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Thus, the Signatura of 1998 said Father Gruner had permission to reside in Canada between June 5, 1978, and November 15, 1989, and again between April 8, 1990, and July 18, 1990, but the Signatura of 1999 said there was no such permission. The Signatura had blatantly contradicted its own official version of the facts.
A close student of the case would notice something very suspicious in this contradiction: if the Signatura had simply continued to maintain that Father Gruners permission to reside in Canada was "revoked" in July 1990, then its 1999 decree would have been consistent with its 1998 decree. Why had it gone further in the later decree, claiming there was never any permission in the first place? What did the Signatura have to gain from a self-contradiction that was not even necessary to reach the result it desired? The answer to the question would only be apparent to someone familiar with recent developments in a certain litigation in Canada.
Back in June of 1990 the Vice Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Toronto, Msgr. A. McCormack, published a "clarification" in the archdiocesan bulletin which stated (among other things) that Father Gruners "status is irregular"a phrase remarkably similar to the one now being used by the Signaturaand that no Catholic should make donations to the apostolate. Yet only two months before, the Bishop of Avellino had sent Father Gruner, in Canada, a certificate attesting to his good standing as a priest. McCormacks accusation of "irregular status" was therefore demonstrably false. "Irregular" priests do not receive certificates of good standing from their bishops. McCormacks "clarification" had been circulated in the secular press throughout North America, shaking donor confidence and causing severe damage to the apostolate. When McCormack refused to make a retraction of his patently false statements, the apostolates directors authorized the filing of a libel suit to protect the apostolates good namean action fully in keeping with Catholic moral theology in the case of a calumniator who refuses to retract.
In August of 1999 Father Gruner testified under oath at a deposition in the suit. By this time McCormack had been rewarded with a promotion to the Vatican. Father Gruner testified that as of June 1990 (the date of McCormacks "clarification") his status could not possibly have been "irregular" because he had Bishop Venezias permission to reside in Canada and the bishops successor had given him a certificate of priestly good standing as recently as April 1990. After Father Gruners deposition it was clear that McCormack was at serious risk of a judgment against him for libel.
From these facts, certain conclusions seemed highly probable: McCormack (or someone else in the Vatican) had read the transcript of Father Gruners deposition and realized that Father Gruner was likely to prevail in the libel litigation. Therefore, in order to protect McCormack, who was now a Vatican functionary, Father Gruners status in 1990 would somehow have to be declared "irregular" by the Signatura. This could be accomplished by holding that Father Gruner never really had permission to live in Canada, so that his presence there had been "irregular" from the start. Then McCormack could claimnine years after the factthat his libelous accusation of an "irregular status" in 1990 was "true" after all, because the Churchs highest court had just said so.
This would explain the appearance of the novel and canonically meaningless concept of "irregular condition" in the Signaturas latest decree; the language mimicked McCormacks phrase, "irregular status." It would also explain why the decree was dated in July even though it was not issued until September: If the decree had been given a September date, it would have been all too apparent that it had been written with a view to helping McCormack overcome Father Gruners deposition testimony in August. So the decree was backdated to July, before the deposition took place.
None of this is to suggest that all five of the prelates who signed the decree knowingly engaged in such a deception. It was entirely possible that they signed a decree prepared for them by someone else (perhaps Grochelewski) without reading it very carefully, following the Signaturas newly-enunciated principle that the accuracy of the facts does not matter so long as the result is "just and legitimate."
Now that the Signatura had revised the facts to dispense with Father Gruners 1978 permission to reside in Canada, what would it say about his involvement in the apostolate?
While not denying that Canon 278 guaranteed the natural right of secular priests like Father Gruner to associate with others in private apostolates, the Signatura cited Canon 278, §3, which states that "Clerics are to refrain from establishing or joining associations whose purpose or activity cannot be reconciled with the obligations proper to the clerical state." How could an apostolate devoted to Our Lady of Fatima possibly be irreconcilable with the obligations of the priesthood? The Signatura offered no explanation. On the contrary, for the first time in the entire proceedings, the Signatura had actually conceded that the apostolate itself was legitimate:
"For reasons of clarity it is to be noted that here we are not dealing with the legitimacy of the private association but only regarding the condition of Reverend Gruner himself."
