The Wanderer’s Recent Attack
on Father Nicholas Gruner
Reveals the Pathology of Neo-Catholicism

by Christopher A. Ferrara

Before I discuss Mr. Abbott and his neo-Catholic approach to Fatima, I will first explain in some detail what I mean by the term neo-Catholic. neo-Catholicism of September 7, 2000, features a column by one Matt Abbott, entitled “Fatima Priest Just Won’t Give Up.” In his column Mr. Abbott indulges in some of the usual bashing of Father Nicholas Gruner over the Message of Fatima. The piece is worthy of comment not because of its content, which is banal, but for its usefulness as an example of the phenomenon I can only describe as The Wanderer.

The Neo-Catholic Mentality

I am told that Mr. Abbott is around 25 years of age. This young man never experienced the disastrous, utterly unprecedented changes which swept through the Church some 35 years ago. For him, the traditional Latin Mass in every parish, full seminaries and convents, and the strict avoidance of worship in common with heretics and infidels are not even distant memories. The present unparalleled state of the Church is all he has ever known.

Mr. Abbott, then, is a perfect specimen of what I would call the neo-Catholic. A neo-Catholic is someone, young or old, who not only sees no problem with the ruinous, papally-approved “reforms of Vatican II,” but seriously defends every one of them as fully consistent with Tradition. The neo-Catholic is ready to denounce as a “schismatic” or “radical traditionalist” any Catholic who publicly opposes any of the post-conciliar novelties which happen to have the Pope’s real or apparent approval. This would include such things as interfaith prayer meetings with Hindus, Buddhists and African animists, altar girls and giving away Catholic churches to the schismatic Orthodox.1

For the neo-Catholic, the “Magisterium” is little short of anything the Pope says or wishes to do. The neo-Catholic’s approach to papal authority is, in essence: (1) the Pope can do no wrong and, (2) nothing the Pope says or does may ever be opposed, and (3) the same holds true for any Vatican prelate who performs (or claims to perform) any function in the name of the Pope — if a Vatican prelate speaks, it is “the Pope” speaking.

This is contrary to the teaching of saints and doctors of the Church, who unanimously recognize that not even the Pope (much less his subordinates) is an absolute dictator, but like any ruler can be licitly opposed where he acts in a manner that harms the common good.2 Hence Francisco de Suarez, praised by Saint Pius V as a “pious doctor,” followed Catholic tradition when he observed that if the Pope “tries to do something manifestly opposed to justice and to the common good, it would be licit to resist him.”3

Church history offers many examples of how licit resistance to the Pope caused him to reconsider acts which were harmful to the Church. To cite only a few: St. Paul’s rebuke of Peter for declining to eat with Gentiles, thus giving the scandalous appearance that Jewish dietary law still remained; the refusal of the Asiatic bishops to obey the command of Pope Victor I that they conform the date of Easter in the Eastern church to that of the Roman Church; the refusal of the bishops of France and Italy to accept Pope Paschal II’s agreement to allow King Henry V to invest bishops; the denunciation of John XXII as a heretic by the French theologians, when he erroneously asserted from the pulpit that the departed souls of the just do not enjoy the beatific vision until the Last Day; the refusal of the people of Milan to allow a series of popes, including Nicholas II, to suppress the Ambrosian rite of Mass, and so forth.

The neo-Catholic acts as if the Pope (or his Vatican delegates) were somehow incapable of taking actions that could actually damage the Church, as if anything the Pope decides to do must be accepted a priori as a work of the Holy Ghost. Such historical examples as the posthumous condemnation of Pope Honorius for heresy by a general council, ratified by Pope Leo II, prove beyond doubt that the Pope is quite capable of inflicting spiritual and material harm on the Church, and that in such case he ought to be resisted.

Now, if you press him, even a neo-Catholic will agree that priests, bishops and cardinals may be resisted when they take actions that harm the common good of the Church. Yet the neo-Catholic thinks the Pope is somehow exempt from the same basic principle of natural law. Hence a neo-Catholic may be seen criticizing a high-ranking prelate for doing precisely what the Pope does.

For example, The Wanderer recently blasted Cardinal Keeler for conducting a public prayer for forgiveness of the alleged historical sins of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, including their supposed “racism”.4 Yet this ceremony was no different in kind from the Pope’s own Day of Pardon liturgy, in which he begged forgiveness for the historical “sins” of deceased Catholics in every nation, including racism, sexism and “sins against love, peace and respect for cultures and religions.” The Wanderer even featured an irate letter of protest to Cardinal Keeler from a layman, reciting precisely the same theological objections raised by “radical traditionalists” against the Pope’s substantially identical ceremony, including the objection that it is outrageous to accuse the dead of sins when they cannot defend themselves, or that it is theologically impossible to ask forgiveness from God for the sins of departed souls who have already been judged. So, the neo-Catholic will attack a cardinal for following the Pope’s example, while at the same time counseling virtual blind obedience to the Pope! Such is the confusion of the neo-Catholic mind.

The neo-Catholics have also been called “conservatives,” but in truth they have conserved absolutely nothing of what the reformers destroyed after the Council. That is why I maintain they are more properly called neo-Catholics, for they defend and practice a form of Catholicism that would have horrified any Pope before 1960. Just imagine Pope Saint Pius X attending what the neo-Catholic would consider a “reverent Novus Ordo Mass,” with its women “lectors,” altar girls, priest facing the people over a table instead of an altar facing God, horrendous and doctrinally suspect5 vernacular translations proclaimed entirely in a loud voice, ecumenically-oriented “Eucharistic prayers” in place of the traditional Roman Canon, guitar music and pop hymns instead of Gregorian chant, the handshake (or hug) of peace instead of devout recollection before Holy Communion, communion in the hand instead of on the tongue, and lay men and women distributing the Sacred Host and Precious Blood to standing communicants, instead of priests distributing the Sacred Species to communicants kneeling at the altar rail. How would Saint Pius X react to this spectacle? You get the picture. Well, the neo-Catholic doesn’t.

