderabad for the past 27 years, in whose diocese I was incardinated on November 4, 1995, although the above-named prelates would have it that this incardination is “non-existent.” I hope and pray that Your Holiness has been able to read both Open Letters and will give them due consideration in deciding this matter.
For your convenience, Holy Father, I have arranged the matters presented in this libellus under the following headings:
I. Facts 1976-1999 ...............403
I. Facts 1976 - 1999
Although the procedural history of my case is rather tortuous, the matter is fundamentally very simple. Permit me to provide this brief summary of what has already been amply set forth in the prior complaints and Open Letters.
My Ordination and Permission
I am a Canadian citizen who in 1976 was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Avellino, Italy, after obtaining my bachelor's decree and licentiate in Sacred Theology with high honors at the Angelicum, and completing my doctoral courses at the Angelicum with higher honors. I was ordained in the diocese of Avellino because I had intended to join a planned English-speaking Franciscan community in the town of Frigento. When that community did not materialize as I had expected, I was unable, despite a diligent search, to find an English-speaking Franciscan community which would afford a Marian apostolate. Among the other problems I encountered was that none of the Franciscan communities I investigated could ensure that I would not be compelled to distribute the Blessed Sacrament in the hand—a practice I am to this day bound in conscience to regard as a sacrilege. (Indeed, the public has seen Your Holiness himself refuse to distribute Communion in the hand.)
Since I was not able to speak the local Italian dialect in Avellino, the Bishop of Avellino had no canonical mission for me. Because of the language barrier, I could not hear confessions or even deliver a sermon unless it was entirely written out and approved in advance. When I ultimately decided not to join a Franciscan community, the Bishop of Avellino at the time, His Excellency Pasquale Venezia, was pleased to give me permission to reside outside his diocese, for no one had ever contemplated that I would spend my entire priestly life in a place where I could not have a canonical mission. This permission is stated in Bishop Venezia's decree of June 5, 1978, which he sent to me in Canada.
My Election to the Board of Directors
As Providence would have it, in 1978 I was elected to the board of directors of the apostolate known as the National Committee for the National Pilgrim Virgin of Canada, which had custody of a Pilgrim Virgin statue of Our Lady blessed by your predecessor, Pope Paul VI. My election came after a Catholic bishop of the Eastern rite who was the apostolate's spiritual director insisted that a priest be named to the board.
Your Holiness' Praise and Congratulations
Your Holiness may recall that your own personal secretary at the time, Monsignor McGee, congratulated me on my election to the apostolate's board in his letter of January 31, 1980. Since then Your Holiness himself has twice bestowed his gracious apostolic blessing upon me and the apostolate (April 18, 1990; February 1, 1993), although Archbishop Grochelewski has dismissed your blessings as empty gratuities in his last decree against me as Prefect of the Signatura.
No doubt over the past 20 years Your Holiness has become acquainted with the apostolate's work in promoting a greater awareness of the Message of Fatima and its profound relevance to the state of the Church and the world today. Your Holiness himself dramatically attested to the enduring relevance of the Fatima Message in his eloquent and moving address at Fatima on May 13, 1982. It was then that Your Holiness declared to the whole world that the Message of Fatima is so deeply rooted in Scripture and Sacred Tradition that the Church “feels it imposes an obligation on her”, and that Our Lady's words at Fatima are “more relevant today than when She first appeared 65 years ago.” These statements by Your Holiness summarize the very reasons I have devoted my priestly ministry to the Message of Fatima.
Early Opposition to My Apostolate - 1981-89
Although I had my bishop's permission to reside in Canada, I encountered opposition to my work in the apostolate as early as 1981. In that year the apostolate published an article which criticized by implication (but not by name) a public statement of Cardinal Carter, then Archbishop of Toronto, to the effect that Catholics had no right to insist that Catholic moral teaching on the full humanity and right to life of unborn children be reflected in the proposed new Canadian constitution.1 Yet a petition calling for precisely such recognition had just been signed by another Canadian cardinal and 23 other Canadian prelates.
The article I published pointed out that all legislators, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, have an obligation before God to uphold the natural law, which forbids abortion, by enacting “appropriate laws and sanctions” (His Holiness Pius XI), and I made it clear that not even a cardinal can say otherwise, for this is the constant teaching of the Church—as Your Holiness has taught in Evangelium Vitae and so many other pronouncements.
