(Brian McCall, CFN – September 1, 2020) Catholic Family News is happy to report that His Grace, Carlo Maria Viganò, has sent us a letter today replying to the important questions which CFN contributor Stephen Kokx respectfully posed in his recent article, “Questions for Viganò: His Excellency is Right about Vatican II, But What Does He Think Catholics Should Do Now?” In his detailed reply, Archbishop Viganò demonstrates that he is a true shepherd who cares for the confused and abandoned sheep of our time. He provides clear and practical answers for the increasing number of Catholics whose eyes are being opened to the Conciliar Revolution. In his prior interventions, Archbishop Viganò has accurately diagnosed the cause of the current crisis and identified the ultimate cure for it — the casting aside of the Conciliar texts. In today’s letter, His Excellency advises what practical treatment members of the Church Militant can utilize to inoculate themselves against the deadly errors of the Conciliar and post-Conciliar period so that their faith can survive until that ultimate cure is administered by a future holy pope.
The archbishop begins by clearly refuting those who have mischaracterized his prior interventions as advocating that Catholics break with the Church or refuse to acknowledge the occupants of hierarchical offices (as do the Sedevacantists). He delineates the need both to refuse any admixture with the Modernist errors and to remain firmly within the Church: “While it is clear that no admixture is possible with those who propose adulterated doctrines of the conciliar ideological manifesto, it should be noted that the simple fact of being baptized and of being living members of the Church of Christ does not imply adherence to the conciliar team; this is true above all for the simple faithful and also for secular and regular clerics who, for various reasons, sincerely consider themselves Catholics and recognize the Hierarchy. “
His Excellency turns the question back on the Modernists of today, who try to claim that the defenders of Tradition, such as His Grace, have broken “full” communion with the Church. With respect to churchmen who “embrace the heterodox doctrines that have spread over these decades, with the awareness that these represent a rupture with the preceding Magisterium,” he reassures the faithful that it is “licit to doubt their real adherence to the Catholic Church, in which however they hold official roles that confer authority on them. It is an illicitly exercised authority, if its purpose is to force the faithful to accept the revolution imposed since the Council.” In a clear refutation of Sedevacantist claims, he urges the faithful: “[L]et us not give in to the temptation to abandon – albeit with justified indignation – the Catholic Church, on the pretext that it has been invaded by heretics and fornicators: it is they who must be expelled from the sacred enclosure, in a work of purification and penance….”
In explaining how he understands that members of what he calls the “conciliar sect” can remain in hierarchical offices, His Excellency explains that he accepts the theory of Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais that there are two entities coexisting in the Church. The Church of Christ coexists together with the “strange extravagant Church … like wheat with the tare, in the Roman Curia, in dioceses, in parishes.” We must acknowledge this sad state but we “cannot judge our pastors for their intentions, nor suppose that all of them are corrupt in faith and morals….”
He urges the same path as the one which Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre pointed out many decades ago, the path that is mockingly labeled by Sedevacantists as “Recognize and Resist”. Just as we must avoid the perverted “obeisance of the court” and blindly adhere to novelties, we must also avoid the rejection of authority advocated by the Sedevacantists. He explains: “We must not rebel, but oppose; we must not be pleased with the errors of our pastors, but pray for them and admonish them respectfully; we must not question their authority but the way in which they use it.”
Right and Duty to Avoid New Mass Parishes: It’s About More Than the Latin Mass
Yet, do Catholics have the right to separate themselves from their geographical parish if it does not offer the sacraments according to the traditional rites and sound Catholic education? He unambiguously affirms that “faithful laity have the right and the duty to find priests, communities and institutes that are faithful to the perennial Magisterium. And may they know how to accompany the laudable celebration of the liturgy in the Ancient Rite with adherence to sound doctrine and morals, without any subsidence on the front of the Council.” It is important that Archbishop Viganò declares this avoidance of New Mass parishes not only a right but also a duty. That means it is not just permissible to do so if one prefers a Latin Mass, but for those who understand what is at stake it constitutes an obligation, a duty. He also makes clear that what the faithful need to find is not simply a place in which they can attend the Traditional Mass. Their duty is to find a place that offers the Ancient Rite together with sound doctrine that does not sink into (“subsidence”) the Council.
His Grace underscores this inherent connection that must exist between the Mass and doctrine by the term he uses several times to refer to the Traditional Mass. He calls it simply the “Catholic Rite”. He eschews the ambiguous and inaccurate term “extraordinary form of the Roman Rite”. He makes clear that priests should offer the Catholic Rite not merely “to preserve the extraordinary form of the rite, but to testify to adherence to the depositum fidei that finds perfect correspondence only in the Ancient Rite.” The adverb “only” is extremely significant. The Old Mass is not merely an optional choice among two equal forms (new and old). It is the “only” one that perfectly corresponds to the Deposit of Faith (depositum fidei).
