Apocalypse 2020

What has already been laid bare in 2020 is not only the will of the authorities to employ disproportionate force, but also their lamentable incompetence in the matters with which they have been entrusted.

A bird at sunrise over Lake Ontario in Hamilton, Ontario. (CNS photo/Mark Blinch, Reuters)

It has been an apocalyptic year. As one who teaches theology and ethics, and writes biblical commentary too, permit me to explain that an “apocalypse,” properly speaking, is not a disaster, a scene of death and destruction on a spectacular scale. An apocalypse is a disclosure, an unveiling of something hidden. As in the Christmas story found in Luke 2:

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,

“Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel,
and for a sign that is spoken against –
and a sword will pierce through your own soul also –
that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed [apokaluphthõsin].”

The book famously known as The Apocalypse we can discuss another day. Behold, its time is coming and even now is. But this is Christmas, and the ten days of Christmas in the year of our Lord 2020 are a good time to notice that the year now past provided an apocalypse in just this sense: that in it the thoughts out of many hearts were revealed.

Get down on the ground!

Some more openly revealed than others. “Get down on the ground or I’ll f***ing Taser you!” shouted a power-mad policewoman in Calgary last week. Were such monstrous words ever heard before, in the True North Strong and Free, by a young man playing a peaceful game of shinny at an outdoor rink? The Taser was not actually fired, though Mr Wiesblatt (as Van Morrison would say) stood and delivered. Yet something ruptured that night, something deep in the Canadian psyche, when a youth who had threatened no one with anything other than a nifty deke or a quick wrister was eventually thrown down on the ice and had his skates cut off his feet.

That Ocean Wiesblatt and his mates were in violation of a Public Health order is not to be denied. I also am in violation of such orders from time to time. What’s more, I am (as you see) willing under certain circumstances to encourage such violations. The mere possibility that an asymptomatic trace of COVID-19 might be hiding somewhere among Wiesblatt’s fellow skaters was enough to trigger the local snitches and very nearly to trigger the Taser. The absurdity of all that, of thinking and acting as if this threatened an apocalypse in the other, more popular sense – a disaster that will end our world – is an absurdity that triggers me and ought, I dare say, to trigger you.

Equally open, and very deliberately so, were the thoughts of those civil authorities in Toronto who sent in squadrons of police, including mounted police, to take the redoubtable Etobicoke fortress of Adam Skelly’s barbecue barn – to seize it with overwhelming force, to arrest its proprietor, to shut it down and board it up. They, too, had a Tasering in mind, a jolting signal to send. They would crush without hesitation the first deliberate sign of dissent from their legally untested diktats, and so convey to the populace that compliant obedience was the only option. “Get down on the f***ing ground, plebes!”

But let us not dwell over long on the use of intimidation against the citizenry, though we may well see more of that in 2021. What has already been laid bare in 2020 is not only the will of the authorities to employ disproportionate force, but also their lamentable incompetence in the matters with which they have been entrusted. For they have been about as efficient in dealing with the coronavirus crisis as that Calgary policewoman was in her comical use of the martial arts. Otherwise put, they got off on the wrong foot and have remained on the wrong foot. Their measures have damaged only the country and done nothing at all to contain the disease.

They were foolish even to try to contain it. They ignored, and with impossible stupidity are still ignoring, the lesson King Cnut sought to teach his flattering counsellors a millennium ago. They have set their tawdry thrones in the midst of the viral tide and, without irony, ordered it to halt. COVID, of course, has paid them in return no attention at all, but regally continued the global ebb and flow it has enjoyed for more than a year now, taking such lives as it may and taking them without respect for masks or lockdowns or Tasers.

Flatten the curve or we’ll flatten you

Another failure of our political masters, strangely allied to their misplaced self-confidence, is their cowardly deferral to men and women of medicine who show the same unfortunate trait. Sensible folk in our medical system told us almost a year ago that we must, for just a couple of weeks, “flatten the curve” to give the hospitals time to prepare for what then looked like an extremely serious viral invasion. I myself was told that, in the very early going, by a medical colleague at McGill when I voiced my misgivings. But that was then. The sensible folk have all but disappeared, leaving the stage to those who, contrary to all laws of science and of crisis management, are still telling us to hunker down in safe spaces nine months on, though they now prefer to speak of “bending the curve.” Bending the curve is a game one can play at indefinitely; or rather until your money runs out, and public patience.

That anyone without ulterior motives would want to play this game beggars belief. Lieutenant-Colonel David Redman, sometime executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency who was also involved across the line in the 9/11 crisis, got it exactly right when he said in reply to a question from the C2C Journal:

The problem with our Covid-19 response is that power has been placed in the wrong place. Why? Because governments adopted the wrong mission statement. The first principle of war is the selection and maintenance of the aim. If you miss on that, things are going to go very poorly. Across the country it appears to me that our aim has been to minimize the number of people who catch Covid-19. That is repeatedly reflected in the media. The daily case count is the most important thing in every daily newscast and every news story. It’s all the politicians seem to talk about. This is wrong. Our aim must be to minimize the impact of Covid-19 on the province as a whole. Not the case count. Not even the death count. Here are the four goals taken directly from Alberta’s 2014 pandemic plan:

1). Control the spread of disease and reduce illness and death by providing access to appropriate prevention measures, care and treatment.
2). Mitigate social disruption by ensuring continuity and recovery of critical services.
3). Minimize adverse economic impacts.
4). Support an efficient and effective recovery.

