Many traditionalists (and the more radical reactionary Catholics) seem to think that Abp. Viganò is just a good old-fashioned orthodox Catholic who is making some desperately needed (and of course well-intentioned) criticisms of Pope Francis. I think my post of yesterday, Abp. Viganò: Fanaticism, Extremism, and Conspiratorialism (Summary from August 2019 Until July 2020: Alarming, Increasingly Quasi-Schismatic Spirit), demonstrates that the situation is far, far beyond that.
Yet no doubt there are many traditionalists and reactionaries who don’t see at all that Abp. Viganò is on the brink of possible schism, or has even already crossed over the line in some fashion or in spirit (see the Sermon on the Mount), as my friend, Dr. Robert Fastiggi effectively argued in a recent article. They’ll argue, for example, that he hasn’t denied the validity of the pontificate of Pope Francis or of Vatican II.
But reactionaries (by my carefully developed definition) never do either thing, as I’ve noted for many years. The pope is pope, but he is criticized a billion times (death by a thousand cuts). Likewise, the Second Vatican Council is valid but it’s worth cow manure, or should be ignored or forgotten (death by a thousand cuts again). One might say that this is a distinction without a [practical] difference. This is the game that reactionaries (and also too many legitimate traditionalists) habitually play. I wrote about this characteristic on 4-15-20:
Radical Catholic reactionaries love to habitually go up to the “line” but not quite go over it. The ordinary form Mass is still valid, yet it is trashed all the time and regarded as “objectively inferior.” And Catholics who attend it are despised and looked down upon, as second-class Catholics. Vatican II is a valid ecumenical council, yet it is trashed all the time and regarded as fundamentally less authoritative than Vatican I and (especially) Trent: even though Pope Benedict XVI (the bitterly disappointing former darling: because he resigned), writing in 1985, made it clear that Vatican II and Trent have precisely the same authority. The pope is a valid pope, but only worthy to be bashed and lied about week in and week out. No particular deference is due to him (think “Protestant”). You get the picture. See the pattern there?
And again on 2-26-14:
I would emphasize again that the radical Catholic reactionary position is characterized precisely for bashing the Novus Ordo constantly, while not denying its validity; the same is done with Vatican II and popes (JPII and Francis, but not, of course, Benedict, who is their hero and darling, even though he expressly disagrees with them on this point, as I have been showing). . . . It’s all about going right up to the line that ought not be crossed, and playing with it: almost like jumping over it and back.
And on 12-3-12:
I define “radical Catholic reactionaries” as a rigorist, divisive group completely separate from mainstream “traditionalism” that continually, vociferously, and vitriolically (as a marked characteristic or defining trait) bashes and trashes popes, Vatican II, the New Mass, and ecumenism (the “big four”): going as far as they can go without technically crossing over the canonical line of schism.
Just for the record, I have never said that Abp. Viganò was in schism, but rather, that his views are “quasi-schismatic” (which could mean possibly on the brink of schism). But he exhibits all four hallmarks of the radical Catholic reactionary: several of whom will eventually move into the SSPX or sedevacantism (if the past is any guide at all). More often, though, they stay in the Church and wreak havoc (which the devil loves even more, and is likely in Viganò’s case for that reason).
Or it’s said that Abp. Viganò hasn’t denied any Catholic dogma. But he has virtually repudiated the dogma of the indefectibility of the Church, as I repeatedly demonstrated in my lengthy paper yesterday (see the first section after the introduction). He has also rejected the sublime magisterial authority of an ecumenical council, to which we are obliged as Catholics to give assent and certainly not publicly disagree with.
Abp. Viganò shows many signs of a continuing sad descent into more and more extreme reactionaryism, leading to a POSSIBLE Döllinger / Lefebvre-like schism. My job as an apologist is to see the signs and show the wrongness of the rhetoric and to warn people about such divisive, harmful figures. These are the Pharisees of our times: always “learning” but never arriving “at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:7).