Whether he knows it or not, the neo-Catholic has broken with Tradition. This is not just a question of the appearance of the Church as a visible commonwealth in her worship and other praxis, but also of novel orientations, attitudes and liberal tendencies never been before seen in Catholics who considered themselves faithful.

A prime example is the “Catholic charismatic renewal,” an “ecclesial movement” of babbling, “Spirit-filled,” interdenominational congregations, who gather in sports arenas and other large venues to be thrilled by raucous music and the exhortations of “anointed” preachers, many of them Protestant ministers. The movement is founded on a clearly heterodox pneumatological conception of the Church, which regards the institution of the Catholic Church as but a visible manifestation, however admirable, of a preexistent pan-denominational “union in the Holy Spirit” with objective heretics.6 This grotesquerie has penetrated nearly every diocese in North America, and is vigorously promoted by the decidedly neo-Catholic Franciscan University of Steubenville and Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, (EWTN) the media flagship of neo-Catholicism. (That EWTN’s strange brew of traditional devotions and appalling novelties is considered rock-solid Catholicism today only indicates the depth of the current crisis.)

Another example is the “Neo-Catechumenal Way,” a movement whose name would suggest it is the prefect embodiment of neo-Catholicism. Active in dioceses throughout the world, this Judaized, semi-gnostic, intra-ecclesial sect conducts private, closed-door Saturday night “liturgies” which have been dispensed from all compliance with even the absurdly liberalized liturgical laws of the Novus Ordo. The neo-liturgy of this sect has no Offertory, and the congregation dances the horah around the altar-table before consuming a Host the size and consistency of a personal pan pizza, which tends to crumble and leave fragments all over the floor. The sect’s lay founders, Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez (I kid you not) have concocted a neo-catechism in which the movement’s adherents are trained to varying levels of gnostic initiation into the thinking of Kiko and Carmen. This “catechism” is rife with heterodoxy, including the proposition that the Church went astray after the 8th Century and became obscured by an accretion of unnecessary customs and structures — precisely what the Protestants say — until its essence was freed again by Vatican II.7 The sect is armed with a letter of commendation from the Pope himself — which, sad to say, is quite authentic. (The Pope has repeatedly praised this “ecclesial movement.”)

One could multiply the examples of neo-Catholic movements which have sprouted like weeds in the devastated vineyard of the post-conciliar Church. (The pan-denominational Focolare movement and Communion and Liberation are two others.) But even if these movements do not claim a majority of neo-Catholics as formal members, they are all compatible with the neo-Catholic mentality, which defends the movements because it has learned to accept the most outrageous and destructive ecclesial novelties as a matter of course, and even a sign of health and “ferment” in the Church. What is common to all these movements is a rejection of the Church’s supposedly “triumphal” and hidebound past, her immemorial Latin liturgy and her divinely-conferred status as the one true Church outside of which there is neither Church nor salvation.

Moreover, whether or not they have actually joined one of the more overtly pathological anti-traditional “ecclesial movements,” the generality of neo-Catholics has yielded ground in a number of areas implicating Catholic doctrine: on extra ecclesiam nulla salus (the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church); on the liturgy, of course; on altar girls; on communion in the hand; on sacred music; on the anti-modernism of the pre-conciliar popes; on the pre-conciliar papal warnings regarding Masonic conspiracies against the Church (which many neo-Catholics find amusing); on the constant condemnation of worship in common with non-Catholics; on the duty of every man and every nation to profess the Catholic faith; on the necessity of the Social Kingship of Christ as embodied in the Catholic confessional state; on the right and duty of the Catholic state to restrain the public manifestations of false religions; on the condemnation of the errors of modern liberalism in the Syllabus of Pius IX , including “freedom of religion,” “freedom of speech” and “freedom of conscience”; on the literal truth of the Bible as history, especially the first three chapters of Genesis; on evolution; on classroom sex-education (neo-Catholics generally approve “chastity education” curricula); on mixed marriages, and so on.

If one considers as an ensemble all the post-conciliar novelties the neo-Catholics have either embraced or defended, one sees a mode of religion which is all but unrecognizable as Catholic from the pre-conciliar standpoint. We know this not by our own lights, as if we were the Magisterium, but by a simple empirical comparison of what was always practiced and believed before the Council with what we see today — and particularly a comparison of the classic precision of pre-conciliar Church teaching with the current muddle of ambiguous “pastoral” formulations. Every objective sign of the vigor of the Church tells us that the conciliar changes have eroded adherence to the infallibly defined dogmas, especially extra ecclesiam nulla salus. The general result has been a de facto detachment of neo-Catholics from the Church’s own precisely crafted dogmatic framework, leaving them to drift in a kind of quasi-Catholicism which may not contain any explicit heresy, but which the pre-conciliar popes simply would not regard as authentically and integrally Catholic. Anyone who honestly considers the absolutely unparalleled post-conciliar transformation of the Church would have to admit this.

In fact, it is the very existence of the great body of neo-Catholics which has made the post-conciliar revolution possible. The neo-Catholics are the equivalent of the Marxist lumpen proletariat — a mass of compliant social material, ready to receive the impress of the revolution and to denounce as “traitors” those who resist the process of remolding.

Here it must be noted that The Wanderer and its editor, Alphonse Matt, Jr., have been very dependable servitors of the post-conciliar revolution, despite their grousing about some of the more outrageous excesses of particular revolutionaries at the local level. Alphonse Matt’s decision to publish Abbott’s gratuitous Gruner-bashing — just what are Matt’s editorial criteria? — is but the latest example of how The Wanderer is always ready to denounce effective counter-revolutionary activity. The Wanderer proves the truth of Father Richard P. McBrien’s observation, in his appropriately titled The Remaking of the Church, that “Criticism of the extreme right by moderate conservatives is far more effective than by moderate progressives.”8 Take it from a very successful revolutionary: newspapers like The Wanderer are the revolution’s best friend.