Later in 1981, I was reliably informed that an effort was being made to have me suspended from the sacred priesthood! Your Holiness may recall that I wrote to you immediately to protest this action and that my letter was read to you by Msgr. Magee, while you were in the hospital for your second visit for treatment after the May 13, 1981 attempt on your life. Thereafter, the agitation against me appeared to subside.
In 1989, however, opposition to my work surfaced again. By this time the apostolate (staying always within the limits of free expression permitted to the faithful) had published a great deal of material about the Vatican-Moscow agreement, by which the Second Vatican Council was constrained from condemning or even mentioning the evil of communism, whose spread throughout the world (and even within the Church) was predicted by Our Lady of Fatima. In that year I received a letter from the new Bishop of Avellino, Gerardo Pierro, expressing his anxiety over what he described as “worried signals” from the Vatican Secretary of State. To date, Your Holiness, these “worried signals” have never been elaborated in any manner that would have given me a fair opportunity to respond and defend myself.
Cardinal Innocenti Issues An Ultra Vires Intervention Against Me - 1989
In July of 1989 Cardinal Innocenti, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, sent me a letter in which he stated that the Congregation had been following my “case” for some time and that the “Holy See” was “preoccupied” with me. I was unaware of any “case” or “preoccupation” of the Holy See over the past eight years, nor did Cardinal Innocenti's letter give any explanation of these developments. Instead, the letter, without giving any real grounds, summarily ordered me to find another bishop or return to the Diocese of Avellino by September 30, 1989.
Since the Bishop of Avellino had not given me any such order himself, on August 21, 1989 I appealed directly to Cardinal Innocenti against his clearly ultra vires intervention. In my appeal I pointed out that the Congregation for the Clergy had no right to issue sua sponte orders that the Bishop of Avellino had not seen fit to issue by his own authority, and that Cardinal Innocenti was clearly exceeding the competence and authority of the Congregation. He never responded, nor did he make any effort to enforce his intervention, from which it can only be inferred that he conceded the intervention was groundless and ineffectual.
I Appeal to Your Holiness and the Intervention is Withdrawn - 1990
I also appealed against Cardinal Innocenti's intervention directly to Your Holiness himself, in a letter I handed to you at a general audience in January of 1990.
After my appeal to Your Holiness, Cardinal Innocenti abandoned his ultra vires intervention and it was never mentioned again by him or by the Congregation. Instead, in October of 1989, Cardinal Innocenti and the Secretary of the Congregation at the time, Cardinal (then Archbishop) Agustoni, wrote privately to Bishop Pierro, advising him to recall me to the Diocese while giving the impression that the order came ex sese —that is, to pretend that the order was Bishop Pierro's own idea and not Cardinal Agustoni's. Thus, Cardinal Innocenti and Cardinal Agustoni attempted indirectly what the law forbade them to do directly.2 The very fact that they resorted to this subterfuge demonstrates that both prelates knew the July 1989 intervention of Cardinal Innocenti against me was illegal and void.
Illicit Coercion is Applied to Bishops
Under pressure from Cardinal Agustoni and Cardinal Innocenti, Bishop Pierro sent me a letter in November 1989 which threatened to revoke my permission to remain in Canada if I did not find another bishop in 30 days. Fortunately, Bishop Pierro never did recall me to Avellino. On the contrary, in a meeting with me in Avellino on January 25, 1990, and also in a series of letters, Bishop Pierro reaffirmed his predecessor's permission for my residence outside the diocese. Indeed, at our meeting in January of 1990 Bishop Pierro stated that “to suspend you would be a mortal sin.” He wished me well and told me to return to Canada. Furthermore, on August 4, 1989 Bishop Pierro issued to me a decree of excardination from the Diocese of Avellino (which I was able to use to achieve incardination in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, as I explain below).
