The latest article in The Wanderer’s never-ending series on the “suspension” of Father Nicholas Gruner depends upon an Orwellian notion of justice no Catholic can accept: punishment without a crime, guilt without a conviction.
by Christopher A. Ferrara
Even a five-year-old knows when an injustice has been committed: “That’s not fair!” is a concept any child can understand. The capacity to recognize and be outraged by injustice is one of the things that distinguish men from the lower animals.
Man’s God-given sense of justice tells him, first of all, that one cannot be punished for an offense unless one has committed an offense. If the five-year-old were spanked vigorously and consigned to his room all day for stealing cookies he had not in fact taken, his piteous cry of “That’s not fair!” would melt the heart of anyone who knew the truth. Few cruelties of the human condition evoke more compassion than the knowledge that someone has been punished for nothing; and the more severe the unmerited punishment, the greater our compassion for its victim.
Likewise, even a child can understand the injustice of punishing someone for failing to do that which it was impossible for him to do. Let us suppose that our hypothetical five-year-old was spanked by his father and sent, weeping, to his room for not having put away his toys in his toy chest, when the father himself had padlocked the chest so that it could not be used. One could scarcely imagine a father who would treat his own child this way, and we would look with horror upon such stupefying cruelty.
The law of the Church, reflecting the justice and mercy of God, prohibits such cruel injustices by providing that no one may be punished unless he is actually guilty of an offense1, nor may anyone be punished for failing to do that which it was impossible or gravely inconvenient to do.2 Thus, for example, if a bishop were to “suspend” one of his priests for failing to perform some arduous duty while the priest was in a hospital bed suffering from double pneumonia, the “suspension” would be null and void because it was impossible or at least gravely inconvenient for the priest to obey the bishop’s unjust and unreasonable command.
Bashing Father Gruner — Again
With these common sense considerations in view, I turn now to The Wanderer’s latest effort to persuade us that, contrary to justice and common sense, Father Gruner is a “suspended priest.” I am referring to an article entitled “Yes, Virginia, Father Nicholas Gruner Is Suspended” by Pete Vere and Shawn McElhinney.3
To begin with, Vere and McElhinney offer no documentation of their position beyond a Vatican press release which advises that “the Congregation for the Clergy, upon a mandate from a higher authority [Vatican-speak for the Secretary of State], wishes to state that Rev. Nicholas Gruner is under an a divinis suspension, which has been confirmed by a definitive sentence of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.” In other words, the anonymous author of a press release says that the anonymous “higher authority” says that the Congregation should say that the Apostolic Signatura says that Father Gruner’s “suspension” has been “confirmed.”
Notice that nowhere in this chain of hearsay and buck-passing is there any indication of (a) who has “suspended” Father Gruner (note well: it is not the Vatican that has done so), (b) when he was “suspended” or (c) why he was suspended. There is a very good reason these particulars are missing from the press release: to reveal the particulars is to reveal that there is absolutely no basis for Father Gruner’s “suspension” — no offense against faith or morals, no violation of any law of the Church, nothing. As anyone who takes the least trouble to study the facts of Father Gruner’s case will appreciate, he has been subjected to cruelty and injustice no more defensible than the mistreatment of our hypothetical child. The case, in its essentials, can be summarized in a few paragraphs.
The True Facts in a Nutshell
An effective advocate for the cause of Our Lady of Fatima for nearly 25 years, by 1996 Father Gruner was encountering fierce opposition to his work from within the Vatican bureaucratic apparatus now controlled by Vatican Secretary of State, Angelo Sodano. This is the same bureaucracy that hosts Vatican dinners with Mikhail Gorbachev4, supports the godless, pro-abortion International Criminal Court to the dismay of pro-life activists around the world5, and explicitly renounces any effort to make converts among the Russian Orthodox.6
Suffice it to say that the activities of Sodano’s apparatus are hardly in accord with the Virgin of Fatima’s call for the consecration and conversion of Russia to the Catholic faith and the triumph of Her Immaculate Heart in a Catholic social order, as opposed to a New World Order of pan-religious “brotherhood” administered by the United Nations.
