The fifth of seven children, Gruner was born in Montreal, Canada, to Malcom and Jessie (née Mullally) Gruner. His paternal grandmother claimed the family was related to Florence Nightingale. He is a graduate of McGill University with post-graduate degrees in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Gruner was ordained at Avellino, Italy on August 22, 1976 by Bishop Pasquale Venezia. In 1978, he launched a periodical dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, which was a journal mostly dedicated to praying the rosary, until Gruner became focused particularly on the consecration of the Soviet Union controversy.
Gruner was ordained in the diocese of Avellino, Italy. In 1996 he was suspended from his priestly functions by the Bishop of Avellino, Italy, and appealed the suspension. The appeal was unsuccessful. In September 2001, the Congregation for the Clergy, stated that Father Gruner's suspension was "confirmed by a definitive sentence of the supreme tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura." According to the priest himself, he has never been suspended at all.
Gruner and the Fatima Crusader
In 1929, Lúcia dos Santos, one of the three children entrusted with the revelations of the Virgin Mary Marian apparition at Fatima, Portugal, revealed that the Virgin Mary had requested that Russia should be consecrated to Her Immaculate Heart. Sister Lúcia explained with the words of Our Lady, "If My requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace. If not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world."
In accord with Sister Lúcia's avowal, Pope Pius XII consecrated the entire world (including Russia, but not mentioning it specifically) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1942. However, that proved, at least initially, to be insufficient for Sister Lúcia, who indicated that the Pope and all the bishops of the Church should make the Consecration simultaneously. In 1984, Pope John Paul II followed his predecessor in consecrating the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but without specifically mentioning Russia, and again without the bishops joining in. Father Gruner has dedicated his life not only to publicizing Fatima's message of world peace, but urging his readers to petition the Catholic Church for all bishops to participate in the Consecration of Russia.
Gruner held that John Paul II was held by the consent of his predecessor, Pope John XXIII, to an alleged Vatican/Moscow concordat, which had been signed between His Holiness and then-Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union. This was primarily because the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, also supported this alleged concordat. Throughout the 1980s, the Fatima Crusader made further frequent allegations that the Vatican had been infiltrated and subverted, and that the Soviet Union was engaging in deliberate deception when it depicted Mikhail Gorbachev and perestroika as initiators of internal Communist reform after the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In 1988, he urged a letter writing campaign against arms control talks.
When the Soviet Union finally disintegrated in 1991, Fatima pietist groups, like the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima and Fatima Family Apostolate, rejoiced, regarding this as evidence of the efficacy of the dedication of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that John Paul II had conducted nine years beforehand, but which Gruner and the Fatima Crusader discount based on the lack of evidence of a spiritual conversion in Russia.
Gruner initiated a radio and television campaign for his message, leading his organization's claimed membership to reach an estimated four hundred thousand by the early 1990s. Since then, the Crusader has continued to argue for the Consecration of Russia and maintained that such action is urgent.
On October 23, 2012 Gruner, along with Catholic attorney and ally Christopher Ferrara, appeared at the headquarters of the European Union in Strasbourg, France to speak in support of a motion for a declaration by the EU Parliament calling upon Pope Benedict XVI to carry out the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Gruner and Ferrara were invited to speak by the sponsors of the motion, MEPs Mario Borghezio and Lorenzo Fontana.
- Nicholas Perry and Loreto Echevarria: Under the Heel of Mary: London: Routledge: 1988: ISBN 0-415-01296-1
- Sandra Zimdars-Swartz: Encountering Mary: Princeton: Princeton University Press: 1991: ISBN 0-691-07371-6
- Francis Alban, Christopher A. Ferrara & Malachi Martin: "Fatima Priest": Pound Ridge: Good Counsel Publications: 1997: ISBN 0-9663046-2-4