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Archbishop Viganò on Obedience & Fidelity to Christ’s Truth: A Reply to Vicente Montesinos

Editor’s note: Vicente Montesinos, the director and founder of the Spanish-language Catholic web portal Adoration and Liberation, wrote an open letter to His Excellency, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, published here, at the website of our friend, colleague, and brother in Christ, Marco Tosatti.

Today, the good archbishop offers once again his incisive commentary by way of reply to this letter, and has offered 1P5 the opportunity to re-print his response, first published by Tosatti.

Dear Doctor Montesinos,

I read, with great attention to and agreement with your sentiments, the open letter which you addressed to me, which was published at Stilum Curiae (here). I ask your pardon for my delay in responding.

Some of the questions you ask me answer themselves, but it is good to reiterate that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). But precisely because we need to obey God, we must also not seek in men the hope of salvation that comes only from the Lord: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man” (Psalm 117:8). I recognize your good faith and your ardent zeal in your desire to be guided by faithful Pastors, but hearing me called “vicar of the Vicar” causes me a certain embarrassment. The fact that restating what the Church has always taught, denouncing the current drift, is not a sufficient motive, is not a sufficient reason to attribute to me an authority that I do not and cannot have.

This does not mean that the exercise of obedience must be uncritical. Reason first allows us to understand whether an order given by legitimate authority is coherent with the end to which it is ordered, and this applies in a particular way to questions concerning the Faith. In other cases – such as for example the obedience owed by monks to their abbot – even planting turnips upside down can be an instrument of sanctification; but here we are speaking of Christian perfection, of ascesis.

Each one of our actions places us before a choice and has consequences. It allows to obtain merit before God, to exercise our free will in adhering either to good or to evil, in allowing ourselves either to be conquered by Grace or to give in to temptation. Obedience is no exception: in choosing to obey or not we are put to the test, placed at a crossroads. The Christian who is faced with the choice of burning incense to an idol or facing martyrdom does not disobey the authority of the Emperor but obeys the superior authority of God. The priest whom the judge orders to violate the seal of Confession obeys the command of God by disobeying the illegitimate order of the judge. The faithful who refuse to receive Communion in the hand do not disobey their ecclesiastical superior, because that order is a sacrilegious abuse.

But this disobedience of ours – which is not disobedience at all, because it reaffirms obedience to a higher order which has been abusively violated by the one who is constituted in authority – does not authorize us to create a parallel order, a utopia in which the flock gives itself its own shepherd and builds its own sheepfold: this would signify a usurpation of the authority of God. On closer inspection, this is what all the heresiarchs tried to do, who pointed to the true Church as the whore of Babylon only so that they could have an alibi that would allow them to make a grotesque imitation of the Church, amputated in the Sacraments, in the Books of Sacred Scripture, in Doctrine, Morals, and Liturgy. And also in the Hierarchy.

The latest in this long series of self-proclaimed liberators from the Roman yoke are the Modernists and their followers. They have devised an even more subtle stratagem, attempting to obscure the Bride of Christ by superimposing upon her a spurious entity that claims her name but renounces her Faith. It is not another church, but a sort of monstrum that shares almost the entire Hierarchy with the true Church and thus is able to deceive the Clergy and the faithful. Thus, obedience to the Sacred Pastors finds itself today in conflict, often in the same person, with dutiful disobedience to the mercenaries. The fact that these mercenaries are nominally recognized as Catholics does not prevent them from expelling true Catholics from the sacred enclosure, accusing them of schism. This situation of bipolarism implies that those who remain faithful to the depositum fidei must pay homage to a sacred authority which, however, must be resisted by disobedience when it is exercised for purposes that conflict with the purpose for which it was instituted by Our Lord.

As I have written many times, a revolution in the traditional sense is not and never can be the response to the Conciliar revolution. On the contrary, it is in true obedience that is hierarchically ordered that the invincible weapon against the rebellion may be found, even when this rebellion is carried out by one’s Superiors. It is in true humility that one fights against the pride of the heretic or the fornicator, on the one hand; and the servility of the fainthearted or the courtier, on the other. It is in loving fidelity to the Truth of Christ that the fanatical dogmatism of the heretics is conquered. It is in the practice of virtue and in the life of Grace that the root of vice and sin which we denounce in certain prelates is eradicated, evils from which we cannot say that we ourselves are infallibly exempt, if only because of our connatural inclination to evil that we have inherited from Adam. “Whoever thinks he is standing must be careful not to fall” (1 Cor 10:12).

It is true: the Church is undergoing a tremendous crisis, which began before the Council and today has reached a point that appears humanly irreversible. It is true: we have heard words and seen actions, even from the highest Throne, that arouse scandal in the faithful and are in obvious contradiction with the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiffs. It is true: the majority of the faithful and clergy are molded into doctrinal and moral error, while anyone who remains firm in the Faith is accused of being an enemy of the Church and the Pope. If this was not the case, there would be no crisis. But if Providence has seen fit to test us today – to punish for decades of moral and doctrinal deviations – giving us a drunken Noah for a father (Gen 9:20-27), it is nevertheless our duty to cover his nudity with filial piety, without however denying the intoxication of the half-undressed old man. Once he has regained sobriety, he will bless those who have laid the cloak of Truth and Charity over his shame.