No wonder then, that the Vatican’s June 2000 “commentary” on the Third Secret refers no less than four times to none other than Cardinal Sodano’s personal “interpretation” of the Secret and his opinion that the prophecies of Fatima “belong to the past.”7
Given the state of the Church today, it should be obvious to any reasonable observer that the current policies of the Sodano apparatus are rather different from what the Virgin of Fatima called for. All of this has been demonstrated abundantly in well-documented articles and books promoted by Father Gruner’s Fatima apostolate over the years.8 A clash between Father Gruner’s apostolate and Sodano’s apparatus — which now effectively rules the Church as de facto Pope9 — was thus inevitable.
Recognizing that Father Gruner has every right under Church law to advocate his views on the Fatima Message, the Sodano apparatus devised what it thought was a foolproof plan to silence this inconvenient priest by indirection. Father Gruner’s Italian bishop — who had earlier told Father Gruner of “worried signals from the Vatican Secretary of State”10 — was pressured to order him to leave Canada and “return” to Avellino, Italy, where he had been ordained back in 1976, unless he found a new bishop to incardinate him.11 Sodano’s apparatus then took steps to prevent any other bishop in the world from incardinating Father Gruner. At the end of this devious process, the plan was to announce (through the Bishop of Avellino) that since Father Gruner had “failed” to be incardinated by another bishop, he must return to Avellino within 30 days (abandoning his entire priestly life’s work) or he would be “suspended” for “disobedience”.12 But the Sodano apparatus did not foresee at least two developments:
First, despite all efforts to block it, the Archbishop of Hyderabad agreed to incardinate Father Gruner. The Archbishop issued a formal decree of incardination declaring that “evil forces have conspired to destroy your [Father Gruner’s] work of love” and that “bureaucratic forces cannot stifle God’s work.”13 In subsequent canonical proceedings, the Sodano apparatus (speaking this time through the Congregation for the Clergy) arbitrarily asserted that the incardination in Hyderabad was “non-existent” and that Father Gruner must still return to Avellino or be “suspended” for “disobedience” since he had “failed” to be incardinated elsewhere. The Archbishop of Hyderabad, rejecting this arbitrary claim, strongly reaffirmed his decree of incardination with a new decree, after examining all the pertinent documents and finding no defect in the incardination.14
Second, since Father Gruner had been living in Canada with the written permission of the Bishop of Avellino since 1978, under Italian law it was legally impossible for him to return to Italy even if the order to return were just and valid. The Bishop had never taken any steps to obtain proper permissions for a foreign priest to enter an Italian diocese, including an entry visa supported by written commitments that the Bishop provide financial support, medical coverage and pension — for a priest who had been absent, with his permission, for more than 16 years and had not received one penny of support from Avellino in all that time. The Bishop of Avellino has since ignored two written requests from Father Gruner for an explanation of how he can be expected to “return” to Avellino without any visa or guarantees of financial support, as required by Italian immigration law.15 Nor has the Bishop ever responded to Father Gruner’s notification that the Archbishop of Hyderabad considered Father Gruner to be incardinated in Hyderabad.16 Clearly, the Bishop himself has no interest in Father Gruner’s “return” to the Diocese of Avellino, which would involve legal work and substantial expense for the lifetime support and maintenance of a foreign-born priest whose services the Bishop has never needed. The Bishop is but a pawn in a canonical game contrived by the Sodano apparatus.
In short, Father Gruner finds himself in a situation quite analogous to that of our hypothetical unjustly punished child:
First, Father Gruner has been punished for nothing. That is, he has been punished for “failing” to be incardinated elsewhere, when in fact he has been incardinated elsewhere. Like the child who did not steal the cookies, Father Gruner did not “fail” to be incardinated. Even more insulting to one’s sense of justice is that those who declare Father Gruner’s “failure” to be incardinated are the very ones who tried to block his incardination anywhere in the world besides Avellino, and who now arbitrarily assert that even the valid incardination in Hyderabad — which Father Gruner obtained despite their interference — is “non-existent.”
Second, Father Gruner has been punished for failing to do the impossible. That is, Father Gruner’s persecutors in the Vatican bureaucracy have done everything in their power to make it impossible for Father Gruner to achieve incardination, and even when he did achieve it (in Hyderabad), they called the incardination “non-existent.” Furthermore, even if Father Gruner were not incardinated in Hyderabad (and he is), he has been punished for “failing” to return to Italy when his return is impossible because the Bishop of Avellino has never complied with Italian immigration law. Like the child who was punished for failing to put away his toys in a toy chest his own father had padlocked, Father Gruner has been declared “suspended” by the very people who have denied him the means to avoid his “suspension.”
