Power Play of A Locket Cult
Perhaps the years of touring had been too successful, had drawn too much attention, not from, say, a hostile media, but rather from hostiles within the Church, specifically, in Ottawa, where the Trudeau, Sauve, Turner, Chretien abortion endgame was in play. The high altitude from which the first invectives were launched at Father Gruner conjures up images of hotlines and unlisted numbers and secretaries dialing.
The first attack had actually come in October of 1978, when Father Gruner was on the road with the Pilgrim Virgin. In Edmonton he received a letter from Archbishop Angelo Palmas, the Papal Pro-Nuncio in Ottawa. The letter was in French, even though Msgr. Palmas knew Father Nicholas Gruner spoke English as his first language. In it, Msgr. Palmas accused him of being a ‘vagus’, that is, a priest who is not incardinated anywhere.1
In fact, Msgr. Palmas didn't address him as Father Nicholas Gruner in the letter at all, but as Father ‘Colas’ Gruner. Father Gruner phoned Ottawa, objecting strenuously to the accusation, telling Msgr. Palmas he was most definitely in possession of permission from his bishop, Pasquale Venezia, in writing. He asked if Msgr. Palmas wanted him to come back to Ottawa immediately, to set the record straight.
Msgr. Palmas told him, “No, no Father, stay where you are. As soon as you complete your statue visits we'll talk about it.”
Meanwhile, Father Gruner sent Msgr. Palmas a copy of the letter from Bishop Venezia which granted him official permission to be away from the diocese of Avellino. The document was a mere five months old, still perfectly valid, and eliminated any possibility that he was a ‘vagus’.
The trail of this first notable complaint lodged against Father Gruner by the Pro-Nuncio, led, incredibly, to a strange fringe group claiming allegiance to the anti-Pope, Clemente Dominguez Gomez, a Spanish so-called ‘seer’ living near Seville.
Of all the factions, movements, groups, that had come into existence to fill the void in Church leadership, few were more bizarre than this Spanish cult that had founded a foothold in Ottawa in the 1970's. Its symbol was a locket worn around the neck. A very special locket.
Clemente supposedly had a vision of the Blessed Virgin, soon after which he enthroned himself as ‘Pope’ Gregory XVII. And so was added to the arsenal of the anti-Catholic press yet one more bizarro who discredited yet anew any authentic mystic soul. This same group was dabbling in what Father Gruner perceived as satanic sacrilege against the Holy Eucharist. But who were these people?
Among other titles, they called themselves the Brothers of Saint Joseph, and also the White Army. The ‘Army’ was founded by one Maria Concepcion, whom the Portuguese bishops once charged with sacrileges against the Blessed Sacrament. There was also a Madame Bouff, who based herself in Marseilles, and who would go to visit Maria Concepcion every so often in Portugal. At the center of their cult were supposedly consecrated hosts which Maria Concepcion said she got from the Archangel Michael, who, during an apparition, was supposed to have dropped them on the ground. Concepcion picked them up, so the story goes, and in time began sharing them with Madame Bouff from Marseilles.
Madame Bouff visited Canada in 1975 and again in 1976, recruiting people into the White Army. The “Army” had a hierarchy, a commander general for Canada, who was higher than the rest of the Canadian members, the next rank underneath were the ‘apostles’. The ‘apostle’ was to wear a locket which could be bought in any ten cent store. Madame Bouff bestowed upon each ‘apostle’ a Host, allegedly consecrated. Inside the locket she would affix the host with glue and, once bestowed, the Body and Blood of Christ was, supposedly, thereby transmitted through the daily workaday world. The “soldiers” the next lower rank, were to gather around an “apostle” and to adore the contents of the locket.
Father Gruner's first-hand knowledge of the cult came about when one of the ‘apostles’, reasonably enough suspecting there was something not quite proper about the required item of apparel, asked Father Gruner if he would relieve him of his locket. He did so, opening it up himself. Inside was a piece of Host about thumbnail size.
