(Editor’s note: The following exchange with former USA nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò is offered in the hopes of clarifying his position on this important matter of consideration in the Church.)
Dear Archbishop Viganò,
I am hoping to get a clarification from you about your latest texts regarding the second Vatican council.
In your June 9 text you said that “it is undeniable that from Vatican II onwards a parallel church was built, superimposed over and diametrically opposed to the true Church of Christ.”
In your subsequent interview with Phil Lawler he asked: “What is the solution? Bishop Schneider proposes that a future Pontiff must repudiate errors; Archbishop Viganò finds that inadequate. But then how can the errors be corrected, in a way that maintains the authority of the teaching magisterium?”
You replied: “It will be for one of his Successors, the Vicar of Christ, in the fullness of his apostolic power, to rejoin the thread of Tradition there where it was cut off. This will not be a defeat but an act of truth, humility, and courage. The authority and infallibility of the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles will emerge intact and reconfirmed (bold mine).”
I believe this clarification would be helpful.
In Christ and His beloved Mother,
1 July 2020
In festo Pretiosissimi Sanguinis
Domini Nostri Iesu Christi
I thank you for your letter, with which you give me the opportunity to clarify what I have already expressed about Vatican II. This delicate argument is involving prominent persons of the ecclesiastical world and not a few erudite laity: I trust that my modest contribution can help to lifting off the blanket of equivocations that weighs on the Council, thus leading to a shared solution.
You begin with my initial observation: “It is undeniable that from Vatican II onwards a parallel church was built, superimposed over and diametrically opposed to the true Church of Christ,” and then quote my words about the solution to the impasse in which we find ourselves today: “It will be for one of his Successors, the Vicar of Christ, in the fullness of his apostolic power, to rejoin the thread of Tradition there where it was cut off. This will not be a defeat but an act of truth, humility, and courage. The authority and infallibility of the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles will emerge intact and reconfirmed.”
You then state that my position is not clear – “whether you believe Vatican II to be an invalid council and thus to be complete repudiated, or if you believe that while a valid council it contained many errors and the faithful would be better served by having it forgotten about.” I have never thought and even less have I affirmed that Vatican II was an invalid Ecumenical Council: in fact it was convoked by the supreme authority, by the Supreme Pontiff, and all of the Bishops of the world took part in it. Vatican II is a valid Council, supported by the same authority as Vatican I and Trent. However, as I have already written, from its origin it was made the object of a grave manipulation by a fifth column that penetrated into the very heart of the Church that perverted its purposes, as confirmed by the disastrous results that are before everyone’s eyes. Let us remember that in the French Revolution, the fact that the Estates-General were legitimately convoked on May 5, 1789, by Louis XVI did not prevent things from escalating into the Revolution and the Terror (the comparison is not out of place, since Cardinal Suenens called the conciliar event “the 1789 of the Church”).
In his recent intervention, His Eminence Cardinal Walter Brandmüller maintains that the Council places itself in continuity with the Tradition, and as proof of this he remarks:
It is sufficient to glance at the notes of the text. It can thus be seen that ten previous councils are quoted by the document. Among these, Vatican I is referred to 12 times, and Trent 16 times. From this it is already clear that, for example, any idea of “distancing from Trent” is absolutely excluded. The relationship with Tradition appears even closer if we think of how, among the popes, Pius XII is cited 55 times, Leo XIII on 17 occasions, and Pius XI in 12 passages. To these are added Benedict XIV, Benedict XV, Pius IX, Pius X, Innocent I and Gelasius. The most impressive aspect, however, is the presence of the Fathers in the texts of Lumen Gentium. The council refers to the teaching of the Fathers a full 44 times, including Augustine, Ignatius of Antioch, Cyprian, John Chrysostom and Irenaeus. Furthermore, the great theologians and doctors of the Church are cited: Thomas Aquinas in 12 passages, along with seven other heavyweights.
As I pointed out in the analogous case of the Synod of Pistoia, the presence of orthodox content does not exclude the presence of other heretical propositions nor does it mitigate their gravity, nor can the truth be used to hide even only one single error. On the contrary, the numerous citations of other Councils, of magisterial acts or of the Fathers of the Church can precisely serve to conceal, with a malicious intent, the controversial points. In this regard, it is useful to recall the words of the Tractatus de Fide orthodoxa contra Arianos, cited by Leo XIII in his encyclical Satis Cognitum:
There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic Tradition.
Leo XIII then comments:
The practice of the Church has always been the same, as is shown by the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, who were wont to hold as outside Catholic communion, and alien to the Church, whoever would recede in the least degree from any point of doctrine proposed by her authoritative Magisterium.
