FORMAL RESPONSE TO THE JULY 6, 2000
In response to the Nuncio's communique of said date (“the July 6 communique”), this organization notes the following false and libelous statements regarding Father Nicholas Gruner and/or this organization, and this organization hereby demands their retraction:
There are no such “forged Secretariat of State documents.” The allegation is a pure invention and a demonstrable lie, since no such documents have ever existed. If there were such documents, Father Gruner himself would have been ordered to cease using them eleven years ago, when the Nuncio claims they first appeared. Father Gruner was never notified of any “forged Secretariat of State documents,” because such documents do not exist.
It is hereby demanded that the Nuncio produce copies of these “forged” Secretariat of State documents or else immediately retract the allegation.
The Nuncio is certainly aware that this implied accusation is false. Under the 1983 Code of Canon Law promulgated by His Holiness John Paul II (not to mention the natural law itself) there is absolutely no requirement for “ecclesiastical approval” of conferences on Fatima or any other subject of concern to Catholics.
Nor is there any requirement for “ecclesiastical approval” of Father Gruner's personal participation in such conferences, or in the activities of this organization as a whole. See, cc. 208-228 and, in particular, cc. 212, 215, 278, 299. In fact (as Congregation for the Clergy well knows) upon his election to the Board of Directors of this organization, Father Gruner received the congratulations of the Holy Father himself, through the Holy Father's personal secretary. (See attached)
In the Church today there are thousands of private associations of clergy and laity, organized and functioning without “ecclesiastical approval” of any kind and in perfect conformity with the law of the Church, and this organization is one of them. The Nuncio knows this. Therefore, the Nuncio's implied allegation is false, misleading and libelous.
Here the Nuncio refers to a circular letter to the Bishops issued by Cardinal Gantin in 1996. The only such letter from Cardinal Gantin in the organization's possession makes no reference to “dubious orthodoxy,” nor does the Nuncio provide any evidence of “dubious orthodoxy” in the July 6 communique. In fact, Cardinal Gantin's letter relates only the alleged lack of “ecclesiastical approval” for the organization's activities, which approval is not required.
In March of 1997 the organization replied to Cardinal Gantin's circular letter by registered mail, demonstrating that his implied accusation of canonical impropriety was false, and posing certain queries to His Eminence. Cardinal Gantin has never replied to the registered letter—not even after our reply was published in 90,000 copies of “Fatima Priest” over the past three years.
Furthermore, it should be noted that in December of 1998, Father Gruner wrote to the Congregation for the Clergy and the Apostolic Signatura, requesting copies of various other “circular letters” regarding him and this organization, whose existence had been recently (1998) disclosed by the Promoter of Justice in Father Gruner's canonical recourses. To date these accusatory letters (circulated behind Father Gruner's back for years by various nuncios without his knowledge of either the contents or the fact of the circulation) have not been provided to Father Gruner. It seems that the Congregation and the nuncios have been engaged in a more or less constant campaign of using “circular letters” to spread falsehoods concerning Father Gruner, so as to destroy his good name and the reputation of this organization.
This allegation of “dubious orthodoxy” is totally false. Never in the entire history of the organization has Father Gruner or this organization been accused by any competent Church authority of “dubious orthodoxy” in any matter of the Faith or morals.
It is hereby demanded that the Nuncio provide evidence for the charge of “dubious orthodoxy,” as of 1996 or at any other time, or else retract the charge immediately.
This is another demonstrable lie. There were no “directives of the Holy See” requiring any action by Father Gruner as of 1996 or at any other time. Father Gruner did not “defy” any order of “the Holy See” whatsoever, although he has followed legitimate canonical procedures for resisting abuses of authority by certain persons who hold positions of authority in the Church. There is no “defiance” or “disobedience” involved in making recourse under the Code of Canon Law against unjust orders and other abuses of power.
In fact, during 1996 Father Gruner was not “defying” any order of the “Holy See,” but rather was pursuing a legitimate canonical recourse from an order of the Bishop of Avellino that he return to the Diocese of Avellino, after an approved absence of 18 years. The complicated canonical process resulting from that order is still continuing in the Apostolic Signatura.
This is yet another demonstrable lie. The Bishop of Avellino's decree of May 16, 1996 threatened the penalty of suspension if Father Gruner did not return to the Diocese of Avellino within 29 days, after an approved absence of 18 years. The canonical recourses from that order are still pending in the Apostolic Signatura by way of petition for restitutio or declaration of nullity, on which the Signatura has not yet pronounced (as of July 24, 2000). These recourses have the effect of suspending the operation of any threatened penalty of suspension a divinis. Cfr. can. 1647.
