On May 8, 2020, a document titled Appeal for the Church and the World: to Catholics and all people of good will was published. Its initial signatories included, among others, three cardinals, nine bishops, eleven doctors, twenty-two journalists and thirteen lawyers.
It is astonishing to see how representatives of the ecclesiastical, as well as political and media, establishment have, in obeisance to the prevailing uniform thinking, unanimously sought to discredit the concerns expressed in the Appeal, and squelch any further discussion, with the “knock-out argument” that it is mere “conspiracy theory.” I remember a similar form of reaction and language under the Soviet dictatorship, when dissenters and critics of the prevailing ideology and politics were accused of being complicit in the “conspiracy theory” disseminated by the capitalist West.
The critics of the Appeal refuse to consider the evidence, such as the official mortality rate (for the same time-period) of the 2017-2018 flu season, as compared with the current Covid-19 epidemic in Germany. The mortality rate of the latter is much lower. There are countries with moderate coronavirus security and prevention measures that, due to their implementation, do not have a higher mortality rate. If the mere acknowledgment of the facts, and discussion about them, is labeled as “conspiracy theory,” then anyone who still thinks independently has good reason to be concerned about the possibility that subtle forms of dictatorship exist in our society. As is well known, eliminating or discrediting societal debate and dissenting voices is a chief characteristic of a totalitarian regime, whose main weapon against dissidents are not factual arguments, but rather demagogic and popular rhetoric. Only dictatorships fear objective debate when there are differing opinions.
The Appeal does not deny the existence of an epidemic and the need to fight it. However, some of the security and prevention measures involve imposing forms of complete surveillance over people. Under the pretext of an epidemic, such measures violate fundamental civil liberties and the democratic order of the State. Proposals regarding compulsory vaccination, with no alternative to the state-approved vaccine, and which would inevitably restrict personal liberties, are also very dangerous. Such measures and proposals are accustoming citizens to forms of technocratic and centrally directed tyranny — and civic courage, independent thinking and, above all, any resistance are being severely paralyzed.
One aspect of the security and prevention measures that has been similarly implemented in almost all countries is the drastic ban on public worship. Such bans have only existed in times of systematic Christian persecution. The absolute novelty, however, is that in some places State authorities are even prescribing liturgical norms to the Church, such as the manner of distributing Holy Communion. This is a clear interference in matters that pertain to the immediate authority of the Church. History will one day lament the “regime-clerics” of our time who subserviently accepted such interference by the State. History has always lamented that, in times of great crisis, the majority remained silent and dissenting voices were stifled. Therefore, the Appeal for the Church and the World should at least be given a fair chance to initiate an honest debate, without fear of social and moral reprisals, as befits a democratic society.
May 13, 2020
+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana
© Reproduction is authorized provided the source is acknowledged.