A Reply to Bishop Campbell’s
by Christopher A. Ferrara
It has recently come to our attention that in a column in his diocesan newspaper, Bishop Colin Campbell launched a public attack on Father Nicholas Gruner, his Fatima apostolate, and the recently published biography of Father Gruner entitled Fatima Priest.
While the article in question may not be all that significant in itself because it appeared in only one diocesan newspaper, it does involve recurring themes which arise in similar attacks on Father Gruner and the apostolate. Thus, we believe the article merits a public reply at some length.
The bishop’s attack is based almost entirely on a "quotation" of Father Gruner taken from Fatima Priest. But the book itself clearly attributes the quotation in question, not to Father Gruner, but to a layman with whom he disagrees! What is more, the bishop misstates one of the most basic elements of the Message of Fatima, and he seems to know little or nothing about Father Gruner’s actual views on the subject.
Is Bishop Campbell the author of this deceptive piece of attack-journalism which bears his name? Or was it the work of a slick public relations man, trained to ignore the facts and create false impressions? Read the reply and decide for yourself.
On October 29, 1997 a most unusual article was published in The Casket, the diocesan newspaper of Bishop Colin Campbell of the Diocese of Antigonish. In a column entitled "Dialogue", there appears under the bishop’s name a front-page public attack on Father Nicholas Gruner, his work in promoting the Message of Fatima, and the recently published biography of Father Gruner by Francis Alban, entitled Fatima Priest.
Justice requires that the article be answered in the public forum because it contains public calumny of a Catholic priest, serious misrepresentations of fact and manifestly dubious theological advice on the Message of Fatima which contradicts the Pope’s own teaching.
There is nothing unusual about the article’s repetition of the usual anti-Fatima bromide that "Fatima, like all such events, is a private revelation ... No Catholic is bound to believe the Message of Fatima or to follow its pieties." The Pope himself heartily disagrees with that assertion. At Fatima, His Holiness publicly declared that the whole Church is obliged to heed the requests of Our Lady of Fatima. And on the same occasion he publicly thanked Our Lady of Fatima for saving his life during the assassination attempt of May 13, 1981 — the very anniversary of Our Lady’s first apparition at Cova da Iria in 1917.
What is remarkable about the article is that a bishop, whom one would expect to be an example of fairness and thorough scholarship, would attack Father Gruner on the strength of a single "quotation" from Fatima Priest which was actually uttered by a layman whose opinion Father Gruner does not share, as the book itself explains only a few lines later. It is also most remarkable that a bishop would misstate completely the most basic element of the Message of Fatima — its call for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which he confuses with a consecration of the world in general.
In the course of preparing this reply there arose a reasonable suspicion that its author may not be Bishop Campbell at all, but some member of his staff (perhaps a public relations man) whose acquaintance with the subject of Fatima is minimal. It is apparent the author of this anti-Fatima diatribe has little concern for his subject matter and is merely using the publication of Fatima Priest as a pretext for launching a few gratuitous calumnies against Father Gruner.
A Feigned Impartiality
The attack begins by claiming that "I write this not to take sides, but to give direction ..." Yet only a few paragraphs later the bishop is not only taking sides, but savagely bashing Father Gruner as a priest who "does not follow the teaching of the Church", is guilty of "rage at the bishops for being disobedient and sinful", and who views the world episcopate as "a host of heretics."The bishop fails to produce a single fact to justify his accusations. Now, if Father Gruner were really a heterodox, bishop-hating ogre, it would have been a simple matter to convict him with his own words. Bear in mind that the bishop claims to have read Fatima Priest, a 342-page1 book full of information about Father Gruner’s life, his views, his speeches and his writings, including extensive interviews in which the whole range of Father Gruner’s thinking on Fatima is presented. Surely if Father Gruner were deserving of public condemnation, the bishop could have found the necessary evidence in Fatima Priest. Yet he points to no evidence in support of his charges. Not one quotation. Not one document. Nothing.
