On July 5, 2024, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a press release declaring that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò had incurred latae sententiae excommunication (automatic excommunication).

Several voices in social media protested about the alleged expediency of this process compared with other prominent cases. Bishop Joseph Strickland, previously head of the diocese of Tyler, Texas, tweeted on July 6:

We find ourselves at a strange moment in Church history when Archbishop Viganò is excommunicated swiftly while Theodore McCarrick remains unexcommunicated after years of his crimes against the Church have come to light (…) Rather than addressing the serious questions and allegations Archbishop Viganò raises, he is summarily removed from the Church with an apparent motive to silence him.

To address this claim, The City and the World prepared a timeline of key events surrounding the controversies of McCarrick and Viganò.


June 20, 2018 – A review board from the Archdiocese of New York finds the allegations of sexual abuse on the part of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington as “credible and substantiated.”

July 27, 2018 – Pope Francis accepts McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals. McCarrick becomes the first cardinal to lose his red hat since 1927. “At the direction of Pope Francis,” McCarrick is removed from ministry, to live “a life of prayer and penance”.

August 22, 2018 – Archbishop Viganò—who had been the US Apostolic Nuncio from 2011 to 2016—publishes a letter alleging that Pope Benedict XVI had imposed “canonical sanctions” on McCarrick in 2009 or 2010 and that Pope Francis had “covered for him” by not taking those sanctions into account; He calls for the resignation of Francis.

August – September 2018 – Several journalists note that McCarrick kept a robust public presence even when the alleged sanctions were in full force (sometimes even in events attended by Viganò himself as Nuncio).

September 29, 2018 – Viganò doubles down on his statement, and asks Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who reportedly knew about the sanctions, to release the “documents incriminating McCarrick and many in the curia for their cover-ups”.

October 7, 2018 – Cardinal Ouellet releases an open letter, written with papal authorization, clarifying that Cardinal McCarrick had merely “been requested not to travel or to make public appearances, in order to avoid new rumors about him,” since “back then, unlike today, there was not sufficient proof of his alleged culpability.” According to Ouellet, it is “false” to “present those measures as ‘sanctions’ formally imposed by Pope Benedict XVI and then invalidated by Pope Francis.” A “review of the archives” found “no documents signed by either Pope in this regard.”

2018-2020 – Viganò goes into hiding but continues to issue letters and give interviews to sympathetic media. He shifts his tone to conspiracy theories about the Fatima apparitions, the New World Order, and COVID-19.

February 13, 2019 – The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concludes its legal process against McCarrick finding him guilty and dismissing him from the clerical state.

April 10, 2020 – Viganò publishes another letter, arguing that, just because Pope Francis transferred “Vicar of Christ” to the “historical titles” section of the Pontifical Yearbook, he had “officially disavowed being the Vicar of Christ”; Viganò calls the Holy Father a “tyrant.”

June 2020 – Viganò gives an interview, stating that the Second Vatican Council had been “infiltrated,” that the “errors of the post-conciliar period were contained in the Conciliar Acts,” and that Vatican II represented “a point of rupture.” 

June 6, 2020 – Viganò publishes a letter warning President Trump that the management of the COVID-19 pandemic reflects a struggle between good and evil. Trump tweets this letter. Some analysts note that, by doing so, Viganò’s ideas have gone mainstream and that his influence is growing.

November 10, 2020 – The Secretariat of State of the Holy See releases a Report on the Holy See’s Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making regarding McCarrick.

2020-2024 – Viganò continues to release interventions, with increasingly more inflammatory rhetoric against Pope Francis and the Second Vatican Council.

October 2, 2023 – Viganò gives a conference casting doubts on the validity of Francis’ election.

June 20, 2024 – The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith notifies Viganò of a penal process against him for the crime of schism, summoning him to the Palace of the Holy Office, in person or represented by a canon lawyer. Viganò says he regards it as an “honor” and declares the next day he will not attend the trial.