But some or all of the prelates identified in the caption of this document continued to look for a way to force my return to Avellino and interfere in my work, even though I had done nothing wrong and Bishop Pierro did not wish me to return. Among other things, in October of 1992 Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe issued a misleading announcement in L'Osservatore Romano which stated that the conference staged by my apostolate at Fatima “has not been approved by the competent ecclesiastical authorities.” [Declaration of Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe published as a Vatican Bulletin in L'Osservatore Romano, N. 41 - 14 October 1992, English edition and also in the Italian edition a week before. The “declaration” has been circulated repeatedly since then, even as late as October of 1999.] Not only did I have such approval from the Bishop of Fatima-Leiria, but such approval was not even necessary in the first place, as the 1983 Code makes clear. cann. 208-228, 278, 299.
On January 13, 1994, I met with the new Bishop of Avellino, His Excellency Antonio Forte in Avellino. We discussed an offer of incardination which I had received from the Bishop of Simla-Chandigarh, which would have fulfilled my obligation to find another bishop. Bishop Forte had already sent me a letter which stated that he was being prevented from excardinating me by Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe. Thereafter the Bishop of Simla-Chandigarh had been pressured into withdrawing his offer by a completely extraordinary intervention of the Nuncio to India—who was evidently following the “worried signals” of the Vatican Secretary of State. During our meeting of January 13, Bishop Forte assured me that despite these developments he himself had no complaints against me. When I asked Bishop Forte what I should do he told me to return to Canada.
And yet, Holy Father, on January 31, 1994, only 18 days later, Bishop Forte issued a decree which accused me of being a “vagus” priest because I was living in Canada—where he had just told me to go!—and further accused me of “scandals” (Italian version) and “outrages” (English version) requiring my amendment under can. 1339—when he had just told me had no complaints against me! Your Holiness, there can be only one conclusion: this decree was the product of coercion from above; an abuse of ecclesiastical authority.
Holy Father the abuse of authority only intensified from this point forward.
In May of 1994, I received a written offer of incardination from the Bishop of Anapolis, Brazil, thereby fulfilling for the second time, in writing, my obligation to find another bishop. (There were other offers made orally by still other bishops.) Knowing of the coercion being applied from above the Bishop of Anapolis told me in his offer of incardination that it must remain confidential until it took effect on July 16, 1994. After an extraordinary intervention by Archbishop Sepe, however, the Bishop wrote on July 13, 1994 to say that he had no choice but to withdraw the offer.
On November 4, 1995, I received a formal written decree of incardination from the Archbishop of Hyderabad, thus fulfilling for the third time my obligation to find another bishop. Your Holiness, my apostolate entirely supports an orphanage in that Archdiocese, where the apostolate recently contributed the cost of building a new facility for the orphans. I have also conducted Marian pilgrimages in the Archdiocese which have attracted tens of thousands of Catholics and potential converts, who came to see the very Pilgrim Virgin statue blessed by your predecessor for just such a purpose.
Archbishop Arulappa Protests the Curial Officials' Abuse of Power in My Case - 1995
Evidently referring to unjust coercion from Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe, the Archbishop of Hyderabad's decree of incardination (dated November 4, 1995) states that “Evil forces have conspired to destroy your work of love . . . Bureaucratic forces cannot stifle God's work.” However, after completely unprecedented interventions by the Papal Nuncio and Cardinal Sanchez, the Archbishop wrote me in March of 1996 to say that he could not honor his decree, although he never revoked it.3 It was later revealed that Cardinal Sanchez had declared to the Archbishop that my incardination in Hyderabad was “non-existent”!
The Secretary of State Interdicts Me and the Apostolate Throughout the Church - 1992-1999
In addition to all of this unprecedented interference in priestly and episcopal rights by the aforesaid prelates, the Vatican Secretary of State has circulated notices against me to every bishop in the world via the nuncios, and has even interfered with consular issuance of visas to bishops who wished to attend my apostolate's conferences on Fatima in Portugal (1992), Mexico (1994), Rome (1996) and Hamilton, Canada (1999)—an audacious violation of the bishops' freedom and dignity as successors of the Apostles. The Nuncios, employing personal visits, faxes and other forms of contact, have constantly pressured bishops and priests not to attend any of my apostolate's Fatima conferences.
In short, Holy Father I and my apostolate were effectively interdicted throughout the entire Church, even though we have committed no offense. This is truly unprecedented in the annals of canon law.
