Church Closures: Are Catholics Obliged to Obey Govt Ban On Worship Of God? 

Comment: 

Martin Luther King, as pointed out in the above video, quotes Catholic teaching on unjust laws to legitimise the civil uprisings in the USA against the segregation of black people from the rest of the population. King points out that those who invoke this right to disobey unjust civil laws must be prepared to take the consequences – such as imprisonment. Thus, it is made clear that the motive for such civil disobedience is conscience, not malice. 

At this time, when we are prohibited from the worship of God in our churches because of “the virus”, what should Catholics do – pressure priests for “secret” Masses or openly attend churches, bearing in mind that the priest is the person most likely to have to pay the consequences. We’re hearing of a Scots priest who has been handed a hefty fine for allowing parishioners to attend his Mass recently.  Such is the confusion around us that I’m not clear in my own mind whether or not members of the congregation are also liable to fines – informed contributors please enlighten me on that score. It’s not the virus of which people are afraid when it comes to assessing the restrictions, it’s the fines and the fear of losing hearth and home which is forcing compliance. My entirely unsolicited and unqualified legal advice to anyone found breaking a “Covid law” is, in any case, to refuse to pay fines and let the matter go to court in due course. I’ll pray for you 😀   

It should go without saying (but I’d better say it anyway) that if you happen to know of any underground Sacraments which you suspect may be on offer, you must not say so on this thread, or anywhere else on this blog for that matter.  This thread is to discuss the principles of law and our obligation (or not) to obey all laws – even perceived unjust laws. Do the current Covid laws,  especially the prohibition on attending churches, fit the definition of an unjust law, according to the thinking of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Augustine…

IS is true that “an unjust law is no law at all” ?   

52 responses

  1. Sadly, too many of us talk big about the martyrs etc but we are simply too cowardly to break bad laws for the sake of our convictions and for our faith.

    They might be misguided but at least all those Christian peace types you see getting arrested outside nuclear weapons bases are willing to risk everything and give witness to what they believe.

    Unfortunately, we Catholics who insist that our Churches should be open but go along with the law anyway are bigger hypocrites than all those who truly think Churches must be closed

    • TCK

      Excuse me for abbreviating your username but the whole “trad Catholic” thing irritates the socks off me, or it would if I wore socks. It has the air of superiority about it which is wholly inappropriate in anyone claiming to follow Christ.

      Unsurprising, then, that your comment accompanies your username in coming across as a tad superior and [incorrectly] judgmental. There is a time to be judgmental – for example when we witness actual wrong-doing – but this is not it. For all the talk of “we” and “us” your comment appears as a condemnation of … who? You assume “we” are all cowards – “us” lot. On what basis you make this assumption, you don’t say.

      A page of our bi-monthly newsletter is dedicated to “Thinking Through Catholic Truth” – i.e. Catholic Teaching – it pays to do that, helps to avoid the danger of jumping to the wrong conclusion(s). Allow me to explain…

      Leaving aside the example of the martyrs to avoid confronting an early death (St Thomas More is among those who spring to mind) it’s really not for any individual person to judge anyone else in this matter.

      I’ve engaged in conversations and other communications with people whom I know to be utterly committed Catholics, who love the Faith and – in various ways – do everything in their power to practise and spread it. Given the tone of their self-examination regarding this sort of dilemma, I’d say that – frankly – they’re a heck of a lot more of a “traditional” Catholic than your good self. With respect, of course.

      Since the priests went along with the Government’s lockdown and closure of churches from the outset, they – mistakenly of course – consider that they are not now in the position of being able to openly challenge said Government, and thus, the people don’t have much of an opportunity to “break bad laws.” They should, of course, challenge the Government. They should announce that churches are opening with immediate effect and watch the Government’s dilemma – to charge every priest, bishop and parishioner with breaking an obviously unjust law? I seriously doubt it.

      As things stand, though, those priests and people who do break bad laws by going underground – as I’m sure some will be doing, God bless them – can hardly shout it from the roof tops; or are you condemning the priests from the Reformation period who (like our own martyr, St John Ogilvie) went in disguise to offer Mass for the few gathered in a friendly home for the purpose – albeit at the risk of having a spy in their midst? Are you seriously criticising St John Ogilvie for not standing up in George Square to announce the time of his next Mass?

      If not, please explain clearly what exactly you mean by your rather sweeping condemnation – and tell us where YOU will be attending Mass tomorrow. Obviously, the permission of the priest is required before you publicise any underground Mass on this blog…

      Please and thank you.

    • TCK

      Martyrdom comes in many forms, not least the form in which it exists at present – namely, unrelenting psycological, emotional and spiritual torment.

      If the hierarchy was supportive of the faithful, leading them in rebellion against these ungodly and unjust laws, then I might agree with you. However, given that most of the Church’s bishops and priests have just complied with the evil, it seems more prudent that faithful priests and their little flocks embrace the example of the persecuted Catholics at the time of the Reformation. There are ways for those who truly love God and their faith to continue in fidelity without exposing themselves to certain arrest and punishment, which would be to no avail. I hope you see where I’m coming from.

      • Athanasius,

        I agree – there are many ways of being martyred these days. I remember Pope John Paul II saying that. Just being a faithful Catholic leads to martyrdom these days, IMHO. You’re labelled an “extremist” – this happens even within families! So, I’d stop short of condemning individual people for being afraid to risk their livelihood and their homes, when the bishops are not leading the way. I know I wouldn’t criticise anyone in that way unless I was willing to pay their bills!

  2. Editor

    In cases where unjust civil laws impact us individually, say, for example, unjust taxation that removes a large part of our hard earned income, causing us financial hardship, then we are obliged to bear the suffering and offer it to God. As Our Lord said when questioned on this very point “render to Caesar…etc.”

    Everything changes, however, if and when civil governments legislate against the eternal law of God and the common good of society. That’s when governments lose their legitimacy and their authority, having set themselves against God and the natural rights of the people.

    In such cases, where governments turn into dictatorships, especially atheistic ones, then the Christian has to echo the words of St. Thomas Becket to Henry II: “One ought to obey God rather than men”, and then proceed to ignore and undermine their unjust commands. It is never lawful for Catholics to obey any secular authority that oversteps itself to interfere with the divine mission of the Church and the rights of individuals to the public worship of God.

