Next Time, There Will Be No Excuses

It’s beginning to look as though the pandemic that has hit the world like a global tsunami might be finally waning. In its wake, we find ourselves picking up the pieces of broken religious practices following an unprecedented time in history in which the faithful were deprived of the sacraments through the orders of their bishops, as distinct from the orders of Caesar in his various historical guises. This was a strange scenario, to say the least, and one which many have found extremely unsettling.

Can we really accept that the gift of sacramental grace is not “essential,” and apparently not as “essential” as liquor stores?

At this point, and regardless of where we stand on the lockdown or reopen spectrum of opinion, we should be thinking about what’s going to happen with the practice of the Faith the next time something similar happens. And let’s make no mistake about it, there will be a next time.

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The powers-that-be which run the world are completely wedded to globalism and the ongoing and accelerating economic and political integration which is its goal. The World Bank, the IMF, the UN, the EU and the most powerful global corporations are not going to pull back from their ideological and self-serving commitment to a world in which political and economic borders are eroded in the name of economic “efficiency” and “harmonization.” In consequence, the peoples of the world find themselves as largely powerless guinea pigs in an untried and untested global experiment. As globalism essentially requires all the world’s eggs being put into one basket, we are vulnerable at any time in the future to a similar domino effect (to switch metaphors) as that which spread the COVID-19 virus. The next time, it could be another and possibly worse virus, or it could be a disruption to the global supply chain caused by politics, war, the scarcity of raw materials, or God knows what other unsuspected causes.

Yes, there will be a next time.

This time, we were taken unprepared. Nobody knew exactly what was happening, or what was going to happen, or how deadly Covid is (or isn’t). Next time, there will be no excuse for being unprepared. Next time, the faithful will have a right to expect faithful leadership from their bishops. Next time, there will be no excuses.

So what lessons have been learned, or, if they haven’t yet been learned, what lessons need to be learned quickly?

The first is the necessity of the hierarchy being more courageous and creative in making the sacraments available to the faithful.

Let’s take a few examples.

It might be necessary to suspend the reception of communion in the case of a virulently contagious virus, but it should be possible to continue with public Masses, possibly in the open air with appropriate social distancing.

There is no reason, even in the midst of the most virulent virus, for the faithful to be denied the sacrament of penance. Take, for example, the case of those faithful and undaunted priests who have offered confession from inside an external and open window, with the blinds drawn, thereby protecting the penitent’s anonymity as well as protecting priest and penitent from contagion. The penitent parks his car, waits for the preceding person to finish if there’s a queue, maintaining social distancing, and then walks up to the window. Where’s the risk?

And what of the sacrament of extreme unction? Can we really sanction leaving people to die without the sacrament of the sick, without the last rites? How can any bishop assuage his conscience until he has done everything possible to surmount all obstacles to the provision of the last rites to the sick and dying, especially in a time of pandemic? The next time, the bishops should ask the younger and healthier priests to volunteer to become “ministers to the sick”. These priests can be considered essential healthcare workers, which they indubitably are, who can have access to the sick in the same way, and with the same sanitary precautions, as other healthcare workers.

Having given some practical examples of how the bishops need not abandon their flocks the next time something like this happens, we’ll leave it to their imaginations with respect to how the other sacraments might be made available in times of emergency. It’s not rocket science.

The next time this happens, the bishops will have no excuse not to be prepared. They need to act decisively and with faith and fortitude, resisting secular political pressure, if necessary, and erring on the side of courage and not caution.

Photo credit: Archdiocese of St. Louis

  • Joseph Pearce

    Joseph Pearce a senior contributor to Crisis. He is director of book publishing at the Augustine Institute, editor of the St. Austin Review, and series editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions. An acclaimed biographer and literary scholar, his latest book, Benedict XVI: Defender of the Faith, is newly published by TAN Books. His website is

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