Punishment Without a Crime
What do Vere and McElhinney have to say about Father Gruner’s just claim that he cannot be suspended because he has not committed any offense? The authors merely repeat that “Father Gruner’s suspension was upheld by a sentence of the Apostolic Signatura.” What suspension? Imposed by whom? And for what reason? Recognizing that they should make at least some effort to show what offense Father Gruner is supposed to have committed, Vere and McElhinney write that
Father Gruner was ordered by his legitimate ecclesiastical superior to return to the diocese of his incardination [Avellino]… He was also warned that failure to return to his diocese of incardination would result in his suspension a divinis [and] subsequently his competent ecclesiastical superior followed through with the suspension.
But here the authors conveniently omit every one of the crucial facts I have outlined above: that Father Gruner was ordered to return to Avellino only if he did not find another bishop; that his very accusers tried to prevent him from finding another bishop; that nevertheless he did find another bishop (the Archbishop of Hyderabad); and that, in any case, it is legally impossible for him to return to Avellino because the Bishop of Avellino has never taken any steps to comply with Italian immigration law.
Thus, Vere and McElhinney’s argument reduces to little more than the contention that Father Gruner is “suspended” because a press release says that a “definitive sentence” of the Signatura “confirms” that he is “suspended”; and no one need care if the “suspension” has any legal, moral or factual basis. As the authors state in reply to Father Gruner’s objection that he has been suspended for no real reason: “Given the fact that Father Gruner’s suspension was upheld by a sentence of the Apostolic Signatura, this [Father Gruner’s objection] is simply amazing.” In other words, the authors essentially advocate the Orwellian notion that the sentence is the crime, whether or not any actual crime has been committed. For them, it is “amazing” that anyone would think to look behind a piece of paper to see if there is any basis for what the paper says.
Guilt Without a Conviction
But that is not the end of the absurdity at work here. It is not merely that Father Gruner has been “suspended” for nothing or for failing to do the impossible. Rather, Father Gruner is declared “suspended” when, in fact, the Bishop of Avellino has never actually issued a sentence suspending Father Gruner a divinis.17
Even Vere and McElhinney admit that the Bishop of Avellino merely “warned that failure to return to his diocese of incardination [within 30 days] would result in his suspension a divinis.” But they mislead the reader when they claim that “subsequently his competent ecclesiastical superior followed through with the suspension.” No, the Bishop did not “follow through with the suspension.” In fact, the only one who followed through in this matter was Father Gruner, who (as noted above) twice reminded the Bishop of the legal impossibility of any “return” to Italy absent the Bishop’s own compliance with Italian immigration law, on which reminders the Bishop has never acted. Nor has the Bishop ever responded to Father Gruner’s notification that the Archbishop of Hyderabad insists that his incardination of Father Gruner is valid, and that Father Gruner is now attached to the Archdiocese of Hyderabad (where, incidentally, Father Gruner’s apostolate subsidizes an orphanage and other charitable works).
Vere and McElhinney might have argued — although they did not do so — that Father Gruner’s suspension took effect automatically, without any further decrees, after the 30-day period for his supposed “return” to Italy (after 16 years!) had elapsed. Church law describes such an “automatic” suspension as latae sententiae. But even if the Bishop’s threatened suspension were viewed as a latae sententiae penalty, the suspension could not operate against Father Gruner, because, as mentioned above, Church law forbids the imposition of penalties for actions that were taken out of necessity or to avoid grave inconvenience.18 In this case, it was legally impossible for Father Gruner to “return” to Italy, even if he had not been incardinated in India. And even if the “return” to Avellino were not legally impossible, it would still be gravely inconvenient because it would cause the destruction of many years of work and commitments that the Bishop of Avellino allowed Father Gruner to conduct without objection.