So much for our columnist’s claim that "I am not writing this to take sides ..." And so much for the "dialogue" promised in the title of his column. As we shall see, his feigned impartiality is nothing but a fig leaf which cannot conceal the bishop’s prejudice towards his subject.
A False Quotation
The bishop undoubtedly recognized that in the course of bashing Father Gruner he had to give at least some appearance of discussing the book which supposedly prompted his column. The problem for him, however, is that Fatima Priest makes a very powerful case in favor of Father Gruner and his work. As a matter of fact, the book’s extensive direct quotations of Father Gruner himself show that his views on Fatima and related subjects are sensible, balanced, supported by unimpeachable theological authorities and wholly Catholic. After all, Father Gruner has an advanced theological degree from the Angelicum in Rome, which he earned with highest honors even though Italian is his second language. In short, Father Gruner is a highly intelligent, well-educated, traditional Catholic priest.
Even Bishop Campbell is forced to concede that Fatima Priest "is very persuasive" in its presentation of Father Gruner’s story. Well, then, why does he not praise the book and congratulate author Francis Alban on a job well done? Perhaps it is because the bishop does not agree with Pope John Paul II "that the message of Fatima imposes an obligation on the Church."
He apparently does not want his readers to be persuaded in favor of Fatima obligations. He knows that Fatima Priest makes a compelling case. In short, he is interested in dissuading people from reading Father Gruner’s biography — precisely because it is so persuasive and compelling.
What to do? What to do? Animated perhaps by his anti-Fatima bias, the bishop seized upon a single admittedly controversial quote from the book without care or attention. He erroneously assumed it is Father Gruner who said it, and then condemned him for something he did not say and does not believe!
The bishop sets up the quotation he falsely attributes to Father Gruner by telling us that "Tact is not his [Father Gruner’s] middle name." To demonstrate that Father Gruner is a tactless fellow, Bishop Campbell, in his haste and aversion to Fatima, tells us to "try this quote from one of his writings." He then quotes the following passage from page 902 of Fatima Priest:
"To be perfectly blunt, if so far the Holy Father has not found it possible to fulfill the demands of the Queen of Heaven, it is because he realizes that, as a consequence of policies pursued by post-conciliar Nuncios and Apostolic Delegates, he now has to contend with a host of modernist bishops who are Catholic in name only."
Having presented this quote as the words of Father Gruner — from "his writings", you see — the bishop milks it for all it is worth. Waxing indignant, he declares that Father Gruner has insulted "a whole group of hard-working people", meaning the bishops. With royal disdain he sniffs: "That there are some liberal bishops, yes ... But a host of heretics? Well, I ask you!" My word, ladies and gentlemen, just who does this Father Gruner think he is? Boo! Hiss!
But there is something the bishop does not tell his readers: The quotation is not from the "writings" of Father Gruner, but the writings of Hamish Fraser. And only a few paragraphs later (on page 913) Fatima Priest explains that Father Gruner does not agree with Hamish Fraser’s quoted opinion about the bishops. The passage reads:
"No doubt some bishops today are influenced against the Consecration for the motives Hamish outlines ... 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 ..."
Even a cursory reader of pp. 902-913 of Fatima Priest could not fail to notice that the quote on page 902 is attributed to Hamish Fraser, not Father Gruner, precisely for the purpose of pointing out five paragraphs later that Father Gruner does not believe that the bishops are all modernists, but on the contrary is convinced that the world episcopate would assist in the Consecration of Russia if asked to do so by the Pope.
In fact, one of the basic points of Fatima Priest is Father Gruner’s firm conviction that the bishops are quite receptive to the Message of Fatima once they are given sufficient information about it. To prove this, Father Gruner cites expressions of support for the Consecration which his apostolate has received from more than 1,200 bishops around the world. Furthermore, Father Gruner has always maintained—and this too is a basic point of Fatima Priest—that it is not the bishops as a whole who reject the Consecration, but a few Vatican bureaucrats who exercise tremendous influence over the daily governance of the Church.
