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Rome Fiddles While the Church Burns

"Double Standard" Update:

by Christopher A. Ferrara

Readers of this column (however few they may be) are well familiar with the Vatican’s absurd campaign against Father Nicholas Gruner. Father Gruner, alone among some 400,000 priests, finds himself publicly threatened with excommunication by the Congregation for the Clergy unless he “returns” to the Italian diocese of Avellino, where he was ordained 25 years ago.

Now, the Diocese of Avellino never requested Father Gruner’s services after he was given permission to reside in Canada back in 1978. There is a good reason for this: Father Gruner cannot speak the local dialect and is consequently of little or no use to the Bishop there. Father Gruner was ordained in Avellino only in anticipation of joining a traditionally-oriented local community of English-speaking Franciscans, which never materialized. In fact, Father Gruner, being a Canadian citizen, could not even reside in Avellino today without violating Italian immigration law, given that the Bishop (who clearly has no interest in Father Gruner’s “return”) has done nothing to comply with the requirements of Italian law for visas issued to foreign-born priests.

What is more, the Archbishop of Hyderabad has since accepted Father Gruner into his Archdiocese (with permission to remain in Canada). That would be just fine with the Bishop of Avellino, except that the Congregation for the Clergy has decided that it is a matter of grave importance for the entire Church that Father Gruner “return” to Avellino. Why? Obviously, so that Father Gruner’s Fatima apostolate can be silenced once and for all, an aim which appears to be at the top of the Vatican Secretariat of State’s “to do” list. As the Archbishop of Hyderabad put it in his decree incardinating Father Gruner: “Evil forces have conspired to destroy your work of love.” Quite so.

While Father Gruner is threatened with ultimate canonical penalties because he will not agree to “return” to Italy and live in permanent exile as an illegal alien, the auto-demolition of the Church continues apace on every continent. The Vatican does nothing to arrest the process beyond the issuance of toothless documents it never enforces with any real penalties. So, with this column, I am inaugurating a “double standard update.” I will provide occasional examples of the Vatican’s benign neglect of heretics, sexual deviants and Church-wreckers, as compared with its strict punishments of those it considers insufficiently wedded to the Vatican’s post-Fatima orientation.

Exhibit I: Cardinal Roger Mahony. This bizarre character has single-handedly wrecked the Catholic Church in southern California. Here is a photograph from the “liturgy” the Cardinal approved and attended at the Religious Education Conference for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in February 2001:

These photographs, and others equally revolting, are proudly on display at Mahony’s own archdiocesan website: It is clear that Mahony condones a form of religion which bears no resemblance to the Faith of our fathers.

This, then, is where the Church is today: A Cardinal of international stature approves Catholic liturgies which look like something from the days of Aztec human sacrifices, while the “ever-vigilant” Congregation for the Clergy comes down on Father Gruner like a ton of bricks because he declines to spend his life as an illegal alien in an Italian diocese which has no need for him.

Let us just say that the Vatican has a wee problem with its ecclesial priorities these days.