The Solitary Mission of Archbishop Viganò

Part III

The Theology of History: The katéchon

(II Thessalonians 2:6-7)

In the second of this series of articles on Archbishop Viganò’s role of leadership,1 a leadership manifested within a significant sector of Catholic public opinion, we focused on His Excellency’s view of Russia in the present international crisis, and the disagreement with his view expressed by prominent voices among the laity. In this third article the analysis must turn to the more theological aspects of Archbishop Viganò’s commentaries. For His Excellency has been talking about the reference made by St. Paul, in II Thessalonians, to the obstacle that prevented the coming of the Son of Perdition. Together with Archbishop Viganò’s observations, others have commented as well on this passage of St. Paul, interpreted by Catholic Scripture commentators as a reality known to the Thessalonians, but not fully revealed by St. Paul in his Epistle. This text has therefore remained an object of speculation throughout the history of the Church, one which Archbishop Viganò has helped to revive in our own day.

In a lecture given at the Roman Forum on July 11, 2022,2 Dr. Rudolf Hilfer analyzed the history of this speculation, regarding what St. Paul meant when referring to “what withholdeth” (v. 6), and “he who now holdeth” (v. 7), the obstacle preventing the arrival of “the man of sin,” the “son of perdition”3 – verse 6 referring to an impersonal reality, and verse 7 to a person. Near the beginning of his lecture Dr. Hilfer mentioned the response given by Archbishop Viganò to a question asked by Italian journalist Francesco Boezi, before the US elections in 2020. Questioned regarding what would happen if Donald Trump lost the election, Archbishop Viganò replied: “If Trump loses the presidential elections, the final kathékon [withholder] will fail (2 Thess 2:6-7), that which prevents the ‘mystery of iniquity’ from revealing itself, and the dictatorship of the New World Order. . .will have an ally in the new American President.”

In this response Archbishop Viganò associates Donald Trump with this obstacle. Identifying a political leader with this barrier is not inconsistent with past interpretations of St. Paul, for some saw the Roman Empire as the obstacle, and later the Holy Roman Empire. But other interpretations have emphasized religious more than political barriers preventing the Antichrist’s coming. In the meantime, more recently, Archbishop Viganò has turned toward associating Russia with this obstacle to an anti-Christian world order, even to the point of describing Moscow historically as a defender of Christendom in the past. And it is this theory that makes Archbishop Viganò the center of a more specifically religious controversy.

Initially Archbishop Viganò provided significant leadership by analyzing aspects of the present world crisis, most noticeably in 2020 when he led eleven other members of the hierarchy, among them three cardinals, to speak out in a joint “Appeal” against the use of the pandemic to close churches and businesses. However, his most recent commentaries acquire their significance as much from the questions he has raised as from any specific theological answers he has given. For one bishop does not enjoy the infallibility proper only to a Roman Pontiff. By elevating Russia and exalting its historical role, he has chosen a nation that has historically been separated from the Holy See.

In this context Dr. Hifler’s analysis is helpful, in that he emphasizes the role of the papacy in understanding the obstacle mentioned by St. Paul. But the principal contribution in Dr. Hifler’s lecture is his summary of the history of Catholic commentaries on this passage of St. Paul. Prominent among those whom he cites is Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, who emphasized that in addition to the pope it is all of Christendom with him that represents this obstacle. Russia cannot be this barrier because it was Russia that Our Lady of Fatima mentioned as the nation that would spread its errors throughout the world. And Sister Lúcia of Fatima told Pope John Paul II on May 12, 1982 that the Third Secret of Fatima was a revelation of the fulfillment of this prophecy about Russia.4

At the same time Our Lady revealed that it was in Portugal rather than in Russia that the dogma of the Faith would be preserved. Historically Portugal helped inspire an era of exploration leading to the spreading of the Catholic Faith throughout the world. This small nation became a center within Christendom, and reflecting today on its role in history inspires us to study and understand the theological meaning of Christendom, which Cardinal Manning saw as the obstacle that St. Paul mentioned when writing to the Thessalonians. It is Christendom that we study in these commentaries – the supernatural reality represented in the Catholic books that we distribute, and in the customs and institutions that the Church inspired throughout her history.

The theology of Christendom is not yet fully developed, however, for theologians have not yet agreed on its definition. Never before in history have its institutions been challenged in the way they are now, and therefore it needs to be examined more completely than ever before. As more questions are being raised about its nature, we intend to examine them as we continue these discussions.


1 “Part II: From Religious Commentary to Political Speculation”

2 Dr. Rudolf Hilfer, “The Mystery Withholding the Antichrist”

3 English wording taken from the Rheims translation. The Latin Vulgate renders these two references first as “quid detineat” and secondly as “qui tenet,” an impersonal reality and then a person.

4 See Fatima and the Third Secret: A Historical Examination Based on a Letter of Sister Lúcia & the Carmelite Biography; with Appendix: Why Was the Third Secret of Fatima Not Released in 1960? An Interview with Antonio Augusto Borelli Machado

Fatima and the Third Secret

With Appendix: Why Was the Third Secret of Fatima Not Released in 1960? An Interview with Antonio Augusto Borelli Machado

2017 paperback/pamphlet 62 pages $8.00 #50083

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