Alban argues that these elements in the Vatican bureaucracy are impeding the definitive Consecration of Russia because they deem it inexpedient and embarrassing for the Vatican to speak any longer of Russia’s conversion and the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The words "conversion" and "triumph", it seems, are not in the lexicon of the Vatican personnel who have administered Ostpolitik and world ecumenism since the Council.
Alban proves his point most tellingly in a chapter devoted to the so-called "Balamand Statement" of 1993. In that document the Vatican’s representative from the Secretary of State actually agreed that the Catholic Church would no longer seek the conversion of the Russian Orthodox to the Catholic Faith, and that the return of the Orthodox to Rome belongs to an "outdated ecclesiology". (See Chapter 13) Oh really? So, when Our Lady of Fatima called for the conversion of Russia, She was unaware that Her terminology would become "outdated" within a lifetime! As these Vatican bureaucrats would have it, the Mother of God was being shortsighted at Fatima! Given that Our Lady was only conveying the wishes of Our Lord Himself, the implications of the Balamand Statement are staggering. And this chapter in Fatima Priest is just one of many examples of the compelling documentation which the bishop never seems to get around to discussing in his ostensible review of the book. He discusses instead a single falsely attributed quotation.
A False Paraphrase
Let us be fair to the bishop, however. In addition to the one falsely attributed quotation from Fatima Priest, he did also provide a false paraphrase!
The bishop claims that in the book Father Gruner expresses the following conviction about himself: "For always, he says, he has been the guardian of orthodoxy and the teaching of the Church." Is that so? Now, where exactly did Father Gruner say that he, a lone priest from Canada, is the "guardian" of orthodoxy in the Church? Page number, please!
It should come as no surprise that there isn’t any page number to cite, because Father Gruner has never said any such thing—neither in Fatima Priest nor anywhere else. Being filled with manifest enmity toward his journalistic target, the bishop may have persuaded himself that this is how Father Gruner sees his role in the Church; but that does not give him the right to mislead his readers by placing his erroneous judgement of Father Gruner after the words "Father Gruner says."
By the way, this is not to deny that Father Gruner is one of the many guardians of orthodoxy who comprise what is commonly known as the Catholic priesthood. Perhaps Bishop Campbell has forgotten that every priest is called by God precisely to be a guardian of orthodoxy.
A Fundamental Blunder
Ah, but it gets even worse. Having condemned Father Gruner as a bishop-basher entirely on the basis of a fake quotation, the bishop continues his attack with a blunder so fundamental that we can rightly question his knowledge of the subject matter on which he is writing:
"Gruner’s (sic) main point is that the bishops are not obedient to the demands of Mary at Fatima. We must dedicate the world (our emphasis) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in union with the Holy Father. Mary has ordered this at Fatima."
To anyone with the least knowledge of Father Gruner’s views, the bishop’s attempt to explain his "main point" is nothing short of hilarious. If Father Gruner stands for anything, it is precisely the proposition that Our Lady of Fatima did not call for "dedication of the world" to Her Immaculate Heart, but rather the Consecration of Russia—and only Russia. As Our Lady said at Fatima: "The Holy Father will Consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted." Father Gruner has been driving home this crucial distinction for the past 20 years, yet the bishop—who purports to give an authoritative discussion of Father Gruner’s views—seems unaware of it.
In fact, the bishop has managed to overlook the dominant theme of the very book he claims to be reviewing: Father Gruner (along with millions of other Catholics) believes that those who claim the consecration of the world in general satisfies the requests of Our Lady of Fatima are dangerously wrong. The reason Father Gruner believes this is that for the past 69 years Sister Lucy, the last surviving Fatima seer, has affirmed over and over again (including a statement on the front page of L’Osservatore Romano) that Our Lady told her that Our Lord had specifically commanded the Consecration of Russia alone by the Pope in union with all the world’s bishops, and that only "by this means" would the world be spared a great chastisement in which "various nations will be annihilated."
