Practicing Catholics in the United States, like everyone else over the past two years, have experienced a severe disruption of their communal life. As states enacted emergency health measures that locked down social activity in the spring of 2020, Catholic parishes across the nation went virtual, with Mass attendance discouraged or prohibited, and access to confession virtually impossible in many dioceses. A large part of the falloff in Mass attendance and regular confession is likely permanent. If even your bishop indicates that your sacramental obligations can be dispensed with indefinitely on account of a virus—while “essential businesses” like weed shops, liquor stores, and big-box retailers remain in operation—it tends to affect people’s perception of what truly is “essential” in the practice of their faith.
For those with any historical memory, these unprecedented responses to a viral pandemic were clearly disproportionate. Measured in terms of deaths as a percentage of the population, the Asian Flu pandemic of 1957-1958 was approximately 10 times more deadly than COVID-19 has proved to be over the last two years, with considerably more vulnerability among pregnant women and children. The Spanish Flu pandemic that swept the world between 1918 and 1920 was approximately 50 times as deadly, with children and healthy young adults especially at risk.
In stark contrast, the evidence is now indisputable that the risk to children and healthy young people from COVID-19 is negligible. The lab-designed virus seems to target the elderly, the frail, the obese, and those suffering from two or more co-morbidities.
People who lived through the deadly Spanish Flu pandemic and the more recent Asian Flu pandemic were hardly ignorant of the dangers. Neighbors, friends, and family members died in relatively stark numbers. Although public health authorities attempted some largely ineffective mitigation measures (including masking and restrictions on public gatherings) no one expected indefinite suspensions of his constitutional rights of assembly, permanent business closures, or the shutdown of schools.
And the suggestion that churches should be shuttered at the whim of public health authorities would have been utterly inconceivable, especially to Catholics. And yet, today’s Catholics meekly accede to an arbitrary and indefinite suspension of their access to the sacraments under the guise of “health emergency” measures imposed by state bureaucrats, all with the submissive, often eager acquiescence of the Catholic hierarchy.
Scientism and the Collapse of Faith
Because of their early American experience with anti-Catholic bigotry and accusations of “dual loyalty,” ambitious Catholics, including bishops, were reluctant to be regarded in the United States as dissenters or nonconformists. But there are other influences at work as well. Perhaps the most important is burgeoning faith in “scientism,” which has affected Catholics just as profoundly as any other group in modern society.
Scientism is a blind and unquestioning trust in the pronouncements of scientific and medical authorities, owing to an intense need for certainty in this age of rapid change and seeming chaos. The quantitative methods of science come to be seen as the only objective or legitimate grounds of true knowledge.
Scientism is distinct from acknowledging the importance of the scientific process, which entails open debate and the constant challenging of hypotheses. With economic structures, social mores, and conceptions of national identity all in flux, and trust in once-respected institutions (including the Church) waning, scientism fills the natural human need for some authoritative source of truth and interpreter of reality on which we can confidently ground our daily existence. A form of practical atheism, scientism reflects G. K. Chesterton’s maxim that when man stops believing in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing, he believes in anything.
Those who have “trusted the science” and followed the authoritative statements of its public avatar, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have experienced a theological whiplash by attempting to faithfully follow and internalize ever-changing official diktats. Two weeks of lockdown in the spring of 2020 to slow the spread of infection and avoid overwhelming the healthcare system quickly became indefinite restrictions on social activity and commerce, via extra-constitutional “health emergency measures” imposed with no expiration date. Masks are pronounced useless, then deemed essential, then mandated.
As evidence piled up that mask mandates and lockdowns weren’t effective in stopping transmission (and that the economic, social, and public health costs of economic shutdowns, including school closures, were completely unjustified), public health authorities became even more entrenched in their dedication to them. An experimental vaccine, granted “emergency use authorization,” would prevent transmission of the virus. When the vaccinated still contracted and spread COVID, the justification for universal vaccination became the prevention of hospitalization and deaths—an absurd posture when the vaccine does not prevent transmission. This justification, too, continues to evolve as data from around the world mounts challenging the efficacy and the safety of the universal vaccination policy.
Such inconsistent, contradictory messaging and justifications have disoriented many who normally would follow the proclamations of scientists and medical authorities without a second thought. For some, the cognitive dissonance created by the implosion of the official narrative and the manifest failure of COVID policies and predictions has led to the anger and despair that often precedes the loss of faith. So governments promote a patently absurd storyline to provide them with a scapegoat.
“The pandemic of the unvaccinated” narrative is an example of a classic ploy of leaders who seek to acquire extra-constitutional power: the demonization of a subpopulation—here, the “unvaccinated”—as the cause of all evil. It remains to be seen how long the disastrous charade of “we just haven’t vaccinated enough of the population!” can continue in the face of building evidence to the contrary.
