The Scaffold Rises
It is an oft-repeated fact of history that one single individual working out of one single room can change the course of history. St. Philip Neri, St. Therese of Lisieux, Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, Alexander Graham Bell, Edison, Marx, Lenin.
Father Gruner had made his entrance onto the international stage and the Message of Fatima was being spread around the globe as a result. The conditions under which all this was being generated deserve special note.
From the very beginning, volunteers invited to undertake key roles were overwhelmed by the Apostolate's need for the basic necessities. This was not merely an operation with its ribs showing, this was one of bare bones for everyone.
Jane McAuley, who met Father Gruner on his tour with the Pilgrim Statue in Niagara Falls in May of 1983, answered his call for help and soon found herself arriving at the Ottawa bus terminal later that year, at 5:30 on a July morning, with nothing but his phone number on a scrap of paper to indicate what the future might hold.
He was living and working out of four small rooms on Rochester Street, two up, two down. She remembers the windows were covered with a faded purple material someone had given him.
“I'm not in Purgatory yet,” was her first remark.
Working conditions seemed to contradict her words. He had a small workroom for himself with a desk or two, the kitchen housed three filing cabinets, a refrigerator, teacher's table, an oil stove and sink with a chipped mirror cabinet. Her new boss ate one meal a day.
Forces natural and supernatural gnawed at the nerves of the workers on a daily, hourly basis. The Old Boy with the red tail was always on the hunt to get the volunteers in-fighting, fill the rooms with tension, jettison patience, crave escape from co-workers. And the devil was not above staging a little high drama.
And so she did, but not before glimpsing an image that has stayed with her to this day.
Down and dirty melodrama, however, didn't need the devil as executive producer. It came quite readily from one of those piety-dripping antagonists who lurk on the fringe of new Apostolates, bent on destroying them if the game is not played their way. This particular individual, infamous for shredding the reputation of priests who failed to recognize that person's habitually self-confessed sanctity, adopted the strategy of following Jane around town.
The tactic is a familiar one, a staple maneuver of the pious assassin who feels compelled to let people know they are being watched and considered ‘suspect’ in an attempt to unnerve them. But it didn't work.
By mid 1984, though no one knew it at the time, the later relocation of the Apostolate from Ottawa to Fort Erie, Ontario, (across Lake Erie from Buffalo, New York) was being initiated by people and circumstances in small, seemingly insignificant ways.
Coralie Graham, editor of The Fatima Crusader, describes the preliminaries leading up to the move.
They went to Ottawa to see what his set-up there was like. It was as Jane McAuley had described it — bleak.
Father Gruner went through a period of doubt about moving to Fort Erie and for a time considered crossing into the States to work out of Constable, New York instead. Jane McAuley encouraged him to choose Fort Erie, adding that her relatives there also would act as volunteers.
In March of 1985, they moved the office to Fort Erie and Father Gruner followed a month later.
Coralie Graham recalls the early days after the move:
There were major disappointments along the way. The Apostolate wanted to put in an offer to buy an abandoned school in Crystal Beach, not far from Fort Erie. At first they were stopped by the Town which was about to claim special privileges and purchase it for themselves so they could give it to a group in Fort Erie. Their plan was contested as contrary to law and abuse of municipal privileges. The town then withdrew.
The Apostolate was told the suggested price for the school but a private consultant counselled to bid higher as the building and property were worth much more. The counsel was followed and a bid was made for several thousand dollars higher than the suggested figure.
The next day, the Apostolate found that the purchase was awarded to another group who bid a mere forty-five dollars more than the Apostolate despite the thousands of dollars difference between their bid and the suggested price. This was suspicious, particularly as the Apostolate was denied the right to be present for the opening of the bids.
Father and the staff learned to measure how effective an issue of The Fatima Crusader was going to be by the amount of trouble encountered getting it out. Every Crusader worked on was beset by crises. They felt very close to the Curé of Ars. The very day they would decide to start on a Crusader pandemonium would ensue — staff off sick, water pipes burst, furnace breaking down, vehicles breaking down, the entire ceiling leaking from a torrential rainfall — once it was so bad they hired two students to empty trash cans full of water throughout the night. The electricity has been outed by storms — Father Gruner has worked on the Crusader by the light of vigil candles propped up on soft drink cans. When machines wouldn't work, the staff would tape a Miraculous Medal or St. Benedict Medal to them , have Father bless them, and they would start up again.
