New book gives insight into the heart and faith of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, shows us his tears
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October 21, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Dr. Robert Moynihan is one of the few people who has been able to meet with Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò in person since the archbishop first published his Theodore McCarrick testimony in August 2018 and went into hiding. With the help of his interviews with the prelate over the course of several days, the U.S. journalist, editor of Inside the Vatican, and Vatican expert has been able to give us glimpses into the reasons why Viganò published his McCarrick testimony, his private and hidden life, his suffering, and his faith.
As he describes in his upcoming book, Finding Viganò: In Search of the Man Whose Testimony Shook the Church and the World (TAN Books), Dr. Moynihan was able to visit Viganò in an undisclosed location for several days at the end of July 2019 — that is, nearly one year since the Italian prelate went into hiding. As it turns out, Viganò had then already changed his locations several times. However, the prelate seems calm and supported by his intense life of prayer, which includes daily Mass, praying the full rosary every day, and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. He is also aided by his family members and friends, who stay in close touch with him.
As the archbishop told Moynihan, he went into hiding not to avoid being indicted by the Vatican — he said he was willing to be questioned about everything he has written — but, rather, because “some friends” had advised him that it might be “prudent” to do so. Viganò has followed the advice of his friends who might be more concerned about his physical safety, thus effectively living the life of a hermit. Only once, on January 18 of this year, he appeared in public when praying in Munich together with the Acies ordinata group against the German bishops’ synodal path of laxly liberalizing the Church.
As Moynihan writes, Archbishop Viganò “is, arguably, one of the loneliest men in the world.” But, as Viganò told the journalist during their interviews, he does not regret his decision to make public the names of those in the Vatican, to include Pope Francis, who knew of disgraced former cardinal McCarrick’s sexual abuse and did not take the steps necessary to stop him from harming many generations of young men and seminarians. He said he does not regret having asked the Pope to resign. “Having clearly covered for McCarrick,” he told Moynihan, “it was only right that he first did what he asked the Chilean bishops to do.” Then asked whether he regrets having published his report, Viganò answered, “No. It was something I had to do.” He added, “I think that I have been a witness to the truth.” Viganò also explained that “my conscience is telling me to protect the Church. I see that the devil has been entering into the Church, on the top of it, and so that I have to stand up.”
On August 25, 2018, the retired Italian prelate, who had then been relieved for two years from his last post as the papal nuncio to the United States in Washington, D.C., published his now famous report accusing Pope Francis of ignoring Pope Benedict XVI’s earlier restrictions on then-cardinal McCarrick on account of McCarrick’s preying upon and abuse of seminarians. Viganò revealed that he had informed Pope Francis about the misdeeds of McCarrick and about Benedict’s sanctions against him and said that, since Francis ignored these warnings and even actively sought the official assistance of McCarrick, the Pope should resign. He had then also revealed the many names of prelates — among them Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano — who knew of the accusations but did not work for a just correction and healing of the situation.
Ever since that moment, Viganò has gained the trust of many Catholics in the world as one of the few prelates who put truth above any expedient and earthly considerations such as being able to be respected among members of the Vatican. He sacrificed most of his earthly comforts and honors for the defense of the young, who had to face sexual abuse from those who were called to be the representatives of Christ on Earth. Viganò stands for a program of reform of the Church that is not based on empty words, but that aims at removing those aspects from the life of the Church that weaken the Church’s voice and witness. Among these obstacles, he names some erroneous doctrines that crept into the Church at the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath, an attitude of laxity toward sin and moral depravity, and other forms of corruption in fields such as finances.
That is to say: to many, Archbishop Viganò appears to be a prophet of our modern times, in the midst of a grave and manifold Church crisis. It is here that Moynihan’s book will help us appreciate this clergyman even more, since this U.S. journalist has set out to understand the archbishop’s life and work, his motives and his faith, his loves and his resistances.
