Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a right-wing culture warrior and former papal representative to the U.S., released an open letter to President Donald Trump Sunday praising Trump as a leader in what he called the biblical struggle between “the children of light and the children of darkness.” The letter, which was published and praised by the “traditionalist” Catholic newspaper The Remnant, was rife with the kind of conspiracy-theory rhetoric that can be found across right-wing social media.
Viganò’s letter could hardly be more different in substance and tone from a statement released by Washington, D.C.’s Archbishop Wilton Gregory objecting to Trump visiting the John Paul II shrine in the nation’s capital for a photo op the morning after peaceful protesters were violently moved for a Trump picture-taking session at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
While Gregory strongly criticized Trump, Viganò told Trump, “For the first time, the United States has in you a President who courageously defends the right to life, who is not ashamed to denounce the persecution of Christians throughout the world, who speaks of Jesus Christ and the right of citizens to freedom of worship.”
Among the “children of darkness” Viganò denounced in his letter was the “deep state”—a term originating among right-wing conspiracy theorists to describe high-level government officials supposedly trying sabotage and overthrow Trump—which he claimed is “fiercely waging war” against Trump. Viganò also described a “deep church” that he claimed includes bishops who are “aligned on the opposing side”:
For this reason, I believe that the attack to which you were subjected after your visit to the National Shrine of Saint John Paul II is part of the orchestrated media narrative which seeks not to fight racism and bring social order, but to aggravate dispositions; not to bring justice, but to legitimize violence and crime; not to serve the truth, but to favor one political faction. And it is disconcerting that there are Bishops – such as those whom I recently denounced – who, by their words, prove that they are aligned on the opposing side. They are subservient to the deep state, to globalism, to aligned thought, to the New World Order which they invoke ever more frequently in the name of a universal brotherhood which has nothing Christian about it, but which evokes the Masonic ideals of those who want to dominate the world by driving God out of the courts, out of schools, out of families, and perhaps even out of churches.
Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Viganò wrote, “We will probably find that in this colossal operation of social engineering there are people who have decided the fate of humanity, arrogating to themselves the right to act against the will of citizens and their representatives in the governments of nations.”
And regarding the widespread protests that have spread since the police killing of George Floyd, Viganò wrote, “It will not be surprising if, in a few months, we learn once again that hidden behind these acts of vandalism and violence there are those who hope to profit from the dissolution of the social order so as to build a world without freedom: Solve et Coagula, as the Masonic adage teaches.” (Solve et Coagula means to dissolve and conjoin; it is a term used by medieval alchemists that Viganò appears to be using in the metaphorical sense of tearing society apart and reconstituting it.)
Viganò was at the center of a controversy in May over a petition that portrayed public health restrictions related to COVID-19 as a “pretext” by shadowy figures to keep faithful Catholics from attending Mass and “a disturbing prelude to the realization of a world government beyond all control.”
Viganò has been a fierce critic of Pope Francis; in 2018 he accused the pope of helping to cover up sex abuse and called on him to step down. National Catholic Reporter, an independent Catholic news outlet with a more progressive outlook, published a profile of Viganò in 2018, which suggested that his eagerness to publicly attack church officials may be traced to his being denied a promotion to cardinal.
Among the controversies involving Viganò were his arranging a meeting between the pope and Kim Davis, a county clerk from Kentucky who became a religious-right folk hero when a judge jailed her for several days for refusing to follow court orders that she grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling.