Leading up to the Pan-Amazonian Synod — I apologize for bringing that up again — it seemed as though the Church was entering the realm of not just the unreal, but the irreal — that is, the hierarchy in the Catholic Church came across as orientated no longer toward simply ignoring reality, much less adhering to it, but toward the utterly ridiculous dystopia of the irrational. Being bored with God, or inspired by other forces, Pope Francis’s regime pursues what was unimaginable in the previous two thousand years of Catholic belief. Exhibit A: The October 2019 bowing before Pachamama idols at the Vatican.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has only furthered this pursuit of the irreal. As many Catholics have opined, they can buy beer and pizza while being unable to attend Mass. Such claims are child’s play. Here in Justin Trudeau’s totalitarian Canada, we raise the stakes higher. We can walk into our neighborhood marijuana shop to buy cannabis, yet we are literally barred from entering the house of God. The smoke of Satan has indeed entered the Church, or has at least replaced the Church. It is irreal to behold.
With this in mind, I note how on April 24, my local bishop, Albert Thevenot of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan (Canada), issued a letter. In it, besides further banning public Masses until at least the end of June, he instructed engaged couples in the diocese to avoid getting married at this time. In his own words:
No more than 10 persons in the [church] building. This must take into account everyone, musicians, pastor, wedding party and guests. No exceptions. And, we must respect the order to continue social distancing at 2 meters. This would include the bride and groom. Therefore, I would suggest the wedding be postponed to a better time.
Do you understand that? If you say yes, I accuse you of deceit. There is nothing to understand in the concept of a bride and groom required to practice social distancing. It is utterly inconceivable, if you’ll pardon the nuptial pun. I am ashamed to admit that my initial thought was, in line with my Trudeau-inspired Canadian heritage, “what was he smoking when he wrote this?” While St. Paul says it is better to join in marriage than to burn, in this brave new dystopian world, it is better to burn a joint than to marry.
How shall we try to justify such a declaration? Does the bishop believe that engaged couples already practice social distancing, or that the conservative provincial government here will be enthralled by this declaration? Further, does he not realize that at least 40% of Catholic couples are already cohabitating when they approach marriage? Perhaps he doesn’t know about the birds and the bees and just how close a bride and groom usually get on their wedding day. This would explain his ecclesial silence on contraception. Either way, I imagine a change to the storied declaration: “I now pronounce you husband and wife…you may never kiss the bride.”
No, this conjecture is utterly futile. There is no conceivable and sane universe where a Catholic bishop would demand that a bride and groom remain at least two meters apart. I hope to be awoken from this dream, or nightmare, and be told: “Wow, what a sleep you had! Hurry up and get ready — we have to go to Mass!”
Alas, the Church is as we are told. The grave question that follows is, what can be done?
One’s initial reaction is to laugh and deride — if you don’t laugh, you cry. How effective is this? Admittedly, not effective at all. Imagine a father, indiscernible in mind, telling his children to eat their supper, but that they must remain two meters away from the actual food. Or that they cannot use the washroom, ever, because there are laxatives in the medicine cabinet. The children may laugh and deride their old man, but if the father truly believes the illusory words he utters, their laughter will be futile. It simply becomes a coping mechanism. Sooner rather than later, the reality must be faced: they are living in a hellish household. They must disobey. Food is essential. Washrooms are, too. Undoubtedly, the children will be punished as rebellious little firebrands. Such is their despairing lot in life.
Likewise, such is ours. This is how it now feels in Catholicism. It is a hellish situation, and we are children living in an emotionally and spiritually abusive home. But perhaps, you may say, we can appeal to Pope Francis? The last I checked, he was spending the greatest day of the liturgical year, Easter Sunday, advocating for universal wages and globalism. No, there is not a higher authority on Earth to whom we can appeal. We are powerless, and we have all but lost. As for any engaged couples in my diocese wondering how to proceed, they must disobey what is not logical and deal with the aftermath as best they can. May St. Valentine intercede for them.
Hopeless as the Church has become, I wish to end on the very message of hope. I turn to Gandalf’s concluding words to Bilbo Baggins following the great and overwhelming adventures of The Hobbit. “You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you,” exhorts Gandalf, “but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!” Indeed, it is strangely comforting to acknowledge that we faithful Catholics are but little and helpless creatures in such a wide world after all. Yes, the mess is too great. The ripping current against traditional Catholicism and sane thought is too strong. Irreal Catholicism reigns; we are powerless. Good. “For My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Without fail, the ultimate fate of the spiritual pandemic in the Church is crushing defeat — not by us, but by the hand of almighty God. For God, all things are possible.
So comes Christ’s triumph after our fire, and even the unholy smoke in the Church will have its ending.
Dan Millette is a husband and father of five. He teaches in Saskatchewan, Canada. Millette is a graduate from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Ontario and has a Master of Arts degree in theology from Holy Apostles College in Connecticut. His personal blog is www.bravestthing.com.