The recent events taking place at our nation’s capital, whereby peaceful protesters were being beaten, trampled and arrested by the order of Justin Trudeau and his government, cannot escape my mind. More importantly, my conscience, that inner voice God planted in our hearts, tells me that something gravely wrong is happening in our great country. The Church teaches us, “when he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking” (CCC 1777). What is then God trying to tell me, and why haven’t more people heard this voice?
To the first question, I am certainly not going to presume to speak for God. Each and everyone of us has a conscience of our own, and only you can speak to it. I will therefore, speak only of my own conscience. Right now, I could summarize what it is telling me, over and over, with one word: CONFITEOR! It starts with “I confess…that I have gravely sinned”, and then gets down to the specifics, “in my thoughts, in my words, in what I have done”. What follows is the knockout punch-line: “IN WHAT I HAVE FAILED TO DO”. These words hit me like a baton to the face.
My first reaction was to find someone to blame, so I blamed the good priest that had uttered those words. Why didn’t he just pray “Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy…”? Did he have to throw me to the ground with those words? Then I blamed my family – if only i didn’t have fatherly responsibilities I told myself, then I would’ve been right there at the front instead of watching at a distance. Then I blamed all those that voted for a drama teacher to run our lives. I still do, but the words kept coming back: “IN WHAT I FAILED TO DO”.
At this point, I was still trying to avoid Nineveh, so i shifted my thoughts to the Pope and our local bishop. The former called getting the COVID jab an “act of love”. He later goes on to describe love as being “social and political”. St John however had a simpler, different description: “God is love.”. Simple. True. No politics here. The bishop, like the secular authorities, determined that the Eucharist was non-essential, so he dutifully ordered the churches in his diocese to be closed. This too was an act of love. This shepherd loved his sheep so much, that for their own safety, he locked them out of the barn. Like lepers, they were deemed unclean, so better not to mix with them. Thanks to God, only 45 minutes away, a fringe minority took us in, and at the risk of dying from this predatory virus, they selfishly offered us Bread. In many ways, the confusion found in our Church is mirrored in our society at large.
George Weigel in a recent article explained that the Church is currently dealing with two types of apostasy. The first being whether the Scriptures and Tradition remain relevant throughout time, or do they speak only to a particular people in a particular time and place? The second deals with the concepts of freedom (ability to do what one ought to do) and autonomy (do whatever one wants). He aptly compared autonomy as the equivalent to a 3 year old banging on some piano keys. The sounds it produces is not music, it’s only noise. Freedom, on the other hand, is like when a musician masters the disciplines and uses his creativity to produce a majestic symphony. Freedom, therefore, leads to harmony, while primal autonomy inevitably degenerates into anarchy. In their perhaps well-intentioned attempt to appear inclusive in the secular sense, some in our Church hierarchy have decided to bracket (aka exclude) uncomfortable parts of the Bible (autonomy of interpretation). They also encourage diversity of religious practice (autonomy of practice), unless it’s in the TLM (Traditional Latin Mass) form of course. These approaches have been tried before. They were brought to us by someone by the name of Luther.
After stubbornly blaming the priest, family, voters, and even the Pope, my conscience brought me back to myself, back to “what I (pause) failed to do”. A popular song played while I was driving, whereby the singer is passionately crying out to God, “Why don’t You do something?!!”. The response swiftly comes, “I did. I created you.” There’s no escape. Even the family van is conspiring against me. I had to search inside to decide do I hide or do I ride? Go on my knees in the face of the cavalry or Calvary? Every Christian needs to make this decision at some point. For a long time, it came with little or no personal cost. Now, as in much of history and even to this day in other parts of the world, choosing Christ brings the real possibility of suffering. In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis articulates the outcome of a society that fears suffering in this way: ” Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.”. Lockdowns and vaccine mandates do not eliminate the possibility of suffering, they create social conditions that prevent people from living.
Jesus not only claimed that He spoke truthfully, but that He is the Truth. This means that wherever you find lies, you can rest assured that that isn’t from God. As I began to reflect about the past two years, I began to list the fruits of these lockdowns and mandates: restrictions and even closures of churches, adults and children prevented from playing sports, socializing with friends and family as being illegal, vulnerable and elderly Canadians pushed into isolation, restrictions of movement even within the country, threats of job loss, increased mental health issues, etc. Need more? Sean Hartman. If these outcomes that I have just listed are false, please stop reading immediately. If Jesus is the Truth, then all falsehood comes from evil, and I have no sympathy for the devil. But what if this is all true? What will you do? What will I do?
Inevitably someone will come along and say something like, “but the Pope said it was ok to take the vaccines”. This comment usually comes from the mistaken belief that the Pope lords over all Catholics, and we owe him absolute obedience. It may be useful to remind people that St Peter was our first pope, to explain that the Pope is not infallible in everything he says and does, but only in pronouncements made ex-cathedra under very strict conditions. Even then, the Pope cannot contradict the doctrinal pronouncements made by previous popes. Ironically, this means that each subsequent pope, is bound more and more to the past popes, or in other words, to Tradition. A more fun way to respond of course, could be to simply reiterate that the Pope also said “Who am I to judge?”.
The other comment will come in some form of “but the Bible says we should obey the authorities”, referring of course to St Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rm 13:1). Hopefully, they don’t bring up St Paul’s ever popular verse “slaves obey your masters” (Ephesians 6:5). Keeping in mind that even the devil tempted Jesus with quotes from the Scriptures (Mt 4:5-7), it’s important to remember that this same St Paul was arrested several times, beaten, and eventually killed by the authorities, presumably for things he said that they didn’t like. Perhaps he spoke of a certain Jesus that was also arrested, beaten, and killed by the very same authorities, both secular and religious. Then there was that whole episode with overthrowing tables at the Temple (Mk 11:15). Whether it was the midwives rebelling against the Pharaoh (Ex 1:17), Jonathan not following King Saul (1 Sm 20:30-31), the revolt of the Maccabees (1 & 2 Macc), Daniel disobeying the King (Dn 6: 7-13), or the actions of the disciples which got them jailed (Acts 5:17-18), when faced with tyranny, civil disobedience to unjust authorities was always deemed the right moral action to take. Be it secular or religious authorities, none have the right to compel Catholics or anyone in general, to commit evil or self-harm.
The Church in its wisdom teaches us that societies that exclude Christ from the public space and political vision of the country, ultimately end up under totalitarian control: “Societies not recognizing this vision or rejecting it in the name of their independence from God are brought to seek their criteria and goal in themselves or to borrow them from some ideology. Since they do not admit that one can defend an objective criterion of good and evil, they arrogate to themselves an explicit and implicit totalitarian power over man and his destiny, as history shows” (CCC 2244).
Once we elevate our minds and hearts to the reality of the Trinitarian God that created us, that loves us, we can no longer remain simple bystanders when evil comes knocking in our front door. Putting on the armour of Christ, we pray for others, we fast, we donate our time and treasure, we speak for those without voice, we walk with the marginalized, we hug, we visit the imprisoned, we instruct the ignorant, we forgive trespasses without falling into temptation. The PM showed us what hate and contempt looks like, but in Ottawa we also saw a glimpse of the power of unity, faith and love. Sticks and stones may break my bones….
Jesus is the Truth, the Way, and the Life. Hold firmly to this line, and let Him take the wheel. Nervous? I recently had to trust a car would change lanes on its own at 120KM/Hr! We can trust God – enjoy the ride!
St Joseph: Pray for us.
If publishing article online please attribute source Band of Christian Brothers with link to original article.