by Luiz Sérgio Solimeo
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò had a successful ecclesiastical career in Vatican diplomacy. His last assignment was the prestigious post of apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Once retired, he criticized errors in the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo of the Mass. He also denounced the immorality of high-ranking prelates and disagreed with many attitudes of Pope Francis. These and other stands have made him a reference point for many conservative Catholics.
Archbishop Viganò is a cultured and intelligent man. He holds doctorates in Canon and Civil Law1 and is a trained Vatican diplomat. Accordingly, one could expect his continual and lengthy pronouncements to reflect the razor-sharp precision of a canonist and the prudent subtlety of an ambassador. However, for reasons that are difficult to understand, his more recent writings do not reflect a judicious tone. Instead, they increasingly resemble the rhetoric of a populist tribune in which emotional excitement prevails over the serene and well-reasoned analysis of facts and doctrine.2
It Is Not the West’s Fault that Russia Invaded Ukraine
His messages—always addressed urbi et orbi—deal with every topic of the day, from American presidential elections, when he “anointed” one of the candidates, to the pandemic, which he dismisses as “the Covid deception.”3
While His Excellency has the right to present his opinion on current events and problems, including Russia’s war on Ukraine, his thoughts are not always based on the facts or supported by good logic. Frequently, fundamental premises required to form a correct opinion are absent from his analyses.
This paragraph from his recent “Declaration on the Russia-Ukraine Crisis” summarizes well what he sees as just motives for the invasion:
If we look at what is happening in Ukraine, without being misled by the gross falsifications of the mainstream media, we realize that respect for each other’s rights has been completely ignored; indeed, we have the impression that the Biden Administration, NATO and the European Union deliberately want to maintain a situation of obvious imbalance, precisely to make impossible any attempt at a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, provoking the Russian Federation to trigger a conflict. Herein lies the seriousness of the problem. This is the trap set for both Russia and Ukraine, using both of them to enable the globalist elite to carry out its criminal plan.4
The claim that the West has forced the “Russian Federation to trigger a conflict,” that is, the brutal invasion, is baseless. Neither the U.S., N.A.T.O., nor the E.U. made any threat to invade Putin’s Russia.
For His Excellency, Putin was also forced to invade Ukraine by Jewish billionaires who sold their homeland to the corrupt Western world: “These Ukrainian billionaires wearing kippahs are those who are selling out Ukraine to the corrupted and corrupting West, trading their own well-being for the enslavement of their compatriots to the usurers who are taking over the world, using the same ruthless and immoral systems everywhere.”5
Putin, who spent his entire career in the fearsome KGB, does not hide his communist ideology. Speaking to some followers in 2016, he said he still has his Communist Party card and that “I still really like the communist and socialist ideas.” For him, such ideas are “like the Bible.” (“Putin Still Has His Communist Party Card, Likes Socialist Ideals,” AFP, Jan. 25, 2016, https://news.yahoo.com/putin-still-communist-party-card-likes-socialist-ideals-183734163.html?fr=yhssrp_catchall.)
Archbishop Viganò Disregards the Immorality of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
Oddly, the learned and experienced archbishop fails to address the moral aspects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The basic principles of natural law and Catholic doctrine on just war are ignored, and every attempt made to justify the Russian invasion. However, the first thing a Catholic would expect from a bishop is guidance on what to think of this conflict from the perspective of Catholic morals. Is Russia morally justified in its war on Ukraine or not?
Unfortunately, the reading of Archbishop Viganò’s “Declaration” leads us to the sad conclusion that he does not offer principled guidelines in this moment of dark confusion. The populist rhetoric of the former apostolic nuncio is confusing and misleading the faithful—especially the conservatives who trust him.
Principles of Natural Law and Catholic Doctrine on Just War
To make up for the archbishop’s omission, let us recall some principles of natural law and Catholic doctrine on just war. Summarizing natural law and Catholic doctrine, Fr. Francisco de Vitoria, O.P. (1492–1546), considered “the founder of international law,” gives the reasons why war is just or unjust:
FIRST, difference of religion cannot be a cause of just war. . . .
SECOND, enlargement of empire cannot be a cause of just war. . . .
