November 22, 1999


His Holiness Pope John Paul II
Vatican City
00120 Roma

Your Holiness:

As the annexed recourse and canonical libellus make clear, a grave injustice has been perpetrated in your name by prelates in the Vatican, who claim to be acting with the "ordinary executive vicariate power" of you yourself, Your Holiness, as the "hierarchical superior" of every bishop in the Church.

These prelates have used their claimed "ordinary executive vicariate" papal authority to order several benevolent bishops not incardinate me, and to order to the Bishop of Avellino not to excardinate me—even though I have committed no offense against faith, morals or the Code of Canon Law.

Having overridden the will of four different bishops in the matter of my excardination-incardination, these prelates have the temerity to accuse me of failing to correct my "irregular condition."

Based on this "irregular condition"—an offense which does not exist in the Code of Canon Law—these prelates would have me return, after an absence of over 20 years, to the Diocese of Avellino, where I have never been given a canonical mission, and never (neither before nor after my ordination) been supported. Indeed, I even paid for my own education.

These prelates refuse to allow me to be incardinated in peace in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, where my apostolate supports an orphanage. The Archbishop of Hyderabad has issued a decree of incardination calling my apostolate "God’s work." Yet these prelates brazenly declare that my incardination in Hyderabad would not be of service to the Church there.

As the former Prefect of the Signatura admitted to an eminent canonist, this case is not about my incardination or excardination, but about what I say. These prelates are intent upon silencing me because I preach the Message of Fatima with a candor they do not like. They have abused and exceeded their authority to obtain a result they cannot otherwise obtain.

And they have done this in your name, Holy Father.

The wrongful acts detailed in the recourse and libellus threaten not only my natural and priestly rights, but those of 240,000 diocesan priests and every bishop in charge of a diocese anywhere in the Catholic Church. The "ordinary vicariate power" claimed by these prelates would make them de facto popes whose dictates would undermine the ordinary and immediate jurisdiction of bishops as the rulers of their own dioceses, as solemnly affirmed by the First Vatican Council. What is at stake here is nothing less than the divine constitution of the Church.

Three years ago, Holy Father, at your general audience of November 20, 1996, you received in your hand copies of canonical libelli against two of these prelates and their collaborators alerting you to their abuse of authority, and seeking relief under a provision of the Code Canon law (promulgated by you yourself, Your Holiness) which reserves such cases exclusively to the Roman Pontiff. The photographer for L’Osservatore Romano provided us with photographs of Your Holiness receiving the libelli from three different people: a bishop, an archbishop and a layman. Yet I have received no response from Your Holiness, even though their shameless abuse of power continues.

Indeed, it was only two months ago (September 3, 1999) that these prelates first claimed to be acting with your authority and in your name. Before then, they at least pretended that the bishops they had browbeaten were acting of their own volition. As you can see, Holy Father, your continued silence has only increased their audacity. Now they assert the right to act as de facto popes, who do not even have to provide any grounds for what they do.

If your silence continues Holy Father, then these prelates who claim to be acting in your name will in a certain sense be proven to be accurate, for having known of their misdeeds—and misdeeds indeed they are—you did nothing to stop them.

And, even if they are acting de facto in your name, they still do not have legitimate authority to do so, because what they have done is intrinsically unjust.

Not even a Pope can have his officials of whatever rank command under pain of serious penalty a priest to find a benevolent bishop, and then secretly work behind the scenes to make it impossible for that priest to find any benevolent bishop anywhere in the world, and then publicly proclaim that priest is disobedient for having "failed" to find a bishop. Not only is such a practice malicious, it makes a mockery of the whole promise of priests' obedience and the Church’s legal system.

For these and other reasons explained in the accompanying libellus, justice obliges Your Holiness to correct the gross abuses of authority by the prelates named therein. If Your Holiness will not act, then their injustices, like all injustices, will ultimately be corrected by Our Lord Himself. It would surely be better that the correction come from Your Holiness now, lest they continue the damage they are doing to the Church.

Does your three year silence mean consent to the unlawful actions of your subordinates, Holy Father? Whatever you think of me and my apostolate, is this the way you wish your curial officials to behave? Are you not concerned about their serious compromise of the divine constitution of the Church?

Holy Father, my case will not go away. In the past three years millions of the faithful have become acquainted with it, including the 10 archbishops, 17 bishops, more than 1,900 priests and religious and more than 16,000 lay people who signed an Open Letter to Your Holiness in my defense, published in Italian on April 2, 1998 in Rome in Il Messaggero, the city’s largest daily newspaper. Altogether over one million copies of the Open Letter have been circulated in Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and English.

This case has made millions of Catholics all over the world acutely aware of the intolerable double-standard under which heretics are shown obsequious deference for their rights, evading even minimal punishment for decades, while priests like myself are subject to immediate and brutal deprivation of due process and natural justice.

No, my case will not go away. The more injustices they heap upon me, the more they will be made known—not solely for my own sake, but for the sake of truth itself. As your sainted predecessor, Pope St. Gregory the Great, has told us: "It is better that scandals arise than that the truth be suppressed." Not even my persecutors have ever questioned the truth of what I say.

There is only one way to bring an end to this case, Holy Father, and that is to do justice. Your Holiness has spoken often and eloquently in many places about justice and solidarity and human rights. Do your teachings on these things apply with equal force in the Holy Catholic Church? Or can they be dispensed with whenever it is deemed expedient by Vatican prelates who claim to be acting in your name?

Only Your Holiness can answer these questions. I pray that your answers will come soon, and with those answers, justice in my case. For the injustices done to me should no longer be allowed to impede the legitimate work of making more widely known to the members of the Church the Message of Our Lady of Fatima - in all its fullness.

Humbly submitted this 22 day of November, in the Year of Our Lord 1999.

Father Nicholas Gruner

from a decree of the Apostolic Signatura, dated July 10, 1999