A whirlwind of error and confusion…

Viganò’s Theological Vortex: A Critical Commentary
(PART 1)

In recent weeks, the now well-known former Vatican nuncio to the United States, “Abp.” Carlo Maria Viganò, has spoken at great length again about his position on the Second Vatican Council and the “conciliar sect” (his words) that emerged from it. On Sep. 1 and 3, respectively, the recognize-and-resist paper Catholic Family News published two of his latest monographs on its web site. They can be found in the following posts:

Upon reading these texts, we decided that a critical commentary on them would be fitting. Readers who may be a bit wary about reading sedevacantist criticism of Fr. Vigano, are encouraged to recall that we do give credit where it’s due: Vigano’s Jun 9, 2020 condemnation of Vatican II and the post-conciliar errors was outstanding, and we acknowledged as much. Unfortunately, Vigano has not drawn the logically necessary conclusion from his findings, with the inevitable result that he has now enmeshed himself in a theological quagmire from which he cannot escape except by recognizing that the “Popes” of Vatican II and the post-conciliar religion are not true Vicars of Christ.

Comments on Viganò’s Response to Stephen Kokx

Vigano’s letter of Sep. 1, 2020, is in reply to Stephen Kokx, a contributor to Catholic Family News, who had sent him a few questions about what, in his opinion, Catholics ought to do now. Since Vigano had suggested that Catholics separate from the Conciliar Church, Mr. Kokx inquired as to what such separation would look like — considering that Vigano acknowledges Francis as the lawful Roman Pontiff and so clearly isn’t telling people to abandon the notion that he is the Pope.

Vigano responded as follows:

While it is clear that no admixture is possible with those who propose adulterated doctrines of the conciliar ideological manifesto, it should be noted that the simple fact of being baptized and of being living members of the Church of Christ does not imply adherence to the conciliar team; this is true above all for the simple faithful and also for secular and regular clerics who, for various reasons, sincerely consider themselves Catholics and recognize the Hierarchy.

Instead, what needs to be clarified is the position of those who, declaring themselves Catholic, embrace the heterodox doctrines that have spread over these decades, with the awareness that these represent a rupture with the preceding Magisterium. In this case it is licit to doubt their real adherence to the Catholic Church, in which however they hold official roles that confer authority on them. It is an illicitly exercised authority, if its purpose is to force the faithful to accept the revolution imposed since the Council.

Once this point has been clarified, it is evident that it is not the traditional faithful – that is, true Catholics, in the words of Saint Pius X – that must abandon the Church in which they have the full right to remain and from which it would be unfortunate to separate; but rather the Modernists who usurp the Catholic name, precisely because it is only the bureaucratic element that permits them not to be considered on a par with any heretical sect. This claim of theirs serves in fact to prevent them from ending up among the hundreds of heretical movements that over the course of the centuries have believed to be able to reform the Church at their own pleasure, placing their pride ahead of humbly guarding the teaching of Our Lord. But just as it is not possible to claim citizenship in a homeland in which one does not know its language, law, faith and tradition; so it is impossible that those who do not share the faith, morals, liturgy, and discipline of the Catholic Church can arrogate to themselves the right to remain within her and even to ascend the levels of the hierarchy.

Therefore let us not give in to the temptation to abandon – albeit with justified indignation – the Catholic Church, on the pretext that it has been invaded by heretics and fornicators: it is they who must be expelled from the sacred enclosure, in a work of purification and penance that must begin with each one of us.

(“Abp.” Carlo M. Viganò, Letter to Stephen Kokx, Sep. 1, 2020; italics given.)

What Vigano proposes here is an utter ecclesiological train wreck. Let’s try to disentangle this so we can see more clearly the absurdity of what the retired nuncio is saying, namely:

  1. The establishment headquartered in Vatican City, and of which Pope Francis is the head, is the Catholic Church
  2. Catholics cannot mix with Conciliarists
  3. Conciliarists are those who, retaining the name of Catholic, publicly embrace and teach the errors and heresies of the Second Vatican Council, knowing them to be contrary to the prior Magisterium
  4. Those who adhere to the errors and heresies of Vatican II not realizing them to be contrary to the prior Magisterium, are Catholics, not Conciliarists
  5. Conciliarists are members of the Catholic Church, from which they should be expelled
  6. Some Conciliarists are members of the hierarchy
  7. Catholics are not permitted to abandon the Catholic Church

Is your head spinning yet?