A History of Surrender

Having sketched the phenomenon of neo-Catholicism as best I can, I now return to the proximate cause of this essay: Mr. Abbott and his article in The Wanderer. As I stated at the outset, Abbott, a typical neo-Catholic, has written a column entitled “Fatima Priest Won’t Give Up.” The subject of this column is Abbott’s opinion that Father Nicholas Gruner, S.T.L., is all wrong about the Message of Fatima and should “give up” his supposedly unreasonable interpretation of it.

That is, Father Gruner ought to fall in line with the rest of the neo-Catholic establishment, which (as the previous discussion would indicate) has a history of giving up since Vatican II  —  giving up every last tradition they have been told to give up, without offering even a whimper of protest. Most important, they have given up on the traditional understanding of the very dogma which is at the heart of the Message of Fatima — extra ecclesiam nulla salus, infallibly defined at least three times by the Magisterium, including the Council of Florence:

“It [the Church] firmly believes, professes and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews, heretics and schismatics, cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart ‘into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels,’ unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock ... and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed his blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church”.9

The neo-Catholic shudders at this kind of language, and prefers to let the dogma die the death of a thousand exceptions. He seems to have forgotten that a Catholic is bound to believe that pagans, Jews, heretics and schismatics cannot be saved as pagans, Jews, heretics and schismatics, but must be “added to the flock” of the Catholic Church before death. The Church has constantly and infallibly taught that the only certain way to be “added to the flock” is formal membership in the Church through Baptism, profession of the Catholic faith and submission to the Roman Pontiff. This is the three-fold bond that characterizes the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is identical to the Roman Catholic Church, as Pius XII (in Mystici Corporis) and Leo XIII (in Satis Cognitum) taught definitively and irrevocably.

Forgetting all this, the neo-Catholic is swept along by the current sentiment that just about everyone in the world has some excuse that exempts him from formal Church membership. The posited excuses range from the ever-expanding category of “invincible” ignorance, to Rahner’s “virtual faith” among “anonymous Christians” and even “sincere” atheists, to “unconscious psychological blocks” which supposedly excuse from conversion even those who have heard the claims of the Catholic Church full well. Paradoxically enough, the number of “substitutes” for formal Church membership has multiplied as the manifest depravity of the world has increased. Long since buried are the salutary warnings of Blessed Pius IX in Singulari quadam: It is for God alone to know whether, and how many, of the invincibly ignorant may be saved through an extraordinary means of grace.10 The faithful must “hold most firmly that, in accordance with Catholic teaching, there is one God, one faith, one baptism.” Therefore, “it is unlawful to proceed further in inquiry” about the speculative final state of non-Catholics, lest the dogma nulla salus be undermined. Indeed, it was Blessed Pius IX who solemnly condemned as error the already fashionable opinion that “We must at least have good hope concerning the eternal salvation of all those who in no wise are in the true Church of Christ.”11 Yet “good hope” for the salvation of the members of all religions has implanted itself in the neo-Catholic mentality.

In his practical abandonment of nulla salus, the neo-Catholic is only conforming to the Church’s newly-discovered “ecumenical orientation” and the newfangled practice of “interreligious dialogue”  —  both of which were completely unheard of in the Church before 1960. The sudden emergence of the former novelty was boldly proclaimed by the young Father (now Cardinal) Ratzinger shortly after Vatican II, in a statement which typifies how the unthinkable has become commonplace in the post-conciliar Church:

“A basic unity — of Churches that remain Churches, yet become one Church — must replace the idea of conversion, even though conversion retains its meaningfulness for those in conscience motivated to seek it ... Meantime, the Catholic Church has no right to absorb the other Churches. The Church has not yet prepared for them a place of their own, but this they are legitimately entitled to [!] ... Therefore, the Catholic cannot demand that all the other Churches be disbanded and their members individually incorporated into Catholicism.”12

So, we must “give up” on the belief that Protestants and schismatics are objectively obliged to return to the Catholic Church for the salvation of their souls, as every Pope and council taught before Vatican II, in keeping with the infallibly defined dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church.13

As we know only too well, the post-conciliar enthusiasms expressed by the young Father Ratzinger are now the pastoral program of the Church. This program is called “ecumenism” — that nebulous term coined to describe a conjurer’s trick by which Protestants and schismatics are supposed to achieve unity with the Roman Catholic Church, but without actually becoming Catholics themselves. As we await the realization of this fantasy, the Protestant sects preach the “gospel” of abortion, contraception and divorce, “ordain” women and deny the eternal punishments of hell, while the schismatic and heretical Orthodox renew with great vigor their adamant refusal to submit to the Vicar of Christ and abjure their various doctrinal errors.

In pursuing the ecumenical chimera we must, naturally, also “give up” on the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart prophesied by Our Lady of Fatima, which was always understood to mean the conversion of the Russian Orthodox to the Catholic faith. Of course, the neo-Catholic establishment agrees. After all, they have been surrendering for the past 35 years, retreating step-by-step before an advancing wave of ecclesial destruction. With each disastrous change, the neo-Catholic learns to accept what he once considered unthinkable, just as the conciliar popes have commended the very innovations their predecessors condemned.

So now Abbott and his fellow neo-Catholics are telling Father Gruner — telling all of us — to step back yet again before the advancing wave. Now they are telling us to “give up” on the Message of Fatima as Catholics have always understood it.

