On 7 June 2020, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò wrote an open letter to President Donald Trump which describes an eternal spiritual struggle between the forces of good and evil. His letter refers to the recent protests in the United States. Rather than saying something potentially offensive like “there are good people on both sides” the Archbishop seems to suggest that the police and those in authority are “children of light” and spiritual decedents of “the Woman” (Mary/Jesus). He describes the protestors and their allies as “children of darkness” and decedents of “the serpent” (the Devil).
It’s tempting and a common practice to vilify those we disagree with, and there can seem to be some short term benefits such as rallying the support of followers. However, there are some problems with making such claims.
President Trump’s Response
The Archbishop’s letter resonated with President Trump who posted the following message to Facebook on 10 June 2020, encouraging everyone, religious or not, to read it.
Worthy of Consideration
Given the position and influence of Archbishop Viganò, and considering the importance that the President has placed on the letter, it’s reasonable to spend some time reflecting on its message.
The original letter is below in quoted indented segments with some brief commentary below each segment to help clarify some of the terms that may not be familiar to non-religious readers.
Please let the reader know and understand that the commentary below is not intended to be a criticism, but respectfully offered to provide some observations from a relatively neutral party.
Disclosure: My numerous personal experiences with the Catholic Church and its leadership have all been very positive and inspiring, so that may influence my views in the comments below. In my time attending the Catholic Church, I was involved in helping lead music during services. I’ve been hired to provide IT support for Church administrative offices. I support retired nuns with tech services. I’ve also been hired to speak at convents and retreats about simple living.
PARAGRAPH 1 – CHILDREN OF LIGHT AND CHILDREN OF DARKNESS
June 7, 2020
Holy Trinity Sunday
In recent months we have been witnessing the formation of two opposing sides that I would call Biblical: the children of light and the children of darkness. The children of light constitute the most conspicuous part of humanity, while the children of darkness represent an absolute minority. And yet the former are the object of a sort of discrimination which places them in a situation of moral inferiority with respect to their adversaries, who often hold strategic positions in government, in politics, in the economy and in the media. In an apparently inexplicable way, the good are held hostage by the wicked and by those who help them either out of self-interest or fearfulness.
In his introductory paragraph, the Archbishop describes a moral majority of people who he calls the children of light. This theme of a moral majority was first established by the evangelist Jerry Falwell Sr. in 1979. By claiming to be a majority, a group can embolden their followers to believe they are ‘correct’ by democratic rule and that they can win any culture war because their enemies are outnumbered.
The introduction goes on to explain that those in the majority are being discriminated against, and “the good are held hostage by the wicked.” So, in the context of the recent protests in the United States, of which the letter is about, this can be understood to mean that the majority (we assume the reference is to White people) are being held hostage by the wicked protesters who are largely Black people and their allies.
Also among the minority of wicked people are those who are described as people who “often hold strategic positions in government, in politics, in the economy and in the media.” This may sound familiar because it is a common claim about Jewish people. An example is this story in Haaretz: “David Duke rants about Jewish control of banks, media.” (Haaretz, 5 Nov 2016)
The Archbishop doesn’t directly name Blacks and Jews. Instead he simply refers vaguely to children of darkness. This ambiguity is unfortunate because it results in what could be multiple interpretations of what he is saying. Perhaps he is simply referring to non-believers and anarchist troublemakers, and no particular racial, ethnic, or religious group.
In summary, we could conclude, from the introduction, that there are good people in the world and wicked people in the world who are at odds. This portrayal of the world is a common trope used in very popular books and movies, like The Omega Code, The Da Vinci Code, and Star Wars.
Of course, we know the world is a little more complicated than simply two groups of people at war.
Let’s consider a simplistic, but perhaps more accurate depiction of humanity:
- 70 PERCENT – Let’s assume that 70 percent of people are focused on their day-to-day lives and not out to change the world. They aren’t promoting a political agenda, engage in activism, or proselytize for a religious group. They do their jobs, raise a family, take weekends off, go to football games, meet with friends, etc. That’s 70 percent of humanity. They don’t cause any problems, but aren’t concerned too much with solving any of humanity’s problems.
