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.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!