Giving Up on Fatima

On June 26, 2000, the Vatican called a press conference at which it published the text of a vision contained in the Third Secret of Fatima. The written commentary on the Secret by Cardinal Ratzinger and Msgr. Bertone asserts that Russia was “consecrated” to the Immaculate Heart by the Pope in 1984 and that “any further discussion or request [for the consecration] is without basis.” Never mind that the 1984 papal consecration ceremony made no mention of Russia, but only the world at large, or that the bishops failed to consecrate anything, the world included. Never mind that some 17 years later there is still no sign of the conversion of Russia which Our Lady promised as the miraculous fruit of the consecration. In Russia today there are two abortions for every live birth, and women who find themselves pregnant contemplate suicide rather than raising their children in such a spiritual and material wasteland. Russian Catholics comprise 1/10 of one percent of the Russian population and are outnumbered by Russian Muslims 100-to-1. These statistics are not likely to change: Russia’s 1997 law on “freedom of religion” forbids the Catholic Church to “proselytize” among non-Catholic populations.

As incredible as this may seem, the Vatican’s own apostolic administrator for Russia, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, has refused to sign applications for the registration of Eastern-rite Catholic parishes in Russia under the 1997 law, thus driving them underground. Why? According to Bishop Yulian Gbur of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Kondrusiewicz said the Vatican ordered him not to sign because registering the Catholic parishes “would be viewed as proselytism by the Moscow Patriarchate ...”14 That is, the Vatican itself has forbidden the conversion of Russia and forced Russian Catholics underground. Meanwhile, the Pope is advised not to mention Russia in any consecration formula because the Russian Orthodox would be offended. In short, we are witnessing one of the greatest follies in human history. But the Vatican says the consecration of Russia need no longer concern us, and that “any further discussion or request is without basis.” Naturally, Abbott and his fellow neo-Catholics agree.

As for the Third Secret, Cardinal Ratzinger and Monsignor Bertone both opined that it relates entirely to past events, culminating in the attempted assassination of the Pope in 1981. Never mind that in the published vision the Pope (along with many bishops, priests and laity) is actually killed by soldiers who fire upon him with rifles and arrows as he kneels at the foot of a large wooden cross, after traversing a half-ruined city. Never mind that the Ratzinger/Bertone commentary itself includes a letter from Sister Lucy to the Pope, dated May 12, 1982 — a year after the assassination attempt  —  in which she warns His Holiness that the world is still moving toward fulfillment of the Secret in “great strides” if it does not turn away from sin, and that people “are preparing their own punishment.” Oddly enough, Sister Lucy herself did not seem to think the Secret had already come to pass when she wrote to the Pope in 1982, making no reference to the prior assassination attempt. But never mind. Fatima belongs to the past. Fatima is finished. Give up, said Cardinal Ratzinger and Monsignor Bertone. And so the neo-Catholics did.

This is all rather old and tiresome stuff. The neo-Catholic establishment capitulates to the continuing demolition of our traditions, while condemning the rest of us as “radical traditionalists” because we have remained what they themselves were only forty years ago, before the onslaught of the conciliar “reforms.” And now one is a “radical traditionalist” if one does not accept the “reform” of the Message of Fatima. We are expected simply to ignore the overwhelming empirical evidence that Russia has not been converting since 1984, but rather disintegrating spiritually, morally and socially. We are expected to believe that the Pope escaping death at the hands of a lone assassin in Saint Peter’s Square is just the same as the Pope being killed by a band of soldiers outside a half-ruined city. We are expected to believe that the Third Secret contains no words of Our Lady, but only a rather obscure vision, when the Vatican’s own 1960 press release declared that “it is most likely the letter will never be opened, in which Sister Lucy wrote down the words which Our Lady confided as a secret ...” We are expected to ignore a mountain of direct and circumstantial evidence raising serious questions in the minds of millions (not just Father Gruner’s) about the completeness of the text released on June 26. [See “Are There Two Original Manuscripts of the Third Secret?”, A. Cesanek, The Fatima Crusader Magazine, Issue 64, page 3, Summer 2000]

Introducing Fatima Lite

But that is not all we are expected to believe. You see, every last holdout must be brought along to the Vatican’s new way of thinking and speaking to the world, which does not square well with Our Lady of Fatima’s prophecy of the triumph of Her Immaculate Heart, the spread of devotion to Her Immaculate Heart and the consequent conversion of Russia through the intervention of the Immaculate Heart. This sort of talk just won’t do anymore, even if it does come from the Mother of God. So, the larger task on June 26 was to detach the faithful once and for all from the explicitly Catholic aspects of the Message of Fatima, which all too clearly remind us of the “triumphal” Church of the pre-conciliar dark age. As the Los Angeles Times noted, the Ratzinger/Bertone press conference and commentary seemed calculated to “gently debunk the cult of Fatima.”15 The effort was so blatant that even a secular journalist could not help but notice it.

First let us examine Cardinal Ratzinger’s attempt to dispose of Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As we know, Our Lady of Fatima said that “to save sinners” from hell, God “wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart.” Cardinal Ratzinger offered this peculiar rendering:

“According to Matthew 5:8, the ‘immaculate heart’ is a heart which, with God’s grace, has come to perfect interior unity and therefore ‘sees God’. To be ‘devoted’ to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means therefore to embrace this attitude of heart, which makes the fiat — your will be done — the defining center of one’s whole life.”

Notice, first of all, the quotation marks Cardinal Ratzinger places around “devoted” and “Immaculate Heart”, which he strips of its upper-case I  —  a sure sign these words are about to acquire a new meaning. Thus, “God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart” is now to be understood as: “God wishes everyone to do His will.” In fact, everyone whose heart is open to God’s will acquires an “immaculate heart” of his own. So, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means opening one’s own heart to God, not spreading devotion to Her Heart throughout the world in order to make the world (especially Russia) Catholic. Immaculate with a capital I becomes immaculate with a lower case i, and Her Heart becomes everyone’s heart, at least potentially. Presto, change-o.

Then there was Cardinal Ratzinger’s rendering of “In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, which will be converted.” The Ratzinger “exegesis” is a complete deconstruction of the key prophecy of the Message of Fatima:

“I would like finally to mention another key expression of the ‘secret’ which has become justly famous: ‘My Immaculate Heart will triumph.’ What does this mean? The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of Her Heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Savior into the world — because, thanks to Her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time.”