A Mountain of Evidence Ignored
Nor is the bishop concerned about making even a weak stab at refuting the factual claims of Fatima Priest. Instead of addressing what the book actually says, he leans on the rickety rhetorical crutch of the man without an argument. He simply asserts that there must be another side to the story: "Anyone with an ounce of wisdom knows that the most compelling story can fall apart when you get the other version of the events. It is very persuasive, but is it the whole truth?"
Well, does the bishop provide us with this "other version of events" which refutes the "compelling story" of Fatima Priest? Does he tell us "the whole truth"? Of course not. That is the whole point of his rhetorical device: He can refer portentously to "the other side of the story" and "the whole truth", say nothing more, and then leave the impression that he has refuted the book. The attentive reader will notice, however, that instead of providing the reasoned analysis and argumentation one would expect from a bishop who purports to have grave theological concerns about Father Gruner and his work, the bishop gives us nothing but a verbal trick.
Continuing to hobble along on his crutch, the bishop writes sarcastically that "Father Gruner’s great enemies throughout the book are the bureaucrats who assist the Holy Father in the operation of the Church." Well, what of it? Is it true or false that Vatican bureaucrats have acted unjustly in Father Gruner’s case, as the book claims? What does the bishop have to say about the evidence in the book?
The bishop has nothing to say. Instead, he merely suggests that it is ridiculous, just ridiculous, to contend that bureaucrats who "assist the Holy Father" could possibly be guilty of any wrongdoing which would warrant a serious reading of Fatima Priest. So, naturally, there is no need to examine the claims of the book.
But as "anyone with an ounce of wisdom" should know, if the bishop claims that there is "another version" of the events recounted in Fatima Priest then the burden is on him to prove it. And if the bishop had no contrary evidence to offer, then he had no business criticizing the book in the first place. Much less should he have publicly condemned the priest who is the subject of the book.
A fair-minded reader could not ignore the mountain of evidence presented in Fatima Priest to substantiate its claim that Father Gruner has been the victim of an unprecedented bureaucratic persecution by Cardinal Agustoni, Cardinal Sanchez, Archbishop Sepe and their collaborators in the Vatican tribunals. On page after page the book chronicles in painstaking detail a series of almost incredible abuses of power by these prelates, including the following:
- Issuing "off the record" correspondence directing the Bishop of Avellino to recall Father Gruner to Italy, without grounds, after an approved absence of many years, and to pretend that the recall was the bishop’s idea, not theirs.
- Secretly blocking Father Gruner’s incardination by three benevolent bishops who had offered him incardination in writing. Such interference by Vatican officials in the right of a bishop to incardinate a validly ordained priest is without parallel in the annals of canon law.
- Illicitly directing the Bishop of Avellino not to release Father Gruner to any other bishop under any circumstances. This interference in the right of a bishop to grant excardination to a priest who has found another bishop to accept him is likewise unparalleled.
- Providing "off the record" written instructions to the Bishop of Avellino about the specious grounds he was to cite for denying Father Gruner his right to excardination, and then upholding the same specious grounds on appeal. Imagine an appellate court which secretly tells the judge below how to rule, and then hears an appeal from the very ruling it secretly instructed the judge to make!
- Causing Father Gruner to be ordered back to Avellino for his alleged "failure" to be incardinated by another bishop, when it was they themselves who had prevented his incardination outside Avellino!
- Sitting as judges on Father Gruner’s canonical appeals and ruling in favor of their own illicit interventions against him.
- Refusing to remove themselves as judges in Father Gruner’s case when formally requested to do so on grounds of bias. In response to this request, they replied that Father Gruner was not entitled to an impartial judge in "administrative proceedings"!
- Circulating to every bishop in the world via the papal nuncios "notices" that no one should participate in any Marian conference organized by Father Gruner, thereby interdicting him throughout the Catholic Church without due process of canon law, even though neither he nor his apostolate has done anything wrong.
These and many more abuses of power are fully documented in the book’s 342 pages3, 270 footnotes and 20 appendices. Thus, it is not surprising that even a hostile party like Bishop Campbell is constrained to admit that Fatima Priest is "very persuasive" and "compelling." That is putting it mildly. The proof assembled in Fatima Priest is not merely "persuasive"; it is overwhelming and unanswerable.
