ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò is praising as a "hero" the Austrian man who threw Pachamama idols into the Tiber River.
"Like many others, including Bp. Athanasius Schneider and Prof. Roberto de Mattei, I think that this young man is a hero," the former papal nuncio-turned-whistleblower told Dr. Robert Moynihan in comments made on Monday. "He is a person who wished to defend the First Commandment."
Alexander Tschugguel revealed his identity Monday as the man in an Oct. 21 video who took several Pachamama figures from the church of Santa Maria del Traspontina, steps away from St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and flung them off the Ponte Sant'Angelo into the Tiber River, one week before the close of the Amazon Synod.
The video went viral, garnering hundreds of thousands of views, as well as high praise and sharp criticism from Catholics on both sides. The pope himself issued an apology on the last working day of the Amazon Synod "to those who may have been offended by this act." He noted that some of the Pachamama figures had been found by Italian carabinieri and was mulling the possibility of displaying them in St. Peter's Basilica at the closing Mass. The controversial statue never made an appearance.
"This young man acted out of his Catholic conscience," Viganò said. "He came to Rome, visited the Church of St. Mary in Traspontina, and saw what was in the church. He was deeply concerned."
"But he did not act immediately," he noted. "He went back to his home in Vienna and prayed and reflected for several days. Then he decided it was his duty to act. And now he has had the courage to reveal his name and to give interviews."
"I praise the great faith of this young man," said Viganò, himself a hero to many faithful Catholics for exposing a network of corrupt homosexual clergy in the Church invested in protecting their own, what Viganò has called the "corrupt gay mafia."
Tschuguell, from Vienna, is being hailed by faithful Catholics worldwide for what they see as his courageous act in honor of God in the face of sacrilege. He noted in an interview with Church Militant that he's getting tremendous support from Americans, as well as Germans, Austrians, French, Britons and Italians, among many others.
"People are fed up so much that they really want to do something, they really want to speak out," said Tschuguell. "They want to be Catholic. They just want to be Catholic, because the Catholic Church is a missionary Church. We do not hide our faith."
On the Vatican's use of the Pachamama statues in their liturgies, he said, "I was of course very surprised that they [the Vatican] were talking very publicly about that these statues are 'pachamamas.' They kind of even gave me some push in the right direction, because it showed me that I was not wrong in thinking that they were pagan goddess statues.
Tschugguel was encouraged by the reaction from bishops and from Pope Francis himself because it shows that "we are being heard," he said.
"Even though of course the response was not what I'd like, but it's OK," he noted. "At least they saw that there are many people who are [of] my opinion."
The former nuncio to the United States has been forced into hiding after releasing his bombshell testimony in August 2018. It revealed Pope Francis was aware of restrictions placed on then-cardinal Theodore McCarrick by Pope Benedict, but lifted them in 2013.
Letters published by Msgr. Anthony J. Figueiredo, former personal secretary to McCarrick, vindicate Viganò's claims, proving that from 2013, when Pope Francis was elected, McCarrick's international travel sharply increased — including multiple trips to Communist China, where he helped broker the Vatican deal signed last fall. That agreement has come under harsh criticism for leading to increased persecution to Chinese Catholics.
"After long consideration, I have made the decision to place in the public domain some of the correspondence and other information related to McCarrick that I possess in my many years of service to him," Figueiredo wrote in May. "My decision follows attempts since September 2018 to share and discuss these with the Holy See and other Church leaders."
That correspondence proved not only that Benedict had imposed restrictions on McCarrick, but that Cdl. Donald Wuerl — successor to McCarrick in Washington, D.C. — was also aware of the restrictions, and ignored them.
This contradicts Wuerl's public statements last year, in which archdiocesan spokesman Ed McFadden told Catholic News Agency, "Cardinal Wuerl did not receive documentation or information from the Holy See specific to Cdl. McCarrick's behavior or any of the prohibitions on his life and ministry suggested by Abp. Vigano."
Viganò himself called out Wuerl in his August 2018 testimony, accusing him of lying, saying that his "recent statements that he knew nothing about it, even though at first he cunningly referred to compensation for the two victims, are absolutely laughable. The Cardinal lies shamelessly."
After months of criticism and embarrassment, Wuerl stepped down in October and has since maintained a relatively low profile in Washington, D.C., moving out of his Embassy Row penthouse and reportedly living in the mansion once occupied by McCarrick.