In these critical moments, when death can be found around the corner, most bishops have left us stranded and abandoned to the Internet, where neither the Sacramental Jesus nor forgiveness of sins can be received.
Although that was not my intention, the president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference and archbishop of Barcelona, Juan José Cardinal Omella, accuses me in an article published in La Vanguardia of having caused him “deep pain and perplexity.”
His article appeared in the Catalan newspaper on Tuesday, April 21, which means that the archbishop delivered it the day after I published my article in Hispanidad titled “Coronavirus: When Spanish Priests Give Lessons of Courage and Holiness to Their Bishops.” I have been attacked by the prelate because, to my knowledge, not many articles similar to mine had been published when he wrote his article.
Naturally, the cardinal does not quote me by name but simply writes: “I want to express my deep pain and perplexity when reading some articles in which priests who have not opened the churches during the two weeks of hard confinement are severely criticized.”
His Eminence’s confinement to his episcopal residence must have been shortened since he refers to a two-week quarantine, whereas, by the date his article appeared, we had been unable to leave our house for more than a month.
But this is not the worst inaccuracy in his writing. I never criticized priests for closing the churches, as stated in his article in La Vanguardia. What I criticized last Sunday is the unjust imposition by the majority of bishops on priests to close their parish churches. Furthermore, in my writing, I approved and praised the actions of many priests who are doing what they can, even bypassing the orders of their bishop. I applauded these priests as models because they set an example of courage and holiness for their superiors.
What seemed wrong to me last week, and seems even worse today, is the attitude of the ecclesiastical authorities, of which Omella is the leader. In these critical moments in which death can be found around the corner, most bishops do not defend the right of the faithful to receive the sacraments before the political authorities. They have left us stranded and abandoned to the Internet, where we can receive neither Sacramental Jesus nor the forgiveness of sins.
Moreover, ordinary priests did not prevent us from attending Holy Mass, but the ecclesiastical authorities led by Cardinal Juan José Omella, president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference.
Most bishops in Spain have gone even further than a government led by communists and socialists. They decided to forbid the faithful to attend the celebration of Holy Mass, whereas the government’s decree does not prohibit worship. In his letter, the cardinal says that they have closed the churches so as not to spread infection. By this rule, they should also have closed supermarkets, pharmacies, and tobacco stores, where people are more crowded than in church. By taking the same measures adopted in shopping centers, Cardinal Omella could have celebrated Holy Mass in his great cathedral in Barcelona with at least one hundred faithful. And behind the archbishop of Barcelona, canons could have continued saying mass uninterruptedly until the entire line of people had attended. That is precisely what has been done in supermarkets in an exemplary fashion, leaving none of their customers unattended.
Perhaps the title of his article, “Men of flesh and blood,” can explain this unusual decision by the president of the Bishops’ Conference. As man is reduced to matter, it suffices for him to go to the supermarket, pharmacy, or tobacco shop. That causes me even more pain and perplexity than that which my writings are said to cause to Cardinal Omella, though for different reasons. Above all, it causes me immense uneasiness to see our prelates so often forget that, in addition to flesh and blood, men also have a soul that needs nourishment. And this food is denied to us when churches – our churches! – are closed.
This materialistic and earthbound vision of man, unfit for a pastor of the Church and successor of the apostles, explains communiqués and statements devoid of spiritual content. They are issued by the Bishops’ Conference but could be signed by any politician. They are usually released by a monsignor, the spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference, who has brilliantly declared that “that time is greater than space”…
I am sick of hearing Monsignor Argüello’s nonsense, which ultimately result in the loss of prestige of those of whom he claims to be the spokesman. I have not yet heard a single word from him about the illegal interventions the police have made in recent days by interrupting several celebrations of the Holy Mass with few people in attendance, taking even more strict safety measures than supermarket customers. This shows a lack of respect befitting someone who went even further than a government of socialists and communists.
It is normal that when a bishop gets along just fine with enemies of the Church, they end up mocking him. That does not happen with the very few bishops who left the church doors open, allowing the faithful who wish to attend Mass. These, who can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and whose names it is not necessary to give, are respected even by those who never step in church, whom we do not criticize in our articles.
In his article, the cardinal of Barcelona presents nothing new when he informs us that priests have gone to hospitals and homes from the outset. What we do not understand is for the bishops to prevent those who are neither in hospitals or residences from attending Holy Mass, as they run a lesser risk of infecting and being infected than those in hospitals and homes. And, of course, the same risk or even less than when we go to the supermarket, pharmacy, or tobacco shop.
In Spain, we hold several records in religious matters, both good and bad. To give a few examples: we evangelized an entire continent, and during the last civil war, the socialists, the communists, and the anarchists persecuted the Church with such viciousness that in those few years, the Catholic Church in Spain registered the highest number of martyrs in her history.
But never before had we faithful Catholics suffered as during this coronavirus epidemic. This time we are unable to attend Holy Mass, receive the sacraments, or enter churches, not because of the enemies of the Church, but because of the majority of bishops. The whole world is upside down: birds are shooting shotguns.
To be exact and for the sake of justice, let me clarify once again that not all bishops have acted in the same way. However, exceptions are few, which confirms the spiritual and human qualities of generations of bishops over the last two hundred years — the ones I know because of my specialty in Contemporary History. They were all far superior to the present generation.
“A repentant sinner wants God,” the famous saying goes. That is especially true if the repentant ones are bishops who will open churches and serve the faithful. I said in my previous article that I will not remain silent while the churches are closed. Hopefully, Cardinal Omella and those who support him will change their attitude. Even if they don’t, I will continue to pray for His Eminence Juan José Omella and all the bishops. But if they persist in their behavior, I will pray for them like that person who, when asked to say the Lord’s Prayer for the bishop of his diocese and his intentions, answered:
“For the bishop, yes, but not his intentions! I know them, and they are not good.”
Javier Paredes is a Chaired Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Alcalá.
Translated by the staff of Fatima Today.
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