I Am Threatened With Suspension If I Do Not
Despite my incardination in Hyderabad, on May 16, 1996 Bishop Forte issued his second decree against me, advising that I would be suspended from the sacred priesthood if I did not return to Avellino in 29 days. After an approved absence of more than 16 years, I was supposed to abandon immediately my apostolate and its 150 employees, the orphanage it supports, my residence and all my personal affairs, and then proceed to violate Italian immigration law by illegally returning, at the age of 54, to an Italian diocese which has no canonical mission for me, and whose bishop had never supported me or even requested my presence since 1978. The Bishop of Avellino obviously had no legitimate motive of his own for issuing such an absurdly unjust order, but rather was motivated by illicit pressure from Cardinal Agustoni, Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe, acting in concert. Yet the Bishop made himself an accomplice to their scheme by not defending his own jurisdiction as the Ordinary of Avellino. And all this, Your Holiness, even though three other bishops would gladly have incardinated me in their own dioceses.
I Am Ordered to Violate Italian Civil Law on Immigration - 1996 - 1999
Holy Father the prelates named above are so intent upon perpetrating this injustice that they have willfully ignored Italian immigration law, which forbids foreigners to take up permanent residence in Italy without the proper visa. Issuing orders blindly at the behest of the Congregation and the Secretary of State, Bishop Forte has never made the slightest effort to comply with the requirements for religious visas under Italian law, including written guarantees to the Italian consulate for my lifetime financial support and medical coverage and a formal letter to the Consulate confirming my acceptance as a permanent resident under the Bishop's sponsorship. These legal requirements bind the Church under can. 22, which incorporates pertinent civil law into the Code of Canon Law. Without the proper visa I would be expelled from Italy upon entry, unless I were willing to lie about the purpose of my visit.
Moreover, the Bishop has made no provision whatsoever for my old age over the past 21 years because he was quite content not to have to support me in any way. Am I, a Canadian citizen who is now nearly 60 years old, seriously expected to return in Italy as an illegal alien after an absence of 21 years, only to be cast out as a pensionless pauper once the above-named prelates have accomplished their purpose of destroying my apostolate? How can this result be deemed just when there are three bishops who would gladly incardinate me, while allowing me to continue my work and support myself in Canada in an arrangement no different than that permitted to thousands of priests around the world?
An Order Legally and Morally
Your Holiness, even if Bishop Forte's order were otherwise valid—and clearly it is not valid, because there was no just cause for the order and I am already incardinated in Hyderabad—the order is legally and morally impossible for me to obey. No one in my situation could possibly obey such an order. It amounts to a virtual sentence of life imprisonment and forfeiture of all temporal goods, even those necessary to my basic sustenance in old age. When one considers that the Bishop of Avellino has absolutely no need of my services, and that three other bishops have offered to incardinate me, it becomes apparent that the order to return is nothing but a malicious punishment devoid of even a semblance of justification under the law of the Church.
II. The Canonical Proceedings
My Recourses to the Congregation
Of course, I made recourse to the Congregation and then the Apostolic Signatura against both of the Bishop of Avellino's decrees ordering me to return. But these recourses were all decided by none other than Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe, the same prelates who had been acting against me for years.
I will not burden Your Holiness with the many details of the proceedings in both recourses. It will suffice to set forth the most prominent features of their gross injustice:
My Recourses to the Signatura
My recourses to the Signatura fared no better, given that they were first introduced under the Prefecture of none other than Cardinal Agustoni, the very prelate who secretly instigated my return to Avellino in 1989, with instructions that the Bishop pretend it was his own idea. The history of the process in the Signatura is briefly summarized as follows:
The Signatura Finally Reveals That
Finally, Your Holiness, on July 10, 1999 the Signatura issued a “definitive decree” against me. This document is the capstone to a monument of injustice.
Holy Father, in the course of the proceedings I had already demonstrated the many factual errors in the decrees of the Congregation and in the Votums submitted by the Promotors of Justice in my case. Among other things, I demonstrated that I had never been guilty of any “scandals” and or “outrages”, nor any “fraud” upon the Archbishop of Hyderabad, nor any other conduct which would justify casting me from “the bosom of the priesthood.” Yet even though these errors had been clearly demonstrated, the Signatura would only declare in this latest decree that:
In other words, according to the Signatura, the decisions in my case are “just and legitimate” despite any and all errors of fact or errors in reasoning! All that matters is the result.
