The attitude of the far right in Catholicism: “We’re right, therefore, we can do and say whatever we want.” Wrong.
Here’s a News Story from Canada about a pastor who refuses to obey the laws regarding limits on religious services during the pandemic. He is behind bars, where he belongs, because he told a judge if he was released on bail, he would continue to break the law. This is not martyrdom. This is not an heroic believer fighting against the evil laws of a wicked regime.
This is a person with the attitude that he and his religious sect are Right. Their understanding is absolute truth. If any authority in the Church or in the world says otherwise, then they believe they must fight against them, as good against evil — because they decided they themselves are right.
This is not the attitude from many examples in the past of Saints and martyrs. Rather, it is the attitude from many examples in secular society and in pagan religion of idolatry, of idolizing one’s own understanding and regarding all who disagree as wicked. It is a type of fundamentalism, which over-simplifies truth to produce severe errors, dogmatizes those errors, and then villainizes anyone who disagrees.
Restrictions on religious services due to a pandemic are reasonable and necessary. They have been widely approved by the Pope and the body of Bishops, who can never err gravely in matters of doctrine or discipline. The exact type and extent of restrictions needed is a matter of some legitimate discussion and disagreement. But on the far right, those who claim the pandemic is a hoax or is no worse than the flu, and that people should not have to wear masks or avoid gathering in a crowd close together, esp. indoors, are the ones who are acting contrary to truth and justice.
I am ashamed that among those doing the most harm during the pandemic are persons who call themselves “Catholic”, but who in fact are schismatics and heretics who have rejected the Roman Pontiff, such as Cardinal Vigano and his supporters.
Masks and social distancing is necessary and effective. The Covid-19 virus is exceedingly harmful and has the capability to ravage the human body in ways previously unknown in medicine. Protecting one’s own life and the lives of others is a moral obligation under pain of mortal sin and loss of salvation.
I have read many hundreds of medical studies and have listened to a few hundred videos from physicians on Covid-19. I have written articles on the subject (covid.us.org). The danger is far from passed. This virus could mutate and reassert itself in another form, such as Covid-twenty-something or SARS-something-else. The current form of Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is not as bad as it could be. A SARS-CoV-3 could be much worse. SARS had a death rate of nearly 10% and MERS had a death rate of 35%. The number of deaths in Covid-19 have not been exaggerated. The number of reported cases is widely regarded by researchers as an under-reporting. The death rate of Covid-19 is relatively low, but when it strikes a person in its worst form, it is extremely damaging. Also, at least 10% of persons who survive end up with continuing health problems. Then there is the disease called LongCovid, which causes much suffering and is difficult to explain.
Asking pastors to limit the number of persons in a room for a service is not unreasonable. If you are so holy that you are willing to Martyr yourself by going to jail. Why don’t you simply increase the number of services so that, at 15% capacity, you can have just as many persons attend as usual. And by the way, Catholic Masses rarely have a 100% occupancy. Triple or quadruple the number of services to comply with the law. It doesn’t matter if the law, ideally, would be somewhat different. Go the extra mile. Comply. And make other accommodations so that the faithful can go to religious services.
This pastor who chose to go to jail, rather than hold services with fewer persons in attendance, wearing masks and spread out in the room, is not helping anyone. He is not standing up for religion. He should have asked the judge to allow him to hold more services, with a list of various precautions, and received approval to remain out on bail. Then in court he can argue for a loosening of the law. But as it is, with his stubborn insistence that he is right and everyone who disagrees is wrong, he sets a bad example for believers.
The attitude of the far right in Catholicism: “We’re right, therefore, we can do and say whatever we want.” also applies to the way they treat Popes and Councils. No, you don’t have a right to stand in judgment over every decision of the Church on faith and morals, and proclaim that Popes and Councils are wrong wherever you disagree. That is pride, schism, and heresy.
Then the claim that you are only disagreeing where the decisions are non-infallible is a lie. The far right does not accept the infallible definitions of Vatican I and the OUM on the never failing faith of Peter and the unblemished teachings of the Apostolic See. The far right refuses to believe that any teaching is infallible if it is contrary to their own views. And it is a dogma of Vatican I and the OUM that even the non-infallible teachings of the Popes and Councils can never err to a grave extent. Peter is the Rock at all times, not only when teaching infallibly. Peter holds the keys in all decisions, not only when infallible. Peter guides the Ark of Salvation aright not only when infallible. The Church is indefectible at all times, and not only when deciding infallibly.
The single question that is threatening to crash the Ark of Salvation on the Rocks today is this:
(1) Does the grace of God protect the decisions of Popes and Councils on doctrine and discipline from grave error at all times?
(2) In other words, does God prevent Popes and Councils from teaching heresy and prevent the Pope as an individual and the body of Bishops as a body, from committing heresy, apostasy, and idolatry?
The correct answer is (1) Yes, and, (2) Yes. For the Church is indefectible. But if the Pope or the body of Bishops or any Council could err gravely on doctrine or discipline, or if a Pope or the body of Bishops could fall into apostasy, heresy, schism, or idolatry, then the Church would have defected. For the Church is Apostolic. She is founded on the Rock of the successors of Peter — each and every one of them; She is founded on the body of Bishops and the successors to the other Apostles.
No, you cannot reject every teaching and decision of the Church that you think is wrong. In such a way, you idolize yourself. What is the self-version of ultramontanism? Ultra-selfism? That is what the far right in Catholicism and in politics as well is teaching. No Pope can teach or commit heresy. No Council can err gravely on doctrine or discipline. Even the body of Bishops, as a body, cannot teach or commit heresy, cannot commit apostasy, or schism or idolatry.
Claims that this has happened in the past are simply incorrect judgments of the prudential order. You cannot nullify a dogma of Vatican I and of the OUM by a set of personal theological judgments on whether a Pope or a Council erred.