Segregation Sunday

The Second Week of New Normal Time in Quebec

(Image: Denny Müller/Unsplash.com)

Editor’s note: Earlier this week, the Catholic bishops of Quebec accepted the province’s imposition of COVID-19 vaccine passports as a requirement to attend religious services, while stating that they continue to petition the government to end it. This essay about that decision and response was posted by Dr. Farrow on his “Desiring a Better Country” site and is reposted here in slightly different form with his permission.

In the fourth week of Advent, AD 2021, a decree having gone forth from Caesar that all the Unvaccinated were disqualified from entering houses of worship, the first week of New Normal time began, just in time for Christmas.

The bishops of Quebec had not been consulted. They responded with customary subservience, denying entry to their churches to those who would not present a passport, though some bishops or priests were willing to say mass outdoors for such people or at least to effect their communication at its end. Others simply closed their churches, whether for fear of the virus or out of reluctance to divide the flock. For their compliance with the State’s segregation order, they were rewarded immediately after Christmas by having all their churches closed. Masses said in the hearing of the faithful, from then on, were said outside, if they were said at all.

But now Caesar, whose excuse for punishing the Unvaccinated—the threat that they would overrun the hospitals like vermin invading the Hill—has once again failed to materialize, has altered his decree so as to permit passport assemblies again. And the bishops have complied again. This Sunday will be the second Segregation Sunday of New Normal time.

A few priests, a very few priests, are refusing to cooperate. Their parishes will either remain closed until the rumoured lifting of the passport restriction on the ides of March, for a maximum of fifty people at a time, or they will continue to hold outdoor masses in the cold and snow, just as they did at Christmas and have done ever since. In the parishes, as in diocesan offices, most people resent this recalcitrance and recognize no principle on which it might be founded. “In Vaccines We Trust” is still their motto, though even the people who make them don’t trust them. Unless of course their motto is “In Caesar We Trust.” But these two mottos form a syntagm, so there is no need to choose between them.

It is painful, yet not surprising, to learn that every Sunday is now to be Segregation Sunday unless and until Caesar says it needn’t be. And when that happens, nothing will change that really matters. Churches that exclude people whom the State deems unfit—whom, in truth, they also deem unfit—cannot afterwards welcome them back or welcome them in. For “welcome” is now a word without meaning. The operative principle of their parish life has changed in a fashion most fundamental.

Just as natural families that have been divided by rejection of unclean members cannot have their familial trust and love restored by an Order in Council, so also the supernatural family of the church. The bond of trust and love is broken. It cannot be renewed simply by the removal of the rustic cherubim at the door. It can be removed only by atonement. But who will atone and how?

I do not suppose for a moment that this is merely a Quebec problem, though we are feeling it keenly in this God-forsaking province. Take Alberta, for example, where a more modest passport scheme has, for the moment, been dropped. That is a welcome development, one largely to the truckers’ credit. It would be more welcome still if the premier had not hinted quite broadly that this, too, is a temporary measure. But leave aside the pirouettes of the senior politician and turn to those of the senior churchman, a man whom I thought I knew quite well and whom I have long admired.

This man recently gave a very strange homily, in which he wouldn’t quite specify, but clearly implied, his objection to the Freedom Convoy, which (not unreasonably) he likened to the clogged arteries that produce congestive heart failure. He used the occasion to direct us to the fact that we ourselves may be in danger of clogged arteries, spiritually speaking, which is certainly true and worthy of pastoral remark, today as in Jesus’ day. That, he said, is a result of failure to submit to divine mandates, just as the truckers have failed to submit to State mandates.

This would have been well and good, perhaps, had he gone on to say that that the truckers have refused to submit to State mandates because the State itself has refused to submit to divine mandates; that it has refused to acknowledge the first principle of our Constitution Act, viz., “Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law;” that, on their view, the State has taken the place of God and set itself over the constitution, arranging itself against it rather than under it; that its mandates, like its lockdowns, are medically wrong, morally wrong, legally wrong.

At that fork in the road, he could have gone left or gone right. That is, he could have explained that the truckers are mistaken in that belief and should admit their mistake, lest they cause a heart attack for the State as such rather than for the treasonous cabal that—to reverse Mr Carney’s thoroughly hypocritical charge—seems to have seized the State. Or alternatively he could have helped them articulate their stance theologically and thus fortified them with principles still more profound than those proper to politics or to plain common sense. But he did not do so. He let his own engine stall and there he sat, blocking the border against mutual understanding.

