by Timothy Tindal-Robertson
Recently, considerable scandal and confusion has been stirred up on the internet against the Shrine of Fatima, through the publication of pictures, captions and a report on a website issued by Catholic Family News and its editor, John Vennari, which allege that in May 2004 the internationally-renowned Shrine was desecrated when “a Hindu ritual – a ceremony to false gods” was carried out in the Capelinha or Little Chapel of the Apparitions, “making it necessary for the chapel to be re-consecrated”.
These allegations constitute a very serious charge indeed to make with full internet publicity, against one of the most respected and venerated Marian shrines in the whole world, which is so highly esteemed by the present Pope. No practising Catholic in good standing with the Church would want to risk injuring the Shrine’s reputation by going public with such charges.
At the very least he would seek to obtain an explanation first-hand from the authorities before taking such a drastic step. Vennari’s report has caused a public outcry, and it seems clear that he went ahead and published it on his own initiative, without first consulting with the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima or with the Rector of Fatima, and hence that it is based not on first-hand evidence, but on a copy of a television programme in a language he himself does not speak – Portuguese.
So what basis in truth is there for his allegations ?
Vennari is a journalist. If he was so concerned at what he believed had taken place, why did he not request the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima and the Rector of Fatima for an interview, in order to question them first-hand ? If he had done so, he would then have been able to report in their words exactly what transpired when the Hindu priest was in the Capelinha. As we will see below, this account can be read in the Clarification issued by the Rector of the Shrine, entitled “The Church of the Most Holy Trinity will not be an ‘Ecumenical Temple’”, which was published on page 3 of the July issue of the Shrine’s monthly journal, Voz da Fatima, and will shortly be available in English as a separate document.
It follows that as Vennari did not do this, he did not know at first-hand exactly what the Hindu priest did when he was in the Capelinha. The principal if not the sole source of Vennari’s report was in fact an account of the event which had been broadcast on a Portuguese television station, and supplied to him as a video. Accordingly, if the evidence on which Vennari based his case is to be accepted, one would need to know firstly if the presentation of the event in this film was correct, and secondly how much of the Portuguese text in the video was correctly understood, translated for him and transcribed into his report. Vennari himself does not speak Portuguese, as he had admitted in an earlier article he wrote, in December 2003, in which he sought to allege that Fatima was to become an “interfaith shrine”.
Vennari is entitled to his views, like anyone. But as his evidence is second-hand and its content is questionable, his report cannot be given any higher value than that of a personal and subjective view of what he believes took place. In fact there is almost no point of resemblance between Vennari’s report and the Rector’s factual first-hand account of what actually transpired.
When the two versions are compared, it becomes clear that Vennari’s report is a highly sensationalised account based only on what he had seen in the video. The report begins with eighteen photographs and accompanying captions, followed by four pages of text. The latter contains a considerable volume of background material that is unrelated to the event in question, and which has been slanted so as to arouse in Catholics an adverse reaction at what it is alleged took place while the Hindu priest was in the Capelinha, and also in an attempt to justify making inflammatory and unsubstantiated allegations and accusations against the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima and the Rector of the Shrine.
Having read this report, much of which is irrelevant, how many people will then realise that it contains almost no account of presence of the Hindu priest in the Capelinha, although the whole focus of the report was the sacrilege of the Hindu ritual that was alleged to have been carried out on that occasion. In fact, out of a total of some 144 lines of text in the report, only two refer to the event in the Capelinha, in the following words:
The newscast then shows the Hindus bringing flowers to the statue of Our Lady inside the Capelinha. The Hindu priest stands at the Catholic altar and recites a Hindu prayer.
These words appear to agree with the Rector’s account. But their real significance is not what they state but what they omit. In all four pages of Vennari’s report, there is no mention whatever of the all-important action which then took place. So the most serious charges are made about an event to which there is almost no reference in Vennari’s account except for the above statement. The reasons become apparent from a careful re-reading of the report.
