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Vatican excommunicates Archbishop Viganò for refusing to recognize pope

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ROME — The Vatican on Friday excommunicated Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, exacting a severe punishment on the most vociferous internal critic of Pope Francis for refusing to recognize the authority of the pope and liberal reforms made by the Roman Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

Such drastic steps are exceedingly rare in the church and illustrated the extent to which Viganò — the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States — is perceived to have crossed a line. He has called on the pope to resign and excoriated him in harsh terms, including calling him “a servant of Satan.”

Viganò’s punishment suggests that Francis, who has faced conservative criticism since early in his papacy, may be losing patience with his sharpest critics in the church hierarchy who have challenged his papal authority in sometimes shocking and irreverent terms. It is also an indication of how Viganò has morphed over the years from a being a critic of the pope and the church’s shortcomings on dealing with clerical abuse into a fringe conservative firebrand who has embraced conspiracy theories and recently retweeted a post from Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), claiming that “the covid vaccines are killing people.”

The Vatican’s decision came after its disciplinary body, the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, had issued a formal decree June 20, assigning the senior cleric to a penal canon trial for the “crime of schism” and “denial of the legitimacy of Pope Francis.”

“His public statements manifesting his refusal to recognize and submit to the Supreme Pontiff, his rejection of communion with the members of the Church subject to him, and of the legitimacy and magisterial authority of the Second Vatican Council are well known,” the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith said in statement. “At the conclusion of the penal process, the Most Reverend Carlo Maria Viganò was found guilty of the reserved delict of schism.”

The summary judgment by the Vatican can only be undone by a high ruling of the pope for the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith acting in his name. The excommunication means that Viganò cannot officially accept Catholic sacraments including Communion, ordain priests or officiate Mass.

He does not immediately lose his clerical title, though such a step could follow if he is deemed to be unrepentant, experts say.

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