Catholic Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò hopes the faithful are fasting and praying today. Calling for a fast isn’t that unusual. But this one raised eyebrows because the controversial former Apostolic Nuncio (the Vatican’s ambassador) to the U.S. urged prayers and fasting on behalf of the hundreds of individuals arrested for their participation in the Jan 6, 2021, insurrection.
“I hope that this initiative will find many adherents, in a spirit of true reparation of the innumerable sins and grave betrayals committed,” Viganò wrote in a Dec. 31, 2022, letter about the three-day fast “to propitiate heavenly protection to the United States of America against the subversive attack of the deep state.”
Viganò endorsed the initiative at the request of Joseph McBride, a lawyer who has represented some Jan. 6 defendants. The archbishop urged the effort to end on Jan. 5 instead of Jan. 6 since the latter is Epiphany, which is “a very important feast for the universal Church in which we do not fast.” But these three days of fasting leading up to Jan. 6, Viganò wrote, could be “almost in preparation for the Epiphany of the Son of God, to be offered to the Child King together with the gifts of the Magi.” (This year we bring gold, frankincense, myrrh, and acquittals for insurrectionists.)
“May these three days of fasting in union with the Passion of Our Lord obtain from the divine Majesty the victory of the children of Light over the works of iniquity,” Viganò added. “And may Mary Most Holy, terrible defeater of the infernal Serpent, be able to accompany and protect us in this spiritual battle.”
Although Viganò officially retired in 2016 (because of the mandatory retirement age of 75 for bishops), he remains an influential figure, especially among conservative Catholics. From calling for Pope Francis’s resignation to engaging in political debates, Viganò continues to impact Catholic public thought. That’s why the Jan. 6 lawyer reached out to get Viganò’s endorsement for the fasting initiative. The archbishop, who even addressed a large rally during the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, clearly holds a sympathetic view of those who prayed, fasted, and fought for Donald Trump to remain in office.
The efforts by Viganò then and now to support the lies about a “deep state” supposedly stealing an election highlight that it wasn’t just evangelicals who baptized the movement to overturn the election of President Joe Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president. Many conservative Catholics also parroted Trump’s lies about the election and even stormed the Capitol on that Epiphany.
So this issue of A Public Witness will introduce you to the controversial career of Viganò before looking at his role in the post-election crusade. Then it will consider the danger of the new call to fast and pray for the Jan. 6 defendants.