Vaccine Passports for Mass?

Last month I wrote a piece entitled Unclean! Unclean! in which I criticized the decision of the Archbishop of Moncton to divide his flock between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, and to refuse any longer to nourish the latter with sacramental graces. That piece lasted some thirty-six hours before it was removed. Apparently, one doesn’t accuse a sitting archbishop of heretical views and schismatic actions. 

The archbishop’s decision didn’t last much longer. He struck a new deal with the New Brunswick health authorities that stopped just short of excommunicating the unvaccinated. Meanwhile, up the road, a Protestant pastor who didn’t think either deal palatable was jailed briefly for violating the new one. Shades of Spruce Grove and other communities across Canada, where the full force of the law is being brought to bear on the “vaccine hesitant”or rather, where the full force of the Constitution, the Criminal Code, the Privacy Act, and even the Nuremberg Code has yet to be applied or even considered. Emergency law still rules supreme, though no one is quite sure what constitutes an emergency or how long an “emergency” can last. 

Thankfully, the wheels are beginning to come off the cart from which the oppressive COVID-19 emergency narrative is disseminated. It is not just that the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” trope has been shown to be false and indeed malicious, inciting hatred and human rights violations. The whole narrative is coming apart under critical examination. Moreover, as another medical professional puts it, the working class has abandoned the utopian covid-zero creed of the professional class and does not share either its pathological fear of viruses or its view of vaccines as a “magic elixir of life.” Nor, of course, does it share the economic or political ambitions of the tiny elite who, behind the scenes, are calling most of the shots (pardon the pun) in furtherance of their global agenda.  

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Catholic bishops, however, and their chancellors, who were first in line when the cart was rolled out, are still jealously guarding the goods peddled to them by government bureaucrats, who themselves are trying hard not to look at those loosening wheel lugs. So here now is the bishop of Grand Falls, Newfoundland, doing precisely what the Archbishop of Moncton said he was going to do: effect the excommunication of those who lack a particular physical attribute; that is, who cannot or will not demonstrate that they have received a designated mRNA therapy. As the Catholic News Agency reported

“Effective October 22, 2021, it will be mandatory for all persons 12 and older wishing to attend Masses or Services in our churches to demonstrate proof of vaccination by using the Vaccine Passport: NLVaxPass or by showing proof of vaccination by presenting their QR code before entering our churches,” said an Oct. 15 letter from Bishop Robert Anthony Daniels of Grand Falls to the priests and pastoral leaders of the diocese.

From Toronto to Vancouver, other bishops, if not going quite that far, are issuing orders to their clergy and employees to receive these therapies on pain of suspension or dismissal. Eschewing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of more sensible colleagues, they are behaving exactly like their secular counterparts by resorting to coercion.

That such orders have no foundation in canon law does not seem to concern them or their chancellors. They prefer to take refuge in a personal opinion of the pontiff, passing over the fact that it is just that: an opinion lacking magisterial status; a view, by its very nature, open to question. That their actions have no very secure foundation even in secular law, and may lead to serious liabilities such as governments and businesses and professional associations are beginning to face in the courts, has not deterred them either. 

These bishops are making their own bed and it is they who will have to lie in it. The same loss of trust that secular authorities are experiencing, and in some cases the same lack of indemnification, will be their lot as well. To those whom they are attempting to coerce, standing firm may be recommended. There is a solid basis for refusing to submit if, after careful and respectful consideration, one is convinced that what is being dispensed is not sound advice that truly serves the common good, advice backed by legitimate use of authority, but is rather an unjustified demand that undermines what is good and brings authority into disrepute.

In that case, one may charitably give testimony, however costly in the short run, to the truth. I don’t mean the medical truth, which is still in dispute and in any case must remain a matter to be judged in the privacy of the patient/doctor relationship, but rather the moral truth, the evangelical truth that the Church does not operate by coercion. And that it does not operate either by providing outdated platitudes in support of Pharma’s vacina salva movement. (Pace the estimable Fr. Newman, who here disappoints, there may indeed be more pastoral sense in an ounce of “anecdotal” evidence than in a pound of such clerical letters.)  

The Church on earth may be militant, but it is not the military. It deprives itself of its own proper weapons if it behaves like the military, which at the moment is misbehaving even by its own faltering standards. “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others,” says Paul. We persuade. We do not coerce. We do not take up the weapons of this world, but we deploy only the weapons of righteousness “in the right hand and in the left.” Nor do we capitulate to abuses of authority, though we are obedient to legitimate exercises of authority. Bishops issuing medical orders, or priests issuing medical advice, does not qualify as legitimate.

Catholic churches, though in the West still but lightly nudged, are falling like dominoes into the trap laid for them. That is no great surprise, for many have long been worldly, depriving the world itself of a proper witness to the Gospel. (Hence arises the unfortunate fact that the minister of health or the chief medical officer or the local functionary sitting in judgment of religious exemptions actually has no idea of Catholic faith and morals, nor any concern to acquire one.) It is not the fear of the Lord that is evident in our churches, but rather the fear of COVID-19, unless perchance it is just the fear of man. 

That is why we are witnessing, as in Grand Falls, government-imposed and episcopally-sanctioned diocesan schisms. But schism, in ecclesial terms, is a cardinal sin. And this sin presently entailswe must not overlook this!a twofold assault on the little ones whom Jesus insisted His disciples permit to approach Him.

First, it helps sustain an attack on their bodies, for the authorities are now gearing up to subject these little ones, who are at virtually no risk from COVID-19, to the far greater risks of the injections. (Of this “far greater” there is no statistical doubt; only the sin of sloth prevents anyone from knowing that.) And why? As ever, for dishonest gain; but also for the sake of acclimatising the entire population to the shiny Nowa Huta that is its Pharma-run future.

 More importantly, it is a stone of stumbling for their souls, a rock of offense. They and their parents are being told that they are not welcome in church and/or that they do not require their church. Virtual church will do for them if virtual proof of vaccination is wanting. What won’t do is not being vaccinated. For as the World Health Organization reverently declared in a recent global synod, “in vaccines we trust.”

All people are being told, then, that the leadership in such churches is not half as serious about the things of God as about the things of man, even the medically and politically perverse things of man, by which man oppresses man. When that message is fully absorbed, what will be the result? What indeed, if not the proliferation of cardinal sins and a still more obvious apostasy? As if seconding the power of excommunication to the ministry of health were not obvious enough!


  • Douglas Farrow

    Douglas Farrow is Professor of Theology and Ethics at McGill University in Montreal. He has written frequently in Catholic World Report, First Things, Touchstone and other journals, popular or academic. He is a member of the Academy of Catholic Theology and has been active in the work of the Institute on Religion and Public Life and of Evangelicals and Catholics Together. His recent books include Ascension Theology, Desiring a Better Country, Theological Negotiations, and 1 & 2 Thessalonians in the Brazos Theological Commentary series. Professor Farrow received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for his contributions to public discourse on significant social issues.

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