Here it must be noted that the only grounds for the 1996 order to return to Avellino were Father Gruner's supposed “failure” to find another bishop to incardinate him. In truth, he found three bishops, all of whom were willing to foster Father Gruner's work in their dioceses.
By illicit coercion and other ultra vires and extra-canonical interventions (only recently disclosed), the Congregation for the Clergy intimidated each of these three bishops in such manner that they felt unable to proceed with their offers of incardination. The third of these bishops, the Archbishop of Hyderabad, had even issued a formal decree of incardination, dated November 4, 1995, which states (quite appropriately) that “evil forces have conspired to destroy your [Father Gruner's] work of love” and that “bureaucratic forces cannot stifle God's work.” (That work includes an orphanage in the Archdiocese which supports 68 children through the charity of Father Gruner's Fatima apostolate.)
The Congregation further coerced the Bishop of Avellino into refusing excardination to Father Gruner under any circumstances, even though the Bishop admitted that he had no grounds whatsoever to deny excardination and was acting solely at the behest of the Congregation who seeks to suppress Father Gruner's legitimate teaching and preaching on the Message of Fatima. Moreover, the Bishop of Avellino had already issued a valid decree of excardination in 1989, which was never revoked.
In March 1999 the aforesaid Archbishop of Hyderabad finally rejected the illicit coercion being applied against him by members of the Congregation and the Secretariat of State, affirmed his November 4, 1995 decree of incardination, and issued a further decree confirming Father Gruner's incardination. The Archbishop was also the first signatory on an Open Letter to the Supreme Pontiff protesting the unprecedented injustices against Father Gruner. His Grace was joined by 9 other archbishops, 17 bishops, 1900 priests and religious and more than 16,000 members of the laity—all of them faithful Catholics who are loyal to the Holy Father. The Open Letter was published April 2, 1998 in Il Messaggero, the largest daily newspaper in Rome, Italy.
In essence, then, Father Gruner's only canonical “offense” is that he was prevented from finding a new bishop by the very members of the Congregation (and the Secretariat of State) who now accuse him of “failing” to find another bishop. That is, these prelates have abused their authority by attempting to prevent Father from obeying the very order they now accuse him of “disobeying.” The Archbishop of Hyderabad and 26 other bishops signed the Open Letter to His Holiness precisely in order to protest this injustice.
Aside from the matter of Father Gruner's incardination, which the aforesaid members of the Congregation have illicitly and secretly impeded behind the scenes, there has been no other basis for the canonical proceedings against Father Gruner. Neither the Congregation nor the Apostolic Signatura has ever declared that any aspect of Father Gruner's work for this organization is contrary to faith, morals or the law of the Church. In his twenty-four years as a priest, Father Gruner has never been accused, let alone proven guilty, of any offense against faith, morals, the law of the Church nor any legitimate precept of competent authority.
This too is false. As already noted, there is still pending before the Apostolic Signatura a petition for restitutio in integrum or, in the alternative, a declaration of nullity. The petition notes that the only allegation now remaining against Father Gruner, after years of canonical proceedings, is that his “condition” was “irregular” and needed to be “corrected” by the Bishop of Avellino.
This alleged “irregular condition” (which condition is allowed by Canon Law to every other Catholic priest) consists of nothing more than Father Gruner's residing in Canada with the written permission of the Bishop of Avellino (as well as his current Ordinary, the Archbishop of Hyderabad), while being engaged in an apostolate which does not require ecclesiastical approval and which Father Gruner had the canonical and natural right to conduct. Cfr. cc. 215, 278, 299.
The petition further notes that the order to reside in Avellino after an absence of some 22 years is patently illegal, since Father Gruner is not an Italian citizen but a citizen of Canada, and the Bishop of Avellino never took any measures to obtain a proper visa. Thus, the order to return violates Italian civil law on immigration, by which the Church agrees to be bound. Father Gruner would be deported immediately upon his entry into Italy, unless he were to lie about the purpose of his visit. Cfr. can. 22.
In any case, Father Gruner is now incardinated in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, as already noted. Both the Signatura and the Bishop of Avellino were provided with copies of the Archbishop of Hyderabad's pertinent decrees in the later part of 1999, and neither the Signatura nor the Bishop of Avellino since expressed any objection thereto.