1). Vennari could not give an eye-witness account of what took place in the Capelinha, because he was not there. One can be certain he would have wanted to give his own version of the event, if he had had been there at the time.
2). He does not speak Portuguese, and so without a translator he would not have understood the nature of the Hindu priest’s petition, as cited by the Rector in his account below.
3). He did not interview the Hindu priest or the Rector or the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, in order to obtain a first-hand account of what actually took place, from those best qualified to inform him.
4). His sole source of information for the event appears to have been a video copy of the Portuguese television programme. This would need to be verified before it could be accepted as a correct record of the event, and being in Portuguese, how much of it would Vennari have understood, and was it translated accurately ?
Now let us read what in fact happened when the Hindu priest was in the Capelinha, as described by the Rector in the following paragraphs of his Clarification:
The Hindu priest and a translator went up to the image of Our Lady, while the remainder of the group stayed down below. The priest sang a prayer which lasted a few minutes. No gesture was made, no rite was performed, on or off the altar. The translator explained that he had asked “the Most Holy Mother that she would give wisdom and discernment to those who govern nations, so that the world could have peace, peace, peace” (paragraphs 5 and 6).
After making their prayer, the Hindu pilgrims were received in a room by the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima and the Rector of the Shrine,
to whom they said they had come out of devotion towards the “Most Holy Mother”. They did not speak about a similarity or transference between this name and any entity of their religion (paragraph 8).
So it is not merely not true that the Hindu priest carried out “a Hindu ritual – a ceremony to false gods”, as was stated in a caption underneath one of the photos on the website. It is precisely that assertion, as well as a number of other gravely misleading and erroneous assertions in that report, which are the source of the scandal and confusion that has been caused.
For while it may have been unexpected for Hindus to have made such a visit, it is clear from the form in which the Hindu priest addressed his petition, firstly that they were drawn to Fatima by the sacredness of the place, due to the presence of “the Most Holy Mother” which they wished to recognise; and secondly, in asking the Most Holy Mother for peace, they were coming to her shrine for the same reason which draws to Fatima on pilgrimage, not only Catholics for the most part, but also some members of other Christian denominations, and even some non-Christians, such as the Dalai Lama and the President of India.
It also seems clear from the Rector’s description above, that what took place in the Capelinha did not offend against the Church’s directives for prayer and petitions by non-Christians in Catholic sanctuaries. In fact, can it not be said that the form of petition used by the Hindu priest, as stated above, could equally validly be used by any Catholic Bishop or priest ? Did it not conform to the norms of Catholic devotional practice at the shrine of Fatima ?
At Fatima, the touchingly maternal manifestations and message of the Most Holy Virgin remind us of the sublime truth of Mary’s spiritual motherhood of the whole human race. It derives from the words of Jesus dying on the Cross, “Woman behold your son”, and to the disciple, “Behold your Mother” (John 19: 26, 27), it has been taught by the Church from the earliest centuries, it is specifically enshrined in the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium, 54, 60, 69), and it has been taught by Pope John Paul II, in his Catechesis on Mary, Mother of God (published in Theotokos, “Mary has a Universal Spiritual Motherhood”, pp. 236 – 239), and in his Encyclical, Redemptoris Mater.
In this Encyclical, commenting on the words of Jesus to His Mother in John 19: 26, 27, the Pope says that by virtue of the Redeemer’s Paschal Mystery, “the Mother of Christ … is given as mother to every single individual and all mankind” (Redemptoris Mater, 23). The message of Fatima is in perfect harmony with this sublime teaching. In his homily at Fatima, on 13th May 1982, the Holy Father taught that “in the light of a mother’s love we understand the whole message of the Lady of Fatima … the message is addressed to every human being … her care extends to every individual of our time, and to all the societies, nations and peoples”.
