Roberto de Mattei has challenged those who compare Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, mentioning interventions with government officials as an example of something that made the former prelate different from the latter. Archbishop Lefebvre personally avoided such a degree of political involvement, and his principal biographer, Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, addresses this question early in the biography of the French archbishop, under the subtitle “Marcel Lefebvre’s Silence.”1 The priestly society that he founded in 1970, the FSSPX, has been devoted almost exclusively to the priestly apostolate, and only indirectly to the lay apostolate in temporal society. On the other hand, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, in his 2019 book Christus Vincit, referred to lay apostolates that appeared independently of Archbishop Lefebvre.2 The most common theological explanation of this relationship between the priestly and lay apostolates is that of St. Robert Bellarmine, who taught that the hierarchy of the Church has an indirect but not a direct authority over temporal affairs. Therefore, there is an important difference between Archbishop Lefebvre’s tendency to avoid political questions, and Archbishop Viganò’s prudential judgment to exercise the Church’s indirect involvement in the same political affairs. If then the Church assigns the apostolate in temporal society primarily to laymen rather than to priests, Roberto de Mattei as a layman is justified in pointing to the need for clarification in cases where Archbishop Viganò’s positions require it. Archbishop Lefebvre’s decision to avoid politics developed in the context of a controversy among French Catholics over the question of Action Française, as explained in detail by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais. The events from that historical period, especially as they developed during the Second World War, help to clarify the current controversy regarding Archbishop Viganò and Roberto de Mattei. As discussed already in Part I, the Church during the War was threatened by two totalitarian regimes, those of Hitler and Stalin. Catholics of the time were divided in their opinions and were found on both sides of the conflict, but it was Pope Pius XII who had to decide the response of the universal Church. In principle the Church remained above the conflict, but Pius XII needed to determine whether Nazism or Russian Communism constituted the more immediate threat. Pius XII’s predecessor Pius XI in the encyclical Divini Redemptoris taught that Catholics could not cooperate with Communism, but the Allies in their conflict with Nazism included Russia. Pius XII therefore had to make a decision, and the Vatican authorized a bishop in the United States to issue a statement indicating that such an alliance would be legitimate under the circumstances.3 Those questioning such a decision of Pius XII would likely do so on the assumption that Communism was a greater threat than Nazism, and that Hitler had fought against Stalin and therefore had represented an anti-Communist force. However, as Roberto de Mattei points out in his biography of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, the latter had argued at the time that if Hitler were truly anti-Communist, he would not have maintained his occupation of the Western front at the expense of resisting Russian expansion on the Eastern front. As explained by Prof. de Mattei, “Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira emphasized how, faced with the impossibility of victory, Hitler tried to open the road to the Soviets rather than to the Western allies.”4 In other words, Hitler was the exact opposite of being a leader in the fight against Communism. A similar situation presents itself today, and has come to the forefront in the controversy between Archbishop Viganò and Prof. de Mattei. The question that currently presents itself is this: Which is the greater threat to the Church in our time – Russia, or a morally decadent West? This problem now divides Catholics in a way analogous to the manner in which Catholics held divided opinions about Communism and Nazism during the Second World War. Days before his articles speculating about a ghostwriter or a double, influencing Archbishop Viganò, Prof. de Mattei had outlined the context of his reasoning on this point in another article. Russian writer Aleksandr Dugin had participated in a conference with Archbishop Viganò devoted to opposition to the Covid vaccine. Roberto de Mattei logically perceived that more was involved than simply the vaccine. He followed the initial article with another one that compared Aleksandr Dugin to George Soros, calling them two sides of the same coin, and suggesting that an alliance with neither one is possible. The underlying question in the current controversy, therefore, is whether it is appropriate to make an alliance with a Russian such as Aleksandr Dugin in order to oppose the abortion-tainted vaccines being promoted by Western governments and corporations. Bishop Athanasius Schneider in Christus Vincit has discussed in some detail the question of Russia under Putin in a chapter titled “Beyond the West.”5 He gives arguments in favor of a more positive understanding of