Father Gruner recalls vividly that, during his possession of the locket, he sensed pains in his chest that he had not experienced before or since. He considered the locket to be ‘of the devil’. Besides the pains Father Gruner experienced, he had already come to this conclusion for 9 different theological reasons only after reflecting on the locket story and Maria Concepcion's tale. He told two other priests, each of whom had more than 30 years' experience, of his findings and they concurred that the locket was diabolical. One of the most compelling reasons that told him the locket was of the devil was the fact that the White Army types order their followers to never tell any priest outside the White Army about the lockets. St. Ignatius says such a command of secrecy about the spiritual life is one of the strong signs that a mystical experience is of the devil.
“Just as the Church has sacramentals,” Father Gruner comments, “the devil too has his ‘sacramentals’. The locket clearly represented a sacrilege against the Blessed Sacrament.”
The locket, Father Gruner perceived, was literally a devilish sacramental. Was it a consecrated Host that had been desecrated? He could not be sure. Was it something that gave the devil power over the people? Most definitely yes.
An unsettling string of horrific physical accidents befell locket wearers. Marriages were rent asunder. Families broke apart, polarized into hate camps, children were lost, seemingly forever, to their parents.
Father Gruner's first precaution was to bury the locket in salt that had been blessed with the blessing in the Roman Ritual which is used particularly to control the power of the devil. Then he asked another priest to relieve him of it and dispose of it according to the rites required by the Church in cases such as this. The priest who received it from him was so afraid of the evil aspect of the locket he drove the forty miles back to his home on a four-lane highway at twenty miles an hour. Once home, he took the Host out of the locket and put it in a jar of water to let it dissolve. There was no way of ascertaining that the Host had, in fact, been consecrated. The safest thing to do was to assume that it had been and treat it as such. As well, the priest in question put a second host, unconsecrated, of comparable size, in a second glass of water. After five days, the second one was dissolved. The first one lasted another 15 days.
When Father Gruner denounced the locket cult publicly, in Catholic papers in the U.S. and Canada, he instantly became the cult's number one enemy. He was soon vindicated when the cult was publicly denounced by Archbishop Plourde of Ottawa in the front pages of the Ottawa Citizen. The Montreal Gazette followed up with a lengthy series of articles about this bizarre aberration.
One of the locket wearers declared her intention of destroying Father Nicholas Gruner, boasted, in fact, that she would have him run out of the country and immediately proceeded to shop for a journalist who would print her personal rendition of Father Gruner's concocted failings. Nothing suited her purpose more than to have at her disposal the ultimate tool for discrediting Father Gruner at every turn, the vague and scary-sounding term ‘vagus’.
The tour of Western Canada had drawn considerable attention to the young priest. The actions of his enemies would ensure that everything he would do in the future would attract even more attention. Ironically he was generating a public profile that belied the personal conditions under which he labored. A uniquely qualified witness to the spiritual climate of Ottawa in those days, Father Victor Soroka, rector of the Basilian Seminary in the late 1970's, recalls the conditions under which Gruner toiled.
“He worked in one room rented from an elderly lady. In the front section of the room he slept on a bed without springs. There were hardly any facilities. He had to ask neighboring pastors for a place to say his Mass. At that time he was publishing The Fatima Crusader with the help of one pious lady by the name of Debbie. But when it came to sending out the issues, he rented a hall basement and asked for volunteers to help with the envelopes.
“He was our guest quite often at the seminary. It was not possible for him to stay there as we had twenty-six seminarians then and all the rooms were occupied, except when we had a vacancy. (The seminary has since been destroyed by fire.)
“His finances were so slow in coming he could never pay in full for one edition, he was always running behind, and had a lot of trouble with the post office. They didn't want to give him the right rate, said he wasn't entitled, which wasn't true.
“Father Gruner went to different bishops but he didn't find any co-operation. Why? Because of jealousy. You see, he hardly had enough for food and yet he was promoting Our Lady through The Fatima Crusader and the Pilgrim Virgin Statue. He was willing to live in a rectory and help out but no one would have him. Why? Because they didn't want to acknowledge Marian devotions or have the Rosary in public. Churches neglected the Stations of the Cross and they were all giving Communion in the hand. Father Gruner's biggest crime was saying the old Mass. He was probably the only priest in Ottawa who did so at the time.
