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The Art of Pious Calumny

by Christopher A. Ferrara, Esq.

From time to time a friend of Father Gruner’s will send him one of the various poison pen letters which Father Gruner’s detractors circulate behind his back to the supporters of his apostolate. The theological "experts" at EWTN are a prime source of these letters.

Now, those who disagree with Father Gruner are obviously entitled to make their case on its merits and to engage in honest criticism of his work. They are also entitled to write letters expressing their opinion of the man. What they are not entitled to do, however, is to engage in calumny, especially when it is dressed up in the language of piety and comes from a priest purporting to give spiritual advice. A most egregious example of this sort of thing is a letter addressed to one "Elizabeth" by Father Francis Mary of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, a group of Franciscans affiliated with EWTN. This letter is a marvel of compression: line for line it contains more calumny and sheer nonsense than any other letter I have ever seen attacking Father Gruner and his work. The letter is no doubt typical of the advice Father Francis has been dispensing to many others concerning Father Gruner. Thus it warrants a public reply here, since it cannot be determined how many of Father Gruner’s supporters have received similar "advice" from Father Francis and his collaborators at EWTN.

Father Francis begins with the basic Fatima revisionist* bromide: "[T]he Holy Father has consecrated the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and we know with great surety that Russia is part of the whole world, therefore, Russia is specifically particularly (sic) consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Our Mother Mary."

*Editor’s Note: A "Fatima revisionist" is one who revises the message of Fatima to make it say something other than what Our Lady of Fatima plainly meant. For example, Our Lady’s request for the consecration of Russia is revised to the consecration of the world.

Not so fast, not so fast. To consecrate means "to make or declare sacred; especially: to devote irrevocably to the worship of God by a solemn ceremony." [Merriam-Webster Dictionary] Thus, for example, when a new Catholic church is built, the local bishop must consecrate that particular church to God for Catholic worship. It would be utterly absurd for the bishop to consecrate his whole diocese instead, on the theory that the new church is "part of" the diocese.

How is it that otherwise sensible people descend to the ridiculous when it comes to discussing the obvious objection that a consecration of Russia needs to mention the place? Our Lady of Fatima did not come to ask for the consecration of the world, but rather the consecration of one specific part of the world — Russia. Sister Lucy has made this perfectly clear on numerous occasions, including an interview published in L’Osservatore Romano, on May 12, 1982 — the day before the attempted consecration of 1982 (which was no different in substance from the attempted consecration of 1984). Father Umberto Maria Pasquale, a Salesian priest, reported speaking with Sister Lucy, as follows:

At a certain moment I said to her: "Sister, I should like to ask you a question. If you cannot answer me, let it be. But if you can answer it, I would be most grateful to you ... Has Our Lady ever spoken to you about the consecration of the world to Her Immaculate Heart?" — "No, Father Umberto! Never! At the Cova da Iria in 1917 Our Lady had promised: I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia ... In 1929, at Tuy, as She had promised, Our Lady came back to tell me that the moment had come to ask the Holy Father for the consecration of that country (Russia).

A handwritten note (see FATIMA: Tragedy & Triumph p.149) personally written by Sister Lucy containing the same advisal was also published by Father Pasquale.

Well, Sister Lucy’s public statement should settle the question whether a consecration of Russia can be effected without mentioning Russia. But Father Francis is not interested in such evidence. His job is to affirm the Party Line of the Fatima revisionists. So he writes: "We can rest assured and we can be at peace [that the consecration is done]. Our Holy Father, Cardinal Ratzinger, and others publicly attest to this (as does Sister Lucy herself)."

Is that so? In the first place, as I have just shown, Sister Lucy herself stated in the Pope’s own newspaper that Our Lady never requested the consecration of the world, but of Russia. Therefore, the consecration of the world does not fulfill Our Lady’s request. Furthermore, the Holy Father himself has never "publicly attested" that the consecration of the world is the same as the consecration of Russia. Quite the contrary, both during and after the 1984 consecration ceremony the Pope spontaneously added to the prepared text a phrase clearly indicating that he himself believed the specific consecration of Russia has yet to be accomplished. Before 200,000 people in Saint Peter’s Square, after he had pronounced the words of the consecration formula, the Pope declared to the Virgin Mary Herself: "Enlighten especially the people whose consecration and entrusting You are awaiting from us."1 Three hours later, before 10,000 witnesses inside Saint Peter’s Basilica, His Holiness referred again to "those peoples for whom You Yourself are awaiting our act of consecration and entrusting."2

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Why would the Pope say that the Virgin was still awaiting the consecration of Russia if the consecration had just been done only hours before? We now have important evidence which confirms what Father Gruner and many others have long suspected: the Pope spoke as he did because his advisors have counseled him not to consecrate Russia by name. A recent article in Inside the Vatican magazine reveals that a Cardinal described as "one of the Pope’s closest advisors" advised His Holiness not to make mention of Russia in any consecration ceremony because it would offend the Russian Orthodox to suggest that their country is in need of special assistance from Heaven.3

In essence, then, Fatima revisionists like Father Francis expect the faithful to believe that Russia was consecrated in a ceremony which deliberately neglects to mention Russia so that the Russian Orthodox would not think that Russia was being consecrated. If you believe Father Francis, I have some Vatican real estate I would like to sell you.