    Sadly, too many prelates and priests have lost the faith and are now blind to the Traditional teaching of the Church in this matter, or they are cowards who know what they should do but have insufficient zeal for God’s glory and the salvation of souls to act as they know they should.

    When the very bishops of the Church, from the Pope down, side with Godless secular authorities against the law of God and the Church, as we see today, almost without exception, then it makes the task much more difficult for the handful of faithful parish priests who retain sufficient supernatural faith and zeal to see what’s happening and reject it in conscience. These are not only faced with the possibility of the wrath of an atheistic police state for breaking the unjust rules, they are then likewise faced with the possibility of public disavowal by their faithless bishops, who would certainly side with the atheists in denouncing such fidelity to God and immortal souls as criminality. The same applies to the faithful, that handful, who might bravely attend the Masses of such priests, for they too would be demonised.

    All that can be done, then, as at other times of religious persecution, is for priests to busy themsleves more than ever to provide clandestinely for the souls entrusted to their care. Many priests around the world are already doing this at great risk to themselves but they don’t care because they are driven by love of God and souls, and also by the thought of their judgment.

    The only hope of stopping these atheist governments in their tracks at the outset was if the Church’s hierarchy had spoken out with the authority entrusted to it by God to denounce the evil of lockdowns, yet it remained not only silent in its duty before God but also partnered with governments in enabling the greatest crime ever perpetrated against humanity.

    Now we see the Pope, the bishops and many priests advocating that all, including them, receive vaccines made or tested using the stem cell lines of little innocents butchered in their mother’s wombs. To justify this great evil they employ sophistry in argument claiming that the crime, which John Paul II himself declared to be “a sin crying to heaven for vengeance” is mitigated by remoteness in time and human need. In other words, the divine and moral law is subjective and may therefore be dispensed with depending on human circumstance. I think it fits well with the following diabolic proposition condemned by St. Paul (I believe) “let us do evil that good may come of it”.

    Truth be told, when push comes to shove, these men who portray themselves as servants of God are in fact servants of self or worse, Satan. Consequently, they must be disobeyed robustly by those who value divine truth and the salvation of their souls. The Church’s teaching is very clear in the matter of abortion – there are no exceptions under any circumstances. It’s one of those infallible doctrines that is not open to discussion or compromise by anyone who would remain Catholic.

    As an aside, I note that 55 people in the U.S. have already died as a result of alergic reaction to the new cell manipulating vaccines while reports suggest that general bad reactions are already 50 times higher than for the Flu vaccine. In addition to this, the authorities are now saying that the vaccines do not prevent people from becoming infected with COVID-19, they simply may reduce symptoms. Given that we are talking here of an entirely new technology that tampers with human cells, the potential for a global human catastrophe unfolding as a result of rushed manufacture and testing cannot be underestimated.

    The Swine Flu vaccine of some years ago demonstrated this danger very well when more people died or were rendered irretrievably disabled from receiving it than from the virus itself, resulting in a government recall and destruction of the vaccine. At any rate, potential negative reactions are as nothing in comparison with the mortal sin incurred by those Catholics who know how the vaccines are made and tested yet trample the moral law to put health of body above that of soul and the law of God.

    This is a time when everyone is obliged to do their own research instead of listening to propaganda, whether from atheist governments through the controlled media or fallen prelates through complicit priests. No one, from the Pope down to the parish priest, has the authority to close the House of God under the circumstances we see today – NO ONE!

    What these abusive authorities are doing is shameful and reprehensible before God and they know it, or at least they should if they retain even a modicum of the Catholic Faith. It has been in times of plague that the Church has historically shone greatest as a beacon of hope and comfort before suffering humanity, not locked and barred like the local pub as if superficial and non essential. Divine grace flowing from the Mass and Sacraments is the most essential resource to people because it provides divine consolation to troubled minds as well as to troubled souls.

    God fogive our hierarchy for its treachery, the more so because COVID-19 is not even remotely comparible with plagues of the past, when churches remained open and clergy spent themselves in charity in the service of Our Lord and His precious flock.

    For those priests who are troubled by the abandonment of the flock by a hierarchy trying to justify its betrayal with Sacramentally-void “live streamed Masses”, as though these were pleasing to God when used as a cover for cowardice, or worse, let them observe prudence and exercise great zeal, as per the example of the persecuted priests during the Protestant persecution.

    As regards potential fines and/or imprisonment by the State militia for failing to observe the present unjust legislation, Magna Carta as well as the common law of the land and the precedents set in our unwritten Constitution assures us of our absolute right to demand trial by a jury of our peers in the event of charges being brought.

    As free citizens of the land we are not subject to arbitrary declarations of guilt in the absence of trial before a judge and a jury. Placing people before Procurators Fiscal in the certain knowledge that these government-paid functionaries, who are not judges, will declare guilt and punishment without regard for due process, is a travesty of justice in line with the kangaroo courts of Communists and Nazis. We should know our rights under the law if we are to distinguish the vast difference that exists between legal and lawful. History is replete with examples of government legality depriving citizens of their lawful rights. The COVID business is just the latest example of such abuse of power!

  3. Answering the question “are Catholics obliged to obey the government ban on worship”, the answer has to be “no” but without the bishops leading the way, it’s not possible NOT to obey!

    I agree that the bishops and priests now feel they have to just keep going along after having accepted the first lockdown of churches but they should grow spines and say “enough is enough” – we are no longer going along.

    They have to show knowledge of the fact that there is no longer any such thing as following “the science”. There are scientists who disagree with lockdown – they need to be able to challenge the government narrative. I think this was posted before

  4. I’m crawling out on a theologically ignorant limb here, but it seems to me that what we are dealing with is persecution. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines persecution as “unlawful coercion or punishment for religion’s sake.”

    Where it gets complicated is that the state is, or claims to be, persecuting Catholics (and all religions, as far as I understand) because of a deadly health situation, not because of our religion. That is, the state does not frame its actions as persecution, but in the name of “safety.” In fact, it would be interesting to know how many of these politicians realize that they are engaging in unjust persecution, vs. how many actually think they are responding correctly and responsibly to a deadly health risk.