current Russia, but without attempting to fully resolve the question. Instead he implicitly defers to the role of the laity in addressing strictly political questions, by citing the book Revolution and Counter-Revolution of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. It is the political analysis of the latter that Roberto de Mattei now seeks to apply to the present political crisis. Prof. de Mattei does this by comparing Aleksandr Dugin with George Soros, just as Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira at the time of World War II had analyzed the similarities between Stalin and Hitler. In this context Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira had also contrasted the anarchy of liberalism in the form of individualism with the totalitarianism of socialism, arguing that both are incompatible with the Catholic Faith. But Catholics at the time of the War were divided over which constituted the more imminent threat, as mentioned above in reference to the leadership of Pope Pius XII. During the war, liberalism was represented by the Western democracies, whereas Nazism and Fascism presented themselves as reactions to liberalism. In this context, Bishop Tissier de Mallerais acknowledges the problem with the phrase “Politics First” (Politique d’abord) used by Charles Maurras of the Action Française,6 who was supported by a large numbers of French Catholics. Charles Maurras as a monarchist led the French reaction to the errors of liberal democracy, but totalitarianism, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira had categorically argued at the time, is not the cure for liberal democracy.7 Archbishop Viganò’s critical references to liberal democracy, combined with his association with Aleksandr Dugin – who has used such a critique of democracy in order to promote his own anti-Western ideology – serves to explain the reaction of Roberto de Mattei, who sees Archbishop Viganò as being influenced by others. Our purpose in this article has been to analyze the nature of that influence. By following the doctrine of St. Robert Bellarmine – regarding the hierarchy’s indirect rather than direct authority over political affairs – one can rightfully defend Archbishop Vigano’s leadership role in the present crisis in the Church, but without interpreting his political statements as a comprehensive and final analysis of the various questions he treats. That role, the Church has always taught, is proper to the laity. If Archbishop Vigano’s statements display the influence of certain political schools of thought, an analytical approach to both his commentaries as well as those of Prof. de Mattei leaves open the door to the reconciliation of their positions. For both are opposed to the totalitarian threats currently working against the Church. But they differ in their ecclesiastical and political affiliations, which are different and manifest undeniable influences on both of their positions. The purpose of these articles has been to try to better understand those influences, and the first step is to recognize that they exist. _______________________
1 Cf. Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, The Biography: Marcel Lefebvre (Kansas City, MO: Angelus Press, 2004), p. 49: “…he ‘had wanted to avoid talking politics’ says his sister Christiane.” Bishop Tissier de Mallerais further explains that after the condemnation of the political movement Action Française by Pope Pius XI, “Marcel personally avoided talking politics all the more.” French edition (Clovis, 2002), “Le silence de Marcel Lefebvre,” p. 60.
2 “This lay movement inside the Church was growing independently of Archbishop Lefebvre’s work, and today it is continuing to grow in strength and numbers in response to the pontificate of Pope Francis.” Bishop Athanasius Schneider in conversation with Diane Montagna, Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph over the Darkness of the Age (Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2019), pp. 125-126.
3 Cf. Anthony Rhodes, The Vatican in the Age of the Dictators (1922-1945) (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1973), p. 263.
4 Roberto de Mattei, The Crusader of the 20th Century: Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira (Leominster: Gracewing, 1998), p. 62.
5 Bishop Athanasius Schneider, op. cit, pp. 193-215.
6 Cf. Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, op. cit, English edition, pp. 47-48; French edition, p. 58. A critique of the philosophical positions of Action Française from a traditional Catholic perspective is provided in a work by the Argentine TFP: El Nacionalismo: una incógnita en constante evolución [Nationalism: An Unknown in Constant Evolution] (Buenos Aires: Colección Tradición, Familia y Propriedad, 1970).
7 The thought of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira was a culmination of the Catholic counter-revolutionary thought that developed in the nineteenth century, the representatives of which he acknowledged in his book Revolution and Counter-Revolution. Prominent among them was Juan Donoso Cortés, whose work Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism provides a fundamental analysis of the common roots of liberal individualism and socialism, the former paving the way for the latter.