“He never made a cent, and he drove one of the poorest cars on the road. Everybody said, ‘let's let him have it.’ And they let him have it. But he won after all these years. Just look at what he's accomplished in contrast to them.”
For those who wanted to destroy him, Father Gruner himself had provided the necessary ammunition. The focus of his apostolate was Mary. The agenda of his apostolate was simple and direct — take Mary's message straight to the people. After 18 years of the smoke and mirrors of some modernist bureaucrats who were smothering the Church, Rosaries and Scapulars were practically revolutionary. The response of the people to the Western Canada tour suggested that such a ‘revolution' was, though unwelcome by the powers-that-be, apparently not unthinkable. The thing to do then was to stop it.
Why? Because of Mary, that's why. There was no place for Mary in the plans of those who were deforming the Church to fulfill their own agendas. Mary had to go. To understand clearly why Mary had to go, one has only to turn to one of the most fascinating Scotsmen of the 20th Century, Hamish Fraser.
Hamish had been a devout Communist until 1947, responsible for the work of the party in the west of Scotland, especially responsible for seeing to it that the soul and heart of labor movement remained forever opposed to the government of the day and the Church of all time. In 1943 his conversion began.
By 1947 he was a Roman Catholic. By 1950 he was attending Fatima Conferences.
In the January 25, 1953, issue of L'Homme Nouveau, Abbé Richard, later to become President of the Blue Army in France, recounts a moving incident in which hereafter Hamish would be dubbed “The Dove Man”.
“Is it impossible that the cosmic rays of charity should bring about the resurgence of authentic humanity in a world made monstrous by brutality and hate? On the contrary, such a rebirth may be confidently counted on as the result of prayer, penance, holiness, and the consecration of ourselves to God through Our Lady. For these things are real, and, in consequence, have the power to set in motion, with a new vigor and a new orientation, all the potentialities of modern man.
“That is the lesson taught us once more at the Parc des Expositions by our friend Hamish Fraser, the Man of the Dove. ... A friend of ours, a priest of the diocese of Cherbourg, had in his possession two doves, the offspring of the doves which in such an extraordinary fashion accompanied the statue of Our Lady of Fatima during its progress in Portugal and Spain. This priest unleashed the couple, which had never known freedom, into the Great Hall of the Parc des Expositions at the very moment when, to the music of hymns, Our Lady's statue made its entrance. The doves, frightened out of their wits, flew two or three times about the hall, and then hid in the rafters.
“But one of them circled around as if looking for someone, and, out of the thousands of people who filled the hall, selected Hamish Fraser and calmly perched on his head, in the midst of his bushy hair, and there it remained, apparently quite undismayed by the flashes made by the photographers who were vying with each other in their efforts to get a shot of the scene. Then, after about three minutes, it went along to rejoin its companion.
“Some moments later, Hamish Fraser was beginning his speech and declaring: ‘I do not say that I believe that prayer can convert Communists; I know that prayer can convert Communists.’ The dove seemed to have vouched for the declaration of this man in advance. A miracle? Not, certainly, a miracle for unbelievers. But, to adopt an expression of St. Paul, it may well be a sign for the faithful: in signum fidelibus.”
Hamish watched the hijacking of the Church take place at the Second Vatican Council, saw the confusion being sown by confused theologians, witnessed the humanists outwit the bishops, observed the misguided modernists planning their strategy. Saw it all. He wondered why others could not recognize what was occurring. The tactics of confusion and well-planned ‘spontaneity', the endless appeals to the dignity of man, for compassion, for liberty, equality, the endless insertion of brotherhood slogans into speeches, the relentless demands for more involvement of the people — all this was a strategy he knew and recognized. It had been his job to make this very strategy work within the labor movement in Scotland.
At the bottom line of all the changes these strategies wrought in the Church, he pointed out, there was one single prime directive, the necessary effort required to move Mary out the Church door, for according to the Communists, if Mary goes, the Catholic Church, sooner or later, will go.
