This interview of Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò by Italian Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti was originally published at Marco Tosatti's blog.
April 29, 2020
Saint Catherine of Siena
Marco Tosatti: Your Excellency, the latest decree of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has disregarded the hopes of the Italian bishops' conference (CEI) and extended the lockdown of Mass throughout all of Italy. Some canonists and experts in concordat law have expressed many reservations about the government's behavior in this matter. What do you think about this?
Archbishop Viganò: The concordat between the Holy See and the Italian State recognizes that the Church has, as its "native right," full freedom and autonomy in carrying out her ministry, which is given proper social and public expression in the celebration of Holy Mass and the administration of the sacraments. No authority may interfere in this ministry, not even with the consent of Church authority, which is not the master of the sacraments but rather the administrator of the grace conveyed by them.
Jurisdiction over places of worship belongs in toto and exclusively to the ordinary of the place, who decides with full autonomy, for the good of the souls entrusted to him as pastor, which functions may be celebrated there and by whom they may be celebrated. It is not the prime minister's role to determine who may have access to churches, nor to legislate about what the faithful or the minister of worship can or cannot do.
Beyond this, various authoritative pronouncements have been made by eminent jurists and judges — including those of the Supreme Court — objecting to the legitimacy of legislating by means of presidential decrees that violate the superior laws and prevailing guarantees of the constitution of the Italian Republic. Even if we were not talking about the Catholic religion, which is particularly protected by its special status, the suspension of the right to freedom of worship that is implied by the prime minister's decree is clearly illegitimate. I trust that someone will officially declare it so, putting an end to this indecorous delirium of omnipotence by the civil authority not only towards God and His Church but also towards the Catholic faithful and Italian citizens.
MT: Many of the faithful and priests feel abandoned and uncared for by the Italian bishops' conference and by the bishops.
Archbishop Viganò: It should be clarified, in order to avoid misunderstandings, that the bishops' conference does not have any authority over the bishops, who each have full jurisdiction in their own diocese, in union with the Apostolic See. And this is even more important once we have understood that the CEI has been all too amenable to — or rather, dominated by — the Italian government.
Bishops should not wait for an entity without any jurisdiction to tell them what to do: It is up to each of them to decide how to act, with prudence and wisdom, in order to guarantee the sacraments and the celebration of the Mass to the faithful. And each one can do so without having to ask either the bishops' conference or the state, whose authority ends at the entrance of our churches and must stop there.
It is unheard of the Italian bishops' conference would continue to tolerate such abuse, which prejudices the divine right of the Church, violates a law of the state, and creates a very serious precedent. And I believe that the statement issued on Sunday evening [April 26] is a proof of the consensus of the leadership of the Italian episcopate not only about the means but also about the ends this government proposes.
The supine silence of the CEI, and of almost all of the individual ordinaries, reveals that this is a situation of subordination to the state that has no precedent, and that has rightly been perceived by the faithful and by priests as a situation in which they have been abandoned to themselves.
The most emblematic examples have been the scandalous interruptions of the celebration of Mass by law enforcement, with a sacrilegious arrogance that should have received an immediate and very strong protest from the secretariat of state. The ambassador of Italy should have been summoned to the Holy See and presented with a harsh note of protest against the government's serious violation of the concordat, and the Holy See should have informed the Italian government that it would exercise its right to withdraw the apostolic nuncio to Italy if the government's illegitimate provision was not withdrawn.
Cardinal [Pietro] Parolin, in his role of sponsor of Prime Minister Conte, finds himself in an embarrassing situation and a conflict of interest. It appears evident that, instead of protecting the sovereignty and freedom of the Church in fidelity to his high institutional function as secretary of state, Cdl. Parolin has shamefully chosen to line up alongside his lawyer friend [Conte]. Not even the economic interests of the so-called Catholic voluntary service could justify his making such a choice.
MT: What interests are you referring to, Your Excellency?
Archbishop Viganò: I refer to the scandalous disappearance of public funds destined for helping illegal immigrants, which Pope Bergoglio and the CEI benefit from greatly and at the same time strenuously promote. This is another conflict of interest that makes the Church beholden to the state, and which makes not entirely unwarranted the suspicion that the numerous silences of the CEI, including what we have witnessed in recent months during the alleged pandemic, are motivated by the fear of seeing the lucrative proceeds from the industry of "welcoming" disappear.