I Am Now Accused Only of An “Irregular Condition” That Does Not Exist
In this “definitive decree” the Signatura has abandoned any claim of “scandals”, “outrages” or “fraud,” and now contends merely that I was rightly ordered to return to the Diocese of Avellino simply and only because my “irregular condition” had to be remedied.
And what is this “irregular condition”? A review of the Signatura's decree will show that it consists of nothing more than residing in Canada with my bishop's written and oral permission while conducting an apostolate I had every right to conduct under cann. 299 and 278.
As for my permission to reside in Canada, the Signatura has now declared that I never had such permission under Bishop Venezia's 1978 decree, but only permission to live in Canada if I was first accepted by a Canadian bishop. But that is not what the Bishop's decree says. In fact, in its own prior decree the Signatura conceded that I had permission to reside in Canada until at least July 17, 1990. (In truth, the permission was not revoked until at least the Bishop of Avellino's decree of January 31, 1994, if in fact his decree of that date were truly legal.) The Signatura blatantly contradicts itself and changes the plain meaning of a crucial document!
The Signatura Concedes the Legitimacy
As for my involvement in the apostolate, the Signatura does not deny that the apostolate is legitimate and that no permission is needed for it: “[W]e are not dealing here with the legitimacy of the private association (for which it seems the Church does not ask recognition, as in can. 299 § 3) . . .”
The apostolate's legitimacy cannot be denied, given the natural right of the faithful, including diocesan priests, to establish and form private associations without episcopal approval, as envisioned by cann. 299 and 278. Yet the Signatura now contends that my work in this admittedly legitimate apostolate is somehow inconsistent with the priestly state. But how could a legitimate apostolate be inconsistent with the priestly state? The Signatura does not say.
The Signatura further asserts that the apostolate would be inconsistent with my priestly state even though the Archbishop of Hyderabad has praised it as “God's work” and would gladly give me permission to continue my work while residing in Canada.
The Signatura Denies that My Apostolate's Care of Orphans is
Your Holiness, the Apostolic Signatura seriously contends that my work in providing an orphanage and Marian pilgrimages in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad does not constitute “collaboration with the bishop” as required by incardination. Yet all over the world priests “collaborate” with their bishops by doing work far less beneficial to their respective dioceses. Indeed, many priests are absent from their dioceses for private secular study, teaching in secular universities and other employments of no direct benefit to the diocese of incardination. Yet the direct and substantial benefit I provide to the Archdiocese of Hyderabad is mysteriously deemed insufficient “collaboration.”
And, even more absurd, I am told that I would be “collaborating” with the Bishop of Avellino by returning there and doing nothing except languishing for the rest of my life in a place where I could never have a canonical mission!
Your Holiness, the latest decree asserts that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, I can do to cure my supposed “irregular condition” except to return to the Diocese of Avellino. No matter how many other bishops would incardinate me elsewhere, no matter how many permissions I could obtain to reside in Canada, no matter how much benefit my apostolate would actually provide to other dioceses, my condition would remain “irregular” unless I physically reside in a diocese which does not need me, has not supported me for 23 years, and has no priestly mission for me within the diocese.
The Signatura Ignores the Illegality of My
As for the legal reality that I cannot reside permanently in Italy because I am not an Italian citizen, the Signatura simply denies reality and asserts that Italian immigration law poses no impediment to my permanent residence in Avellino, even though the Bishop of Avellino has done nothing to secure a proper visa for me. Yet, in its own prior decree the Signatura asserted that immigration law was an impediment to my residence in Hyderabad! Again the Signatura blatantly contradicts itself, abandoning all consistency in order to reach the preordained result. Of course, this contradiction results from the Signatura striving to uphold its contention that permanent physical residence is required for incardination in a diocese. To the contrary is the common experience of thousands of priests, who reside outside the diocese of incardination with their ordinary's permission, as expressly authorized by the law of the Church. (cfr. can. 283)
The Signatura's Former Prefect Admits
It must be noted that the first signatory of this latest decree is none other than Arcbhishop Zenon Grochelewski, who freely admitted to advocate Franco Ligi in January 1997 that my case “Is not about Father Gruner's incardination. It's about what he says. He causes division.” Yet there is no mention of this alleged “division” in any of the Signatura's or the Congregation's decrees. On the contrary, the Signatura concedes that my apostolate is legitimate in itself.
