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In this statement, released October 3, 2001, the Committee for the Defense of the Priesthood gives three reasons why the “suspension” of Father Gruner, “announced” by the Vatican on September 12, is not valid. Even if it were, the Committee says, Father Gruner has every right to continue his work making known the full Message of Our Lady of Fatima.
October 3, 2001, Fort Erie, Ontario - On September 12 Cardinal Castrillòn Hoyos of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy purported to “confirm” a suspension of Father Nicholas Gruner, the Canadian priest who preaches the Message of Our Lady of Fatima, by the Bishop of Avellino, Italy. The Vatican itself imposed no “suspension”, but merely claims to be confirming what the Bishop of Avellino did.
Father Gruner cannot be “suspended” by the Bishop of Avellino for at least three reasons.
First, Church law (Can. 1321) provides that no one can be punished unless he has actually committed some offense with malice or culpability. The only “offense” which underlies the “suspension” is Father Gruner’s alleged failure to “return” to Avellino (where he was ordained in 1976) after he “failed” to find another bishop to incardinate him. However, members of the same Congregation which now announces Father Gruner’s “suspension” have personally intervened over the years to block three offers of incardination by different bishops outside of Avellino, all of whom wanted to foster Father Gruner’s Fatima apostolate.
Thus, Father Gruner’s accusers have created the very “offense” of which they now accuse him. One cannot be guilty of an “offense” caused entirely by the actions of others. The “suspension” is thus plainly void and a mockery of Catholic justice.
Second, the “suspension” purports to be based on Father Gruner's failure to “obey” an order to “return” to Avellino and take up permanent residence in Italy after he was prevented by Vatican officials from finding another bishop. However, Father Gruner cannot reside in Italy without violating Italian immigration law. Since 1978 the Bishop of Avellino has taken no steps to secure a proper visa for Father Gruner, including written promises of a living wage, a pension and medical coverage. Indeed, the Bishop of Avellino has not provided one penny of support for Father Gruner since he gave him permission to leave Avellino 25 years ago. Why? Because the Bishop of Avellino himself is not interested in Father Gruner’s “return”, which has been orchestrated by a few Vatican officials who are interfering in the normal relations between a priest and his bishop.
Quite simply, then, Father Gruner cannot be “ordered” to enter Italy as an illegal alien. Under Canon 22 the Church agrees to be bound by applicable civil law on immigration. Since Father Gruner cannot be forced to do what is illegal under civil law, his “suspension” is groundless.
Third, even if there were a valid decree of suspension, in her mercy the Church recognizes that one is excused from a penalty if it was impossible or even “gravely inconvenient” to comply with the law that was allegedly violated. (Can. 1323) For example, one does not have to go to Mass on Sunday if one is ill.
It would be impossible, and certainly gravely inconvenient, for Father Gruner to enter Italy as an illegal alien at the age of 59, leaving behind his life’s work, his home and all his personal affairs, and reside until death in a diocese which has made no provision for his support or old age and has never had a canonical mission for him because he cannot even speak the local dialect. Not even notoriously heretical or child-molesting priests have been subjected to such a harsh, unprecedented penalty.
Finally, even if Father Gruner were validly “suspended” (which is not admitted), he is perfectly entitled to carry on non-priestly duties such as publishing books and magazines, organizing or speaking at conferences, or directing a private Apostolate. (Canons 321-323) Even Hans Küng, one of the most notorious heretics in living memory, remains a priest in good standing who continues to speak and publish whatever heresy he likes — including the claim in his latest book that the papacy has no foundation in Scripture. Obviously, therefore, a wholly orthodox priest like Father Nicholas Gruner, who has done nothing wrong, has the right to teach sound Catholic orthodoxy concerning the Message of Fatima — whether or not he is declared “suspended”.
Indeed, it is Father Gruner’s legitimate teaching on Fatima to which his persecutors in the Vatican apparatus really object. Silencing any further call for the Consecration of Russia is what the “case” against Father Gruner is really about, although his persecutors can hardly admit this. The heresies of Küng and innumerable others like him in the priesthood do not alarm these Vatican officials, who do little or nothing to stop the spread of heresy. But the Message of Fatima, endorsed by God and approved by the Catholic Church, does seem to alarm them greatly — why else would they announce Father Gruner’s “suspension” on a trumped-up charge only hours after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001? Have they no shame?
In their compulsion to silence Father Gruner at all costs, these Vatican officials trample on Canon 221: “Christ’s faithful have the right that no canonical penalties be inflicted upon them except in accordance with the law.” The law has not been followed, but rather perverted, in the case of Father Nicholas Gruner. And the result is that not only he, but the whole Church suffers detriment from a public travesty of justice: the guilty roam free while an innocent man is punished. Even worse, the right of the faithful to seek the truth about Fatima is denied. (Canon 748)