On the pages of L’Osservatore Romano, in an article on April 14, 2013, Cardinal Kasper admitted that “in many places [the Council Fathers] had to find formulas of compromise, in which often the positions of the majority (conservatives) are found alongside those of the minority (progressives), designed to delimit them. Therefore, the conciliar texts themselves have an enormous potential for conflict, opening the door to selective reception in both directions.” This is the origin of the relevant ambiguities, patent contradictions, and serious doctrinal and pastoral errors.
It could be objected that taking into consideration the presumption of malice in a magisterial act ought to be rejected with disdain, since the Magisterium ought to be aimed at confirming the faithful in the Faith; but perhaps it is precisely the intentional fraud that makes an act prove to be non-magisterial and authorizes its condemnation or decrees its nullity. His Eminence Cardinal Brandmüller concluded his comment with these words: “It would be appropriate to avoid the ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ that accuses the interlocutor from the beginning of heretical conceptions.” While I surely share this sentiment in the abstract and in general, I think it appropriate to formulate a distinction to better frame this concrete case. In order to do this, it is necessary to abandon the approach, that is a bit too legalistic, that considers all doctrinal questions inherent in the Church as reducible and resolvable principally on the basis of a normative reference: let us not forget that the law is at the service of the Truth, and not vice-versa. And the same holds for the Authority that is the minister of that law and custodian of that Truth. On the other hand, when Our Lord faced his Passion, the Synagogue had deserted its proper function as guide of the Chosen People in fidelity to the Covenant, just as part of the Hierarchy has done for sixty years.
This legalistic attitude is at the foundation of the deception of the Innovators, those who devised a very simple way to actuate the Revolution: imposing it by virtue of authority with an act that the Ecclesia docens adopted in order to define truths of the Faith with a binding force for the Ecclesia discens, restating that teaching in other equally binding documents, albeit in a different degree. In short, it was decided to affix the label “Council” to an event conceived by some with the aim of demolishing the Church, and in order to do this the conspirators acted with malicious intent and subversive purposes. Father Edward Schillebeecks op candidly said: «We express it diplomatically, but after the Council we will draw the implicit conclusions» (De Bazuin, n.16, 1965).
It is not therefore a question of a “hermeneutic of suspicion,” but on the contrary something much more grave than a suspicion, corroborated by a calm evaluation of the facts, as well as by the admission of the protagonists themselves. In this regard, who among them is more authoritative than then-Cardinal Ratzinger?
The impression grew steadily that nothing was now stable in the Church, that everything was open to revision. More and more the Council appeared to be like a great Church parliament, that could change everything and reshape everything according to its own desires. Very clearly resentment was growing against Rome and against the Curia, which appeared to be the real enemy of everything that was new and progressive. The disputes at the Council were more and more portrayed according to the party model of modern parliamentarism. When information was presented in this way, the person receiving it saw himself compelled to take sides with one of the parties. […] If the bishops in Rome could change the Church, and even the faith itself (as it appeared they could), why only the bishops? In any event, the faith could be changed – or so it now appeared, in contrast to everything we previously thought. The faith no longer seemed exempt from human decision making but rather was now apparently determined by it. And we knew that the bishops had learned from theologians the new things they were now proposing. For believers, it was a remarkable phenomenon that their bishops seemed to show a different face in Rome from the one they wore at home. [J. Ratzinger, Milestones, Ignatius Press, 1997, pp. 132-133].
At this point it is right to draw attention to a recurring paradox in world affairs: the mainstream calls people “conspiracy theorists” if they reveal and denounce the conspiracy that the mainstream itself has devised, in order to divert attention from the conspiracy and delegitimize those who denounce it. Similarly, it seems to me that there is the risk of defining as “hermeneutic of suspicion” anyone who reveals and denounces the conciliar fraud, as if they were people who unjustifiably accuse “the interlocutor from the beginning of heretical conceptions.” Instead, it is necessary to understand if the action of the protagonists of the Council can justify the suspicion towards them, if not actually prove such suspicion correct; and if whether the result they obtained legitimizes a negative evaluation of the entire Council, of some of its parts, or of none of it. If we persist in thinking that those who conceived Vatican II as a subversive event rivaled Saint Alphonsus in piety and Saint Thomas in doctrine, we demonstrate a naivety that cannot be reconciled with the evangelical precept, and indeed borders on, if not connivance, then certainly carelessness. Obviously, I am not referring to the majority of Council Fathers, who were certainly animated by pious and holy intentions; I speak instead of the protagonists of the Council-event, of the so-called theologians who up until Vatican II were restricted by canonical censures and forbidden from teaching, and who for this very reason were chosen and promoted and helped, so that their credentials of heterodoxy became a cause of merit for them, while the undisputed orthodoxy of Cardinal Ottaviani and his collaborators in the Holy Office were sufficient reason to consign the preparatory schemae of the Council to the flames, with the consent of John XXIII.