Moynihan himself appreciates Viganò’s attempt to break up a “culture of cover-up” and a “brotherhood of silence,” as he writes, “that has for decades grown like a clinging vine around the heart of the Church, even in the Vatican, or perhaps better, especially in the Vatican.” This “culture of silence,” he adds, which often is defended with a supposed concern not to scandalize “the faith of the little ones,” “has become so harmful to our once-glorious and holy Church that the healing light of truth ... has become hidden.” This healing light of truth pertains to the “truth about the sexual sins of the hierarchy,” as well as the “deviations from the saving doctrines of our faith.”
As Viganò keeps on insisting, the doctrinal and the moral corruption in the Church go hand in hand. For example, the prelate stated in September of this year: “Moral corruption and doctrinal deviation are intrinsically linked and, to effectively heal these wounds in the body of the Church, it is imperative to act on both fronts. If this dutiful intervention does not take place, the Bishops and the leaders of the Church will answer to God for betraying their duty as pastors.”
But how is Viganò to be considered as a man, as a human being? “He was a man of simple tastes,” Moynihan tells us about his visit with him, “hospitable, a man who prayed the daily holy office (the daily prayers prescribes by the Church to be said by the priests) and nourished a profound devotion for the Holy Rosary, of which he prays and celebrates all the Mysteries daily.” He was a man closely following Church news. In some ways he was an “emotional man, a man of profound joys and sorrows, a man who was sometimes nostalgic, sometimes seemingly deeply wounded due to perceived injustices.” The U.S. journalist continues by describing Viganò’s excellent memory; his courageous attitude; his generosity; and most of all, his being a man completely devoted to the Catholic Church.
As a matter of poignant fact, on a few occasions during these interviews, Archbishop Viganò shed tears of sorrow, for example when describing how he confronted McCarrick with his sins when first meeting him in the nunciature in Washington, D.C.: “I knew about him [and his sins],” Viganò told Moynihan, “but I treated him with charity all the time.” Here adds Moynihan: “Viganò, recalling McCarrick, begins to choke up and break into tears.” The archbishop continued: “I confronted him the first time in the nunciature after I was named to that post. I said: ‘You have done that!’ And he, just speaking with very low voice, said, ‘I may have made a mistake. Sometimes I slept in the same bed as a seminarian, as a priest, etc., etc.’”
When Moynihan asked Viganò about his “love of the Church,” the archbishop once more wept: “Well I mean it was all my life. Well, I mean I was living for that.”
Here we see a prelate who has given his whole life to the Church, and now he must suffer for her, and under her. Love does such things, and love proves itself most ardently by suffering under the beloved, and for the beloved, just as Our Lord did.
Viganò makes us also understand where his love for his beloved Church comes from. As Moynihan puts it, “his boyhood was marked by a continuing contact with the Christian tradition of Milan, weaving his daily life into twenty centuries of tradition.” Born in 1941 and being one of nine children, Viganò’s childhood took place in pre-conciliar times. Or, as Viganò himself said: “Our whole life was imbued with the liturgical life of the Church and with the memory of the Church’s history in Milan going back to St. Ambrose.” When he was a youth, he studied with the Jesuits in town. His family practiced many acts of charity by visiting widows who had lost their husbands in World War II, and, as such, to bring them some money and food. By the time of his First Holy Communion, Viganò knew he had a vocation to the priesthood, just as did one of his older brothers. He was greatly inspired by one young priest, Giulio Giacometti, who worked at Viganò’s elementary school, and then also by the Milanese cardinal, Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, who has now been proclaimed blessed. “These two men,” writes Moynihan, “influenced the young Viganò from a very early age to decide that he should become a priest.”
Our Lady was always present in his life, too. One of the archbishop’s first memories was “on the breast of my mother, probably when I was around two years old, bringing me down into refuge during the bombardment [of Milan], and there was a little image of Our Lady with the light.” “And so we were starting to pray the Rosary,” Viganò continued. “I have this deep emotional memory of Mary. This marks a presence in my life all along. I remember that we would pray every evening after dinner, all together.” And he remembered his father keeping the sleepy children awake, “reminding them that it was beautiful to be praying together to Our Lady, to our Mother.”