Finally, the Preface of the Mass of Our Lady of Fatima reminds us of this teaching: “…She in receiving at the foot of the Cross, the testament of divine Charity, received all men as her children …”
Without in any way lessening or diluting her mission to proclaim Christ as the unique Saviour of all mankind, in pursuit of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, under the enlightened leadership of Pope John Paul II, the Church has been working to bring about peace and reconciliation between all peoples through initiatives in the fields of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. It is clear from the Rector’s account that the presence of the Hindu priest in the Capelinha took place within that context and was faithful to the directives of the Church.
We must also remember that Our Lady appeared at Fatima, in the Cova da Iria, or “hollow of peace”, to ask for prayer, especially the Rosary, for peace, and as a direct response to Pope Benedict XV’s urgent petition to heaven for peace, at the height of the First World War. When Pope Paul VI came to Fatima, on 13th May 1967, at a time of grave international tension on account of the Cold War, he said,
We have come to the feet of the Queen of peace to ask for the gift, which only God can give, of peace.
How could a Catholic who apparently saw himself as acting out of loyalty to the Church and Our Lady of Fatima, have been willing to put his name to a report which is so seriously misleading and contains gravely erroneous allegations and accusations ?
This is a question which calls for calm and firm assessment, based on objective facts. For those who are familiar with the long-standing hardline ultra-traditional position adopted by John Vennari and his associate, Fr Nicholas Gruner, this latest attack on the Shrine of Fatima will not come as a surprise. Only seven months previously, in October 2003, the same group used the occasion of the International Congress on “The Present State of Man and the Future of God”, to engineer a similar media storm of scandal and confusion, when they falsely alleged that “the Shrine is to be developed into a centre where all the religions of the world will gather to pay homage to their various gods”.
Having begun his Clarification by reminding his readers of the connection between these two different attacks on the Shrine, the Rector then went on to state:
As far as the Church of the Most Holy Trinity is concerned, which they persist in calling an “ecumenical temple”, we can state that this description, although susceptible of a Catholic interpretation, does not originate from the Shrine. We do not intend – and we have never intended – to hold any celebrations in the church which is being built, that are not in accordance with the directives prescribed by the Catholic Church. The Shrine strives to be faithful to the message which God has entrusted to it, and cannot help noticing the distinctly Catholic character which the message inculcates, both in the apparitions of the Angel, which inspired us to choose the titles for the future church, and in the apparitions of Our Lady, which contains dramatic references to the mediating role of the Pope and the Bishops, regarding the unity of the Church and for the peace of the world (paragraph 9).
In the first edition of his new quarterly publication, Fatima Luz e Paz (Fatima Light and Peace), the Rector recounted how in March 2004 the Holy Father donated the first foundation stone for the new church of the Most Holy Trinity. The stone, “a precious and historical marble fragment of the tomb of the Apostle St Peter”, from St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, was set in place as a cornerstone in the foundations of the new church on 6th June, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, and its presence will confirm “the great loves of the Christians of Portugal: the Eucharist, Mary and the Pope”.
Normal Catholics must find it difficult to understand why a group which claims to be loyal to the Church, Our Lady and the Holy Father, should want to oppose these recent and encouraging developments. As the evidence cited below from their own publications will demonstrate, the regrettable truth is that situations such as the recent visit to Fatima by the Hindus have been regularly exploited by this group since the early 1990s, as a means of gaining publicity and support for an alternative agenda of their own.
Their tactics follow the same pattern: to use a situation such as the visit by the Hindus to the Capelinha in May 2004, or the International Congress at Fatima in October 2003, as a pretext for making a number of unfounded and gravely erroneous assertions about the event, in a manner calculated to cause the maximum scandal and confusion among the faithful, who have no means of ascertaining whether the reports are true or not.
This is what happened after the terrorist outrage in New York on 11th September 2001. Not long afterwards, the same group began to circulate a number of completely untrue allegations: that Sister Lucia had had new revelations, she had sent the Pope letters of warning, she could not sleep at night, the Holy See had not published the whole of the third part of the secret, etc.
As a result, Archbishop Bertone, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had an interview with Sister Lucia in her convent at Coimbra. She said there was not a grain of truth in these allegations, there were no more secrets to be published, and if she had had new revelations from Our Lady, “I would not have spoken of them to anyone, but would have told them directly to the Holy Father”.