The attentive reader will notice immediately that Cardinal Ratzinger cropped the key words “in the end” from the sentence “In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph.” This expedient editing of the Mother of God made it easy to sever the triumph of the Immaculate Heart from the specific historical event of the ultimate conversion of Russia, so that Ratzinger could tell us instead that the triumph is really nothing more or less than the Virgin Mary’s fiat in becoming Mother of the Redeemer. So, the Mother of God came to earth at Fatima to tell us that Her triumph occurred 2000 years ago!

As always, the neo-Catholics can be counted on to suspend the use of their reason when it comes to any Vatican pronouncement by any Vatican prelate  —  even a non-magisterial “commentary” on the Message of Fatima to which the Pope has not committed his own authority. They will not trouble themselves with such questions as how an event that will happen “In the end” could be transformed into an acknowledgment of Mary’s fiat at the very beginning of Christian history. Those of us who still retain the capacity for critical thinking, however, can only marvel at the contempt for his audience evident in Cardinal Ratzinger’s exercise. Did he really think no one would notice his deletion of the key words?

The conversion of Russia was a bit more difficult to make disappear. There is not much one can say to obscure the Mother of God’s very clear statement that “the Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, which will be converted.” But the conversion of Russia is no longer acceptable, and the Vatican has decided there cannot even be legally erected Catholic parishes in Russia, lest the Orthodox be offended. The solution was simply to avoid any discussion of the subject in the Ratzinger/Bertone commentary, although Our Lady’s words are quoted without comment. Conversion? What conversion?

The crowning insult was Cardinal Ratzinger’s citation of only one “authority” on Fatima in the commentary: the Flemish theologian Edouard Dhanis, S.J. Ratzinger certainly knows that Dhanis, a modernist Jesuit, made a veritable career out of casting doubt on the Fatima apparitions. Dhanis proposed that the Secret of Fatima was cobbled together in the minds of the three children from things they had seen or heard in their own lives. Ratzinger’s commentary likewise suggests that the Third Secret in particular consists of “images which Lucia may have seen in devotional books and which draw their inspiration from long-standing intuitions of faith.” In other words, who can really say which parts of the Secret are authentic and which are merely personal memories or “intuitions”?

What was left of the Message of Fatima after Ratzinger and Bertone got done with it on June 26? In case we missed the point, Cardinal Ratzinger told us: “What remains was already evident when we began our reflections on the text of the ‘secret’: the exhortation to prayer as the path of ‘salvation for souls’ (sic) and, likewise, the summons to penance and conversion.”

On June 26, 2000, the Message of Fatima became Fatima Lite: a watered-down prescription for personal piety without any specific relevance to the future. Our Lady’s prophetic warning that “various nations will be annihilated” if the consecration of Russia were not done was stripped away from the Message and tossed into oblivion.

For this the Mother of God came to earth and called down the Miracle of the Sun? It is interesting to note that even in presenting this minimalist version of the Message, Cardinal Ratzinger could not write about salvation for souls without bracketing those words with the same squeamish quotation marks he used to distance himself from the words “devotion”, “triumph” and “immaculate” in his commentary. It seems even Fatima Lite is not quite light enough in Catholic content for the ecumenical palates of modern Churchmen.

Exit Our Lady, Enter Gorbachev

Fatima having been “gently debunked” by Ratzinger/Bertone on June 26, the Vatican immediately got down to serious business. The very next day Mikhail Gorbachev was seated as a guest of honor between Cardinals Sodano and Silvestrini at a Vatican “press conference” to celebrate the posthumous publication of the memoirs of Cardinal Casaroli, the grand architect of Ostpolitik.16 No questions were permitted at this curious “press conference.” Evidently the Vatican wanted to be sure that no one embarrassed Gorbachev with any questions about Fatima, or why the Vatican was honoring a man who admits he is still a Leninist and whose tax-free foundations are promoting the use of abortion and contraception to eliminate four billion people from the world’s population.17 Gorbachev was honored by the Vatican again in November, when he addressed the Pope and other prelates at the “Jubilee of Politicians” — a dinner gala for about 5,000 of the world’s godless rulers. The photographers captured the Pope listening very attentively to a speech by this worldwide promoter of the abortion holocaust.

Funny, but the neo-Catholic establishment, especially The Wanderer, likes to complain when priests or bishops allow pro-abortion politicians to speak in Catholic facilities  —  and well they should complain. Yet when the Vatican itself becomes a forum for the very avatar of the culture of death, the intrepid crew at The Wanderer has nothing to say.

And so it goes with our neo-Catholic brethren. Rome burns while they fiddle on about “radical traditionalists” and a lone Marian priest from Canada.

Just Who is Crazy Here?

Like the other neo-Catholic critics of Father Gruner’s adherence to the Message of Fatima, as it was always understood before June 26, 2000, Abbott and The Wanderer really have nothing to offer in the way of reasoned argument. Abbott amuses himself by rhetorically linking Father Gruner to the seekers of Elvis (ha ha ha), as if to suggest that Father Gruner might be, well, just a little bit crazy. As proof, Abbott cites the opinion of his fellow neo-Catholic, James Akin, who writes for the neo-Catholic organ Catholic Answers. Akin informs us that “psychological studies have shown when fringe groups have their beliefs contradicted by the actual turn of events, their immediate response is to cling to the belief system even more ardently. Expect ‘rad trads’ [radical traditionalists] to attack the [Ratzinger/Bertone] commentary on the secret and conclude that Rome has still not done the right thing.”

In other words, don’t listen to those people — they’re all nuts. This favorite tactic of the Left is now being used by the neo-Catholic establishment to discredit anyone who steps out of the crowd to point out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. It occurs to me, however, that if anyone fits the psychological profile of clinging desperately to a “belief system” in the face of contrary evidence, it is the neo-Catholic. Despite the ever-worsening state of the Church, the world, and Russia in particular, the neo-Catholic insists we are witnessing the glorious fulfillment of the Message of Fatima. This delusion can be maintained only with the fiercest determination to deny reality.

