Talk about being confused…

Confused Viganò: Bizarre Theology in former Vatican Nuncio’s Open Letter to Confused Priests

“And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.” (Mt 15:14b)

On Jan. 31, 2021, the well-known former Vatican nuncio to the United States, “Archbishop” Carlo Maria Viganò, penned an “Open Letter to Confused Priests”, which was eagerly published in full by the American recognize-and-resist flagship The Remnant. It can be read here:

Not surprisingly, Vigano’s lengthy missive is filled with grave distortions of Catholic theology regarding the Papacy, distortions to which he needs to resort in order to avoid the undesired conclusion of Sedevacantism. As we have stated before, many of the recognize-and-resist traditionalists — we like to call them “semi-traditionalists” because they accept Catholic Tradition only to the extent it supports their position — are prepared to accept any kind of theological contortion as long as it allows them to reject the sedevacantist position:

Alas, Fr. Vigano is no exception. We had hoped he would perhaps accept what is staring everyone in the face, but no, he decided not to “go there”. As a result, he is still a celebrated figure among the non-sedevacantist and anti-sedevacantist traditionalists, as everything he says is music to their ears, for it “allows” them to reject both Francis’ evil teachings and also the sedevacantist conclusion. Unfortunately, this comes at a very high price: It comes at the expense of the very Catholic truth the semi-traditionalists mean to uphold.

We have taken this “new Archbishop Lefebvre” to task theologically before:

We have also given him kudos where kudos is due (cf. Rom 13:7):

Viganò’s Jan. 31 Open Letter to Confused Priests, while it contains many things that are good and true, suffers from an intolerable attack on the Catholic dogma of the Papacy.

While it is correct that a true Pope can issue commands to individuals that are sinful for them to carry out, in which case they must be resisted since “we ought to obey God, rather than men” (Acts 5:29), it would be a great distortion of reality to act as though Francis were merely guilty of issuing sinful commands to individuals. In fact, Vigano himself observes about Francis that “as Pope he teaches heterodox doctrines…”! We are operating not merely in the realm of sinful particular commands. Rather, we are talking about everything from denial of the Faith on a personal level, to heresy in magisterial documents, to public apostasy in interreligious agreements, to scandalous sermons, to canonizations of pseudo-saints, to evil discipline regarding the sacraments and marriage annulments, and so forth. (Our topical page on Francis lists the most egregious such examples.)

Our latest podcast episode, TRADCAST EXPRESS 126, exposes the worst heresies/errors against the Papacy in Fr. Vigano’s Open Letter and refutes them from traditional Catholic magisterial pronouncemets. You can listen to it below or at this link. The podcast can also be downloaded to your computer using the down-arrow button in the embedded player:

The collection of quotes from the Magisterium on the Papacy that is referred to in the podcast can be accessed here:

Vigano’s missive includes such grotesque howlers as the following:

Our obedience has nothing to do with either fearful servility or with insubordination; on the contrary, it permits us to suspend any judgment on who is or is not Pope, continuing to conduct ourselves as good Catholics even if the Pope derides us, despises us, or excommunicates us: because the paradox does not lie in the disobedience of the good against the authority of the Pope, but rather in the absurdity of having to disobey a person who is simultaneously Pope and heresiarch, Athanasius and Arius, one who is de iure light but de facto darkness.

The paradox is that in order to remain in Communion with the Apostolic See we must separate ourselves from the one who should represent it, and see ourselves bureaucratically excommunicated by one who is an objective state of schism with himself.

(Carlo Maria Vigano, “Open Letter to Confused Priests”, Jan. 31, 2021; italics given. Published by The Remnant, Feb. 2, 2021.)

What does one say in the face of such absurdity? “Abp.” Vigano is preaching the mortal sin of schism!

Interestingly enough, Pope Pius IX had to refute very similar sophistry against Eastern Schismatics, and the parallels to our own day are striking. In his 1873 encyclical letter Quartus Supra, the Sovereign Pontiff wrote:

For any man to be able to prove his Catholic faith and affirm that he is truly a Catholic, he must be able to convince the Apostolic See of this. For this See is predominant and with it the faithful of the whole Church should agree. And the man who abandons the See of Peter can only be falsely confident that he is in the Church.