Why did Mary have to go? Hamish explains:
“It was necessary to assault the Mother of God for the simple reason that there was no other way possible whereby the Son could be effectively exiled from Society and Man. Get rid of Mary and you would have dismantled forever any notion of institutionalizing within the Church the Social Kingship of Christ.” Which would mean annihilation of Communism.
“Mary had to go because there was no other way of uprooting the Incarnate God from the consciousness of the people.
“Mary had to go because it was in Her womb that God had become flesh and blood.
“Mary had to go in order that God could be transformed into a meaningless abstraction. An impersonal being remote and entirely divorced from the affairs of the work-a-day-world.
“Mary had to go because it was from Her womb that God issued forth into human society.
“Mary had to go because She had mothered and suckled the author of the old moral order of society, which the revolutionaries were seeking to destroy.
“Mary had to go because She was the mother of Christendom, the mother of unity of Christians.
“Mary had to go because no less than the Mass itself, Her Immaculate Conception was literally an insuperable barrier to the rise of the lay state.
“Mary had to go because Her blessed name was the last remaining obstacle to the development of that ‘laissez faire’ society wherein relations between man and man were no longer based on brotherhood but on the cold and utterly forbidding cash nexus.
“Mary had to go because the reformers recognized Her for what She was and is,” what the popes have always called, “... the Mediatrix between God and human society”.2
And once She was gone, anyone who dared try to bring Her back would have to be annihilated, i.e. Father Gruner and The National Pilgrim Virgin Apostolate. The last thing the new Church needed was another Blue Army.
For decades, the original Blue Army, the militant-sounding association of Catholics devoted to Fatima, had been impressing upon popes and princes the worldwide interest of Catholics in the cause of Our Lady of Fatima. Its organization was firmly entrenched in Fatima with an impressive onion-domed headquarters just east of the edge of the Cova da Iria. It was situated in that direction from the azinhiera tree where the light first flashed in the sky to announce the impending arrival of the heavenly Visitor to the Cova. It had been difficult enough for the enemies of Mary to infiltrate the Blue Army. They didn't want another Fatima Apostolate and feared Father Gruner might prove to be just that.
They were wrong to expect him to form another Blue Army. In the beginning, however, relations with that historical organization had begun cordially enough, and with the best of intentions. However, the movement begun by Father Nicholas Gruner would ultimately neither represent, operate the same, nor imitate the Blue Army. In time, his own Apostolate would come to oppose the Blue Army's U.S. leadership's disinformation about the request of Our Lady.
With time, the Blue Army and Soul Magazine, its official publication, had lost its edge, its leadership had aged, mellowed, and seemed to lose its independence from the Ostpolitik (the political overture to the East) of the Vatican. They became willing participants in a nearsighted vision of the future:
A few months before the Second Vatican Council began, Vatican diplomats negotiated an unprecedented restriction on its deliberations: Metropolitan Nikodim of the Orthodox Church, a puppet of Moscow, would accept the Vatican's invitation to send Orthodox observers to the Council, if the Council would promise to refrain from any condemnation of Communism. A written agreement to this effect was signed between Nikodim and the Vatican's representative, Cardinal Tisserant. The Orthodox observers, KGB operatives in the garb of priests, waited in Moscow for Pope John's opening speech, which promised a new era of “dialogue” with the world and an end to condemnations. The next day the observers arrived at the Council.
The “Vatican-Moscow Agreement” established Ostpolitik, “East politic”, as the touchstone of Vatican diplomacy, influencing the Holy See's relations with the entire world. In exchange for silence in the face of evil, the Council would be favored with the presence of KGB operatives representing a puppet church controlled by the Kremlin. Where once there had been steadfast papal condemnation of Communism, there would now be dialogue and negotiation with the forces of world atheism.
The properly filed written canonical request of over 450 Council Fathers that communism be placed on the agenda of the Council was somehow “lost” in the conciliar bureaucratic apparatus. During the Council, Cardinal Tisserant would rise to silence any discussion of Communism by a Council Father, saying that it was forbidden. A human plan of diplomacy had collided with the divine imperatives of Fatima. Some 16 years later Father Nicholas Gruner and the Apostolate would enter the zone of collision. Not so the Blue Army.
