Archbishop Viganò: towards anarcho-vacantism?

This article follows Part I: “Bishops Strickland, Schneider and Viganò: A few essential points

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, referring to Pope Francis, has often called him “the tenant of Santa Marta”, implying that he does not recognise him as the Vicar of Christ, for whom respect is obligatory. Yet only in the last months of 2023 has he explained his position with sufficient clarity. 

In particular in a video contribution for the Catholic Identity Conference of 1 October 2023, which the organisers did not broadcast but he himself published, Archbishop Viganò spoke of the existence of “a defect of consent” which would invalidate the government of Pope Francis. The defect of consent would consist in this: that the pope accepted his election outwardly, without the intention of promoting the good of the Church. This is supposedly to be seen “in Bergoglio’s behaviour, which is ostentatiously and consistently anti-Catholic and heterogeneous with respect to the very essence of the Papacy. There is no action of this man that does not blatantly have the air of rupture with respect to the practice and the Magisterium of the Church.” Anyone who does not have the intention of promoting the good of the Church cannot be the true pope, even if he materially occupies the papal throne. Jorge Mario Bergoglio has never declared his intentions, but “what conspirator who acts maliciously in order to ascend to an office would be so naive as to explain to those who must elect him that he intends to become Pope in order to carry out the orders of the enemies of God and the Church? … The mens rea lies precisely in the use of deception, dissimulation, lies, the delegitimisation of annoying opponents, and the elimination of dangerous ones.”

But Archbishop Viganò distances himself from those who hold that the papal see is currently vacant due to the invalidity of Benedict XVI’s resignation or the invalidity of Pope Francis’s election. For him the see is occupied by a usurper, who is not the pope due to his manifest intention of harming the Church.

In a subsequent statement on 9 November, Archbishop Vigano affirmed:

Inimicus Ecclesiæ, I said in my address on Bergoglio’s defective consent. An enemy who acts with coherence and premeditation in carrying out the exact opposite of what it expected from the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles.[But] if the person who exercises his authority as ‘pope’ does so in opposition to the authority of Christ, how can he be considered Christ’s vicar?”

In summary: Archbishop Viganò admits that Francis materially occupies the throne of Peter and, for this reason, denies being a sedevacantist, but at the same time he is convinced that he is not formally the pope, because he is devoid of that intention of bringing about the good of the Church which constitutes the form — the essence — of the papacy.

This thesis is neither new nor original, because it was elaborated under the name of the Cassiciacum Thesis, with reference to Paul VI (1897–1978) and his successors, by Fr Guérard des Lauriers (1898–1988), a Dominican theologian who, in 1969, participated in the drafting of the Brief Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae, signed by Cardinals Bacci and Ottaviani. His position was set forth in the first issue (May 1979) and in subsequent issues of Cahiers de Cassiciacum, published by the Association Saint Herménégilde in Nice.

Father Guérard des Lauriers did not deny that Paul VI was materially the pope; he denied that he was formally so, that is, that he had the right to govern the Church, because his authority “did not have the usual purpose of realising the divine Good” (Cahiers de Cassiciacum, cit., p. 76). The acts of magisterium and government of Cardinal Montini and his successors were therefore devoid of any validity, at least starting from 7 December 1965, with the promulgation of the conciliar declaration on religious freedom Dignitatis Humanae, considered to be in conflict with the previous magisterium. In 1981, Guérard des Lauriers was consecrated bishop, without pontifical mandate, by the Vietnamese archbishop Pierre Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc (1897–1984), who was excommunicated in 1983 and consecrated three more bishops before his death. 

In Italy, the Cassiciacum Thesis was taken up in 1985 by a group of defectors from the Society of Saint Pius X who founded the Mater Boni Consilii Institute. In a 21 October post on Aldo Maria Valli’s blog, the superior of this institute, Fr Francesco Ricossa — who, forty years later, has not abandoned his positions — stated:

“It is worthy of note and praise that Archbishop Viganò — albeit without citing the thesis of Father Guérard des Lauriers and perhaps not even thinking of it — has reached more or less the same conclusion, namely that the obstacle that prevents Bergoglio from being the true pontiff is not so much an invalid election (as held by the sedevacantists and the advocates of the invalidity of Benedict XVI’s resignation) as it is a defect of consent in its acceptance, as has always been thought, following Father Guérard, by the supporters of the Cassiciacum Thesis.”

Back in 1979, the Cassiciacum Thesis was effectively refuted by the French writer Jean Madiran (1920–2013). In the article “La thèse de Cassiciacum” in the magazine Itinéraires of April 1980 (no. 242, pp. 78–95), Madiran observed that the thesis of Guérard des Lauriers started from the observation of the actions carried out by Paul VI to conclude, with inductive reasoning, that he was habitually devoid of the intention of realising the good of the Church. But the facts proving that Paul VI had not only departed many times from the good of the Church, but was habitually devoid of the intention of promoting this good, were missing. “The conclusion, gratuitously stated, is not a conclusion; the alleged evidence is not probative; the alleged thesis is nothing but a hypothesis.” (Madiran, La thèse de Cassiciacum, cit., p. 84)

Today, with the same inductive reasoning, Archbishop Viganò affirms that Pope Francis is moved by the desire to bring about the evil and not the good of the Church. An overall historical assessment can naturally come to the conclusion that Pope Francis’s pontificate has thus far been disastrous, but the absence in him of the “usual intention” of bringing about the good of the Church cannot simply be affirmed, it must be proved. Moral theologians distinguish between the external, or objective, end of acts (finis operis) and the subjective intention (finis operantis), which can be different from the objective end. For example, one can give alms with an end different from that of aiding the needy. Now, one can isolate many of the words or acts of Pope Francis and show that, objectively, they are not directed to the good of souls. But since there are other acts of his pontificate that do not have these characteristics (for example, the proclamation of the year of Saint Joseph on 8 December 2020), it would be necessary to demonstrate that, even in carrying out these acts, Pope Francis’s subjective intention was that of harming the Church. But how can Archbishop Viganò prove that the end to which the subject, Francis, inclines through his intention is habitually that of acting “with coherence and premeditation in carrying out the exact opposite of what it expected from the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles”? The mistake is, as often happens, to attribute to a hypothesis the value of a thesis. But a confusion of thought can open a chasm on the level of the facts.

It is not just a matter of the dissolution of the visibility of the Church. It seems that Archbishop Viganò is creating a network of underground resistance to the “Inimicus Ecclesiae”, secretly ordaining a number of priests, and perhaps a few bishops (to become part of that elusive nebula of “wandering” clerics which is unfortunately ever on the rise), moreover without being able to offer proof of their consecration, at least until such time as they come out of hiding. In this respect, Archbishop Viganò’s “network” is a structure that could be defined as “anarcho-vacantist” rather than sedevacantist. A religious anarcho-vacantism parallel to the “anti-globalist alliance” invoked by Viganò himself to fight the Deep State and the “Deep Church”. Some of those who had answered his call to arms are starting to open their eyes, but unfortunately the damage has been done and one must pray that the wise and merciful hand of Divine Providence may bring remedy to it.