Indeed, the prelates whose acts of persecution are documented in Fatima Priest have made no effort to rebut the claims of the book, even though those claims are also contained in a formal canonical lawsuit brought by Father Gruner and his apostolate against Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe under a section of the 1983 Code of Canon Law which permits canonical suits against prelates who abuse their authority. As Fatima Priest recounts, the Pope himself, who has sole jurisdiction over the suit under a related canon, was handed a copy of the suit on November 20, 1996. To date not one allegation of the canonical suit has been denied by Cardinal Sanchez or Archbishop Sepe. So much for "the other side of the story" to which our columnist alludes, but fails to present.
Fatima Priest observes that "no priest in living memory" has been subjected to the kind of worldwide harassment directed against Father Gruner—not even Hans Kung, who openly denies dogmas of the Faith and has publicly attacked the Pope as "imposing a despotic rule reminiscent of the Inquisition." Indeed, Kung remains a priest in good standing and was even praised recently in a public address by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State. Cardinal Sodano had the temerity to refer to Kung as "the German theologian", thereby disregarding the papal order of 1980 which stripped Kung of the right to call himself a theologian. As Vatican Secretary of State, Sodano is one of those Vatican bureaucrats who, as Bishop Campbell puts it, "assist the Holy Father in the operation of the Church." With "assistants" like these, is it any wonder the Church is in crisis?
As Fatima Priest shows, it is no coincidence that opposition to Father Gruner’s work originated in the office of the Vatican Secretary of State back in 1989, when the Bishop of Avellino complained to Father Gruner of "some worried signals" from the "State Secretary of (the) Holy Father". In the post-conciliar Church the Secretary of State exercises more day-to-day authority than the Pope himself—especially an ailing Pope near the end of his reign. Perhaps this is why Sodano made bold to bestow public praise on the same heretic who condemns the Pope as a despot.
Fatima Priest argues that this unprecedented abuse of a perfectly orthodox priest like Father Gruner can only be explained by the unwelcome message he conveys: the Message of Fatima, whose call for the conversion of Russia and the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is deemed embarrassing and impolitic by the Vatican emissaries who are now promoting (through the Vatican Secretary of State) such previously unheard of novelties as "interreligious dialogue", "world ecumenism" and an expanded role for the United Nations in the emerging New World Order, including the establishment of an International Criminal Court (ICC) with Vatican approval. (During the conference in Rome which resulted in the ICC treaty, UN Secretary General Koffi Anan met privately with Cardinal Sodano in the Vatican.) What else could explain the mobilization of a worldwide apparatus to hound and abuse a lone Marian priest from Canada, who has kept his vows, kept the faith and never committed any offense against the law of the Church?
But even here Fatima Priest does not rely simply on the author’s own conclusions. For example, the book quotes from a decree of incardination issued to Father Gruner by the Archbishop of Hyderabad, one of several benevolent prelates who have offered him incardination. The Archbishop’s heartfelt words to Father Gruner in his decree sum up perfectly what the evidence in Fatima Priest establishes beyond doubt:
"Evil forces have conspired to destroy your work of love. But you go ahead trusting in the Lord. ... Bureaucratic forces cannot stifle God’s work. It is my prayer that you continue in your God-given mission despite great opposition." (p. 195, softcover edition, p. 204 hardcover edition).
The book also recounts how Cardinal Sanchez and Archbishop Sepe illicitly attempted to countermand the Archbishop’s decree incardinating Father Gruner, in a blatant violation of canonical norms and priestly rights, not to mention the Archbishop’s jurisdiction over his own Archdiocese.
To sum up, Bishop Campbell’s condemnation of Father Gruner and Fatima Priest reduces to a few snide remarks, supported by nothing more than a single falsely attributed quotation and a laughable misstatement of Father Gruner’s most basic view on the Message of Fatima! And the reader is supposed to accept this flimsy, unsubstantiated piece of calumniation as the carefully considered "pastoral advice" of Bishop Campbell!
