In Italy, prominent conservatives back Vatican move against Viganò

In Italy, prominent conservatives back Vatican move against Viganò Pope Francis in 2015 waves alongside Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, then the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, right, outside St Patrick in the City Church in Washington. Photo: CNS/Bob Roller

A recent Vatican move to lodge schism charges against Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a notorious papal critic who’s accused Pope Francis both of covering up sexual abuse and also various doctrinal errors, has drawn potentially surprising support from a couple of high-profile conservative commentators.

Luigi Bisignani, an influential lobbyist and power-broker who has strong ties with former conservative Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, published a June 21 essay calling the decision to act against Archbishop Viganò long overdue, saying it came after Pope Francis had tolerated “every possible injury and manoeuvre” from the former papal envoy to the United States.

Meanwhile, the conservative Italian newspaper Il Foglio, founded by another figure with close ties to Berlusconi and his political heirs, carried an unsigned editorial on June 21 titled ‘Well Done, Holy Father’. “Mercy and human patience are all well and good, but in the end there’s a limit,” the editorial said. “The Church is too serious a thing to allow the diffusion, almost the metastasis, of trash inside herself.”


The twin expressions of backing for the Vatican’s June 11 action against Archbishop Viganò may indicate a desire among mainstream Catholic conservatives to disassociate themselves from a figure whose positions are seen as having become progressively more extreme after he initially broke with Pope Francis in August 2018 over the case of Theodore McCarrick in the US.

Since that time, Archbishop Viganò has gone on to become a champion of far-right and traditionalist Catholic causes, including scepticism about the coronavirus and rejection of much of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

Reports suggest that Archbishop Viganò has been reconsecrated as a bishop by a prelate linked to the breakaway traditionalist Society of St Pius X, founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in the wake of Vatican II, and in social media posts regarding the Vatican decree, Archbishop Viganò identified himself with Archbishop Lefebvre.

Monsignor Viganò has gone down in the news as a ferocious family bureaucrat, first in Rome and then in Washington”

“His defence is mine; his words are mine; and his arguments are mine,” Archbishop Viganò wrote. It’s a comparison that Mr Bisignani vigorously challenged in his June 21 essay. “The small difference is that Marcel Lefebvre, before rejecting the documents of the Second Vatican Council (which he had voted for) had been the greatest missionary of the 20th century of the Catholic Church in Africa,” Mr Bisignani wrote.

“Meanwhile, Monsignor Viganò has gone down in the news as a ferocious family bureaucrat, first in Rome and then in Washington, where for a long time he colluded with McCarrick before cutting him loose and dumping all the blame on him, after he was unable to defend himself due to senile dementia,” Mr Bisignani said.

In the end, Bisignani argued, Archbishop Viganò has brought the schism charge on himself. Moreover, he said, it was necessary for the Vatican to act now in light of rumours that someone linked to Archbishop Viganò may have been planning an unspecified “theatrical gesture” during a consistory for the canonisation of saints Pope Francis has convoked in Rome on July 1.

The Il Foglio editorial suggested that Archbishop Viganò’s reputation has been in steady decline since his original 2018 accusations. “The archbishop went into eclipse,” it said. “He appeared only in videos with increasingly apocalyptic messages, and with homilies spread by sites and blogs with a similar vision of the world and of the Church.”


“He became a champion of the large ‘No Vax’ and ‘No Pass’ crowd, and he took up the defence of Putin saying that ‘George Soros and the globalist cabal wanted this war’”, the editorial said. Both Mr Bisignani’s piece and the Foglio editorial suggested Pope Francis showed remarkable restraint in not acting against Archbishop Viganò earlier. “For once, Bergoglio wasn’t impulsive,” Mr Bisignani wrote. “If anything, he procrastinated.”

A June 11 decree summoned Archbishop Viganò to face the charges, or to designate an attorney acting on his behalf to do so, on June 20. He didn’t show up, and has just a few more days to respond before he’s found guilty and sentenced to some form of ecclesiastical sanction.

For his part, Archbishop Viganò called the charge an “honour” and showed absolutely no sign of remorse. One interesting footnote came in the reaction to all this of Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State and among Pope Francis’s closest allies.


“I always appreciated him as a great worker very faithful to the Holy See, in a certain sense also an example,” Cardinal Parolin said of Archbishop Viganò, referring to a period earlier in his career before he began attacking the Pope. “When he was Apostolic Nuncio, he worked extremely well. I don’t know what happened.”

Cardinal Parolin, however, has offered a reminder that perceptions of Archbishop Viganò in 2018 were different than today. Back then, most US bishops simply recalled him as a former Vatican official and a reasonably effective ambassador to the States.

They had no way of knowing what he would later become, nor were many of them eager in the immediate wake of the McCarrick revelations to be seen as dismissing any accusation, no matter whom it involved.