To this, Vere and McElhinney can only reply that the provision of Church law exempting one from any penalty in cases of necessity or grave inconvenience does not apply to any act which is “intrinsically evil or tends to be harmful to souls.” The authors then ask: “Is not disobedience to the lawful command of one’s ecclesiastical superior harmful to souls?” But here the authors only beg the question. As I have just shown, the command to “return” to Italy was impossible to obey and no one is held to do the impossible. Nor was the command “lawful” since it amounted to a punishment for something Father Gruner had not in fact done — that is, he did not “fail” to find another bishop, and therefore he could not lawfully be ordered to “return” to Italy for a “failure” that had never occurred. The authors’ position thus reduces to the absurdity that “failure” to obey an unfounded, unjust and impossible command is “harmful to souls” merely because the command has not been followed. What is truly harmful to souls, not to mention the very credibility of the Church, is the sort of ruthless abuse of power we see in Cardinal Sodano’s oversight of the persecution of Father Gruner. Shame on Vere, McElhinney and The Wanderer for passing off the abuse of authority and the imposition of unjust punishment as virtuous Catholic activity. They make a mockery of Church law.
Furthermore, Church law specifically provides that a bishop (or other legislator) may not threaten a latae sententiae — that is, an automatic — penalty except for a grave and malicious offense that cannot otherwise be corrected.19 But Father Gruner has not committed any offense at all, let alone a grave and malicious offense. He is accused only of “failing” to be incardinated when he was incardinated, and “failing” to return to a country whose immigration law bars his return. Father Gruner’s “offense,” therefore, rests on nothing but canonical thin air. This seems to be of no concern to our authors, however, who take the position that no one may question a piece of paper stating that Father Gruner’s “suspension” has been “confirmed.”
A Pharisaical Notion of “Obedience”
As we can see, the authors avoid any discussion of the patent lack of any real grounds for Father Gruner’s alleged “suspension.” Instead, they rely on an empty legalism that exalts form over substance: a command was given, a decree was issued and nothing more can be said in Father Gruner’s defense. Having advocated this cold-blooded Pharisaical notion of Church law, the authors also propose an equally unreasonable notion of “obedience” in the Church. They assert that Father Gruner must accept his “suspension” in order to be “consistent with our Catholic tradition of obedience.”
To support this claim, the authors cite the example of St. Gerard, an Eighteenth Century saint who remained silent in the face of a false accusation that he had engaged in fornication, and they suggest that Father Gruner should likewise suffer his “suspension” without objection. But what does remaining silent in the face of a false accusation have to do with “obedience” to an unjust, unfounded and impossible command of a superior — especially when the superior in question can no longer rightly claim authority because the priest in question has been incardinated by another bishop? No one commanded St. Gerard to remain silent, and thus his case in no way involved the question whether Catholics ought to obey an unjust command and submit to an abuse of power by a superior. The authors’ reference to the example of St. Gerard makes no sense at all. Equally senseless is the authors’ reference to the Virgin Mary’s consent to become the Mother of God. What does this have to do with the right of the faithful under Church law not to be punished for “failing” to “obey” unjust and impossible commands?
Equally unavailing is the authors’ claim that Father Gruner should follow the example of Sister Lucy herself, who has lived her life “as a holy example of submission and obedience to legitimate authority.” Again, the authors beg the question. Father Gruner has the perfect right under Church law not to be punished if he did nothing wrong, and Church law excuses one from any penalty if the act penalized was done out of necessity or to avoid grave inconvenience. Father Gruner cannot lawfully be punished for “failing” to do what he in fact did do, or “failing” to “return” to a place whose civil law prevents his return. Do the authors contend that Sister Lucy has been subjected to a similarly unjust, unfounded and impossible command? If not, then what is the relevance of Sister Lucy’s life of obedience, given that it does not involve the kind of circumstances that confront Father Gruner?
Moreover, the authors fail to note that as the member of a religious order, Sister Lucy was required to take a vow of holy obedience which is more demanding than the promise of ordinary due obedience taken by diocesan (secular) priests like Father Gruner, who live and work in the world. A diocesan priest has many rights that priests and nuns in religious orders do not have, including freedom of association and the right to found and operate associations of the faithful, such as Father Gruner’s Fatima apostolate.20 The Code of Canon Law provides a whole host of protections against unjust commands for priests in Father Gruner’s position, including the protections and excuses from operation of penalties I have discussed here. Is Church law of no account? Must a priest submit to any injustice imposed upon him, no matter what rights the law of the Church might guarantee? In that case, why have a Code of Canon Law at all? If “obedience” is the only law, why not repeal the Code and replace it with the dictum: “All commands of superiors, no matter how unjust, must be obeyed.” That, essentially, is what the authors do.