THIRD, the personal glory or convenience of the prince is not a cause of just war. . . .
FOURTH, the sole and only just cause for waging war is when harm has been inflicted. . . .
FIFTH, not every or any injury gives sufficient grounds for waging war.6
Saint Thomas Aquinas summarizes the requirements for a just war as follows:
— It must be declared by legitimate authority.
— The cause must be just.
— It must be waged with good intention.7
Moreover, for a war to be just, there must be no other means of recovering a good unjustly appropriated by another nation, avenging a serious affront, or forestalling an invasion about to begin or one that has already begun. Additionally, all reasonable diplomatic means to resolve the dispute must have been exhausted before starting armed action.8
Theologians also highlight the principle of proportionality. Besides a just cause, a summons by legitimate authority, and an upright intention, there must be proportion between the good to be recovered or preserved, the unjust situation to be remedied or prevented, and the evils that necessarily come with war, particularly the number of deaths.
As mentioned in a previous article, “The reasons alleged by the Russian autocrat to invade Ukraine do not pass muster. He failed to respect any natural law principles that justify the waging of war.”9
The Real Threat that Archbishop Viganò Does Not Seem to See
The mere possibility of the U.S., N.A.T.O., or the E.U. invading Russia in the future is not a just motive for Putin to invade Ukraine.
However, not only did Putin invade Ukraine for absurd reasons, but he also brutally threatened any country that, following the mandates of Christian justice and charity, wants to help Ukraine defend itself from the unjust attack. Pope Pius XII justifies such help.10 Here is the Russian autocrat’s threat: “Whoever tries to interfere with us, and even more so, to create threats for our country, for our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences that you have never experienced in your history. We are ready for any development of events. All necessary decisions in this regard have been made.”11
Is he suggesting the use of nuclear weapons?
“An Appeal to the Third Rome” Runs Counter to the Fatima Message
There would be many other things to say about the archbishop’s “Declaration,” given the immorality of Russia’s unjust war on Ukraine. However, his most serious flaw is the abandonment of the Catholic Church as the only hope for the world.
Indeed, the former apostolic nuncio seems to place his trust in the schismatic and heretical Russian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which he accepts as the “Third Rome.”
Russian schismatics consider Moscow the Third Rome and the Russian Church the true Church of Christ. According to them, the First Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire, the Holy See of Saint Peter, and the center of the Catholic Church. They claim that Catholic Rome fell into heresy and thereby lost its primacy, which passed to Byzantium, capital of the Roman Empire of the East, later Constantinople, which, they say, became the Second Rome. When this city fell to the Turks in 1453, the primacy passed to Moscow, the last and Third Rome, the center of the Russian Church, “which should inherit the prerogatives of the first and the second.”12
In her Fatima message, Our Lady said that Russia would convert to the Catholic Church. Archbishop Viganò seems to think the opposite, that the West and the Catholic Church herself will convert to the Third Rome, in other words, to schism and heresy.
That is absurd. It is shocking to see it being suggested by a Catholic bishop. Here are Archbishop Viganò’s words in full:
An appeal to the Third Rome
The world crisis with which the dissolution of traditional society is being prepared has also involved the Catholic Church, whose hierarchy is held hostage by apostates who are courtiers of power… Perhaps Providence has ordained that Moscow, the Third Rome, will today in the sight of the world take on the role of κατέχον [Katechon] (2 Thess 2:6-7), of eschatological obstacle to the Antichrist.13 If the errors of communism were spread by the Soviet Union, even to the point of imposing themselves within the Church, Russia and Ukraine can today have an epochal role in the restoration of Christian Civilization, contributing to bringing the world a period of peace from which the Church too will rise again purified and renewed in her Ministers.14
The Russian Church’s Nationalism
Stefano Caprio, a priest and professor of Russian History and Culture at Rome’s Pontifical Oriental Institute, received this question from journalist Leone Grotti: “Why is the Russian Orthodox Church historically so tied to political power?”