Then she made the following telling complaint:
How many things they are putting into my mouth ! How many things they make me seem to do !
(Reported in L’Osservatore Romano, 9 January 2002, page 7)
Looking back, we can see that this complaint can be applied to what has happened recently in Fatima, with regard to the alleged “interfaith shrine”, the “ecumenical temple” and the “desecration” of the Capelinha. They use such allegations, calculated to cause maximum shock and scandal, so as to gain publicity and support for their own alternative agenda, as will be explained further on.
As we will see in more detail below, it was in the early 1990s that they began to deny and reject Pope John Paul II’s fulfilment of Our Lady’s request for the consecration of Russia in 1984, in direct opposition to Sister Lucia’s statement that “heaven has accepted it”. Ever since they have maintained an unceasing campaign to try and force the Pope to undertake the act again, in accordance with their own directives and the alternative agenda which motivates them; and at the same time, they have completely ignored the wonderful and most important developments with regard to Fatima that have been carried out by Pope John Paul II, and which I have summarised in two Catholic Truth Society booklets.
The first title, Message of Fatima, covers the steady and noteworthy development of the Message of Fatima in the Life of the Church and the Teaching of the Popes, from 1917 to 1997. The second, Fatima in the Third Millennium, recounts the Beatification of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, on 13th May 2000; the publication of the Third Part of the Secret by Cardinal Ratzinger, on 26th June 2000; and finally, the Pope’s unprecedented Act of Entrustment of 8th October 2000, whereby he placed the whole of the Third Millennium under the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of Fatima.
Never before in the history of the Church has a private revelation received such an exceptional mark of approval from the Pope; hence, at a time when the Church is facing an unparalleled attempt by the forces of secularism to suffocate, deny and reject Christianity from the whole of society, in once-Christian Europe and throughout the world, it is a matter of great importance that all Catholics loyal to Peter should seek to understand and follow where the Pope is leading the Church in devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of the Saviour and spouse of the Holy Spirit.
For God’s plan is that “in the end” her Immaculate Heart will triumph over the forces oppressing the Church of her Divine Son; and by the numerous developments with regard to Fatima in his pontificate, culminating in his unprecedented Act of Entrustment of 8th October 2000, John Paul II has gone a great deal further than any of his predecessors in preparing the way for the Church to bring about that triumph.
None of these developments appear to be of any interest to Vennari, Fr Gruner and others of their persuasion. The reason must be, as we will see from their own writings cited below, that their case carries hidden within itself an alternative extremist agenda. Is this the reason why they have changed the meaning of Our Lady’s request for the consecration of Russia, by blatantly altering her words and substituting their own in place of the version recorded by Lucia ? If they cannot be trusted to copy correctly the words of the Holy Mother of God, how much credence should be placed in their subsequent allegations and accusations ?
John Vennari is no stranger to Fatima. Since at least 1995, he has taken the same stance as Fr Gruner in rejecting Pope John Paul II’s consecration of Russia on 25th March 1984 as the fulfilment of Our Lady’s request. This stance puts both of them in open opposition to Sister Lucia, who categorically rejected Fr Gruner’s forms petitioning for the consecration to be done again, and specifically insisted that “the consecration desired by Our Lady was made in 1984, and heaven has accepted it”. This is what she told Archbishop Bertone of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 17th November 2001, when he visited Sister Lucia in her convent at Coimbra (report in L’Osservatore Romano, 9th January 2002, p. 7).
In fact, Catholic Family News, edited by John Vennari, has for some years been owned and published by Fr. Gruner, in addition to his own publication, Fátima Crusader. As we will see below, both Fr Gruner and Vennari base their rejection of the Holy Father’s consecration in 1984, upon a grave and seemingly deliberate violation of the words in which Our Lady conveyed her request for this act to Sister Lucia.