Let us not forget that the funds derived from the "otto per mille" [Italian tax to support the Church] are getting smaller and smaller, confirming the departure of the Italian faithful from a Church that seems to have no other purpose than to favor the ethnic replacement so strongly wished by the globalist elite. I fear that this trend will be confirmed in the coming months, in response to the silence of the bishops.
MT: In all this, the position of Pope Francis seems contradictory: At the beginning he ordered the cardinal vicar [Angelo De Donatis] to close the churches of Rome even before Conte issued the decree; then he embarrassed the vicar, publicly denying it and ordering them reopened. He encouraged Masses through livestreaming and then spoke in a way that seemed to criticize such Masses as gnosis, encouraging the CEI to take a position against the government; but then yesterday he recommended that the faithful obey the guidelines of the decrees.
Archbishop Viganò: Bergoglio is not new at these types of sudden changes. As everyone well remembers, before the scandal broke within the Order of Malta concerning the distribution of condoms in its hospitals, Francis had written a letter to the patron of the order, Cdl. [Raymond] Burke, in which he gave him very clear provisions regarding his duty to watch over the Order so that Catholic morals would be followed with scrupulous fidelity. But when the news became public, he did not hesitate to disavow His Eminence [Cdl. Burke], taking direct control of the Order, demanding the resignation of the grand master and reinstating the councilor who had been expelled because he was responsible for that deplorable violation of morals.
In the case you mentioned, the cardinal vicar tried to defend his actions, explaining that the order to close the churches had been given to him by His Holiness. In the most recent case of the CEI, the press release issued on Sunday evening [April 26] evidently had received approval from the president of the bishops' conference, Cdl. [Gualtiero] Bassetti, who in turn must have consulted with Francis. It is disconcerting that, in the space of a few hours, the pulpit of Santa Marta disavowed the CEI and invited the faithful and priests to an obedience towards the provisions of the government which is not only undue, but is also a violation of conscience and harmful to the health of souls.
No one intends to expose the faithful to possible contagion, which is admitted and not conceded to be a fearful possibility, but the size of our churches and unfortunately the very small number of the faithful who normally frequent them allow a respect for safe distances both for individual prayer and for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice or other ceremonies. Evidently the diligent legislators have not been to church for a long time.
Let us not forget that the faithful have the right, as well as the duty, to assist at Mass, to go to confession, to receive the sacraments: This is a right that comes to them as living members of the Mystical Body in virtue of their baptism. The pastors have therefore the sacred duty — even at the risk of their health and of life itself, when required — to fulfill this right of the faithful, and for this they will have to answer to God, not to the president of the CEI nor to the prime minister.
MT: In the past few days, His Excellency Bp. Giovanni D'Ercole gave a severe warning to Conte and the "scientific community" in which he said: "You must give to us the right to worship; if not we will retake it." These are strong and courageous words, that seem to suggest a certain awakening in the consciences of the shepherds.
Archbishop Viganò: Bishop D'Ercole has spoken as a true bishop, with the authority that comes to him from Christ. I am sure there are many other pastors and priests like him who feel responsibility toward the souls entrusted to them. But many are silent, more so as not to raise spirits than out of fear. During this season of Easter, the liturgy presents the Gospel parable of the Good Shepherd. In it, Jesus also mentions the mercenaries who do not care about the salvation of the sheep. Let's try to respond to that divine warning and the example of the Savior, who gives His life for His sheep!
I permit myself to address my brothers in the episcopate: Do you believe that when the churches in Mexico or in Spain were closed [in the 20th century], when they prohibited processions, when they banned the wearing of the religious habit in public, that things started differently than they have started now? Do not allow the freedoms of the Church to be limited by the excuse of an alleged epidemic! Do not allow it either by the state or by the CEI! The Lord will ask you to give an account for the souls who die without the sacraments, for sinners who have not been able to reconcile with Him, for the fact that you made it so that, for the first time since the Edict of Constantine [in 313], the faithful were prohibited from worthily celebrating Easter. Your priests are not fearful: They are heroic witnesses, and they are suffering from the arbitrary orders you have given them. Your faithful are imploring you: Do not remain deaf to their cry!
MT: These are words that seem to invite disobedience to ecclesiastical authority even before civil authority.
