Viganò, Schneider, Pachamama, & VCII (vs. Janet E. Smith)

Viganò, Schneider, Pachamama, & VCII (vs. Janet E. Smith) November 25, 2019

On 11-22-19, I posted my article, Bishops Viganò & Schneider Reject Authority of Vatican II (And Abp. Viganò Appears to Have Lost His Mind; Denies Indefectibility, Spews Ridiculous Tin Foil Hat Conspiracies).  Renowned Professor of moral theology, Janet E. Smith (whose work — especially regarding Humanae Vitae — I have greatly admired for years), cross-linked it on her public Facebook page, with her original caption: “What some people think.” The usual “feeding frenzy” (personal attacks from others) ensued, and then I attempted dialogue with her and (briefly) with one other person. Her words will be in blue; those of James Russell in green.


First, the purely personal attacks that commenced (just a few examples of some of the worst):

Brian Williams: D. Armstrong fell into the category of irrelevancy years ago. Much like Shea and other professional Patheos “writers”.

Matthew Francis: It is really fools like these: Armstrong, Eden, Shea, Ivereigh along with those clerics supporting a Church of Nice that excludes Christ and his teachings who are creating a de facto schism through their progressive Church.

Matthew Francis [to Mark Wilson]: I think DA is disingenuous and uncharitable in his critique. Vigano and Schneider have criticized the ambiguity in the documents when have led to the issues of today. 

I commented about this on my Facebook page:

She knows better than this. And now she is sitting there allowing bald-faced lies to spread about me that she knows [i.e., that I’m some flaming liberal] are not true.

Technically, she just posted my paper, and allowed the insults and ad hominem against me and others to fly on her page. But to me that is almost as bad. If one sits by and lets known lies be lobbed, then how is that much better than simply lying by yourself?

Then I started to interact with Janet herself:

What is it you think about all this, Janet? You must know that I’m no flaming liberal: I’m as orthodox as I can be (as much as you, I dare say). So why do you allow all this hogwash here, making out that I am, because I defend Vatican II?

Defending VII is one thing; attacking very good men with false charges is another. That article is intemperate, to say the least.

For instance you say Bishop Schneider rejected the authority of VII. He did no such thing – he spoke of confusion and ambiguity.

But the language you use and the insults you hurl! Yours is no measured critique of men who deserve our respect. Their critique of some of what the Pope has said and done is measured. Why are you going in the direction of an unhinged screed rather than a judicious analysis?

Isn’t it amazing how anything and everything is permitted in talking about the pope. None of that is ever “intemperate”: but let someone dare critique all the rotgut and we are “intemperate” and “attacking” persons, etc. I stand by every word of this post of mine. It wasn’t written in a rage; I was calm as a cucumber, as I am 99.9% of the time.

The point of my article was that opposition to Pope Francis goes much deeper than just any issues that are said to be about him: to a reactionary attitude that is against or too critical of Vatican II and the ordinary form Mass, and ecumenism.

I contend that Abp. Vigano has “dissed” Vatican II (I don’t think anyone here has even denied that; only denied that Bp. Schneider did), and that he has gone off the deep end with goofy conspiracy theories now, a la Taylor Marshall and Henry Sire. It’s now fashionable to make Vatican II the boogeyman for every problem in the Church. That’s what is chic and fashionable and oh-so-trendy.

I was defending Pope St. John Paul II 20 years ago (I was online back then, too). Then I defended Pope Benedict XVI against folks like Bob Sungenis and (later) Michael Voris. Now I defend Pope Francis when I think he is subject to bum raps and outright calumny. I haven’t changed one whit. Many of the people who go after the present pope also don’t like Vatican II and the ordinary form Mass, or ecumenism. And (in many cases) they didn’t like those things long before Francis became pope. I’m not just speculating. I’ve documented it several times now. It will only get worse. I’m trying to sound the warning.

There is a world of difference between what and how you write in opposition to the critics of the Holy Father, e.g., Burke, Vigano and Schneider and how you speak of and to them — tinfoil hats, rot gut, clowns, spewing out garbage. If you can’t see that, you are far gone. Calm or not.

You guys write your jeremiads against Pope Francis, that I think are wrong and wrongheaded and expressly against biblical injunctions of how to treat rulers (and I can back it up: having written 144 in-depth defenses of Pope Francis to date), and I write mine against his critics (including bishops), whom I think are wrong and wrongheaded (including now advocating various wacko conspiracy theories). Goose and gander.