    However, a factual examination of the state’s justification for the lockdown of religion proves that their claims are false. Not only false, but deliberately manufactured falsehood. There is no deadly health situation, there is no pandemic, and there is no danger of worshippers contracting a fatal disease from attending a worship service, any more than there is a danger of contracting said disease whilst shopping at a big box store such as Wal-Mart. It is a collective psychosis created by relentless fear-mongering.

    So if the state is lying, and doing all it can to sustain and amplify the lie by enacting tyrannical enforcement measures, then not just Catholics but everyone has the obligation to disobey as far as they are able. Obviously, if they can’t pay large fines and can’t abandon their families by being sent to jail, then that limits the spectrum of their disobedience.

    If we revere the memory of those priests and faithful who gathered at mass rocks for Holy Mass – under conditions of severe persecution and at the very risk of their lives – then we should try to follow their example as best we can, because we are under a persecution that is masquerading as responsible government.

    I should add that all this is easy for me to say, because our own lockdown lasted two months; we’ve been open since late May. But if another lockdown was enacted, I would without hesitation try to find an underground source for the Sacraments.

  5. I forgot to mention another complicating factor: the hierarchy is fully complicit in this persecution, and so shepherds have turned into wolves and magnified the persecution. As far as I know, this situation is without precedent in the history of the Church, and so the resulting disobedience will not only be of civil authorities, but of ecclesiastical authorities!

    So if the shepherds have been struck, and both they and Caesar have gone rogue, the sheep have to cling even more fiercely to the Faith in order to avoid being scattered, because we know who wants us scattered…

  6. My elder Mother in law died. Old age, Dementia and the Wuhan Cv 19 Virus did her in at Age 91.. The local bishop REFUSED to allow any priest to administer the last rights. NO WAKE or FUNERAL either. No priest at the graves internment to administer- Bless the casket with Holy water as they put her in the grave. …….Ironically the same bishop had the AUDACITY to write to me Months later asking-begging for money.. Churches are closing Throughout Ct. etc., due to a Lack of Parishioner’s weekly Collections Money coming In. GEE I wonder why. ????. I wrote him back. He asked for FIFTY Dollars WEEKLY to keep him in Business. Seriously I Cannot Make this stuff up !!!. I told him EXACTLY where He Could Go to . It Rhymes with Nell… I told him in writing COLD DAY in Hades before I gave him or Numskull Bergoglio In the Vatican another Penny as Long as I live. Ironic Deceased Mom in Law whom I Never got along with when she was alive, went to Mass WEEKLY even in the Retirement home. This is SO sad Seeing her treated this way.

    • Ed of CT

      That was disgraceful behaviour on the part of the bishops and the priests. They will not escape the divine judgement for their neglect of the dying, that’s for sure. £50 dollars in the collection will be the least of their worries then. Hard to see how these types can avoid Hell.

  7. All very interesting comments so far – with a special word of sympathy to Ed of Ct (?Connecticut?) on your terrible experience following the death of your mother-in-law, RIP. It is the failure of priests to be present for the Last Rites which I find the one single aspect of this entire situation that is completely horrifying. When I think of the stories I’ve heard/read of long lapsed people, only agreeing to see a priest at the very end, with the encouragement of family, and then showing happiness at the chance to make their confession etc. it is truly heart-breaking that so many are being denied this great grace.

    Anyway, I came in to post this, the second part of the Fatima video on Sister Lucia – Communism already here, which I will also post on that thread, to update it. I haven’t yet watched it myself, and look forward to doing so later. It is, in fact, appropriate here, as well – and, in fact, is appropriate for any and every thread these days. All roads lead back to the fact that we are now living under totalitarian rule, and the Fatima warning that this would be the case.

    • I’ve watched both of the Kennedy Report videos on this now – excellent. Part 2 makes me shiver because it is describing exactly what we are living through. This could go on for years, listening to that explanation. God help us all – we really do need to pray for a good pope.

  8. As far as I can remember, most Catholic churches were closed soon after morning Mass, that`s if there was a morning Mass, even before the pandemic.

    I was brought up to never pass a church without stopping to pay a visit but the best you could do now for a number of years is to make the sign of the cross in passing.

    I don`t see why any church with a car park can`t arrange outside Masses during the better weather. After all, we used to have processions and benediction outside in May and even Marian devotions were carried out regularly. In the Galloway diocese,
    the feast of St Ninian is/was celebrated in his cave at Whithorn, which means a walk of around a mile over rough terrain along the stony beach, so it`s not as if it would be such a hardship.

    Having said that though, a couple of years ago there was a sort of round-the-country,
    world-wide rosary crusade. The site for the one in Ayr seemed to have been hand-picked so that nobody would spot us, even from the air. A remote spot was picked down the beach which could only be described as a hole in the ground. It reminded me of the Holy Wells in Ireland where Mass was celebrated in penal times. It`s a good job the tide was out. The Holy Rosary, recited by the bishop, was the fastest I ever heard. Everything was carried out in a flash, there was no litany. I don`t even remember if the Salve Regina was said. I was half expecting to catch up with an echo on the way back home. A get-in-and-out assignment. You felt like James Bond.

    I don`t think, therefore, that the Catholic Church in Scotland will be following the non-catholic ones by threatening to request a judicial review if their demands to be considered essential are not met.

  9. When Mass was suspended here, a local group organized a rosary procession uphill to the cathedral. We knelt on the steps and prayed for a restoration of public worship. Eventually the bishop caught on and construction fences blocked us from ascending, so we knelt on the sidewalk below. One thing I loved about it was the respect it showed for the bishop’s authority, while imploring him to exercise it for our spiritual good. Eventually Mass was restored, with restrictions. Some of these have been burdensome (e.g. masks), but we have had some success in citing St. Thomas on the limits of authority, and appealing to our own consciences and those of our shepherds. Though by the bishop’s own policies, Mass “ought” to be suspended again due to a rise in “cases,” thus far he has allowed pastors to make decisions at the parish level. The situation is far from perfect, but by the grace of God it has been possible to manage. In any case, we have to be prepared to practice our faith any way we can, but two things that are essential I think are prudent organization among the faithful, and showing as much respect for authority as possible in the circumstances.

    • Clovis Minor

      While I respect your obvious good will, not to mention your charity, I’m afraid I have a very different approach to these bishops who are betraying Our Lord. Truht be told, they’ve been betraying the faith for nearly 70 years now with their New Protestantised Mass, their false ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, their women lay readers, girl altar servers, Communion in the hand (which, incidentally, is an Indult and not the normal rule of the Church), etc., etc.

      This closing of churches in contravention of Church teaching was the final straw for me – I make no apology for calling them out for what they are, treacherous shepherds. I have point blankly refused to enter any church where masks, social distancing, sanitisers and check-ins are required because they are an insult to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament – bordering on sacrilege by turning the House of God, a house of faith, into a house of fear. The hierarchy of the Church is responsible for the near destruction of the Catholic Faith in our time and the resultant state of the nations today since they stop preaching Christ crucified to please the Prince of this world.

      I hope this doesn’t upset you too much. I do respect the sacred office of the Pope and the Bishops but I now attend only churches where the Traditional Latin Mass and the old faith are available. I never go near the Novus Ordo churches, except on occasion for confession if I know of priests who can still be trusted to administer that Sacrament in accordance with Church teaching.

      • I will, for the first time be(with masks and crime scene tape – I am taking Holy Water myself ) assisiting at the Holy Sacrifice this Wednesday as it Mass of the funeral of my brother Brian. I always wresteld with the bishops of Scotlands SNP medical advisor nonsense constraints, but as this is the first Mass I will have assisited at since midnight Mass in Edinburgh I will be going to pray for the repose of the sould of Brian. I do not feel right about wearing a mask in the Presence ( and do not wish to cause any upset for the very few of my family who are allowed to be there) so will comply as much as I am able.
        In your kindness pray for the repose of his soul

        • Graeme Taylor

          I think we all understand and sympathise with the circumstances you’re faced with. God rest Brian’s soul.

    • Clovis Minor,

      I second Athanasius’s praise of your kindness, and certainly your attitude to the authority of the hierarchy has been the commonplace attitude of Catholics down the centuries – if only we had the luxury of automatically applying such a mindset today.

      However, we must not do that. Our Lord Himself warns us to beware of false shepherds who come to us in wolves’ clothing. Against the unthinking mantra of “don’t be judgmental” we MUST judge. We must exercise due care when interacting with all persons in authority.

      There is no shortage, unfortunately, of examples of the danger of trusting professional people without applying good judgment. Ask any former patient of Dr Harold Shipman, the English GP, the doctor who murdered at least 200 (possibly more) of his patients.

      We don’t – or certainly we shouldn’t – give unquestioning approval to any professional person and neither should we do so in the case of bishops.

      There will be plenty of people, for example, who will express shock-horror at my headline about the Archbishop-Elect of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, where I identify him as a “Judas”.

      He IS a Judas, by definition. It is merely social (not religious) convention which will prompt people to object to it. Our Lord himself “called out” the first Judas, expressly saying that it would be better for that man if he’d never been born – thereby indicating the horror of his eternal fate. We, as Confirmed Catholics, therefore, have a duty to exercise our prophetic duty, which is to warn and correct where there is a need, in defence of the Faith (& Morals) and in imitation of Our Lord.

      You speak about respect for your bishop’s authority. Again, I refer you to the respect we all have for the medical profession. NOT, however, for doctors like Dr Harold Shipman who used that profession to satisfy his own evil desires – to murder. Well, heresy amounts to spiritual murder and we cannot speak too strongly against it and against those who preach it; they are following in the treacherous footsteps of Judas Iscariot and it is entirely right – not wrong or uncharitable – to say so. If our criticism is on the professional level – not making nasty personal remarks – then that is what Our Lord has instructed us to do.

      So, while it is good news that your group went peacefully about protesting the closure of your church, it is not so good that – with respect – you all seem to make the same mistake as the Government in thinking that this is all a human enterprise, that it’s acceptable to impose some Government restrictions on church-goers.

      The Government has NO authority over the Church at any level. The bishops appear not to understand that, which (to continue the medical analogy) is the equivalent of a doctor not understanding that it would be wiser not to give the key to his drugs cabinet to a patient-addict.

      I’ll finish by simply echoing Athanasius’s assurance that we must, of course, respect the episcopal office without necessarily “respecting” the individual office holder, by which I mean not allowing ourselves to uncritically accept the words and actions of individual bishops.

      • Athanasius and Editor: I do not find your comments upsetting. Please note I did not argue that our bishops are good shepherds, or that we should blindly accept their erroneous acts as authoritative. I am in agreement with the original video posted here outlining St. Thomas’s position, and with many if not all of your own comments in this post. One consideration behind my comment above reflects a certain dilemma posed whenever those with legitimate authority abuse their positions. Although their unjust commands are not authoritative, they themselves retain their authority, even if they are abusing or neglecting it. And though we are not bound in conscience to follow their unjust commands, lacking authority of our own, we are not always able to substitute just commands, capable of regulating the community by better standards. This difficulty takes different forms in different contexts and requires a prudential response designed to achieve the greatest good in the circumstances. To cite one example, St. Thomas More was willing to temporize with Henry VIII on many things, but had to resign from his service rather than support the king’s rejection and usurpation of papal authority. Even so, More was willing to remain officially silent on the matter (though he also wrote books and letters strongly hinting at his views). In the end, he was perfectly sincere in declaring himself the King’s good servant even as he denounced his policies as contrary to the law of God. In such matters only lengthy analyses will capture all the relevant variables. This is not to deny that God may inspire some to act without computing all these variables. But generally grace perfects nature, and God does expect us to think things through. I was simply offering one brief example of Catholic laity doing what was within their power in the circumstances. I could cite other examples that would fit better into the category of “civil disobedience,” which I also find beautiful and good, but discretion prevents me from mentioning them in writing.

        • Clovis Minor

          If I understand your position correctly it is that while we have a duty to disobey unlawful commands from spiritual superiors, we are not necessarily at liberty to confront their abuse of authority directly and forthrightly, since such a confrontation would be both imprudent and disrespectful. Or am I getting the wrong end of the stick here?

          Assuming I have the right end of the stick, all I can say is that there are times when silence out of a deferential respect for a particular authority, place or person is not an option. One of those times is when a spiritual superior threatens the faith with error, as per the example in Acts when St. Paul confronted St. Peter with stern words in public “…because he was to be blamed…” for undermining the faith.

          Likewise in the case of St. Thomas More, who was indeed a great saint and a generally prudent man except for one occasion when he exceeded prudence to resolve on a compromising silence that would have served to endorse rather than expose Henry VIII’s evil actions. While well intentioned, St. Thomas would have indirectly assisted in the suppression of divine truth by his silence, so Our Lord directed events that ultimately left him no option but to confess Henry’s apostasy in public.

          We find the same pattern repeated by St. Catherine of Sienna, who, given the circumstances of her time, certainly did not address the Pope, then residing in Avignon, with what we would regard as the respect due to his office.

          I suppose Our Lord gave us the prime example when He drove the money changers from the temple and exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, the religious leaders of His time, in the strongest possible terms, declaring, as well we might today, that they had turned the House of God into a den of thieves.

          The flip side exemplifying the same course of action when the faith is threatened by otherwise legitimate authority is the case of Pope Honorius I, posthumously condemned and excommunicated for silencing both the voice of the Monothelite heretics and their orthodox opponents in the interests of peace and respect. His decision to silence both sides of the argument meant that the Monothelite heresy remained a pestilence in the Church for many more decades. What he called prudential was in fact timidity and cowardice.

          What I’m trying to say is that in cases where real danger exists to the faith and to souls, whether the source be a Pope, bishop or priest abusing authority, we have a duty to make our speak directly with words as well as by our actions. In this regard we are very fortunate not to have to usurp lawful authority with our own opinions, which is forbidden, but rather to simply cleave to the higher authority of God and Sacred Tradition, which we may lawfully quote against an abusing prelate in echoes of St. Thomas Becket that “it is better to obey God than men”.

          So respecting the office of, say, a bishop, while disobeying an unjust command does not necessarily mean we have to be timid when airing our views to the bishop in particular or the Catholic public in general, assuming of course the error of the one in authority is not a one-off occurrence resulting from ignorance.

          My final example would be that of Archbishop Lefebvre whose very public and accusatory position caused much ecclesiastical wrath to be heaped upon him, and not only from destructive Modernists.

          The Archbishop showed absolutely no restraint when annunciating and condemning the dangerous errors of the Vatican II Popes, from the New Mass to those horrendous pantheistic gatherings at Assisi. The reason he went so public and was so vociferous was because he loved divine truth and was not prepared to compromise it in order to gain a few dispensations for his order and a more peaceful life for himself.

          The most potent and true line he ever spoke in accusation against the Modernist Popes and hierarchy was “the martyrs sacrificed their lives for the faith, now they sacrifice the faith”.

          At any rate, both he and his Society of St. Pius X continued to be persecuted by the lawful, yet abusive, superiors in the Church for speaking the truth, and that fearless fidelity to truth was rewarded by God with great growth.

          Had it not been for this outspoken fidelity of the Archbishop before his superiors then there would be no Fraternity of St. Peter, Institute of Christ the King, Good Shepherd Society or any other sanctuary of Tradition today for those who crave the purity of the faith handed down. It is proof positive that when it comes to superiors harming the faith there is only one prudent course of action and that is head on confrontation. If they are destroying the faith and souls then no matter how exalted their Church office may be we are obliged to challenge them publicly and forcefully.

          Believe me when I say that after 35 years of writing prudent and deferential letters to bishops and priests concerning their grave errors with nothing but the odd “your comment has been noted” response to show for it, I am long past the naivety of believing that they are men of good will and faith simply misled by ignorance. No, time all Catholics confronted them very publicly for their decades of destroying the faith from within.

          Just to qualify that last statement, I will always obey the lawful authorities in the Church when they speak and act in accordance with Sacred Tradition and the faith handed down. Let them attempt to undermine it, however, and I will not only refuse obedience, I will call them out publicly with not the slightest particle of prudence to be seen.

          • Athanasius,

            When I posted my comment I saw yours which went up at the same time and now I’m thinking my attitude was weak.

            I do think Clovis Minor was being wise since his group did not hide their disapproval of the bishop but just moved from where they originally prayed to where they were told, but still prayed the rosary and made it clear that they disapproved of the church being closed.

            I agree with everything you say, though. I hope I don’t come across as totally mixed up, LOL!

            • Lily

              I wasn’t criticising the action of Clovis Minor and his Catholic friends, as though it were insufficient in my estimation. In fact I think their determination in response to the bishop’s attempt to silence those conscience-niggling rosaries was more powerful than any public remonstration would have been.

              I was just making the point that, in general, I now believe that most of the hierarchy have to be viewed by the faithful as hostile to the faith and addressed accordingly with due outrage, respectfully of course.

              We are not in disagreement on the fundamental point. And no, you do not come across as totally mixed up. Your comments are always the very essence of clarity and conciseness.

          • Athanasius, I do not hold that we are never at liberty to be forthright in speaking against abuses of power. I only hold that it is a matter of prudence, and prudence aims at what is most likely to do good in the circumstances. There are times when bold words do great good, and times when they do more harm than good. Our own discernment needs to be guided by nature fortified by grace, neither fideism nor rationalism. I appreciate your examples and find them generally convincing or plausible. Regarding Thomas More, even in his “silence” he was making herculean efforts to promote the truth and oppose error, without explicitly quarreling with the King. One reason is that he thought it presumptuous to assume that God intended him to be a martyr, and he knew that he could not do it without the requisite grace. He might easily have secured a few extra years of life and relative comfort by refraining from the many provocative books and letters he was publishing with incredible industry. So I would not agree that God was correcting his reticence, I think God was answering his question and perhaps accepting his offer to be martyred, if it was His will. Anyhow when it comes to what we ought to do I think the answer is complex and varies to some extent from one situation to another. I agree with you that a great treasure we have is Tradition itself, which enables us to appeal to a higher authority (higher even than the pope) and thereby supplies our own lack of authority in many instances. I would only say that vehement criticism can often feel good as a vent to our own passions, and even when objectively justified, passion can blind us to the crucial question of whether we are accomplishing anything with these particular words at this particular time. In some cases (you mention a few) the answer is clearly yes. In many others I think it is not so clear, so I think we need to remind ourselves of the need for careful discernment.