Archbishop Viganò: Obedience is ordered to the truth and to the good, otherwise it is servility. We have arrived at such a dulling of conscience that we no longer realize what "giving witness to the truth" means: Do we think that Our Lord will judge us on having been obedient to Caesar, when this means disobeying God? Is the Christian not bound to conscientious objection, even at work, when that which is asked of him violates the divine law? If our faith was based only on obedience, the martyrs would not have had to face the torment to which the civil law condemned them: It would have been enough to obey and burn a grain of incense before the statue of the emperor.
We Christians no longer find ourselves, at least in Italy, facing such a crucial choice between life and death; but we are now being asked to choose between the duty to honor God by offering him worship and the obedience of lying prostrate to the dictates of self-styled experts, even though these dictates have been contradicted by the evidence of the facts a thousand times.
I find it paradoxical that in this deception, which is now being revealed even to the most moderate observers of what is happening around us, the thankless task of bearing witness to the faith before the wolves is imposed on the people of God, without being able to have their pastors alongside them. This is why I exhort my brother bishops to proudly resume your proper role as guides, without using the pretext of respect for illegitimate and unreasonable rules as an excuse. I make the words of Bp. D'Ercole my own: "We don't need favors from you; we are claiming a right, and this right must be recognized!"
MT: Some might think that your words are "divisive" at a time when it is easy to exasperate citizens who are already under strain.
Archbishop Viganò: Unity in faith and in charity is based on the salvation of souls, not in their harm: The "talks" given by the CEI are insufficient, as are the smiling papal meetings with the prime minister in which he has been given an indulgent cooperation that reveals conniving and collaboration. Proclaiming the truth is necessarily "divisive," because the truth opposes error just as the light opposes the darkness. Thus the Lord has said to us: "Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but division" (Luke 12:51).
Admitted and not conceded that the coronavirus really is so virulent and deadly that it justifies the sequestering of an entire nation, indeed of the entire world, well then: Is it really precisely in this moment that the sacraments and the Mass are being denied to everyone, right when they are most needed for eternal salvation?
MT: From what you have said, Your Excellency, I seem to perceive some perplexity about the nature of the coronavirus: Is it my impression or do you believe — as many doctors affirm — that someone wanted to profit by the pandemic for other motives?
Archbishop Viganò: This is not the place for me to express my reservations about the so-called pandemic. I believe that authoritative scientists have known how to demonstrate what is truly happening, and what, conversely, the masses have been told through a detailed control of information which does not hesitate to resort to censorship in order to silence voices of dissent. However, it seems evident to me that COVID-19 has provided an excellent occasion — intended or not, we will soon know — to impose on the population a limitation of freedom that is not in any way democratic nor in any way good.
These are proven techniques of dictatorship, in which they even dare to track people's movements, using the excuse of health reasons and a hypothetical future resurgence of the virus. They think they can impose a tyrannical regime in which non-elected persons claim the right to establish what is lawful and what is not, including which cures to impose and which punishments to inflict on those who will not submit. Even more seriously, all of this is happening with the endorsement of the hierarchy. If they had told us this a few years ago, we would not have believed it.
MT: A word of hope, to conclude?
Archbishop Viganò: There is always reason for hope if we have a supernatural gaze. First of all, this epidemic has caused many masks to fall — those of the true powers, of the international lobbies that have patented a virus and are now moving quickly to patent a vaccine, and at the same time are pushing for it to be imposed on everyone in a sensational conflict of interest. At least now we know who they are and what their faces look like.
The masks of those who are assisting with this farce have also fallen — those who have sounded unjustified alarms and sowed panic among the people, creating not only a health crisis but also an economic and political crisis on a worldwide level. Again we know who they are and what their plan is.
Finally, the mask of anonymity of many good people have fallen. We have been made aware of how much generosity, how much self-denial, how much goodness there is all around us, despite everything else: Doctors, nurses, priests and volunteers, certainly; but also many without a face and without a name who help their neighbor, who bring comfort to those who suffer, who are awaking from their lethargy and beginning to understand what is going on around them; a reawakening of the good whose author is undoubtedly the Lord. He governs the fate of the Church and the world, and will not allow evil to prevail.
Let us not forget that — as I recently recalled — Our Lady promised to Sr. Lucia that before the end of time a pope would consecrate Russia to Her Immaculate Heart, and that this gesture of obedience would be followed by a period of peace. Let us, therefore, entrust ourselves, our families and our dear Italy under the mantle of the Most Holy Virgin, trusting confidently in Her words.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò
Originally published at Marco Tosatti's blog.
Translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino @pellegrino2020
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