Is Vigano Right or Wrong on Francis?

Is the recent public statement by Carlo Maria Vigano Right or Wrong on Pope Francis?

I want to begin by assuring my readers that my position on Francis has not changed. But let’s take a trip down the rabbit hole with Alice and see what the Church would be like if Vigano were correct.

Here is the publication of Archbishop Viganò’s statement, titled “Mary Immaculate Virgin Mother — Acies Ordinata, Ora pro nobis,” released in Italian on December 19, 2019.

The statement begins with a definitive judgment on the Pontificate of Pope Francis:

“The tragic story of this failed pontificate advances with a pressing succession of twists and turns. Not a day passes: from the most exalted throne the Supreme Pontiff proceeds to dismantle the See of Peter, using and abusing its supreme authority, not to confess but to deny; not to confirm but to mislead; not to unite but to divide; not to build but to demolish.

Material heresies, formal heresies, idolatry, superficiality of every kind: the Supreme Pontiff Bergoglio never ceases stubbornly to humiliate the highest authority of the Church, “demythologizing” the papacy — as perhaps his illustrious comrade Karl Rahner would say. His action seeks to violate the Sacred Deposit of Faith and to disfigure the Catholic Face of the Bride of Christ by word and action, through duplicity and lies, through those theatrical gestures of his that flaunt spontaneity but are meticulously conceived and planned, and through which he exalts himself in a continuous narcissistic self-celebration, while the figure of the Roman Pontiff is humiliated and the Sweet Christ on earth is obscured.”

He then continues, throughout most of the statement, in the same vein. If Vigano were right, then Pope Francis would be guilty of:

* attempting “to dismantle the See of Peter”
* “abusing” the authority of the See of Peter by denying, misleading, dividing, and demolishing
* “material heresies”
* “formal heresies”
* “idolatry”
* seeking “to violate the Sacred Deposit of Faith”
* “disfiguring the Church” by duplicity, lies, and self-exaltation
* “a pathological delirium of illusory omnipotence”
* “evident Marian intolerance” similar to “the Serpent in the account of the Fall”
* “manifest aggression against the prerogatives and sublime attributes” of Mary
* to trivialize, desacralize, and impugn Mary
* words and deeds which show that he is “on the side of the Enemy.”
* attacking Mary, thereby venturing against Christ and rebelling against the Trinity
* making “a declaration of war” against Mary by means of the pachamama figurines
* and poisoning the faithful by means of a false magisterium: “For more than six years now we have been poisoned by a false magisterium”

If Vigano were right, then Pope Francis would be automatically excommunicated for formal heresies, at least.

Canon 751: “Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

Canon 1364, n. 1: “an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication”

Now idolatry is not listed in Canon Law as an offense which carries the penalty of latae sententiae excommunication. However, it is not only a grave sin against the First Commandment, but also a sin against the theological virtue of faith. For Saint Thomas Aquinas says that “Idolatry presupposes internal unbelief.” And a person who commits idolatry also inherently commits blasphemy (per St. Thomas).

So idolatry, which includes unbelief and blasphemy, joined together with all the other accusations, would be nothing other than the grave sin of apostasy (though Vigano does not use that term). If all of these claims about Pope Francis were true, he would not only be automatically excommunicated for formal heresies, but also for apostasy. In other words, he would not truly be a Catholic or a Christian, and would have separated himself from the Church by the very nature of his own knowingly chosen grave sins. This is particularly clear in the claim that Francis is attacking Mary, thereby venturing against Christ and rebelling against the Trinity. If so, that would be an utter rejection of Christianity.

If Francis is guilty of formal heresy, idolatry, and apostasy, then the next question is whether he can still be a valid Pope. Is an heretical and apostate Pope still a valid Pope, or does he become an antipope, or does this indicate he was never valid?

First, there is near universal agreement among Saints, Doctors, and theologians that IF a Pope committed apostasy, heresy, or schism, he would cease to be Pope. Such a Pope would be an antipope.

It is not correct to say that persons guilty of heresy or schism are entirely separated from the Church and are simply non-members. They would be Christians separated by sin, and members not in good standing, as evidenced by their ability to repent and return merely by Confession (and whatever juridical steps are needed for their particular offense).