At any rate, as Father Gruner has pointed out many times, we are not dealing here with an injustice merely personal to him, as was the false accusation against St. Gerard. Father Gruner might well prefer to suffer the personal injustice of “returning” to Avellino and living a quiet life with his books, rather than undergoing the constant stress of defending his apostolate and his good name against constant attacks from every Tom, Dick and Harry that would like to take a potshot at him, including our two young authors. But the injustice against Father Gruner personally extends beyond him to threaten the very existence of an apostolate that is inarguably the world’s most effective promoter of the Message of Fatima. If the apostolate’s position is correct — i.e., that the failure to consecrate Russia will lead to the worldwide calamity Our Lady of Fatima described as the annihilation of various nations — then millions of lives and the eternal fate of millions of souls are bound up in fulfillment of the Message. That being the case, the destruction of the apostolate would have significant consequences for the Church’s common good.
The Right to Resist an Abuse of Power
This, then, is the primary reason Father Gruner has resisted the contrived and fraudulent “suspension” certain bureaucrats have tried to create out of nothing: he cannot in conscience allow canonical trickery and coercion to crush a Catholic work of substantial benefit to the common good of the Church. To recall the words of the Archbishop of Hyderabad: “evil forces have conspired to destroy your work of love… bureaucratic forces cannot stifle God’s work.” Indeed, a true example of Catholic virtue in the face of injustice is the Archbishop himself, who had the courage to stand up to high and mighty bureaucrats of the sort that have plagued Rome throughout the Church’s long history.
The Archbishop’s own actions reflect the Catholic teaching, rooted in the natural law, that the faithful have a God-given right to resist a prelate’s abuse of power, even if that prelate is the Pope himself. The eminent 16th Century Catholic theologian Francisco Suarez explained the same principle as follows:
If [the Pope] gives an order contrary to right customs, he should not be obeyed; if he attempts to do something manifestly opposed to justice and the common good, it will be lawful to resist him; if he attacks by force, by force he can be repelled, with a moderation appropriate to a just defense.21
Likewise, St. Robert Bellarmine, a doctor of the Church, taught that:
Just as it is licit to resist the Pontiff that aggresses the body, it is also licit to resist the one who aggresses souls or who disturbs civil order, or, above all, who attempts to destroy the Church. I say that it is licit to resist him by not doing what he orders and by preventing his will from being executed; it is not licit, however, to judge, punish or depose him, since these acts are proper to a superior.22
Thus, for example, Polycrates of Ephesus and the synods of Asia Minor were within their rights in refusing to obey the command of Pope St. Victor I that they abandon the quartodeciman Easter. As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes: “The resistance of the Asiatic bishops involved no denial of the supremacy of Rome. It indicates solely that the bishops believed St. Victor to be abusing his power in bidding them renounce a custom for which they had Apostolic authority.” Now, if even a sainted Pope can be resisted when he abuses his power by trying to change a custom in the Church, all the more can Vatican bureaucrats be resisted when they abuse their power by declaring the bogus “suspension” of a faithful priest who has done nothing wrong, in order to further their illicit aim of burying any recollection of the Mother of God’s prophetic warnings to the Church and the world at Fatima.
But Vere and McElhinney not only ignore the natural law principle that members of the faithful have the right to resist an abuse of power, they ignore the teaching of the Magisterium on the proper exercise of authority by a bishop over his priests. The relation between a bishop and his priests is like the relation between a father and son. As the Council of Trent teaches: “Bishops and all ordinaries must be pastors not persecutors. They must rule their subjects but not dominate them. They must love their subjects as brothers and sons…”23 This means, obviously, that prelates, like natural fathers, have no right before God or man to punish their priests when no offense has been committed or to “suspend” them for “failing” to do the impossible.
In short, the notion of priestly “obedience” the authors advocate is more appropriate to Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia than the Catholic Church. But is it not this very notion of a false and blind obedience to every command that has reduced the post-Conciliar Church to a shambles? Are we not today witnessing a situation in which faithful priests are routinely punished for “disobedience” while true enemies of the Church are ignored or even rewarded for their acts of ecclesiastical treason? Do we not see precisely that condition of injustice lamented by Saint Basil the Great at the height of the Arian heresy?: “Only one offense is now vigorously punished, an accurate observance of our fathers’ traditions.”