For others, more perceptive, it has meant a collapse of confidence in previously trusted scientific and medical authorities, all the way down to their own doctors. One thing the COVID pandemic has revealed in high relief is the thorough politicization and corruption of our public health agencies, which have used the crisis to consolidate their own power and to shut down debate about the wisdom and efficacy of the policies they have pursued. It has also pulled back the curtain on the corrupt nexus between the federal health agencies Americans have trusted to ensure the safety and efficacy of the drugs and vaccines approved for public use and the large pharmaceutical companies that produce those drugs and vaccines for enormous private profit.
The phenomenon of “regulatory capture”—wherein the very government entities the public depends upon to regulate an industry are essentially controlled by that very industry—was on egregious display in the “Operation Warp Speed” public-private partnership between the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, and the big pharmaceutical companies to produce and approve a COVID-19 vaccine in record time. Granted “emergency use authorization” in December 2020, the end of annus horribilis, the public was assured of their safety and efficacy of the vaccines, and that vaccinated populations would stop the virus dead in its tracks.
Coerced Sacraments, If Not Belief
Eagerly looking forward to a return to normal life and comforted by the universal assurances of public health authorities, even many who were skeptical of their own need for the vaccine, given the low risk of the virus to the non-elderly, took it without much consideration, if only as a matter of convenience. The pressure from employers who imposed vaccine requirements for coming back to in-office work and the prospect of travel restrictions for the unvaccinated was enough to push many into unenthusiastic compliance.
College kids adopted a similar calculus in the face of vaccine requirements: taking the jab and going back to campus and participating in sports versus continuing to suffer through “virtual learning” while paying full tuition. Despite the minuscule risk of COVID to young people, and accepting the line of officialdom and corporate media that heart complications and other serious side effects are “rare” and “mild,” millions of American parents encouraged their kids to get their jabs and get out of the house.
It was but a small step for many parents to accede to vaccine requirements for children under 18. Since there is absolutely no public health justification for vaccinating those with a statistically negligible risk from COVID (particularly after it became apparent that the vaccine stopped neither infection nor transmission), compliance with mask and vaccine mandates for school-age children is criminal parental negligence at best, and child abuse at worst.
But as the health establishment, the medical-industrial complex, and the politicians imposing the mandates were well aware, once a pattern of compliance with arbitrary “emergency” diktats has been established, it takes on a momentum of its own, and drawing any reasonable lines of resistance to measures enacted with public health justifications becomes more and more difficult.
It should alarm even the most passive members of the “follow the science” cult that public health authorities are now scrambling to procure emergency use authorization for giving the vaccine to children ages two months through five years. While even vaccine-enthusiastic European nations have been moving away from mandates for those under 18 (some even recommending against vaccination) in the wake of proliferating reports of myocarditis and other vaccine injuries, the U.S. public health establishment has been moving in the opposite direction.
The question is “Why?” With emergency authorization for the COVID vaccines expiring and hence the prospect of legal liability for mounting numbers of vaccine injuries and deaths, the Big Pharma-Fauci cartel is running from an approaching tsunami of liability lawsuits. But there is a shelter under existing law: All vaccines that are recommended for children get automatic blanket liability protection even when adults receive them. This is not the case for vaccines that are only approved for adult use.
The experts have been wrong, unequivocally wrong, about everything COVID-related from the very beginning, from lockdowns and masking to natural immunity and vaccines.
Where Are the Good Catholics?
This has not mattered to proponents of the “Great Reset,” who have seen in the pandemic an opportunity to change the very structure of our society and, in the United States, to shift away from democratic rule by means of emergency measures, suspending the constitutional rights of citizens in the process.
It is telling that in this, the great crisis of our lifetimes, so many ostensibly “good Catholics” have become compliant in and complicit with an explicitly totalitarian project that has segregated and stripped basic rights of free speech, travel, commerce—even the right to work and earn a living—from their fellow citizens on the basis of their refusal to accept a medical treatment that has proved neither efficacious nor safe.
Many self-identified Catholics have put up little resistance to the immoral shutdowns of schools and forcible masking of children, which according to experts has had measurably devastating effects on their social and intellectual development. In many cases, Catholic parents have given little thought to the relatively high risk to their children from an experimental vaccine when compared with the statistically insignificant risk that COVID poses to young people, driven by a desperate desire to get back to normal life.
In the insensitive parlance of the time, Americans used to ridicule those who went passively along with scientifically justified marginalization of their fellow citizens, reckless medical experimentation, and arbitrary government restrictions on their own liberties as “good Germans.” The unstated truth and the lesson of this once-popular term of opprobrium is that a people can never comply its way out of totalitarianism. That was once common knowledge in the land of the free. Children, who will carry the scars of the last two years to their graves, may someday pronounce a similar judgment about those who willingly complied with an insidious cabal’s controlled demolition of their constitutional democracy.
The criminal handling of COVID by our corrupt public health authorities should have been an opportunity for the Church to highlight the obvious failure of scientism, the modern God that Failed. Instead, too many Catholics (perhaps most especially, the shepherds of the flock) have not only failed to stand up in the moment of crisis but they have also been eager collaborators with the powerful forces aiming to use the crisis to transform society in a profoundly un-Christian (some would say demonic) direction. If our civilization survives the present emergency, may they be held accountable for the damage they’ve inflicted.