The cardinal did not respond.
Weeks before that letter, in April, Viganò gave an interview in which he declared that the Vatican has been for decades concealing the third secret of Fatima, despite the publication in 2000 of the third part of Mary’s message from the apparition at Fatima, by order of Pope St. John Paul II, and despite an accompanying theological commentary written by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI.
Speculation that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI lied about releasing the message of Fatima is a common topic among Catholic sedevacantists and other conspiracy theorists.
Kevin Symonds, author of a book on the third part of the Fatima message, wrote subsequently that Viganò’s “grasp of the details is not very precise,” and, under scrutiny, “quickly breaks down.”
“Archbishop Viganò’s remarks indicate a lack of knowledge on the history of the third part of the secret of Fátima. The archbishop faces a grave danger: uninformed statements undermining his credibility,” Symonds added.
Having discussed both Fatima and the coronavirus pandemic already, in June Viganò penned his missive on Trump, and a letter on the Second Vatican Council.
That letter criticized ecumenical and interreligious efforts of Pope St. John Paul, claiming that pope’s Assisi prayer gatherings “initiated a deviant succession of pantheons that were more or less official, even to the point of seeing Bishops carrying the unclean idol of the pachamama on their shoulders, sacrilegiously concealed under the pretext of being a representation of sacred motherhood.”
The archbishop also criticized specific documents of the Council, calling them “root causes” of contemporary issues.
“If the pachamama could be adored in a church, we owe it to Dignitatis Humanae [Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom]…. If the Abu Dhabi Declaration was signed, we owe it to Nostra Aetate [Vatican II’s Declaration on non-Christian religions].”
Listing his concerns about Church in the modern world, including “the democratization of the Church,” “the demolition of the ministerial priesthood,” “the demythologization of the Papacy,” and “the progressive legitimization of all that is politically correct: gender theory, sodomy, homosexual marriage, Malthusian doctrines, ecologism, immigrationism,” Viganò attributed each of them to the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
“If we do not recognize that the roots of these deviations are found in the principles laid down by the Council, it will be impossible to find a cure: if our diagnosis persists, against all the evidence, in excluding the initial pathology, we cannot prescribe a suitable therapy.”
Most significantly, Viganò suggested that the Second Vatican Council catalyzed a massive, but unseen, schism in the Church, ushering in a false Church alongside the true Church.
“It is undeniable that from Vatican II onwards a parallel church was built, superimposed over and diametrically opposed to the true Church of Christ. This parallel church progressively obscured the divine institution founded by Our Lord in order to replace it with a spurious entity.”
The claim that there can be distinguished a pure form of the Church distinct from the Catholic communion of sacraments, magisterial teaching, and hierarchical governance is described by some theologians as a kind of donatism, a heresy addressed by St. Augustine in the 5th century.
Vatican II, Viganò claimed, has led to a “serious apostasy to which the highest levels of the Hierarchy are exposed.”
The archbishop did not specify those Church leaders whom he believes are “exposed” to apostasy, which is the total repudiation of the Catholic faith.
In a June 3 letter, however, Viganò singled out Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who the day before had criticized Trump. Gregory’s Archdiocese of Washington, Viganò wrote, “has been and continues to be deeply afflicted and wounded by false shepherds whose way of life is full of lies, deceits, lust and corruption. Wherever they have been, they were a cause of serious scandal for various local Churches, for your entire country and for the whole Church.”
Viganò also urged Washington, DC Catholics to disobey Gregory.
“Do not follow them, as they lead you to perdition. They are mercenaries. They teach and practice falsehoods and corruption,” Vigano wrote, without offering additional or specific information.
No U.S. bishops have yet spoken publicly about Viganò’s recent letters, a fact that some critics have attributed to an aspect of clerical culture in which bishops are reluctant to criticize one another in public.
Viganò, however, has not been reticent to criticize fellow bishops in recent years.
The archbishop made international headlines in August 2018, when he published an 11-page “testament” accusing several senior bishops of complicity in covering up the sexual abuse of McCarrick, claiming that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI, but chose to repeal them.