…[W]hoever the Roman Pontiff judges to be a schismatic for not expressly admitting and reverencing his power must stop calling himself Catholic.

Since this does not please the neo-schismatics, they follow the example of heretics of more recent times. They argue that the sentence of schism and excommunication pronounced against them by the Archbishop of Tyana, the Apostolic Delegate in Constantinople, was unjust, and consequently void of strength and influence. They have claimed also that they are unable to accept the sentence because the faithful might desert to the heretics if deprived of their ministration. These novel arguments were wholly unknown and unheard of by the ancient Fathers of the Church. For “the whole Church throughout the world knows that the See of the blessed Apostle Peter has the right of loosing again what any pontiffs have bound, since this See possesses the right of judging the whole Church, and no one may judge its judgment.” The Jansenist heretics dared to teach such doctrines as that an excommunication pronounced by a lawful prelate could be ignored on a pretext of injustice. Each person should perform, as they said, his own particular duty despite an excommunication. Our predecessor of happy memory Clement XI in his constitution Unigenitus against the errors of Quesnell forbade and condemned statements of this kind. These statements were scarcely in any way different from some of John Wyclif’s which had previously been condemned by the Council of Constance and [Pope] Martin V. Through human weakness a person could be unjustly punished with censure by his prelate. But it is still necessary, as Our predecessor St. Gregory the Great warned, “for a bishop’s subordinates to fear even an unjust condemnation and not to blame the judgment of the bishop rashly in case the fault which did not exist, since the condemnation was unjust, develops out of the pride of heated reproof.” But if one should be afraid even of an unjust condemnation by one’s bishop, what must be said of those men who have been condemned for rebelling against their bishop and this Apostolic See and tearing to pieces as they are now doing by a new schism the seamless garment of Christ, which is the Church?

…[T]he 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.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra, nn. 8-10, 12)

It is clear, therefore, that Fr. Vigano’s theological contortions are not tolerable. He and his theological allies, quite ironically, are forced to deny the Papacy in order to affirm Francis is Pope. To give up the Papacy in order to have a Pope is surely a most bizarre endeavor, one that is as guaranteed to succeed as an attempt to borrow one’s way out of debt.

Vigano’s departure from the Faith cannot be dismissed on the grounds that he is faithful in all other dogmas, for, as Pius IX noted in the same encyclical, “it has never been possible to prove oneself a Catholic by affirming those statements of the faith which one accepts and keeping silence on those doctrines which one decides not to profess. But without exception, all doctrines which the Church proposes must be accepted, as the history of the Church at all times bears witness” (n. 7).

Despite all this, the editor of The Remnant, Michael J. Matt, claims that Fr. Vigano is “living, breathing proof that God has not abandoned us”:

(begin playing at 26:20 marker)

Apparently Mr. Matt is not aware that Catholic doctrine teaches that God guarantees that the Pope will never fail in the exercise of his office, not that if the Pope does fail, some retired bishop will emerge on the scene to set him straight:

For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles. Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviour to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren [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)

The Pope has the divine promises; even in his human weaknesses, he is invincible and unshakable; he is the messenger of truth and justice, the principle of the unity of the Church; his voice denounces errors, idolatries, superstitions; he condemns iniquities; he makes charity and virtue loved.

(Pope Pius XII, Address Ancora Una Volta, Feb. 20, 1949)

Once again we see how little these self-styled “traditionalists” actually care for traditional Catholic doctrine. The reason why things are falling apart, so to speak, is precisely because there is no Pope to keep them together. As Cardinal Henry Manning pointed out in one of his lectures on the Papacy in the end times:

The history of the Church, and the history of our Lord on earth, run as it were in parallel. For three-and-thirty years the Son of God incarnate was in the world, and no man could lay hand upon Him. No man could take Him, because His “hour was not yet come.” There was an hour foreordained when the Son of God would be delivered into the hand of sinners. He foreknew it; He foretold it. He held it in his own hand, for He surrounded His person with a circle of His own Divine power. No man could break through that circle of omnipotence until the hour came, when by His own will He opened the way for the powers of evil….