With regard to Vennari’s views of the Church, in recent years Catholic Family News has also become very critical of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II over the issues of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, and this culminated in the Holy Year 2000 with the publication by Catholic Family News of a document addressed to Pope John Paul II, the very title of which - We Resist You to Your Face - made it abundantly clear where they stand, with regard to the Church and the Pope.
John Vennari even went so far as to suggest, in a booklet he wrote which was published by Tan Books in the USA in 1999, that the “post-Vatican II revolution bears all the hallmarks of fulfilling the designs of the Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita”. This was “a secret document written in the early 19th century that mapped out a blueprint for the subversion of the Catholic Church” from within, and which had been issued by an Italian Masonic lodge.
By recklessly ignoring the Popes of the past, our present Church leaders have erected a compromised structure that is collapsing upon itself … Hence, Vatican II’s novelties are not unconditionally binding on the faithful”, concluded Vennari. “Catholics may ‘make reservations’ and even resist (emphasis in the original) any teachings from the Council that would conflict with the perennial Magisterium of the centuries (pages 1, 29, 30, 31).
The rejection of Pope John Paul II’s consecration of Russia on 25th March 1984
Since the early 1990s, Fr. Gruner, Vennari and others of their persuasion have been promoting an unrelenting campaign asserting that the Pope has not yet fulfilled Our Lady’s request for the consecration of Russia, despite the fact that their argument must necessarily originate from and refer to the words which they themselves have openly violated, in which the Most Holy Virgin made the request for the consecration.
The book by Frere Francois, Fatima: Tragedy & Triumph, first published by Fr. Gruner’s imprint, Immaculate Heart Publications, in 1994, and which is prominently promoted and listed on Fr. Gruner’s website as currently available, contains the most blatant and extensive example of this grave violation.
Everyone knows the words of Our Lady’s request for the consecration of Russia so well, as faithfully recorded by Lucia in her Memoirs, that it should hardly be necessary to repeat them. But in this case, it is absolutely essential that you refer to them, so that you can see for yourself that the original words of Our Lady as recorded by Lucia are unmistakably not the words you will read in the book by Frere Francois. Instead, as we will see, Frere Francois substituted his own version of Our Lady’s request, in which he substantially changed its meaning, firstly by altering the position of some of Our Lady’s words, and secondly, by making his own radical additions to them.
Despite this grave violation, in the Winter 1995 issue of Fr Gruner’s Fatima Crusader, John Vennari wrote a glowing 2-page review of Frere Francois’ book, in which he said,
Frere Francois has come to set the record straight with … uncompromising fidelity to the facts.
Earlier, in a Christmas 1994 circular letter, Fr Gruner had said of the same book,
The facts, and Frere Francois’ meticulous scholarship, speak for themselves.
If that were indeed the case, how was it that Frere Francois did not give the reader something so simple as a correct copy of the words of Our Lady as recorded by Lucia, which everyone can read for themselves in her Memoirs ? And what does it say about the value of John Vennari’s and Fr Gruner’s opinions, that they described a work which contains the following grave violation of Our Lady’s words, “as uncompromising fidelity to the facts” and “meticulous scholarship”?
Between pages 178 and 179 of Fatima: Tragedy & Triumph is a block of some 16 pages of illustrations with accompanying text. Fig 4 reproduces the well known artistic representation of Sr. Lucia’s vision of the Most Holy Trinity on 13 June 1929, when Our Lady came to request the consecration of Russia.
The following is Frere Francois’ version of Our Lady’s request:
The moment has come in which God asks (of) the Holy Father to make, and to order that in union with him and at the same time, all the bishops of the world (to) make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising to convert it because of this day of prayer and world wide reparation.
In the above text, the position of “to make” has been altered, it has also been wrongly duplicated, and the numerous other words shown in Italics were not spoken by Our Lady, and hence have been added to or substituted for her words by Frere Francois. How significantly his version differs from the actual words spoken by Our Lady may be seen from
Sister Lucia's account in her memoirs, cited as follows:
The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father, in union with all the Bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means.
(Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, vol I, 11th edition, in English, September 2000, p. 198)
Frere Francois’ verdict on John Paul II is that he “obstinately refuses to embrace the reparatory devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to make an appeal to the all-powerful mediation of the Virgin Mary to obtain the conversion of Russia and the peace of the world” (p. 182), that “he abandons the whole message of Fatima and substitutes for it a Masonic humanism” (p. 196), and that when he made the act of consecration on March 25th 1984, he “feigned submitting to the requirements of heaven” (p. 212).
However, the true version of her words, as printed in Lucia’s Memoirs, makes it clear that Our Lady was asking the Pope, (who self-evidently was not requested to order all the bishops to do it “with him and at the same time”, as Frere Francois, Fr. Gruner and others of their associates would have us believe) to make the act as chief shepherd, and that accordingly he should be in union with all the bishops when he did so.
This was indeed precisely how the act was effected on 25 March 1984, because on that occasion all the bishops had received the text of the act in advance, together with the invitation to join with the Pope in making the act. The fact that some bishops did not join with him in making the act themselves, does not alter the fact that
the Pope fulfilled the request of Our Lady because he was in union with all the bishops when he made it.
Chapter two of my book, Fatima, Russia & John Paul II, (sub-title: How Mary intervened to deliver Russia from Marxist atheism, 13 May 1981 – 25 December 1991) answers all the doubts and objections raised against the Pope’s act, and shows that it did in truth comply with Our Lady’s request, that Russia was included in the act, and hence that
“the consecration desired by Our Lady was made in 1984 and heaven has accepted it”,
as Lucia categorically stated in November 2001. In this work, I have cited the supernatural signs and testimonies which demonstrate that the collapse of the former Soviet Union, and the cessation of the formidable Marxist atheist persecution of the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, is attributable to the intercession of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, following the Pope’s act of consecration in 1984.
In October 1992, a few months after my book was first published, Fr Gruner met me at Fatima and invited me to debate “the consecration issue”, at a conference he had organised, which had been forbidden by the Holy See and by the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima.
I refused to do so because, as I told him, my book demonstrated that the Pope had accomplished the consecration of Russia, and hence there was no longer any consecration issue to debate. Instead, I gave him my work and challenged him to review it in his magazine, Fatima Crusader, and point out any errors it might contain. He promised to do so, but since then he has never once mentioned its existence.
If I am mistaken, I am certainly willing to be corrected. We are contemplating the mystery of the most profound and wonderful divine intervention, which “among the signs of the times” for the tormented twentieth century, “is certainly one of the greatest”, as John Paul II said in a letter to the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima in October 1997. Accordingly, we need to be as certain as possible that what we are proclaiming is the truth, and so I submitted the text of my book to the office of the Rector of Fatima, prior to publication, where the content was checked for accuracy. The Pope himself read it and signified his approval to the Polish editor, when he was presented with a copy of the Polish translation at a private audience in February 1994.
God subsequently endorsed Pope John Paul II’s consecration of Russia in a manner that no one could have foreseen, through the mysterious collapse of the world’s second greatest military superpower, peacefully and from within; and in those countries of the former Soviet Union, where Marxism had devastated the Church and sown a wilderness of atheism, God is now reaping a rich harvest of Catholic seminarians – 4000 in the academic year 2002-03, and a further 6000 in Poland, according to statistics published by Aid to the Church in Need.
Is not that remarkable reversal a sign from heaven inviting the Church to follow the Holy Father’s example in accepting the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary which, Our Lady said in July 1917, “God wishes to establish in the world” ? At the same time it also points to another paradoxical and less welcome sign – namely that, while the Church is resurrecting in Central and Eastern Europe, in the West, which remained free from the terrible scourge of Communism, the Church is nevertheless experiencing an unprecedented fall in congregations and the collapse of vocations.
