The other day, during Sunday Mass in a leading parish in Milan, the celebrant revealed a chilling fact: after the reopening, in the Ambrosian diocese, only 30% of the faithful returned to the churches. “Families and children have totally disappeared, he said.” The situation in the rest of Italy is not much better.
Without malice, I thought, “you abandoned them during the most critical period of the pandemic, and they now repay you in the same manner.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the worst side of the crisis that has gripped Holy Mother Church for more than half a century: the conscious and voluntary abandonment of her salvific mission by so many pastors. Italians were shocked when the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) suspended public worship even before the government decreed its blockade, depriving the faithful of the Sacraments. The social lockdown was thus followed by a spiritual one, much more implacable. We found ourselves in a bizarre situation in which supermarkets and tobacco shops were open, but religious ceremonies were forbidden. While people could freely go shopping or buy cigarettes, many died without the help of the Sacrament of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick. More than one bishop even issued regulations forbidding priests from exposing themselves by caring for the sick. That is the exact opposite of what the Church has been doing for two thousand years.
Some courageous priests, challenging the impositions of the CEI, tried to celebrate Mass with a few people present or in the open air, in perfect compliance with health regulations. They were severely punished with heavy fines and even threatened with imprisonment. It came to the scandalous invasion of some churches by the forces of law and order, sacrilegiously interrupting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Not only did the ecclesiastical authorities not protest against these acts of religious persecution, but also sided with the government, upbraiding the “rebel” priests. Perhaps never in the history of Italy has the Church shown itself so submissive to the State.
When yielding to the clamor of the scandalized faithful, the CEI finally began to raise its voice a little in defense of religious freedom, Pope Francis immediately silence it. From the chair of Santa Marta, he urged the bishops to “obey the government’s instructions.”
To this servile attitude toward Caesar, we must add the efforts of many pastors to deny any spiritual significance to the pandemic. Is it divine punishment? Traditional Catholic thought would have considered it so, at least as a hypothesis. It is undeniable that Providence sometimes uses, as secondary causes, natural events as “punishments” for the sins of humanity. At Fatima, for example, Our Lady explicitly defined the two world wars as punishments. Today, however, this word has been absolutely excluded from Catholic vocabulary. The Archbishop of Fatima, Antonio Cardinal Marto, has gone so far as to say: “To speak of this pandemic as punishment is ignorance, fanaticism and madness.” The pastors refuse to speak of public sin. They refuse to call the faithful to conversion. In short, they refuse to fulfill their duty as pastors of souls.
No longer recognizing in them the voice of the true pastor, the faithful have reacted by distancing themselves from them.
As the saying goes, the silence of subjects is a lesson to kings. What can we say about the silence of the faithful?
Translated by the staff of Fatima Today.
© Reproduction is authorized provided the source is acknowledged.