As the questioning continued, the misplacing of power with unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats was more precisely identified. “The fact remains,” said Redman, that “medical officers of health should never be in charge in any pandemic… They do not know how to run a province.” To which we may add that they can’t even run their own hospitals, which are currently scenes of union strife and general discontent, with whole wards closed for lack of nursing staff and many patients (otherwise unaffected by COVID) denied critical medical care. The real and present dangers of their misguided policies are compounding at a very high rate of interest.

Unfortunately, neither do our elected premiers and their cabinets know how to run provinces. Redman again: “Governments took every plan they’d ever written and threw them all out the window. No one followed the process. Instead they panicked, put the doctors in charge and hid for three months.” And now they are refusing, in the face of all the evidence regarding the futility of their actions – or rather, in the face of mounting evidence as to the irreparable harm they are doing – to reverse course and correct their mistakes. They are sticking with their medical officers and, instead of appealing to common sense, appealing instead to Taser-armed police to enforce their will on a once-free people. As Mark Steyn observes, “fifteen days to flatten the curve has become fifteen months to flatten you.”

The perpetual pandemic

As I write, Worldometer is still showing, as it has for weeks, that less than 1% of known cases of coronavirus infection now fall into the critical or fatal category. As Lt-Col. Redman also points out, the great majority of those critical cases (that is, of the less than 1% of the less than 2% of the population presently thought to be infected) are people suffering the inevitable decline of advanced age or disease: people, not to put too fine a point on it, who are in any case soon to die. Studies on both sides of the border are showing that 2020 is not even a particularly severe year when it comes to ‘excess’ mortality. Otherwise put, all-cause mortality figures are just about where they would normally be, COVID notwithstanding. In the first eight months of 2020 they are actually down slightly, in Canada, from the previous two years. And yet, in our ninth month, we are still pregnant with the new Christ-child whose name shall be called Public Emergency, upon whose shoulders shall rest the government in perpetuity, whose kingdom shall have no end.

To illustrate: There, just a day or two before Christmas – a heavily taxed Christmas for which, like Mary and Joseph, one had to register, only to celebrate virtually alone in the barn or stable – there, I say, was Ontario’s health minister, pleading desperately that all we naughty wards of the state diligently observe, not the great feast of the Incarnation, hallowed by two millennia of observance, but her latest lockdown decree. And why? Because once again our hospitals are about to be overwhelmed, like so many stables suddenly expected to accommodate shepherds from the fields and wise men from the East. Or rather, because once again we are being told to expect this, though it has not ever happened.

Recall New York City back in March? At the very height of the pandemic, authorities there quickly built overflow care units, units that were never used. (In their wisdom they decided instead to send coronavirus patients to senior care homes, where they could create still more beds by passing on the virus to the most vulnerable, who would no longer need the ones they were in.) And what has the Ontario government been doing all this time? Making more wards? Preparing more staff? No, making more charts, entirely speculative charts displaying still more unsubstantiated projections, to justify new lockdowns that are needed to replace old lockdowns that were never needed. Oh yes, and making more appeals to Ottawa to run the national debt still higher, so that the provinces will have the funds to close still more barbecue-barn doors against the viral herd that had escaped long before they ever even knew there was a herd.

The question that must now be asked, nine months on – the urgent and pressing question that should have been asked in the first trimester – is why? Why are our political leaders and their medical proxies (or is it the other way round?) perpetuating an oppressive culture of fear around a briefly severe viral threat that is now resolving itself in a typically milder second wave, as such threats generally do? And why are they doing so despite enormous costs to the economy, to the social and political fabric of our country, to our constitutional rights and freedoms, to untreated cancer patients, to desperate small business owners and casual employees facing personal bankruptcy, to uncomprehending children and students deprived of proper education, to the despondent and despairing, and even to would-be shinny players in God’s great outdoors?

Whom the gods would destroy…

In Flying Blind, The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has quite efficiently deployed official government data to demonstrate that the measures taken by governments across the country have produced far more harm than good. The full effect of these harms cannot, of course, be measured as yet. Some of it is incalculable where the nation as a whole is concerned, just as the harm to individuals is incalculable. How does one measure the human effect of a bankruptcy or, God forbid, of a suicide? How does one weigh the death of someone such as my fellow parishioner who died in the first lockdown from an untreated tooth abscess? How does one compensate individuals and families cruelly deprived of their loved ones, not by the virus, but by official edict?

Away with those who say that lockdown opponents are not only dangerous but selfish and heartless! Away with their slander and calumny! We are not making light of anyone’s death, whether from the virus or from failed responses to the virus. The true heartlessness belongs to King COVID’s mad counselors who shut people away and install plexiglass between loved ones so that the aged and infirm can die alone or, at best, in the company of strangers. The true selfishness belongs to the aging women and men of wealth who, when they were younger and healthier, braved equally serious pandemics like the Hong Kong flu without batting an eye or donning a mask or even staying home from Woodstock, but who now want all the young locked up and kept out of bars and off outdoor rinks and away from churches and schools, lest the virus creep an inch closer to their own precious, comfortable lives. The hypocrisy stinks to high heaven!

