We Must All Do Our Part to Defend the Faith

The Arian heretics of the 4th Century almost succeeded in destroying the Church. One of their principle methods for achieving their ends was to ferociously attack the principle defenders of the Faith. Thus we can see it is important to defend the defenders of the faith. Following are excerpts of a document sent to Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos by Father Paul Kramer, Christopher Ferrara, Robert Fioretti, Mrs. Mary Sedore and Coralie Graham, imploring Christian justice.

The order to return to Avellino after 23 years would require Father Gruner to enter Italy as an illegal alien in violation of Italian civil law on immigration, which the Church is bound to observe, and which she does observe as to every priest but Father Gruner. (Cfr. Can. 22) Italian civil law prohibits any priest from taking up permanent residence in Italy unless the Church has issued written guarantees for his support, medical care and old age pension and obtained a proper entry visa for the priest. If Father Gruner were to attempt to enter Italy as a permanent resident without these requirements having been fulfilled, he would be arrested and expelled at the point of entry—unless he were willing to lie and say that he was entering only for a short visit as tourist. Father Gruner has brought this problem to the attention of the Bishop of Avellino, who has done absolutely nothing to address it. For this reason alone the order is void and beyond the jurisdiction of your Congregation—or any Congregation—to issue. Not even the Apostolic Signatura can order a priest to enter another country in violation of that country's immigration law. Neither the Congregation nor the Signatura has ever answered this obvious objection.

Standing above all these considerations, as compelling as they are, is the most important of all: the salvation of souls, which is the highest law of the Church. Father Gruner cannot in conscience "obey" an illegal and unjust order which would not only work his personal ruination but would threaten the existence of a legitimate apostolate which preaches the Gospel, promotes Catholic devotions and sacramental helps which have benefitted countless thousands of souls, and defends the integral Message of Fatima, which, as Our Lady Herself said, was given to men as an aid to the salvation of souls in our time.

Natural Justice and the Law of the Church Preclude Any Punishment of Father Gruner

For all these reasons, the order to return to Avellino is morally and legally impossible to obey. No tribunal on earth, be it civil or ecclesiastical, can legitimately convict someone of offenses which do not exist, order someone to violate the law or command him to stop preaching truths which are necessary for the salvation of souls. Therefore, as a matter of natural justice, any "suspension" or other penalty based on these false grounds would objectively have no force or effect before man or God.

Not only natural justice but Church law forbids any punishment of Father Gruner for the non-existent "offenses" Your Eminence alleges. 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) Since the precept that Father Gruner "return" to Avellino is based upon concocted offenses which do not exist in the law of the Church, and since the precept is in itself manifestly void because it is legally and morally impossible to obey, there can be no punishment of Father Gruner because neither malice nor culpability is "gravely imputable" to him under Canon 1321. This would be true of any proposed penalty, let alone the ultimate penalties of excommunication or defrocking which would be so unwarranted as to be patently absurd.

Further, even if the precept had some basis in fact or law—and it does not—the law of the Church, in its mercy, recognizes that no one may be punished for violating a precept if "necessity or grave inconvenience" prevents compliance. (Can. 1323, 2°) Of necessity, Father Gruner cannot "obey" a precept which would require him to violate Italian immigration law. Also, the precept would manifestly cause "grave inconvenience" in that it would require Father Gruner to destroy his entire life's work, abandon his home and personal affairs, and take up residence as an illegal alien in a foreign diocese which has made no provision for his support, medical care and old age.

Thus, while Your Eminence may show no mercy toward Father Gruner, Holy Mother Church does show mercy in her laws. No one can be punished for "failing" to obey a void order; or for "failing" to do what is illegal, impossible or even gravely inconvenient. The baseless precept to "return" to Avellino is all of these.

Meanwhile, Father Gruner's detailed written appeals to the Holy Father have yet to be decided by His Holiness. It appears that these appeals have been diverted by representatives of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and that the Holy Father will never be allowed to read them. Nevertheless, until the Holy Father has been given the opportunity to hear the appeals (in accordance with the God-given right of the faithful to make recourse to the Supreme Pontiff), Father Gruner is morally justified in continuing to resist the abuses of power and authority which pervade the proceedings against him.

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