However, the dogma of Vatican I is that a valid Pope can never commit the above offenses, as the prevenient grace of God keeps the faith of Peter from failing (Lk 22:32), so that he will be the Rock on which the Church is founded (Mt 16:18). If the Rock could at any time turn into sand, the Church would not be indefectible. So the papal accusers would need to either reject that dogma, making them heretics, or claim that Pope Francis was never valid. The latter path would rely on accusations against the conclave. However, another problem for this position arises: the body of Bishops has accepted Francis as the valid Pope, and continues to follow him. Therefore, under the dogma of the indefectibility of the Church, Francis must be, and have been at least since that acceptance, the valid Roman Pontiff.

The only possibility left is that the accusations of Carlo Vigano and others are false. It is a dogmatic fact that Francis is the valid Pope, due to his acceptance by the body of Bishops. And it is a dogma of Vatican I that the valid Pope can never err gravely in doctrine or discipline, and can never fail in faith. (This is a distinct dogma from Papal Infallibility.) Therefore, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano is guilty of bearing false witness against the Roman Pontiff, guilty of schism for utterly rejecting the teaching and authority of Francis, guilty of heresy for rejecting the dogmas of the indefectibility of the Church and of the never-failing faith of the Pope, and guilty of an exceedingly harmful scandal. And Vigano provides no proof that any of these severe accusations contrary to dogma are true, which increases the gravity of his sin.

And then it gets worse. Vigano goes on to make accusations against the Second Vatican Council, the Popes since the Council, and the Church Herself.

Accusations against Vatican II

Along with these accusations against Pope Francis, Abp. Vigano attacks the Second Vatican Council by referring to “the conciliar disaster of the Novus Ordo Missae.” He goes on to claim that the planned further “modernization” of the liturgy “is a further step in the direction of regression towards the naturalization and immanentization of Catholic worship, towards a pantheistic and idolatrous Novissimus Ordo.” So Vigano is accusing the Church of idolatry by means of these changes to the Novus Ordo Mass. He also makes a number of very negative remarks about Vatican II, indicating that he does not submit his mind and heart to the authority and teaching of that Council.

I know it is popular and socially-acceptable among conservative Catholics to disdain, ignore, and reject Vatican II. But in truth, under the eternal moral law and before the eyes of God, any Catholic who rejects any Council for any reason is a schismatic. Councils have the full authority of Christ. It doesn’t matter if there are no dogmatic Canons, or the Council is prudential or pastoral or some other term. Councils are Christ speaking to us. Rejecting Vatican II is rejecting Christ and His Church, and that is schismatic.

If you would like to mildly disagree with a non-infallible teaching of a Council, there is very little room for licit theological dissent, and you are way out on a limb without a net. To lead a large group of your fellow Catholics in such a disagreement risks grave harm to many souls. And we are seeing that harm play out in the conservative denigration of Vatican II.

I don’t agree that Vatican II have us no infallible teachings. But even if that were so, the non-infallible teaching of that Council have continued to be taught by successive Popes and by the body of Bishops, so that many teachings which may have begun as non-infallible doctrine are now infallible under the ordinary and universal Magisterium. So, today, rejection of Vatican II is not only schism, but also heresy.

Accusations against the Church

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano ends his statement with accusations against the Church Herself:

“Thus, over these last decades, the Mystical Body has been slowly drained of its lifeblood through unstoppable bleeding: the Sacred Deposit of Faith has gradually been squandered, dogmas denatured, worship secularized and gradually profaned, morality sabotaged, the priesthood vilified, the Eucharistic Sacrifice protestantized and transformed into a convivial Banquet…

Now the Church is lifeless, covered with metastases and devastated. The people of God are groping, illiterate and robbed of their Faith, in the darkness of chaos and division. In these last decades, the enemies of God have progressively made scorched earth of two thousand years of Tradition. With unprecedented acceleration, thanks to the subversive drive of this pontificate, supported by the powerful Jesuit apparatus, a deadly coup de grace [death blow] is being delivered to the Church.”

These claims about the Church are entirely incompatible with the dogma of indefectibility. And it does not rescue his position to say that a small number of faithful, scattered throughout the world, remain as the indefectible Church. The body of Bishops led by the Roman Pontiff is the indispensable foundation of the Church. If a valid Roman Pontiff or the body of Bishops or both were to defect, the Church would have defected. Since that is not possible, both the Roman Pontiff as a person and the body of Bishops as a body have immunity from grave error on doctrine and discipline, as well as a never-failing faith.

