The Solitary Mission of Archbishop Viganò

Part II

From Religious Commentary to Political Speculation

“The Russian Federation undeniably stands as the last bastion of civilization against barbarism….” – Archbishop Viganò1

“O blessed Charlemagne! ask our God that he arrest the progress of Russia, the Empire of schism and tyranny, and never permit that we become a prey to its intrigue and ambition.” – Dom Guéranger, The Liturgical Year2

In April of 2020, we described what we called the solitary mission of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò,3 emphasizing the positive and unique contribution being made by this former Vatican official and later papal nuncio to the United States. He was addressing problems involving the internal crisis in the Church, but also in relation to civil society and therefore politics.

While traditional theology emphasizes the hierarchy’s indirect authority over civil affairs, it also teaches that temporal society is the proper domain of the laity. Because of this distinction between religious and civil affairs, Archbishop Viganò’s political commentary gradually began to be challenged by representatives of the lay apostolate – not enemies but often doctrinal allies of the archbishop, who may have shared many of his theological positions but who began to challenge the political direction many of his commentaries were beginning to take. This debate climaxed in the recent statement of His Excellency, in which he describes Putin’s Russia as the bastion against the goals being pursued by enemies of the Church and her moral teaching.

The underlying assumption of Archbishop Viganò, and of some fellow Catholics with whom he is aligned, is that worldwide opposition to the Catholic Church and her teachings is centered solely within political forces in the West. In the face of this crisis, Putin is described as representing genuine leadership, in opposition to the secularization of culture and its undermining of Christian moral values.

This position of Archbishop Viganò would seem at first to embody a defense of Catholic religious and moral principles. Nevertheless, it involves moral questions in the political sphere, an area where the laity are within their rights to speak when they find that a position contradicts their own understanding of Catholic moral principles as applied throughout the Church’s history. Furthermore, Archbishop Viganò’s political position ultimately involves a philosophy of history, and to his speculation in this area, prominent lay voices have responded with an opposing philosophy of history.

Different from Archbishop Viganò’s approach is that of Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who also has addressed moral and political questions, but with a more precise awareness of where the authority of a bishop gives way to the competence of the laity. In his book Christus Vincit, Bishop Schneider addresses many questions of concern to traditional Catholics, presenting an analysis of the leadership role of the late Archbishop Lefebvre, while at the same time referring to lay apostolates that appeared independently of the French archbishop.4 In another context in his book Bishop Schneider cited another book, written by a layman, as providing the true Catholic philosophy of history for understanding the present crisis. His Excellency wrote: “Concerning these milestones in the current revolutionary process, a recommended study is Revolution and Counter-Revolution, written by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira.”5 The disciples of this lay leader, inspired by his principles, have led the debate in pointing out the serious mistakes being made by Archbishop Viganò in his praise for Putin.

The first was historian Roberto de Mattei, whose disagreements with Archbishop Viganò we have discussed in previous articles.6 One of his more recent commentaries addresses specifically Archbishop Viganò’s praise for Putin’s Russia.7 Accompanying his commentary was another analysis written by John Horvat of the American TFP, who demonstrated, against Archbishop Viganò’s central assumption, that Putin has never been an enemy of globalism, but rather an ardent collaborator and promoter of its objectives.8

How is it possible that Catholics who share a common concern about a Revolution that has been taking place inside the Church – a modernist opposition to two thousand years of Catholic Tradition – could have opposing interpretations of this same Revolution taking place outside the Church and in civil society? The answer is found in two conflicting interpretations of the natural law, and therefore in the interpretation of history in the light of its moral principles. God in His Providence chose Western Europe to lead and spread the Faith throughout the world, in a way analogous to the manner in which He chose the Jews to lead among the nations prior to His Incarnation. But when a Revolution emerged inside the West among Europe’s nations and their colonies, as Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira showed in the book cited by Bishop Schneider,9 the West did not therefore cease to be a leader throughout the world, but instead was the center of the confrontation between the Church and those who were opposing her. Defending the Church, therefore, does not mean turning against the West, but defending her institutions and the Christian Civilization that she inspired, which spread from the West to other regions of the world. It was this sense of Christian Civilization that inspired Dom Guéranger in the mid-nineteenth century to warn of the danger that Russia presented to the West, as quoted at the beginning of this article. _______________________

1 “Viganò. Message to the International Congress of Russophiles.”

2 Dom Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, Christmas vol. II (Worcester: Stanbrook Abbey; London: R. & T. Washbourne; New York: Benziger Brothers, 1918), p. 483; (Boonville, New York: Preserving Christian Publications, 2021), supplement, p. 17*

3 “The Passion of the Church: The Solitary Mission of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò”

4 “This lay movement inside the Church was growing independently of Archbishop Lefebvre’s work, and today is continuing to grow in strength and numbers in response to the pontificate of Pope Francis.” Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Christus Vincet: Christ’s Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age (Brooklyn, New York: Angelico Press, 2019), pp. 125-126.

5 Ibid., p. 197.

6 Cf. “Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò & Prof. Roberto de Mattei”:

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

7 “‘Russophilia,’ the West and anti-Romanism”

8 Vladimir Putin Does Not Represent the anti-Davos Party”

9 “Above all, this is a crisis of Western and Christian man, that is, Europeans and their descendants…. It also affects other peoples, to the degree that Western influence has reached and taken root among them.” Revolution and Counter-Revolution (Spring Grove, PA: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, 2003), p. 10.