If the legitimacy of the apostolate was conceded, if it was conceded that the Church did not require permission for it, then how could Father Gruners involvement in the apostolate be inconsistent with the priestly state? More to the point: How could a priests legitimate apostolic work constitute an "irregular condition"?
Here the Signatura offered a further non-answer: "The Second Vatican Council teaches that priests . . . are collaborators of the bishop in the service of Christ . . . Incardination since the Second Vatican Council is especially understood as incorporation into a particular church (diocese) and its presbytery (priesthood) with the service of the same church under the leadership of its pastor . . ." Yes, and so what? All of this was equally true before the Council, but it was also true that priests have the natural right to engage in apostolates without episcopal permission, and that the Signatura did not even question the legitimacy of Father Gruners apostolate.
The Signatura had avoided these obvious objections, resting on its mere ipse dixit that an admittedly legitimate apostolate was somehow inconsistent with incardination "since the Second Vatican Council." Yet it was the Pope, not the Signatura, who had the authority to interpret and implement Vatican IIs purported teaching on incardination. The Pope had exercised this authority by promulgating Canon 278, which guarantees the right of secular priests to establish and join private associations of the faithfulall the more so, associations conceded to be legitimate!
As if this were not enough to sustain Father Gruners position, three different bishops had offered to incardinate Father Gruner with permission to continue his work in Canada, precisely because they deemed it a service to their own particular churches. In fact, Father Gruner was already serving the "particular church" of Hyderabad by building an orphanage and supporting the orphans with the apostolates resources, and by conducting Marian pilgrimages which had attracted tens of thousands of potential Hindu converts, drawn by devotion to the Virgin Mary as fostered by the apostolates papally blessed Pilgrim Virgin statue. These were among the reasons which led Archbishop Arulappa to issue Father Gruner a decree of incardination for the continuation of what the Archbishop himself had called "Gods work." The same Archbishop had been the first signatory on the Open Letter to the Holy Father, protesting Father Gruners mistreatment. Clearly Archbishop Arulappa recognized in Father Gruner precisely the sort of "collaborator" his diocese needed, in keeping with "the teaching of Vatican II" on incardination.
If no fewer than three bishops viewed the apostolate as consistent with Father Gruners priestly obligations, on what basis could the Signatura say otherwise? Yet another non-answer: "Leaving aside the question by which the bishop in India or Brazil could permit a priest incardinated in his diocese to reside in Canada and be active in a private apostolate"leaving aside, that is, the very crux of the matter!"it is clear that, hypothetically, in no manner would this have rectified Reverend Gruners condition." And why was that? If the Signatura did not question the apostolates legitimacy; if the apostolate was already performing major corporal and spiritual works in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad; if the Archbishop of Hyderabad considered it "Gods work"if all this was true, then why would incardination in Hyderabad not rectify Father Gruners alleged "irregular condition"?
These facts had not impressed the Signatura. Evidently, the members of the tribunal had concludedhaving only God before their eyesthat building orphanages and feeding orphans in a poverty-stricken Third World diocese did not constitute a service to the local church. No, it was all very "irregular." As the Signatura would have it, Father Gruner had much more important works to perform in the Diocese of Avellino: the work of keeping quiet about the Message of Fatima; and, of course, the work of curing his "irregular condition" by remaining in Avellino for the rest of his life, doing nothing. The orphans would have to find another benefactor.
Throughout its discussion of Father Gruners status, the Signatura had completely ignored a basic norm of canonical interpretation, most recently expressed in Canon 17 of the 1983 Code: favorabilia amplianda, odios restrigendarights and privileges are broadly interpreted, while restrictions on rights and privileges are narrowly interpreted. In other words, the presumption in canon law is in favor of proper liberty and against the undue restriction of liberty. In Father Gruners case, however, the Signatura had given the narrowest possible interpretation of Father Gruners liberty to engage in an apostolate under Canon 278 §1, and the broadest possible interpretation of the restrictive phrase "cannot be reconciled with the obligations of the clerical state" in Canon 278 §2. That is, the Signatura had turned the law on its head, taking a narrow view of rights and a broad view of restrictions in the Code.
