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Archbishop critical of Pope Francis excommunicated for schism

By Christopher Lamb, CNN

(CNN) — Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former papal ambassador to the United States who became an ultra-conservative critic of Pope Francis, has been excommunicated for schism.

The Vatican said in a statement that the prelate had refused to “recognize and submit” to the authority of the pope, and had rejected “communion” with members of the Catholic Church and its authoritative teachings.

In 2018, Viganò released a bombshell dossier calling on Francis to resign and accusing the pope of knowing about allegations of abuse of trainee priests carried out by the former cardinal of Washington, DC, Theodore McCarrick, and failing to act. A Vatican inquiry later challenged Viganò’s account and cleared Francis.

As a Vatican diplomat, the archbishop was tasked with serving the pope, which makes his excommunication for schism highly unusual. The ruling means the archbishop cannot receive the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church, such as communion.

The Vatican explained Friday that Viganò was excommunicated following an “extrajudicial penal process,” although the archbishop has said he did not “recognize the legitimacy” of the process.

Recently, the archbishop has said Francis’ election to the papacy should be considered “null and void” and has instead accused the pope of “heresy and schism.”

He has accused the pontiff of supporting what he called the “climate fraud” and has criticized him for backing Covid-19 vaccines and for promoting an “inclusive, immigrationist, eco-sustainable, and gay-friendly” church. Viganò was also at the center of controversy for arranging a meeting between the pope and Kim Davis, a Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples, during the pope’s 2015 visit to the US. The Vatican later said the meeting “should not be considered a form of support of her position.”

Following Viganò’s 2018 call for the pope to resign, several bishops in the US issued statements of support for the archbishop, which were criticized by some commentators.

For some, the archbishop had been seen as an effective diplomat and official in years gone by. “I don’t know what happened,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, said recently about the now-excommunicated archbishop.

The Vatican said Viganò had been told of the excommunication and that only the Holy See could lift the sanction.

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