            • Clovis Minor

              We’re not in general disagreement that, as Catholics, we must resist those who abuse ecclesiastical office to the endangerment of the faith, that’s the main thing.

              I take the point you’re making and agree that, of course, certain circumstances may require more of a kid glove approach. Personally speaking, though, after 35 years of wasted effort with a deaf and blind hierarchy, I’m all out of kid gloves and have only boxing ones left!

              In summation, we agree on the Catholic essentials but differ a bit in personal opinion as to the most effective method of responding when the faith is attacked. I’m sure you will agree that the latter matters little so long as the former is agreed upon.

              By the way, is that a wee owl sitting on some books in your new avatar? Looks like a wee guy I know!

        • Clovis,

          I think your avatar looks like a wise old owl and your reply fits the bill, LOL!

          I agree with you – we do have to use prudence in reacting to what is going on although not so that it becomes an excuse for not acting or being weak, but I don’t think either is the case in the situations you’ve described. I think you’ve shown wisdom in dealing with the bishop and that has to be a good thing. Going in like a bull in a china shop might work sometimes, but not always.

          Keep up the good work!

  10. Down South, some Catholic churches are closing voluntarily when the government hasn’t even mandated them to be closed. Also, I am hearing more and more reports that just because the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday has been lifted by the bishops of England & Wales during the pandemic, people are not going when Sunday Mass is still available – even though they are not in high-risk categories (i.e. very elderly and with underlying health conditions).

    • I clearly remember our parish priest saying last year when churches were first closed, that people would soon lose the habit of going to Sunday Mass. Sadly it seems he was right. Now there are fewer that 30 in the congregation for the two Sunday Masses and only a handful at the one weekday Mass. the number of viewers at the streamed Mass is also down. I wonder how many will return when all this is finally over?

      • I know what you mean Elizabeth. It’s not looking very good at all. But in a sense, maybe this is Our Lord sorting the wheat from the chaff – i.e. those who go to Mass because they really want to go, to be present at the Holy Sacrifice, and to receive Holy Communion, as opposed to those who went merely out of a sense of being obliged to go, but would really rather do something else on a Sunday.

  11. Here we have a Scots priest (Diocese of Motherwell) writing in The Tablet to say that the bishops are wrong to complain about lockdown, twisting – ever so poetically – the events commemorated on the Feast of the Epiphany to make his case.. There are a heck of a lot of clergymen who are better are poetry than at being priests. I’ll be emailing this particular poet later in the day for his comment to be published in the March newsletter. But wait for this – the name of his parish? St Athanasius, no less. Truly, you just could not make this stuff up!

  12. Consider this:

    During the Second World War, because of the enemy night bombing raids, the British government enacted black-out legislation which imposed on everyone the responsibility of preventing the escape of any glimmer of light that might aid enemy aircraft. This had a consequence for the Catholic Church since it meant that every year, for the duration of the war, there could be no Christmas Midnight Mass. But if we accept the proposition of no interference by the State for one moment then the pastor of some church would have been at liberty to ignore the civil authority (say, a belief that an attack on the town was far remote or after requests from faithful unable to assist at one of the other Christmas Masses). The implications of this are obvious: the risk of illuminating the town or at least providing a beacon to any lurking enemy aircraft and the consequences that would have followed for the town’s sleeping inhabitants – both Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

    So, what of the civil authority if they had learnt such a Mass was to take place. Would they have been powerless to stop it? No, just like the power of the State is not without limits, so too “the power of the Church is limited, and in such a way as to prevent her using it to the injury of the State.”[1][2] Neither is there any defence in the assertion, as in this example, that there is no intent to injure the State; it is a principle of moral theology that you may not directly run the risk of that which you may not directly do. So if you cannot cause injury to the State you cannot risk injury to the State (moreover, one could introduce a radio intercept into the example to confirm the town as the intended target).

    Where does that leave us? There is the principle (above) that if the actions of the Church do adversely affect the State she can intervene. If we apply this to the current pandemic, then, in the beginning – if we assume good faith on both the part of the Government and the scientists – the lockdown may well have been justified, but now, with more data, we could say it unreasonable. However it’s far from being a black and white issue as some here would claim.

    [1] See “The power of the Church has limits”, Hergenröther (1876)
    https://books.google.com/books?id=dMoOAAAAYAAJ&newbks=0
    [2] ibid. neither can “[t]he Church … abolish free-will; she can devise no plan for forcing all men to obey her; she cannot compel us to internal conviction or to external submission.”

    • Peter,

      I’m not sure what country the article below refers to (doesn’t sound like Britain), but wherever this was, Christmas Midnight Mass was not cancelled, it was moved to 4 pm, from 1939 to 1943, so that everyone would be home before dark.

      So in Britain, was this practice followed, or was Midnight Mass cancelled altogether?

      https://www.tvm.com.mt/en/news/they-gave-the-traditional-christmas-sermon-during-the-worst-years-of-wwii/

      Moreover, one cannot assert that presently, the actions of the Church in keeping churches open would adversely affect the State, for one simple reason: if the State allows Wal-Mart and large grocery stores to remain open, for example, but not churches, then it should be obvious that the State’s actions are not only arbitrary and capricious, but an attack against religion under the guise of public safety.

      And speaking of public safety, neither can one assert that a relatively mild form of seasonal flu (if there are any symptoms at all) is a threat to public safety, or constitutes a pandemic. Thus a comparison between a wartime situation in which one is clearly in danger of being bombed, to a fake pandemic, doesn’t hold any water.

      As for the effectiveness of lockdowns not being a black and white issue, please provide data that lockdowns have worked to “flatten the curve” (a fraudulent State mantra), or that they have “stopped the spread of the virus” (another fraudulent State mantra).

      The actions of the State – or, more accurately, a shadow State that controls the State – are clearly fraudulent and are driven by an agenda that has nothing to do with public safety and health. If you assume that the actions of the State/shadow State are in good faith, then I think you are being quite naïve.