The “cure” concocted by our cohort of so-called medical experts and public-spirited politicians is far worse than the disease. As such, it is not merely incompetent. It is morally abominable. It is not merely an abdication of responsibility but negligence on a criminal scale, combined with actual perpetration of bodily harm and mental cruelty. Prudence has been driven out by panic, common sense by an uncommon fear. Spare no expense! Trouble yourself with no constitutional consideration! Ignore all collateral damage! Cancel Christmas. Shut down churches. Shut down universities. Shut down businesses. Destroy livelihoods and reasons for living. Close everything but Amazon and Apple and the Welfare State to which we have committed ourselves in our dotage.

Federal debt in Canada, in case you haven’t noticed, has climbed by one-third in the first eight months of the COVID regime. It currently stands at over a trillion dollars, and this in a country of less than forty million. If we are so worried about the possibility of overwhelmed ICUs – which, in some future and more serious pandemic is, to be sure, not merely a possibility but an inevitability – why don’t we build some? We could provide a great many more beds and train a great many more staff for far less than the cost of that prodigious climb of more than three hundred billion dollars! We could build and train, thus stimulating not suppressing the economy; preparing for the future, not mortgaging the future. One notes that GDP has fallen in Canada at about the same stupendous rate as the debt has climbed. This is malfeasance on a grand scale. This is madness.

And here is more madness: What has the federal government been doing in the midst of all this, while the rest of us have been trying to prevent the vulnerable from being exposed to the coronavirus? It has been busy inviting the very same people to willfully end their own lives by calling for that MAID with the deadly needle. Bill C-7 is where the Feds’ focus lies, at least when not busy taking advantage of the unusual circumstances to advance the Trudeau kleptocracy.

Who is profiting from this madness?

When the question about the money trail is asked, it is not uncommon to point to the pharmaceutical industry, with its always highly lucrative though sometimes medically dubious vaccination drives. It is increasingly being observed that public cost/benefit analyses require to be done here as well, and that they either are not being done or are being done only by parties with vested interests; that rules about safe vaccines seem to have been flouted, the same way that rules about crisis management or about sound financing have been flouted; that freedoms are under threat in this sphere also. But there is more going on here than potential conflicts of interest regarding the development and use of vaccines. We must ask the bigger questions also.

Here we must take account of the wider ambitions of Big Tech and the frankly imperialist visions of the globalists who, at least for the moment, are in bed with the Communist Party of China. It was the latter, of course, which conveniently shared COVID-19 with the rest of the world while it fought it at home, whether or not it oversaw its deliberate creation in a Wuhan laboratory. And it is the latter which has much to gain from the businessmen and politicians of the West who are willing to pimp for China’s Paramount Leader or actually to prostitute themselves for a share of his filthy, blood-stained lucre.

Among these globalists are those associated with the World Economic Forum, founded by Klaus Schwab and friends. The Davos crowd freely admits, as do the Chinese, that this over-stretched pandemic is a welcome opportunity to press for a Great Reset of one sort or another. The former have set up a January consultation, and a May meeting in Singapore, designed to take advantage of the disastrous COVID policies they are cynically encouraging, so as to create the conditions under which their proposed “systemic changes” to economic and social realities can be accelerated. Crippling lockdowns in the West are just what both the CCP and the WEF want.

Study upon study shows no lockdown benefit – that is, no correlation between these draconian state actions and reduction either of COVID or of all-cause mortality. Study upon study confirms dramatic lockdown harms, when lockdown is sustained for more than a couple of weeks. But, for the people we are talking about, that is not beside the point; it is the point. For their strategy is to shift the balance of power, both locally and globally, by undermining democratic and constitutional freedoms and the culture in which they are grounded. Their goal is to reduce the independent spirit, together with the political and economic capital, of free peoples. Hence it makes perfect sense that the very things they encourage us to do, they themselves do not do (social distancing, for example, which you can see these Chinese strategists happily ignoring). But why are we now doing under cover of COVID what they do, and would like us to do, irrespective of COVID, especially restricting religious observances? That makes no sense unless we are trying to undermine our own culture.

We know what these people are angling for with their exaggerations about the coronavirus crisis. There is a word for it that has been in parlance since the end of the Great War, based on a vision traceable to Henri Saint-Simon a century earlier. The word is Technocracy, the triumph of which in a socialist form Schwab and friends earnestly seek, just as the CCP seeks it in a “Sinicized” communist form. People such as Solovyov were onto them a long time ago; Lewis likewise. But AD 2020 has revealed something of the progress they have made towards their vision of a world in which real power is held, not by the people or by their paper constitutions, but by an all-powerful cohort of “experts” who will solve all problems through the application of scientific method and technology – people with the power to reinvent our humanity as such. It has revealed that the time for this vision is ripe, or very nearly ripe, just as Schwab says it is, if for reasons other than those he identifies. For the moral and cultural decay of the West, which is the true conditio sine qua non for the fulfillment of the vision, is now highly advanced. Schwab is not wrong, then, to think that we must “prepare for an angrier world,” one in which men like himself will find suitable opportunities to seduce the world by proclaiming “Peace, peace!” when there is no peace.

