New Interview by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò
March 2021, Vatican II and the Crisis in the Church
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 80, has just granted a new interview to a radio station in Italy called Radio Spada (“Sword Radio”).
I send the text below in my own English translation.
I spoke to the archbishop briefly today, March 12, via telephone.
He told me he is in good health and good spirits.
[Note: As many of you know, I wrote a book in 2020 about going to find the archbishop in his hiding place; to obtain a copy of the book, Finding Viganò, see this link, which is the same link as the one in the ad just below. I am now completing a second book to bring the “Viganò story” up to today. I am preparing several other writing projects, suggested to me by my friend and editor, the late John Moorehouse, who died in December of a heart attack at the age of 51, that I intend to complete in the weeks and months ahead, in order to clear the decks to write about upcoming events in the most effective way possible; link.]
During our phone call, Viganò acknowledged that he has been “somewhat quiet” for a time, during this Lenten season, after writing essays and giving interviews at an almost frenetic pace during 2020, seemingly almost weekly.
Now, he added, he has been able to “re-charge” his intellectual and spiritual “batteries” a bit (my choice of words, not his).
I asked him what his plans are now, what he plans to do.
“What do I intend to do now?” the archbishop replied. “Just what I have been doing. I certainly do not want to be the leader of anyone. I want just to repeat the teaching of the Gospel.”
“Repeat the teaching of the Gospel.”
That is Viganò’s present plan.
As a special thank you to readers of The Moynihan Letters, we would like to offer you the opportunity to pre-order Finding Vigano: In Search of the Man Whose Testimony Shook the Church and the World. With your purchase, you will receive a complimentary one-year subscription to Inside the Vatican magazine. Yes, order a book, and get a free 1-year subscription to our fascinating monthly magazine.
Above, a photo of Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 80. A career Vatican diplomat of the “old school,” trained in many languages and a tireless worker under four Popes (Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis), he worked for decades, beginning in the mid-1970s, in the Roman Curia, and then, from 2011 to 2016, was the Nuncio (ambassador) of the Holy See to the United States, stationed in Washington, D.C.
(Continued from above)
I interpret this to mean that the archbishop intends now to return to the front lines in the present battle for our Church and culture (again, my words, not his).
But what is this battle, really?
A battle for the family? For the pro-life cause? For a more just society? For an end to corruption in the Church?
What is truly at stake right now, in these days, weeks and months in front of us?
The matter is not simply that of Church corruption, of human misdeeds and sins. No…
It is more than that.
What is at stake is the faith itself… the “Good News” of Jesus Christ, which — to sum up — gives hope to the world.
What is at stake is the proclamation of that news to the world, unadulterated by any human agenda, by any earthly vision.
We must look, as the Church Fathers always looked, as Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI always looked, toward “that which is above.”
Toward that which is eternal, which rises above the vicissitudes of time, as Mt. Everest rises above all the foothills and smaller peaks of the Himalayas.
What is at stake is the new life, the “second birth,” the “supernatural” life, that life that Jesus brought through His work, His words, His actions, His sacrifice, His astonishing resurrection.
What is at stake is precisely the salvation of the world, and the access to the true freedom to live and be what we were born to be… the answer to the deepest hopes of all men and women, nothing less.
That salvation has actually occurred. Jesus entered into this same temporal world we inhabit — though here we have no lasting habitation — and He saved it from the inside, which was the only way it could be done.
Thus true human dignity and freedom were truly brought into our world, into space and time, by Christ, son of Mary.
Into a fallen world — our world — a savior has truly come. His holiness, His love, His sacrifice, His divinity, actually did bring the possibility of healing from every sin, of healing from all of the sins which had left humanity in a state of confusion, frustration, desolation, death.
The Catholic “ecclesia” (Church) was entrusted with the news of this “event,” this trampling of death by death, this victory won by the Son of David, through which Jesus was revealed to be King of Kings, Lord of Lords.