In matters of the Vatican-Moscow Agreement, the Blue Army seemed to be almost too agreeable, too eager to toe the party line. Its new sense of compromise, its currying of favor with the Secretariat of State earned it the epithet — The “Bl'Army”, and the chunk of the Berlin wall enshrined in glass on the edge of the Fatima shrine's esplanade — the “Bl'Army Stone”.
Father Gruner and Soul and the leadership of the Blue Army had gotten along very well in the beginning. An occasion for collaboration in the early '80s demonstrates the case clearly: For years the International Council of the Blue Army had observed the fragmentation of its leadership in several countries, Canada among them. John Haffert in Soul magazine wrote: “At first we attributed Canadian fragmentation to French-English differences. But as we look back over thirty years of experience, many other factors emerge ...”
In January 1980, Mr. Setz-Degan, the International Secretary, invited Father Gruner to the Blue Army meeting in Rome to help the International Council resolve problems in Canada. Father Leoni, chairman of the Blue Army in Montreal, was not able to be there, but Father Nick Gruner was. Asked his opinion of Father Leoni, by the vice president of the Blue Army, Monsignor Galamba, Father Gruner remembers answering, “He's a nice guy.”
In retrospect, it now seems what really lay behind the effort to unify the various Blue Army groups in Canada was the desire to bring every Fatima apostolate under the influence, if not control, of the Blue Army, which in turn would be controlled from the top through the Vatican's Secretary of State.
Father Gruner's instinct was to aid in the effort to create a unified Fatima Apostolate in Canada. As was reported by John Haffert in Soul magazine, “Father Gruner ... gave an overall report of his meeting with various Canadian leaders.” (Gleaned from his touring the Pilgrim Virgin across Canada...)3
The Council Officers decided that Father Peter Leoni, President of the French Section in Montreal, “... be given full authority to bring the various factions in Canada together and to prepare a single National Executive Committee ...” with the help of Father Gruner, “whose proven devotion, availability for the work full time, and his ability to speak English, French and Italian made him the ideal choice.”
The Canadian leaders from Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa agreed to meet on January 17, 1981, at St. Mary's Cathedral rectory, Kingston, midpoint between the cities under the chairmanship of Father Leoni. One of the Canadian leaders, Mr. Wally Stafford, refused to go, holding to the position that he was already the Blue Army president of Canada.
A National Executive of the Blue Army in Canada was formed with full power to form a national center, to publish its own magazine, to call for recognition from all Blue Army Centres in English-speaking Canada and to establish Toronto as the National Blue Army Centre in Canada for the time being, with Father Nicholas Gruner being chosen President of the National Executive Committee in English-speaking Canada.
In July of 1981, the Blue Army met in its Fatima headquarters for the election of officers for its international organization. Although the meeting had been planned for some time, it was conducted in the traumatic climate immediately following the attempted murder of the pope.
At the time, Father Gruner, with one secretary, was occupied full time with the Apostolate, working out of a small, cramped office in the ground floor of a monastery in Ottawa. In advance of this gathering, Father Leoni, (President of the Blue Army in Montreal), after a visit to the Pro-Nuncio, Msgr. Palmas, in Ottawa, paid a call on Father Gruner and insisted in a friendly manner that he accompany Leoni to Fatima, offering him one of the two votes allotted to Canadian delegates that year.
Father Gruner was unprepared for a trip to Fatima at that exact moment, to the point of not even having a current passport. Leoni, however, insisted, offering to pay Gruner's way, including the hotel expenses. Father Gruner did not at first see the importance of it but a priest friend, Father Victor Soroka, advised him to go.
Neither of them could possibly have dreamed that the long arm of the locket cult was already stretching ahead of them, all the way to Fatima. Unknown to Father Gruner, Father Leoni was carrying a letter in his pocket indirectly connected through its writers to the locket cult, a poison pen manifesto of former disgruntled volunteers.
It would be a summer of confusion and crisis. It seemed that the progress Father Gruner was making in serving the cause of Fatima was eliciting nameless and faceless opposition. Just before leaving for the Fatima meeting, he was informed by a priest serving in the diocese of Avellino, where he himself was incardinated, that word was out that he, Father Gruner, was about to be suspended.
