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 LifeSiteNews.com 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”
* 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.
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