Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò

& Prof. Roberto de Mattei

Part I

A controversy has recently arisen between Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and Prof. Roberto de Mattei. Although rooted in a profound disagreement – widespread among Catholics throughout the world – about the morality of whether one can receive vaccines that were manufactured through the use of aborted babies, it reached its climax when Roberto de Mattei posted two articles speculating that Archbishop Viganò might have had a “double” or ghostwriter, someone who authored statements signed by the archbishop. Roberto de Mattei was not the first to present such a hypothesis, for the American theologian Father Thomas Gerard Weinandy, OFMCap had made a similar conjecture months before..

Meanwhile Archbishop Viganò, in a brief statement replying to Prof. de Mattei, made a similar conjecture himself, indicating that Roberto de Mattei may have been advised by someone else. Both sides in the controversy, therefore, were speculating that the other was in turn being influenced by others.

Although there is no equality between a bishop and a layman in the hierarchical order of the Church, there is clearly a legitimate element of truth in their mutual attempts to understand how the other has been influenced. It is our desire therefore to understand this recent controversy, by examining what those influences are in the cases of both Archbishop Viganò and Prof. de Mattei.

Roberto de Mattei is clear regarding the influences on his own thought. Although he refers to those who gave him his educational formation, it is Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira whom he describes as his principal mentor. In the case of Archbishop Viganò, His Excellency publicly acknowledges that he had been misled for many years because of the crisis in the Church. But when he gradually realized that he had made a mistake, it became clear that Bishop Athanasius Schneider had influenced his thinking. And Bishop Schneider, although with some hesitation in his youth, was in turn influenced by the realization that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre had advanced legitimate arguments in his criticism of the Council and the new rite of the Mass. Therefore, in a clearly discernible manner, two recent historical figures, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, provide the background for understanding the present dispute between Archbishop Viganò and Prof. de Mattei.

To understand the controversy, one must review not only the vaccination question itself, but also the alliances that have been formed in addressing the issue. Roberto de Mattei’s two articles speculating about a “double” behind Archbishop Viganò were preceded by two other articles discussing the Russian writer Alexander Dugin. The latter had participated in May in a conference in which Archbishop Viganò was also a speaker, and Roberto de Mattei was questioning this apparent alliance in view of Dugin’s association with an ideology favorable to Russian Communism and hostile to the West.

One sees in this controversy, therefore, elements that are both religious and political, and are related to the message of Fatima regarding the errors of Russia. In principle both Archbishop Viganò and Prof. de Mattei share this mutual devotion to the message of Our Lady of Fatima. Where they differ is in the concrete application of their common principles. When Roberto de Mattei began to post his articles about Archbishop Viganò, responses began to be posted very quickly by prominent writers such as Robert Moynihan, Brian McCall, Maike Hickson and Michael Matt. Their motivation was a common understanding of the religious leadership that Archbishop Viganò has presented during the last two years, and their desire to defend his reputation. At the same time, however, the religious aspect does not eliminate but rather includes the political causes and consequences of the present crisis. And it is precisely in the political realm, the Catholic concern for temporal society, where Roberto de Mattei had expressed his concern, when raising questions about Archbishop Viganò’s involvement with Alexander Dugin.

A prime example where traditionally minded Catholics came to different political conclusions was the Second World War. At that time the Church and Christian Civilization were faced with two totalitarian threats, Communism under Stalin and Nazism under Hitler – with Italy under Mussolini, the homeland of both Archbishop Viganò and Prof. de Mattei, aligned with Hitler. Some Italian Catholics saw the Italian-German alliance as a legitimate war against Russian Communism, but an outspoken opponent of this alliance among Catholics worldwide was Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Roberto de Mattei, in his first book on Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira, The Crusader of the 20th Century: Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, explains in very clear terms the profound error of such reasoning and its refutation by Prof. Plinio.

These are political and historical questions, and precisely because of the contingency of historical events, well-intentioned Catholics oftentimes arrive at different conclusions. But it is the attempt to resolve these historical questions that gives rise to what are called the theology and philosophy of history.

In his defense of Archbishop Viganò’s position against that of Roberto de Mattei, Dr. Brian McCall nevertheless appeals to Prof. de Mattei’s own philosophy of history, which Archbishop Viganò had accepted, as Dr. McCall himself acknowledges. Applied to Vatican II, Prof. de Mattei had argued for the important distinction between the Council as a collection of sixteen documents, on one hand, and the Council as an historical event, on the other hand. While one can argue about the documents, distinguishing between which of its contents are in harmony with Catholic Tradition and which deviate from that Tradition, in the end it is the Council as an historical event that must be considered and evaluated.

This insight into the significance and importance of the philosophy and theology of history is one of the fundamental influences that Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira had on Roberto de Mattei. In the first section of his other book, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira: Prophet of the Reign of Mary, Prof. de Mattei enters into the philosophical arguments behind the philosophy of history as understood by Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira. Although the philosopher in a commonly understood sense of the term abstracts universal principles in his philosophical speculation, it is in the concrete reality, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira reasoned – and perfectly in line with St. Thomas and Aristotle – that the mind comes to know these universal principles. In this sense one can argue that it is in the philosophy of history that philosophy itself achieves its completion and plenitude.

The recent controversy between Archbishop Viganò and Prof. de Mattei should therefore be seen not as an irreparable conflict between two prominent figures among those defending Catholic Tradition – one a bishop and the other a layman – but the start of a serious discussion about two approaches corresponding to the distinction between the episcopal and lay roles in the apotolate of the Church, and in particular in the context of today’s defense of Catholic Tradition.