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ROME, November 5, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has praised the young man who took pagan statuettes out of a Catholic church in Rome last month during the Amazon Synod and threw them in the Tiber.

The archbishop, who made headlines in August 2018, when he accused Pope Francis of having relaxed sanctions on a cardinal he knew to have been a sexual predator, spoke to American journalist and scholar Dr. Robert Moynihan about Alexander Tschugguel. 

“Like many others, including Bishop Athanasius Schneider and Prof. Roberto de Mattei, I think that this young man is a hero,” Viganò told Moynihan. 

He added, “This young man acted out of his Catholic conscience.” 


The archbishop revisited the background details of the story: that Tschugguel had come to Rome, visited the Church of St. Mary in Traspontina, and seen the images, now identified as Pachamama, an Aztec fertility goddess.  

“He was deeply concerned. But he did not act immediately,” Viganò related. 

“He went back to his home in Vienna and prayed and reflected for several days. Then he decided it was his duty to act. And now he has had the courage to reveal his name and to give interviews,” the archbishop continued.  


“I praise the great faith of this young man.”

Alexander Tschugguel was one of two young men who threw the images, called “Pachamamas” by Pope Francis, into the Tiber early on the morning of October 21. The act was filmed by a colleague and the video was released online a few hours later. The adventure galvanized Catholics rendered despondent by reports emerging from the Pan-Amazonian Synod. The then-unknown Tschugguel was praised by such faithful prelates as Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, Bishop José Luis Azcona Hermoso, Bishop Marian Eleganti, and, as Archbishop Viganò indicated, Bishop Athanasius Schneider. 

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, one of the two remaining dubia cardinals and a respected Church historian – praised the young men as “courageous … prophets of today.” 

Bishop Athanasius Schneider was even more effusive in his praise, saying that the “gestures of these Christian men will be recorded in the annals of Church history as a heroic act which brought glory to the Christian name, while the acts of high-ranking churchmen, on the contrary, who defiled the Christian name in Rome, will go down in history as cowardly and treacherous acts of ambiguity and syncretism.” 

Viganò, who now lives in hiding, told Moynihan that Tschugguel’s deed can be “a beacon” to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. Schönborn is the archbishop of the young man’s diocese, Vienna, and a close confident of Pope Francis. 

“It can be a witness to the cardinal, to profit the Church in Austria, because the cardinal seems to have changed markedly in his doctrinal and pastoral positions in recent years, so that we can hardly recognize him anymore,” Viganò said. 

“I was present eight years ago, in April 2011, at the huge villa of the Order of Malta on the Aventine Hill in Rome, when Cardinal Schönborn presented the YouCat, the young people’s version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” he continued. 

I was amazed and in fact edified at the solid doctrine that Cardinal Schönborn presented. What happened since that time?”

Schönborn was a participant in last month’s Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region as one of Pope Francis’ personal choices. The Cardinal Archbishop has indicated that he supports the innovation of women’s ordination to the diaconate. He has also given official permission to over 30 women to preside over funerals in the Vienna archdiocese.  

Schönborn has also presided over a homosexuality-themed prayer service and said that he is “moved” when people with same-sex attractions wish to marry each other. A prominent Austrian LGBT activist has stated that the cardinal blessed his same-sex partnership. 

Regarding his loyalty to Pope Francis, whose theology differs in many respects from that of the previous popes Schönborn served, the cardinal told journalists during the Synod that his “basic simple attitude” is “[Francis] is the pope.”