Is Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò in schism? This is a serious question, and it’s not one to be taken lightly. The 1983 Code of Canon Law [CIC] defines schism as “the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (canon 751), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church
cites this same definition (CCC 2089). I raise the question of Archbishop Viganò in light of some extreme accusations he has made against Pope Francis since last November. The language used by Viganò against Pope Francis — and more recently against Vatican II and the post-conciliar Catholic Church — suggests that the former papal nuncio to the USA is refusing submission to the Roman Pontiff. Some examples bear this out.
As can be seen, Archbishop Viganò accuses Pope Francis of having a “false magisterium” that promotes heresies, idolatry, and the subversion of two thousand years of Tradition. If this is what Viganò believes about Pope Francis, he cannot in good faith submit to him as the Supreme Pontiff. But such refusal of submission is the very definition of schism.
What is most disturbing is that Archbishop Viganò levels these serious accusations against Pope Francis and the Church without any evidence except his own assertions. The idolatry claim stems from a prayer service that took place in the Vatican Gardens on October 4, 2019. This service, though, was profoundly Catholic, and the claim that idolatry took place has been refuted
in a series of detailed articles by Pedro Gabriel. It is an exercise in rash judgment
to insist that idolatry took place during the Amazon Synod without any convincing evidence. Pope Francis has explained
that there was no idolatrous intent connected with the wooden statues, but this is not convincing to Viganò because he’s already made up his mind that Pope Francis is an apostate modernist who can’t be trusted.
The most extreme words of Archbishop Viganò thus far are found in his letter of June 9, 2020 that was published
in Italian on the website of Marco Tosatti and in English
by Inside the Vatican
and other sites. In this letter, the Archbishop not only states that “the demythologization of the Papacy” is a theme of Francis’s pontificate, but he also points to “the situation of the most serious apostasy to which the highest levels of the Hierarchy are exposed.” In his June 9 letter, Viganò expresses his conviction that the roots of the problem go back to Vatican II. Moreover, he believes that the efforts to read the Council’s documents with the hermeneutic of continuity
have now “shipwrecked miserably” (miseramente naufragati
) in confrontation with the present crisis. Where does this crisis leave the Church? Here is how the Archbishop reads the signs of the times:
… [It] is undeniable that from Vatican II onwards a parallel church was built, superimposed over and diametrically opposed to the true Church of Christ. This parallel church progressively obscured the divine institution founded by Our Lord in order to replace it with a spurious entity, corresponding to the desired universal religion that was first theorized by Masonry.
Apparently Archbishop Viganò does not believe that the Church in communion with Pope Francis is the true Church of Christ. Instead, it is “a spurious entity” corresponding to a Masonic inspired “universal religion
.” For Viganò, the Abrahamic Family House being built in Abu Dhabi signifies “the triumph of the Masonic plan in preparation for the kingdom of the Antichrist!” He makes this claim even though there will be separate worship services in the church, the synagogue, and the mosque built on the common foundation of the “Family House.”
If the Church in communion with Pope Francis is “a spurious entity” where is the true Church of Christ today? Is it to be found in the faithful remnant of true believers made up of those who follow the thinking of Viganò? The Archbishop apparently believes that the “spurious entity” of the Church under Francis is part of “a globalist plan that has as its goal the cancellation of the Catholic Church, in order to replace it with a confederation of idolaters and heretics united by environmentalism and universal brotherhood.”
I could give other examples of inaccurate claims and accusations made by Archbishop Viganò, but I think these will suffice. If the Archbishop wishes us to believe that the Church under Pope Francis is a “spurious entity,” what confidence can we have in the “Church” that he claims to follow when his “Church” seems to be grounded in dubious accusations that don’t measure up to careful scrutiny? It seems that Archbishop Viganò has established his claims on conspiracy theories of Masonic infiltrations that have made the Church under Pope Francis a “spurious entity” preparing the way for “the kingdom of the Antichrist.” What, though, becomes of the dogma of the indefectibility of the Church of Christ grounded in the teaching of Vatican I that the “See of Peter remains always untainted by any error according to the divine promise of our Lord and Savior made to the prince of his disciples: ‘But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren’ [Lk 22:32].” (cf. Denz.-H, 3070).
If Archbishop Viganò truly believes that Pope Francis is propagating heresies, idolatry, and apostasy, then either Christ’s promise to the Church has failed or the Church led by Pope Francis is not the Church of Christ. If Viganò believes that Christ has failed in his promise, then he sets himself against Sacred Scripture and the teaching of Vatican I. If he believes that the Church led by Pope Francis is not the true Church of Christ, then either he is a schismatic or a sedevacantist.
I honestly believe Archbishop Viganò has become a victim of his own hyperbolic rhetoric. He wishes to uphold Catholic tradition as he sees it, but his own words place him in a very tenuous ecclesiastical position. An archbishop of the Catholic Church who makes such overt and egregious accusations against the sitting Roman Pontiff is clearly refusing submission to the Supreme Pontiff, which according to canon 751 of the CIC, places him at least in material schism from the Catholic Church. I say material
schism because it would be up to competent authority to determine whether canons 1364 §1 or 194, §1, n.2 of the CIC apply to Archbishop Viganò.
With that said, I would not favor any canonical sanctions placed on Archbishop Viganò, out of concern that it would only embolden his followers and lead to greater resistance to the Holy Father. I think the policy chosen by Pope Francis is the better path, which is that of pastoral charity and silence. We need to pray for Archbishop Viganò and hope that he will once again assume his previous attitude of trust and obedience toward the Apostolic See. The Archbishop seems to have a sincere devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us ask for the intercession of the Mother of the Church to touch the heart of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò so he can once again become a loyal son of the Church that has the Roman Pontiff, Pope Francis, as her “visible source and foundation of faith and communion” (Lumen Gentium