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We have already survived the more toxic epidemic

By P. Engelbert Recktenwald

It is impressive to witness the scrupulosity with which the Church does it utmost to protect people from contracting coronavirus disease. In some dioceses, not only are all public Masses suspended, but priests are forbidden from administering the sacraments even in individual cases, be it the Sacrament of Penance, Baptism, Anointing of the Sick or Holy Communion. The only exceptions are in cases of mortal danger.

But it is precisely such scrupulosity which I have found lacking for decades in the Church’s efforts to protect the faithful from contracting the virus of heresy. The one virus leads to physical death, the other to spiritual death. The one is invisible, the other is openly detectable. Hotspots are theology departments; the chains of infection are perpetuated through Church academies, religious instruction in schools, right on down to the usual preaching in the local parishes. Those affected by the virus as well as competent virologists such as Dietrich von Hildebrand, Paul Hacker, Georg May, Joseph Ratzinger and many others have been warning us relentlessly about this for a long time now. But to no avail. The result is countless dead, whose only sign of life consists in paying Church taxes. Of course, many of these victims suffered from a pre-existing illness. In many cases, however, this could have been remedied by the medicine of unadulterated doctrine. Yet that is precisely what they have been deprived of.

In order to deflect attention away from the inner-Church causes underlying the evaporation of faith, one suddenly blames solely the evil world around us – while in a different context one looks to the world expecting to find salvation for the Church.

To employ an image: At the moment the bishops are preventing the faithful from receiving spiritual nourishment in the form of the sacraments due to a risk posed to the physical life of the recipient, while they have long been looking on in acquiescence as the faithful are served poisoned nourishment, which is fatal for the soul. In the first case the probability of infection is a fraction of a percent, in the latter case the harmfulness is manifest. Of course, there are also conscientious bishops who deserve our admiration and gratitude all the more, as they are evidently drifting into the role of outsiders. But the general climate in the Church is marked by that which Dietrich von Hildebrand had lamented as the “lethargy of the guardians” in the face of dangers to the Faith, which stands in stark contrast to the assiduousness currently seen as regards coronavirus. Did Jesus say: “What will it profit a man if he saves his soul, but suffers harm to his health?” Somehow it sounded different.

What are the consequences for you and me? For us to remain staunchly loyal, without compromise, to the Catholic Faith at this time is a miracle of grace. But it holds true: God is faithful. If we have already survived decades of death by poisoning, then we will also survive the current weeks of death by starvation.

Even the prophets of the Old Covenant admonished us to place all our hopes in God, and not in men. This is also a form of responsibility! We are called to this responsibility in a special way today. “They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Is 40:31).

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Recktenwald: The Mature Christian and the Church

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