The Signatura maintained the same upside-down approach to the law in addressing the related question of the Congregations unprecedented directive that the Bishop of Avellino deny excardination to Father Gruner, so that his incardination in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad could be blocked.
Canon 270 states that:
Excardination can be lawfully granted only for a just reason, such as the advantage of the Church or the good of the cleric. It may not, however, be refused unless grave reasons exist . . .
This canon reflects the truth that when a priest is incardinated in a particular diocese he does not become an indentured servant for life to his original bishop, but rather has the right to transfer to another diocese where his talents and particular priestly charisms would be better usednot only for the good of the Church but for his own personal good. In short, priests are not chattel slaves, but human beings like everyone else. This is why Canon 270 provides that a priest may not be refused excardination to another diocese without "grave reasons."
What exactly were the "grave reasons" for denying Father Gruner excardination from Avellino, where he could not speak the dialect and had never been given a canonical mission in the first place? The only reason now given by the Signatura was Father Gruners "irregular condition." But the "irregular condition" consisted of nothing more than engaging in the very apostolate which the Archbishop of Hyderabad (not to mention two other bishops) was happy to sponsor. It was only the intervention of the Congregation, not any "grave reason", which was at work here. The Signatura had never denied that the Bishop of Avellino admitted to Father Gruner that he himself had no cause to deny excardination.
In short, there were no grave reasons to deny excardination. In fact, there were no reasons at all, only the determination of the Congregation and the Signatura that Father Gruner must be confined forever to the Diocese of Avellino.
But the travesty would grow even deeper. The Signatura still had to address the matter of the Congregations deliberate interference in offers of incardination by three successive bishops, as well as the request for excardination from Avellino.
Throughout the proceedings thus far, the Congregation for the Clergy and the Signatura had taken the position that the Congregation was merely advising the bishops on what to do, and merely upholding the Bishop of Avellinos own decrees against Father Gruner. In the latest decree, however, the Signatura had finally abandoned this pretense. It now asserted that all along the Congregation had been acting directly against Father Gruner "in the name of the Supreme Pontiff with ordinary executive vicariate power . . . as the hierarchical superior of the bishops." This might explain why the Promoter of Justice had disclosed the existence of numerous written and oral interventions by the Congregation against Father Gruner with the bishops of Anapolis, Simla-Chandigarh and Hyderabad. These interventions no longer had to be hidden, because under the new theory of the case they were only routine exercises of the Congregations vicarious papal authority as the "hierarchical superior" of every Catholic bishop in the world.
The problem with this breathtaking claim is that the Congregation itself had never mentioned it. All of its prior decrees were cast entirely in terms of merely upholding decrees of the Bishop of Avellino. In fact, the Congregation had passed over in silence Father Gruners objections to its interference in his excardination and incardination, never once claiming that it had the right to interfere in the name of the Pope.
To this the Signatura replied that in July of 1989 the Congregation did indeed openly assert its supposed vicarious papal authority when Cardinal Innocenti (then Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy) issued his letter ordering Father Gruner to return to the Diocese of Avellino by September 30, 1989, if he had not found another bishop. But the Signatura failed to mention that Father Gruner had immediately appealed this directive both to the Congregation and the Pope himself on grounds that it was clearly outside the Congregations authority, since the Bishop of Avellino had never given any such order himself and the Congregation did not have the right to run his diocese. The Signatura also failed to mention that after Father Gruners appeal to the Congregation and the Pope, neither Innocenti nor the Congregation itself ever mentioned the 1989 directive again, nor is there a single reference to it in any of the Congregations subsequent decrees or announcements against Father Gruner over the next ten years. The Congregations silence spoke volumes.