The editor of the Crusader recounts:
It is also a fact of history that the intensity of opposition directed at people who work for Our Lady is in direct proportion to the effectiveness of their efforts. The efforts to confuse and control Father Gruner's Apostolate were a mirror image of the confusion that was attempting to distort Our Lady's Message worldwide.
The Blue Army has long held an emotional hammerlock on the hearts of believing Catholics who remember when it started in 1947 and was the only voice promoting the Message. It still remains a formidable foe of the critics because of the historical sentiment that it earned from supporters over the decades.
In the early '80s, however, it appeared the Blue Army was losing its characteristic independence and fortitude. Most evident in their change of attitude was the manner in which, to the exacting demands of Heaven for the consecration, they suddenly applied a sort of political relativism.
In extracts from an interview with Sister Lucy, published September 1985 in Sol de Fatima (the magazine of the Spanish section of the Blue Army) the Fatima Secret was considered in the light of events unfolding within the Church in 1985. The article was a vital one. The bogus interview of Sister Lucy in the 1982 Soul Magazine1 had already been exposed and ridiculed by Abbé Caillon and Father Paul Leonard,2 among others.3
Extract From The Interview:
Published September 1985 in Sol de Fatima, Spain.
Question: At what moment of the Fatima mystery do we find ourselves?
Sister Lucy: I think we are living in the time when Russia is spreading its errors throughout the world.
Question: By that, are we to understand that Russia will take possession of the whole world?
Sister Lucy: Yes.
Question: John Paul II had invited all the bishops to join in the consecration of Russia, which he was going to make at Fatima on 13 May, 1982 and which he was to renew at the end of the Holy Year in Rome on 25 March, 1984, before the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Has he not therefore done what was requested at Tuy?
Sister Lucy: There was no participation of all the bishops, and there was no mention of Russia.
Question: So the consecration was not done as requested by Our Lady?
Sister Lucy: No. Many bishops attached no importance to this act.
So stood Fortress Blue Army before it underwent some fundamental changes in direction in 1985-86. The changes took place against the backdrop of very definite and very specific concerns of the Holy Father. Hamish Fraser explained:
Why then has it not been properly done?
Why are the bishops resisting Our Lady of Fatima? Once again Hamish Fraser provides a stunning explanation.
Hamish continues, “The Pope's fear is grounded in his realization that material episcopal schism is already widespread in various parts of the world ... at a time when great numbers of the bishops are obsessed with the notion of collegiality, nothing rouses many of them to greater fury than to be reminded that the Queen of Heaven has demanded that, together with the Holy Father, they collegially consecrate Russia to Her Immaculate Heart.
Hamish stated this in November 1985 at the first Fatima conference sponsored by Father Gruner held in Vatican City. Much has happened in the Church and the world in the past eleven years to change the bishops' attitude toward the Consecration of Russia. Not the least of which is the ongoing campaign by Father Gruner and his associates to inform the bishops about Our Lady of Fatima's command to them to consecrate Russia.
Hamish died in October 1986. No doubt today some bishops are still influenced against the Consecration for the motives Hamish outlines above. Nevertheless had he still been alive today, he might be inclined to conclude, as Father Gruner has from his extensive correspondence and personal visits with bishops, together with their participation in the Bishops' Conferences, that once properly informed about Fatima, most of the bishops would, in fact, join the Holy Father in consecrating Russia, if asked by him to do so. This point of view was publicly upheld by Archbishop Milingo in his talk at the Fatima Peace Conference for Bishops held in Mexico in November 1994.
In 1985-1986, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, “semi-official” sources and the Blue Army began to publish and insist that the consecration had at last been completed as of March 25, 1984, in Rome.
Why then, with all the evidence available, does the Blue Army continue to spread confusion? It would seem that the Blue Army had been infiltrated and compromised. According to Father Paul Leonard: “The leadership of the World Apostolate of Fatima (alias Blue Army) has stubbornly and impenitently falsified Our Lady's message, in their unholy campaign to bring the Fatima message in line with the Vatican-Moscow Agreement.”8
The March/April 1986 Issue of Soul Magazine, on page 22, states, “The Collegial Consecration (was) ... made with the bishops of the world by Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square on March 25, 1984 ... There the Pope in union with all the bishops of the world made the consecration to Mary's Immaculate Heart. As requested in the apparition of June 13, 1929.