The above claims against the Church by Vigano are heretical, as they reject the dogma of indefectibility, and they are schismatic, as there would be nothing left of Church authority, whether the Pope or the body of Bishops, which a Catholic would submit to or remain in communion with. It is also an accusation against Christ, that either His promise of indefectibility was a lie, or he betrayed his own promise, or he was too weak to keep it. By this claim, Abp. Vigano commits not only heresy and schism, but also apostasy, as there is nothing left of the Catholic Christian Faith in his understanding of it: no valid Pope, no valid recent Council, no faithful body of Bishops, no living pure Church. Then, given the severity of these claims, one could not also hold that the recent Pope-Saints were faithful and true, as Pope Saints John 23 and Paul 6 are responsible for Vatican II, and John Paul II spent so many years implementing the work of the Council.

Therefore, I must conclude that Carlo Maria Vigano is guilty of apostasy, heresy, and schism, and is therefore automatically excommunicated. As an excommunicated Bishop, he has lost his episcopal authority, and he now has no authority over doctrine or discipline.

Whosoever joins Mr. Vigano by approving of his statement against Pope Francis joins him in the same sins, or at least by formal cooperation with those sins. Automatic excommunication is not a laughing matter. I know that the papal accusers place themselves above all Popes and all Church authority, as if they were gods (but instead they are idols unto themselves). But they are automatically excommunicated before the eyes of God whenever they commit apostasy, heresy, or schism. May God rebuke them.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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7 Responses to Is Vigano Right or Wrong on Francis?

  1. Vytas says:

    Ronald I once saw a video of Pope Francis giving a talk. During the talk when he mentioned Our Lady, his face lit up. From the pope’s reaction at just the thought of Our Lady it was apparent that the Pope has a personal relationship with our Lady. She is not just an abstraction for him. And because Our Lady inevitably leads us to Jesus, the Pope has a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus and Mary are real to him. I am afraid that for many believers including some priests and bishops, they are abstractions. For them the life of the mind tends to be everything rather than the life of the soul or heart. So like the pharisees of Jesus’ time, in their unhappiness they tend to nitpick or find fault with many things Pope says or does. O Heart of Jesus, burning with love for us
    set our hearts on fire for love of Thee.

  2. louisdemontfort says:

    A sad indictment of the times we live in when an Archbishop of Christ’s Church makes these horrible accusations against the Holy Father. The faith of the Pope cannot fail, as Our Lord has guaranteed, and so it isn’t possible that Pope Francis has violated the sacred deposit of faith. From everything I have read, seen and heard, neither is he guilty of formal heresy or idolatry. To accuse the Pope of such things is absolutely disgraceful, and I pray that Archbishop Vigano may reflect and repent of his accusations. If any members of the faithful are lead astray by these false accusations against the Pope, it would surely be a grave scandal.

  3. Alex says:

    I can’t believe that a Catholic bishop or any Christian bishop could write the above, regardless of his disagreements with the pope or with the majority of post Vatican II bishops. I don’t recall the Old catholic church or Lefebre to ever say such words… I don’t know of any Protestant or any Orthodox to say such words against the pope, certainly not in public. Instead, they usually show their good will even when they stay divided on different positions.

    Not even the Communists ever dared to insult the Catholic Church or the popes in similar way. For them the pope was a respected enemy, and they didn’t commit the sacrilege to blaspheme, not even closer to what Vigano does now.The communists had a respect for the holiness, although they didn’t believe the Churches’ terminology to describe it. No surprise, they finally decided to stop their ideological fight.

    By doing so, Vigano excludes himself from the Church now, even if he did not do that before. Maybe he has read the incoming post synodal message of the Holy Father, and that’s why his preemptive strike? In a way, it is good to know where Vigano stands, so no more excuse will be applied to him and to his followers. And let those deluded Catholics determine where they stand too.

    The attempt of Vigano to cover his Judas style betrayal with some cover story as if he “defends” Virgin Mary from pope Francis, is another sacrilege he commits. Our Lady Loves the popes, as She said in major contemporary apparitions.