I challenge His Grace to restart his engine and drive to his destination. It is not just that I am curious as to what map he is following and what exactly his destination is. As we can all see, congestive heart failure now threatens our beloved country; and some of us don’t think it’s the truckers’ doing at all. Still more importantly—or is it not more important?—it threatens the Church itself and our precious communion in Christ.

So tell us plainly, Archbishop:  Who is in the right and who in the wrong? Better yet, tell us why you think so and on what theological basis. Who is doing God’s work here, or at least doing what is broadly in keeping with the will of God? The Freedom Convoy may not be John the Baptist, but neither did Justin Trudeau slip out of town as Jesus slipped out of Nazareth. Tell us who is and who isn’t opposing divine mandates. Tell us what those mandates are. Tell us what the churches, which purport to know something about such things, should be saying and doing in this moment of national crisis. Are you certain it is not the churches whose arteries, like those of that ancient synagogue in Nazareth, are clogged?

This second Segregation Sunday of New Normal time, I don’t mind telling you, is a vale of tears for me.  I have stood happily enough in the cold with my brethren, and kneeled thankfully in the snow, from Christmas Eve to the present time. I told my parish (as others also did, setting me an example) that I would stand there as long as necessary if only we would preserve the unity of the body of Christ in the bond of peace. But the bonds of peace have now failed, or look like failing. The government will not permit us to exchange the Peace, and some no longer wish to exchange it. They certainly won’t be coming outside to do so. The doors to the kingdom have closed.

“Depart from me,” say those on the doors,” I never knew you.” Or perhaps they’ve just forgotten us. For some of them haven’t come to church for two years and will not be coming even now, not while there’s still a sniffle of virus in the air. Somewhere they have heard, though they don’t like to admit it, that the “vaccines” don’t stop the virus; or perhaps they still hear only the official lies about the Unvaccinated. So those who don’t come will bar those who do come, because the latter do not fear what they fear and might infect them. Or they will bar them because they are a sign of contradiction to the State, and to a people full of contradictions—a State and a people having forgotten what it means to fear God.

Segregation Sunday, as far as I can see, is Desecration Sunday.  Congestive heart failure indeed, but in the churches! So I must say with all urgency, to my own bishop as to the bishop of Edmonton, what St Paul said to the Corinthians. Neither need listen to me, of course; but will they perchance listen to him?

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers and sisters when you come together to eat, wait for one another.


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About Dr. Douglas Farrow 25 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).

21 Comments

  1. I say ordain the truckers in Canada. They’d make better priests than the feckless, weak, cowardly priests and bishops there now. I’m afraid you’ll find no potential martyrs among the clergy in Canada anytime soon.

  2. At what point is civil disobedience the appropriate and necessary response to these violations of basic civil liberties? If a priest held mass and dozens of people came, what would the authorities do? Would they actually arrest everyone? Would they do so if someone filmed it? How would the average citizen respond if that happened? We live in deeply troubled times when people can’t worship.

  3. Thank you for a humorous take on this overreach and hand wringing on the vaccine.

    When we meet St. Pete will he ask for our vaccination card and if not vaccinated put us in a separate room?

    As far as wages and working conditions, the squeeze on the worker has been developing since the 1980’s/70’s. Not necessarily intentional by the employer but wages have not kept up with the cost of living, forcing dual incomes being a necessity and families being delayed etc…

    If you’ve got high vaccination rates and an ebbing pandemic, why now force the vaccine card issue at the border?

    A real test of our Faith, for all of us including church leaders, would be if we were stripped of all our positions and monetary means — what would we believe then?

