Open Letter to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and Bishop Athanasius Schneider

July 9, 2020

Your Excellencies:

We the undersigned wish to express our sincere gratitude for your fortitude and care for souls during the ongoing crisis of Faith in the Catholic Church. Your public statements calling for an honest and open discussion of the Second Vatican Council and the dramatic changes in Catholic belief and practice that followed it have been a source of hope and consolation to many faithful Catholics. The event of the Second Vatican Council appears now more than fifty years after its completion to be unique in the history of the Church. Never before our time has an ecumenical council been followed by such a prolonged period of confusion, corruption, loss of faith, and humiliation for the Church of Christ. 

Catholicism has distinguished itself from some false religions by its insistence that Man is a rational creature and that religious belief encourages rather than suppresses critical reflection by Catholics. Many, including the current Holy Father, appear to place the Second Vatican Council—and its texts, acts, and implementation—beyond the reach of critical analysis and debate. To concerns and objections raised by Catholics of good will, the Council has been held up by some as a “super-council,” (1) the invocation of which ends rather than fosters debate. Your call to trace the current crisis in the Church to its roots and to call for action to correct any turn taken at Vatican II that is now seen to have been a mistake exemplify the fulfillment of the episcopal office to hand on the Faith as the Church has received it.

We are grateful for your calls for an open and honest debate about the truth of what happened at Vatican II and whether the Council and its implementation contain errors or aspects that favor errors or harm the Faith. Such a debate cannot start from a conclusion that the Second Vatican Council as a whole and in its parts is per se in continuity with Tradition. Such a pre-condition to a debate prevents critical analysis and argument and only permits the presentation of evidence that supports the conclusion already announced. Whether or not Vatican II can be reconciled with Tradition is the question to be debated, not a posited premise blindly to be followed even if it turns out to be contrary to reason. The continuity of Vatican II with Tradition is a hypothesis to be tested and debated, not an incontrovertible fact. For too many decades the Church has seen too few shepherds permit, let alone encourage, such a debate.

Eleven years ago, Msgr. Brunero Gherardini had already made a filial request to Pope Benedict XVI: “The idea (which I dare now to submit to Your Holiness) has been in my mind for a long time. It is that a grandiose and if possible final clarification of the last council be given concerning each of its aspects and contents. Indeed, it would seem logical, and it seems urgent to me, that these aspects and contents be studied in themselves and in the context of all the others, with a close examination of all the sources, and from the specific viewpoint of continuity with the preceding Church’s Magisterium, both solemn and ordinary. On the basis of a scientific and critical work—as vast and irreproachable as possible—in comparison with the traditional Magisterium of the Church, it will then be possible to draw matter for a sure and objective evaluation of Vatican II.” (2)

We also are grateful for your initiative in identifying some of the most important doctrinal topics that must be addressed in such a critical examination and for providing a model for frank, yet courteous, debate that can involve disagreement. We have collected from your recent interventions some examples of the topics you have indicated must be addressed and, if found lacking, corrected. This collection we hope will serve as a basis for further detailed discussion and debate. We do not claim this list to be exclusive, perfect, or complete. We also do not all necessarily agree with the precise nature of each of the critiques quoted below nor on the answer to the questions you raise, yet we are united in the belief that your questions deserve honest answers and not mere dismissals with ad hominem claims of disobedience or breaking with communion. If what each of you claims is untrue, let interlocutors prove it; if not, the hierarchy should give credence to your claims. 

Religious Liberty for All Religions as a Natural Right Willed by God

The Identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church and the New Ecumenism

Papal Primacy and the New Collegiality

The Council and Its Texts are the Cause of Many Current Scandals and Errors

We have taken note of the differences you have highlighted between the solutions each of you has proposed for responding to the crisis precipitated at and following the Second Vatican Council. For example, Archbishop Viganò has argued it would be better to altogether “forget” the Council, while Bishop Schneider, disagreeing with him on this specific point, proposes officially to correct only those parts of the Council documents that contain errors or that are ambiguous. Your courteous and respectful exchange of opinions should serve as a model for the more robust debate that you and we desire. Too often these past fifty years disagreements about Vatican II have been challenged by mere ad hominem attacks rather than calm argumentation. We urge all who will join this debate to follow your example.

We pray that Our Blessed Mother, St. Peter the Prince of the Apostles, St. Athanasius, and St. Thomas Aquinas protect and preserve your Excellencies. May they reward you for your faithfulness to the Church and confirm you in your defense of the Faith and of the Church.

In Christo Rege,  (signed)

Names added July 15

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1.  Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger 13 July 1988, in Santiago, Chile.
2. Concilio Vaticano II: Un discorso da fare (Frigento: Casa Maria Editrice, 2009), subsequently published in English as The Ecumenical Vatican Council II: A Much Needed Discussion. The excerpt here is taken from