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Contagious Faith
Why The Church Must Spread Hope, Not Fear, In A Pandemic
Philip F. Lawler
Crisis Publications

What a relevant book! Let me begin by saying that I take the current pandemic seriously. I know people who have died. In my experience, nearly all of them had underlying health problems. It is surely the role of clinicians to identify high risk groups and keep them safe.

Having said that, I entirely agree with Lawler. His basic message is that the fear of the disease has become more damaging than the disease itself. The name of St Charles Borromeo keeps cropping up on the internet these days. How did he deal with the plague that caused havoc in his diocese? Lawler rightly mentions St Damien of Molokai and St Peter Faber. How did the Catholic Church deal with the Spanish flu which killed more people than the First World War? Were churches closed when there was constant risk of bombs falling during the World Wars? No. Visiting churches became a vital part of life, perhaps even more vital when there was death everywhere.

We appear to fear death more than anything else, even though our faith tells us that Jesus Christ has overcome death. We should certainly fear hell more. But even here, we have been given the means of avoiding ending up there. When confronted with the prospect of death, we need more access to our churches and more recourse to the sacraments. We need more priests to behave like St Charles Borromeo. Many priests have done precisely that.

And just when we needed access to our churches, they closed down! Our bishops listened to "expert" opinions. With appropriate measures, churches could have been safely managed. Instead of giving us hope, so many of our leaders helped spread panic and despair. We started blaming certain groups for spreading the disease.

What an opportunity it would have been for Christians to bring hope to people, to bring them to Christ. But, as Lawler notes, we needed to nourish our own faith by means of the sacraments. But the doors were closed. Our leaders largely failed us.

What about unethically sourced vaccines? I agree with Lawler. The time to object to them was before they were manufactured. In a time of grave need, remote material cooperation may be justified, according to Church teaching.Which is very different from saying that all Catholics are obliged morally to have the vaccine.

In 2011, the Archbishop of Boston wrote a pastoral letter praising Catholics who risked their lives going to Mass on Sundays. During the pandemic, he told people to stay at home.

Lawler quotes the great Dietrich Von Hildebrand who noted that liberal bishops are very "pastoral" with Catholics who dissent from basic Church teachings but "dogmatic" with orthodox Catholics. Liberal bishops want to deal with pro-abortion politicians in a "pastoral" way but anyone who dissents on masks and vaccines will be treated as heretics. Lawler quotes one bishop who said that the Mass will stop as soon as a mask is removed by a member of the congregation. Other bishops have also demonstrated their authoritarian stance on masks and vaccines.But not on abortion. I could not help but call to mind Cardinal Cupich of Chicago, who has become the poster boy for liberal Catholic intolerance.

All in all, a vitally needed work.

       
Copyright ; Dr Pravin Thevathasan 2021

Version: 7th June 2021



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