Consider the Vatican’s own recent admission concerning the consecration of Russia. In the November issue of Inside the Vatican, a leading cardinal, identified only as “one of the Pope’s closest advisors,” is quoted to the effect that “Rome fears the Russian Orthodox might regard it as an ‘offense’ if Rome were to make specific mention of Russia in such a prayer, as if Russia especially is in need of help when the whole world, including the post-Christian West, faces profound problems ...” Well, Father Gruner has been saying for years that this is the sort of bad advice the Pope must be getting, and now we have the proof.

So, the neo-Catholic establishment clings to the belief that Russia was consecrated in a ceremony from which any reference to Russia was deliberately omitted. Indeed, the cardinal-advisor in question freely concedes that mention of Russia was omitted precisely to avoid any suggestion that Russia in particular needed to be consecrated! Amazingly enough, the neo-Catholics expect us to believe that the public consecration of Russia requested by the Mother of God was accomplished by refusing to single out Russia as the object of the consecration.

Pity the neo-Catholics. It seems folks like Abbott and Akin have never considered the distinct possibility that Father Nicholas Gruner may be one of the few people in the current ecclesial climate who isn’t insane. Perhaps Mr. Akin is aware that “psychological studies” have shown that certain inmates in asylums consider themselves quite normal and everybody else crazy. So who is really crazy here? Is it Father Gruner and the millions of Catholics who agree that a consecration of Russia really ought to mention Russia? Or is it the neo-Catholics, who see the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the very moment Russia and the rest of the planet are accelerating their descent into the abyss of corruption? Maybe, just maybe, it is the neo-Catholics who are a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

This would not be the first time in Church history when the great bulk of the faithful were deluded, leaving only a remnant to carry on the Faith. It was Saint Jerome who made the famous observation that after the Council of Milan in 359 “the whole world groaned and marveled to find itself Arian.” Only three bishops, Athanasius, Hilary and Eusebius, and their adherents, stood fast against the Arian heresy when it rose again with a vengeance after the Council of Nicæa. Even the exiled Pope Liberius succumbed to the reigning confusion when (under duress) he subscribed to a semi-Arian formula and the “excommunication” of Athanasius by the Council of Milan. I suppose the Abbotts and the Akins of the day would have derided Saint Athanasius and his followers as a “radical traditionalist fringe group.” But history records that they were a remnant of the true Faith during a crisis that ranked as the Church’s greatest — until the current crisis.

I am far from suggesting that Father Gruner is another Saint Athanasius. He himself would never countenance such a comparison. But I certainly am suggesting that the crisis we are now witnessing has no equal in the history of the Church. We have reached a state of affairs in which the very Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith believes that “churches and ecclesial communities” founded in heresy and human rebellion against divine authority are entitled to recognition by the Bride of Christ. Our own Pope has conducted joint liturgies with pro-abortion Lutheran and Anglican “bishops” in St. Peter’s Basilica, given away to the Greek Orthodox a Catholic church on the Palatine Hill in the heart of Rome (they reciprocated by refusing to allow His Holiness to visit Greece), donated money to build an Orthodox cathedral in Bucharest, publicly kissed the Koran, hailed the Muslims as our brothers and the Jews as our “elder brothers in the faith,” and declared (I could hardly believe this until I read it myself on the Vatican website): “May Saint John the Baptist protect Islam.”18 During the reconquest of Spain between 714 and 1492, there were apparitions of St. James the Apostle leading Catholic armies into various battles against the Muslims, and even fighting and killing some of them. I rather doubt that Saint John the Baptist was on the other side, protecting Islam. When the Vicar of Christ invokes the herald of Christ for the heavenly protection of a “religion” based on the denial of His divinity, the word crisis seems inadequate to describe our present situation.

And this is why Fatima is far from finished.

Some Advice for a Smart-Aleck

Mr. Abbott concludes his column with a bit of condescension that is too much to tolerate, even in a young man who can be forgiven his brashness:

“I wish that, instead of concentrating on ‘plots’ and ‘conspiracies’ within the Church, Father Gruner and his ilk would spend their time and money fighting the culture of death and its many evils: abortion, contraception, euthanasia, pornography, sex education. After all, isn’t that what Our Lady of Fatima would want?”

Consider that this young pup is publicly lecturing a priest more than twice his age, who holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology with high honors from the Angelicum (the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome), and who has forgotten more theology than Abbott will ever learn. What a marvel of compression in this one passage! So much proud ignorance on display in only two sentences. But then, how could one expect Abbott to be aware, for example, that Blessed Pius IX warned the faithful about “Masonic and other similar societies, which differing only in appearance coalesce constantly and openly or secretly plot against the Church or lawful authority.”19 And how could Abbott have known about Saint Pius X’s warning in Pascendi that the danger of the modernist conspiracy to undermine the Faith “is present almost in the very veins and heart of the Church, whose injury is the more certain from the very fact that their knowledge of her is more intimate.” We could hardly expect the young Abbott to be aware of papal teaching issued before he was even born, could we? Besides, there are no Masons or modernists conspiring against the Church today. They’ve all gone away — melted like an Easter snow in the springtime of Vatican II.

But surely even Abbott is aware, however dimly, that a faithful Catholic priest, especially one with a worldwide Marian apostolate, does more to oppose abortion and other evils in a single day than Abbott has done in his entire life. Concerning Father Gruner and his “ilk,” let me connect the dots for Mr. Abbott:

For the past 24 years Father Gruner has offered daily Masses of infinite worth for the propitiation of sin, including the sin of abortion. I can attest that he prays about three hours a day, every day, including his Mass, and that he works another 12 hours or so. He has preached thousands of sermons and given thousands of talks on purely spiritual themes, making many converts in the process (as his files attest). He has distributed scapulars for conversion and devotional literature for edification of the faithful throughout the entire world. He has conducted Marian pilgrimages which have drawn hundreds of thousands of souls, including vast crowds of potential Hindu converts in India. On the purely temporal level, he has built an orphanage which cares for children who were spared from abortion. He himself lives in a ramshackle house with floors that are not level, and drives an old Chevy with vinyl upholstery.