To this the Signatura could only reply that "the argument from silence proves nothing." On the contrary, it proved everything. For if Cardinal Innocentis 1989 intervention had been a valid exercise of the Congregations alleged vicarious papal authority, the Congregation would certainly have relied upon it in declaring Father Gruner "disobedient" to "ecclesiastical authority"indeed, the "vicarious" authority of the Pope himself! But the Congregation had said nothing about the decree from August 21, 1989 to the present. Nor had the Congregation ever responded to Father Gruners 1989 appeal against the decree. The Congregation having received the appeal, its ten-year silence could mean only one thing: that the Congregation knew it had acted outside its authority and that Father Gruner had been correct in asserting the illegality of its action.
The Congregations total retreat from the 1989 intervention demonstrated (better than any argument) that the Congregation knew it was not the "hierarchical superior" of the Bishop of Avellino (or, for that matter, any other bishop) and had no right to issue orders to Father Gruner without the bishops approval. This was precisely why, in his subsequent letter of October 28, 1989, Cardinal Agustoni (with Cardinal Innocenti as co-signer) merely requested that the Bishop of Avellino recall Father Gruner to the diocese, while pretending that it was the bishops own idea. Meanwhile, having been forced to retreat after Father Gruners appeal to the Pope, Cardinal Innocenti let it be known that the name of Father Gruner was never to be mentioned in his presence againhardly the behavior one would expect from a man who thought he was acting with the Popes own authority.
It did not take a very deep knowledge of Catholic teaching to recognize that the Signaturas newly expansive view of the Congregations authority would wreak havoc with the divine constitution of the Church. As the First Vatican Council solemnly defined, the primacy of Peter in no way detracted from "that power of ordinary and immediate episcopal jurisdiction by which the bishops, who placed by the Holy Spirit, have succeeded to the place of the Apostles as true shepherds, individually feed and rule the individual flocks assigned to them . . . " As the Council further declared, the local sovereignty of bishops "is asserted, confirmed and vindicated by the universal shepherd ..." And what of Pastor bonus, John Paul IIs apostolic constitution defining the authority of the Congregation for the Clergy, which states that the Congregation was formed "without prejudice to the right of bishops ..."?
While the Pope can (and, indeed, must) delegate certain limited functions to the congregations which make up the Roman Curia in order to be able to govern a vast Church, even the Pope must respect the "ordinary and immediate episcopal jurisdiction" of local bishops as successors of the Apostles, as Vatican I solemnly teaches. By what right, then, did the Congregation for the Clergy dictate to the Bishop of Avellino whom he would excardinate, or to the Archbishop of Hyderabad whom he would incardinate?especially when the Congregation had no reason for its interventions beyond "worried signals" from the Vatican Secretary of State?
When he was ordained a priest Father Gruner had made a promise of obedience to his bishop, not to the Congregation for the Clergy. Yet the Signatura had now effectively declared that the Congregation acts as a kind of super-bishop or junior pope, exercising original papal jurisdiction over every priest in the world, even if there was no recourse before it. And this is why, according to the Signaturas newly announced theory, the Congregation had the right to "order" Father Gruner to return to Avellino on its own initiative in 1989, even if the Bishop of Avellino had never given such an order himself.
If the Congregation for the Clergy could issue direct orders to priests on such matters as where they would reside and which apostolates they could conduct, and priests had no choice but to obey these orders, what was left of the ordinary power of episcopal jurisdiction over dioceses? Clearly, it would become an empty formality. The bishops in each diocese would be merely caretakers of their respective territories whose judgments could be overruled by the Congregation whenever the Congregation deemed it expedient.
The Signatura contended that its expansive interpretation of the power of the Congregation "would not mean that the bishops are mere delegates to the Congregation or that the Congregation can act arbitrarily." Given that the Signatura acknowledged that the Congregation could not act arbitrarily, how could the Signatura uphold the following sequence of actions: (1) ordering a priest to find another bishop to incardinate him, then (2) ordering any interested bishop not to incardinate the priest, then (3) ordering the original bishop not to excardinate the priest, and then (4) declaring that the priest is "disobedient" because he had "failed" to find another bishop. Did the Congregations alleged "vicarious papal authority" include the right to engage in such shamelessly tyrannical maneuvers? If such actions were not arbitrary, then what would be?
