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Vatican’s DDF Charges Archbishop Viganò With Canonical Crime of Schism…

Vatican’s DDF Charges Archbishop Viganò With Canonical Crime of Schism…

Viganò charged with schism, calls Vat II and Pope Francis ‘cancer’ Skip to content

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former papal nuncio to the United States, has been charged by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith with the canonical crime of schism. 

The outspoken former Vatican diplomat published Thursday morning images of his citation in an extrajudicial process, authorized by the congresso of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith’s members on May 10. 

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò

According to the citation, dated June 11, the DDF’s senior membership voted to proceed with Viganò’s prosecution via an abbreviated extrajudical process, as opposed to a full canonical trial, and have ordered the former Vatican ambassador to appeal at the dicastery in Rome to answer the charges on June 20, either in person or via formal legal representation.


The charge of schism, which is defined by canon law as the “refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

According to the decree of citation sent to Vigano, the archbishop is accused of making “public statements resulting in a denial of the elements necessary to maintain communion with the Catholic Church: denial of the legitimacy of Pope Francis, breaking of communion with him, and rejection of the Vatican Council II.”

The dicastery is authorized to judge cases of crimes against the faith, as well as the most serious crimes against morals and the sacraments, and by special papal mandate can judge those who would otherwise be subject only to the Bishop of Rome, including cardinals, patriarchs, papal legates, and bishops.

Viganò, a prominent critic of Pope Francis and Vatican Council II, and an outspoken supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin, issued a lengthy statement June 20 in response to his citation for schism, which he called a “badge of honor.”

“It is no coincidence that the accusation against me concerns the questioning of the legitimacy of [Pope Francis] Jorge Mario Bergoglio and the rejection of Vatican [Council] II: the Council represents the ideological, theological, moral and liturgical cancer of which the Bergoglian ‘synodal church’ is necessary metastasis,” the archbishop wrote.

The citation to appear before the DDF is, the decree states, Viganò’s opportunity to inspect the evidence against him, in line with canonical procedure for an extrajudicial process. 

An extrajudicial process, not to be confused with an extralegal process, is an abbreviated canonical disciplinary procedure that can be employed when the evidence gathered during a formal preliminary investigation is sufficiently clear, such that a full canonical trial is not merited.

In such cases, the rights of the accused to legal representation, to see the evidence against them, and to make their own defense remains intact, but several rounds of formal trial procedure are omitted. 

The same extrajudicial process was used in the case of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was accused of several acts of sexual abuse and was laicized as the result of the process.

In Viganò’s case, the canonical penalty attached to the crime of schism is the declaration of a latae sententiae excommunication, which can have added to it other penalties including a prohibition or order concerning the schismatic’s place of residence, removal from ecclesiastical office, and prohibition on the exercise of ministry.

Loss of the clerical state is not ordinarily a penalty imposed for schism, since the law presumes first the application of “medicinal penalties,” intended to effect the repentance of the offender and which can be lifted later. 

But canon law states that laicization, which is a perpetual penalty, can be imposed for schism if the one found guilty is judged to be obstinate in their crime, or “the gravity of scandal demands it.”

Viganò appeared to affirm the substance of the charges against him in his own response to them, in which he suggested Pope Francis and Vatican Council II represent a cancer in the Church. 

Having been charged with breaking communion with the pope, who he referred to in his press release as “Jorge Maria Bergolio,” Viganò said that “I believe that the very wording of the charges confirms the theses that I have repeatedly supported in my interventions.”

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If the archbishop declines to appear in Rome on June 20, as directed, or send a duly appointed canon lawyer, the DDF decree notes that he will have a canonist assigned to defend him ex officio by the dicastery.

The archbishop, who left office in 2016, emerged as a strident and increasingly erratic critic of the Church and hierarchy in the wake of the Theodore McCarrick scandal of 2018.

After first issuing a lengthy “testimony” in which he claimed to have repeatedly warned Vatican superiors about McCarrick, including Pope Francis, he later became an outspoken supporter of then-president Donald Trump, appearing via video link at several “Stop the Steal” rallies in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, which he called “the most colossal electoral fraud in history,” and urging resistance to the “deep state” and “New World Order.”

Since then, he has been described as living “in seclusion” in an undisclosed location from which he issues regular “declarations” via the internet and makes occasional appearances on cable television in which he has denounced Pope Francis, and Vatican Council II.

In 2022, Vigano broke with his previous support of Trump, and issued a lengthy statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine in which he recognized Moscow as the “Third Rome,” and described the sees of Rome and Constantinople as “deserted and silent,” and “hostage to apostates.”

The archbishop hailed Russia as having “an epochal role in the restoration of Christian Civilization, contributing to bringing the world a period of peace from which the Church too will rise again purified and renewed in her ministers.”

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