Wisconsin bishop accuses Archbishop Viganò of ‘public defamation’

Catholic World Report [San Francisco CA]

April 6, 2024

By Daniel Payne for CNA

A Wisconsin bishop has publicly rebuked the former apostolic nuncio to the United States, accusing him of defamation and a possibly illicit ordination.

The clash between Bishop James Powers of the Diocese of Superior and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò stems from a March 22 post on X in which the controversial former Vatican official criticized what he called a “shamanic ceremony” at the start of the Superior Diocese’s 2024 Chrism Mass.

The March 19 Mass at its outset featured four Ojibwe women engaging in traditional dance while accompanied by indigenous drumming. Viganò in his post called the ritual “a very serious sacrilege,” describing Powers as “a squalid official of the ecumenical religion” and “not a Successor of the Apostles, but a servant of Freemasonry.” You can watch the beginning of the Mass in the diocese’s video here.

Powers responded in a sharply worded letter dated April 5, accusing Viganò of a “violation of my right to a good name and reputation.” The diocese posted the letter on its Facebook page.

Powers wrote that it has “long been a tradition in the Diocese of Superior to honor the heritage of our Native Americans before major diocesan celebrations,” including at his installation as bishop in 2016. Viganò himself attended that event, Powers pointed out, adding that “never in the last eight years” had the archbishop expressed any concerns about it.

“I would have at least expected the courtesy of a prior contact before any alleged public accusations of promoting Shamanism,” the bishop wrote in the letter.

Arguing that Viganò’s rhetoric “does not befit an Archbishop of the Catholic Church” and that it “brings harm to the faithful” entrusted to his care, Powers requested “a public apology from [Viganò] to me and my people.” Viganò could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Alleged illicit ordination

The Vatican’s top diplomat to the U.S. from 2011 to 2016, Viganò made headlines in 2018 when he publicly accused Church leaders, including Pope Francis, of covering up the sexual abuse allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

The Italian archbishop made news again in 2020 when he penned an open letter to then-President Donald Trump expressing solidarity with Trump’s ongoing battles with the “deep state,” which the archbishop suggested had orchestrated the COVID-19 pandemic in a conspiracy to bring about a “New World Order” with the support of some Catholic bishops.

In his letter, Bishop Powers wrote that Viganò allegedly carried out an illicit ordination and then sent the illicitly ordained man to the Superior Diocese without Powers’ approval.

In February, Powers warned his diocese of an establishment called the Hermitage of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Cumberland, Wisconsin, noting the “very questionable canonical status of Bryan Wallman and Rebekah Siegler,” the two individuals reportedly running the institution. Powers said that neither of the men had provided “proper documents” establishing their canonical status. In his letter on Friday, Powers asked for clarification from Viganò about his alleged role in ordaining and sending Wallman to the Superior Diocese.

“Without proof of a valid ordination to the priesthood, Bryan Wallman is putting the spiritual lives of some of my people in danger,” Powers wrote.

“If Archbishop Viganò is involved in any way with these activities, I demand that he cause their cessation immediately,” he added.