What is to explain The Wanderer’s relentless pursuit of Father Nicholas Gruner — at a time when the Church desperately needs priests of his caliber? Father Gruner is a priest whose orthodoxy and adherence to his vow of chastity are beyond question; a priest who has traveled the world spreading authentic Roman Catholicism, including devotion to the Blessed Virgin; a priest whose sound preaching and distribution of millions of Brown and Green Scapulars have helped to obtain innumerable conversions; a priest whose apostolate supports an orphanage in one of the most impoverished regions of the world. The answer to the question, I believe, is that The Wanderer’s constant attacks on this exemplary priest are in keeping with its general line of enabling the post-Conciliar revolution in the Church by helpfully denouncing anyone who opposes the “reforms” of the revolution. Be it the disastrous imposition of the New Mass, communion in the hand, altar girls, or even papal prayer meetings with witchdoctors, The Wanderer is there to defend the innovation and to condemn any significant opposition to it by tradition-minded Catholics. As the human element of the Church descends deeper into chaos and apostasy, The Wanderer seems to have become even more obstinate in its defense of destructive novelties which the great pre-Conciliar popes would undoubtedly have viewed with utter horror. (Just imagine St. Pius X’s reaction to what The Wanderer would defend as a proper Novus Ordo Mass, complete with altar girls.)
Only this perverse determination to defend indefensible changes in the Church could explain The Wanderer’s preoccupation with Father Gruner. There are now at least a dozen Wanderer articles attacking him on one pretext or another, even though not even The Wanderer can deny his orthodoxy and chastity. This is a very curious editorial priority, given the widespread moral and doctrinal corruption in the priesthood today. One recent example of The Wanderer’s bizarre anti-Gruner editorial campaign is an article condemning Father Gruner’s opposition to communion in the hand and women attending Mass with uncovered heads.24 Generally, however, The Wanderer assails Father Gruner for his objection to the effort by certain members of the Vatican apparatus to revise the Message of Fatima to suit their diplomatic and “ecumenical agenda”—including a 1984 “consecration” of Russia that deliberately avoided any mention of Russia so that the Russian Orthodox would not be offended! Confronted by Russia’s manifest failure to convert since 1984 — indeed, the Putin regime now openly persecutes the Catholic Church — The Wanderer has even resorted (in yet another article attacking Father Gruner) to the argument that perhaps Sister Lucy unconsciously fabricated that part of the Message which speaks of the consecration and conversion of Russia.25
Since Father Gruner is clearly the world’s foremost exponent of the “old” — that is to say, the authentic — Message of Fatima, The Wanderer’s ongoing defense of the post-Conciliar “reform” of the Church would logically impel it to condemn the most prominent opponent of the “reform” of Fatima. Just as The Wanderer now defends communion in the hand and altar girls, so it will now defend the “reformed” Fatima Message.
If the editor of The Wanderer insists upon continuing to enable the post-Conciliar revolution in the Church, then history will be his judge. Meanwhile, Father Gruner has a right to his good name, for as the law of the Church reminds us: “No one may unlawfully harm the good reputation which a person enjoys…”26 Catholics who care about justice in the Church, as opposed to empty Pharisaical legalism, should take the trouble to examine the facts of Father Gruner’s situation with an open mind. If they do so, they will have to conclude, as I have, that no, Virginia, Father Nicholas Gruner is not “suspended,” and that anyone who claims Father Gruner is “a suspended priest” is helping to perpetrate one of the great injustices in the Church today.
1. The Code of Canon Law explicitly provides that no one can be punished for the commission of an external violation of a law or precept [i.e., particular command] unless it is gravely imputable by reason of malice or culpability. (Can. 1321§1).
2. The law of the Church, in its mercy and its justice, also recognizes that no one may be punished for violating a precept if necessity or grave inconvenience prevents compliance. Code of Canon Law, Can. 1323, 2°.
