Vatican Excommunicates Far-Right Critic of Pope Francis

Vatican Excommunicates Far-Right Critic of Pope Francis

The Vatican has excommunicated Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former Vatican ambassador to the United States and a vocal critic of Pope Francis. The decision, announced on Friday, follows Viganò’s conviction for schism, a grave offense in canon law that signifies a formal split from the Catholic Church.

Viganò, who served as papal ambassador to Washington, D.C., from 2011 to 2016, has been a prominent figure in conservative Catholic circles. He has repeatedly criticized Pope Francis for his progressive stances on various issues, including immigration, LGBTQ rights, and COVID-19 vaccines. In 2018, Viganò went into hiding after publishing a letter accusing Pope Francis of covering up sexual abuse by American ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and calling for the Pope’s resignation.

The Vatican’s statement on Friday confirmed that Viganò was found guilty of schism for refusing to recognize the authority of the Pope and the reforms enacted after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. “The Most Reverend Carlo Maria Viganò was found guilty of the reserved delict [violation of the law] of schism,” the statement read.

In response to the excommunication, Viganò posted on X, linking to the decree sent to him by the Vatican. “What was attributed to me as guilt for my conviction is now put on record, confirming the Catholic Faith that I fully profess,” he wrote.

Viganò’s excommunication means he can no longer observe Mass, receive or administer sacraments, or hold official positions within the Church. However, he will retain his title. This move is part of a broader effort by Pope Francis to address dissent within the Church. Last year, the Pope dismissed Bishop Joseph Strickland from his diocese in Tyler, Texas, and evicted Cardinal Raymond Burke from his Vatican-subsidized apartment. Both were vocal critics of the Pope’s liberal reforms.

The Vatican’s decision to excommunicate Viganò underscores the deep divisions within the Catholic Church. Viganò has aligned himself with far-right conspiracy theories, criticizing COVID-19 vaccines and accusing Western “deep state” powers of igniting the war in Ukraine. His public statements have included calling Pope Francis a “false prophet” and a “servant of Satan.”

In June, the Vatican charged Viganò with schism and summoned him to Rome to appear before the tribunal responsible for religious discipline. Viganò refused the summons, stating that he did not recognize the tribunal’s authority. “I repudiate, reject, and condemn the scandals, errors, and heresies of Jorge Mario Bergoglio,” he said, using the Pope’s given name.

Viganò’s excommunication is a significant development in the ongoing struggle between traditionalist and progressive factions within the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has made efforts to modernize the Church and address issues such as climate change, social justice, and the rights of marginalized communities. These efforts have been met with resistance from conservative elements within the Church, who view the reforms as a departure from traditional Catholic doctrine.

The excommunication of Viganò is not an isolated incident. In 2022, Pope Francis defrocked the Rev. Frank Pavone, leader of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life, for “blasphemous communications on social media and persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop.” Pavone argued that he had not been properly notified of the decision and that the letter did not specify the communications or disobediences that led to the decision.

Viganò’s excommunication also highlights the broader context of schisms within the Church’s 2,000-year history. Schisms are considered particularly dangerous as they threaten the unity of the Church. Viganò’s actions have created a following of like-minded conservatives and traditionalists, further deepening the divide within the Church.

The Vatican’s decision to excommunicate Viganò is a clear message that dissent and refusal to recognize the authority of the Pope will not be tolerated. However, it also raises questions about the future of the Church and its ability to navigate the complex and often contentious issues facing modern society.

Viganò’s excommunication is a reminder of the challenges that Pope Francis faces in his efforts to modernize the Church and address pressing global issues. While the Pope has made significant strides in promoting social justice and inclusivity, the resistance from conservative factions within the Church remains a formidable obstacle.

As the Catholic Church continues to grapple with these internal divisions, the excommunication of Viganò serves as a stark reminder of the high stakes involved in the struggle for the soul of the Church. The outcome of this struggle will have profound implications not only for the future of the Catholic Church but also for its role in addressing the critical issues facing humanity today.

Source: UPI, BBC, The Guardian, AP News

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