- 25 PERCENT – Let’s say there’s another 25 percent of people who are actively trying to make a positive change in the world by participating in fundraising walks, donating to public interest causes, volunteering at an animal rescue facility, participating in civic activities such as voting or running for office, giving supplies to a local crisis center, and other such actives. So, that’s 25 percent of humanity. Most of those people tend to agree about issues and they get along.
- 5 PERCENT – The remaining 5 percent of people are what we might call extremists. They strongly believe that their religion, or political views, or positions on issues are the only correct choice. Among these people are those who might condone violence against others to achieve their goals. This 5 percent might include terrorist organizations, militant racists, eco-terrorists, or cults. These aren’t children of the devil, they are simply misguided individuals making poor choices that lead to harming others and often counterproductive outcomes. They might be seeking approval, belonging, or greater meaning in life.
Obviously the above percentages aren’t scientific. They are estimates. The above breakdown accommodates the idea that there are many good people of different religions, races, ethnic backgrounds, political parties, vocations, and identities. Despite their differences, these people can get along and work toward common goals. So, this viewpoint does not fracture people into different splintered interest groups or identities. Instead, this view considers unity among a diversity of people trying to achieve good outcomes.
Sometimes well meaning people, trying to have a positive impact, can be seeking competing outcomes. For example, among Palestinians and Israelis, there may be many people on both sides who strongly believe they are individually working toward a better world, but their goals clash because they each claim the right to the same land. So, tensions can result among generally good people. If you are an extremist in either of those two groups, you may feel that your group represents the children of the light and the other group represents the children of darkness.
The more passionate we feel about our cause, the more likely we are to vilify and demonize those who oppose us. This happens in politics, in activism, in religion, and other areas of life. Extremist sectarian ideologies tend to result in absolutist thinking that can cause a bigotry toward others based on ethnicity, skin color, political party, or other identities.
Humility can allow us to better understand and value the views of others, and that respectful attitude toward a diversity of people can help us better work with others toward mutually productive and positive outcomes.
When leadership of the Church make what seem to be extremist and harsh accusations of large groups of people, that can have the undesirable impact of harming people’s perceptions of the Church. Those trying to formulate an opinion about the Church may take such statements as Church policy and form negative views about the Church. Those who are uncertain of their faith, or on the fence regarding their commitment to the Church, or influenced by peer pressure, ma be weakened and pushed away from the Church when they read about extremist views in the Church. So it’s best for leadership to avoid any extremist language.
PARAGRAPH 2 – THE OFFSPRING OF THE DEVIL
These two sides, which have a Biblical nature, follow the clear separation between the offspring of the Woman and the offspring of the Serpent. On the one hand there are those who, although they have a thousand defects and weaknesses, are motivated by the desire to do good, to be honest, to raise a family, to engage in work, to give prosperity to their homeland, to help the needy, and, in obedience to the Law of God, to merit the Kingdom of Heaven. On the other hand, there are those who serve themselves, who do not hold any moral principles, who want to demolish the family and the nation, exploit workers to make themselves unduly wealthy, foment internal divisions and wars, and accumulate power and money: for them the fallacious illusion of temporal well-being will one day – if they do not repent – yield to the terrible fate that awaits them, far from God, in eternal damnation.
This second paragraph needs some unpacking.
The reference to “the clear separation between the offspring of the Woman and the offspring of the Serpent” is to say that some people are spiritual offspring of the Woman (Mary or Jesus) and other people are spiritual offspring of Satan.
This next statement is an important one: “there are those who, although they have a thousand defects and weaknesses, are motivated by the desire to do good.”
Too often, religious leaders (of just about any faith) proclaim that they and their followers are moral, righteous, and flawless. Then, those religious leaders are discovered to be engaged in some kind of corruption, and proven to be hypocrites – something that nobody likes. By acknowledging at the outset, the flawed nature of a religious group’s leaders and members, one establishes a proactive defense against missteps of any of the group’s members. It’s a more honest, humble, and transparent position to take.