This statement is false. The Apostolic Signatura has declined to address many of the detailed allegations by Father Gruner in his 82-page reply to the Promoter of Justice. The Signatura's only response to these allegations is to assert that its failure to address them does not mean that they are true.
Also not “settled” are the allegations in two separate canonical petitions, addressed personally to Pope John Paul II. One petition was filed by Father Gruner, and the other by certain members of this organization. Both petitions were delivered personally to the Holy Father on November 20, 1996. A third petition sent to His Holiness on or about November 22, 1999, and its acceptance as a case pending before the Supreme Pontiff was confirmed by a registered letter from Father Gruner, dated April 20, 2000, citing can. 1506, under which acceptance of the case is now mandated by the Holy Father's own (1983) Code of Canon Law.
These petitions, which are reserved exclusively to the Supreme Pontiff under cc. 1405, 1406, cite abuses of power by the Prefects and Secretaries of the Congregation for the Clergy and the Signatura who have been involved in the totally unprecedented process of preventing Father Gruner's lawful incardination by three different benevolent bishops, followed by accusations that he has “failed” to find another bishop, combined with equally unprecedented attempts to de facto interdict this organization throughout the world without any canonical grounds or due process. These petitions have not been “settled” by any decree of the Signatura, as the communique falsely claims.
Ten years ago, in 1990, Father Gruner instituted a civil proceeding for libel against Monsignor Alan R.A. McCormack, former Vicar of the Archdiocese of Toronto. The July 6 communique states that this proceeding also names the Archbishop of Toronto. This is false. The Archbishop of Toronto has never been a party to this proceeding. Msgr. McCormack is the one and only defendant.
This civil proceeding is fully permissible under natural law and the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Indeed, today there are many pending claims in the civil tribunals of the world against priests, monsignors and even bishops who are accused of abusing their authority in ways which violate the civil law and the legitimate civil rights of persons.
Father Gruner's civil proceeding is based on Msgr. McCormack's false statements in 1990 regarding Father Gruner's canonical status. These statements falsely suggested that Father Gruner was a suspended or imposter cleric, when only two months before the Bishop of Avellino had issued a certificate of good standing to Father Gruner and renewed his permission for Father Gruner's residence in Canada. Further, the certificate of good standing issued by the Bishop of Avellino in April 1990 has never been revoked.
Msgr. McCormack's false statements were circulated in secular newspapers throughout North America, causing tremendous damage to Father Gruner's reputation and to this organization's good name.
The Nuncio falsely claims that the issuance of libelous statements by Msgr. McCormack was a “pastoral obligation.” There could be no “pastoral obligation” to damage Father Gruner's reputation with libelous statements. Moreover, Father Gruner has never been a priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto, nor did he ever reside there, and thus was never under the jurisdiction of its Archbishop in the first place.
The July 6 communique falsely suggests that the civil proceeding against Msgr. McCormack in Toronto was commenced during Father Gruner's recourses before the Congregation and the Signatura. (“Regretfully, in the mean time, Father Gruner initiated a civil proceeding . . .”) The implication is that Father Gruner commenced the civil proceeding to retaliate for the unprecedented canonical interventions against him. This is quite false. The civil proceeding was commenced ten years ago, long before the canonical interventions and the recourses from those interventions.
In March of this year the civil tribunal in Toronto, recognizing that Father Gruner's claim involves a libel which extends far beyond the confines of the Church and into the secular press, damaging his reputation as a human being in civil society, refused to dismiss the proceeding. A trial is now scheduled for August 28.
On June 21, 2000, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, knowing that the trial date in the civil proceeding was fast approaching, sent a letter to Father Gruner (dated June 5) which openly threatens him with excommunication if he does not abandon his completely legitimate claim in the Toronto tribunal—a claim which, as noted, is fully permissible under natural law and the Code of Canon Law. It is false and absurd to claim, as does the July 6 communique, that this extortionate threat of excommunication—which suddenly arrives ten years after the civil proceeding was commenced—was made “in the Spirit of the Jubilee year.”
For all the foregoing reasons, this organization demands the relief set forth in the accompanying letter from this organization's civil attorney.
Dated at Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, July 24, 2000
National Committee for the National Servants of Jesus and Mary, Inc.
Pilgrim Virgin of Canada, Inc.
Enclosure: Note to Father Gruner from Pope John Paul II's personal secretary, dated Jan. 31, 1980