Fr. Caprio answered: “It would take too long to give an exhaustive answer; let’s say they are together from the very origin of Russia. Even during the Soviet Union, when the Orthodox Church was persecuted, Stalin decided to dust it off during Hitler’s invasion to rekindle the patriotic spirit. Thus was born the church of Stalin, a former seminarian who as a child dreamed of becoming the patriarch of Georgia. And Kirill, as a young monk, was raised by Stalin’s group of metropolitans.”15
Bohdan Oghulchanskij is a Ukrainian with “almost thirty years of experience of priesthood, including a long tenure in the Moscow Patriarchate.” He shows the role played by the Russian schismatic church in Russian nationalism: “Religious exceptionalism, self-identification as ‘Holy Russia,’ ‘The Third Rome, and the Fourth cannot be,’ resided in the Russian religious consciousness. . . . [N]ationalism, as many researchers note, is very characteristic of Orthodoxy. . . . [I]n Russia, Orthodoxy has always been an instrument of the imperial state.”16
The Russian Church and the KGB
In 1992, Russian investigative journalist Yevgenia Albats published KGB: State Within a State—The Secret Police and Its Hold On Russia’s Past, Present and Future, a book based on documents from KGB archives (made available during the Perestroika years) and interviews with former secret police agents.17
The book shows how the communist regime’s secret police—under various names, but most famously as the KGB—is who held power in the Soviet Union. It infiltrated every sector, had discretionary power over people, was feared by all, and nothing was done without its assent. Dr. Albats writes: “[W]e must understand that the KGB was—and in a way still is—one of the most powerful and important components of the oligarchy that ran the USSR, and still runs Russia.”18
Contrary to popular belief, the KGB was not extinguished. It just changed its name. Dr. Albats continues: “It’s not that I think that these people are about to announce that communism is being restored. No, they’re more likely to install a Russian version, not necessarily extreme, of national socialism. Their ideology will be a mixture of Russian Orthodoxy and Russian nationalism. We’ve seen over the past couple of years how energetically the Orthodox Church has joined the secular political fray, gradually installing itself in the niche grudgingly abandoned by the Party.”19
Is this not what we are witnessing with Putin and his murky “socialist traditionalism,” being backed as he is by Kirill, the current “patriarch” of the Russian Church?
According to documents from KGB archives, Patriarch Kirill’s codename in the secret police was “Mikhailov,” and that of his predecessor, Alexy II, was “Drozdov.”20
Furthermore, the frightful Cheka, the first Bolshevik political police, already recommended in 1921: “Use the clergy themselves for our own purposes, especially those who occupy an important position in Church life, for example, bishops or metropolitans.”21 Albats states further: “According to Konstantin Kharchev, former chairman of the Council on Religious Affairs of the USSR Council of Ministers, ‘Not a single candidate for the office of bishop or any other high-ranking office, much less a member of the Holy Synod, went through without confirmation by the Central Committee of the CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union] and the KGB.’”22
How can Archbishop Viganò place his hopes in a Third Rome that has served the KGB for so long?
“If They Do Not Stop Offending God”
There is no mention of Fatima in Archbishop Viganò’s “Declaration.” There is no mention of Our Lady either. Nevertheless, in Fatima, the Mother of God was very clear that wars are a chastisement for sin. She said: “The [First World] war will come to an end. But if they [men] do not stop offending God, in the reign of Pius XI a worse war will begin. . . . He [Our Lord] will punish the world for its crimes by means of war, hunger and persecutions against the Church and the Holy Father.”
And the Blessed Mother continues: “To prevent it I will come to ask the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are fulfilled, Russia will convert and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer and many nations will be annihilated.”
Our Lady ends her message with a promise of hope: “Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she will be converted and the world will be given a certain period of peace.”23
We must place our confidence in the words of the Most Holy Virgin, fidelity to the Catholic Church, and conversion to a virtuous life, never in a heretical, schismatic, and KGB-controlled Third Rome.
Let us pray for Ukraine. Let us pray for Russia. Let us pray for the world to convert. There is no hope outside of conversion and filial obedience to Mary Most Holy.
This article was already written when the Matt Fradd show interviewed Ukrainian Catholic priest Fr. Jason Charron. The pastor of Holy Trinity Ukranian Catholic Church, in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, denounces and demolishes the fallacies in Archbishop Viganò’s “Declaration on the Russia-Ukraine Crisis.” The video interview is available on the site From Rome.24