The bishops of Quebec, Vancouver, and Toronto and other sundry regions seem finally to realize what is at stake. When Covid first hit, they all went well beyond government protocols – locking down churches for months on end, in what one recent author described as a perpetual Holy Saturday.
Well, now, one year on, they are realizing what they have given away – the rights and freedom of the Church to exercise her spiritual and sacramental ministry – and are trying, with little success thus far, to take it back. While the hoi polloi jostle cheek to jowl, jowl to cheek, cheek to cheek, at Wal-Marts, cinemas, Costcos, liquor stores and even restaurants, churches in these jurisdictions remain at a total capacity of ten people, in buildings designed hold hundreds. In British Columbia, they are at zero people, public religious services still completely verboten, with no end in sight. Dr. Bonnie Henry, under whose authority this interminable interdict continues (even though she may well be under pressure from those on a higher pay-grade and with more nefarious motives) seems already quasi-canonized in that province now almost completely neo-pagan: tea towels bear her image, and ditties sing her virtues. Just keep us safe one more day, Doc Bonnie!
I know not her own religious proclivities, but we should all ask where our priorities reside. Are we willing to live without the sacraments, for months on end, and no end in sight? Another Holy Week and Easter still in the desert? Padre Pio once quipped that the world could live more easily without the Sun than without the Mass, to which homo modernus et scientificus would smile condescendingly.
The secular mindset is not the Catholic mindset, and in many ways is its precise opposite. Just as the former does not see any intrinsic value to human life – expendable as circumstances demand by abortion and euthanasia and other means, for life is for this world alone – so too it does not see religious worship of much use, not least the Catholic Mass; and definitely not as ‘necessary’, but rather a fringe activity for the unenlightened. Do people actually still think that a priest’s words can forgive sins, and that bread can become the very body, blood, soul and divinity of God, offered up for our salvation? Salvation from what, they wonder.
Of course, the Eucharist is a ‘hard saying’, as the first Pope confessed to Christ Himself when He revealed. For the acceptance of the ‘hard truths’ – those most opaque to our reason – requires the grace of Faith. Hence, ’tis not surprising that it is rejected by those who think that the only path to truth is through our senses, our ‘experts’ and ‘science’.
Thus has the narrow and constricting mindset of ‘scientism’ – that quantitative data is the only source of truth – infected our age far more deleteriously than Covid. For ‘data’ and statistics can be manipulated as one wills, and as Mark Twain put it, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. One often finds what one wants to find, and proves what one wants to prove.
The continued obeisance to governmental and medical mandates at the expense of truth and freedom has not exactly inspired confidence to the average person in the pew, at least those of us left still trying to go to Mass, as the drift away from the Church continues. The state now thinks it can tell the churches – including the Catholic Church – exactly what to do. Hence, the world enters the sanctuary of God – and, once inside, like the seven devils, is quite difficult to remove. If full persecution comes upon us, the world will look upon us as a lamb led to be fed to the lions; a vague curiosity, and no big deal, little aware that that Lamb will become a Lion, Who, sooner than we might think, will conquer the princes of this world, and execute a Judgement from which none of us can flee.
I must confess that it is difficult to see princes of the Church go hat-in-hand to governmental apparatchiks, begging for just a little more access to the Mass, please sir!, like Oliver before the Beadle. Write your MPP’s! is not a rallying cry that will rally many. I suppose we must use the democratic process, as I wrote recently for the euthanasia bill, at least pro forma, so that we dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. But I was told by my own MP that Bill C-7 was sure to pass, and pass it did, as the Bloc Quebecois supported the Liberals, themselves submissive to Trudeau, who, like Dr. Bonnie, may well be obeying those beyond him.
What we need now is a new-found parrhesia – the courage and boldness – of the Apostles, who knew they had to obey God rather than men. Nero and his cohorts could go to hell if that was their desire, by rejecting or ignoring Christ – which amount to the same thing. He is not with Me is against Me. They knew their task as Apostles and Bishops was to lead their people to heaven, even at the cost of their lives.
What this means and where that leaves us now, I know not, but how long can whole regions go on without Mass, Confession, the other sacraments and regular worship? People are leaving the Church in droves, driven by despair and despondency. I have no easy answers, but it may be time for a more, shall we say, principled and pointed approach, akin to the Albertan pastor willing to endure prison for his own flock. Is it not time that we say, thus far, and no farther, to be God’s good servant first, before the king’s?
For now, many suffer, but this has its own goodness, for at the end of the day, it’s the Cross that counts, and we are all called to carry and even be fixed upon our own as the path the paradise.
For it is by that arbor vitae that Christ has redeemed the world.