As for the alleged opinion of Cardinal Ratzinger that the Consecration has been accomplished, we may ask: What authority does Cardinal Ratzinger have to bind the whole Church to believe that a consecration of Russia need not mention Russia? This is not a matter of Catholic doctrine but of fact. Our Lady requested the consecration of Russia, but the Pope consecrated the world rather than Russia in order to avoid offending the Russian Orthodox. Therefore, Russia has not been consecrated — any more than a new church has been consecrated (set aside and dedicated) for worship in a ceremony consecrating the whole diocese.

Besides the demonstrable untruths in Father Francis’ claim that the Pope, Sister Lucy and Cardinal Ratzinger all say the Consecration has been done, there is also an imbedded logical fallacy — the argument from authority: Mr. X is an authority. Mr. X says that Proposition A is true. Therefore, Proposition A is proven. Of course, it isn’t proven. The truth of the given statement by Mr. X has not been demonstrated. The conclusion is not supported by the premises. Indeed, the evidence demonstrates the contrary of Father Francis’ unsupported conclusion.

Saint Thomas teaches us that contra factum non est argumentum — against a fact there is no argument. If the Pope himself were to say that the Eiffel Tower is located in Saint Peter’s Square, that would not make it so, even though he is the highest human authority on earth. Thus, even if the Pope himself were to declare that the Consecration of Russia was done in 1984 — and this is precisely what His Holiness has not declared — such a declaration would still have to correspond to reality in order to be believed.

Likewise, when the Fatima revisionists cite this or that "authority" for the proposition that the Consecration has been accomplished, the claims of these "authorities" are no better than the facts on which they rest, for there is no argument against a fact. And the fact is that since the alleged "consecration" of 1984 there has not only been no sign of the promised conversion of Russia, but rather a dramatic deterioration in her spiritual, moral and material condition. It is simply absurd for these "authorities" to insist that we are witnessing the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart in a nation which aborts 3.5 million children each year (two abortions to every live birth) whose population is dwindling at an unprecedented rate, and whose laws prohibit the Catholic Church from proselytizing, establishing dioceses or even having permanent resident priests and bishops in the country — unless they marry Russian women! It is not only absurd, it is blasphemous to attribute the current state of Russia to the miraculous intervention of the Mother of God. In short, the argument from authority cannot trump the empirical evidence.

After dazzling his correspondent with a useless argument from authority, Father Francis gets down to the business of serious calumny against Father Gruner and his apostolate: "Unfortunately, those associated with periodicals and associations such as The Fatima Crusader often promulgate notions and ideas that are wrought with half truths and are filled with divisive pieces of information that do not contain the fullness of reality."

Notice that Father Francis does not lift a finger to provide any proof of this charge. What "half truths" does Father Gruner promulgate? Not one is identified. And what on earth does Father Francis mean by "divisive information that does not contain the fullness of reality"? Not a single example is provided. Why? Because examples do not exist. The accusation is a lie.

Rather than proving his accusation — which he cannot prove because it is false — Father Francis falls back on another crutch commonly employed by those without an argument: the logical fallacy of guilt by association. Mr. X is associated with certain "periodicals and associations." These "periodicals and associations" are not credible. Therefore, Mr. X’s own statements are not credible. The attentive reader will notice that Father Francis has not proven in the first place that either the "periodicals and associations" or Mr. X lack credibility. The entire syllogism rests on the thin air of unproven assumptions. And this "argument" is from a priest, mind you, who is supposed to have some training in right reason. (I will grant that many present-day seminaries do not provide the same rigorous training in logic and Thomistic theology from which older priests like Father Gruner benefited.)

But it gets even worse: "I’ve seen great damage done to countless souls who get themselves involved in the movement surrounding this so-called Fatima Crusade. It’s really shrouded in a cloak of intellectual dishonesty at worst, and at best simple ignorance. I encourage you not to get involved in this, for lack of a better word, deception."

Damage to countless souls. Intellectual dishonesty. Ignorance. Deception. Four grave accusations in a single paragraph, and not one iota of proof. No examples, no references to documentation, nothing but the empty accusations. There is a very good reason Father Francis offers no proof: he has none; his accusations are lies. For a priest to calumniate a fellow priest in this way is especially reprehensible.

But it is still worse than this: "This whole movement, Elizabeth, really rings of a very tried, very old, very tiresome and ancient heresy, that being Gnosticism. Gnosticism amounts to nothing more than a particular group within the Church thinking that they have been given a special light as to what the ‘real truth’ truly is."