What Are Clerics To Do?
His Grace acknowledges the more complex situation of clerics. On one hand, clerics have less agility than the laity in seeking a place in the Church to remain Catholic because they must be subject to ecclesiastical superiors. Yet, they have greater freedom as they can at any time legitimately “celebrate the Mass and administer the Sacraments in the Tridentine Rite and … preach in conformity with sound doctrine.” (Again, note the connection between liturgy and doctrine.) His Grace makes clear that clerics must avoid both the mistake of abandoning the visible Church to set up their own church as well as the opposite error of simply conforming to the New Mass and novel doctrine to avoid persecution. Clerics must remain in the Church and remain faithful to the Catholic Rite and the true doctrine, even at the cost of persecution, which he acknowledges they will suffer as did the few faithful clerics in the time of the Arian heresy.
He makes clear that priests must celebrate only “the Tridentine Mass and preach sound doctrine,” but explains that truth cannot be preached if a priest never mentions the Council. He acknowledges that fulfilling these three duties (offering only the Catholic Rite, preaching the truth, and calling out the errors of the Council) may result in the priest being thrown out of his parish. But he reminds such persecuted priests: “No one can ever prevent you from renewing the Holy Sacrifice, even if it is on a makeshift altar in a cellar or an attic….” Priests must be willing to suffer such persecution for the Church. He urges faithful priests not to fear being called false names: “Let’s stop fearing that the fault of the schism lies with those who denounce it, and not, instead, with those who carry it out: the ones who are schismatics and heretics are those who wound and crucify the Mystical Body of Christ, not those who defend it by denouncing the executioners!”
What Are the Laity To Do?
As noted earlier, His Grace makes clear that the laity have a right and duty to receive the traditional sacraments and true doctrine. They must seek out ministers who will provide them and avoid ministers “contaminated by present errors.” Yet, he makes clear that the laity must do more than avail themselves of such good priests for their own spiritual benefit. They also have a “sacred task”. They must “comfort good priests and good bishops” and “[g]ive them hospitality, help them, console them in their trials.” Just as he put his finger so accurately on the Conciliar errors, His Grace also diagnoses a danger in Traditionalist communities that must be avoided, namely, the sowing of division. He calls on the laity to build communities “in which murmuring and division do not predominate, but rather fraternal charity in the bond of Faith.”
What About the Society of Saint Pius X?
Perhaps as a more concrete answer to the question about where are we to turn, Archbishop Viganò reveals for the first time his thoughts regarding the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. He believes the SSPX “deserves recognition for not having allowed the flame of Tradition to be extinguished….” He reveals that he considers them to be “a healthy thorn in the side” of the Modernist hierarchy and credits them for shining a light on “the contradictions and errors of the conciliar sect.” He appears to condone the consecration of bishops without a written papal mandate in 1988 when he observes that these consecrations made it possible for the Society “to protect herself from the furious attack of the Innovators.” His Grace refers to the punishments inflicted upon the Archbishop and his Society (the alleged claim of his excommunication, for example) not as acts of justice but rather those of “persecution.” He believes that Archbishop Lefebvre’s critique of the Council is “more relevant than ever.” Rather than considering Lefebvre a “schismatic” or “excommunicate,” Archbishop Viganò calls him “an exemplary confessor of the Faith.”
Looking Forward with Hope to the Resurrection of the Church
Like Archbishop Lefebvre before him, Archbishop Viganò combines his clear-sighted diagnosis of the Conciliar disease with a true Catholic peace of soul that trusts firmly in God. After taking note that clerics and laity alike are beginning to see the Conciliar nightmare for what it is, he looks forward to a necessary “awakening” that is “almost a resurrection“. Just as “no son tolerates his mother being outraged by the servants, or his father being tyrannized by the administrators of his goods,” so to the Lord “offers us, in these painful situations, the possibility of being His allies in fighting this holy battle under His banner.” Rather than becoming discouraged by unjust persecution, His Grace reminds us of the consolation that “the King Who is victorious over error and death” will “permits us to share the honor of triumphal victory and the eternal reward that derives from it, after having endured and suffered with Him.” He exhorts us to practice the virtue of fortitude. We must not lose hope. His texts concludes with great confidence that God will rescue us from this crisis: “I am certain, with a certainty that comes to me from Faith, that the Lord will not fail to reward our fidelity … granting us holy priests, holy bishops, holy cardinals, and above all a holy Pope.”
Here follows the complete text of Archbishop Vigano’s letter which can also be downloaded as a PDF here.