3. A few words about the co-authors are in order. The Wanderer presents Vere as “a practicing canonist” with no mention of his own biography, which reveals that he was a former Catholic, a former occultist and socialist, a former Protestant Pentecostal, and a former Catholic traditionalist (affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X), before he arrived at his latest spiritual stop, which he describes as “a harmonious blend of charismatic action and traditionalist contemplation.” Vere, who recently obtained a canon law degree, spends a great deal of time putting out “canonical opinions” and “advisories” condemning traditionalist Catholics for “schism” and other imagined offenses against the Church, based on nothing more than the same traditionalist views he himself vigorously defended as legitimate opinions during his traditionalist phase, which ended a short time ago. When Vere is not issuing canonical opinions questioning other people’s orthodoxy, he is posting lengthy reviews of home appliances at amazon.com, including the George Foreman Champ Grill, Ronco Food Dehydrator, Yogurt Maker and Beef Jerky Machine, and the Conair Bathmat Bubble Massager (Model MBVTS), concerning which Vere declared: “I found the bubbles intensely massaging without being overpowering on the high setting, and simply relaxing on the low setting.” Co-author McElhinney is described as “a part-time writer and Catholic evangelist” who operates a couple of websites promoting his own peculiar views under the banner: “So That No Thought of Mine, No Matter How Stupid, Should Ever Go Unpublished Again.” McElhinney’s contribution to Vere’s article is certainly in keeping with that motto. These, then, are the pair of commentators The Wanderer deems qualified to declare to the Church: “Yes, Virginia, Father Nicholas Gruner is suspended.”
4. News of June 27, 2000 press conference. “Gorbachev Helps Introduce Casaroli Memoirs”, Catholic World News, June 27, 2000. See also photograph published in Catholic Family News, January 2001, p. 13 showing Gorbachev at the Vatican delivering a lecture to the Pope and world politicians during the “Jubilee of Politicians”.
5. “Vatican Supports International Criminal Court With Symbolic Donation: Pro-lifers Around the Globe Dismayed,” Life Special Report, July 5, 2002: “Pro-lifers around the globe were dismayed Monday at the Vatican’s welcoming of the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Archbishop Renato Martino, the Vatican’s representative at the United Nations issued a release in support of the ICC and noted that the Vatican had contributed a symbolic donation of $3,000 [30 pieces of silver, adjusted for inflation — c.a.f.] to the ICC trust fund set up by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.”
6. See, Vatican-negotiated Balamand Statement (1993), which declares that because of “radically altered perspectives and thus attitudes” engendered by Vatican II, the Catholic Church will train new priests “to pave the way for future relations between the two Churches, passing beyond the outdated ecclesiology of return to the Catholic Church.” See also, Francis Alban and Christopher A. Ferrara, Fatima Priest, Chapter 13, “The Balamand Connection”, Fourth Edition (Good Counsel Publications, Pound Ridge, New York, 2000), pp. 188-194.
7. “Insofar as individual events are described, they belong to the past.” See, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, “Theological Commentary”, The Message of Fatima, p. 43. See footnote 9 (below) for Cardinal Sodano’s “interpretation” of the Third Secret in the same Commentary.
8. See, The Devil’s Final Battle, edited and compiled by Father Paul Kramer (The Missionary Association, Terryville, Connecticut, 2002), Chapters 5-9, “Appendix: A Chronology of the Fatima Cover-up”; Francis Alban and Christopher A. Ferrara, Fatima Priest, Fourth Edition, Chapters 9-13, 18-20.
9. This situation has resulted from the restructuring of the Roman Curia by Cardinal Villot under Paul VI in order to give the Vatican Secretary of State authority over all other Vatican departments. (See The Devil’s Final Battle, pp. 96-98.) The Secretary of State now presides even over the Holy Office (now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), which issued the “commentary” on the Third Secret that explicitly relies upon Sodano’s “interpretation” of the Message of Fatima:
“Before attempting an interpretation, the main lines of which can be found in the statement read by Cardinal Sodano on 13 May of this year …” (The Message of Fatima, p. 32)
“For this reason, the figurative language of the visions is symbolic. In this regard, Cardinal Sodano stated …” (The Message of Fatima, p. 38)
“As is clear from the documentation presented here, the interpretation offered by Cardinal Sodano in his statement of 13 May was first put personally to Sister Lucia. …” (The Message of Fatima, p. 39)
“First of all we must affirm with Cardinal Sodano: ‘… the events to which the third part of the ‘secret’ of Fatima refers now seem part of the past’.” (The Message of Fatima, p. 43)
Cardinal Sodano does not, of course, have any real theological authority to interpret the Message of Fatima, since Our Lord did not invest the Vatican Secretary of State, an administrative office created relatively recently, with any teaching authority in the Church. This is just one of many usurpations of papal authority which has resulted from the restructuring of the curia by Paul VI and the physical debility of the current Pope during Cardinal Sodano’s tenure.
