Newfoundland and Labrador, jutting out into the cold North Atlantic, have been battered in past decades – no pun on their fishing industry, which has too suffered. They seem to get the worst of winter storms, howling winds and snow hurled in across the briny sea. Their economy has been on the ropes, kept afloat by government dole, which, as Stan Rogers put, may well rot one’s soul. And, on that note, there was the scandal of the Mount Cashel orphanage for boys, the Irish Brothers implicated in long-term physical and sexual abuse that still reverberates.
Now, as if more were needed, the bishop of the diocese which encompasses much of the province has decreed that only those ‘double vaccinated’ will be permitted entry into Catholic churches, with ushers checking ‘vaxx passes’ at the door, for those still going to Mass in Newfoundland.
We have written before on the actual teaching of the Church on this issue: That any vaccine should be voluntary, and only administered for proportionate reasons. Not least since all the options currently available are tainted in some way with abortion. Objections must be raised, and ethical alternatives sought. Yet we hear none of this, even from the highest levels of the hierarchy.
Added to this are the obvious deleterious side effects of these inoculations, and their limited effectiveness, becoming more evident with each passing day. People should – must – be free to make a decision to balance such risks, and resist such state intrusion into intimate and weighty medical decisions.
Ponder for now what this episcopal decree will look like on the ground: Elderly parishioners, still clinging to their Catholic practice, the sort who engage in pre-Mass chats about their medical problems and check-ups, they will for a time check each other’s credentials, until they realize the futility of it all, the occasional rare visitor being happily scrutinized, as numbers dwindle by desuetude or death.
In the early Church – up well into the early modern era – it was the ‘gentiles’ who were not permitted into the house of God. Even those preparing for Baptism only attended the ‘Mass of the Catechumens’, with the consecration reserved for those fully initiated.
The spiritus mundi has set its seat in the sanctuary God. The masking mandates were propaedeutic to the vaccine. Now, as predicted, the law is inverted, the door shut to those with the mark of Baptism bestowed by Christ, but open to those – and only to those – with a health certificate bestowed by Caesar, regardless of their spiritual state.
How will this work for evangelization, conversion and the whole missionary nature of the Church? Who is going to join a parish such as this, being checked at the door for your ‘papers, please’? Once the current crop of elderly parishioners shuffle off this mortal coil, what’s stopping the moribund trajectory of this whole endeavour, a veritable self-euthanization of the church?
There is a spiritual malaise to all of this, even a deep and abiding evil, that has little to do with ‘Covid’, which has been afflicting our country, and our Church, for decades, a compromise, complaisance with the culture of death, and a consequent a diminution of faith. These current mandates are one of its many bitter fruits, which we now see exploding across Europe. Whither this goes, God only knows.
The bishop, besides doing violence to the consciences of his flock, is forcing them into a difficult situation: They need, and have a right to, the Body and Blood of Christ and the sacraments, for eternal life, so where do the ‘un-vaxxed’ now turn? I’m not sure of their numbers, nor if there are any priests willing to help them. Are they to eke out a lay Catholic existence, baptizing and marrying each other – the only sacraments that can be administered by the laity – and holding out as best they might? As the Catechism says, God can provide His grace outside the sacraments, but it is not His perfect will to do so, nor is such a situation tenable in the long term.
The bishop’s conscience is his own, but this signifies a grave distortion of priority and perspective, and, to put it mildly, a vast over-reach of episcopal prerogative. He gives as his reason that ‘we cannot let the virus win’. To embellish one commentator’s response, ‘Your Excellency, with such a policy, the virus has already won’. We can only hope that, as in Moncton, this draconian measure is walked back, before ‘tis too late, if it’s not already.
Our Lord in the Gospel asked whether He will find faith on earth. I’m not sure about our fair planet, but, with the way things are going, He may not find much in Newfoundland.
But we should end on a note of hope: As a priest said to me the other day, the Church is bigger than the church in any one place, and God is bigger than the Church. We suffer what we must, in trust and hope.