Thus it seemed that even the Divine Constitution of the Church would have to be adjusted to allow for the disposal of Father Nicholas Gruner. Naturally, the Signatura had concluded that the Congregation "rightly carried out the office commissioned to it by the Supreme Pontiff" when it employed secret interventions, levelled false accusations and browbeat bishops in order to prevent Father Gruners incardination in any diocese in the world except Avellino. And why was this whirlwind of global activity necessary to prevent the otherwise routine incardination of one priest? Because the bishops should not be allowed to confirm "de facto his [Father Gruners] irregular condition." In a Church convulsed by crisis and scandal in so many dioceses throughout the world, the one thing bishops could not be allowed to do was confirm Father Gruners "de facto irregular condition." The Congregation simply had to act in this emergency! In the name of the Pope, of course.
The phrase "de facto irregular condition" was yet another novelty which seemed to have been coined especially for Father Gruners case. There is a distinction in jurisprudence between matters de facto and matters de jure. Matters de facto are matters of fact; matters de jure are matters of law. Violation of the law is a matter de jure, not de facto. For example, one cannot be a de facto speeder. One has either violated the speed limit or he has not. To say, then, that Father Gruner was guilty of only a "de facto irregular condition" was to admit that he had not actually violated any law of the Church, and that as far as the law of the Church was concerned, his "condicio" was perfectly legal and thus certainly not "irregular". The charge made no more sense than a summons for de facto speeding.
In sum, the Congregation for the Clergy had spent ten years under three successive Cardinals, engaging in and upholding utterly unprecedented interventions to address the situation of one priest whose situation was not even illegal to begin with, in order to put a stop to an apostolate whose legitimacy was not even denied. This had to rank as one of the greatest puzzles in the annals of canon law. Or rather, it was no puzzle at all: The apostolate was, of course, at the very heart of the matter, but the Signatura could never admit this. Nor could the Congregation. For how could it be admitted that all of these factual and legal contrivances had been aimed at destroying promotion of the Message of Fatima by the only priest who was doing it effectively on a worldwide basis? To admit this would be to open the door to a hearing on what the case was really about: the fundamental opposition between the Message of Fatima and the current agenda of the Vatican bureaucracy, which was heir to the Vatican-Moscow Agreement and the entire post-conciliar "opening to the world"an enterprise whose failure had been nothing short of catastrophic.
All that remained now were a few loose ends. There was the matter of Father Gruner not being an Italian citizen. How could he be expected to take up permanent residence in Italy after an absence of more than twenty years? The bishops order to return was legally impossible to fulfill. Illegal aliens are expelled from Italy just as they are from Canada or the United States.
Undeterred by this legal reality, the Signatura simply observed that many foreign-born priests live and work in Italy, without mentioning that these priests have proper immigration status and cannot be expelled. Since 1994 the Bishop of Avellino had taken no steps to obtain the proper visa for Father Gruner, which would require that the bishop give the Italian consulate in Canada written guarantees of Father Gruners financial support and medical coverage. Acting under coercion from the Congregation, the bishop had simply issued orders to return without any thought to the legalities involved.
But while the Signatura evinced no concern about Father Gruners immigration status in Italy, its own prior decree in 1997 cited supposed problems with Indian immigration law as just reason to deny incardination in the Diocese of Hyderabad. So, when it came to Father Gruners incardination in Hyderabad, immigration laws were a major impediment, but when it came to incardination in Avellino (after an absence of more than 20 years), immigration laws were no problem at all. Straining to reach the preordained result, the Signatura had contradicted itself again.
