“But prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Th 5:21)…
Viganò’s Theological Vortex: A Critical Commentary
[Continued from PART 1]
Continuing with our critical assessment of the former Vatican nuncio “Abp.” Carlo Maria Viganò’s recent theological reflections, we now turn to his letter of Sep. 3, 2020, published by Catholic Family News the same day:
- “Abp. Viganò to Critics: Instead of ‘Assuming Schisms’ Where There Are None, Better to Fight Long-lasting Errors”
In that particular missive, Fr. Viganò complains of being charged with schism by his Novus Ordo opponents, but as we showed in Part 1 of our ongoing assessment, that point of criticism is justified.
Appropriately calling the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) an “idol” of today’s mainstream Novus Ordos, Vigano notes “the causal relationship between Vatican II and the present apostasy.” Apparently he sees no problem with calling what he believes and confesses to be “a legitimate Ecumenical Council” ratified by the Roman Pontiff the cause of, i.e. the reason for, the complete loss of Faith (apostasy) in our day. How he squares that with the dogma of the Church being the cause of salvation, is anyone’s guess:
The most important duty of the Church, and the one most peculiarly her own, is to defend and to propagate throughout the world the Kingdom of the Son of God, and to bring all men to salvation by communicating to them the divine benefits, so much so that her power and authority are chiefly exercised in this one work.
(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Tametsi Futura, n. 2)
The Church clearly declares that the only hope of salvation for mankind is placed in the Christian faith, which teaches the truth, scatters the darkness of ignorance by the splendor of its light, and works through love. This hope of salvation is placed in the Catholic Church which, in preserving the true worship, is the solid home of this faith and the temple of God. Outside of the Church, nobody can hope for life or salvation unless he is excused through ignorance beyond his control.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Singulari Quidem, n. 7; underlining added.)
Therefore, let those who wish to be saved come to this pillar, to this foundation of the truth which is the Church; let them come to the true Church of Christ which, in her Bishops and in the Roman Pontiff, the supreme head of all, possesses the uninterrupted succession of apostolic authority, which has never had anything more closely at heart than to preach, to preserve and to defend with all her strength the doctrine announced by the Apostles on the order of Jesus Christ; Who, since the days of the Apostles, has grown in the midst of difficulties of every kind and Who, splendid with the splendour of miracles in the entire world, made fruitful by the blood of Martyrs, ennobled by the virtues of Confessors and Virgins, strengthened by the testimony and the wise writings of the Fathers, has sent down roots and still flourishes in all the countries of the earth, brilliant in the perfect unity of her faith, of the sacraments and of her spiritual sacred government. For Us who, in spite of Our unworthiness, sit on this supreme Chair of the Apostle Peter, on which Jesus Christ our Lord laid the foundation of his Church, We will never spare either Our efforts or Our labors, to bring back, by the grace of the same Jesus Christ, to this unique way of truth and salvation, those in ignorance and error. Let all those who oppose Us remember that heaven and earth will pass away, but that not one of Christ’s words can pass away, that nothing can be changed in the doctrine which the Catholic Church has received from Jesus Christ to preserve, to defend, and to teach.
(Pope Pius IX, Allocution Ubi Primum [Dec. 17, 1847]; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 196.)
By the time you are forced to acknowledge that your church is the instrumental cause of worldwide apostasy, you should be able to figure out that it’s not the Roman Catholic Church founded by the Son of God: “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit” (Mt 7:18).
Vigano’s complaint against his critics that they are “canonically cross-eyed” people who “succeed in using the canonical norm as the tool of persecuting the good, and at the same time are careful not to use it with real schismatics and heretics” is certainly legitimate, but it is a two-edged sword: If the present magisterium is apostate and the prior magisterium is correct, yet both are the magisterium of the Catholic Church, then there is no reason why the present magisterium couldn’t be legit and the prior magisterium false. In other words, if the Church can defect at any point in time, then the disagreement between Vigano’s position and that of his mainstream confreres is merely about what point in history this defectible and defected church got it right and got it wrong. The principle that Church teaching need not always be adhered to because it is false, is the same and is held by both parties. One way or another, both are in heresy. Their differences are merely accidental.
