Sunday, October 1, 2023

Mea culpa. . .

Timothy Cardinal Dolan recently raised some questions about the role of the Roman Catholic Church during Covid.

Now I find myself undertaking an examination of conscience: Did we as a Church, here in the United States, go too far in obeying all the restrictions imposed during the COVID pandemic, resulting in a lack of pastoral care for those sick?

I can only speak for this archdiocese, where we were scrupulous in heeding the almost daily alerts about ways to protect our people. . . However, I ask myself — were we equally obedient to the biblical commands to be near the sick, to comfort the dying, to reverently bury the dead, and, for us deacons, priests and bishops, to bring the sacraments and the Church’s prayerful accompaniment to those very sick from the virus?

But, I nag myself, did we do enough? Did we raise the point that spiritual consolation given to patients was as essential as the bodily care? Did we insist that our churches needed to remain open for Mass and the sacraments, with all the precautions possible, instead of locking our doors?

Our Sunday Visitor

Cardinal Dolan is not a particular friend but at least he is raising questions about the wisdom of churches and church leaders in so quickly abandoning our weekly gathering in the Lord's House and the mercy work of the Church to those most vulnerable -- all because the government told us so.  We have learned a great deal in the aftermath.  It is embarrassing to find out that much of what we were told were lies or half truths or best guesses and we took these restrictions as fact.  It is embarrassing that we did not take the government to court with the idea that liquor stores were essential but churches were not.  It is embarrassing that our church leaders were more interested in urging compliance than in courageous finding ways to serve even within the pandemic.  It is embarrassing that it has taken the churches and the people in them so long to come back to the Lord's House and Table.  It is embarrassing that we gravitated so quickly to the online presence instead of the Real Presence and were satisfied with the screen over the Sacrament.  It is embarrassing but it is far more.  It is shameful.

We need to consider what we did and why we did it before another thing comes along and we are left as unprepared as we were then to answer the demands of a government that did not know what it was doing but we complied anyway.  We need to make a public mea culpa to our people for our failure to serve them and lead them in a time of fear and uncertainty.  We need to confess to our people that we as leaders and pastors lost our nerve and fell on the sword before the dictates of Republican and Democratic leaders.  This is not a partisan issue.  It is an issue of truth and accountability that remains a stain on the Church's honor all the way around.

We look back upon those pastors who served in time of plague, economic devastation, and political threat as the mighty saints who chose faithfulness to God over everything else.  What will future generations looking back at the Covid years have to say about the Church, her leaders, and her ministers?  It is time for us to set things right, admit our failures, and learn from them.  For the government has learned a powerful lesson in how to make people do what you want them to do and they will not soon forget the use of fear to control us.  Unless we learn a lesson from our failings, we will be unprepared for the next time false science and media onslaught and government overreach tell us to shut down. 


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