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The Ignorant Advice
of Colin Donovan

by Christopher A. Ferrara

On the website of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) you will find a battery of “experts” who are ready to give their “expert” opinions on all manner of theological subjects. Unlike this column, which deals in facts and views, whose authority is no greater than this columnist’s ability to persuade, EWTN’s “experts” purport to give binding advice on what Catholics must do and say about this or that particular matter pertaining to the Faith.

One of EWTN’s “experts” is a fellow named Colin Donovan, S.T.L. (S.T.L. stands for Licentiate in Sacred Theology, a degree Father Gruner earned with high honors at the Pontifical college in Rome known as the Angelicum, back in the 1970s). Donovan offers advice to the public on the extremely narrow theological speciality of “General Questions Not Covered Elsewhere.” The advice of Colin Donovan, S.T.L., on what one should think of Father Nicholas Gruner, S.T.L. is a prime example of why the Internet is often the least reliable source of information, despite the very impressive appearance of some of the websites which deliver this bad information to an unsuspecting public. Here a few samples from Donovan’s “expert” appraisal of Father Gruner:

“[Father Gruner] has gone so far as charging a conspiracy between Pope John XXIII and the Soviet government not to attack communism in exchange for the participation of Russian Orthodox observers at the Second Vatican Council.” Mr. Donovan seems unaware that the Vatican-Moscow Agreement, by which the Second Vatican Council was constrained to silence on communism in exchange for the attendance of two Russian Orthodox (i.e. KGB) observers, is an established historical fact attested to in all its details by Msgr. Roche, the personal secretary of Cardinal Tisserant, who negotiated the agreement for the Vatican.

There must be a dozen books documenting the existence of the agreement and its strict enforcement during the Council, including Msgr. Roche’s biography of Tisserant. In short, on this point “expert” Donovan is a complete ignoramus.

Donovan’s ignorance extends to canon law as well. Look at this: “Thus it is that today Fr. Gruner, who previously simply pushed his opinion on Fatima as he was free to do, is now engaged in a schismatic campaign of resistance to the Pope. Catholics who follow his lead of material disobedience to the Pope could find themselves in formal schism from the Church and excommunicated. This is because in the human will it is not very far from whining and complaining about what you don't like about the Church and this pontificate to formally (that is, with full moral culpability) breaking communion with Peter, especially when you have taken the first step of material resistance to papal authority.”

This is a truly amazing jumble of disconnected concepts. According to Donovan, anyone who follows Father Gruner in his alleged material disobedience to the Pope could find himself in formal schism, and then excommunicated — without even realizing it, and without even a pronouncement by Church authorities! Zounds! Because, you see, whoever complains about the state of the Church today is not very far from breaking communion with Peter, since (as we all know) whining and complaining are the first step of material resistance to papal authority.

Anyone who knows a lick of canon law would wince and then laugh at Donovan’s “advice.” For one thing, there is no such thing as the canonical offense of “material disobedience” or “material resistance” to the Pope. One either disobeys the Pope or one does not; one either resists him or one does not. What papal command has Father Gruner disobeyed or resisted? Donovan does not specify any — because there are none.

What is more, how can a member of the faithful who “follows” Father Gruner in his (non-existent) “material disobedience” to unspecified (and non-existent) papal commands become a formal schismatic and be excommunicated, when Father Gruner himself is neither a schismatic nor excommunicated, but only “materially” disobedient? Oy, what a mess.

This is the sort of nonsense the Fatima revisionists are peddling in an effort to prevent anyone from listening to Father Gruner’s common-sensical views on the Message of Fatima. In essence, Donovan’s “expert” advice is that anyone who listens to Father Gruner will soon cease to be a member of the Catholic Church.

Donovan preys on the fears of the ill-informed in the same manner the Soviets preyed on the fears of the Russian people in declaring some enemy of the state an un-person. Meanwhile, Russia, and the rest of the world, are hurtling toward hell in a handbasket, while Donovan and his accomplices assure us that Our Lady’s requests at Fatima have been heeded.

Mr. Donovan, you know nothing. Take down your “expert” shingle, please, and let people think for themselves. I will have more to say about EWTN’s dubious “experts” in future columns.