An Italian nun has accused Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò of “throwing pearls before swine” with the Catholic cover he is providing for US President Donald Trump.
Sister Antoinetta Potente, a Dominican Sister of St. Thomas Aquinas, wrote a powerful open letter June 25 to Viganò, the former nuncio in the US turned vehement critic of Pope Francis and the mainstream Church.
Potente’s letter came in response to another letter Viganò sent June 7 to Trump, in which the prelate warned that the biblical “war” between the “children of light” and the “children of darkness” is taking place today, first under the pretext of the COVID-19 emergency – a “colossal operation of social engineering” – and now in the race protests sweeping across the globe: this last an operation, Viganò said, aimed at “the dissolution of the social order so as to build a world without freedom”.
Viganò didn’t hesistate to situate Trump on the side of the “children of light”, and denounced criticism of the president as “part of the orchestrated media narrative which seeks not to fight racism and bring social order, but to aggravate dispositions; not to bring justice, but to legitimize violence and crime; not to serve the truth, but to favor one political faction”.
Trump tweeted June 10 that he was “so honoured” by Viganò’s “incredible” letter to him, and expressed his hope that “everyone, religious or not, reads it”.
The President later returned to the missive in a June 22 interview with conservative Catholic outlet EWTN, calling Viganò’s panegyric a “tremendous letter of support from the Catholic Church”.
Commentators didn’t fail to notice the racist undertones of Viganò’s screed, however, identifying as he did people of colour and their supporters – “an absolute minority” – as “children of darkness”, and suggesting that the “children of light”, who don’t support the racial justice movement, “are the object of a sort of discrimination which places them in a situation of moral inferiority with respect to their adversaries”.
It is against that racism that Potente reacts in her open letter, but also against Viganò’s appropriation and misuse of Christian symbolism in his assessment of Trump as being on the right side of the “spiritual battle” that, in his estimation, is currently in full swing. The full text of the nun’s letter follows, in a translation by Novena.
Open letter of Sister Antonietta Potente to Archbishop Viganò
We are deeply outraged by the words that you, a Christian and a bishop, have expressed in support of President Trump, who has pursued a policy that, in recent months, has shown itself to be increasingly discriminatory and violent, both in the health emergency and in recent acts of racism.
It seems to us that using the Scriptures to justify President Trump’s violent policy is like giving “pearls to the pigs”, in the words of the Gospel. “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot” (Mt 7:6).
The language you use in your message to the President of the United States (letter of June 7, 2020) has upset us women, Christians and Dominican religious, but at the same time it incites us to dissociate ourselves from and to denounce the ambiguity of your thinking and your position; yours is also a dualistic and discriminatory language.
We cannot resign ourselves to thinking that a member of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church can use the Scriptures to support such a policy, which is contrary to every evangelical principle.
We already deplored your request to Pope Francis to resign, but now we find it truly blasphemous for you to use the biblical term “children of light” to declare that Trump, along with you and your entourage, are victims of specific heavenly and socio-political plots.
To deny the evidence of these latest racist events on the part of members of the police, supported and defended by President Trump himself, is contrary to the Gospel. The children of light of whom you speak so much are those who walk in the light, see and with parrhesia denounce what they have seen.
On the lips of Jesus of Nazareth, of his first disciples, the strong, the arrogant, the oppressors never found a blessing, but instead the humble, the meek, the lovers of justice and peace, even in the precariousness of human and historical conditions.
We do not understand how this message can be forgotten and how John’s language of light and darkness can be used to support a government as violent as the current government of the United States.
Violent in words (just look at President Trump’s messages from the last few days), violent in deeds. And equally violent in his world politics and international relations and even in the will to appropriate a vaccine that, like any cure, should belong to humanity.
All this leaves us truly amazed, but at the same time we trust that this racist vomit that you attribute – causing great confusion – to the children of darkness, will not find a place in the human soul, especially in the souls of women and men who suffer.
We, religious women, really feel “of Eve”, but not according to the metaphor you use [Viganò wrote of “the clear separation between the offspring of the Woman and the offspring of the Serpent” – ed.]. Rather, we believe that certain attitudes of yours, as well as the language you use, are not nourished by Eve’s children, as you claim, but are the result of a homophobic and therefore discriminatory mentality, as demonstrated by President Trump, whom you support.
Please know that we too are praying for Trump and for his country, but not according to the intention you propose.
We pray, as women of faith, with the same words that true biblical tradition has taught us: we ask for cooperation so that the humble, and not the rich, are exalted; we ask that the powerful and the arrogant who humiliate and destroy the hope of the people disappear.
Therefore, we also pray for Trump and for you, who support him. Let it be clear, however, that we are on the side of the weak and the oppressed, confident that to them alone wisdom has been revealed that the rulers of this world could not know (1 Cor 2:8).