The remainder of the second paragraph focuses on the children of Satan who the Archbishop describes as “those who serve themselves, who do not hold any moral principles, who want to demolish the family and the nation, exploit workers to make themselves unduly wealthy, foment internal divisions and wars, and accumulate power and money…”
This description deserves deeper analysis. Let’s look at each point individually:
- “those who… serve themselves” – While some activists may seek fame, power, and influence through their efforts, the majority of those who demonstrate and protest are nameless and never make the evening news. They often do so at great expense to themselves, enduring physical attacks and arrest. They typically “speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves,” as described in Proverbs 31:8. So, it’s probably not accurate to describe protestors as “those who serve themselves.”
- “those who… do not hold any moral principles” – People who protest are typically driven by moral principles, such as the general moral principle that innocent unarmed black people shouldn’t be murdered by police. Or, the moral principle that tribal treaties shouldn’t be broken to run pipelines through protected sanctuaries. Or, the moral principle that workers should be paid fair wages. These are moral principles taught in the Bible. These are examples of moral principles that protestors are speaking up about. These are moral principles that leadership in the Church should also defend.
- “those who… want to demolish the family and the nation” – There do seem to be some anarchists, outside agitators, bad actors, and those who wish to do harm to the United States. These people are opportunists who look for ways to leverage domestic instability, instigate riots, and create division. However, such people do not represent the majority of protestors. Most protestors have families and it is common to see families participating in protests. The demolition of families isn’t a goal one sees written on placards and signs at protests.
- “those who… exploit workers to make themselves unduly wealthy” – The rabble protesting in the streets, and the working poor, aren’t what comes to mind when we think of people who are unduly wealthy. This reference seems to be a thinly veiled jab at Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, a well known nemesis of President Trump. Otherwise, the criticism seems misplaced since protesters are typically poor and disenfranchised people who are the exploited workers. Leaders like Bernie Sanders are fighting to ensure that worker aren’t exploited. This is a recurring message at demonstrations and protests.
- “those who… foment internal divisions and wars” – Something unique about protestors is that the tend to bring together a diversity of people united under a cause. People passionate about a cause put down their differences and join together. With regard to wars, those are usually initiated by governments, sometimes in the service of corporate interests. Protesters typically protest against wars and call for an end to war.
- “those who… accumulate power and money” – One of the primary and recurring grievances among today’s protestors is that of wealth disparity in the world. They are protesting against those who accumulate power and money. So, this criticism seems to be misplaced.
If I were a friend or advisor to the Archbishop, I might advise that these accusations of protestors be skipped. They seem to be incorrect assessments, and are closer in describing the list of grievances of protesters have toward those they are protesting about.
The second paragraph concludes with the statement that these children of darkness will end up in hellfire for eternity. That seems like a harsh judgement of a wide swath of people we don’t really know much about.
PARAGRAPH 3 – DEEP STATE SERVES SATAN
In society, Mr. President, these two opposing realities co-exist as eternal enemies, just as God and Satan are eternal enemies. And it appears that the children of darkness – whom we may easily identify with the deep state which you wisely oppose and which is fiercely waging war against you in these days – have decided to show their cards, so to speak, by now revealing their plans. They seem to be so certain of already having everything under control that they have laid aside that circumspection that until now had at least partially concealed their true intentions. The investigations already under way will reveal the true responsibility of those who managed the Covid emergency not only in the area of health care but also in politics, the economy, and the media. 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.
In the third paragraph of the Archbishop’s letter, he claims that the deep state consists of the children of darkness who are servants of Satan battling against Trump who, in this account, is portrayed as a servant of God. Usually we don’t describe politicians in such terms. They are servants of their constituents and those who got them elected.
We recognize that well meaning people can take sides aligning with political interests which causes them to say and do things out of loyalty to a particular leader or party. This is unfortunate because it causes them to serve special interests rather than what is in the best interest of the nation. This can happen to people of any party or cause. But to focus on the deep state as servants of Satan seems a bit excessive.
The Archbishop seems to suggest that the children of darkness and their allies have used the Covid emergency as a social engineering effort that determined the fate of humanity. It’s a bit early to come to conclusions about the impact of COVID-19 on humanity. What we do know is that the one country in the entire world most harmed by the coronavirus so far is the United States. Some claim that poor response and inadequate planning on the part of our politicians and leaders has resulted in over 100,000 deaths. It does not seem to be controlled by members of the deep state. If anything, the voices of protest are people saying that our leaders aren’t taking the coronavirus seriously enough.