This response clarifies nothing; rather, it makes it glaringly obvious that “Abp.” Vigano is making it up as he goes along and/or is looking to reconcile the irreconcilable, which he is forced to do if he wants to avoid Sedevacantism: Vigano maintains that Catholics cannot mix with Conciliarists, yet he also maintains at the same time that Catholics are mixed with Conciliarists in the same (Catholic) Church.

His response clearly does not square with traditional Roman Catholic ecclesiology, which is rather straightforward:

Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed.

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 22)

Most men feel that the Church’s supreme head and shepherd should decide who are Catholics and who are not.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 15)

In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle teaches that Christ established [the] ecclesiastical power for the benefit of unity. And what is this unity unless one person is placed in charge of the whole Church who protects it and joins all its members in the one profession of faith and unites them in the one bond of love and communion? The wisdom of the Divine Lawgiver ordered that a visible head be placed over a visible body so that “once so established, the opportunity for division might be removed.”

(Pope Gregory XVI, Encyclical Commissum Divinitus, n. 10)

Vigano is telling his followers that they must determine, on their own authority and — note well! — against the judgment of the (supposedly) legitimate Pope and the Holy See, what magisterial teachings are erroneous and heretical and therefore must be rejected. Furthermore, Vigano wants his followers to determine for themselves who is in good faith and who is in bad faith about the false conciliar and post-conciliar doctrines, and then somehow separate from those they have identified as being in bad faith, even if they happen to be their lawful pastors, and even though they are in full communion with the Pope and enjoy his approval!

Stated bluntly, Vigano is essentially saying that the Catholic Church can teach a truckload of Modernist garbage in her Magisterium — those who recognize that it is garbage and therefore refuse to submit, are Catholics; those who submit by accident because they’ve been deceived and don’t realize it, but wouldn’t submit if they did realize it, are Catholics as well; but those who recognize that it is garbage but submit to it anyway are not Catholics but heretics. In other words, the mere submission to the Roman Pontiff and acceptance of his Magisterium does not guarantee one is a Catholic at all, and in fact may even indicate that one is not a Catholic. That is in direct contradiction to the teaching of Pope Pius IX that “one simple way to keep men professing Catholic truth is to maintain their communion with and obedience to the Roman Pontiff” (Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, n. 17).

Clearly, what Fr. Vigano is proposing is a colossal theological train wreck. In fact, it includes or implies the very concept of schism he disclaims: Pope Pius IX warned that “the Catholic Church has always regarded as schismatic those who obstinately oppose the lawful prelates of the Church and in particular, the chief shepherd of all” (Quartus Supra, n. 12); and the 1917 Code of Canon Law makes clear that he who “refuses to be under the Supreme Pontiff or refuses communion with the members of the Church subject to him, … is a schismatic” (Canon 1325 §2; Peters translation). That is precisely what Vigano is advocating.

The fact that he accepts Francis as the lawful Pope does not get him off the hook — if anything, it aggravates the matter:

What good is it to proclaim aloud the dogma of the supremacy of St. Peter and his successors? What good is it to repeat over and over declarations of faith in the Catholic Church and of obedience to the Apostolic See when actions give the lie to these fine words? Moreover, is not rebellion rendered all the more inexcusable by the fact that obedience is recognized as a duty? Again, does not the authority of the Holy See extend, as a sanction, to the measures which We have been obliged to take, or is it enough to be in communion of faith with this See without adding the submission of obedience, — a thing which cannot be maintained without damaging the Catholic Faith?

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quae in Patriarchatu [Sept. 1, 1876], nn. 23-24; in Acta Sanctae Sedis X [1877], pp. 3-37; English taken from Papal Teachings: The Church, nn. 433-434.)