Twenty-three Prelates Endorse
Father Gruner and Fatima Priest
As if all this were not enough, Fatima Priest has been endorsed by a Cardinal, 6 Archbishops and 16 bishops from around the world, who have recommended the book to their fellow members of the hierarchy. Why have they done so?
First, because these 23 prelates obviously find Fatima Priest to be totally credible, or they would not have endorsed it.
Second, because these 23 prelates believe in the Message of Fatima in all its integrity and support Father Gruner’s singular work in promoting it.
Third, because these twenty-three prelates, including a prince of the Church, are justly outraged (as are many of the lay faithful) by the atrocious double-standard which relentlessly hounds a morally upright Marian priest while praising and coddling a heretic like Küng. Sad to say, Bishop Campbell evinces the same hypocritical double-standard.
So, while Bishop Campbell utterly fails to make a case against Fatima Priest or Father Gruner, a Cardinal, 6 Archbishops and 16 bishops from different parts of the world all endorse the book and Father Gruner’s apostolate.
Three Popes Say Fatima Binds the Church
Having failed to put even a dent in Fatima Priest, Bishop Campbell proceeds to dispense the stock anti-Fatima argument:
"...Fatima, like all such events, is a private revelation ... No Catholic is bound to believe the Message of Fatima or to follow its pieties."
The bishop claims that his opinion is not "radical theology", but something he learned at seminary before Vatican II. There is only one problem: the Pope does not agree with the bishop. As we have already noted, at Fatima, on May 13, 1982, Pope John Paul II told the whole world in a homily that:
"The appeal of the Lady of the message of Fatima is so deeply rooted in the Gospel and the whole of Tradition that the Church feels that the message imposes a commitment on her."
On the same occasion the Holy Father declared that the Message of Fatima "imposes a commitment" on the Church, and that it is "meant for all mankind"—the opinion of Bishop Campbell notwithstanding — His Holiness further declared that the Message of Fatima "is more relevant today than when the Virgin Mary appeared sixty-five years ago ..."
In fact, in his 1982 homily at Fatima the Pope publicly attributed his escape from death on May 13, 1981, the very anniversary of the first Fatima apparition, to the intervention of none other than Our Lady of Fatima. His Holiness clearly sees Her intervention on that fateful day as a sign of the importance of the Message of Fatima for the Church in our time. That is precisely why he went to Fatima in 1982.
Not only the current Pope but two of his predecessors (Paul VI and Pius XII) have validated the Message of Fatima as a prophecy binding on the Church as a whole. Indeed, at a press conference at Fatima in 1986, Cardinal Ratzinger noted that three Popes (Pius XII, Paul VI and John Paul II) have authenticated the Message "in the most solemn way possible" and that its authenticity as a prophecy for our time is "beyond dispute". As just one of many other examples that could be cited, in 1955 Pope Pius XII declared to a group of pilgrims:
"If we are to have peace, we must obey all the requests made at Fatima. The time for doubting Fatima is long passed. It is now time for action."
The Anti-Fatima Cliché
The view of the Popes on Fatima is a far cry from Bishop Campbell’s arrogant dismissal of the Message of Fatima as a mere "private revelation" which binds no one today. He makes light of Father Gruner’s distinction between a private revelation directed to an individual, and a public prophetic revelation meant for the whole world. He sniffs that this is "a distinction without a difference." But, as we can see, it is the very distinction recognized by Pope John Paul II and his predecessors.
As the late renowned German Bishop Rudolf Graber observed, the view that "Fatima is just a private revelation" is nothing but an empty and dangerously misleading cliché:
"To begin with, there exists the cliché: ‘It is only a private revelation’, with which Fatima is lightly brushed aside ... Oh yes, it is quite true that the great revelation of God ended with Christ and His Apostles, but this does not mean that God may no longer speak anywhere to us, His own people. Every communication from God is something tremendous and something holy, whether it be directed to a prophet of the Old Testament or to a peasant girl of our age, who can neither read nor write ... [A] careful distinction should be made between personal revelations directed solely toward the recipients of the message, and those where the message is declared to be for mankind at large. The former can with equanimity be ignored, but the latter must be taken seriously, and Fatima belongs to this category."
