July 28, 2000
Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos,
We are extremely saddened to learn that your continued unjust and illicit efforts to undermine Father Gruner's apostolate are not confined to your recent outrageous threat to excommunicate him.
We now have before us a copy of a letter dated July 6, 2000, addressed to the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines and signed by that country's Apostolic Nuncio, Msgr. Antonio Franco. This letter, which states that it was issued “on the instructions of the Congregation for the Clergy,” contains a long series of falsehoods and distortions regarding Father Gruner's past and present status as a Catholic priest, as well as the status of proceedings in his case before various Vatican tribunals.
For example, the July 6 communique contains the ridiculous and patently false allegation that Father Gruner used “forged Secretariat of State documents...to imply endorsement” of this Fatima Apostolate.
Your Eminence, surely you recognize that no priest in his right mind, nor any sane member of this organization's staff, would forge documents of the Vatican Secretariat of State and circulate them throughout the world. How can you be a party to such an absurd accusation? Are you so desperate to destroy Father Gruner and his work with this apostolate that you have sacrificed even reason itself to this vendetta? How can you stand before God and falsely accuse this faithful priest of a criminal offence before the entire Church?
You should be ashamed. And how, Your Eminence, can you justify these actions on your part as being consistent with the spirit of reconciliation and communion in the Jubilee Year? Are you not embarrassed by your own hypocrisy?
Without question, you are in a position to know full well that this and the other statements in the July 6 communique are untruthful or misleading. Perhaps the same cannot be said, however, for the Nuncio, Msgr. Franco, who may well have relied on your assurances regarding the accuracy of the information you provided to him. In that case, you have made the nuncio your unwitting accomplice in circulating lies and distortions about Father and this Apostolate—statements which you know, or should know, are false and misleading.
How many other nuncios have you instructed to circulate these lies?
The nuncio's July 6 communique places this Apostolate in an awkward predicament, since it appears that the only remedy available to us is very distasteful. Under your direction, Msgr. Franco has circulated statements about Father Gruner and this Apostolate even more libelous than those of Msgr. McCormack in 1990. Among other things, you explicitly accuse Father Gruner of the crime of forgery, as already noted. Both Father Gruner's and this Apostolate's reputation have now been severely damaged in the Philippines, giving clear grounds for a civil suit against Msgr. Franco, similar to the one initiated against Msgr. McCormack. However, unless Msgr. Franco is actually aware that the allegations in his letter are false, this could mean bringing suit against a party who placed reliance on the truthfulness of your information—reliance which these developments have shown was not well placed.
How can you demand, as you have, that Father Gruner abandon the suit against Msgr. McCormack, while you are simultaneously instructing others to commit similar offenses against him and us? Far from bringing matters to a resolution, these actions are compounding the problem, creating new offenses, and forcing us now to take action to defend Father Gruner and this Apostolate, which depends upon his good name.
As has been demonstrated in Father Gruner's repeated attempts to settle the Msgr. McCormack case out of court, he would prefer we not resort to civil litigation. Father Gruner and this Apostolate fully share your desire to avoid the public embarrassment of such proceedings involving members of the Catholic clergy. (It is a sad fact of life today, however, that many members of the Catholic clergy, including bishops, are defendants in civil proceedings arising from their abuse and exploitation of others in violation of civil law and of their legitimate civil rights.) Father Gruner's offer to withdraw his suit in exchange for your withdrawing your threat of excommunication is further evidence of his good will in this regard. We are also of good will, but you cannot continue to attack us while hypocritically pretending you seek peace and reconciliation.
Any attempt to force us to submit to your threats of “excommunication” will not remove our obligation to defend the reputation of our apostolate. No matter what threat is held over our heads, Father Gruner and this Apostolate cannot be expected to remain silent indefinitely in the face of a continuing campaign of calumny which harms not only our interests but the interests of our more than one million supporters. We have a moral duty to preserve and protect their rights as well as ours.
In this respect, you should bear in mind that even if you were to commit the moral outrage of “excommunicating” Father Gruner in an attempt to destroy this Apostolate, this would not prevent us from seeking redress in civil courts wherever your false statements have caused serious injury to either Father Gruner or the Apostolate. Our willingness to refrain from civil proceedings is thus directly linked to your willingness to refrain from further unjustified and illicit actions against us.
We are astonished and scandalized by your apparent use of apostolic nuncios as your unwitting accomplices in spreading gross and malicious lies about Father Gruner and this Apostolate. Since these parties are simply obeying your instructions, you must bear the full moral responsibility for their actions, as well as any legal consequences those actions may entail.
When Bishop Cauchon put himself in the position of acting as the judge of St. Joan of Arc, she cautioned him to judge justly, otherwise his soul was in danger. He ignored her warning and proceeded with the unjust condemnation of Saint Joan. Three weeks after St. Joan was burned at the stake, Bishop Cauchon died suddenly while sitting in a barber's chair, with no apparent opportunity for repentance. Father Gruner does not claim to be a saint, but the example of Saint Joan serves well nonetheless, when one considers that the cause to which Father Gruner has devoted his life is that of the greatest saint of all: Our Lady of Fatima. To condemn falsely before the whole Church a priest who advances Her cause is not an act that should give you peace of mind. It should trouble your conscience and make you think of the eternal consequences.
We hope and pray that, rather than allowing your emissaries to be embroiled in civil litigation stemming from the lies you are spreading through them, you will cease spreading these lies and take prompt action to correct the falsehoods you have already caused to be circulated. We would regard such corrective actions on your part as a concrete sign of your explicit and constructive goodwill, corresponding to Father Gruner's equivalent goodwill in offering to withdraw the suit against Msgr. McCormack.
Mrs. Mary Sedore, Director