Vigano might reply that his position is one of paramount obedience to the true Faith, made necessary by the fact that the lawful prelates, not excepting the Pope himself, have betrayed the Deposit of Faith. Yet such a rejoinder, too, is contrary to the traditional Catholic position and rebuffed by Pius IX and Leo XIII:

Indeed one simple way to keep men professing Catholic truth is to maintain their communion with and obedience to the Roman Pontiff. For it is impossible for a man ever to reject any portion of the Catholic faith without abandoning the authority of the Roman Church. In this authority, the unalterable teaching office of this faith lives on. It was set up by the divine Redeemer and, consequently, the tradition from the Apostles has always been preserved. So it has been a common characteristic both of the ancient heretics and of the more recent Protestants — whose disunity in all their other tenets is so great — to attack the authority of the Apostolic See. But never at any time were they able by any artifice or exertion to make this See tolerate even a single one of their errors.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, n. 17)

We congratulate you, therefore, on the fact that although you suffer, doubtless, at the defection of your brothers, separated from you by the breath of perfidious teaching, you are not troubled for all that, and are even being stimulated by their error to receive with greater willingness and to follow with more zeal not only the orders, but even all the directives of the Apostolic See; and by so doing you are certain that you cannot be deceived or betrayed.

(Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Didicimus Non Sine; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 439.)

Wherefore it belongs to the Pope to judge authoritatively what things the sacred oracles contain, as well as what doctrines are in harmony, and what in disagreement, with them; and also, for the same reason, to show forth what things are to be accepted as right, and what to be rejected as worthless; what it is necessary to do and what to avoid doing, in order to attain eternal salvation. For, otherwise, there would be no sure interpreter of the commands of God, nor would there be any safe guide showing man the way he should live.

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Sapientiae Christianae, n. 24)

The traditional Catholic teaching on the Papacy is as beautiful as it is clear: It is precisely by clinging to the Pope of Rome, to the Magisterium of the Apostolic See, that one’s orthodoxy cannot suffer shipwreck. Unlike all the other dioceses in the world — including Astana in Kazakhstan, we must point out to Athanasius Schneider admirers — it is the Roman See alone that has the divine guarantee of never defecting from the true Faith, because its head is the successor of St. Peter, to whom was promised an unfailing Faith by Christ the Lord (see Lk 22:32):

This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

(First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 4; underlining added.)

Hence Pope Leo XIII taught: “Union with the Roman See of Peter is … always the public criterion of a Catholic …. ‘You are not to be looked upon as holding the true Catholic faith if you do not teach that the faith of Rome is to be held'” (Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 13).

What Vigano is trying to do is split Catholic Truth from the Roman Church. And that is theologically fatal and by no means a safe alternative to Sedevacantism, although it is, alas, a popular one. What drives him to commit such theological suicide? It is the absurd recognition of Jorge Bergoglio as a true Pope, along with his five predecessors. That is what throws a monkey wrench into the clear and straightforward Catholic teaching, because it is impossible to reconcile the Catholic doctrine about the Papacy as the unfailing bulwark of the Faith with the idea that Popes can teach heresy and other errors in their magisterium. Such an attempt to square the circle cannot but result in further confusion, absurdity, and error.

The recognition of a public apostate like Bergoglio as the rightful Roman Pontiff is the linchpin that keeps the entire recognize-and-resist madhouse together. Remove that pin, and the traditional Catholic theology will fall into place.

How is Vigano’s idea of the Catholic Church much different from a Protestant church? What good is a hierarchy and magisterium that can teach heresy and other soul-endangering errors? And how does he claim that Vatican II contains errors and heresies (see his June 9, 2020 monograph) when his own “Pope” and almost the entire “Catholic hierarchy” tell him otherwise? Why would any potential convert from Protestantism be drawn to such a church as the only true Church established by Christ?

Holy Scripture calls the Catholic Church “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). Is that an apt description of the Vatican II Sect? Would not a more fitting term be the “operation of error” St. Paul warns about in the last days (2 Thess 2:10), or “the great harlot” St. John speaks of in the Apocalypse (17:1)? Why is it that the recognize-and-resist adherents seem to understand that virtually everything about the Vatican II Church is false — false doctrines, false saints, false Mass, false sacraments, false annulments, etc. — except the Pope? Why is he always genuine? Does it not stand to reason that a counterfeit church can emerge only from counterfeit authorities, that is, from false popes?