In his Sep. 3 letter, Vigano further speaks of “a fraud that consisted in my opinion of having resorted to a Council to give apparent authority to the initiatives of the Innovators and obtaining obedience from the clergy and the people of God. And this obedience was demanded by the pastors, allowing no exception, in order to demolish the Church of Christ from within.” It is evident that the former Vatican nuncio clearly thinks of the Catholic Church as a merely human institution, not a divine institution. What ultimately matters is not how this or that teaching found its way into a conciliar document, but whether that document was solemnly ratified by the Roman Pontiff. In the case of Vatican II, each of its sixteen documents ended as follows:
Each and all these items which are set forth in this dogmatic Constitution [or declaration, decree, etc.] have met with the approval of the Council Fathers. And We by the apostolic power given Us by Christ together with the Venerable Fathers in the Holy Spirit, approve, decree and establish it and command that what has thus been decided in the Council be promulgated for the glory of God.
Thus “Pope Saint” Paul VI solemnly promulgated each of the sixteen notorious Vatican II documents. The most important fraud Vigano should be worried about, therefore, is that of Giovanni Battista Montini, Paul VI, who falsely claimed to be the Pope of the Catholic Church. Alas, that is the one fraud Viganò is silent on.
The retired nuncio is entirely justified in pointing out the absurdity, the “incoherence and insubordination” involved in rejecting the pre-Vatican II Church since the council, as mainstream Novus Ordos happily do. However, as we saw above, it ultimately does not matter whether you reject the present church or the Church of the past, if you believe both to be the Roman Catholic Church, because in either case you believe in a defected church that is not the Ark of Salvation. This absurdity is the result of, and therefore hinges on, accepting a publicly non-Catholic hierarchy as the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Once again we see that the persistent attempt to avoid Sedevacantism is the culprit that involves people in all kinds of theological follies.
We have said it before and will say it again: These people would rather believe in a defected church with an apostate Pope who must be refused submission, than believe in a spotless Church whose rightful Pope has been “taken out of the way” (2 Th 2:7), and whose hierarchy appears to be absent, leaving us with lots of confusion and unanswered questions but at least leaving intact the true Faith and the divine promises. They would rather have a Pope to refuse submission to, than have no Pope to follow. It is nuts!
Moving on, Vigano writes:
[“Fathers”] De Souza and Weinandy do not want to admit that the stratagem adopted by the Innovators was very cunning: in order to gain approval for the revolution by those who thought that they were dealing with a Catholic Council like Vatican I, in an apparent respect for the norms, declared that it was only a pastoral Council, not a dogmatic Council.
(“Abp.” Carlo M. Viganò, Letter of Sep. 3, 2020; italics given.)
That may be a popular narrative, but it misses the most important fact: In order to gain approval for their revolution, the anti-Catholic innovators put a false pope on the Chair of St. Peter! It is true that the notion of the “pastoral council” made the rounds, but that was to keep people like Vigano and other conservatives from being too worried about the theological content and vocabulary of the council, and to keep people from concluding that perhaps the “Pope” was not the Pope. By the way: The opposite of dogmatic is not pastoral; the opposite of dogmatic is optional.
Since he will not entertain the idea that Paul VI was not a true Pope, he has no other recourse but to seek the fault of people being deceived by the council, in a false notion of obedience:
Thus good Catholics, because of their distorted concept of absolute obedience, obeyed their Pastors unconditionally; they were led to disobey Christ, precisely by those who had made quite clear what their goals were. Even in this case it is evident that assent to the conciliar magisterium did not prevent dissent from the perennial Magisterium of the Church – it actually required such dissent as a logical and inevitable consequence.
(“Abp.” Carlo M. Viganò, Letter of Sep. 3, 2020; underlining added.)