If my book does not demonstrate the truth about the consecration, why has Fr Gruner failed to point out where it goes wrong ? If it does demonstrate the truth, why does he not admit it ? Is it perhaps because Fr. Gruner shares the seriously distorted views of Frere Francois about Fatima and the Church ? Is it because Fr Gruner too has another version of his own making which he has substituted for the true words of Our Lady’s request, as we find in the following text on page 254 of the auto-biographical section he wrote in the book, Fatima Priest (published in 1997) ?
The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father to make, together with all the Catholic Bishops of the world the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means.
In this version, we see that Fr. Gruner has achieved the same significant alteration of Our Lady’s meaning as Frere Francois, albeit more simply, by moving up “to make” in front of the dependent clause, and by changing “in union with” to “together with”.
It is remarkable how Fr Gruner and his associates are unable to copy accurately the few words from Lucia’s memoirs, in which Our Lady conveyed her request for the consecration of Russia. In about May 2004, Fr. Gruner’s Fatima Crusader issued a Special Report criticising the American priest, Fr Robert Fox, for upholding the Pope’s consecration of 1984. The following is the version of Our Lady’s request as printed in this Special Report:
The moment has come for God to ask (the correct words are: in which God asks) the Holy Father to make, in union with all the bishops of the world, the consecration of Russia …
Although “in union with” has not been changed to “together with”, as in the version above printed in Fr Gruner’s book, nevertheless altering the position of “to make” has brought about the same change in meaning. Instead of the Holy Father being in union with all the bishops when he made the act, these people have sought to argue that the Holy Father was to make the act in union with all the bishops, who were to be making the act in union with him, i.e, “together with”, as Fr Gruner would have it, or “in union with him and at the same time”, according to the supposedly meticulous scholarship of Frere Francois.
It is clear that this blatant manipulation of Our Lady’s words has been introduced in a vain attempt to circumvent the truth that by his act of 1984, John Paul II satisfied the condition that he was in union with all the bishops when he made it. How many bishops were or were not in union with him in making the act themselves, was a matter for them, and hence a secondary issue which did not invalidate the Pope’s act.
If the matter of the consecration of Russia really is as serious as Fr Gruner, Frere Francois, John Vennari and others of their persuasion want everyone to believe, how can they continue to stand up in front of God, the Holy Mother of God, and the whole Church, and assert that the Pope has not yet complied with her request, not on the basis of the words of Mary Immaculate, but according to a version of her words to which they have freely made their own alterations and additions ? Have they ever explained why they found it necessary to alter the words of Mary Immaculate, from whom Lucia was chosen to receive them ? What possible explanation can there be ?
In Book II of Fatima Priest, Fr. Gruner devoted the whole of chapter five (pages 262 – 273) to explaining why “in the objective moral order, under pain of mortal sin, the Pope and the bishops are bound to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. If the Pope today cannot obey Our Lady’s command ... the Pope is most definitely obliged to command all the Catholic Bishops to join him in consecrating Russia” (pp. 263, 264).
It is simply not true to assert that the Pope has to “obey” a “command” of Our Lady, because as everyone can see in Lucia’s memoirs, “command” is another of Fr Gruner’s substitutions for the actual word spoken by Our Lady. As Lucia tells us, Our Lady simply said, “the moment has come in which God asks …”. Applying his “command” in place of her “asks”, Fr Gruner went on to maintain that if he were to hear Pope John Paul II’s confession, he would not be able to give him absolution unless he promised to do the consecration again. Furthermore, he would have to tell the Pope “he was in danger of losing his soul in Hell if he didn’t make such an undertaking” because “the Pope is most seriously bound to obey Our Lady of Fatima even under pain of mortal sin” (page 269).
We get an indication of the source of Fr Gruner’s extreme views from the fact that it was his imprint, Immaculate Heart Publications, which published the first English edition of Fatima: Tragedy & Triumph by Frere Francois in 1994. This work is the last of a four-volume series, all of which are currently listed (in July 2004) as available on Fr. Gruner’s website of Catholic books, and the author, Frere Francois, is a member of the community based at Troyes in France, which was founded in a state of disobedience by Abbe Georges de Nantes, after he had been suspended “a divinis” on 26 August 1966.