Of his own father, Viganò said that he was “a very kind father.” It was “terrible for me,” he explained, when he suddenly died at the age of sixty-three, possibly due to medical malpractice. Viganò was twenty years old. As Moynihan writes: “Viganò seemed moved emotionally by the memory of his father’s death. ‘My father, certainly, to say the truth, was central to my life,’ he continued. ‘We were raised to tell everything to our mother and father.’”
From 1973 on, Viganò was called into the diplomatic service of the Vatican, and he was to remain there for the rest of his life, thus giving him nearly fifty years of experience and insight into the life and the workings of the Vatican and of the Church as a whole. He was devoted to the popes and served them each with a full and open heart. It seems that among the popes, the closest bond existed between him and Pope John Paul II, who once, after seeing him in his post in Nigeria, noted: “Monsignor Viganò looks tired. He should go back to Rome with me.” The Pope soon called him back, in 1998, and made him the delegate for pontifical representations, the personnel chief of the pope. John Paul II had also personally consecrated Viganò as a bishop in 1992. For twelve years, Viganò remained in this position of personnel chief for the entire Roman Curia, as well as for all of the Vatican diplomats. Under Pope Benedict XVI, Viganò was first called to run the Vatican City State — and tried to clear out financial corruptions there — and was then sent to Washington, D.C., with a providential mission that seems to continue until today. In surveying the archbishop’s vast experience and varied exposure, Moynihan assesses that what this archbishop has to say “may be as informed as what anyone in the world may have to say on the subject.”
In a sense, Viganò's role in helping to fight corruption in the Church intensified under the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, and that is also when the rumors and anonymous emails about him started to circulate. Starting in 2010, these initiatives against him later led, in 2012, to Vatileaks. He was accused of creating an atmosphere of “conflict” among the staff and employees, while he himself wrote to Pope Benedict, asking him to protect him so that he could continue his work of cleansing the Vatican finances. “The Vatileaks affair was about me,” he told Moynihan. Unfortunately, as in other cases, Pope Benedict decided to let Viganò go, sending him to Washington, D.C., rather than keeping him in Rome and supporting him there in his work.
As to Pope Francis, Archbishop Viganò told Moynihan that he trusted him completely at the beginning, saying, “I was very confidant and very straightforward. I opened my heart” when speaking with him about McCarrick and the sanctions placed on him by Benedict. He was only later to realize that Pope Francis ignored this information and even denied that Viganò had told of him these grave things. (At least he claimed he did not remember it.) Now the archbishop has no hesitation to say that Francis “is lying” and that Francis “is destroying the Church,” as he told Moynihan.
The archbishop believes that there are parallels between the time of Our Lord and His possibly impending Second Coming. Just as the Sanhedrin were so corrupt that they condemned Jesus Christ, so, too, the Holy See is corrupt today. Viganò approvingly quoted to Moynihan a prominent convert from Judaism who once told him: “Now the corruption of the Holy See is very great, as was the corruption at that time, now as then.” “So this is a sign for me as a former Jew that the time is very near for the second coming of Jesus,” as the convert had concluded.
Let us end this book review with some hopeful words from Archbishop Viganò.
Speaking about his work, he told Moynihan that “we must be clear in our minds, but we cannot continue to hide the facts,” and thus “we must recognize that there is a project of the devil to destroy the Church. The watchwords are a ‘new Church’ for a ‘new humanism.’ No more Jesus Christ, no more cross, no more confession and forgiveness of sins. We must fight against this project. Yes, we must fight for the faith. With God’s help, with confidence, without pride.”
“I am speaking what I see and telling the truth,” he told the U.S. journalist at some point. “I cannot any longer stay silent. I am going too fast, yes, but the situation is moving very fast.” But in the midst of this struggle, Viganò insisted, “Pope Francis should be converted by the Holy Spirit. And then he should turn, as Peter turned, and confirm his brothers, of whom I am only one.”
Finally, Viganò turns his hopeful eyes to Our Lady. He told Moynihan that “I still understand more and more that our time is now the time of the Mother. This is the time of the Mother of the Church.” He added: “My hope is with Our Lady, she will lead the Church in the battle against the devil. A time will come very soon. This is my feeling ... Our Lady will crush and defeat the devil.”