      • RCA Victor,

        The more I tune into talkRadio and read objective articles online, the more I have come to understand that there is not a single shred of evidence that lockdowns work in any way, whatsoever, to prevent the spread of a virus. On the contrary, the evidence is mounting that they are CAUSING deaths, through untreated OTHER illnesses and depressions leading to suicide, people losing jobs etc.

        The entire scam – including the mask wearing and social distancing – should be the focus of a lawsuit charging Crimes Against Humanity, as the German lawyer (featured on the video posted here, often) promised will happen across the world. Can’t come soon enough, if you ask me, which I know you didn’t but I’m just saying, anyway 😀

        Today, a young woman knocked on my front door, wrong address; she seemed startled to see me and something tells me it was not because of my exceptional good looks. She was very friendly and I tried to work out where her friend was living since she obviously didn’t live here. Anyway, as the conversation drew to a close, I looked at her afresh and asked what it was that was so different about her, apart from the fact that she smiled a lot and even giggled, whereas I’m used to seeing long faces everywhere I go, which is really no further than the local shops. I wondered if we’d actually met before or whether it was just that we’d spent 5 full minutes talking and it just seemed that way. Then it dawned and she laughed when I said “no mask! That’s it. You look human!”

        What a life.

        • Editor,

          To take the lockdown procedure even further, not only are they causing deaths by other means, they are also setting up weakened immune systems by preventing exposure to the microbes that naturally circulate throughout the human race.

          Not to mention that lockdowns are the Red Chinese model – or should I say the Rockefeller Foundation model – which should automatically give anyone pause who values his freedom.

      • RCAVictor,

        There was no Midnight Mass. The fact that there may have been a first Mass of Christmas (an anticipation Mass) at some other time, in some places, is besides the point; it wasn’t at midnight due to government legislation. The Motu Proprio (AAS 32-529) of 1st Dec 1940 allowed the celebration of the first Mass in the afternoon of the vigil if permitted by the local ordinary. This continued in England until 1944. The Blitz didn’t begin until August 1940, so I suspect your Maltese source has his dates confused. The year 1944 was interesting since Christmas Day fell on a Monday. It is mentioned in “Questions & Answers: The Sacraments” (Mahoney, 1944) which discusses whether attendance at this first Mass of Christmas fulfilled the Sunday obligation (it didn’t) and if one could receive twice on that Sunday (you could).

        Anyway, I think you’ve missed the point. I gave an example, an extreme one, that no reasonable person could defend (the persistence of a priest in celebrating a Midnight Mass), and, indeed, of the responses received so far no one has tried to. I then went further and justified the intervention of the State in such circumstances. Again, no one has objected to this or to Hergenröther (nor will anyone). In Hergenröther I have a good source, he was one of three brilliant theologians that emerged from the theological faculty of Würzburg during the mid-nineteenth century (the others being Denzinger and Hettinger). I’ve seen it suggested that it was at his insistence Leo XIII wrote his various encyclicals on the relationship between Church and State. He is regarded as an authority on this subject, hence my reference.

        The Church cannot exceed her powers, there are limits as previous stated, and this is the point I was making. The issue now is how this principle relates to the current situation. On the one hand governments are willing to endure an annual flu outbreak without any lockdown, while on the other lockdowns did occur during the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak [1][2] and contrary to any suggestion that this is something new. There are arguments for and against: such as we now having better medical services than in 1918, but then counter ones like we travel far more now and so risk spreading the virus and overwhelming these medical services. As I wrote previously, the first lockdown may well have been justified if we assume good faith and nothing I’ve read on this subject (whether the State can close Churches) has given an unsurmountable or overwhelming case either way (I’m sorry, but I don’t really embrace conspiracy theories, deep-state, shadow-state etc.).

        There is a false notion that in mixed matters – those that are the concern of both the Church and the State – that the preference is always with the Church. This is false, the Church has never claim this to be the case, and my example and reference demonstrate this. Hergenröther sums it up thus: “In a conflict, that power generally has the right whose end in respect to the matter in dispute is the most important; and regard has always to be paid in the particular case to the magnitude of the obligation, to the difference between affirmative and negative laws, to the greater or less the necessity, and in general to the doctrines of morality concerning conflicting duties.” (p. 229)

        I maintain my conclusion as last time, it is not black and white.

        [1] https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2020/03/op-ed-suspending-public-mass-is-not-new.html
        [2] https://sspx.org/en/news-events/news/church-and-pandemics-then-and-now-56815

        • Peter,

          I wonder what your point is. The co-operation of the Church authorities in a war time scenario isn’t remotely the same as a government imposing orders on the Church in the name of a health epidemic. If that is the case, then we ought to shut the churches permanently every winter, because thousands of people in the UK die from the flu every single year. I don’t know what the recovery rate is for the annual flu but I know what is is for Covid – 99.98%, so there is absolutely need for all the nonsense we are being put through. I know of two doctors who call it that “this nonsense” but they wouldn’t say that in their places of work, for fear of being sacked.
          If you think this is about a virus, well, be prepared to never be a free person again because there are viruses all around us all the time.

          Are you OK with governments telling the Church what to do? That’s what this is about. I object to them telling ME what to do, never mind taking control of the Church, and TBH I don’t understand Catholics who are fine with it.

          The first link you posted up there from Rorate Caeli, I checked out and I thought that the FSSP priest who wrote it would be happy living in China. He wrote this, though, which I am amazed he included because it is like a rebuke to the likes of him:

          “Finally, it is said that during the Spanish Influenza Epidemic in Philadelphia, St Peter’s Church on Girard Avenue stayed open while other Catholic Churches in the area closed. The church was run by Redemptorists and the pastor asked Our Lady of Perpetual Help to protect the parishioners from the flu. The parish remained open and it is said that not one parishioner died from that flu. “

          I think that was God making it very clear which Catholics were pleasing to him, at that time.

    • Peter,

      The second world war did not affect the freedom of the people to attend Mass, to the best of my knowledge.