Once again, as seemed to be becoming habitual, the enemies of Fatima were guaranteeing that his attention would be divided at crucial moments in the history of the Apostolate.
Father Leoni and Father Gruner flew together from Montreal, landing first in the Azores, then proceeding on to the mainland and to Fatima. Seated together, they talked for about ten hours throughout the trip. What was not spoken about, however, was that a meeting had recently been conducted from which Father Gruner had been excluded, at the insistence of John Haffert, and decisions made in the Kingston, January meeting had been overturned.
Monday, in Fatima, Father Leoni rose to announce not only in his own name, but also in the name of Father Gruner, certain supposed changes from the January meeting in Kingston. Listening to Father Leoni, Father Gruner now realized that the trip to Fatima was intended to get him to acquiesce to these unauthorized changes.
Father Leoni also had another card to play. In the event that Father Nicholas Gruner should be nominated as a candidate for any position during the elections, Father Leoni had come prepared. The coup-de-grace to any such plans was in his pocket. Taking Father Gruner aside at one juncture, Father Leoni informed him that he was carrying a letter, received in Canada, that contained accusations by some disgruntled persons in Ottawa. Father Gruner and Father Soroka had already replied in person to these libels sent to Father Leoni several months earlier. Father Leoni had indicated his satisfaction then but now he was going to use this letter as a concocted blackmail weapon to make Father Gruner conform to Father Leoni's orders. A rear-guard action, and relentless phone calls to the Pro-Nuncio by Father Gruner's White Army opponents in Ottawa, had brought the ugliness of Ottawa politics to Fatima. ‘The Letter’, Leoni stated, ‘would be revealed if necessary.’ Later on the letter writers were to become plaintiffs against Father Gruner but all three of them dropped their claims.
‘The letter’ ploy is one well known to anyone who has tried to establish an apostolate in the service of the Church. Pious opportunists, poison pen letters, the telephone, are the nemesis of many a volunteer organization. This ‘letter’ had been circulated with the thoroughness at which poison pen letter writers are wont to excel, one copy of it having gone to the Nuncio in Ottawa.
Father Gruner was compelled to resume a familiar role, that of measuring and weighing the procedures of the elections as in the seminary days in Rome several years earlier. In attendance were some illustrious veterans of the Cold War. One of the more notable, Bishop Constantine Luna, had been a prisoner of the Red Chinese in 1951. Father Peter Leoni himself had been in a Communist prison in Russia in 1955. Yet, in spite of their histories both were, from their vantage points within the Blue Army, supporting the Vatican-Moscow Agreement forged from the 1962 meeting of Nikodim and Tisserant.
When it came to the issue of elections, three names were nominated for the post of president — Luigi Scalafora, (the future president of the Republic of Italy), Father John Power, from Ireland, and Bishop Luna. In what seemed a clearly overt attempt to control and direct the voting, some twenty plus delegates who had been guaranteed a vote were disenfranchised when Mr. Setz-Degan and John Haffert announced the vote would be limited to one vote per country instead of the two. Setz-Degan, as international secretary, had formally promised, in writing, there would be two votes per country, in the official notice of the meeting, dated January 1981, six months prior to the meeting.4
To this obvious infraction Father Gruner voiced a legal objection on constitutional grounds, speaking in English, French and Italian.
In response to Setz-Degan's appeal to break the rules again, the famous Spanish priest and Fatima archivist, Father Alonso, rose and spoke out plainly and with controlled but obvious anger. He told all present they could not change the rules in mid stream. After Father Alonso spoke, they held a second ballot and gave 15 votes to Bishop Luna.
Later, Father Gruner, himself, was nominated for one of the next ranking positions. It was then that Father Leoni pulled out the letter in question and told him that, if he ran, he, Father Leoni, would make public ‘the false letter' causing sufficient confusion to lose the vote.