So the Catholic Church, bearing news of this Christ (“anointed one,” Messiah”), bearing news about this Christ and bearing the person and presence of this Christ, bears hope, bears forgiveness, to all men and women, and so is, we must conclude, the most important, the most fundamental, of all human institutions, all human communities — the one “essential” institution of them all.
This is all the more true because the Church’s mysterious nature is to be, not simply a human institution, but something more, a mystical body, Christ’s very body enduring through time, and so something which transcends all earthly categories.
Viganò has been accused of many things, criticized for some of his statements and positions, and some Catholics, and others, in recent months have wished to categorize him as a sort of marginal figure, perhaps a kind of unpredictable crank, “out of the mainstream,” but the fact is that Viganò aims essentially at “repeating the teaching of the Gospel.”
A teaching the world does not like to hear, because it speaks of things above the world, things that transcend the world, things that save whatever there is of this world that is savable.
For this reason, I would argue that Viganò is essentially animated, not by personal ego, personal bitterness and personal rancor, not by some sense of desire for personal revenge because of perceived injuries received, but rather by a profound, and appropriate, pastoral concern, a concern proper to every Pastor, every Shepherd, every bishop in the Catholic Church.
With this as a brief preface, I offer the translation of Viganò’s latest interview on the dangers facing the faith in our present time.
The interview is implicitly Viganò call to his fellow bishops to consider their situation and duty, in order to call others who have authority as pastors of the Church to defend the faith of all time against any ambiguity or alteration, always in a due spirit of humility and charity — for every talent of intellect, of analysis, of eloquence, given to men is truly only a gift, given by God for the prospering of His kingdom, so that righteousness, truth and justice may reign on this blue-green earth, as they reign in God’s eternal realm, where our citizenship, acquired in baptism, will not require any special passport, because there is already here and now our true home… —RM
Radio Spada: Good morning Your Excellency, We thank you for the dialogue we will have.
Let’s begin with Galleria neovaticana [the book title may be translated, perhaps, as “The Neo-Vatican Gallery” or “The Cast of Characters on the ‘New Vatican'”], a new book by Marco Tosatti for which you wrote the Preface.
Allow us to tell you an anecdote: only a few hours after the news that the book was going to press, a Twitter post appeared, based only on the book’s cover and title, obviously, asking how much in keeping with the Gospel it was to print a volume dedicated to scabrous accusations and facts that are not always edifying. [Note: In other words, suggesting that it would have been more charitable and Christian not to publish the book at all.]
What would you answer to this objection?
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò: Allow me to recall here that Benedict XVI, in the months preceding his decision to assume the singular title of “Pope Emeritus” [i.e., in the months before his resignation from the papacy in 2013], instituted a Commission of Cardinals, chaired by Cardinal [Julian] Herranz, and composed of Cardinals [Jozef] Tomko and [Salvatore] De Giorgi, with the task of carrying out a thorough investigation into the confidential information disseminated in the “Vatileaks” affair [Note: in 2011].
On that occasion, I had to request of Cardinal Herranz more than once that I be allowed to add my testimony, since it was not his intention to question me even though I had been personally involved as the author of confidential documents intended for the Pontiff which were stolen and delivered to the press.
I gave them a substantial dossier in which I set forth all of the dysfunctions [Note: of the Roman Curia] and described the network of corruption that I had come to know about and that I had to face as Secretary-General of the Vatican’s Governorate [Note: the government of the Vatican City State, similar the mayor’s office in any other city].
I accompanied that dossier of mine with cover letter in which, among other things, I wrote as follows [Note: So, the paragraph that follows, composed by Viganò, was part of the dossier contributed by Viganò to the special 2011-2012 Vatican investigation, the dossiers of which filled the “white box” which is pictured between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis at their first meeting after the papal election, in Castel Gandolfo, on March 23, 2013):
“I am very saddened by the serious damage caused to the Church and to the Holy See by the leaking of so many confidential documents…
“If there are some who are responsible for such rash acts, far graver is the fault of those who have been responsible for so much corruption and moral degradation in the Holy See and in the Vatican City State, and far graver is the fault of some cardinals, prelates and lay people who, despite knowing (of these things), preferred to live with so much filth, putting their consciences to sleep in order to please the powerful superior and make an ecclesial career.