      The black-outs during the war meant that at night, when it’s dark, the people kept their curtains closed to avoid light escaping, to avoid being bombed into the next world, and I assume that the same would apply to churches if they were open after dark. That’s just a common sense matter. It doesn’t come anywhere close to the issue of religious freedom. If the Government legislated that every home with more than three stone steps in front must be cleared of snow and ice during winter, and that included churches, that, again, would not come anywhere close to interfering with our religious freedom. It’s about buildings, stone steps, and safety, not about our duty to worship God.

      The issue at this time is not about whether or not bishops/priests should co-operate with Governments in any perceived crisis. Of course they should, where possible.. Giving to Caesar is a Gospel imperative. But not instead of giving to God.

      There can be no justification for placing the State in charge of the Church, for obeying the State when it means disobeying God, as is happening right now.

      As one priest in Ireland, quoted in our current newsletter says (and I paraphrase), “…it is making people suspicious that [the Government] want us to stop believing in God.”

      Got it in one…

      • Editor,

        I’m not sure what your first point means as the case I gave demonstrated that the black-out regulations restricted access to Mass, even if only once a year. Speaking more generally things certainly become more difficult in extreme times, e.g. in times of conflict and war. A conscripted Catholic soldier on sentry duty cannot leave his post to fulfill his Sunday obligation. A demand for more military chaplains may result in fewer parish priests. I suppose while things were more difficult there was no ‘en masse’ restrictions to Mass is what you mean? Churches in some cities did close during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic though I don’t think it was ever nationwide in any country.

        The issue is where the delineation of power lies. It is certainly within the State’s competence to control a pandemic and restricting group sizes is one method (whether one agrees with it or not). But the real issue here isn’t really with the state, in fact in most cases the state has done no wrong, the unfortunate truth is that Catholic hierarchies were all too willing to agree to the lockdowns. I’ve read criticism of Rees-Mogg and other Catholic politicians for their failure to stop Church closures but how can he argue in Cabinet against a lockdown when Cdl. Nichols has already signed up to it, after all they’re supposed to represent the Church not him? Why was their no pushback from the bishops? Why did they not seek some compromise position that would have still allowed the reception of the sacraments? Even if just in some limited capacity? I think this is the real scandal.

        One final point, successful legal action by traditionalists has been taken in both the U.S. and France over Church closures, but why not in England – I’ve met enough English ‘trad’ lawyers over the years? Where is the similar legal action from the Traditionalist Catholic or even the Conciliar Catholic, the Anglican, or any Christian denomination? Well, there is a hero that has emerged. Mr. Tabassum Hussain, a Muslim leader of a Bradford mosque, who has managed to obtain a judicial review.[1]

        [1] https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-leeds-52767583

        • Peter,

          You keep shifting the goal posts, LOL!

          I don’t think anybody here would disagree that it is the hierarchy not the government to blame for church closures. I’ve read that umpteen times on here, plus recently somewhere someone wrote that there is no need for legal action. The bishops just need to say they’re opening up and that would be it. The Scottish bishops actually closed before it was ordered by the government last March, so they can open up early, as well! No government is going to sue all the bishops, IMHO! I confess, I’m not the first to say that but I did agree with it and it stuck in my mind, so I hope they just tell the First Minister that we’re returning to church after 15 February review.

    • Peter

      I think most would agree that the situation of the Second World War is not remotely comparable with the COVID situation. The former national crisis was clear for all to see, the latter is fabricated, as a German court has just confirmed (see LifeSiteNews).

      I also agree with RCAVictor that Christmas Mass was not cancelled during the war, not even during the London blitz, it was merely moved in time and place depending on circumstances. Indeed, there were thousands of Masses celebrated every day on the battlefield, out of the backs of army trucks, etc., so you’re misled on that.

      Final point is that the State is NEVER permitted to intervene in Church affairs – her divine mission being far superior to that of any secular state government agenda. Once again, you are seriously misled. I’d change my reading materials if I were you – stick to trusted Catholic authors.

      • Athanasius,

        You’ve not understood what I wrote. Firstly, I wasn’t drawing a comparison but demonstrating a principle, namely, that the power of the Church has limits and that she cannot use her power to cause the state injury. I think that both my example and reference are excellent and the point well made.

        As I said to RCAVictor, governments are willing to endure an annual flu outbreak without any lockdown, while on the other lockdowns did occur during the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak. The question then becomes how much of an injury can a state reasonably endure before taking certain measures to control the outbreak, and what measures are permissible. It’s an open question.

        Regarding the first Mass of Christmas. I didn’t say it was canceled, just that there was no Midnight Mass. That other Masses were celebrated during WWII isn’t relevant to the point I was making.

        To you “final point” this is a mixed matter where both the Church and State have an interest. But to suggest that the power of the Church must always prevail is not true as I’ve demonstrated, and, what’s more, the Church has never claimed this.

        As to my “once again … reading material”, the last response I had from you merely engaged in fallacies (strawman, ad hominem, poisoning the well, virtue/genetic, general rule, extended analogy), to which I could only conclude it wasn’t an argument based on Faith and reason.

        To give one example, you don’t appear to be capable of reading Bp. Vigano. This is what he wrote:

        “… [The Pontifical Academy] present members hope for mass vaccination and the universal brotherhood of the New World Order, contradicting previous pronouncements of the same Pontifical Academy.[1] In recent days the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales[2] has entered this anomalous wave. On the one hand it recognizes that “The Church is opposed to the production of vaccines using tissue derived from aborted fetuses, and we acknowledge the distress many Catholics experience when faced with a choice of not vaccinating their child or seeming to be complicit in abortion,” but it then affirms, in very grave contradiction with the stated unchanging principles of Catholic morality,[3]…

        [1] Cf. Pontifical Academy for Life, Note on the Nature of Vaccination, 31 July 2017.
        [2] Cf. Bishops’ Confernce of England and Wales, The Catholic position on vaccination.
        [3] Cf. Pontifical Academy for Life, Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Human Fetuses, 5 June 2005.“

        But when you quoted him (December 21, 2020 at 3:48 pm) you omitted all the references. Why? Because the “unchanging principles of Catholic morality” that Vigano speaks of are to be found in reference [3] – the Pontifical Academy for Life’s Moral Reflections of 2005. I would suggest it is you who is being misled.

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