The rightness of a jeremiad depends on whether what it is criticizing is actually worthy of criticism. There is nothing wrong with the literary form itself: provided it is necessary and appropriate in a given situation. Jesus and Paul did it; so did prophets in the Old Testament (including mockery and satire). If a bishop trashes a pope unfairly, he is certainly worthy of being the target of a hard-hitting jeremiad. And that’s what I did.

Do we need a refresher course in the history of how Dante placed many bishops and priests in hell, and how Cardinal Newman talked about the bishops during the Arian crisis or Belloc’s treatment of the cowardice of the English bishops during the so-called English “Reformation”?

Karl Keating stated on his Facebook page that all of the bishops should resign. Is that “intemperate”? Was that “far gone”? I say that it’s ridiculous. I criticized (yes, very strongly, because they deserve it) two inveterate critics of Pope Francis. They are entitled to be scrutinized, just as they would say the pope is. You (meaning everyone here) can attack me in this thread all you like. It doesn’t faze me in the slightest. So far it is three main accusations:

1) I’m a modernist (a demonstrable and damnable lie).

2) My rhetoric was over the top (at least arguable, unlike #1; I strongly deny it, for reasons expressed here).

3) Bp. Schneider in fact did not diss Vatican II.

No one says a word about the ridiculous conspiracy theories that Abp. Vigano is now setting forth. Perhaps it’s embarrassment, since he has been so lionized. Perhaps it’s a case of the emperor with no clothes. So I point it out, and all the ire gets directed towards me. But not one person has tackled that issue in this thread. Am I to believe, then, that y’all believe all of the ludicrous nonsense that he wrote about, that I cited in my paper?

And you want to complain about my tone? Do you really want me to go and pull out 200 statements of extreme trashing and bashing that have been made about this pope? I could put together quite a collection from your words alone, Janet. [this portion was later alluded to in a revised introduction to Janet’s OP: “Dave Armstrong makes the charge in the comments below that he could put together “quite a collection of quotations by me that would qualify as “extreme trashing and bashing” of the Holy Father”: but my intended meaning was distorted, as I clarify below]


I will only respond to Janet Smith from now on, due to my immense respect for her work (minus her views on the pope for some time now).

I appreciate your expression of respect. I too have respected your work but this article, as I have stated, is beyond the pale. It is a rant, not an interpretation or response to critics. Your limitation of responding only to me, however, is not in the spirit of my FB threads. I enjoy seeing what others say and in the responses: it often saves me a lot of time and I learn from it. So if you won’t engage others here, I am bowing out as well.

It’s a jeremiad, as explained (which Merriam-Webster defines as “a prolonged lamentation or complaint”). So the issue is whether it is deserved or not. There were several indefensible pure personal attacks. Here are two examples p[see above]

You may think that is “dialogue.” I do not; sorry. You allowed those comments to pass without comment. Did you “enjoy” or “learn” from those? I was happy to dialogue with you, but it takes two. I do thank you, in any event, for allowing me to fully express myself without censorship, and wish you all of God’s blessings always.

Oddly, I looked for the part in your piece where Vigano and Schneider explicitly reject the authority of Vatican II–I did not find any such explicit rejection. I expected such a serious charge to be supported by incontrovertible evidence, but it wasn’t….did I miss something?

Yes you did. Read it again. It’ll come to ya. It may take a few times. Just imagine them saying this about any portion of Trent or Vatican I.

[T]he topic here is schism–you are publicly accusing Churchmen of schism, when their right to a good reputation in this regard is just as sacrosanct as the Holy Father’s.

Which is why you should have more than “interpretation”–you should have direct and incontrovertible objective proof–before claiming successors of the Apostles are in schism…

I have accused no one of canonical schism. I specifically call these positions “radical Catholic reactionary”: a term that I myself coined (as you may know). Reactionaries routinely attack four things:

1) Popes (since Ven. Pope Pius XII).

2) Vatican II.

3) The ordinary form / Pauline Mass.

4) Ecumenism.

To my knowledge, I have never said anyone was in “schism” for saying these things (contemptible though they are). At most, I will say “quasi-schismatic attitude” and suchlike, because it could lead to that. I say it about sedevacantists and (kinda sorta) about SSPX, but never about reactionaries. In this paper, I alluded to “schism” twice:

1) “The big danger now is schism, not syncretism.” [i.e., potentially, in the future] The pope is often accused of potentially causing this, but let no one dare to suggest that his accusers might be the ones to do so.

2) “quasi-schismatic buffoonery”.