Obedience training

But let us return to Canada. It is no mere coincidence that, not long ago, our Prime Minister and many other authority figures marched publicly in contravention of their own lockdown edicts and took a knee at the behest of BLM. For BLM is not really about race but about obedience training in socialist politics, training that cultivates a peculiar admixture, in roughly equal parts, of self-righteousness and self-loathing. This admixture is itself the byproduct of profound moral decay. It is also the precursor to tyranny, or rather to our acquiescence to tyranny. It is not a large but a very small step, a more or less inevitable step, from taking a knee before BLM to shouting at Mr Weisblatt to “get down on the f***ing ground.” For authoritarian socialism can only thrive where the populace is weak of mind and conflicted in conscience. It can only take hold where there is ready compliance of the sort we are now rehearsing at every opportunity.

It is precisely as an exercise in compliance that we are playing our present public health charade, propping up a pandemic that has all but run its course by turning it into what some call a “casedemic”: a needless numerical fixation on positive test results, which fluctuate seasonally on quite predictable patterns whenever a viral agent has become endemic. This charade is something that can and will go on for years, as the authorities are beginning to warn us. It can be made to last until the next pandemic comes along (or some other natural or man-made threat) to make the need for compliance appear permanent.

Meanwhile, free thought and free action, even refusal to leave an outdoor skating rink, must be severely punished as a threat to public health and, just so, to the common good, for in the absence of any moral compass public health is rapidly becoming the only common good we know; apart, that is, from those putative goods suddenly and quite arbitrarily thrust upon us by the evangelists, not of masks and hand sanitization, but of this or that sanitization of soul – those sexual or racial or environmental obsessions and the virtue-signaling liturgies that always seem to accompany them. All, no matter how bizarre, are tolerated, even welcomed, by the powers that be, doubtless because they too are exercises in compliance. Alas, they are tolerated also, and for the same reason, by two venerable institutions that ought to know better: the church and the university.

It is the church that most deeply disappoints here. Bishops and other ecclesial leaders, with a few noble exceptions, have shown themselves little better than the bureaucrats of the civil service; indeed, they are almost indistinguishable therefrom. To be more specific, it is the bishops of the Catholic Church who most deeply disappoint. For in the Catholic Church there is a doctrinal basis for insisting that assembling together for the sacrifice of the Mass is absolutely essential to the faithful; moreover, there are grounds for saying that people should not say their vows or receive the sacraments or approach the altar of God with their faces covered. Here we also find numbers sufficient for calling the government’s bluff when attempts are made to ban the public worship of God, or for that matter to coopt Church schools and hospitals for propaganda and procedures hostile to the faith and morals of the Church.

Yet for the most part Catholic bishops have refused to confront the government with their own higher, divine mandate. They have refused to insist that they, and they alone, are charged with care of the sacramental life of the people of God and admittance to that life. They have shared Peter’s keys with secular governors in the West, much as the Vatican has shared them with Xi Jinping in the East. They have submitted to Caesar’s decrees concerning what does not belong to Caesar, content merely to register a plea here or mutter a complaint there. They have even joined with Caesar in forcing the faithful to compete with one another for limited – absurdly, contemptuously limited­ – places at Mass. On the other hand, they have all but abandoned the remaining traces of sacramental discipline. The worship of Almighty God by masked and muffled congregants has become a spectacle increasingly difficult to distinguish from an act of commerce at Walmart or Canadian Tire (to name but two local extensions of the Chinese economy); apart, that is, from the smaller number of people in the checkout queue.

The danger of incurring legal and financial burdens, to say nothing of the public relations burden, weighs more heavily upon the monsignors, it seems, than upon messrs Wiesblatt or Skelly or Hillier, private citizens who have deliberately braved punitive action. The bishops by and large lack the courage of their own convictions, unless perchance they lack the convictions themselves. Fear of COVID liabilities, if not of COVID itself, outweighs even the fear of God. Love for the neighbour is reduced to non-transmission of a coronavirus. Pious prayers are said for the unemployed, the lonely, the despairing, but the policies that produce all this are condoned, cooperated, supported, religiously fulfilled. Dispensations from Mass are handed out like candy at Christmas, even to the point of cancelling Christmas itself at the behest of their local Lord Protector. (To my knowledge, among English-speaking peoples Oliver Cromwell set the only precedent for this, in AD 1656, for reasons related to the purity of the soul rather than of the body; a precedent he enforced, with far greater economic sense, by having his army ensure that all businesses remained open on 25 December.) The bishops have taken refuge in live-streaming, which they will soon discover is a current stronger than they knew, one from which they will not easily swim free. That’s what happens, of course, when you prefer to obey man rather than God.