  4. My first year at Ottawa U began October 1970. I selected Ottawa U to Duquesne primarily due to a desire for a staid, peaceful environment, America at the time in turmoil. The first day I drove in from Hull Quebec to Ottawa I was stunned. The Canadian Parliament en route was surrounded by military vehicles, tanks, battle ready military foot soldiers.
    At arrival I learned Labor minister potential presidential candidate Pierre LaPorte was kidnapped by the FLQ and murdered. A practicing Catholic LaPorte was murdered by strangulation with the religious chain he wore, I believe a miraculous medal.
    Four years were spent enjoying beautiful Canada, the people, including friends Anglo and French. Things settled although there was animosity between the two language groups, and significant hatred by Quebecois of the Catholic Church. The FLQ was contained, eventually seemed to disappear, much was accomplished to redress the inequality British Canada imposed on their French speaking counterparts. Canada became an official dual language nation. Although, animosity, the history of oppression that included like perception of the Catholic Church runs deep.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Quebec Provincial Govt and Quebec Premier François Legault retain some of that lingering animosity toward the Church. Catholicism in Quebec has been impacted by its history, and apparently its own failings through the years. I’m certain Dr Farrow can respond to that better than I. I remain in contact with Quebecois Canadian friends who still have reservations regarding Catholicism.
    Memories of my own experience are held fondly, particularly at the Trappist monastery at Oka Quebec where I met the priest brother of Jean Vanier. His Trappist brother was a deeply spiritual man. Most know the unfortunate, better said misfortune of Jean Vanier, his great work with the disadvantaged and the sexual abuse debacle involving women he counselled. A true misfortune, an heretical vision of sexual gratification as spiritually therapeutic.
    I fully endorse Dr Farrow’s response to the current abject ecclesial crisis.

    • Father Morello,

      Thanks for your comment. I am curious why the Quebecois would have such animosity towards their own heritage. Perhaps you could fill us in a little.

      Mark

      • Mark. My understanding is that the Church was the one institution that protected the Quebecois language and culture following British rule. Apparently the Church possessed great power within the French community Quebecois initially remaining faithful. Financing the Church’s operations was left to the mainly agrarian people. Speaking to my Quebecois friends they indicated suspicion and resentment. According to Prof Gilles Routhier Laval U agrees all the institutions were operated and financed by the Church placing a heavy burden on Catholics. As times changed Quebec becoming more cosmopolitan cities flourishing, my opinion is the same liberalism that affected Ireland’s Catholicism set in.
        “The Church also made key compromises, to its detriment, with the government of Quebec’s provincial Premier Maurice Duplessis, who was in power from 1936-1939 and from 1944-1959, and whose administration is sometimes called the great darkness” or clerical fascism” (Mary Farrow The Pillar). Mary Farrow who writes for the Pillar lives in Denver. I believe is unrelated to Dr Farrow.

        • Father Morello:
          I don’t think “clerical fascism” is a problem. Rather, it is the right tactical response in this moment.
          I think of our great leader, Francisco Franco, whose tactical genius saved Spain, who on his deathbed exclaimed: “Thank God I have lived and died a Roman Catholic”. I want to be a member of his company.
          Arriba Espana! Viva Cristo Rey !

  5. If this can happen with the Bishops just over the border from my home state of New York (diocese of Buffalo to be precise), it can happen here with the Bishops in the USA, and probably already is.

    Civil disobedience to this overreach is the only way we move forward. Neither the Bishops nor Casear can prohibit you from the Sacraments.

  6. I am not Canadian but American and a Catholic and I find this article very distressing. Unanswered is WHY the Bishops would again permit the ruling government to decide who can and cannot enter a church? If masks work, why is that requirement not enough to allow everyone to enter church? Anyone really frightened of covid would be welcome to stay home.For the Bishops, the answer must be simple cowardice. Or fear of govt reprisal. I give kudos to our evangelical brethren like Pastor Artur Pawlowski who has been arrested and done jail time several times in Canada in a perfectly ordinary effort to open his church. He has been the subject of outright unjust Canadian persecution for months, as if a leader of worship is the second coming of Hitler. Clearly the man has a backbone, which our Bishops do not. Concern for the collective good is a communist concept, not a Christian one. We are to be fair and loving toward others, yes. That does not include going to the extreme of closing our churches at govt whim, and making some among us into pariahs. What would Jesus do??? The answer, of a certainty, is that he would NEVER turn them away. Catholic Bishops must be unaware that Jesus not only healed the lepers, he was unafraid to TOUCH them. Or welcome them. The fact he would incur the ire of the religious authorities by His ritual uncleanness for doing so, did not prevent him from doing what was right. Evidently the Bishops have no such concerns. Or courage. When I speak to leftists, some of them (sadly) close friends and family , I have a question they never seem to wish to answer. That is : where do you draw a line in the sand? How far are you willing to go to allow the govt to order your life before you say no? The Chinese govt at one point years ago used to physically drag pregnant women out of their homes who disobeyed the one child per family mandate. For them, an abortion was immediately performed. For the “common good” of course. The population was too big. Suppose that policy was instituted in the US? Because too many people were enlarging the carbon footprint? Or we lacked enough clean water, or you know, global warming? Impossible you say? Until 2020, the concept that my government would bar me from church was also unthinkable. That govts are STILL doing this 2 and more years later???? Cowardly complicit Bishops and priests have made this VERY possible. All for a virus that is marginally worse than the flu we have engaged here for decades. Some have resolved their dilemma by not returning to church at all; they are content to divorce themselves from Jesus in the Eucharist and watch Mass on TV. Or walk away from church completely. Not relevant any longer. Some churchmen simply have no depth of belief and therefore are unwilling to fight for either their church or their flock. We would expect a certain level of cowardice from amongst the flock, there being variations of depth of belief among a large crowd. From our church LEADERS however, we expected better. How they will explain their actions to Jesus one day, I would love to know.

