This evening, the President of the United States of America amplified a voice that is basically calling for the downfall of the entire Catholic hierarchy.
So honored by Archbishop Viganò’s incredible letter to me. I hope everyone, religious or not, reads it! https://t.co/fVhkCz89g5
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 10, 2020
With this one Tweet, the nature of the division in the Church has come into sharp focus, and the stakes—such as they are—have risen.
On some level, this can be seen as the president’s answer to the statement delivered by Archbishop Wilton Gregory criticizing a visit by President Trump to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, DC, on June 2. Last week, CNA reported that White House officials produced emails suggesting that Archbishop Gregory had been aware of the impending visit to the Shrine, which is operated by the Knights of Columbus, days before previous reports had indicated. This subtle attempt to undermine the archbishop’s credibility has now given way to an explicit presidential endorsement of Archbishop Viganò‘s open letter to Trump, written in response to the controversy.
The letter itself is the usual combination of paranoia, apocalypticism, Manichaeism, and conspiracy theories that we have come to expect from Viganò‘s letters. Trump’s public endorsement of the letter does cause some serious problems in the US Church and raises a number of questions.
First of all, by using his platform to amplify the voice of an ecclesial and magisterial arsonist in the Church, Catholics and other Americans have been encouraged by their president to read and approve of Viganò’s dangerous and anti-Christian ideology.
It also raises many questions about the Catholics around Trump, including Fr. Frank Pavone (who shared the letter widely from his own Twitter account) and many others in and around his administration.
But most of all, this shows the influence that is held by the Viganò wing of the Church in the US.
In our most recent podcast, Adam Rasmussen commented that he once agreed with the Catholics who said it was best to ignore reactionary characters like Cardinal Burke, Bishop Schneider, Raymond Arroyo, and Taylor Marshall. Ignore them and they’ll go away, they suggested. He eventually came to realize that they are not going away. They have money, they have influence, they have grassroots support, and now it’s apparent that they have the backing of some very powerful people in the American government.
And for those who perhaps have not seen it firsthand, I assure you: there are parishes in this country where Archbishop Viganò‘s message is being preached from the pulpit. Members of bible studies and prayer groups in your diocese are discussing the “courage” of Viganò and others.
Our faith tells us that the Truth will win in the end, and that those who stand with the Successor of Peter stand with the Church.
But the enemies of the Truth, those who are determined to destroy Christ’s Vicar, can do a great deal of damage in the meantime.
I hope this serves as a wakeup call.
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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.