In his book Frere Francois followed the thinking of Abbe de Nantes and totally rejected the Second Vatican Council which, he wrote, “under pretext of pastoral reform, has attacked, thrown into confusion and ruined the dogma of the faith” (p. 210).
In note 64 to chapter V, on page 292 of his book, Frere Francois informed the reader that Abbe de Nantes had been accusing Pope Paul VI of “heresy, schism and scandal” from 1965 onwards, and that his Books of Accusation against Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II were “juridical acts formally made in view of obtaining an opening of the legal process against the Pope for heresy, schism and scandal”. Abbe de Nantes himself went to Rome to present the first Book of Accusation against Pope Paul VI, in 1973, and the second Book of Accusation, against Pope John Paul II, in 1983.
In May 1993, Abbe de Nantes presented at the Vatican a “Book of Accusation for Heresy against the Author of the supposed Catechism of the Catholic Church, catechism of pride, catechesis of deceit”, in which he “denounced the major heresies proliferating in this text”. The twelfth and last of the alleged heresies listed by de Nantes was “your gnosis, Most Holy Father”.
Fr Gruner clearly does not disapprove of this stance, since he publishes and distributes Frere Francois’ book, and John Vennari’s glowing review of it was published in Fr Gruner’s magazine, Catholic Family News. Also, in the book Fatima Priest - Book II of which, “In his own words”, was written by Fr Gruner – the Bibliography lists all four volumes of the books by Frere Francois, as well as the following three titles, under the heading Magazines and Newspapers: The Fatima Crusader, Fr Gruner’s own publication; next, The Catholic Counter-Reformation, the publication of Abbe Georges de Nantes, as issued from an address in Canada; and lastly, Catholic Family News.
On 16th May 1996, Fr Gruner was suspended a divinis, according to Can. 1333 § 1, by his Ordinary, the Bishop of Avellino in Italy, where he had been ordained in 1976. The decree was confirmed by the Congregation for the Clergy on 20th September 1996.
Fr Grüner then appealed twice against this decision to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. On 10th July 1999, the case was definitively closed, when the Supreme Tribunal fully confirmed the actions of the Congregation for the Clergy, and accordingly both his suspension and the order to return to his diocese remain in vigour.
Nevertheless the Fatima Crusader Special Report of May 2004, page 2, described Fr Gruner’s suspension as:
a canonical fiction, based upon a non-existent offence concocted by the Vatican Secretary of State.
With regard to the Abbe de Nantes, the following information wais taken from his own website in July 2004.
The Abbé de Nantes is the editor of “The Catholic Counter-Reformation in the 21st Century, following the Catholic highroad between heresy and schism”. He began to publish this bulletin in October 1967, and in 1969-70 he founded the "League of the Catholic Counter-Reformation".
The Abbé de Nantes believes that the new "orientations" of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), upheld and further developed by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, have been an unmitigated disaster for the Church. For thirty-five years the Abbé de Nantes' position has not changed. His opposition to the novelties and distortions of the so-called reform of the Church decreed by Vatican II is ... based on the observation of the detestable results of these novelties.
The Catholic Counter-Reformation is opposed to the sedevacantists and the lefebvrists on the one hand and the various Conciliar trends – progressive and conservative – on the other hand.
The facts cited above can be checked by referring to the publications in question. In the light of the above summary, it is clear that these people have an alternative agenda based on motives which are not at first apparent, and which are seriously at variance with and even outrightly reject the programmes being advanced by Pope John Paul II and by the Shrine of Fatima. It is also evident that they are willing to stir up widespread scandal and confusion in the media, by publishing seriously misleading and erroneous accounts of events such as the visit to Fatima by the Hindu community in Portugal, or the words of the Queen of Heaven recorded by Lucia, as a means of advancing their own alternative and undisclosed agenda.
For these reasons, allegations directed against the Church and Fatima which emanate from these sources should be treated with extreme caution.
3 August 2004