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In an inevitable consequence, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former apostolic nuncio to the United States and an outspoken critic of Pope Francis, announced on June 20 that he had been summoned to Rome to begin canonical proceedings against him for the “crime of schism.” The prelate, who has for years deviated completely from Rome and supported conspiracy theories, now faces excommunication.

According to the summons from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith published by Viganò, the prelate is accused of “public accusations that amount to a denial of the necessary elements to maintain communion with the Catholic Church”. In particular, he is accused of “denying the legitimacy of Pope Francis”, “breaking communion with him” and “rejecting the Second Vatican Council”.

Vatican II, “ideological cancer”

Archbishop Viganò, who represented two popes in the United States from 2011 to 2016, has become one of the harshest critics of Francis' pontificate, first accusing him of protecting former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2018.

The former archbishop of Washington, who was found guilty of sexual abuse and abuse of power against minors and adults in a Vatican trial, was defrocked in 2019. However, in 2023, a U.S. district judge found McCarrick incompetent to stand trial and dismissed charges over abuse allegations that occurred about 50 years ago.

Archbishop Viganò has also repeatedly questioned Francis' legitimacy, claiming that he has “usurped” the See of St. Peter. The prelate has made several accusations on social media that an alleged “Bergoglian sect” is leading a plot to destroy the Catholic Church.

The Italian prelate not only spreads numerous conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 pandemic, but also takes the side of the sedevacantists and today rejects the Second Vatican Council, which he calls a “diabolical plan”, as well as the current rite of the Mass. At the end of May, he even claimed on some right-wing extremist websites that Pope Francis had committed sexual violence during his time as novice master with the Jesuits in Argentina.

In his June 20 statement, Archbishop Viganò said he considered the accusations made against him “an honor.” “It is no coincidence that the accusations against me refer to the questioning of the legitimacy of Jorge Mario Bergoglio and the rejection of Vatican II: the Council represents the ideological, theological, moral and liturgical cancer of which the Bergoglian 'synodal Church' is the necessary metastasis,” he wrote.

Near Richard Williamson

Fallen from grace, Archbishop Viganò founded the Exsurge Domine association in July 2023. To help schismatic communities that he considers persecuted by the Church, he recently showed the ambition to create a seminary in Viterbo (Italy), similar to what Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre had done in Ecône (Switzerland) with the seminary of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X.

The Italian prelate compared his ordeal to that of Lefebvre: “The pattern repeats itself, even after half a century has proven the prophetic decision of Archbishop Lefebvre,” he said in his statement.

In recent years, Archbishop Viganò has grown closer to Richard Williamson, a bishop ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who caused an uproar in 2009 when he made statements denying the Holocaust. His statement embarrassed Pope Benedict XVI, who had just lifted his excommunication at the time. He was eventually expelled from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X in 2012 for administering the sacrament of Confirmation during an unauthorized visit to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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