    These days the last Star Wars episode was released. The figure of emperor Palpatine (cloned?) emerged once again to dominate the saga. His negativity and immense power from the dark side was even worse than the first time. Not even his own grand daughter (the main hero in the new trilogy) could convert him. I see parallel between the emperor Palpatine and those fake religious teachers (you may add some others too that i frankly am afraid to name). The satanic doesn’t need to be called satanic for its purpose to exist in the shadows and to successfully attack the way of the people who search God (even when they do not recognize it as such).

    Let not be fooled: Satan will not come with horns and tail, he will come in the way of fake “righteousness”. He will try to seduce even the elect ones. Who will be tempted by horns and dark ugly face? Who will be tempted by as leader who has multiple and visible sins? The real temptation can come only from insiders, from those who know in detail theology and who pretend righteousness, even who fight for it.

    Exactly what Vigano and the several other prelates do. Even if they were hired by Satan on a Faust type of contract, they couldn’t do a better service to Satan because they would be vulnerable to be exposed. Now they can offer their best to the master of lies, from their self assumed position of impeccable righteousness and inquisitory witch hunt, with object of that hunt no one else but the successor of Peter… I can continue but feel it is enough for now.

  4. Alex says:

    Some of Churchmilitant comments on the same letter of Vigano:

    “Viganò rocks! I am praying for you. May God continue to bless you and protect you!”

    “I think Vigano and the Pope should switch roles.”

    “It is not a dogma or doctrine that Mary is a Co-redemptrix. But to call the expression “foolishness” is inexcusable.”

    “I think the Vatican has found a pretext to declare him a criminal at the Vatican and has the commitment of Interpol to arrest and extradite him. Of course Trump can grant him asylum.”

    “1/ Never, never trust a Jesuit.
    2/ Vigano for Pope.”

    “Bergoglio is NOT “our leader” . I will not follow an heretical apostate fraud. Beneduct did not resign the papacy, ergo, Bergoglio is nothing more than an apostate priest.”

    “I wished Abp. Viganò would come out of hiding and, safely ensconced in an American conservative/ orthodox Catholic diocese, assume the leadership of the armada of the truly faithful Catholics here. Since he is not a fugitive criminal, he could not be extradited to the Vatican. His statements would then have to be also published in other diocesan newspapers and in the secular media. ”

    “We are in a spiritual battle against the leftists progressives communists humanists. To many Catholics ( by design, Vat II) are poorly Catechized causing further problems (support for this Pope) in our church. I am not sure what is left of our church at this point. PF and his buddies have managed to undo /create divides/change Catholic teachings/promote idols etc.. Dear Lord where do we Catholics go next?”


    The above is nothing short of an open coup in the Church, promoted by sites like Churchmilitant and others. Why aren’t those comments deleted? They are wanted instead. And the few people who dare to defend the pope on that and other sites, are fiercely attacked and often banned.

    Unfortunately, the common believers who attend the ultraconservative communities, are way too uneducated to make their informed choice. They are preoccupied with raising 5-10 kids and struggling in their lives without ANY help from those same ultraconservative pastors. Their leaders however are educated. And they must be held responsible.

    It is clear by now they provoke pope Francis to make the first move and excommunicate at least Vigano, so they can have what to accuse him later. That is what they want. And the pope doesn’t want it. For how long that situation will continue?

  5. Thomas Mazanec says:

    Of course, once you start calling a Pope an antipope, there is no easy stopping place.
    Here is a website that calls Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII antipopes:
    Are we going to end up calling St. Linus an antipope?

  6. erm6 says:

    A little off topic… an open question, for Ron or for other readers: What is meant by the Novissimus Ordo? I googled and did not find clear information on upcoming Mass changes.

    • Ron Conte says:

      he’s using a play on words. Novus Ordo is often used by conservatives in a derogatory sense against the vernacular Mass. Using the superlative of novus makes the meaning particularly bad. Also, for this particular word in the superlative, it can mean “last” instead of newest, as if these version of the Mass were the last, as if it were bringing an end to the Mass. Finally, “new” can mean “novel”, which is also used in a derogatory sense, in that novel ideas are therefore not truly part of the tradition handed down. So a novel theological idea would be considered to be by that fact erroneous. The most novel, last (or most extreme end) form of the Mass. So…Vigano is not a fan of the Novus Ordo Mass.

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