As for the university, what shall I say? Barely a croak of protest against the lockdowns has come from academia, despite the depression – the sometimes suicidal depression – setting in among the students, from whom it is still collecting its tithes while offering what can only be described as an ersatz education. Indeed, principals and professors are falling all over themselves to audition for a role in the Great Reset, where education will increasingly be remote and actual mentorship difficult to obtain. The sins of Imperial College London, where COVID panic in the Anglosphere found its foothold, are not being atoned for by insistence on hard data in place of speculation, much less by harsh criticism of the damage being done by irresponsible and indefensible policies. Quite the reverse. Universities have accelerated their existing propensity to speak the rubber language of Health and Safety bureaucrats and have even declared, as the principal of my own university did recently, that safety is the first missional priority. Had we known that, we might all have trained to become firemen or first responders, instead of wasting all those years on dusty books and dry lectures! And perhaps McGill could have settled for just the one original faculty, Medicine, though even that faculty has abandoned the ancient rule of medicine, primum non nocere.

Much is made these days of the claim that this adage is not actually a rule; and, truth be told, if we are to train medical students in the mortal sins of abortion and euthanasia we cannot allow that it is a rule. But we do read this in the Epidemics: “The physician must be able to tell the antecedents, know the present, and foretell the future – must mediate these things, and have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm.Does this principle still prevail? Not, apparently, when it’s COVID time. In COVID time, public health officers lined up first to do very little good, by way of lockdowns that were already too late given the virus’s global spread, then to do much harm by stubborn persistence with that failed policy. One might almost suppose that they themselves had received their training remotely!

But enough. The problem we are dealing with is not confined to our churches and universities. It is not confined to our politicians and parliaments either. It has infected a large swath of the general population.

Exorcising the spirit of fear through the obedience of faith

The worst thing revealed by our apocalyptic year, AD 2020, is the spirit of fear that now holds sway in so many hearts; not only the hearts of those who “through fear of death are subject to lifelong bondage,” as the author of Hebrews puts it, but even the hearts of those who have been instructed in the liberating gospel of Jesus – the true Christ-child, the one born to Mary, the Lord who in The Apocalypse insists that he himself holds the keys of Death and Hades, that the last word on the subject belongs exclusively to him.

The Wuhan virus is a real threat to real people, but it is very far from being the worst threat we have faced or will face, even on the viral front. While we must do our best to protect those who need protection, we must also keep things in perspective. We are each of us going to die of something sometime. Every day we take higher risks than the risks posed by COVID. And every day we take a step nearer to death and to the judgment of God; nearer, then, to the fate of our immortal souls. So who taught us, especially we freedom-loving people – if freedom-loving people we still are – to be so frightened? Who suggested that we let mere mortals, whose “expertise” in mortal matters can never rescue us from mortality itself, ruin our lives through fear? Who taught us to let Sharkey’s Men rule over the Shire? Who taught us to “get down on the f***ing ground” before our new masters, before those who do not hold the keys of Death and Hades but who do market fear of death to justify their own existence and to establish their own dominion?

The violent scene, the naked abuse of power, that played out last week in Calgary Alberta has been playing out around the world for many months now, from Logan Ohio to Ballarat Victoria. A few brave souls stand out from the obediently dispersing crowds, distinguishing themselves by refusing to be consigned to the shadows by this perpetual pandemic. If there is any hope for recovery in our country, for restoration of the citizen’s dignity, for social and economic lungs that breathe freely again, for constitutional freedoms that are not impatiently brushed aside as trifling, that hope lies not with those who comply but rather with those who defy.

Defiance that is mere anarchy, I hasten to add, affords no true hope. Defiance must not become angry replication of the violence already being done by the authorities, who must someday be held to account. It must not become mere lawlessness. Violence in service of radical disorder is no better than violence in service of fascistic pseudo-order. No, our defiance must seek to display a good and proper order, an order to which genuine freedom is constituent. Which means that it must become the coordinated response of those willing both to demand competence and, against incompetence enforced by laws that violate fundamental rights, to practice civil disobedience.

What kind of civil disobedience? The kind that in the civil rights movement of the sixties brought an end to racial segregation. The kind that believes in and strives to obey natural law, not the kind that comes down to the calculated provocations of the Gramscians, the Alinskyites, or the parade of acronym movements whose common object is to overturn natural law. The kind, then, that Leo spoke of in Libertas, when he reminded us that

the highest duty is to respect authority, and obediently to submit to just law; and by this the members of a community are effectually protected from the wrong-doing of evil men. Lawful power is from God, “and whosoever resisteth authority resisteth the ordinance of God’; wherefore, obedience is greatly ennobled when subjected to an authority which is the most just and supreme of all. But where the power to command is wanting, or where a law is enacted contrary to reason, or to the eternal law, or to some ordinance of God, obedience is unlawful, lest, while obeying man, we become disobedient to God. Thus, an effectual barrier being opposed to tyranny, the authority in the State will not have all its own way, but the interests and rights of all will be safeguarded – the rights of individuals, of domestic society, and of all the members of the commonwealth; all being free to live according to law and right reason; and in this, as We have shown, true liberty really consists.