In like manner with His Church. Until the hour is come when the barrier shall, by the Divine will, be taken out of the way, no one has power to lay a hand upon it. The gates of hell may war against it; they may strive and wrestle, as they struggle now with the Vicar of our Lord; but no one has the power to move Him one step, until the hour shall come when the Son of God shall permit, for a time, the powers of evil to prevail. That He will permit it for a time stands in the book of prophecy.

(Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, The Pope & the Antichrist: The Present Crisis of the Holy See tested by Prophecy [Tradibooks: Sainte-Croix du Mont, 2007], pp. 54-55)

In that regard, the words of Pope Pius IX in an 1853 encyclical are also highly instructive:

Now you know well that the most deadly foes of the Catholic religion have always waged a fierce war, but without success, against this Chair; they are by no means ignorant of the fact that religion itself can never totter and fall while this Chair remains intact, the Chair which rests on the rock which the proud gates of hell cannot overthrow and in which there is the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion. Therefore, because of your special faith in the Church and special piety toward the same Chair of Peter, We exhort you to direct your constant efforts so that the faithful people of France may avoid the crafty deceptions and errors of these plotters and develop a more filial affection and obedience to this Apostolic See. Be vigilant in act and word, so that the faithful may grow in love for this Holy See, venerate it, and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, n. 7; underlining added.)

Here the Holy Father points out that for as long as there is a Pope, the unity of the Church and the integrity of the Catholic religion are assured. For that reason, it was the Papacy that was attacked by the infiltrators. What we have witnessed in the last six decades ought to strengthen our Faith, therefore, not diminish it, for the truth of the Papacy has been confirmed in this indirect manner, for we have seen with our own eyes what absurdities can take place when the Vicar of Christ is absent.

Fr. Vigano and all the non-sedevacantist traditionalists, by contrast, are distorting the Papacy, humiliating it, and veritably destroying it in the minds of countless individuals who simply mean to be faithful to the true Roman Catholic religion. Vigano and his cohorts, it must be said, are thus actually attacking the Papacy no less than the Modernists and Freemasons, although in a different way and, one may hope, without malice. Carlo Vigano, Athanasius Schneider, and whoever else is the latest darling of the semi-traditionalists make people believe that the scenario of a “Pope Francis” is still compatible with the promises of Christ that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” the Church (Mt 16:18) — when in actual fact, as is plain to see, it would render Christ’s promises not only meaningless but indeed a cruel mockery and effectively turn the Son of God into a liar.

Thus is explained why, as some have wondered, we do not see an ally in “Abp.” Vigano. Yes, he says many things that are right and true and ought to be said. He certainly appears, on the surface, to be of good will and trying to save souls. However, those observations are simply beside the point. We must consider chiefly the objective truth about his words and actions. As Fr. Frederick Faber warned in 1861,

…if all the manifestly good men were on one side, and all the manifestly bad men on the other, there would be no danger of any one, least of all, the elect, being deceived by lying wonders [cf. Mt 24:24]. It is the good men, good once, we must hope good still, who are to do the work of Antichrist, and so sadly to crucify afresh the Lord whom they do more than profess to love. Bear in mind this feature of the last days, that their deceitfulness arises from good men being on the wrong side.

(Rev. Frederick William Faber, Devotion to the Church, 2nd ed. [London: Richardson and Son, 1861], p. 27. Available in hardcopy here.)

What matters to souls is not what one confused individual intends to be doing but what is actually done. Whether he intends it or not, Vigano is misleading countless souls by offering them a completely twisted, false, and scandalous theology of the Papacy that is in no wise compatible with Catholicism but quite antithetical to it. That is what matters, because that is how souls are actually affected. Whether someone who misleads souls is of good will or not, has no impact except on the state of his own soul. If anything, manifest signs of good will on the part of someone who objectively misleads souls only serves to make him all the more dangerous.

We therefore encourage everyone to leave Fr. Vigano be. “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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