One thing leads to another. To not be concerned about these sorts of extremist excesses would be like saying, “lust is no big deal, unless it actually leads to literal adultery.” Jesus thought differently, by saying that “he who lusts has already committed adultery in his heart” and “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matthew 15:18-19, RSV).
Is it permissible and rational to say, “if John keeps lusting after Betsy, he may act upon it and commit physical adultery [or fornication, as the case may be]”? Of course it is, according to Catholic moral theology. One thing [often] leads to another, in other words. Thus a priest (in the confessional or out of it) can properly and helpfully advise someone, “if you keep lusting after this woman, you may engage in sex with her; so stop now“. This is straight from the sermon on the mount; also to do with avoiding the occasion of sin, or deeper sin.
Likewise, we say, “if Abp. Viganò keeps falsely accusing the pope and lying about him, and doing the same with Vatican II and the New Mass, he may reject all three and go into schism or near-schism” (whatever SSPX is deemed to be: “irregular” I think).
The nonsense that Abp. Viganò is spewing doesn’t necessarily prove that he will go into schism, but the same sentiments are almost always indicated by those who did do so. Therefore, it is proper to warn of possible schism, based on the analogy of actual schismatics. Dr. Fastiggi argued (and I totally agree) that in effect, Viganò has renounced Pope Francis, since he thinks he is an inveterate liar and deceiver and proponent of a religion other than orthodox Catholicism (pantheism / gnosticism / relativistic one world religion, etc. ad nauseam). It’s pretty tough to believe all that rotgut and still follow a pope as one’s leader and guide, ain’t it?
He and others who follow him may possibly descend into schism, and so need to be warned not to do so. Some already have made the journey. They might go Orthodox or Protestant or SSPX or sedevacantism (denial of the reality of a sitting pope). One sin leads to another. Luther and Calvin believed lies about the Catholic Church and that led them to both heresy and schism. Luther basically started with rejection of the infallibility and authority of ecumenical councils, just as Viganò has.
That’s — incidentally — how sola Scriptura began (at the Leipzig Debate in 1519): upon which the entire authority structure and rule of faith in Protestantism is based. Luther was forced into a corner by his rhetoric about ecumenical councils erring and supposedly contradicting one another, and so he opted for a “Bible Alone [as an infallible authority]” position on the rule of faith, which was entirely novel.
So — as always — Catholic reactionaries pick and choose and reason like both Catholic liberals and Protestants. It’s always the case. No exceptions. Furthermore, all reactionaries and many traditionalists can see in all this is canonical legalism, and miss the entire spirit of the thing; miss the forest for the trees. What Abp. Viganò has actually done (and written) is already outrageous and unconscionable. Schism isn’t the only possible sin or spirit; calumny and gossip and lying, regarding the pope and ecumenical council, is a mortal sin as well. He has done that already. Here is one example of many from my paper yesterday:
The tragic story of this failed pontificate advances with a pressing succession of twists and turns. Not a day passes: from the most exalted throne the Supreme Pontiff proceeds to dismantle the See of Peter, using and abusing its supreme authority, not to confess but to deny; not to confirm but to mislead; not to unite but to divide; not to build but to demolish. Material heresies, formal heresies, idolatry, superficiality of every kind . . . “demythologizing” the papacy . . . With Pope Bergoglio — as with all modernists . . . he . . . demolishes the most sacred dogmas, . . . (12-20-19)
Some pope, huh? I could get more correct Catholic dogma from a bear in the woods . . . Contrast Abp. Viganò’s lying, pathetic attitude towards the Holy Father with St. Paul, even concerning the Jewish high priest:
Acts 23:1-5 (RSV) And Paul, looking intently at the council, said, “Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience up to this day.”  And the high priest Anani’as commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.  Then Paul said to him, “God shall strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”  Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?”  And Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, `You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
Or look at how David was always extremely deferential to wicked King Saul: not wishing to harm “the Lord’s anointed” in any way, shape, or form (even when Saul was seeking to kill him).
Photo credit: Saul’s anger at David, by Antoni Brodowski (1784-1832) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]