Cardinal Reinhard Marx has criticised Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s COVID-19 conspiracy theory, saying that it “divides and scares”.

– “No reason to believe that tomorrow a dictatorship will break out”

Marx, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, the former chair of the German Bishops’ Conference and one of Pope Francis’ closest advisors as Coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy and a member of the ‘C6’ Council of Cardinals admitted to Der Spiegel in an interview this Saturday that he was stunned by Viganò’s May 7 “appeal”.

Viganò, a hero of the ultraconservative opposition to Pope Francis, denounced that governments were using the coronavirus as a “pretext” to restrict citizens’ fundamental rights and overthrow “Christian civilisation”.

That was in favour, the former nuncio in the US maintained, of an “odious technological tyranny” and “dictatorship” in which “nameless and faceless people can decide the fate of the world by confining us to a virtual reality”.

Cardinals Gerhard Müller of Germany, Joseph Zen of Hong Kong and Janis Pujats of Latvia put to their names to Viganò’s conspiracy theory, as did various other bishops, priests and laypeople around the world.

But as did his fellow bishops in Germany, Cardinal Marx blasted Viganò for his fearmongering, and said that “I see no reason to believe that tomorrow a dictatorship will break out in our country or that religion will be fought”.

Marx also questioned Viganò and the other Catholic COVID-19 conspiracy theorists as to the basis and the expertise from which the Church should intervene in debates over public health.

“I am sticking to what the politicians prescribe after intensive consultation. And those responsible were quite open to our concerns”, the Munich archbishop insisted.

– Just 18% of Germans support “appeal”

A fortnight after its publication, the COVID-19 “appeal” of Viganò, Müller and company is continuing to make waves in Germany.

Last week, the Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost polled more than 2,000 Germans to gauge whether they thought it was “good” that the conspiracy theorists had challenged lockdown measures.

Just 18% of those surveyed welcomed the “appeal”, while 57% did not, Die Tagespost found, with support for the petition being higher among Protestants than Catholics, on the one hand, and among voters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the liberal FDP than of other parties, on the other.

Also last week, Orthodox rabbi Jehoshua Ahrens lamented the “appeal” and its underlying conspiracy theories, labelling them as a “shock” and a “huge problem” for society.

– “I am a conservative by sentiment”

Beyond the matter of Viganò and his co-conspirators, Cardinal Marx also referred in his interview with Der Spiegel to his surprise February resignation at the helm of the German Bishops’ Conference (“I never had the feeling that someone wanted to overthrow me… The time was ripe for a change”) and to his reputation as a Catholic “progressive”.

“I am a conservative by sentiment”, Marx revealed, adding that “as a 15-year-old I did not like the fact that after the Second Vatican Council old ceremonies and images were abolished in many places”.

But even as he explained his great love of tradition, the cardinal said the key is that those traditions must evolve and develop.

“The Church must not become a museum: it lives”, Marx insisted.

More on Novena on the Viganò-Müller COVID-19 conspiracy theory:

Church historian rips cardinals’ COVID-19 conspiracy claim: “It’s so ridiculous that it discredits itself”

Cardinal Müller cries persecution after blowback from COVID-19 conspiracy

German Bishops take down Cardinal Müller over coronavirus conspiracy rant

German vicar general lashes out at cardinals over “outrageous right-wing populist rhetoric” in COVID-19 conspiracy theory

Prospect of one “world government” after COVID-19 divides Catholic conservatives, progressives


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.