Thus, the very Prefect of the Signatura who signed this “decree” against me is the very one who admits that the proceedings against me are a sham which conceals an effort to silence a priest who cannot otherwise be silenced.
And so, Your Holiness, after years of canonical proceedings the Signatura has finally conceded that the only basis for the orders against me is an “irregular condition” consisting of perfectly legal conduct no different in kind from that of thousands of other priests. The decree proposes to punish me for an offense which does not even exist.
A Record Full of False
Meanwhile, having reduced their case against me to the non-existent offense of having an “irregular condition”, the named prelates have left behind a record of proceedings littered with false (but never retracted) allegations against me, including these:
But, Your Holiness, I have still not touched upon the most pernicious aspect of the proceedings in my case.
The Offenders Claim to Act in the Pope's Name
After having failed for years to address the Congregation's illicit interference in my excardination-incardination (pretending all along that the Bishop was acting for his own good motives), the Signatura has finally conceded in its latest decree that the Congregation did in fact directly intervene against me many times, but now claims that the Congregation was entitled to do so “in the name of the Supreme Pontiff with ordinary executive vicariate power. . . as the hierarchical superior of the bishops.” That is, the Signatura now asserts that the Congregation for the Clergy had the power to act at will against me in your name and with your full authority, whether or not any recourse was pending before it.
In defense of this position, the Promoter of Justice has now revealed all manner of additional interventions, decisions and declarations against me, going back many years, all of them taken without any notice to me or opportunity to make recourse against them. These included a notification by Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe (dated September 27, 1993), secretly imposing conditions on my incardination in Simla-Chandigarh which would require me to abandon the apostolate and to reside forever in India, with “no possibility” of residing elsewhere—even with permission! No other secular priests in the entire Catholic Church, not even openly heretical priests, are placed under such restraints!
There is also a letter from the Congregation in January of 1989 containing the outrageous accusation that I “extorted the sacred priesthood.”
Although I have demanded copies of the pertinent documents from both the Congregation and the Signatura (see attached letters), they have never been provided.
An Attack on the Church's Divine Constitution
Holy Father, if the Congregation for the Clergy can issue sua sponte orders to bishops in such matters as whom they will incardinate or excardinate, without even giving any grounds for the orders or notice to the priest, then what remains of “that power of ordinary and immediate episcopal jurisdiction by which the bishops, who ‘placed by the Holy Spirit’, have succeeded to the place of the Apostles as true shepherds, individually feed and rule the individual flocks assigned to them . . .”, as solemnly defined by the First Vatican Council? And what of Pastor bonus, your own apostolic constitution defining the authority of the Congregation, which states that the Congregation was formed “without prejudice to the right of bishops . . .”.
Moreover, under this thesis what becomes of the secular priest's legal relation to his bishop? With all due respect, Holy Father, at my ordination I did not make a promise to obey the Congregation for the Clergy, but the bishop who ordained me. And that obedience is conditioned on the bishop's own obedience to the law of the Church respecting the rights and dignity of priests. Any priest has the right to excardination if his bishop displays open animus towards him, or the bishop has no need for him, and a benevolent bishop is disposed to accept him elsewhere. That is precisely my situation, Holy Father. Yet the Congregation proposes that it has the power to force a priest and a bishop to remain tied to each other forever, even when neither party would benefit from the relation.
That the thesis adopted by the Signatura cannot possibly be correct is shown by the Congregation for the Clergy's own failure to mention it in any of its own decrees in my case. Not once did the Congregation even suggest that it had the authority to intervene against me on its own initiative as the “hierarchical superior” of all the bishops, in an exercise of “vicarious” papal authority. At all times the Congregation acted as if the Bishop of Avellino alone had the authority to order my return to Avellino, and its decrees speak only of affirming the actions of the Bishop—not the Congregation's own actions which it refused to address. On the one occasion when the Congregation openly attempted a sua sponte intervention against me—namely, Cardinal Innocenti's letter of July 24, 1989—the intervention was abandoned and was never mentioned again, once I appealed against it both to Cardinal Innocenti and to Your Holiness as a clearly illegal act. Indeed, when I appealed that illicit intervention directly to Cardinal Innocenti himself (and to Your Holiness also) he never responded to my appeal, thus conceding that my appeal was meritorious and that his actions against me were wrong.