10. Letter from the Bishop of Avellino to Father Gruner, dated May 29, 1989.
11. “Incardination” means the formal attachment of a secular (diocesan) priest to the bishop of a particular diocese. It derives from the Latin word for “hinge.”
12. Letter from the Bishop of Avellino, May 16, 1996, Protocol #102/96.
13. Archbishop of Hyderabad, November 4, 1995.
14. Second decree of the Archbishop of Hyderabad, March 10, 1999: “Having reviewed the documents … I am satisfied that my decree of 4 November 1995 incardinating Father Nicholas Gruner into the Archdiocese of Hyderabad is valid and effective … After due discernment, I am convinced that I am acting correctly though I was partly misled by influential people. I strongly feel that the good work he is doing in spreading devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary should not be hampered … through undue canonical or juridical pressures. May Jesus Christ be praised!”
15. Father Gruner’s letters of October 7, 1999 and September 17, 2000 to the Bishop of Avellino. The Bishop has never answered these requests and to this day has failed to take the necessary legal steps — which only the Bishop can take — for Father Gruner’s “return” to Avellino under Italian immigration law. That the Bishop has done nothing in this regard, even though Father Gruner has twice pointed out the Bishop’s responsibility to provide the necessary papers, demonstrates that the Bishop hasn’t the least interest in Father Gruner’s “return,” but rather is only playing along with the canonical game contrived by Father Gruner’s adversaries in the Vatican apparatus.
16. Father Gruner’s letter of August 16, 1999 to the Bishop of Avellino states: “I send to you with this letter a copy of the decree regarding my incardination dated 10 March 1999 in virtue of which I must consider myself, with all the effects, incardinated in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad …”
17. A priest who is legitimately suspended “a divinis” cannot offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Bishop has never issued any decree stating that Father Gruner may not offer Mass.
18. See Canon 1323, cited in footnote 2.
19. The threat of “latae sententiae” (i.e. automatic penalty) by the Bishop of Avellino was null and void from the beginning. Canon 1318 does not allow the bishop to threaten a “latae sententiae” penalty unless (“nisi“) perhaps for “certain particularly treacherous offenses (singularia quaedam delicta dolosa). For a crime to be “dolosum” it must be a “deliberate performance of an unlawful act … involving trickery or deceit,” and “bad faith.” (Lewis & Short, A Latin Dictionary, p. 570)
No one can reasonably claim that Father Gruner acted “dolose” i.e. deliberately and in bad faith, when he refused to obey a precept to reside permanently as an illegal alien in Italy. Therefore, the threatened penalty is null and void.
Moreover, Father Gruner was not subject to “any penalty” (nulli poenae) because one is exempt from penalty if acting “out of grave fear, even if only relatively grave, or out of necessity or out of serious inconvenience.” (Canon 1323, 4°) Now one who is subject to arrest by the Italian authorities, imprisonment and deportation can most reasonably claim to have not obeyed for reasons of grave fear, necessity and grave inconvenience. Even one, who without fault, thought that such condition existed, cannot be penalized (Canon1323, 7°), and one who “erroneously and culpably thought” that such conditions of grave fear, necessity or grave inconvenience” (Canon 1324, 8°) existed is exempt from “latae sententiae” penalties. (Can. 1324§3)
20. See, e.g. Canon 278: “Secular clerics have the right of association with others for the achievement of purposes befitting the clerical state.”
21. De Fide, Disp. X, Sec. VI, N. 16.
22. St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, Book II, Chapter 29.
23. Council of Trent, quoted in Canon 2214 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law: Meminerint Episcopi aliique Ordinarii se pastores non percussores esse, atque ita praeesse, sibi subditis oportere, ut non in eis dominentur, ses illos tamquam filios et fratres diligent.
24. That attack on Father Gruner was responded to at length in the article “Defending the Revolution,” in the March 2003 issue of Catholic Family News.
25. This other attack on Father Gruner by The Wanderer was rebutted at length in the article “Pleasing Uncle Al” by Christopher A. Ferrara, in the December 2001 issue of Catholic Family News.
26. See Canon 221.