June 28, 2024 – Viganò pens a declaration, accusing Pope Francis of heresy and schism, and rejecting the doctrines of the Second Vatican Council.

July 5, 2024 – Viganò is excommunicated for “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”.


Before comparing the cases of McCarrick and Viganò, it is important to note that these pertain to different canonical crimes with different penalties.

McCarrick was guilty of solicitation in the sacrament of Confession and of sins against the sixth commandment. For these crimes, the most serious cases are dismissed from the clerical state (canons 1385, 1395, 1398).

Viganò was found guilty of schism, defined as “the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (canon 751). A schismatic incurs latae sententiae excommunication (canon 1364).

Regarding the alleged “swiftness” of Viganò’s excommunication, it must noted that it occurred:

  • 5 years, 10 months, and 14 days after Viganò asked Francis to resign. This call for resignation was based on accusations that were refuted by Cardinal Ouellet, with papal permission, 1 month, and 16 days after they were made.
  • 4 years, 2 months, and 25 days after saying that Pope Francis had disavowed the title “Vicar of Christ.”
  • 4 years after saying the documents of the Second Vatican Council contained errors.
  • 9 months, and 3 days, after questioning the validity of Pope Francis’ election.

During this period, Viganò did not show any signs of relenting but continued to produce more content, thus growing in influence. His acts and words were public and objectively assessable by anyone with an Internet account.

For comparison, the time that elapsed since Cardinal McCarrick’s sexual abuse allegations were found credible and:

  • The removal of McCarrick’s red hat by Pope Francis was 1 month, and 7 days (predating Viganò’s first intervention by 3 weeks).
  • McCarrick’s dismissal from the clerical state was 7 months, and 24 days.
  • The release of the full McCarrick report to the public was 2 years, 4 months, and 21 days.

There are no indications that Pope Francis acted swiftly on excommunicating Viganò, nor is it true that his questions and allegations remain unaddressed. On the other hand, McCarrick’s condemnation (once his allegations were found credible) was relatively fast.

Excommunication is to be considered a “medicinal penalty that aims at inviting the offender to repentance.” If Viganò shows public signs of repentance in the future, the censure may be lifted by the Apostolic See.

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Dr. Pedro Gabriel is a Portuguese Internet journalist, having received a diploma with Honours from the London School of Journalism in 2021. He is a member of the International Association of Religion Journalists. He is currently residing in Portugal with his wife, Claire.

He is one of the co-founders of Where Peter Is, where he remains as one of its main contributors.

He won second place from the 2024 Catholic Media Association Awards in the category “History” for his book Heresy Disguised as Tradition (En Route, 2023) and also won first place and honourable mention from the same organization in the category “Pope Francis” and “Sacraments” for his apologetics book “The Orthodoxy of Amoris Laetitia (Wipf and Stock, 2022). His latest apologetics book is “Rigidity: Faithfulness or Heterodoxy?” (En Route, 2024).

He was an accredited press corps member for the press coverage of World Youth Day Lisbon 2023.

Currently, he is taking classes in moral theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. He is also a medical oncologist, a parish reader, and a published writer of Catholic novels.

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Dr. Pedro Gabriel is a Portuguese Internet journalist, having received a diploma with Honours from the London School of Journalism in 2021. He is a member of the International Association of Religion Journalists. He is currently residing in Portugal with his wife, Claire. He is one of the co-founders of Where Peter Is, where he remains as one of its main contributors. He won second place from the 2024 Catholic Media Association Awards in the category “History” for his book Heresy Disguised as Tradition (En Route, 2023) and also won first place and honourable mention from the same organization in the category “Pope Francis” and “Sacraments” for his apologetics book “The Orthodoxy of Amoris Laetitia (Wipf and Stock, 2022). His latest apologetics book is “Rigidity: Faithfulness or Heterodoxy?” (En Route, 2024). He was an accredited press corps member for the press coverage of World Youth Day Lisbon 2023. Currently, he is taking classes in moral theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. He is also a medical oncologist, a parish reader, and a published writer of Catholic novels.