But the fact remained that without the Bishop of Avellinos guarantees of financial support and medical coverage, Father Gruner could not obtain the necessary visa for a permanent return to Italy. Yet, incredibly, the Signatura had declared in the same decree that Father Gruner was not entitled to these very things: "The conditions were not fulfilled according to which Father Gruner would have merited remuneration for his ministry or social assistance in case of infirmity or old age." So, according to the Signatura, Father Gruner was supposed to return to Italy immediately without a proper visa, without salary, without medical coverage, and without any provision for his old age. Presumably, Father Gruner, now almost sixty, could spend five years or so in the Diocese of Avellino as an illegal alien harbored by the bishop (a period just long enough to ensure the total destruction of the apostolate, not to mention Father Gruners personal estate), after which it would not matter if he was arrested by the Italian police and deported to Canada in the condition of a pauper.
The Signatura turned, finally, to Father Gruners objection that he had never received a hearing before an impartial tribunal because the very members of the Congregation who were blocking his excardination to another diocese were acting as the judges of his recourse from the denial of excardination. Shifting ground yet again, the Signatura announced that Father Gruner was not entitled to an impartial judge in the Congregation because the Congregation is not a tribunal. Rather, it was the "hierarchical superior" of all bishops and priests in the Catholic Church.
But the Congregation itself had never denied that it was acting as a tribunal in Father Gruners case, nor had it ever claimed that it was acting as Father Gruners hierarchical superior. Rather, the Congregation had declared that the right to an impartial judge in "administrative proceedings" in the Congregation was "not foreseen by legislation", and the Signatura had upheld that position in one of its earlier decrees. The Signatura had contradicted itself yet again.
To conclude this point, the Signatura declared that, in any event, Father Gruner had received a hearing before an impartial tribunalnone other than the Apostolic Signatura! But the Signatura had yet to grant Father Gruner a hearing, having decided at every juncture of the proceedings that Father Gruners case was not worthy of discussion"manifestly without any foundation whatever."
As the Signaturas final decree had made clear, for Father Gruner an "irregular condition" meant any condition in which he would be able to engage in his apostolate, while a "regular" condition meant only one thing: permanent confinement in Avellino as a virtual pauper and slave of the bishop with no prospect of excardination to any other diocese. And this preposterously restrictive view of incardination had been presented in all seriousness as nothing more than the teaching of Vatican IIthe most liberalizing council in Church history!
Merely to summarize the Signaturas final decree against Father Gruner was to demonstrate the shameless injustice of the entire proceeding against him:
1. While the law of the Church states that priests can live outside their dioceses with merely presumed permission, Father Gruner could not do so even with written permission repeatedly affirmed over 16 years by three successive bishops of Avellino.
2. While the law of the Church (as well as natural law) states that priests can engage in private apostolates without episcopal approval, Father Gruner could not do so even with episcopal approval (from no less than three bishops), even though his apostolate is admittedly legitimate, supports orphans and is considered Gods work by an Archbishop of more than 27 years standing.
3. While excardination cannot be denied except for a grave reason, Father Gruners excardination could be denied without any reason, besides an "irregular condition" consisting of nothing more than conduct which the Code of Canon Law not only does not prohibit, but positively allows.
4. While Italian immigration law prohibited Father Gruners permanent residence in Italy, Father Gruner must still return after an absence of 20 yearswithout a proper visa, without salary, without medical insurance, without provision for his old age. This he was expected to do even though under Canon Law (Can. 22) the Church agreed to be bound by Italian Civil Law on immigration, and even though Father Gruner could be arrested and jailed as an illegal alien on Italian soil.
5. While claiming that Father Gruner had been given an "impartial" hearing in the Signatura, Grochelewski had refused to admit the case for discussion by the judges of that same tribunal.
For Father Gruner only, Vatican II and the Code of Canon Law comprised a straitjacket no other priest in the Church was wearing. Meanwhile, priests truly in need of straitjackets were roaming the Church out of control, demanding, and getting, freedom for all kinds of private undertakings, many of them openly inimical to the Churchs teaching on faith and morals. Knowledgeable Catholics were well familiar with the cases of globetrotting dissident priests and nuns who were allowed to inflict incalculable damage on the Church for years and even decades without the slightest disciplinary action being taken against them by the Vatican: the Boffs, the Kungs, the Foxes and the Currans of the post-conciliar Church had the whole world at their disposal, including the mass media, for the spreading of their poison. Not one of them had ever been threatened with the suspension from priestly orders about to be imposed on a priest from Canada whose only offense was to conduct a legitimate Fatima apostolate rather too effectively for the Vatican Secretary of State.