The double standards in this whole debate are wider than the Grand Canyon (which I just visited again in October).

Okay–glad you are making this distinction. But it raises a fundamental question–so a bishop can reject the authority of an ecumenical council (which is what you claim is happening here in your post), but by that fact not be in schism?

I said I’m done. Not gonna keep going round and round. Janet said she’s done, so I am too. I was willing to have an extended dialogue with her. She said no. I’m supposed to wrangle with everyone here . . .

I always have made this distinction. For you to think I did not shows me that you understand little about my writings concerning reactionaries (and I thought you did). It’s tough when one’s heroes are criticized, but someone’s gotta do it once in a while. Be well.

There’s severe irony in your last sentence, my friend–as it applies not only to Vigano and Schneieder, but to Pope Francis as well…I wish you weren’t quite done, as thoughtful readers might benefit from hearing a response to the question I posed. But it’s FB and it’s late. You’re a good and faithful man and I’m glad we’re brothers in Christ. Thanks again for the conversation.

Thanks for your cordiality and kind words. I appreciate it. He’s not my hero, he’s my pope. My hero is St. John Henry Cardinal Newman: and he has been since 1990.


I have written no Jeremiads against the Pope. The views on this thread are diverse and should not be lumped together. I don’t think you need to interact with everyone — I certainly don’t but I also don’t exclude people from the conversation. Those who object to Jeremiads should not engage in them. They should raise the tone, not lower it.

It’s simply common sense to interact with one person (the one who runs the site, and in this case, a renowned professor, whom I respect), as opposed to trying to argue with literally ten or more people at once.

This is my standard policy, even if there weren’t the usual personal attacks that you decided were perfectly fit to appear and remain in this combox. The ten-against-one scenario is a thing I have objected to as long ago as 2003, when I quit Internet forums, for this and many other reasons.

So to insist that I must interact with other people, or else you’re not interested in dialogue, is, I confess, a stance that is utterly incomprehensible to me. I haven’t lumped everyone together, and in fact, I said I would interact with Fr. Stephen, and also did (albeit briefly) with James Russell.

As usual, possible constructive (and cordial) discussion was over before it even began. And this is part and parcel of what is wrong with Internet discussion. Only the devil wins when all these polarized factions that we have in the Church today refuse to even talk to each other.

There is no way I can comment on all the comments on my thread. You know that. And as you know I haven’t censored you in any way.

You can condemn and/or censure / delete ones that are unworthy of a Christian venue. But very few do, and this is why Internet discourse of such a poor quality overall. The insulters will always bring the quality of the overall discussion down.

[to someone else] The whole article [mine] is unsubstantiated and the substantiation given doesn’t exist.

I don’t think you could find any quotations by me that would qualify as “extreme trashing and bashing” let alone “quite a collection.” That is quite an accusation amounting to defamation. Such remarks may be in articles I post but as those who follow me know I post articles that I agree with and those I don’t — such as yours. No one can be held to agree with all that is said in every article posted.

Technically, I didn’t accuse you of “extreme trashing and bashing.” I was writing generally about all the anti-Francis bashing, and then simply added that I could also collect what you yourself have said, if we are to engage in the issue of comparative “tone”. I wrote:

And you want to complain about my tone? Do you really want me to go and pull out 200 statements of extreme trashing and bashing that have been made about this pope? I could put together quite a collection from your words alone, Janet.


It’s also fascinating that you posted tweets from Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein here and then when she came to defend herself and interact, you blocked her from your page. You haven’t even done that with me. Why block her but allow me to post here? What did she do that caused her to be blocked?


Samuel A Schmitt: I’m confused – every heretic is now a schismatic because by their heresy they have rejected the authority of the pope, and every schismatic is a heretic because rejecting the authority of the pope is a heresy. Which one is it?

Hahaha. We are all schismatics now!

As explained to James Russell elsewhere in this thread, I have classified none of the people I have criticized in this instance as schismatics, and call them “Catholics” (as well as bishops and archbishops). I also have accused no one of heresy.

But has the pope been accused of heresy by your heroes (or yourself)? So you and Samuel have a good chuckle and falsely insinuate that I (being the subject of this thread) and/or others who are of my opinion are unjustly or ludicrously slinging around the terms “heretic” and “schismatic” when in fact it is your party which has done so, and with regard to the Holy Father.

The double standard and blindness here is literally breathtaking.


For further discussion and documentation of Dr. Janet Smith’s seeming recent “drifting” to a traditionalist or (more likely) reactionary position, see my cross-posted Facebook thread.


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