How many Masses has Abbott offered? How many converts has he made? How many hours does he pray each day? How many orphans does he feed? How much of his time and money does Abbott devote to “fighting the culture of death”? A news search of the Lexis-Nexis data base reveals that Abbott’s principal contribution appears to be writing letters to the editor. Oh yes, and his neo-Catholic column in The Wanderer.

The letter to the editor is the neo-Catholic’s idea of militancy in pluralistic America: words accomplishing nothing, addressed to people who believe in nothing. Meanwhile, neo-Catholicism has sold out on the one thing that really could change America and the whole world for the better: the Social Kingship of Christ over every man and every nation, as taught so marvelously in Pius XI’s Quas Primas. This explicitly and uniquely Catholic doctrine is what the Message of Fatima is all about. A Catholic America in a Catholic world is “what Our Lady of Fatima would want,” Mr. Abbott. But Our Lady is not going to get any help in this regard from the neo-Catholic establishment. Neo-Catholicism has replaced the Social Kingship of Christ with the naturalistic cause (however laudable in itself) of “opposing the culture of death,” and with the hopeless pursuit of a utopian, pan-religious “civilization of love” that has never been seen in the history of the world and never will be seen.

When it comes to making the world Catholic in order to save it from hell, Abbot and his fellow neo-Catholics really care no more about “what Our Lady of Fatima would want” than the Vatican bureaucrats who showed Her the door on June 26 and feted Mikhail Gorbachev on June 27. Our Lady told us exactly what She wanted eighty-four years ago, when She appeared to three shepherd children above the holm-oak tree in a humble field in Portugal. After showing the children the souls burning in hell, she eased their terror by telling them how to save those souls, how to save the world. What Our Lady said that day needs no commentary from learned adults at the Vatican, for any child can understand it:

“You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart ... In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, which will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to mankind.”

Yes, Mr. Abbott, Our Lady certainly would want us to “oppose the culture of death.” But the current leadership in the Vatican clearly has no use for the means She gave us at Fatima. Consecrating Russia by name would offend the Russians, said the cardinal-advisor to the Pope; and the Vatican certainly does not wish to offend the Russians. Nor, it seems, does the Vatican wish to offend the world at large by speaking of poor souls going to hell, or how souls can be saved by devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, or how Russia will be converted to the one true religion. The men who hold the levers of power in the Church today no longer seem capable of uttering such words — at least not loudly enough for the world to hear. And when they were finally forced to use these words this past June 26, in order to quell the rising murmurs of the faithful, they surrounded the words with nuances and quotation marks to render them inoffensive to an unbelieving world. For if the Vatican spoke boldly of such things to unbelievers, how would it be able to conduct the important business of press conferences and dinners with the likes of Gorbachev?

Our Lady told Sister Lucy that “Russia will be the instrument of chastisement chosen by Heaven to punish the whole world (for its sins) if we do not obtain the conversion of that poor nation.” In the end many will be called to account by Our Lord Himself for what has been happening in Russia since the “consecration” of 1984, and what will happen if Our Lady’s warning about the annihilation of nations is ignored much longer. One thing is certain — Father Nicholas Gruner will not be among those called to account. Can the same be said, however, for the neo-Catholic apologists who have been telling their followers for the past 17 years that Our Lady’s request has already been obeyed and that Her triumph is now upon us? That question ought to haunt Mr. Abbott, Mr. Akin, Mr. Alphonse Matt and the rest of the neo-Catholic establishment — as the babies continue to die by the millions in ruined Russia, and Mikhail Gorbachev lifts his wine glass at the Vatican.


  • 1. See, Zenit news account “Pope gives a Roman church to Constantinople,” Nov. 30, 2000. Only two months later, the Greek Orthodox reciprocated by refusing to allow the Pope to visit Greece.

  • 2. See, “Resisting Wayward Prelates,” (Catholic Family News, August, 1999) for a compendium of Church teaching on this question.

  • 3. De Fide, disp. X, sect. VI, n. 16, as cited by Davies in Pope Paul’s New Mass, p. 602.

  • 4. The Wanderer, Jan. 11, 2001, “From The Mail.”

  • 5. This is not a question of the essential validity of the new rite, which I affirm, but rather of systematic translation “errors” which compromise the doctrinal integrity of the vernacular versions. Professor William J. Sullivan, writing in Homiletic and Pastoral Review (May 1995) rightly notes that: “The [American] Novus Ordo is not merely badly translated, but translated in a doctrinally unsound manner ... [I]t is highly probable that the mistranslations are a deliberate attempt to subvert the Church in America in a modernist direction.”

  • 6. See “A ‘Catholic’ Charismatic Jubilee” by John Vennari, Catholic Family News, Aug.-Nov. 2000 and Jan. 2001. This five-part series documents Celebrate Jesus 2000, a riotous, pan-denominational charismatic gathering held in St. Louis, MO, June, 2000. The conference was administered and promoted by the Franciscan University of Steubenville and invited all “pentecostals” to attend, Catholic or not. The conference was top-heavy with Protestant preachers including Pat Robertson from the 700 Club and John Arnott from the bizarre “Holy Laughter” sect. Other speakers included ‘Catholic’ pentecostals promoted by Mother Angelica’s EWTN, such as Father Michael Scanlan and Babsie Bleasdell. (Reprint #553 available from CFN for $4.00)

  • 7. Former neo-Catechumenate Mark Alessio has written an extensive exposé of the sect in Catholic Family News and elsewhere. My own files include a book entitled La Via Neo-Catecumenale, a compendium of testimonies compiled by an Italian Catholic priest to document the heterodoxy and heteropraxis of the movement in Italy, where (as in the United States) it is systematically undermining the parish structure and the integrity of family life by dividing spouses from each other.