As the Signaturas final decree against Father Gruner was being readied in the summer of 1999, the supposed "resolution" of the case of Father Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick provided an apt example of the invidious double-standard at work in Father Gruners case.
Since 1977 Nugent and Gramick had traveled the globe under the auspices of their so-called "apostolate", New Ways Ministry, openly contradicting the Churchs settled teaching on the intrinsically disordered nature of the homosexual condition. It took seven years for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life to order Nugent and Gramick to sever their ties with this "apostolate", whereupon they simply resigned as officers but continued their involvement in the organization in open defiance of the Vaticans order. Another four years elapsed before the Vatican established a commission to "study" the teaching of Nugent and Gramick. Another six years went by before the commission issued its 1994 "findings" that Nugent and Gramicks "ministry", while exhibiting "positive aspects", had "serious deficiencies" which were "incompatible with the fullness of Christian morality." In other words, Gramick and Nugent were spreading immoral teaching throughout the Catholic Church.
Having received the Vatican Commissions findings, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life "recommended" disciplinary measures, including "some sort of notification"some sort of notification, after seventeen years of open disobedience and contradiction of Church doctrine.
Then the Congregation discovered, to its great surprise, that Nugents and Gramicks false teachings involved doctrinal matters which should be considered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). It promptly turned the whole matter over to the CDF, having failed to impose any discipline whatsoever on Nugent or Gramick.
In 1996after nineteen years of spreading error in the Church Gramick and Nugent were asked by the CDF to answer questions about their erroneous views and to affirm the Catholic teaching. The CDF deemed their responses "not sufficiently clear", at which point it openedopened!a doctrinal investigation of the two, after a mere nineteen years of complaints about them.
Another year went by before the CDF announced what has been known from the beginning, that Nugents and Gramicks teachings were "erroneous and dangerous." Instead of imposing discipline, however, the CDF asked them both to respond to the CDFs conclusions.
Still another year passed before the CDF received Gramick and Nugents responses, which it deemed "unacceptable." But still no discipline. Instead, in 1998after 21 years of false teaching and disobedienceNugent and Gramick were asked to formulate declarations expressing their agreement with Catholic teaching! They sent in their statements, but neither declaration was acceptable.
Finally, on July 14, 1999 twenty-two years after Nugent and Gramick began their career of dissension from Church teachingthe CDF announced that their false doctrine had caused "confusion among the Catholic people and harmed the community of the Church." And what was to be the penalty for all the 22 years of confusion and harm they had caused to souls? No suspension or reduction to the lay state for either, but merely an order that they cease ministering to homosexuals or holding offices in their respective religious institutes! They were not ordered to cease preaching their errors against the Faith, which had been published in two books, or even to retract their errors. And this was all the Vatican was willing to do to remedy nearly a quarter century of serious damage to the Church.
The comparison with Father Gruners case was nothing short of sickening. Unlike Father Gruner, Gramick and Nugent were never even threatened with suspension or reduction to the lay state. Unlike Father Gruner, Gramick and Nugent did not suffer any interference in their basic canonical rights on the theory that the pertinent Congregation was acting in place of the pope with direct authority over their immediate superiors. Unlike Father Gruner, Gramick and Nugent were not subjected to secret interventions, secret letters, or secret "resolutions"; they had been notified of every step in the proceedings and given opportunity to respond. Indeed, throughout the Nugent and Gramick affair obsequious deference was shown to their rights. After 22 years of brazen disobedience and heterodox teaching, they suffered minimal punishments and remained, respectively, a priest and a nun in good standing, free to continue undermining Catholic moral teaching on the grave disorder of the homosexual conditionwith untold damage to the faith and morals of Catholics, especially the young.