“I hope that at least this Commission of Cardinals, out of love for the Church, will be faithful to the Holy Father and will carry out all the necessary cleaning desired by him and will not allow this initiative of his to be covered up once again…
“Numerous journalists from various countries have sought to contact me… I remained silent, out of love for the Church and the Holy Father. The power of truth must flow from within the Church and not from the media…
“I pray for you Cardinals, that you may have the courage to tell the truth to the Holy Father; and I pray for the Holy Father, that he may have the strength to make the truth come to light in the Church.”
[Note: It seems fitting to note that this critique of Church corruption was made by Viganò in about 2011, under Pope Benedict; this puts what Viganò wrote about in his August 25, 2018 Testimony in a new light. The 2018 Testimony was, clearly, not the first time Viganò attempted to shed light on internal Church corruption; he had tried to shed that light in an internal investigation seven years earlier… —RM]
That mass of information, together with the other evidence collected by the three Cardinals, would have allowed a cleansing operation: everything has been covered up! And it can only constitute a further element of blackmail for the names contained therein and, for the past eight years now, an occasion for discrediting those who, on the other hand, have faithfully served the Church and the Holy See.
Necesse est enim ut veniant scandala; verumtamen væ homini per quem scandalum venit (Mt 18:7). [“For it must happen that scandals come; but woe unto those through whom the scandals come.”] Denouncing the corruption of clerics and prelates has imposed itself as a gesture of charity towards the faithful and an act of justice towards the tormented Church, because on the one hand it warns the people of God against wolves disguised as lambs and shows them for what they are, and on the other hand it shows that the Bride of Christ is the victim of a little group of conspirators [Note: “conventicola” in the original Italian] of lustful men greedy for power, a group which, once removed (from positions of power in the Church), the Church can return to preaching the Gospel.
It is not the one who brings to light the scandals who sins against evangelical charity, but the one who carries out those scandals and covers them up. The words of the Lord are very clear on this point.
Radio Spada: As we know, going beyond the moral theme, it is impossible not to identify in the doctrinal collapse the very hinge of the present crisis in the Church.
In regard to this, on a number of occasions you have expressed a sharp criticism of Vatican II. On this point, we would ask you for a further specification.
Speaking with (veteran Italian Vaticanist) Sandro Magister, you said: “The beautiful fable of hermeneutics [i.e., using a certain method of textual interpretation (“a hermeneutic of continuity”) to make it possible for ambiguous passages in the Second Vatican Council documents to be interpreted as fully in keeping with the perennial doctrinal teaching of the Church; that is, as orthodox teaching] — albeit authoritative for its Author [i.e., for Pope Benedict XVI; Pope Benedict has always acknowledged that many passages in the conciliar documents can, if interpreted in a certain, progressive way, be made to seem to teach something “new” rather than what is the “traditional” teaching; still, Benedict has always maintained that the Council may be “saved” from any such accusation of teaching “novelties” (that is, teaching of heterodox doctrines), and so be understood to have been entirely orthodox, if the conservative “hermeneutic of continuity” is employed, rather than the more radical “hermeneutic of rupture”] — nevertheless remains an attempt to give the dignity of a Council to a real ambush against the Church.”
May we therefore clarify that the problem is not identifiable only since Vatican II but in Vatican II?
In other words: did the revolutionary process have a turning point in the “Council” and not only after the “Council”? So to place under accusation not simply with the postconciliar “Spirit of Vatican II,” but also the letter of the Council documents themselves?