So Bishop Luna was finally elected with a majority after several ballots. That he would toe the party line, play down the worldwide petition campaigns to the Pope for the consecration of Russia, do nothing to upset the directives coming from the Secretary of State, was proven later in an all-day meeting between Father Gruner and John Haffert in the spring of 1985. Haffert was an open admirer of Cardinal Tisserant, prime architect of the Vatican-Moscow Agreement. Father Gruner offered to publish a positive news story on Cardinal Tisserant in The Fatima Crusader magazine in exchange for Haffert restoring in Soul magazine, the campaign of petitions for the Consecration of Russia. Haffert replied, “I can't. Luna won't let me.”
Had the Blue Army by that time been subverted by the Secretariat of State to the point where it had lost its independence? There was no way to prove it. Father Gruner, however, resigned in protest from the organization.
In 1986, the President of the Cleveland, Ohio division of the Blue Army also resigned over the illegal maneuvers used to keep the National Council of the Blue Army from discussing and resolving to promote the Consecration of Russia. He said “It is quite apparent that the Blue Army is controlled by a few entrenched people and is not governed according to its constitution.” The facts surrounding this continued to raise suspicions in this regard.
The attempt to silence Father Gruner with the letter-in-the-pocket trick, no doubt, at other times in Church history, had sent other priests running for cover, never to be heard from again. The attempt was a study in the arrogance of old power, power corrupted from being too long in office, revealed in the tired tactics of men who were unaccustomed to being challenged. They presumed one opponent of the Vatican-Moscow Agreement had thus been dispensed with. They presumed too much.
Rome, August, 1981. Within days of the Blue Army meeting Father Gruner was in the Eternal City, following up a letter of appeal sent through Father John Magee, at that time personal private secretary to the Pope. It was intended for John Paul II. It was read to him in the hospital in early summer, 1981.
Before Father Gruner's letter reached the Pope, His Holiness was already learning more about Fatima. Pope John Paul II had sent for and read the Secret of Fatima immediately after an assassin's shot rang out in the Piazza of St. Peter's on May 13, 1981.5 The exacting requirements of the terms of the Consecration of Russia that would, apparently, ward off the consequences of the Third Secret were also detailed to him at that time.6
As Abbé Caillon, head of the Blue Army in France, explains: “The question of the consecration of Russia to be made by the Pope in union with the bishops is governed by two texts written by Lucy a long time ago. The first important text: ‘The Good God promises to make an end of the persecution in Russia if the Holy Father deigns to make, and orders to be made, by all the bishops of the Catholic world, a solemn and public act of reparation and consecration of Russia to the Most Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and if, in return for the end of this persecution, His Holiness promises to approve and to recommend the practice of reparatory devotion (the Five First Saturdays).’
“Lucy gave this text to her confessor, the Portuguese Jesuit Father Gonçalves, on May 29, 1930. As Father Gonçalves posed still further questions, Lucy gave him another text a fortnight later, on June 12, 1930, along exactly the same lines. As for the Bishop of Leiria, Msgr. da Silva, he decided to write to Pius XI in March 1937 reproducing exactly what she had said. This text is therefore beyond all doubt.” Father Caillon continues:
“Let us recall that between 1929 and 1939, Stalin was at the apogee of his cruelty. All the Russians whom one met in Paris or elsewhere, at that time, spoke with one and the same voice, in effect saying: ‘Lenin was responsible for 20 million corpses in seven years; Stalin has been responsible for 46 million in 29 years; i.e. a total of 66 million corpses. Lenin is therefore worse than Stalin.’
“Pius XI was therefore informed in 1937 of the duty of effecting the collegial Consecration of Russia. He did not do so. And we have had corpses in tens of millions.
“In May 1936, in the course of an intimate communication, Lucy asked Our Lord why He would not convert Russia without these two so difficult conditions: that Russia should be the sole object of the consecration; and that this consecration should be made by all the bishops of the world, on the same day, each bishop doing so in his own cathedral in a solemn public ceremony.
“Our Savior replied: ‘Because I wish all of My Church to recognize this consecration as a triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in order, thereafter, to extend and place alongside devotion to My Divine Heart, devotion to this Immaculate Heart.’
“Lucy replied: ‘But, my God, the Holy Father will not believe me if You do not move him by special inspiration.’