Yet Father Gruner, a morally upright and orthodox priest, had been summarily pronounced "disobedient" and subject to suspension from the sacred priesthood without ever having been shown to be in violation of any law of the Church, much less a basic moral teaching. As Cardinal Agustoni had stated in his letter to the Bishop of Avellino in 1989, Father Gruner would even be defrocked and reduced to the lay state if he would not agree to be silenced. Defrocked for preaching the Message of Fatima, while public heretics received a slap on the wrist after decades of dancing with the Vatican.
The conclusion was inescapable: There are two standards for the administration of justice in the post-conciliar Church. The first standard is for those who preach heresy and violate Church law. These are given every available procedural right before any sort of minimal penalty is imposed, if indeed there is ever a penalty at all. The second standard is for those who incur the wrath of certain Vatican functionaries by too successfully promoting some element of traditional Catholicism. These are deprived of due process and subjected to an absurdly strict and unjust interpretation of the law.
The net result was an intolerable paradox in the post-conciliar Church: Those who violate the law are given the benefit of the law, while those who obey the law are deprived of its benefit.
And so the triumph of Father Gruners opponents in the Vatican Secretariate of State would appear to be complete. Five members of the Apostolic Signatura had signed a "definitive decree" which contradicted not only the law and the facts, but the Signaturas own prior pronouncements. Never mind that this final decree had changed the rules of the game and shifted ground to entirely new arguments that Father Gruner would have no opportunity to answer. Although the proceedings had been a travesty, the preordained result had finally been obtained. Now it would simply be a matter of announcing to the world that Father Gruner had been "suspended" for his "disobedience".
But it would not be so simple as that, after all. For there was yet another surprise in store for Father Gruners canonical executionersanother gift, perhaps, from Our Lady of Fatima. It would come once again from the Archdiocese of Hyderabad.
Some four months before the date of the Signaturas final decree, Archbishop Arulappa had sent to Father Gruner his own decree in the matter of Father Gruners incardination in Hyderabad. The Archbishops decree was a forthright rejection of the Congregations arbitrary declaration that the incardination of Father Gruner in Hyderabad in 1995 was "non-existent":
"Having reviewed the documents of Father Nicholas Gruner, including the letter from the Diocese of Avellino, dated August 4, 1989, I am satisfied that my decree of November 4, 1995, incardinating Father Gruner into the Archdiocese of Hyderabad is valid and effective, and he is validly incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Hyderabad from that date . . . 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 for the present, especially through undue canonical or juridical pressures. May Jesus Christ be Praised!"
The Archbishop had taken a stand against the corruption of justice in the Church, again giving objective confirmation to the reality of Father Gruners persecution.
The Archbishops decree had been forwarded to the Bishop of Avellino in August of 1999, and the bishop has yet to reply. Would the Congregation exercise its newly-acquired "vicarious" papal authority, issuing a "papal" order nullifying an Archbishops decree? Or would it concede that it had no authority to do so and remain silent, as it did after the 1989 intervention? If so, how could it be claimed that Father Gruner had been "suspended" for "disobeying" the Bishop of Avellino, when an Archbishop in India had decreed that Father Gruner was a priest of his Archdiocese, not Avellino?
The Congregation and the Signatura had embarked upon a travesty with their first unprecedented decrees against Father Gruner in 1994 and 1995. Now the travesty had acquired a dimension they could not have anticipated when they first began to interfere in the rightful jurisdiction of bishops.
For years Father Gruner had been made the victim of a law written for just one man. The Archbishop of Hyderabad had recognized the divine truth that a law for one man is no law at all, but lawlessness. Since Vatican II the Church has been plagued by lawlessness and scandal in places high and low. But here, now, in the case of this priest, the laws of the Churchlaws which applied to all the faithfulwere being upheld by a prelate who would not tolerate their corruption any longer, not even by his fellow prelates in the Vatican.
The case of Father Nicholas Gruner has not yet been closed. Nor has the cause of Our Lady of Fatima been ended, for Heaven will not allow it to end until Her promise has been fulfilled. "In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph".
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