Vigano’s position does great damage to the traditional Catholic doctrine regarding the unity of the Church: The Catholic Church is one in Faith, worship, and government; whereas the church about which Vigano speaks is divided in faith, worship, and government. Keep in mind that in his response to Stephen Kokx, Vigano maintains that the Conciliarists “do not share the faith, morals, liturgy, and discipline of the Catholic Church” — and yet he claims they are part of the Catholic Church!

All the strength and the beauty of this mystical body [the Church] results from the firm and constant union of all the members of the Church in the same faith, in the same sacraments, in the same bonds of mutual charity, in submission and obedience to the Head of the Church.

(Pope Pius VII, Apostolic Constitution Ecclesia Christi, n. 1. English taken from Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 134.)

In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle teaches that Christ established [the] ecclesiastical power for the benefit of unity. And what is this unity unless one person is placed in charge of the whole Church who protects it and joins all its members in the one profession of faith and unites them in the one bond of love and communion? The wisdom of the Divine Lawgiver ordered that a visible head be placed over a visible body so that “once so established, the opportunity for division might be removed.”

(Pope Gregory XVI, Encyclical Commissum Divinitus, n. 10; underlining added.)

Our most beloved Redeemer, Christ the Lord, willed as you well know, venerable brothers, to deliver all men from the captivity of the devil, free them from the yoke of sin, call them from darkness into his wonderful light and be their salvation. When he had blotted out the handwriting of the decree against us, fastening it to the cross, he formed and established the Catholic Church, won by his blood, as the one “Church of the living God,” the one “kingdom of heaven,” “the city set on a hill,” “one flock,” and “one body” steadfast and alive with “one Spirit,” one faith, one hope, one love joined and firmly held together by the same bonds of sacraments, religion and doctrine. He further provided his Church with leaders whom he chose and called. In addition, he decreed that the Church will endure as long as the world, embrace all peoples and nations of the whole world, and that whoever accepts his divine religion and grace and perseveres to the end will attain the glory of eternal salvation.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Amantissimus, n. 1; underlining added.)

Indeed no true and perfect human society can be conceived which is not governed by some supreme authority. Christ therefore must have given to His Church a supreme authority to which all Christians must render obedience. For this reason, as the unity of the faith is of necessity required for the unity of the church, inasmuch as it is the body of the faithful, so also for this same unity, inasmuch as the Church is a divinely constituted society, unity of government, which effects and involves unity of communion, is necessary jure divino [by divine right].

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 10; italics given; underlining added.)

If these teachings are true — and they are — then it is absolutely impossible for the Vatican II Church to be the Roman Catholic Church.

Somehow, Vigano himself seems to realize this. For that reason, further on in his response to Kokx he speaks of a “conciliar sect”, “a strange and extgravagant Church” which “coexists, like wheat with the tare, in the Roman Curia, in dioceses, in parishes.” Although we have no problem agreeing that there is indeed a strange New Church around that falsely passes itself off as the Catholic Church, any attempt to locate that False Church as somehow present in and existing together with the True Church is necessarily dead on arrival, theologically. This kind of thinking, although no doubt very appealing to many semi-traditionalists, conflates Christ with Satan, truth with lies, salvation with damnation — all of which it locates in one and the same divine institution, even in the very same people at different times and in different senses. It makes the Immaculate Bride of Christ into a whore!

According to what Vigano is proposing, then, Francis would be the Holy Father and Vicar of Christ when he condemns abortion, canonizes a true saint, or extends faculties for confession and marriages to the Society of St. Pius X. Yet the same Francis would then turn into infernal Head of the Conciliar Sect when he teaches the moral licitness of adultery under certain circumstances, signs an apostate declaration on human fraternity, or declares that proselytism is solemn nonsense. It is a kind of theological version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Now imagine all of those things set forth in one and the same “papal” document!

