“Da salútis éxitum”. A Response to Mr. Battiston and His Excellency Archbishop Viganò
by a Marian Soul
I thank both Fabio Battiston and Monsignor Viganò for their outstanding observations here at Duc in Altum. I would like to offer a tiny contribution to this much-needed conversation among faithful, courageous souls.
As we navigate the stormy waters in which the Barque of Peter finds herself, it is imperative that we remember three aspects of our Christian faith: Paradox, Conversion, and Pilgrimage.
Paradox. The entire Christian faith is a paradox. “Whoever tries to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Lk 17:33). Something analogous is true of the Church. She presents us with a paradox. She is “both black and beautiful” (Song 1:5). Battiston is correct when he observes the paradox that in a certain way Viganò finds himself fighting against what most people think of as the Church. And Battiston asks a very important question: “Are we supposed to continue to profess our faith within an institution we consider to be demonic?” Viganò is also correct when he responds with a paradox: We must never abandon our Mother, the Church, for it is not the Church that has become a demonic institution, but rather her counterfeit. But let us pursue Msgr. Viganò’s logic to its obvious if unstated conclusion: The Vatican has been taken over by a demonic power, but the Vatican is not the Church. And this is the beginning of a paradoxical answer to Battiston’s excellent closing question: What exactly do we mean by the Church? Can it be that we are now called to apply in a certain way the words of Our Lord in Luke 17:33 to his Bride the Church: Whoever tries to save “the Church” will lose her, but whoever is willing to lose “the Church” will preserve her? The answer first requires prayerful pondering, like all the paradoxes of Scripture.
Conversion. But, someone will say, this would require a completely different way of thinking about the Church! Indeed. A transformation. A μετανοια. A conversio. Let us not deceive ourselves that it is only the Bergoglians who need conversion. The faithful of the end times must “re-think” the Church (always in accord with Catholic doctrine), just as the first disciples needed to “re-think” the Messiah. Monsignor Viganò observes correctly that the Church of the end times must live the passio Ecclesiae, of which he has written extensively elsewhere. But let us not overlook a key aspect of the Passion – the near-total misunderstanding which the first disciples had about the nature of the Messiah and the Kingdom. As Holy Week unfolded, they imagined that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to confront the wicked authorities and restore the past earthly glory of David and Solomon. But they could not have been more mistaken. “Put away your sword,” (Mt 26:52) Jesus said in the garden of Gethsemane to one of his disciples. In other words, “Completely change your thinking.” This disciple was courageous, but he still lacked conversion. The Passion involves not only the suffering of Christ and his faithful, but also the conversion of his faithful disciples: they must be freed from clinging to hopes of earthly power and earthly victory for the Church that fall far, far short of what Christ intends for His Mystical Body. When the Lord has finally risen from the dead, the disciples are told to go and find Him in a place that at first they would not have thought of looking: “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Mt 28:10). He does not rise from the dead in order to lead the Apostles to storm the Temple, kick the wicked Sanhedrin out, and make his Apostles the princes of the earthly Israel. He leads them somewhere completely different. We too, as faithful, courageous believers, must be converted. We do not need to storm the Vatican, or even our local chancery. Rather, we must “Go to Galilee.”
Pilgrimage. The passio Ecclesiae must necessarily involve pilgrimage. It is a new and greater Exodus, an unforeseen “exit of salvation,” which the Church continually asks for in the Sequence of Pentecost: da salutis exitum. Again and again in salvation history, God’s people are called to go somewhere new and unknown, to walk by faith (2 Cor 5:7). Abraham takes his family and belongings and leaves Ur (Gen 12). Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and into the desert, even as the people complain and want to go back (Ex 16). When wicked King Ahab comes to power, the word of the Lord comes to Elijah: “Leave here and hide in the [desert]” (1 Kgs 17:2). Ezekiel is commanded by the Lord: “Set out and go from where you are to another place.” (Ez 12:3). He digs a hole in the wall of the city of Jerusalem and leaves it, even as all the people think he is crazy, because they believe that Jerusalem and the Temple can never be destroyed (see Jer 7:4). Joseph is told on a moment’s notice: “Rise, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt” (Mt 2:13). Jesus himself counsels his disciples: “When you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation…then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Mk 13:14). The pilgrimage of God’s people is always unexpected and difficult. It means the absolute abandonment of security and certainty. Anything less would be merely an act of human prudence. But true pilgrimage is a radical act of abandonment and trust. The Church, that is, God’s people, cannot remain secure and stationary in the end times. She must be stripped of all that is unessential so as to be set free and to bear witness, led only by the Spirit of God. This is the “perfect pilgrimage” preached by Saint Columban as he left his beloved Ireland, never to return, voluntarily embracing exile, not knowing where it would take him (I am thinking of our beloved Monsignor Viganò in August of 2018 when he submitted his Memorial for publication and left everything he had behind). Neither Columban nor Carlo Maria were heading to a shrine or any defined destination. They did not know where the pilgrimage would take them. They were seeking Easter.
As Columban departed, he is reputed to have said: “God counseled Abraham to leave his own country and go in pilgrimage…. Now the good counsel which God enjoined here on the father of the faithful is incumbent on all the faithful; that is to leave their country and their land, their wealth and their worldly delight for the sake of the Lord of the Elements, and go in perfect pilgrimage in imitation of Him.”
Something similar is now true for the Church at the hour of Her passio.
Da virtutis meritum,
da salútis éxitum,
da perenne gaudium.