Whoever has the grace not to be misled in either Faith or Morals should not be proud of having a presumed state of purity, but rather must take account of the very great responsibility he has before God, the Church, and his brethren. This is true for the simple faithful and even more for the Shepherds. First of all, obedience to the teaching of Christ is not a merit but a duty for each one of us. Second, our adherence to what the Divine Master has taught us by means of Holy Mother Church does not place us in a condition of human privilege, since “to whomever much has been given, much will be asked; to whom more has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Lk 12:48). The fear of God makes us understand how important it is that what we believe and profess with the mouth is also believed in the heart, and that what we believe with the heart is also understood by the intellect.

Dear Vincent, if as you say, “We are where we have always been, and we have not moved: we are with Sacred Scripture, sound doctrine, the Holy Tradition, and the Magisterium of two thousand years,” nevertheless we have the duty to implore Heaven for the conversion of those whom the world, the flesh, or the devil have seduced. We do not know the vicissitudes of their life or the unfathomable depths of their soul. Indeed, we recall that many of us, only a few years ago, were still not yet aware of the deception perpetrated against the holy people of God. Our blindness at the time and the lack of understanding of the creeping apostasy is not very different from the situation in which many souls find themselves today, especially among the simple. The Sacrament of Confession – to which priest and layman, children and the elderly, rich and poor have recourse – reminds us of our corrupt nature and the need to place our total trust in God, the giver of all Graces. “Without Me you can do nothing,” Our Lord said (Jn 15:8).

We must likewise consider our belonging to the Mystical Body as the proof of the infinite Mercy of God, who with divine magnificence welcomed “good and bad” at the banquet (Mt 22:10), deigning to offer them also the wedding garment, that is, justification by means of Baptism. Before this royal gift, our humility lies in accepting the wearing of the precious garment of Grace, which erases our miseries and makes us worthy to sit at the table of the King. Expecting to participate at the banquet with our rags would not be humility, but presumption; believing that that garment is owed to us would make us worthy of the outer darkness. We see rather that we are like servants of the King, sent to the crossroads to call to the banquet “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (Lk 14:21).

Understandably, in addition to being aware of what is happening and analyzing the causes, it is also necessary to identify concrete action. To the question, “What should we do?” that priests and laity ask me and others, I respond with an analogy.

When the priest is at the altar, he is turned toward God and intercedes for the holy people. There are days on which only a few of the faithful unite themselves to the Holy Sacrifice, others on which the Church is packed; days when the commotion of the street and the noise of traffic echoes in the nave, others when sacred silence and recollection are accompanied only by the song of sparrows or the tolling of a bell; days when the celebrant ascends the altar with serenity and joy in his heart, others when his soul is oppressed by sorrow and discouragement. But he is there: standing, always facing the Cross, always faithful to the command to renew the Sacrifice of Christ in order to implore the Divine Majesty for graces and blessings for the Church, to adore the Most Holy Trinity, to expiate the sins of men. This must be our attitude in the face of the present crisis: to remain where we ought to be, like that priest dressed in sacred vestments. We must not go down those steps, just as Christ did not descend from the Cross, nor do we look elsewhere for that salvation that comes only from the altar, from the immaculate Victim, from the Cross of Christ. We must do that which has been done for two thousand years “semper, ubique, et ab omnibus”: immolate ourselves with Faith and Charity, with humility and constancy, with the fear of God and zeal for souls. The Popes and the Princes of the Church will pass away, all the powers of the earth and the stage of this world will also fade, but the Mass and the Priesthood will remain until the Day of Judgment.

Peter Kwasniewski writes: That is why I repeat: our sanctifying work, planned for us by God in His eternal Providence, is to remain faithful to tradition and to prayer, come what may; to bide our time, keep our sanity, hold steady, and wait for the Lord. He is still and always among us, not far away in utopian pastures” (here).

May Heaven grant that, if today, turning around for the Dominus vobiscum, the priest sees only a few faithful kneeling, tomorrow he may see gathered around the altar all those whom the Grace of God will have deigned to touch. Nothing else is asked of us, as Ministers of God and as simple faithful: to remain steadfast, to resist strong in Faith (1 Pt 5:9), praying to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother asking that they may shorten these times of trial which humanly speaking seem destined to last forever. The day will come when our firmness, rooted “in Him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13), will be blessed by those who today deride us and despise us. The day will come when they will thank God for the apparent disobedience of those who, in the absence of Authority, remained faithful.

I respond to your final question by quoting Saint Paul: “I refer to the fact that each of you is saying: “I belong to Paul,” “I instead belong to Apollos,” “And I to Cephas,” “And I to Christ!” Is Christ then divided?  Was perhaps Paul crucified for you, or is it in the name of Paul that you were baptized?” (1 Cor 1:12-13). We do not look to those who proclaim the Word of God, but rather we try to conform ourselves to the will of Our Lord, in order to be an example and edification for our brothers. “So must your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16).

To you, dear Vincent, and to all the associates of Adoración y Liberación, I give my heartfelt Blessing.

+ Carlo Maria Viganò, Archbishop

13 October 2020

Anniversary of the final apparition at Fatima

Official translation.

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