Nicholas Nightingale Gruner (May 4, 1942 – April 29, 2015) was a Roman Catholic priest and a promoter of the message of Our Lady of Fatima, an apparition of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Father Gruner's interpretation of that message at times proved somewhat controversial, even among other groups of Traditionalist Catholics.
The fifth of seven children, Father 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 graduated from McGill University and obtained a post-graduate degrees in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He 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 at first a journal dedicated to praying the rosary. In the early 1980s the Fatima Crusader focused more on the consecration of Russia controversy. Fatima.
The Fatima Crusader
Gruner and his magazine, "Fatima Crusader," took a critical stance toward the compliance of the Popes with the message of Fátima, specifically the request for the Consecration of Russia.
Gruner believed that John Paul II held to the consent of his papal predecessors to the Vatican/Moscow Agreement, which had been signed by the Pope John XXIII and then-Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union. Primarily because the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, also supported the Agreement.
Throughout the 1980s, the Fatima Crusader made repeated 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 earlier, but which Gruner and the Fatima Crusader discounted based on the lack of any spiritual conversion in Russia.
Colin Donovan, STL criticized the Fatima Crusader saying, "This magazine also attacks anyone who disagrees with Fr. Gruner's opinions on Fatima, showing contempt for all other Fatima apostles. This includes holy priests like Fr. Robert Fox, whose Fatima Family Apostolate has propagated the Fatima message to far greater audiences than Fr. Gruner could ever hope to do..."
Despite subsequent statements by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and by the remaining visionary Sr. Lucia Santos, who allegedly denied Gruner's interpretation that a further consecration of Russia was needed, his criticisms continued. Some critics of the Vatican's approach to the third secret suggested that Sr. Lucia was kept from speaking the truth about the message of Fátima. Writer and commentator Carlos Evaristo held Gruner as an example of an exegetical free-for-all that’s long percolated in the Fatima underground, saying “What happened with the Fatima message is that Sr. Lucy related it but never interpreted it; that left space for all sorts of strange theories.”
Gruner started a radio and television ministry for his viewpoint. By the early 1990s Gruner's media advocacy had resulted in increased membership with claims of four hundred thousand members. Going forward the Crusader continued to argue for the Consecration of Russia and maintained that such action is increasingly urgent. In his later years Gruner aligned himself with Catholic traditionalists who maintain that the documents of Vatican II are pastoral, had resulted in failure and should be reversed.
Fr. Gruner was ordered by his ecclesiastical superior to return to the diocese of his incardination. He was also warned that failure to do so would result in his suspension "a divinis" (the loss of faculties for celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, etc.). He did not undertake the action required of him, and subsequently in 1996 he was suspended from his priestly functions by the Bishop of Avellino, Italy, and then 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 had never been suspended at all. Gruner was subsequently incardinated in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, but remained suspended. The Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto and the Diocese of London, Ontario, warned parishioners not to support Gruner's organization.
On October 23, 2012 Gruner, along with attorney 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 at a press conference by the sponsors of the motion, MEPs Mario Borghezio and Lorenzo Fontana.
Father Gruner was scheduled to appear at a June 22, 2014 event to mark the 44th anniversary of the alleged apparitions at Bayside. This event was to benefit St. Michael’s World Apostolate. In response, the Brooklyn Diocese’s Chancellor, Msgr. Anthony Hernandez, sent a communiqué to all pastors warning about a suspended priest who encourages these devotions and was planning an appearance in Queens. It stated:
"Recently, our Diocesan Bishop, the Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, received confirmation from the Holy See that the Reverend Nicholas Gruner, who is currently incardinated in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, in India, continues to labor under the canonical sanction of suspension, cf. Can. 1333, which has been confirmed by the Apostolic Signatura in Rome. ... Please be advised that the Diocese of Brooklyn has consistently rejected the veracity of the claims concerning the alleged Marian apparitions in Bayside, Queens. Recently, Bishop DiMarzio released a statement reaffirming the positions of his two predecessors, Most Reverend Francis J. Mugavero and the Most Reverend Thomas V. Daily. This statement was printed in The Tablet (June 7) and is posted on the diocesan website in order that the faithful of the Diocese of Brooklyn be fully informed of the Church’s decision on this matter. Given that Father Gruner remains suspended, and, given that the alleged Bayside apparitions have been rejected by the legitimate ecclesiastical authorities, the faithful are strongly discouraged from participating in any events connected to Father Gruner or St. Michael’s World Apostolate."
- Donovan STL, Colin B., "Fr. Gruner, "Fátima Crusader", 'Catholic Family News'", February 4, 2002
- Father Nicholas Gruner, RIP
- "Rest in Peace". Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- Donovan STL, Colin. "Fr. Gruner and his media apostolates "Fátima Crusader" and "Catholic Family News", September 20, 2001
- Allen Jr., John. "A Tale of Two Fatimas", National Catholic Reporter, May 13, 2010
- Vere JCL, Pete and McElhinney, Shawn. "Yes, Virginia, Fr Nicholas Is Suspended", Wanderer, March 2003
- "Vatican Reminder on Suspended Priest", Catholic world News, September 12, 2001
- Levis, Fr. Robert J. "Father Gruner is suspended?", October 21, 2004
- Video on YouTube
- Wilkinson, Ed. "Parish Alert on Bayside ‘Apparition’ Event", The Tablet", Diocese of Brooklyn, June 11, 2014
- Parker, Akweli. "Priest Takes A Controversial Message To Delco", Philadelphia Inquirer, February 26, 2001
- 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