Now, as then, religious leaders and people of genuine faith must take the lead. They, and they alone, have access to the full array of resources for a resistance that is both righteous and efficacious. They know, or ought to know, that the health-first doctrine is an insidious lie. They know, or ought to know, that the new world order of global technocracy and atheistic socialism is an inhumane culture-and-nation-destroying order, a hostile simulacrum of the catholicity of the Church. And they know, or ought to know, what kind of sacrifice it will take to overcome it. For, as St Vincent Ferrer insists, it is a rule of theology that people are punished by the very things through which they sin. Today we are being punished in both body and soul for our sin of putting the body ahead of the soul. Punished, that is, not so much by COVID-19, which threatens a few, but by the loss of liberty that threatens us all. Escaping that punishment will require a new conversion to liberty which, though including the body, is focused not on the body but rather on the soul.

Unlike peoples to the East and South, where many are suffering and dying for their faith, we in the West are not yet experiencing an apocalypse in the popular or colloquial sense; but we are experiencing an apocalypse in the sense that the thoughts and priorities of many hearts are being revealed. So be it. Let us examine our own consciences. Will we accept “the new normal”? Will we allow ourselves to be told by the city of man what we can and cannot do in the city of God? I do not think we should allow. I do not think we must or can accept. I think it time for “the people who know their God to stand firm and take action.”

Will our bishops (I mean the idle ones who have been content just to make do, and those who have yet to declare what corner they are in) at last answer the bell? Will they ring the civil authorities and announce that they are opening the doors of their cathedrals and churches? I don’t know. Across the border I see bishops using the courts to establish at least a semblance of equality with those who have no special mandate. I even see a few harbingers of civil disobedience, for which precedent has been set in other spheres. Likewise in France. But here in Canada, among Catholic bishops, I see neither. Nor do I see much among Protestants or the Orthodox, though the former have here and there put up a little resistance.

As San Francisco’s archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, has remarked, “the highest law is love of God and love of neighbor, and that law has to take precedence over the human-made law of the state when government would ask us to turn our backs on God or our neighbor in need.” Just so! Neither feckless brethren, nor civic officials who refuse to respect freedom of religion or to recognize the divine mandate of the Church, must deter the faithful from fulfilling the law of God. Our neighbours and colleagues must not deter us. Even arrests and fines and Tasers must not deter us. If they did not deter a young man who loves hockey and longs for the True North’s fading freedoms, neither should they deter those who love God and long to worship and serve God in the manner prescribed by God. Those who find in that seminal freedom – the freedom to do what vere dignum et iustum est – the foundation of all other freedoms, must be willing to contend for it. Those who understand that the present time is a time of testing all right, not primarily for the presence of a dying virus but for the presence of a living faith, must stand and deliver. Were we not reminded of that, in a most timely way, just yesterday?


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About Dr. Douglas Farrow 20 Articles
Douglas Farrow is Professor of Theology and Ethics at McGill University, and the author of several books including Theological Negotiations: Proposals in Soteriology and Anthropology (Baker Academic, 2018) and a new commentary on Thessalonians (Brazos, 2020).

25 Comments

  1. Wow, very powerful, factual and to the point. Yes, defiance of the orderly and thoughtful type is required now from all good Christians. The thought of approaching the alter with a mask seems blasphemous to me, and the need to make reservations for Mass caters to the crudest of our emotions, rather than to our better angels. Church websites that proclaim “No Mass attendance without a reservation and a mask” and then on the same page declare “All are welcome” promotes the lie.

    Several years ago I went on several missions to Haiti with other men of my old parish to help the brothers there with their grueling daily tasks and get closer to God by also feeding the sick with HIV. I thought this was the mission of the Church, rather than cower in fear and it’s camouflage of compassion.

    Count me in!

  2. A Blessed Christmas gift wrapped in intelligence, facts, and faith in God’s inherently installed virtue of fortitude. Fear of the unknown is defeated by facing it head on, not in squirmy panicked defensive measures. Fear compels the spiritually weak to do something, anything that will defend against reality. Destruction of economy, mental health, oneself notwithstanding. Courage analyzes reality and deals with it. “As San Francisco’s archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, has remarked, the highest law is love of God and love of neighbor, and that law has to take precedence over the human-made law of the state when government would ask us to turn our backs on God or our neighbor in need”.

  3. This is a stellar article. Have shared it with many.
    I’m very grateful, too, for the link to Solovyov. Please, Heaven, may many read and heed the warning and advice set forth in this article.

  4. Those of us with eyes to see have known since the beginning of the covid crisis that the Bishops had taken a “Mort meek” position and were allowing secular authorities to make decisions on behalf of the church opening. I have publicly disagreed with the shut down and been called “selfish” for my trouble. The Bishops, eager for secular approval and possibly even believing that the body is indeed more important than the soul, have offered no resistance. St. Thomas Becket,a staunch defender of the rights of the church, whose feast was recently celebrated, must be turning in his grave. I agree with those Bishops who are finally making some belated and glacial moves to take the govt to court to overturn absurd restrictions. I concur with the author that the Bishops may find that the actions they have put in place ( a lack of Sunday obligation and easy access to internet Masses) will not be easy to reverse, appealing as they do to man’s essential laziness. For some time, the idea of civil disobedience has seemed to me to be the only tactic left to fight government overreach in controlling the church.This especially as the Supreme Court has sometimes sadly and in my opinion erroneously, sided with the govt that religious restriction is OK if having to do with public health issues. Though no place is this written as an exception in the Constitution. I was too young to participate in the civil disobedience of the 1960’s but would not be afraid to do so at church in opposition to secular authorities.Its past time for the Bishops to speak up before what is left of the church is destroyed.