However, with regard to obedience to the Catholic magisterium, the error is clearly Vigano’s:
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.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, n. 17)
To determine … which are the doctrines divinely revealed belongs to the teaching Church, to whom God has entrusted the safekeeping and interpretation of His utterances. But the supreme teacher in the Church is the Roman Pontiff. Union of minds, therefore, requires, together with a perfect accord in the one faith, complete submission and obedience of will to the Church and to the Roman Pontiff, as to God Himself. This obedience should, however, be perfect, because it is enjoined by faith itself, and has this in common with faith, that it cannot be given in shreds; nay, were it not absolute and perfect in every particular, it might wear the name of obedience, but its essence would disappear….
In defining the limits of the obedience owed to the pastors of souls, but most of all to the authority of the Roman Pontiff, it must not be supposed that it is only to be yielded in relation to dogmas of which the obstinate denial cannot be disjoined from the crime of heresy. Nay, further, it is not enough sincerely and firmly to assent to doctrines which, though not defined by any solemn pronouncement of the Church, are by her proposed to belief, as divinely revealed, in her common and universal teaching, and which the [First] Vatican Council declared are to be believed “with Catholic and divine faith.” But this likewise must be reckoned amongst the duties of Christians, that they allow themselves to be ruled and directed by the authority and leadership of bishops, and, above all, of the Apostolic See.
And how fitting it is that this should be so any one can easily perceive. For the things contained in the divine oracles have reference to God in part, and in part to man, and to whatever is necessary for the attainment of his eternal salvation. Now, both these, that is to say, what we are bound to believe and what we are obliged to do, are laid down, as we have stated, by the Church using her divine right, and in the Church by the supreme Pontiff.
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, nn. 22, 24)
They [the Modernists] will learn many excellent things from such a great teacher [as Cardinal John Henry Newman]: in the first place, to regard the Magisterium of the Church as sacred, to defend the doctrine handed down inviolately by the Fathers and, what is of highest importance to the safeguarding of Catholic truth, to follow and obey the Successor of St. Peter with the greatest faith.
(Pope St. Pius X, Apostolic Letter Tuum Illud)
In attacking the idea of obeying and trusting completely the Church’s magisterium, therefore, Vigano couldn’t be more wrong. This is not a question of individuals obeying a Pope’s commands, which would have to be refused if they are sinful. This is a question of the entire Church assenting to what the magisterium teaches in union with, and solemnly confirmed by, the Roman Pontiff.
Worse still, Vigano actually claims that those who believe that the Holy Ghost protects an ecumenical council from teaching heresy, are “naive”:
And while the enemies had organized everything, down to the tiniest details, at least twenty years prior to the convocation of the Council, there were those who naively believed that God would prevent the coup of the Modernists, as if the Holy Spirit could [!] act against the subversive will of the Innovators.
(“Abp.” Carlo M. Viganò, Letter of Sep. 3, 2020; italics given.)
Is this man for real?! The words of our Blessed Lord are clearly applicable here: “You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God” (Mt 22:29).
That God did not prevent the disaster of Vatican II is clear; that He could not have prevented it is brazen blasphemy. The only explanation in accord with Catholic teaching on the matter is that the man who promulgated the council was not in fact the Roman Pontiff.
Somehow Vigano has totally missed the obvious truth that we are guaranteed to be obeying Christ by obeying the magisterium. When we obey the Church, we obey Christ, because she is His Church “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18), and our Lord has promised to be “with [us] all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Mt 28:20):
Moreover, [Christ] willed to perpetuate the office assigned to Him by His Father by means of the ministry of the Church so gloriously founded by Himself. On the one hand He confided to her all the means of men’s salvation, on the other He most solemnly commanded men to be subject to her and to obey her diligently, and to follow her even as Himself: “He that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me” (Luke x, 16). Wherefore the law of Christ must be sought in the Church. Christ is man’s “Way”; the Church also is his “Way” — Christ of Himself and by His very nature, the Church by His commission and the communication of His power. Hence all who would find salvation apart from the Church, are led astray and strive in vain.