Vigano’s mystifying ecclesiology would mean the complete disintegration of the Church into a hopeless free-for-all of more or less arbitrary resistance, perpetually. Is a certain episcopal appointment to a diocese an instance of the False Church or the True Church acting? You decide. Is the latest encyclical safe to read and embrace? Maybe ask Vigano first. Should this or that mandated liturgical change be implemented or not? Let’s see what “Bp.” Athanasius Schneider thinks about it. Is the newest canonized ‘saint’ a true one to be accepted, venerated, and imitated — or a dangerous charlatan to be cast aside? Check with ‘The Remnant’. Oh, and what about those newly-introduced criteria for declaring a marriage null? That depends — have you gotten along with your spouse lately? (wink, wink). Clearly, this is absurdity on stilts!

A False Church coexisting with the True Church would also create a practical impossibility: From the former, Viganò says, one is required to separate, whereas from the latter, one is not permitted to. Good luck with that!

In truth, Vigano’s idea of a coexisting Antichurch inhabiting the True Church is a clever intellectual fig leaf covering the naked truth that the establishment he recognizes as the Catholic Church is a heretical sect. It does not — and could not possibly — coexist with the True Church, any more than our Blessed Lord would share His Throne with Lucifer (cf. 2 Cor 6:14-16). Ironically, Vigano’s curious Church-Antichurch amalgamation bears a striking resemblance to Vatican II ecclesiology — it’s just not clear exactly how many elements of the one can exist in the other!

How does the former Vatican nuncio think his temerarious idea squares with the pronouncement by Pope Leo XIII that the Church of our Blessed Lord “makes no terms with error, but remains faithful to the commands which it has received to carry the doctrine of Jesus Christ to the uttermost limits of the world and to the end of time and to protect it in its inviolable integrity (Apostolic Letter Annum Ingressi)? Or with this beautiful truth enunciated by St. Cyprian and confirmed by Pope Pius XI: “The Bride of Christ cannot be made false to her Spouse: she is incorrupt and modest. She knows but one dwelling, she guards the sanctity of the nuptial chamber chastely and modestly” (Encyclical Mortalium Animos, n. 10)? As St. Paul asked rhetorically, although in a slightly different context: “Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid” (1 Cor 6:15).

The motive behind Vigano’s disastrous theological position is clear, of course: Since he will not consider Sedevacantism as even a possibility, he must somehow force the square peg of the heretical Vatican II Sect into the round hole of the Catholic Church. But, as Pope St. Leo IX put it, “we confess the one Church, not of heretics but the Holy Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church outside which we believe that no one is saved” (Apostolic Letter Ejus Exemplo; Denz. 423; underlining added).

That the Church Jesus Christ established is not a church of heretics, should hardly be surprising, inasmuch as Our Blessed Lord’s promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against [His Church]” (Mt 16:18) means precisely that the Church will never be overcome by heresy:

The holy Church built upon a rock, that is Christ, and upon Peter or Cephas, the son of John who first was called Simon, because by the gates of Hell, that is, by the disputations of heretics which lead the vain to destruction, it would never be overcome; thus Truth itself promises, through whom are true, whatsoever things are true: “The gates of hell will not prevail against it” [Mt 16:18]. The same Son declares that He obtained the effect of this promise from the Father by prayers, by saying to Peter: “Simon, behold Satan etc.” [Lk 23:31]. Therefore, will there be anyone so foolish as to dare to regard His prayer as in anyway vain whose being willing is being able? By the See of the chief of the Apostles, namely by the Roman Church, through the same Peter, as well as through his successors, have not the comments of all the heretics been disapproved, rejected, and overcome, and the hearts of the brethren in the faith of Peter which so far neither has failed, nor up to the end will fail, been strengthened?

(Pope St. Leo IX, Apostolic Letter In Terra PaxDenz. 351; underlining added.)

All of this shows that people must choose between the Vatican II Church on the one hand, and Catholic truth on the other. The two simply cannot be reconciled, and that is why all attempts to be Catholic in it ultimately always end in failure and frustration.

The solution is obvious: We must affirm Catholic truth and therefore reject Bergoglio and his equally fake predecessors.

To be continued in Part 2.

Image source: catholicfamilynews.com (modified with element from shutterstock.com)
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