Here Father Francis trots out his impressive theological credentials. Why, this movement of Father Gruner’s is gnosticism, you poor ignorant reader. Aren’t you afraid of being involved with gnosticism? But of course Father Francis knows better. The Gnostic heresy consists in the belief that there is a "higher" revelation by God accessible only to the specially initiated, who acquire a secret knowledge of divine truth not available from public revelation. This heresy has absolutely nothing to do with the Message of Fatima, which has been given to the whole Church and the whole world and is accessible to anyone who is able to understand a few simple words from Heaven: "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 given to the world."

Indeed, if anyone is veering into gnosticism it is the Fatima revisionists, like Father Francis, who insist that no matter what our senses tell us about the deteriorating state of Russia, we must assume that "the Pope knows best" — as if the Pope had access to some hidden, superior knowledge about the meaning of the Message of Fatima, even though the Message is expressed in words simple enough for a child to understand and remember. The Fatima revisionists make the same claim regarding the Pope’s advisors, who supposedly "know best" when they tell the Pope to substitute the consecration of the world for the consecration of Russia, as if the Mother of God had been imprudent in requesting the latter.

Having falsely accused Father Gruner of being a threat to souls, a deceiver and a purveyor of Gnostic heresy, without providing even a thimbleful of proof, Father Francis lards on another baseless argument from authority: "Is it reasonable to assume that souls such as John Paul II, our current Holy Father, Mother Teresa, dare I say, even Mother Angelica and the leaders within the Church have somehow ‘missed out’ on the real ‘truth.’ While somebody like Father Gruner and others like him have ‘really’ been ‘enlightened’ with the ‘real truth’?"

Notice that Father Francis has yet to prove in the first instance that any statement by Father Gruner actually contradicts any statement by the Pope on the same subject matter — namely, Fatima and the consecration of Russia. As for Mother Teresa and Mother Angelica, with all due respect to them, since when does a nun have greater authority in the Church than a priest — especially a priest like Father Gruner, who has advanced degrees in theology from a pontifical institute (the Angelicum in Rome)? In any case, Father Francis does not bother to demonstrate precisely what Mother Teresa and Mother Angelica have said on the subject of Fatima that is more credible than what Father Gruner says. Father Francis, you see, deals in impressions rather than serious arguments.

Furthermore, Father Francis has a wee problem in citing Mother Angelica as his authority on Fatima. On May 16, 2001 Mother Angelica, speaking on her television show Mother Angelica Live, expressed the opinion (shared by millions of Catholics) that the Vatican has not released the entirety of the Third Secret of Fatima. Here is what she said in response to a question from a woman in the audience about whether we now have the Third Secret:

"As for the Secret, well I happen to be one of those individuals who thinks we didn’t get the whole thing. I told ya! I mean, you have the right to your own opinion, don’t you, Father? There, you know, that’s my opinion. Because I think it’s scary. And I don’t think the Holy See is going to say something that does not happen, that might happen. And then what does it do if it doesn’t happen? I mean the Holy See cannot afford to make prophecies."

Well, well, well. Looks like Mother Angelica has joined Father Gruner’s "gnostic" movement. She actually believes the Vatican bureaucracy could be hiding something from us, even though the Vatican declares that the entire Third Secret has been revealed.

Now, if Mother Angelica is skeptical about the Vatican’s declarations concerning full disclosure of the Third Secret, how can Father Francis criticize Father Gruner for being skeptical about the Vatican’s declarations that the Consecration of Russia has been accomplished? Is only Mother Angelica allowed to express doubt about Vatican statements on the Message of Fatima? Don’t expect to see any letters from Father Francis denouncing Mother Angelica for suggesting a Vatican cover-up on the Third Secret. The last thing we can expect from the Fatima revisionists is consistency and intellectual honesty.

Father Francis concludes his frenzy of back-stabbing with this pearl of wisdom: "Is there confusion in the Church today? Without doubt. Is the answer Father Gruner and the whole Fatima Crusader movement? I can say equally without doubt, no — not at all." Naturally, Father Francis does not bother to demonstrate why he can say this "without doubt." What need is there of evidence? Just take his word for it.

Here Father Francis makes another false accusation by implication. Father Gruner has never claimed that he and his apostolate are "the answer" to the current crisis in the Church. Rather, Father Gruner has dedicated his priestly ministry to making people aware that the answer is a return to the perennial Catholic Faith and Catholic Tradition, as summed up with heavenly concision in the Message of Fatima.

In any case, the answer to the crisis in the Church certainly cannot be found in the faulty logic and pious calumnies of Father Francis. I would say that Father Francis owes "Elizabeth" another letter: a letter of retraction, with a copy to Father Nicholas Gruner.

FOOTNOTES

1) L’Osservatore Romano, March 26-27, 1984, pp. 1, 6.
2) Avvenire, the Catholic paper in Italy published by the Italian Catholic Bishops Conference, March 27, 1984, p. 11.
3) Inside the Vatican, November 30, 2000.


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