In the months that followed, some aspects of Viganò’s claims were vindicated, though in some cases it became clear that Vigano’s language was imprecise or exaggerated. Other aspects of his claims are likely to be unverifiable unless the Vatican addresses them in its comprehensive report on McCarrick, whose release has been anticipated for months.
But Viganò’s original missive also called for the resignation of Pope Francis, and made allegations about the sexual orientation and activities of numerous church leaders, suggesting a homosexual “current” or network of bishops who assured mutual promotion and protection of one another.
When his first letter was published, numerous bishops, including leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference, called for investigation into the claims made by Vigano about McCarrick. Several U.S. bishops vouched for the archbishop’s integrity, while others called aspects of his letter into question.
Viganò subsequently went into “hiding,” apparently in response to threats against his life. The archbishop is believed by some to be living with family members in the United States. He makes himself available only to selected media outlets, and, apart from additional open letters and selected interviews, does not usually respond to questions about his claims.
The archbishop released a second letter the month after his first, criticizing the pope’s response to his initial letter, and suggesting that certain Church leaders, including Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, had information that would corroborate his claims.
After exchanging additional public and polemical correspondence with Ouellet, Viganò began releasing letters on varied topics, including the conclave that elected Pope Francis, 2019’s pan-Amazonian synod, and other issues. While the archbishop continued to write, his letters did not continue to attract the level of attention that his initial correspondence had, and took on increasingly apocalyptic tones.
Cardinal Gerhard Muller, former prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has criticized Viganò’s letters, noting that “attacks” like Viganò’s letter “end up questioning the credibility of the Church and her mission.”
“No one has the right to indict the pope or ask him to resign!” Muller added.
Viganòs letters were initially met with a great deal of public support among lay and clerical U.S. Catholics, sparking even a line of coffee mugs and t-shirts which declared their owners part of “Team Viganò.”
By late 2019, however, Viganò’s new letters attracted attention mostly among traditionalist Catholic websites or supporters of his call for the resignation of Pope Francis. He did again not garner considerable mainstream Catholic attention again until controversy surrounding a disagreement with Cardinal Sarah over his coronavirus letter, and his subsequently released letters, including the one addressed to Trump.
Viganò, 79, is retired from any official ecclesiastical position. A longtime member of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, he worked in positions in the government of the Vatican City State before, in 2011, he became apostolic nuncio, or papal representative, to the U.S. He held that position until 2016.
Viganò is accused, during his time as nuncio, of mishandling an investigation into former St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt, although Vigano denied charges that he ordered the investigation closed prematurely, and Bishop Andrew Cozzens, an auxiliary bishop in the Twin Cities, said in 2018 those charges were a misunderstanding.
Before he went to the U.S., Viganò was embroiled in controversy surrounding allegations of corruption in the Vatican City State, and was also involved in a family legal battle with his brother, also a priest, over the management of their father’s estate. Viganò was charged with withholding portions of a family inheritance from his brother, although family members have offered conflicting reports of the archbishop's role in the affair.
For his part, Trump has faced criticism himself from some Catholics in recent weeks.
The president was criticized June 9 after he suggested on Twitter that Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old activist who was hospitalized after being pushed to the ground by Buffalo police officers, might have been an “ANTIFA provocateur.” Gugino is active in the Catholic Worker Movement founded by Servant of God Dorothy Day.
On June 2, Trump made a visit to the St. John Paul II National Shrine amid controversy over his response to George Floyd protests Archbishop Gregory roundly condemned the visit, which in turn prompted Viganò’s denunciation of Gregory.
At the same time, the president's June 2 signing of an executive order on international religious liberty has drawn praise from bishops and religious freedom advocates in some parts of the world.
Viganò’s letter to Trump has attracted attention in the QAnon community, a social media based group of conspiracy theorists who believe that Trump is under attack by the “deep state” in an apocalyptic war of good against evil, in which Trump is using the presidency to wage a secret war against a global ring of Satanic pedophiles.
Since Trump’s tweet about Viganò, some figures in the QAnon community have characterized Viganò’s letter as a confirmation of the group’s theories.
No U.S. bishops have yet responded to Trump’s tweet of Viganò’s letter, or to the letter itself.