  • 8. McBrien, Richard P. The Remaking of the Church, (McGraw-Hill, 1973) p. 146.

  • 9. Council of Florence, 1438-1445. See also, among many other examples of this defined teaching, the Syllabus of Errors of Blessed Pius IX, which condemns the erroneous opinion that “we must have at least good hope concerning the eternal salvation of those who in no wise are in the true Church of Christ.” Blessed Pius IX wisely declared in Singulari quaedam that “it is unlawful to proceed further in inquiry” regarding the possibility of salvation for the invincibly ignorant, lest the dogma of no salvation outside the Church be undermined.

  • 10. In 1958, the eminent theologian Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton lamented that there have been Catholic writers, and poor translations of Singulari quadam, which erroneously “present invincible ignorance of the true religion as some sort of sacrament, since they make it appear that the Sovereign Pontiff taught that persons invincibly ignorant of the true religion are simply not blameworthy in the eyes of the Lord.” (The Catholic Church and Salvation, 1958. p. 45). Msgr. Fenton clarifies that Pius only taught that those who are truly invincible ignorant will not be held accountable to God for that ignorance. If they are deprived of the Beatific Vision after death, it will be because of mortal sins committed throughout their life, and because of the original sin which has not been cleansed by baptism. The question of the so-called “implicit desire” was never mentioned specifically in Singulari quadam. See also “Invincible Ignorance Neither Saves Nor Condemns”. Father Michael Muller (published in 1888, reprinted in CFN, April, 1998).

  • 11. Syllabus of Errors, condemned proposition #17.

  • 12. Ratzinger, Joseph, Theological Highlights of Vatican II. Paulist Press: Glen Rock, New Jersey (1966), p. 73. Cardinal Ratzinger did not retract this opinion, but rather affirmed it 21 years later in his Principles of Catholic Theology, where he repeats that ecumenism does not seek the dissolution of non-Catholic “confessions” or the conversion of all the Protestants to Catholicism, which he describes as a “maximum demand” that offers “no real hope of unity.” Principles of Catholic Theology. Ignatius Press: San Francisco (1982), 197-198. Ratzinger affirmed this view even after publication of Dominus Iesus this past September, stating in an interview in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine that “I accept the concept of a ‘reconciled diversity’, if it does not mean equality of content and the elimination of the question of truth ...” In other words, the diverse Protestant confessions are somehow “reconciled” with the Catholic Church in their diversity, and without their members first abjuring all errors and embracing the Catholic faith in its entirety, although the “question of truth” is not eliminated from the process.

  • 13. See, for example, Mortalium animos by Pius XI: “So, Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics: for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it ... Let them therefore return to their common Father, who, forgetting the insults previously heaped on the Apostolic See, will receive them in the most loving fashion. For if, as they continually state, they long to be united with Us and ours, why do they not hasten to enter the Church, ‘the Mother and mistress of all Christ’s faithful’?[25] Let them hear Lactantius crying out: ‘The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this the temple of God: if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation. Let none delude himself with obstinate wrangling. For life and salvation are here concerned, which will be lost and entirely destroyed, unless their interests [in becoming Catholics] are carefully and assiduously kept in mind.” (Mortalium animos, 10,11)

  • 14. “Eastern-rite Catholics Forced Underground in Russia,” ( January 30, 2001. “All Eastern-rite Catholic parishes in Russia are underground, Bishop Yulian Gbur of the Ukrainian Catholic Church said in Lviv, Ukraine, in September 2000 ... Since the Eastern-rite Catholic exarchate in Russia is under a Vatican imposed mandate, he said, the hierarch in question is the head of the apostolic administration of European Russia, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz. ‘He refused to sign,’ Bishop Gbur said, ‘saying it would be viewed as proselytism by the Moscow Patriarchate’ ...”

  • 15. “Catholic Church Unveils ‘Third Secret’ of Fatima”, Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2000.

  • 16. The Vatican’s policy of avoiding any condemnation of communist regimes in favor of dialogue and cooperation. Ostpolitik began with the Vatican-Moscow Agreement: the Vatican’s shameful promise that the Second Vatican Council would not denounce communism if Moscow would agree to send two Russian Orthodox observers to the Council. Accordingly, the Council’s 16 documents do not contain a single reference to the evil of communism. The Agreement was negotiated by Cardinal Tisserant on behalf of Pope John XXIII, and by Metropolitan Nikodim on behalf of the KGB-controlled Russian Orthodox Church. Its details were confirmed by Msgr. Roche, Tisserant’s personal secretary.

  • 17. In September, 1995, Gorbachev held his “State of the World Forum” in San Francisco. Over 400 or the world’s “elite” attended the 5-day event and paid $5,000 per person. In a closing plenary session of the forum philosopher/author Sam Keen provided a summary and conclusive remarks on the conference which reveals the Forum’s anti-life, anti-Christian ethos. To the conference participants, Keen said, “there was very strong agreement that religious institutions have to take the primary responsibility for the population explosion. We must speak far more clearly about sexuality, about contraception, about abortion, about the values that control the population, because the ecological crisis, in short, is the population crisis. Cut the population by 90 percent and there aren’t enough people left to do a great deal of ecological damage.” (“World’s elite gather to talk depopulation”, John Henry Western, The Interim, April, 1996.)

  • 18. “May Saint John the Baptist protect Islam and all the people of Jordan, and all who participated in this celebration, a memorable celebration.” Holy Father’s Prayer, visit to Wadi Al-Kharrar, March 21, 2000. The same words appear in the Italian and French translations on the Vatican website.

  • 19. Allocution, 1865.
  • The Neo-Catholic “Message” of Fatima