I doubt that with regard to Msgr. Bugnini – to cite only one name – an attitude of prudent suspicion is either censurable or lacking in Charity. On the contrary: the dishonesty of the author of the Novus Ordo in pursuing his purposes, his adherence to Masonry and his own admissions in his diaries given to the Press show that the measures taken by Paul VI toward him were all too lenient and ineffective, since everything he did in the Conciliar Commissions and at the Congregation of Rites remained intact and, despite this, became an integral part of the Acta Concilii and the related reforms. Thus the hermeneutic of suspicion is quite welcome if it serves to demonstrate that there are valid reasons for the suspicion and that these suspicions often materialize in the certainty of intentional fraud.
Let us now return to Vatican II, to demonstrate the trap into which the good Pastors fell, misled into error along with their flock by a most astute work of deception by people notoriously infected by Modernism and not rarely also misled in their own moral conduct. As I wrote above, the fraud lies in having recourse to a Council as a container for a subversive maneuver, and in the utilization of the authority of the Church to impose the doctrinal, moral, liturgical, and spiritual revolution that is ontologically contrary to the purpose for which the Council was called and its magisterial authority was exercised. I repeat: the label “Council” affixed to the packaging does not reflect its content.
We have witnessed a new and different way of understanding the same words of the Catholic lexicon: the expression “ecumenical council” given to the Council of Trent does not coincide with the meaning given by the proponents of Vatican II, for whom the term “council” alludes to “conciliation” and the term “ecumenical” to inter-religious dialogue. The “spirit of the council” is the “spirit of conciliation, of compromise,” just as the assembly was a solemn and public attestation of conciliatory dialogue with the world, for the first time in the history of the Church.
Bugnini wrote: “We must take out of our Catholic prayers and the Catholic liturgy everything which could be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, the Protestants” [cf. L’Osservatore Romano, 19 March 1965]. From these words we understand that the intent of the reform that was the fruit of the conciliar mens was to reduce the proclamation of Catholic Truth in order not to offend the heretics: and this is exactly what was done, not only in the Holy Mass – horribly disfigured in the name of ecumenism – but also in the exposition of dogma in the documents of doctrinal content; the use of subsistit in is a very clear example.
Perhaps it will be possible to debate the motives that may have led to this unique event, so fraught with consequences for the Church; but we can no longer deny the evidence and pretend that Vatican II was not something qualitatively different from Vatican I, despite the numerous heroic and documented efforts, even by the highest authority, to interpret it by force as a normal Ecumenical Council. Anyone with common sense can see that it is an absurdity to want to interpret a Council, since it is and ought to be a clear and unequivocal norm of Faith and Morals. Secondarily, if a magisterial act raises serious and reasoned arguments that it may be lacking in doctrinal coherence with magisterial acts that have preceded it, it is evident that the condemnation of a single heterodox point in any case discredits the entire document. If we add to this the fact that the errors formulated or left obliquely to be understood between the lines are not limited to one or two cases, and that the errors affirmed correspond conversely to an enormous mass of truths that are not confirmed, we can ask ourselves whether it may be right to expunge the last assembly from the catalog of canonical Councils. The sentence will be issued by history and by the sensus fidei of the Christian people even before it is given by an official document. The tree is judged by its fruits, and it is not enough to speak of a conciliar springtime to hide the harsh winter that grips the Church; nor to invent married priests and deaconesses in order to remedy the collapse of vocations; nor to adapt the Gospel to the modern mentality in order to gain more consensus. The Christian life is a militia, not a nice outing in the country, and this is all the more true for priestly life.
I conclude with a request to those who are profitably intervening in the debate about the Council: I would like us first and foremost to seek to proclaim salvific Truth to all men, because their and our eternal salvation depends on it; and that we only secondarily concern ourselves with the canonical and juridical implications raised by Vatican II: anathema sit or damnatio memoriae, it changes little. If the Council truly did not change anything of our Faith, then let us pick up the Catechism of Saint Pius X, return to the Missal of Saint Pius V, remain before the Tabernacle, not desert the Confessional, and practice penance and mortification with a spirit of reparation. This is whence the eternal youthfulness of the Spirit springs. And above all: let us do so in such a way that our works give solid and coherent witness to what we preach.
+ Carlo Maria Viganò, Archbishop
Official translation by Giuseppe Pellegrino