“Christ replied: ‘The Holy Father! Pray much for the Holy Father. He will do it, but it will be late! However, the Immaculate Heart of Mary will save Russia. It has been entrusted to Her’.”7
It has been broadly reported that Pope John Paul II wept when he read these lines shortly after the attempt on his life.
The Pope, at the time Father Gruner presented the letter to Msgr. Magee, had returned to the Gemelli hospital for further rest after initially being discharged. As Msgr. Magee testified later, he read the contents of Father Gruner's 15-page letter to the Pope. The letter outlined the threat of “suspension” that Father Gruner had been subjected to, and the fact that there was no crime committed and only anonymous accusers. The pressure was being applied against him by nameless bishops of various ranks who were against Our Lady of Fatima. Father Gruner's letter had concluded with a promise to correct any errors if there were any with a reminder that he could not stop spreading the truth just because he was subjected to political pressure.8 The letter was sent by the Pope to the Secretary of State who sent it to the Congregation for the Clergy.
Father Gruner then proceeded to the Congregation to find out, in person, why he was being harassed. At that time, Msgr. Usai was the official in charge of the file. He told Father Gruner that it was not the Congregation that wanted to intervene, that, in fact, the Congregation was really not interested in the matter, but that the Pro-Nuncio to Canada had spoken face-to-face with its head, Cardinal Oddi, about him. Msgr. Palmas apparently had told Cardinal Oddi that no Canadian bishop would have Father Gruner. (Prior and subsequent facts demonstrated that Msgr. Palmas' claim was false.) Msgr. Palmas had strongly urged therefore that Father Gruner should be made to return to Italy.9
Father Gruner immediately sought out his bishop, Pasquale Venezia, who had incardinated him in Avellino. Bishop Venezia also made clear that it was the Pro-Nuncio, Msgr. Palmas, (and by extension the Secretary of State) who was interfering with his efforts to find a benevolent bishop.10
When Bishop Venezia was asked by Father Gruner to make a contract between Father Gruner, Bishop Venezia and a benevolent bishop, for a period of five years, Bishop Venezia said he could not do that. “The Nuncio,” (meaning Msgr. Palmas) “will not let me do that.”
Father Gruner returned to Rome to speak to the third in command at the Congregation for the Clergy, Under-Secretary Msgr. Gugliermo Zannoni. Msgr. Zannoni told him, “The Pro-Nuncio cannot forbid your bishop from making a contract with you and another bishop — it is none of his business. It is strictly a matter for you and the two bishops concerned.”11
Nevertheless, the pressure brought by Msgr. Palmas on Bishop Pasquale Venezia held. It would result, from 198l to 1989, in Father Gruner not being allowed to find, without hindrance, a benevolent bishop to incardinate him.12 Still, during most of this time, he obtained faculties from local bishops to preach and hear confessions.13
1. Correspondence between Father Gruner and Archbishop Palmas.
2. Hamish Fraser, Fatal Star, Long Prairie, Neuman Press, 1986, pg. 159
3. New Hope For the Fatima Apostolate in Canada, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 6, Christmas 1980, pgs. 13-15.
4. Letter of invitation to delegates with original signature officially signed by Albert Setz-Degan, International Secretary of the Blue Army, dated Jan. 31, 1981, sent from Basel, Switzerland.
5. Frère François de Marie des Anges, Fatima: Tragedy and Triumph, first edition, pg. 153.
7. Frère François de Marie des Anges, Fatima: The Only Way To World Peace, pg. 91.
8. Letter of Father Gruner to Pope John Paul II, June, 1981, on file with Father Gruner's personal records.
9. Father Nicholas Gruner, Father Gruner's Letter to Cardinal Innocenti, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 29, Sept-Nov. 1989, pg. 35.
10. Father Nicholas Gruner, Canonical Recourse to The Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 53, Summer 1996, pg. 23.
11. Fr. Gruner's Letter to Cardinal Innocenti, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 29, Sept-Nov. 1989, pg. 35.
13. Written faculties from Archdiocese of Ottawa; of St. Catharines, and others for various times in the 1970's and 1980's are still on file with Father Gruner's personal records. Also present on file are faculties given in the 1990's.