Archbishop Viganò: I don’t see how one can maintain that there is a presumed orthodox Vatican II that no one has talked about for years, betrayed by a spirit of the Council that everyone also praised.
The spirit of the Council is what animates it, what determines its nature, particularity, characteristics.
And if the spirit is heterodox while the conciliar texts do not seem to be doctrinally heretical, this is to be attributed to a shrewd move by the conspirators, to the naiveté of the Council Fathers, and to the complicity of those who preferred to look elsewhere, from the beginning, rather to take a stand with a clear condemnation of doctrinal, moral and liturgical deviations.
The first to be perfectly well aware of the importance of putting their hand to the conciliar texts in order to be able to use them for their own (future) purposes were progressive cardinals and bishops, particularly the Germans and the Dutch, with their experts.
It was no coincidence that they managed to reject the Preparatory Schemas prepared by the Holy Office and ignored the desiderata (the things desired) of the world’s bishops, including the condemnation of modern errors, especially of atheistic communism; they also succeeded in preventing the proclamation of a Marian dogma, seeing in it an “obstacle”to ecumenical dialogue.
The new leadership of Vatican II was possible thanks to a real coup d’état, the pre-eminent role of the Jesuit (Augustin) Bea [1881-1968] and the support of Roncalli [Pope John XXIII, Pope from 1959 to 1963].
If the Schemas had been kept [as the basis for the Council’s documents; but they were put aside just after the Council began, in the fall of 1962, and not kept] nothing that came out of the Commissions [which were set up in the fall of 1962 to draft the Council’s documents, once the Council decided to set aside the prepared Schemas] would have been possible, because the Schemas were constructed on a Aristotelian-Thomistic model that did not permit equivocal formulations.
The letter of the Council [i.e., the text of the Council documents] must therefore be placed under indictment [the Italian is “messo sotto accusa“] because it is from this that the revolution started.
On the other hand: could you give me a case in the history of the Church in which an Ecumenical Council was deliberately formulated in an equivocal way to ensure that what it taught in its official acts was then subverted and contradicted in practice?
Look: this alone [i.e., the fact that ambiguity and equivocation were deliberately woven into certain passages in the conciliar texts] is enough to catalogue Vatican II as a unique case, a hapax [Note: hapax is a Greek word meaning once, one time, a unique case] on which scholars can try their hand, but which will have to find a solution through the Supreme Authority of the Church.
Radio Spada: How did you become aware of this crisis? A gradual process? A sudden insight developed only recently?
Archbishop Viganò: My awareness was progressive, and it started relatively early. [Note: So, Viganò was concerned about certain things taught by the Council already in the 1960s, at the time of the Council, but, his understanding of the importance and significance of that developed slowly over many years.]
But understanding, or beginning to suspect, that what was presented to us as the fruit of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was actually suggested by the inimicus homo [“the enemy of man,” i.e., the devil] was not enough to collapse that sense of dutiful obedience to the Hierarchy, even in the presence of multiple proofs of the bad faith and the malice of some of its members.
As I have already had occasion to declare, what we saw then materialize — I speak, for example, of some novelties like episcopal collegiality [Note: the reference seems to be to bishops’ conferences, which never existed prior to the Council, but were established in the years following the Council] or ecumenism or the Novus Ordo — could appear as attempts to meet the common desire for renewal, in the wake of post-war reconstruction.
Faced with the economic boom and major political events, the Church seemed to have to somehow rejuvenate herself, or so everyone was telling us, starting with the Holy Father.
Those accustomed to pre-conciliar discipline, to the respect for Authority, to the veneration of the Roman Pontiff, did not even dare to think that what was surreptitiously shown to us as a means to spread the Faith and convert many souls to the Catholic Church was actually a vehicle, a deception behind which was hidden, in the minds of some, the intention to progressively cancel the Faith and leave souls in error and sin.