(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Tametsi Futura, n. 7)
Clearly, then, Vigano is wrong to juxtapose obedience to the Church with obedience to Christ. It is directly contrary to Sacred Scripture (see Lk 10:16).
It is no accident that the great American theologian Mgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton (1906-1969), although he knew about the dangers of Modernism lurking among the clergy, was not at all concerned about what the magisterium of the Second Vatican Council would propose:
The fact of the matter is that the success of the ecumenical council really depends on the effectiveness and the ardor of the prayers of the faithful. There is one factor which Our Lord has clearly promised to the magisterium of the Catholic Church. The supreme teaching power of the kingdom of God on earth will be protected against the teaching of error as long as it speaks out on a matter of faith or morals to the entire Church of God in this world, and speaks definitively. In other words, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost will teach and lead the ecclesiastical magisterium when it speaks definitively for the universal Church of God on earth, in such a way that this magisterium … will teach and define the doctrine of the Church accurately.
Thus there need be no anxiety about the possibility of any doctrinal error emanating from the ecumenical council. It is absolutely beyond the bounds of possibility that the ecumenical council should proclaim, and that the Roman Pontiff should confirm and promulgate as the teaching of an ecumenical council, any doctrine at variance with the teaching of God which has been given to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. There never will be a time when the doctrinal decrees of the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican will have to be corrected, either negatively or positively. And, in precisely the same way, there is absolutely no possibility that the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican will set out to correct, or to put into better balance, any of the decrees of any of the previous ecumenical councils, or, for that matter, any of the ex cathedra pronouncements of the Roman Pontiff, whether therese pronouncements have been made through the solemn or the ordinary teaching activity of the Bishop of Rome.
(Mgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, “The Virtue of Prudence and the Success of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council”, American Ecclesiastical Review 147 [Oct. 1962], pp. 255-256; italics in original; underlining added for emphasis.)
Of course we all know what happened instead, but Fenton was correct in principle because he was applying the true Catholic teaching. Vigano’s observation further on that he is “not able to reconcile the most clear and orthodox teachings of all of the Councils up until Vatican I with the equivocal and at times even heterodox teachings of Vatican II” can only be explained by positing that the authority which promulgated the council was not genuine. Paul VI simply wasn’t the Roman Pontiff. That alone explains it.
So, once again: The problem was not that Catholics were readily obeying what appeared to them to be the Church’s hierarchy in union with the Pope at an ecumenical council. The problem was that the man claiming to be Pope was not in fact such, and hence neither he nor the bishops in union with him were protected from going astray in matters of Faith and morals. The result of that lack of divine assistance has been visible for the last 60 years and in fact confirms the truth of the Catholic religion, for it demonstrates that if God did not sustain and protect the Catholic Church from error, within a few short decades there would be nothing left but a sad and sorry heap of theological junk.
Returning to “Abp.” Vigano’s letter one last time, the former nuncio to the United States makes a most interesting statement: “Father Weinandy himself fails to reconcile the role of Vicar of Christ with Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who is simultaneously both the holder and the demolisher of the papacy.” With such a blunt observation, how can Viganò not understand that Francis is not the Vicar of Christ? He himself admits that Bergoglio and the Papacy don’t go together!
Thus far our two-part critical review of Fr. Vigano’s recent theological reflections.
While certainly not trying to pass judgment on the subjective state of the former nuncio’s soul, we must give the following piece of advice as a general rule: In order not to be deceived, it is important to look beyond what one supposes (rightly or wrongly) the good intentions and apparent piety and zeal of an individual are; one must look at the objective ideas proposed and arguments made: “But prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Th 5:21).
In other words: Don’t worry about whether “Abp.” Vigano means well or is trying to do the right thing. That is between him and God. What matters to you and to the rest of the world is whether what he says is true and consonant with what we know to be the true Roman Catholic Faith.
If it is not, reject not only his message but also him, the messenger: “Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit” (Mt 15:14).
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