In a previous newsletter we cited a LifeSiteNews report on seven members of the hierarchy of the Church, who in recent years described the current crisis in which the Church is currently passing. Since then, the coronavirus has raised additional questions provoking not only political controversy, but also debate about the relationship between the coronavirus and the crisis in the Church.
Among these voices from the hierarchy in our day, one stands out as unique, and in a sense solitary. It is that of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. In 2018, when we published the second enlarged edition of Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael, we noted that Pope Francis had requested at that time that the faithful recite the Prayer to St. Michael after the Rosary. Since the Pope had referred to the devil as an “accuser,” there was some speculation that he may have been referring to the published testimony, in August of that year, of Archbishop Viganò, who had accused Pope Francis himself because of the way he had handled the case of the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Was Archbishop Viganò succumbing to the influence of the devil – or was he addressing a grave problem in the Church that Pope Francis himself needed to resolve?
Since that time, the concerns of many of the simple faithful – and of priests, of some bishops and of cardinals – have grown, after the direction of Pope Francis’s pontificate led to authorizations for giving Communion to Catholics living in illicit marriages. The Synods on the Family that opened a path in this direction were then followed by the Pan-Amazon Synod, which occasioned ceremonies in the Vatican honoring non-Christian statues, which were perceived by many as representing a form of pagan idolatry. And finally, when the coronavirus began to spread, Pope Francis in a Spanish-language interview interpreted the spread of the coronavirus as nature’s reaction to what he has perceived as an abuse of the environment, proposing therefore a scientific hypothesis, rather than seeing a spiritual significance behind the coronavirus debate.
In the midst of all these developments, the voice of Archbishop Viganò intensified. With regard to the coronavirus, he explained that the 1929 Lateran Treaty between the Vatican and the Italian government gave complete jurisdiction over churches to the ecclesiastical authorities, and yet the Italian Bishops’ Conference was now allowing the Italian government instead to have jurisdiction over the Church in facing the coronavirus. And in a more recent statement on the failure of Pope Francis to respond, Archbishop Viganò referred to the “the terrible decision to allow an almost universal ban on the public celebration of Easter, for the first time since the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
A most significant example of this unique and solitary response of Archbishop Viganò was a letter that he wrote to Cardinal Zen archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong, shortly before the rapid outbreak of the coronavirus. The Cardinal of Hong Kong has consistently opposed the 2018 secret agreement between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist government, and he blamed the Vatican Secretary of State for this compromising surrendering of the faithful Chinese Catholics of the underground Church to the Chinese Communist authorities. But Archbishop Viganò took the analysis a step further, insisting that instructions for this agreement came “from above.” It is clear that it was Pope Francis himself whom Archbishop Viganò had in mind. And then, suddenly, the coronavirus began to spread rapidly, because of the irresponsibility of the Chinese government, as testified to by Charles Cardinal Bo of Myanmar. But whereas Cardinal Bo saw in Pope Francis’s Urbi et Orbi blessing of Friday, March 27 a sign of leadership on the part of the Pope, Archbishop Viganò saw Pope Francis’s actions as a manifestation of the broader direction in which the Pope was leading the Church. While Pope Francis was interpreting the coronavirus as nature’s reaction to man’s environmental practices, Archbishop Viganò saw it instead as being linked to the doctrinal and moral crisis within the Church.
How can one justify Archbishop Viganò’s rebuking the Pope in such a manner? A very clear answer comes from a vision of Pope Leo XIII – the vision of a diabolical assault against the Church, and ultimately against the Chair of Peter itself. Some have thought that Pope Leo’s vision was about an attack on the part of Italian Freemasonry and the confiscation of the Papal States during the pontificate of Pope Leo’s predecessor, Pope Pius IX. But author Kevin J. Symonds, in Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael, demonstrates that it was more than this. It was the direct assault of the devil himself against the Church, leading to the “smoke of Satan” entering into the Church herself, which Pope Paul VI was obliged to acknowledge as happening during his own pontificate.
Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael serves therefore as an account of the devil’s assault against the Church, and against the Chair of Peter, and the appeal of Pope Leo XIII, in his Prayer to St. Michael and in the Exorcism Prayer, to St. Michael the Archangel – to come to the defense of the Church in the face of this diabolical attack. The book begins with a preface by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, explaining the important role of the holy angels, in the battle for souls and in the defense of the Holy Catholic Church, in the passion that the Church undergoes in our time.