Those “novelties” pleased almost no one, least of all the lay people, but they were presented to us as a sort of penance to accept, having in exchange a greater spread of the Gospel, and the moral and spiritual rebirth of a West prostrate due to the Second World War and threatened by materialism.
Radical changes began with Paul VI, with the liturgical reform and the drastic prohibition of the Tridentine Mass. I felt personally wounded and helpless when, as a young secretary to the then Apostolic Delegation of London [in the 1970s], the Holy See forbid the Una Voce Association to celebrate even one Mass according to the Ancient Rite in the crypt of Westminster Cathedral.
During the pontificate of John Paul II, some of the more extreme trends of the Council found a propulsive push in the pantheon of Assisi , in the encounters in mosques and synagogues, in the requests for forgiveness for the Crusades and Inquisition, in the so-called “purification of memory.” The possibly subversive power of Dignitatis humanae and of Nostra aetate were evident in those years.
Then came Benedict XVI and his liberalization of the traditional liturgy, up until then ostentatiously opposed, despite the papal concessions following the Episcopal consecrations of Ecône [in 1988]. Unfortunately, the ecumenical exaggerations did not cease even with Ratzinger, and with them the conciliar ideology that justified them. The resignation of Benedict and the coming of Bergoglio continue to open the eyes of many people, especially of lay faithful.
Radio Spada: A distinct but connected theme is that relating to the protagonists of the conciliar and post-conciliar season.
Let’s stop for a moment on the figure of Ratzinger: the role of the Bavarian theologian both at Vatican II and after is undeniable, albeit with different nuances (we recall that, from 1981 to 2005, he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, from 2005 to 2013 he reigned on the Throne of Peter, since 2013 he is “Pope Emeritus”).
For our part, the judgment on the significance of Ratzingerism is certainly negative: under his administration at the CDF, the same deviations that today we see explicitly “flourishing” flourished; as soon as he was elected to the Chair of Peter he removed the tiara from the papal coat-of-arms; he continued on the path of indifferentist ecumenism by renewing the scandalous celebrations in Assisi; he wrote that “Luther’s thought, his entire spirituality, was entirely Christocentric”; in the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum [July 7, 2007] he defined the Mass of all time and the Novus Ordo as two forms of the same rite (when on the contrary they imply two totally different theologies); he then created this unlikely hybrid of the “Pope Emeritus dressed in white” who — leaving aside intentions, which we do not judge — seems to be not only a dangerous misunderstanding, but an almost necessary cog in the dualism that animates the current dynamic of ecclesial dissolution.
These few examples, which could be followed by many others, are in our opinion revealing of the fact that Ratzinger has always been on the “other side of the fence,” albeit with roles and positions that are not identical.
We have already seen your statement on the “beautiful tale of hermeneutics,” but also on other occasions, you have pointed out some problematic aspects of Ratzinger’s thought. We refer in particular to a recent statement on LifeSiteNews in which you argued: “However, it would be desirable that, especially in consideration of the Divine Judgment that awaits him, he definitively distances himself from those theologically incorrect positions — I am referring in particular to those of the Introduction to Christianity — which are still widespread today in universities and seminaries that pride themselves on calling themselves Catholic.”
We, therefore, ask you: if you were to summarize your judgment on the thought of the Bavarian theologian, what would you say to our readers? Furthermore: You have had the opportunity to work closely with Benedict XVI, what can you tell us about him on the human level? It is not, mind you, a question about private things, but about the personality that he was able to get to know closely.
Archbishop Viganò: The points you have listed, albeit with some nuances, unfortunately find me in agreement, not without considerable pain. Many acts of government of Benedict XVI are in line with the conciliar ideology, of which the theologian Ratzinger was always a staunch and convinced supporter. His Hegelian philosophical approach led him to apply the thesis-antithesis-synthesis scheme in the Catholic context, for example, by considering the documents of Vatican II (thesis) and the excesses of the post-conciliar period (antithesis) things to be reconciled in his famous “hermeneutics of continuity” (synthesis); nor is the invention of the Emeritus Papacy an exception, where between being Pope (thesis) and no longer being Pope (antithesis), the compromise was chosen to remain Pope only in part (synthesis).