  5. The Canadian Dr. Farrow lays out the case that modernday potentates (a) know nothing of real science and COVID and yet (b) would use this narrative to close down religion in society. Beyond this persecution, the issue of the moment—and a potential TEACHING MOMENT (?)—is still more loaded and intricate….Sorry for the length here, but two points, a question, and some institutional memory:

    FIRST, one instructive PARALLEL was an “interdict” (suppression of the sacraments) in Germany, the century prior to the rupturing Reformation. The interdict—imposed by the Church—predisposed the populace to the notion that they could live well enough without the sacramental life, when later groomed in this direction by an obscure and volatile churchman named Martin Luther. Surely, abuses abounded, and just as surely his actions added to the list.

    SECOND, today, the “interdict”—closure of churches—is imposed NOT by the Church, but by the post-Lutheran secular states. And, the long-range picture is NOT that this “lockdown” will continue indefinitely, BUT rather that the poorly evangelized and more-or-less habitual flock will no longer choose to remember its way back to the church parking lots. And, the added RIDDLE in the United States, is how the bishops together might yet work with the pseudo-Catholic (cancel-culture writ large?) president-elect Biden whose immortal soul seems to be, to some judgmental critics, INACCESSIBLE to substantive dialogue and, yes, conversion?

    THIRD, how, exactly, might the USCCB—each member a personally accountable successor to the Apostles—engage with this modernday potentate? How to turn the lights on without triggering spastic and irreversible consequences?

    For example, the cardinal of Washington, D.C. (Gregory), unilaterally preempting substantive dialogue, possibly, by simply continuing the potentate’s ACCESS to the Eucharist—the sacramental center and summit of the universal and perennial Church? (In an identical fix, during a recent papal visit, the former cardinal, Wuerl, sloughed the responsibility of engagement onto each of the bishops of the offending politicians’ home dioceses. NOW, the USCCB has gotten in front of this dilemma by at least forming a task force—only to find that Cardinal Gregory demurs.)

    The McCarrick grooming game was child’s play compared to what might become, by default, Biden’s smiley-button and unchallenged grooming of the Church itself.

    FOURTH, what would Jesus do?!! Well, if not Jesus—and with every faction equally in mind—then how about the refreshing words of a 2nd-century and no-religion observer of the New Life of Christians, in his LETTER TO DIOGNETUS:

    “Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs [….] And yet there is something extraordinary [!] about their lives [….] They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens [real asylum refugees!]. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country [the Benedict Option?]. Like others, they marry [!] and have children [!!], but they do not expose them [!!!]. They share their meals, but not their wives [!] [….] They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh [!]. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law [!] [….]”
    (http://www.vatican.va/spirit/documents/spirit_20010522_diogneto_en.html

    Not much here about (a) the INSTITUTIONALIZED UNKINDNESS (!) of our slogan-addicted/modernday “Culture of Death”: co-habitation/contraception, back-up abortion, reset infanticide, euphemistic euthanasia, and oxymoronic gay “marriage” within mandatory/anti-binary “gender theory”—nor anything about (b) a “congruence” (Biden’s un-discerning code language) between this primitive religion (!) and the New Life, or at least our reasoned/universal/inborn/ human-race Natural Law.

  6. Get your history right. BLM was started by some marxists after the Trayvon Martin killing. It was nurtured by Obama and Holder, especially after the Ferguson MO riots. It’s current variant is a racist communist front group; it is quite evident from their literature that they seek the overthrow of western govts to be replaced by the totalitarian communist order. They work closely with the Antifa anarchist.

    • Charlottesville riots on Aug. 12, 2017.
      Protesters included members of the far-right and included self-identified members of the alt-right, neo-Confederates, neo-fascists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and various right-wing militias.
      Yet, “There are good people on both sides”?

      • Seriously, morganB, it is sinfully calumnious of you to perpetuate such a lie. The President *clearly* condemned white nationalists. He said that there were good people on both sides of the argument about the statues. And he condemned neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Here’s the transcript, if you can bear to have your spiteful delusions shattered:

        “Trump: “Yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. If you look at both sides — I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either. And if you reported it accurately, you would say.”

        Reporter: “The neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest — “

        Trump: “Excuse me, excuse me. They didn’t put themselves — and you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group. Excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.”

        Reporter: “George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same.”

        Trump: “George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down — excuse me, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?”

        Reporter: “I do love Thomas Jefferson.”

        Trump: “Okay, good. Are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?

        “So you know what, it’s fine. You’re changing history. You’re changing culture. And you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.

        “Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people. But you also had troublemakers, and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets, and with the baseball bats. You had a lot of bad people in the other group.”

        Reporter: “Sir, I just didn’t understand what you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly? I just don’t understand what you were saying.”