PARAGRAPH 4 – RIOTS SERVE THE DEEP STATE
We will also discover that the riots in these days were provoked by those who, seeing that the virus is inevitably fading and that the social alarm of the pandemic is waning, necessarily have had to provoke civil disturbances, because they would be followed by repression which, although legitimate, could be condemned as an unjustified aggression against the population. The same thing is also happening in Europe, in perfect synchrony. It is quite clear that the use of street protests is instrumental to the purposes of those who would like to see someone elected in the upcoming presidential elections who embodies the goals of the deep state and who expresses those goals faithfully and with conviction. 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.
The premise set forth in paragraph 4 is that people are protesting not due to concerns over racial injustice or police brutality, but instead the riots are intended to bring about a police response that can be condemned as unjustified aggression. That’s a fairly elaborate plot.
Given that there are already numerous examples of unjustified police aggression even in the absence of riots, it seems unlikely that people would mobilize protests to produce more police brutality.
As mentioned in the commentary previously, there certainly “do seem to be some anarchists, outside agitators, bad actors, and those who wish to do harm to the United States. These people are opportunists who look for ways to leverage domestic instability, instigate riots, and create division.” But these people do not represent the thousands of average citizens who are peacefully demonstrating to express their opposition to racism and police brutality – both in the streets and on social media.
PARAGRAPH 5 – MERCENARY INFIDELS IN THE DEEP CHURCH
Although it may seem disconcerting, the opposing alignments I have described are also found in religious circles. There are faithful Shepherds who care for the flock of Christ, but there are also mercenary infidels who seek to scatter the flock and hand the sheep over to be devoured by ravenous wolves. It is not surprising that these mercenaries are allies of the children of darkness and hate the children of light: just as there is a deep state, there is also a deep church that betrays its duties and forswears its proper commitments before God. Thus the Invisible Enemy, whom good rulers fight against in public affairs, is also fought against by good shepherds in the ecclesiastical sphere. It is a spiritual battle, which I spoke about in my recent Appeal which was published on May 8.
Archbishop Viganò uses the deep state reference to establish the premise that there exists a deep church that consists of corrupt members and leaders. This is an excellent comparison because it plays on an existing conspiracy theory that readers will likely know about and believe in. So, it’s an effective writing technique.
There do seem to be some clergy who behave in ways contrary to what is taught in the Bible. Over the years, we’ve seen examples of scandals involving drugs, money, fraud, and abuse. Well known televangelists as well as lesser known priests have been at the center of these controversies. On top of these scandals are coverups that make the scandals even worse.
Archbishop Viganò has been instrumental in uncovering corruption in the Catholic Church, including accusations of Pope Francis and calling for the Pope to resign. A June 2019 Washington Post report states that Viganò “became one of the most controversial figures in modern Catholic Church history” and ultimately he had to go into hiding.
For this reason, many people concerned about corruption in the Catholic Church see Viganò as a courageous hero and whistleblower. He’s like an Edward Snowden of the Catholic Church. Viganò is very vocal about his ‘pro-life’ stance and for this reason has the support of many in the ‘pro-life’ movement.
This background and context can help illuminate the concerns conveyed by Viganò about corruption in the Catholic Church and among clergy of other denominations.
It should be noted that Pope Francis has been controversial in his apparent support of liberation theology and his comments that seem to convey some socialist principles. It’s understandable that Archbishop Viganò would be vehemently opposed these aspects of Pope Francis’ leadership. So that may have influenced his decision to accuse the Pope of corruption.
PARAGRAPH 6 – TRUMP SERVING CHRISTIAN INTERESTS
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. Your participation in the March for Life, and more recently your proclamation of the month of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, are actions that confirm which side you wish to fight on. And I dare to believe that both of us are on the same side in this battle, albeit with different weapons.
In paragraph 6, the Archbishop provides a list of examples that demonstrate President Trump’s commitment to Christians and the pro-life movement. These are sentiments that have been emphasized by other conservative and evangelical Christian leaders as well.
PARAGRAPH 7 – NEW WORLD ORDER
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 want to dominate the world by driving God out of the courts, out of schools, out of families, and perhaps even out of churches.