Not only Bishop Graber, but other theologians of repute, such as Father Joseph de Saint-Marie, O.C.D. and Father Balic hold, with the Popes, that the Message of Fatima is a message for mankind at large that binds the members of the Church to particular actions.
A Little Common Sense
Then, too, our own common sense should tell us that the Message of Fatima cannot simply be ignored by the members of the Church, as the bishop cavalierly suggests. The Message was confirmed by a public miracle witnessed by 70,000 people—a miracle the likes of which has never been seen in the history of the world. The Message by its very terms was clearly directed to the whole world, not just the three shepherd children. And the predictions of the Message have thus far come true.
Furthermore, the Message of Fatima has clearly entered the life of the whole Church: Do we not follow the instructions of Our Lady of Fatima regarding the First Saturday devotion? Do we not recite as part of the Holy Rosary the very prayer Our Lady dictated to Sister Lucy at Fatima ("O my Jesus, forgive us our sins ...")?
Despise Not Prophecy
Finally, on this score it must be noted that obedience to the prophecies given to the Church in a particular age is rooted in Sacred Scripture itself. In his first Epistle to the Thessalonians St. Paul gave us the teaching of God on how we should approach true prophecies such as the Message of Fatima:
"Extinguish not the spirit. Despise not prophecies. But prove all things: hold fast to that which is good." (1 Thess. 5:19-21)
Unlike Bishop Campbell, Father Gruner does not despise the Message of Fatima by dismissing it as something that no one is obliged to believe. Neither, of course, have Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI and Pope Pius XII. Following the teaching of St. Paul, as well as the example of these three Popes, Father Gruner holds fast to what is good. And so do millions of other Catholics around the world, who see in the Message of Fatima much more than what the bishop condescendingly describes as "its pieties".
So, on the one hand, we have three Popes, Bishop Graber, a number of reputable theologians, the belief of millions of Catholics, simple common sense and even the teaching of St. Paul all arrayed in favor of obedience to the Message of Fatima by the members of the Church. On the other hand, we have the opinion of Bishop Campbell from Antigonish, who seems to have trouble reading and quoting accurately from books, and also seems unable to render an accurate statement of the most basic element of the Fatima Message.
To whom shall we look, then, for the correct opinion on Fatima? It seems rather probable that we should not look to the Bishop of Antigonish.
In view of all this, there can be no serious dispute that the Message of Fatima is an authentic prophecy of our time, containing a grave warning to the whole of mankind; for Our Lady said at Fatima that "if My requests are not granted . . . various nations will be annihilated." It was John Paul II himself who noted during his visit to Fatima in 1982 "the almost apocalyptic menaces looming over the nations and mankind as a whole."
Perhaps in the Diocese of Antigonish the dangers looming over mankind are less apparent, and the Message of Fatima seems a trivial matter. But the bishop ought to consider whether his view of things might not benefit from a little broadening. Perhaps he could consult a book or two from the vast collection of literature on the importance of Fatima for the Church in our time.
As three Popes themselves have shown us, it would be very wrong and very foolish for the Church to despise a prophecy of Fatima’s magnitude. Therefore, it must be said that the bishop has given us wretchedly bad, and very narrow-minded, theological advice.
The Consecration Controversy
We cannot conclude this reply to Bishop Campbell without noting that Father Gruner’s work does engage him in a matter of great controversy: whether the Consecration of Russia requested by Our Lady of Fatima has been performed by Pope John Paul II and the world’s bishops in the manner Our Lady requested. But there is nothing wrong with that engagement.
Not only Father Gruner, but every member of the Church has the right, and, if qualified, the duty, to make known his views on the consecration controversy or any other matter pertaining to the good of the Church. And Father Gruner is certainly qualified to speak on the matter, since he is a priest of 22 years’ standing, holds an advanced degree in theology from the Angelicum in Rome and has done more than 20 years of research on the Message of Fatima.