Then, on page 9 of the same issue Soul Magazine states: “The Holy Father proceeded to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary ... in compliance with the request of Our Lady when She said ‘I will ask for the consecration of the world to My Immaculate Heart ...’”9
In view of the publication of such an obvious misrepresentation of the known facts, Father Paul Leonard, encouraged by Father Gruner, hastened to the defense of Our Lady, stating dramatically and emphatically that Our Lady never asked for the consecration of the world but clearly specified Russia. Father Paul Leonard saw the reasoning behind the misrepresentation in stark terms:
“Our Lady's real Fatima Message has been suppressed because it is at variance with Cardinal Casaroli's ... pro-Communist Vatican-Moscow Ostpolitik.”10
The point that Father Paul Leonard Kramer makes also is that this misinformation is deliberate so as to inject enough confusion into the consecration issue11 as to dissipate the laity, so that there be no groundswell of support for the Pope. In accord with Father Kramer is Father Joseph de Sainte-Marie, who said about the consecration confusion caused by the Blue Army and Soul Magazine in 1982/83: “Until now, they have given rise to confusion of mind, division of hearts and the dissipation of forces.”12
Their sowing of confusion — said Father Paul Leonard of the Blue Army leadership: is “cunningly conceived to achieve a hidden but nevertheless very definite purpose to put an end to the public campaign for the Collegial Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”13
It seemed even the most highly respected of American bishops, when under the Blue Army mantle, felt obliged to direct the faithful away from Our Lady's dramatic demand to the hierarchy for the consecration and to instead place the onus on the faithful who are already obeying Our Lady. U.S. Blue Army President, Bishop Jerome J. Hastrich, in Soul Magazine March/April, 1984, page 5 stated: “... We might pray explicitly for Russia if we wish to do so, but in our public message ... avoid upsetting the delicate balance of international affairs which the Holy See is trying so hard to control and direct.” So there we have it. According to Bishop Hastrich, it seems we must desist from working for the fulfillment of Our Lady's request so as not to offend the Communists, or even Russians who are not Christians, who would resent the notion that they are in need of conversion.
In a statement that would make them few friends in the Vatican, Fathers Gruner and Paul Leonard responded with the following summary, “The Blue Army has been turned into an instrument of Cardinal Casaroli's Vatican-Moscow Ostpolitik which would prohibit the Pope and bishops from fulfilling Our Lady of Fatima's request for the sake of the shortsighted politics of appeasement, compromise and surrender to Communism.”
Father Gruner continued to press home his main point throughout: God demands the solemn public act of Consecration of Russia by the Pope and all the bishops of the world. God insists upon this solemn act in our time.14
The Vatican-Moscow Agreement in fact had raised a drawbridge between the Blue Army and Father Gruner's Apostolate.
“We cannot agree with Mr. John Haffert that the Vatican has outsmarted Moscow in this agreement and that, because of this agreement, the Church is better off,” said Father Gruner.15
“Communism is conducting more than just a war of ideas. It is a total war on all fronts against God ...16
“The fight by the militant atheists of the East and West converges upon the Catholic Church. Both concentrate their efforts towards drawing the faithful away from the practice of their faith, away from the Word of God, from prayer and the Sacraments, the means of Grace necessary to save our souls.”17
Father Paul Leonard added, “Cardinal Casaroli, who as Secretary of State is at the head of the entire Vatican diplomatic corps, still adheres to the Vatican-Moscow Agreement. He recently demonstrated this when he made it clear that he had no responsibility for the anti-Communist content of the Instruction on Liberation Theology issued on September 3, 1984, by Cardinal Ratzinger and he denied that he was even consulted about the Instruction.”18
Blue Army President for the U.S., Bishop Hastrich stated in that March/April, 1984 Issue of Soul Magazine (which came out before the 1984 consecration) that instead of praying for the conversion of Russia, “... We are rather to pray that members of the Blue Army would so pray and fast that they themselves might be thoroughly converted ... to pray for the ‘conversion’ of Russia may seem like waving a red flag in front of a bull ... and so it might be more prudent to pray for peace in the world.”