This paragraph seems to be a criticism of the protesters who were driven away from the National Shrine of Saint John Paul II. By describing the events as an attack on Trump, there may be some people who will suggest that the attack was not on Trump but an attack on citizens who were peacefully protesting. A 2 June 2020 Washington Post article reports that Archbishop Wilton Gregory was critical of Trump and how the protesters were driven out. In response Archbishop Viganò has called Archbishop Wilton Gregory a false shepherd.
Presumably it is Archbishop Gregory and others like him who are described as “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.”
PARAGRAPH 8 – CALL TO PRAYER
The American people are mature and have now understood how much the mainstream media does not want to spread the truth but seeks to silence and distort it, spreading the lie that is useful for the purposes of their masters. However, it is important that the good – who are the majority – wake up from their sluggishness and do not accept being deceived by a minority of dishonest people with unavowable purposes. It is necessary that the good, the children of light, come together and make their voices heard. What more effective way is there to do this, Mr. President, than by prayer, asking the Lord to protect you, the United States, and all of humanity from this enormous attack of the Enemy? Before the power of prayer, the deceptions of the children of darkness will collapse, their plots will be revealed, their betrayal will be shown, their frightening power will end in nothing, brought to light and exposed for what it is: an infernal deception.
In this paragraph, Archbishop Viganò begins with a criticism of the mainstream media – a message that President Trump has popularized by calling journalists the enemy of the people.
The Archbishop calls the children of light to come together, make their voices heard, and pray for the President, the United States, and all of humanity. This seems like a good goal, and something that many people are already doing.
CONCLUSION – CLOSING PRAYER
Mr. President, my prayer is constantly turned to the beloved American nation, where I had the privilege and honor of being sent by Pope Benedict XVI as Apostolic Nuncio. In this dramatic and decisive hour for all of humanity, I am praying for you and also for all those who are at your side in the government of the United States. I trust that the American people are united with me and you in prayer to Almighty God.
United against the Invisible Enemy of all humanity, I bless you and the First Lady, the beloved American nation, and all men and women of good will.
As mentioned in the comments previously, good people trying to have a positive impact in the world can have differing views and sometimes competing goals. Many people would agree with the statement that we are currently witnessing a “dramatic and decisive hour for all of humanity.” Yet, people will have differing views on why this is a decisive hour for all humanity.
Supporters of the President believe that the United States is currently under attack from the inside by domestic terrorists, the deep state, undocumented immigrants, atheists, ANTIFA, anarchists, members of the mainstream media, Socialists, Communists, drug dealers, rioters, Democrats who want to eliminate the 2nd Amendment, people critical of the president, and legislators like AOC who are perceived to be radicals.
Liberals believe the United States is threatened by global warming, dependency on non-renewable energy, corporate raiding of public funds, giving away of public lands, an increase in gun violence, rolling back of critical regulations that protect clean water, attacks on the media, extreme disparities of wealth, pipelines that threaten natural habitats, attacks on Democracy like those with power having greater influence than regular citizens, politicians serving corporate donors rather than citizens, workers being underpaid, excessive healthcare costs, an incarceration crisis, and an increasingly militant police force that seems to exhibit a pattern of abusing people of color and those exercising Freedom of Speech.
So, rather than witnessing a spiritual battle between the children of light and the children of darkness, we see a rising number of well-intentioned citizens concerned about the future of our country and the world. That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, this group of concerned citizens find themselves on different sides of some issues.
Politicians sometimes look for opportunities to incite anger and fear among supporters to help activate and grow their base. Divide and conquer.
Foreign governments that are antagonistic to the United States look for opportunities to create strife, promote chaos, and incite riots. Manipulations of social media can help achieve these goals.
The combined efforts of politicians and foreign governments can result in citizens of the United States being manipulated into taking sides against each other.
For these reasons, people of the world, from all walks of life, of all ethnicities, of all nationalities, religious and non-religious, regardless of political affiliation, need to come together and itemize the long list of common concerns and goals that are essential in sustaining life and freedom on earth.
If there’s a spiritual battle going on, it’s an internal struggle that everyone faces in striving to be their best self and help others do the same.
Archbishop Viganò is correct when he says, “there are those who, although they have a thousand defects and weaknesses, are motivated by the desire to do good.”
Let us stir within ourselves and others that desire to do good.