This is precisely why, in their secretive letter to the Bishop of Avellino in October of 1989, Cardinals Innocenti and Agustoni requested that the Bishop recall me to his diocese and pretend it was the Bishop's own idea. Is this the course of action one would take if he really believed he had the vicarious power of the Pope at his disposal and that he is “hierarchical superior” of all the bishops? If the Congregation really had such sweeping power, then why did it not simply decree my suspension in 1989 for refusing to obey its “papal” decree of July 24th of that year? Why was the July 24th intervention never mentioned in the Congregation's later decrees accusing me of disobedience to ecclesiastical authority? Surely, disobedience to the July 24th intervention would have been the first example of “disobedience” the Congregation would mention, if in fact that intervention was a legitimate exercise of “executive vicariate power” in the name of Your Holiness.
Your Holiness, their own silence and furtive conduct demonstrate the falsity of the claim they now assert to justify their unprecedented abuses of power. Will even the divine constitution of the Church be compromised to justify what these prelates have done?
III. A Summary of Wrongs Committed
I respectfully pray that Your Holiness consider in summary the sheer audacity of the injustices perpetrated in your name:
Holy Father, is this how you wish the prelates who serve you to exercise their offices?
IV. My Final Plea
Your Holiness, my views on the Message of Fatima are certainly not unfamiliar to you, nor will I burden you with a defense of those views in this document. Yes, it is true that I do not agree with those who say that the Consecration of Russia was accomplished by Your Holiness in the ceremony of March 25, 1984. Yes, I have indeed pleaded with Your Holiness to disclose the Third Secret of Fatima, which I am firmly convinced contains information vitally important to the Church of this epoch—for why else would Our Lady have consigned it to the Church of our time? And yes, I have been critical of that orientation in post-conciliar thinking which has carried us away from the faith as expressed at Fatima and toward an increasingly harmful accommodation to the world. Was it not Your Holiness himself who admitted in Crossing the Threshold of Hope that the pastors of the Church have “lost the courage to preach the threat of hell?”, and that the Last Things are no longer mentioned in the Church's preaching and catechesis?
No one can deny—indeed, no one has denied—that the opinions I have expressed concerning Fatima are all within the liberty of expression enjoyed by loyal sons of the Church, of which I am one. Moreover, the same opinions are shared by tens of millions of Catholics around the world, who can see for themselves that Russia has not converted, that the world is a much more dangerous and immoral place than it was fifteen years ago, that the Church is deeply in crisis, that the promises of Fatima have not been fulfilled.
Throughout the Church, Your Holiness, priests and nuns who openly defy Church teaching escape legitimate discipline or receive minimal punishments after decades of open disobedience, as the case of Gramick and Nugent demonstrates. Your own Secretary of State, Cardinal Sodano, lavishly praised Hans Kung in a recent address at the Lateran—the same man who denies numerous doctrines and dogmas of the faith and publicly accused you of “despotic rule in the spirit of the Inquisition.” Yet while enemies of the Church roam free around the world, I am threatened with suspension from the sacred priesthood for expressing views whose legitimacy my persecutors have not even attempted to question.
Will Your Holiness allow me to be punished unjustly by men who do not have the honesty to declare openly what they privately admit: that my case is not about upholding the law of the Church, but about contriving some way to silence a priest they cannot otherwise silence? Will Your Holiness allow my case to become an example of justice in the Vatican tribunals: a process of groundless accusations, secret interventions, biased judges who militate behind the scenes against the very parties before them, willful ignorance of the true facts, cynical self-contradictions and changes of position, all aimed at achieving a preordained result, no matter what justice may require?
What is worse, will Your Holiness allow the perpetrators of this travesty to claim that they are merely carrying out your will? Is this really how you yourself would treat me, Holy Father? Would you do this to one of your sons?
The Relief I Seek
You are the Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Catholic Church, the tribunal of last resort for all the faithful. I ask you now for what I cannot obtain from the members of your curia, because they are determined that I shall not have it under any circumstances. I ask you for justice, Holy Father. I ask you to issue a papal decree:
I ask these things not only for my sake, but for the sake of justice in the Church, for the sake of the rights of priests and bishops around the world, and for the integrity of the Church's divine constitution, which for too long has been compromised by abuse of power on the part of those who consider themselves de facto popes.
