The Vatican, however, has not spoken.
One possible reason for the silence is that Church leaders, including Pope Francis, might simply not grasp how much influence Viganò has. The archbishop's reach is impossible to judge completely, but his letters and interviews are the regular fodder for a set of websites and YouTube channels with very large audiences, and after the archbishop was endorsed by President Trump last month, he has become a figure of awe among the web of QAnon conspiracy theorists.
Most of his influence is online; he has no official power whatsoever, and the Holy See might simply not appreciate how many people read and revere the archbishop. But for a certain set of Catholics, Viganò is among the trusted figures in the Church, and his influence on them is considerable.
The archbishop's admirers are not just fringe figures. A sitting U.S. diocesan bishop signed onto Viganò's open letter accusing shadowy authorities of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to usher in a one-world government, and the U.S. president has invoked an open letter from Viganò as a kind of institutional Catholic endorsement.
Vatican authorities might be hoping Viganò goes away quietly, but that seems increasingly unlikely, especially if the archbishop and his supporters are emboldened by a positive response to his recent turn against the Second Vatican Council, and towards the American political landscape.
It is also unlikely that Viganò will go away quietly if, as some observers have speculated, the archbishop is being supported by a Catholic faction with a clear objective and, through Viganò, a mouthpiece. How Viganò is supporting himself, and where he is now living, are matters only of speculation. But there is a point worth noting about the archbishop's recent missives.
Viganò is a lawyer who worked as a government official and a diplomat. He is not a theologian. He is, by many accounts, a practical man, more inclined to get things done than to wax philosophic. But his writing has taken an uncharacteristic turn towards the theological arguments of those who reject the Second Vatican Council, and it displays surprising familiarity with those arguments. If the Holy See does decide to investigate Viganò's publications, it might consider the circumstances in which they have been written, and what kind of "assistance," and from whom, Viganò has received.
The Holy See might also be reflexively disinclined to address Viganò because, for all his peculiarities, he is still an archbishop and a retired high ranking diplomatic figure. In the system of Vatican court etiquette, admonishing him openly would be something of a brutta figura. One aspect of clericalism is a near ironclad unspoken commitment among bishops to avoid publicly criticizing one another, and that may be a factor in discomfort with responding to Viganò's claims.
But beyond clericalism, the Holy See might be disinclined to any kind of open criticism if it has sincere concerns for the archbishop's health, or his personal circumstances.
Finally, there is the uncomfortable fact that Viganò's more substantive claims - those regarding McCarrick - have not yet been addressed.
A criticism of the archbishop's theological missives could come across as a very selective responsiveness, especially given that many Catholics, not just the pope's critics, know that questions regarding Amoris Laetitia have also gone unanswered. Ultimately, though, it seems unlikely that optics are a major factor in the Holy See's considerations of the Viganò situation, because, quite simply, its communications apparatus does not usually seem to engage public issues with that level of tactical analysis.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Whatever the reason, the voice of Archbishop Viganò has become influential among a broad swath of Catholics, who are now hearing from the archbishop that an ecumenical council should be rejected. Viganò is speaking more frequently, and more boldly. Whether the pope, and the Holy See, will decide that now is the time to say a "single word," or more, remains to be seen.