The Judas Priests: The Catholic Covid Conspiracy
The Catholic Church is a powerful entity and is largely responsible for the formation of the conscience of its members. It is a role that should not be taken lightly. The influence on society and culture is hard to calculate and is changing rapidly. I know this because I grew up in a large Catholic family. My days were filled with rosaries, fasting, perpetual adoration (kneeling in prayer before the eucharist) , novenas (9 day prayers of petitions), and daily mass. There’s an entire subculture of traditionalists. There were group gatherings for prayer, worship, socialization, and political movements like sit ins at the abortion clinic along with picketing, bake sales and baby clothing drives for the local woman’s clinics. One of the practices of the faith is the deprivation of self and avoidance of worldly desires as demonstrated by the saints. When life did not go our way, as it never seemed to, we were told to “offer it up.” If you are not familiar with this phrase, it essentially means that your suffering is in union with Christ’s suffering on the cross. We were told that suffering was redemptive and should be embraced as Jesus embraced it. When prayer and self denial were practiced simultaneously, the graces were multiplied and numerous. It is a frequent practice to release the souls of loved ones from purgatory. Any complaint of discomfort, no matter how big or small, was met with “offer it up.” The complaints could range from being cold and underdressed in the Midwest winters or being hungry to breaking a bone, losing a beloved friend, or having a miscarriage.
I shared a home with over a dozen family members. When you share meals with that many people, you become conditioned to give up your share for others. There was always food on the table, we never truly starved, but rarely did we get a second helping. I felt proud and was praised for not asking for more than my share, especially if those shares could go to men in the family who worked long days outdoors exposed to the elements. We were taught to be conscious of purchasing or consuming products that supported “the anti-life” movement aka Planned Parenthood. I don’t know why I knew this as a child, but I had identified certain glutinous sugar cereal brands as malevolent for their rumored support. In weak hypoglycemic moments I secretly envied my peers at school who did not have such restrictions in their home.
As a very young child, my mother would take my sister and I to visit the shut in nuns in the convent and prayed with them. Most were kind, some were a bit scary. We were sad to see the nuns who had grown frail and sickly in their old age. We said our novenas for the repose of their souls when they passed. We were taught to care for the people who society had deemed nonproductive. I recall my mother telling me that we were witness to a saint in the making. The mysteries of death became a curious thing to me.
Fast forward to the Terri Schiavo movement. The Christian community declared the sanctity of life was under attack. It was no longer the preborn and elderly, but now the chronically ill. Shortly after this debacle, my grandfather fell ill and ended up in hospice. There was a massive schism in the family related to the plan of care for his final days. The decision makers wanted comfort care only. The other family members suggested this was Terri Schiavo like hit by withholding nutrition and water, not a natural death. A permanent fracture in the family remains as a result of this decision.
My view of the world through the eyes of an indoctrinated youth was distorted like a bizarre dream that wakes you in a fog of confusion. I took an interest in caring for the sick and dying and became a nurse. One could say this was a vocational calling that resulted from personal traumas and an overdeveloped conscience and duty to the afflicted and less fortunate. The nursing profession is nothing like what you see on television, it’s not even similar to what they teach you in nursing school. You see things, the things in life that no one wants to put in movies-the bad, the dirty, the vulnerable, the unbelievable. These experiences gave me the epiphany that religion never could.
Fast forward again to 2020. All we hear about is Covid, masks, lockdowns, protests, death, illness, and economic devastation. Despite the complexities of the disease, the solutions seemed fairly simple to me. Guided by my conscience and professional training, shut downs (at the minimum for short term), masks, social distancing, quarantining, isolating, and vaccines seemed like an obvious route. When given a choice, we should always err on the side of saving lives. Most American Christians and Catholics were on board in the beginning.