The same mens [“mind,” “mentality”] lay behind the decision to liberalize the traditional liturgy, while flanking it with its conciliar counterpart in an attempt not to upset either the proponents of the liturgical revolution or the defenders of the venerable Tridentine rite.
The problem is therefore of an intellectual, ideological matrix: it emerges every time the Bavarian theologian wanted to give a solution to the crisis that afflicts the Church: on all these occasions his academic formation influenced by the thought of Hegel believed he could put opposites together.
I have no reason to doubt that Benedict XVI desired, in his own way, to make a gesture of reconciliation with the hopes of Catholic traditionalism; nor that he is not aware of the disastrous situation in which the ecclesial body finds itself.
But the only way to restore the Church is by following the Gospel, with a supernatural gaze and with the awareness that Good and Evil, by God’s decree, cannot be put together in an unreal juste milieu [“happy medium”] but that they are and remain irreconcilable and opposed, and that serving two masters ends up making them both unhappy.
As for my direct acquaintance with Benedict XVI, I can say that in the years of his Pontificate, in which I served the Church in the Secretariat of State, in the Governorate, and as Nuncio in the United States, I got the idea that he surrounded himself with inadequate, unreliable or even corrupt collaborators, who have largely taken advantage of the “meekness” of his character and of what could be considered as a certain “Stockholm syndrome” [i.e., a syndrome in which a prisoner, in a certain sense, comes to love those who have imprisoned him] especially towards Cardinal Bertone and towards his own private secretary.
Radio Spada: In some articles that appeared on CatholicFamilyNews.com it was noted that your position on the situation of the Church is close to that of Archbishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, one of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre. From the same source was reported a sentence by you according to which Archbishop Lefevbre himself would be an exemplary confessor of the Faith. Also, in the light of your firm criticism of Vatican II and, on the other hand, of your non-adherence to sedevacantism, it would seem that the approach you promote is very close to that of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X. Can you tell us something about it?
Archbishop Viganò: From many parts of the Catholic world, especially in the conservative milieux, we hear it said that Benedict XVI is the “true Pope” and that Bergoglio is an “antipope.”
This opinion is based, on the one hand, on the belief that his Renunciation is invalid (due to the way it was formulated, due to pressure exerted by external forces or the distinction between munus [“office”] and papal ministerium [“ministry”]) and, on the other hand, on the fact that a group of progressive Cardinals are said to have tried to have their own candidate elected at the Conclave of 2013, in violation of the norms of the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis of John Paul II.
Beyond the plausibility of these arguments, which if confirmed could invalidate Bergoglio’s election, this problem can only be solved by the Supreme Authority of the Church, when Providence deigns to put an end to this situation of very serious confusion.
Radio Spada: Let’s talk about the future. In these stormy years, you have intended to serve the Church with written interventions, with videos, participating in initiatives, and with all the activities that those who follow you know well. For the future, do you see the possibility that your episcopal mission will take different forms? Are you thinking of any specific activities? Of a greater public presence?
Archbishop Viganò: My age, the vicissitudes of recent years and the situation of the Church do not allow me to make plans, as I have never made plans in my entire life. I let Providence dispose of me as it sees fit, showing me from time to time the path I must take. I sincerely hope that my testimony, especially as regards the understanding of the deception that is taking place in the Church, may allow the Cardinals, and my Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, to open their eyes, in a gesture of humility, courage and confidence in the power of God. We cannot continue to defend the cause and origin of our present crisis just because we do not want to acknowledge that we have been misled: this obstinacy in error would be a worse fault than the error itself.
Radio Spada: We thank you for having answered our questions: we hope there will be opportunities for future comparisons.
March 11, 2021
Feria Quinta infra Hebdomadam III in Quadragesima