Even more important than these concerns, Holy Father, is the need for free discussion on the subject of the Message of Fatima, according to its merits. If what I believe about Fatima is true (and many millions of Catholics share my views) then the silencing of any effective Fatima apostolate causes incalculable harm to the common good of the Church, and indeed the world at large.
Therefore, when men who claim to act in your name harass me, impede my work, discredit me in the eyes of my fellow Catholics and try to silence me forever by exiling me in a foreign diocese which has no need for me, they damage not only me but the Church and the world. This is not because I possess any special merit, but because of the divine imperatives of the Message of Fatima itself. Our Lady Herself said “If my requests are not granted...the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, entire Nations will be annihilated.”
As I pray for justice, Holy Father, I pray also for your pontificate, that Our Blessed Mother may guide you in Our Lord's ways toward the safety and peace of the Church, and the world, in the next millennium.
Humbly submitted this 22 day of November ,
Father Nicholas Gruner, S.T.L.
1) The day after he made this statement, Cardinal Carter suffered a stroke. His life was saved through the prompt diagnosis of a prominent Canadian physician who has long been my personal friend and a strong supporter of my apostolate.
2) By Providence, Cardinal Agustoni's letter was uncovered years later in the course of a civil litigation in Canada . After I sent a copy of the letter to Your Holiness (in January of 1997), along with my protest against his sitting judgment of my case in the Signatura, Cardinal Agustoni recused himself-but not before he had already ruled against me in my first recourse to the Signatura.
3) It must be noted that Archbishop Arulappa publicly protested this browbeating by Vatican officials when he, along with 9 other archbishops and 17 bishops, signed the Open Letter to Your Holiness, published on April 2, 1998. The Archbishop again reaffirmed his decree of incardination in a subsequent decree dated March 10, 1999, which states as follows:
“Having reviewed the documents of Father Nicholas Gruner, including the letter from the Diocese of Avellino, dated August 4, 1989, I am satisfied that my decree of November 4, 1995 incardinating Father Gruner into the Archdiocese of Hyderabad is a valid and effective, and he is validly incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Hyderabad from that date…After due discernment, I am convinced that I am acting correctly though I was partly misled by influential people. I strongly feel that the good work he is doing in spreading devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary should not be hampered for the present, especially through undue canonical or juridical pressures. May Jesus Christ be Praised!”
4) Your Holiness, how can a priest not be “canonically free” to be excardinated, when the Code of Canon Law Your Holiness himself promulgated states that excardination is a right which “may not … be refused unless grave reasons exist.” Can. 270. In my case, no reasons exist for denying excardination, much less grave reasons, nor have any reasons ever been given. How is it that I alone of all the priests in the Church am not “canonically free” to be excardinated? From whence comes this unique disability?
5) The Bishop of Avellino never declared this himself in his January 31, 1994 decree or at any other time, until the Congregation informed him some two years later that this was what he had meant to do!
April 20, 2000
His Holiness John Paul II
On November 22, 1999 I wrote to Your Holiness, enclosing a recourse to you and a canonical libellus against Cardinals Gilberto Agustoni, Angelo Innocenti and Jose Sanchez, Archbishops Zenon Grochelweski and Crescenzio Sepe, and Bishop Antonio Forte. Another copy of my November 22, 1999 letter is enclosed for your reference.
In that same letter I respectfully reminded Your Holiness that a related libellus against Cardinal Sanchez, Archbishop Sepe and their collaborators had been placed in your hand at the general audience of November 20,1996, as shown by photographs of the event taken by the photographer for L'Osservatore Romano.
In accordance with Can. 1506 of the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Your Holiness, I must respectfully insist that Your Holiness proceed with both libelli, which, as foreseen by Cann. 1405 § 1, are reserved exclusively to the judgment of Your Holiness, the non-competence of other judges being absolute. Can. 1406 §2.
As provided in Can. 1506, if I have not heard to the contrary from Your Holiness himself within ten (10) days, I shall presume that Your Holiness has admitted both libelli as cases before the First See, and that Your Holiness is proceeding with both cases.
Your humble subject in Christ,
Father Nicholas Gruner