Then everything became polarized. The religious right became an angry mob of self centered children. I slowly but surely saw my fellow Christians releasing themselves from any duty others in exchange for a dog eat dog mentality. A large portion of them went off the deep end to never never land and have remained there to this day. It started with masks. Somehow they deluded themselves to believe in a conspiracy to conform to society. They never questioned why their dental hygienist, dentist, surgeon or Dr. House wore masks. Was this really a new concept? Don’t we cover our mouths when we sneeze for a reason? Masks were decidedly not in the category of things that are uncomfortable and necessary, certainly not something to “offer up.” Suddenly the “suffering” was no longer redemptive but exploitative. This viewpoint was shared by some of my closest life long friends who share the same faith and profession. I realized we were in big trouble. Logic left the equation and the hope for its return vanquished.
Now they were marching against masks, lock-downs and even vaccines. Signs saying “my body my choice,” “keep your laws off my body.” The roles have reversed. The sanctity of human life was now superseded by the right to go to the bar, have a graduation party, a wedding or make money in the name of freedom at the expense of the most vulnerable. Social media has been overflowing with Covid politics. The most disturbing thing I saw was an invitation to a rosary prayer walk for the “epidemic” and the end to the violation of our rights i.e. having to wear a mask. I was totally disgusted, I had the same feeling that I had as a child seeing disturbing images of aborted fetuses on posters while picketing. Didn’t people know that this is a pandemic and hundreds of thousands of people are dying? Why weren’t they talking about the massive shortages of PPE that could help save countless lives? Why were they no longer worried about the elderly and chronically ill? I made the mistake of commenting on the post inquiring if there will also be a prayer for the repose of the souls of those who have passed from this disease. The responses were so volatile. I was called a troll, a fake catholic, and told that no one has died from the virus but merely tested positive while dying from something unrelated altogether. These sentiments are still pervasive in the Christian and Catholic communities. The rosary march was organized by the local pro-life organization and a group of men who refer to themselves as “Men of Christ.” Who is this Christ that they are following? Why is a pro-life group gathering in large crowds during a pandemic to demand the right to not wear a mask? Has anyone considered the logic of their movement? If Terri Schiavo or a preborn child was killed by Covid would they care? Why did the rules change?
One by one, each diocese lifted the dispensation for mass on Sundays. Some priests and congregants were demanding the communal cup for wine as well as communion on the tongue. The rationale being we must not put our bodies above that of our souls. Priests and bishops were heard loud and clear leading the church on social media and podcasts telling their flock to push back against restrictions. Did they miss the 60 pieces of silver in the collection baskets at mass that much or did they run out of PPP money? I saw previously clear thinking rational people goading others to litigate against hospitals and providers on behalf of their religious freedoms. This included simple things like the restriction of multiple visitors and use of PPE in a hospital room. They now made themselves the victim, a personal attack on their faith.
If we can’t count on our Christian brethren to protect the sick, elderly, and vulnerable, who will step up? Christ cared for the disenfranchised, the lepers, the sinners, and the poor. Are we to believe that he would exchange that for the right to not wear a mask, or a trip to the local tavern? Instead of losing their legitimacy, they seem to be gaining momentum.
Now vaccines are being distributed and hope fills the space where many harbored despair. But again, a negative conspiratorial pessimism has infiltrated The Church. They are questioning the morality of the manufacturing of vaccines and the recommendations of who should get them. My friends have told me we are living in the book of revelations and this vaccine is the final act of Satan, the mark of the beast is in the vaccine in the form of a microchip.
I keep hearing the word “sheep” being repeated among these groups. The irony is twofold. Jesus referred to himself as the “Good Shepherd” and us his sheep. Secondly, when using this word as a pejorative term, maybe we should consider the context. Are we sheep when we follow the scientific method or elect a leader in a democratic process? What about blindly following a man of the cloth guided by faith, a leader who is not elected, one we can not question, one who has authority to determine what is a sin, one we have no power to remove from his position of power no matter the depravity of their action or their dereliction of duty. I fear The Church has become a political institution with power far greater than any party. Will we be sheep led to the slaughter by the wolf or return to a Christ centered faith with acts of charity towards those who need it most?
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