    • ‘THey are content to divorce themselves.from Jesus
      Sorry people like myself are not content at all we are angry, sad and dejected but also very thoughtful. I have no returned to church. Here in Ireland the church closed their doors the longest time in Europe possibly the world. We have a hierarchy actively promoting an abortion tainted vaccine, doing the governments bidding. Some priests have been true to their calling the majority have not. I do not watch Mass on TV but each Sunday with my children we do the readings and say our bidding prayers. At this moment in time the church does not feel the right place to be. Let us be straight as Catholics, the main players in this obscenity are overwhelming Catholic the Pope, Biden, Trudeau, Fauci amongst numerous others. Something is rotten at the heart, people are hurting, dying alone, life.long Catholics deserted by clerics terrified of the flu. We have no power, only the ear of God. We are far from content but we cannot lend physical support to the institutional church even though we believe in the spiritual body of Christ.

      • Oh Alice, I wish you would change your mind about staying home. Our Bishops have made mistakes and the church needs its strong believers, every one of them, to keep things on track.A trite saying is that the church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners. We would love a perfect church with perfect leaders, but I fear that is wishful thinking. The church is populated by real humans, who are as we know, imperfect. The influence of genuine believers is a very real thing. That’s why we need to be there,showing up,respectfully making our feelings known. I live in the US. Had been away from church for many years due to a personal tragedy. Had only returned 2 years before covid hit, and was a daily mass goer. My life had been a struggle, and in some ways remains so, and I really NEEDED to be at church and receive communion. Nothing can replace Communion for a Catholic believer. To say I was devastated when our churches were forced closed here in the US would be an understatement.I was fortunate that our pastor at least declined to lock our Catholic church, as so many other Catholic churches did at that time. One could still come to church alone to pray, for which I was grateful. Eventually as time dragged on with no change, some Bishops here saw the light and began to sue the govt to reopen. As a rule, Americans seldom go down without a fight. There is a saying here:” Americans would rather die on their feet, than live on their knees.” By my observation this is true even when the odds are against us. Dont let your faith and belief slip through your fingers so easily.

  7. What a SUPERB article.

    The difference it makes when the pen is guided by the Holy Spirit. The Edmonton Archbishops homily is utterly devoid of that.

    Blessings be upon you and your family

  8. The Edmonton Bishop’s homily is one that I think Judas himself could have written.

    Just have to decide what the 30 pieces of silver are in this instance.

    Or perhaps it is just plain cowardice. At any rate it displays the death of love of love for the Lord.

  9. I’m one of those priests hovering out in the cold with the faithful in the woods of Quebec. Last weekend it was minus 20. When I purified the sacred vessels, the water froze. We must never forget the betrayals by not just the politicians but by doctors who suddenly forgot what “informed consent” means. We mustn’t forget the countless victims who have lost jobs or homes and we must never forget the tyrants who imposed apartheid at a time when people were weak and afraid.

  10. We sing these hymns.

    you need not fear the terror of the night
    or the arrows that fly by day
    be not afraid, I go before you always.
    though thousands fall around you
    near you it shall come.

    We are confirmed soldiers in the Army Of Christ
    we fight on , shoulder to shoulder and we will go down
    and we know that we will die and that we will live forever.

    how can we possibly believe this
    it is a tremendous paradox, just like our entire belief system,
    just like Jesus himself.

    this is the God given gift of Faith we hold.
    and lead us not into the temptation to doubt it.

    William

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