So intense was the craving to have the campaign for the Consecration over and done with, the wishful thinkers were willing to overlook anything the Soviets did. Or said. In late November 1986 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in a speech in Tashkent, called for a ‘firm and uncompromising struggle against religious phenomena’. So much for change in the Soviet Union. So much for the conversion of Russia. So much for the 1984 consecration.
Gorbachev declared, “We must be strict above all with Communists and senior officials, particularly those who say they defend our morality and ideals but in fact help promote backward views and themselves take part in religious ceremonies.”19
The timing of the speech and the location reflected Moscow's concern for the Islamic fundamentalist revival, Tashkent being the center of a predominantly Islamic population. Knowing the media's fondness for Gorbachev, it was no surprise that they failed to publicize this gaffe in the General Secretary's otherwise smooth public utterances. Yet imagine the headlines if he had made his pronouncement in, say, Rome itself.
There can be little doubt that even those bishops still entranced by the disorientations resulting from the Vatican-Moscow Agreement would have found reasons to applaud Gorbachev's speech.
In response, Father Gruner's message has, in recent years, become increasingly more pointed. He says... “ONLY Our Lady can help us as She, Herself clearly emphasized at Fatima. Only when the Pope and the bishops obey the request given at Fatima by consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the same time in a solemn and public manner, can there be peace. There surely is no other solution whatsoever.”
By the mid-1980's, then, Father Gruner had fixed a course for himself and the apostolate which would bring them within the ambit of the Vatican bureaucracy's radar. In fact, the surveillance had already begun.
1. Father Pierre Caillon, op. cit. , pgs. 22-23.
2. Father Paul Leonard, The Plot To Silence Our Lady, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 20, June-July 1986, pgs. 9-13; also Father Paul Leonard, The Vatican-Moscow Agreement Has Silenced Our Lady, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 22, April-May 1987, pgs. 12-15; also Father Paul Leonard, The Blue Army Leadership Has Followed a Deliberate Policy of Falsifying the Fatima Message, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 22, April-May 1987, pgs. 26-28.
3. Father Joseph de Sainte-Marie's January 16, 1983 Letter to Hamish Fraser; published in The Fatima Crusader, Issue 13-14, Oct-Dec 1983, pgs. 10-13.
4. Hamish Fraser, Address to International Fatima Rosary Crusade Symposium, Vatican City, Nov. 24, 1985, published in The Fatima Crusader, Issue 19, Feb-April 1986, pg. 7.
5. Ibid, pg. 13.
6. Ibid, pg. 13.
7. Ibid, pgs. 13-14.
8. Father Paul Leonard, The Vatican-Moscow Agreement Has Silenced Our Lady, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 22, April-May 1987, pg. 12.
9. Soul magazine, March-April 1986, pg. 9, cited in The Fatima Crusader, Issue 22, April-May 1987, pg. 12.
10. Father Paul Leonard, The Vatican-Moscow Agreement Has Silenced Our Lady, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 22, April-May 1987, pg. 13.
11. Ibid pgs. 12-15; also, Father Paul Leonard, The Blue Army Leadership has Followed a Deliberate Policy of Falsifying the Fatima Message, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 22, April-May 1987, pgs. 12-15, 26-28.
12. Père Joseph de Sainte-Marie, Letter to Hamish Fraser, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 13-14, Oct-Dec 1983, pg. 10.
13. Father Paul Leonard, The Vatican-Moscow Agreement Has Silenced Our Lady, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 22, April-May 1987, pg. 12.
14. Father Nicholas Gruner, World Enslavement or Peace ... It's Up To the Pope, Fort Erie, Canada, Fatima Crusader Publications, 1988. This book is a well-documented source of information to gain an indepth understanding of this vital point.
15. The Catholic Church Be trayed, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 17, Feb-April 1985, pg. 7.
16. Ibid, pg. 9.
17. Ibid, pg. 10.
18. Father Paul Leonard, The Blue Army Leadership has Followed a Deliberate Policy of Falsifying the Fatima Message, The Fatima Crusader, Issue 22, April-May 1987, pg. 27.
19. Mikhail Gorbachev, Speech in Tashkent, Richard N. Ostling, Time Magazine, Jan. 12, 1987; also published in the Uzbek daily Pravda Vostoka, and the report was cited in the Keston College News Service of December 11, 1986.