        Trump: “No, no. There were people in that rally — and I looked the night before — if you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people — neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them.

        “But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest, and very legally protest — because, I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this: There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country — a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country.”

        https://medium.com/molyneux-research-institute/trumps-very-fine-people-full-speech-and-transcript-516c0f07b354

        And President Trump was quite right – now they’re after statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, not to mention Abraham Lincoln, St. Damian of Molokoi, and others.

  7. This is a fine essay by Prof. Farrow. May I recommend that men of good will dust off their copies of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, and read the first chapter “Arrest.” It is especially riveting reading as our governors and courts are now flirting with totalitarian control; we should remember Solzhenitsyn’s maxim that “A submissive sheep is a find for a wolf.”

    • Yes. Good call. I also recommend the chapter called “The Ascent.” It talks about the importance of our decisions and responses to what is happening around us. Havel’s “Power of the Powerless” is also excellent if you can find it. One man speaking the truth can bring down a tyranny.

  8. Without getting too political, but, I must take my MAGA hat off, I broke into a sweat. Forgive me for my ignorance of the mythological rhetoric. After painstakingly consuming this prose I assume the article was an attempt to explain the Apocalypse. It is true that the COVID pandemic mimics a world decline against any mortal attempt to recover from its’ wrath.
    My overwhelming concern is with extensive loss of life, (currently 4,000 per day and total 342,000 and counting), and blatant failure of leadership to direct the massive US mitigation attempts. Instead Shedding that heavy duty to the states caused today’s “Apocalypse”. I detect by this article’s critics of the CDC safety rules, much is to be learned. I will follow the scientists for guidance, not politicians and their injecting household cleaners to fix the issue. The CDC continues the effort to hold off the disease until the vaccine is 80% of the US population is injected. I would offer that we are all in this together.
    God save the union.

    • “After painstakingly consuming this prose I assume the article was an attempt to explain the Apocalypse.”

      Why do you have to assume anything? If you read the article, you should know what it was about. If you don’t know what it was about, why comment on it?

      • I bow to your excellent offer of empathy. However, I feel that the need to focus on the serious threats to our faith and our democracy are paramount. I may have missed the focal tragedy and exposed my vitals, but, my tenacity for consumption of facts should only be met with a one rank demotion if made in error, (Mea culpa). Dr. Farrow says “COVID, of course, has paid them in return without respect for masks or lockdowns”. I have spent much time following the pandemic in America, not Canada. The deadly virus that was spread by the absence of the act of one man. CDC lifesaving rules will help until every American is vaccinated. No one should walk alone and spread the pandemic.

        I pray frequently… please God save our Republic in its’ darkest hour.

        Hope this helps.

        God speed!

    • MorganB, thank you for being a cautionary tale for all of us. You are so deluded at this point that you actually believe your own lies and rantings. Normally I would be offended, but now it’s just really sad.

      • Athan, your “really sad” response needs to be more specific. Like Jack Webb would say “just the facts, ma’am”. Like I said to Mr. Olsen My focus is on the decline of of humanity and our only small planet caused by the COVID mishandling and mans cavalier and disgraceful destruction of mother earth.

        A more spiritually and softer reply might be more forgiving.

        God bless.

        • “A more spiritually and softer reply might be more forgiving.”

          One could look to your many remarks about Trump for examples of such, no?

          • This is my last reply. I am running out of complicit words and ink.

            This exchange is the exact example of why American politics is polarized and in decline. Twitter tirades over the tenure: “I am not responsible for COVID or anything. Putin did nothing wrong, and he remains my friend. What is this Russia, Russia? What defines treason? Attorney Barr is not my lawyer. If it wasn’t made here, scat”, Mine, not yours. I can do anything I want, I can shoot anybody on a 5th Avenue and walk.” This week (Georgia)… “I want you to get 11,780 votes by reexamining the fraudulent process. We have won big. Hundreds of thousands of votes”.

            c’est la vie

  9. Your language is dis-grace-less, ‘the new man of holiness has put off the old man and his foul or obscene utterances’, rather let the Beloved ‘LORD set a guard over the mouth, keeping watch over the door of the lips’….there was no moral holiness or necessity or need to repeat and place on the lips the vularity/obscenity used by the officer…be Christ, the NewMan of Holiness….a new redeemed creature and creation, having the same mind, heart and tongue as in Christ Jesus…

  10. A man who understands his times and knows what to do. God send us more men and women of Issachar to bring discernment and wisdom to our time.
    Made me ashamed for my lack of Latin.
    Godspeed Theologian.

  11. Many thanks to Dr. Farrow for an excellent article which I hope will be read far and wide.
    Covid panic abounds, fear, hysteria: today, January 12 2021, in Quebec, Dr. François Marquis, chief of Critical Care Medicine at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, Montreal, said they may begin killing people in ICUs to make room for those who are more likely to live. Of course, in Quebec (and throughout Canada) this will be easy to do, as the euthanasia revolution began in Quebec, and doctors (not all) are quite comfy killing people, as they have been doing it via lethal injection since 2016. Thousands have been murdered this way. Covid now is another excuse for killing people who are deemed not worthy of life. God help us.

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