In fact, the very code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II himself guarantees the natural right of priests and laity alike to express their views on Church affairs and to form private apostolates under the civil law without approval by any bishop, including Bishop Campbell. (See Canons 202-228, 278 and 299) Father Gruner’s organization is only one of thousands of such apostolates. That the Pope has confirmed this freedom of expression in the Church during the current unprecedented crisis must be seen as a providential development which allows the lowlier members of the Church, at least, to defend Tradition —even if certain bishops are wasting their time attacking a perfectly orthodox and morally upright priest in their diocesan publications.
Surely even Bishop Campbell would recognize the right of Father Gruner to express his views on such an important matter as the Consecration of Russia, and to engage in a perfectly legitimate apostolate for the dissemination of his views. After all, if the Message of Fatima has yet to be fulfilled, nothing less than the welfare of mankind is at stake. Our Lady of Fatima did declare at Fatima that "various nations will be annihilated" if people continue to take the attitude of Bishop Campbell towards Her Message.
The bishop may think that the Message of Fatima is a purely dispensable "private revelation," but those Catholics, including the Pope, who recognize the near-apocalyptic level of danger in the world today know that Our Lady’s requests at Fatima can be ignored only at our peril. That is why the controversy over the Consecration of Russia is a matter in which every Catholic has a stake, and a right to be heard.
What About Charity and Justice?
At a time when heretical and scandalous priests are running amok throughout the Church while the bureaucrats in Rome do little or nothing to stop them, Bishop Campbell should be supporting, not condemning, the good work of a fine priest like Father Nicholas Gruner, who has kept his vows and kept the Faith. Are there not priests in Bishop Campbell’s own diocese who might be truly deserving of public rebuke? Why, then, does he occupy himself with condemning the work of Father Gruner, who is not under Bishop Campbell’s jurisdiction and who has committed no offense against faith and morals or the law of the Church which would justify the bishop’s public intervention?
Is the answer, perhaps, that people like Bishop Campbell find it intolerable that anyone could suggest, in this age of post-conciliar pluralism, that Catholics still have a duty to seek the conversion of Russia and the triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart? Are the very words "conversion" and "triumph" disturbing to the complacency of those who may have accommodated themselves to the spirit of the age, and find themselves unwilling or unable to oppose it for fear of ridicule or outright persecution?
The Message of Fatima is, in fact, a heavenly rebuke to the "modern" world. Our Lady of Fatima does indeed call upon us to cast aside the ephemera of modernity and recover the glory of Christendom for Her Son, our King. Perhaps it is because Father Gruner unabashedly, and very effectively, promotes the Message of Fatima in all its political incorrectness that he must be denounced and cast into outer darkness by those who have turned a deaf ear to this heavenly call to glory.
In any case, even if some intervention by the bishop had been warranted in Father Gruner’s case, he had an obligation to learn the facts before he sallied forth with public denunciations which only expose his near-total ignorance of the subject matter. Whether or not he personally wrote the dreadful piece himself, the Bishop of Antigonish has truly harmed the credibility of his office with this embarrassing foray into the realm of Fatima.
Bishop Campbell’s newspaper is called, curiously enough, The Casket. A casket is a most appropriate receptacle for the bishop’s denigration of Father Gruner, his apostolate and the Message of Fatima. Let the bishop’s article be buried in the graveyard of all discredited calumnies.
Meanwhile, instead of basing their opinion of Father Gruner and his work on a superficial diatribe in a hostile diocesan newspaper, fair-minded Catholics should read Fatima Priest for themselves and make up their own minds—as have the twenty prelates who endorse the book and the man the book is about.
A fair reading with an open mind is what justice and charity require—for Fatima Priest and for its subject, Father Nicholas Gruner.
For more information about Fatima Priest visit www.fatimapriest.com
1. Fatima Priest, hardcover edition, 417 pages; softcover edition, 342 pages.
2. Fatima Priest, hardcover edition, p. 90; softcover edition, p. 86.
3. Fatima Priest, hardcover edition, p. 91; softcover edition, p. 87.