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June 2, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Dear bishops and priests: I think it is time for you to know how we are really feeling. It is time to hear the bleating of your flock. It is time to stop preaching at us about the merits of a “Eucharistic fast” and listen to your children, who are languishing from lack of leadership and from a deprivation of sacramental grace.

We have read your letters, emails, and updates. We have spoken to you in person. We have begged you to find some way to bring us the sacraments in a manner that conforms to the current medical dictatorship. In reply, we have generally received either silence or defensive arguments.

The excuses we have heard from you include but are not limited to:

  1. People used to receive the Eucharist only once a year. Frequent reception is a new phenomenon.
  2. Many in the world do not even have access to a weekly Mass.
  3. During times of persecution and war, Catholics could not attend Mass.
  4. A Eucharistic fast is good for you.
  5. You don’t need to receive Jesus in order to fully participate in the Mass.
  6. God’s grace is bigger than the sacraments.
  7. I have to be obedient to the bishop and/or “health authorities.”

We must ask, how are any of these statements supposed to bring comfort? Instead of defending your actions by reverting to the past or referring to the situations in other countries, we need to hear you say, “My heart is breaking for you. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to be locked out of the churches you love. I cannot imagine what it is like to be subjected to a TV Mass and told that the graces are ‘the same’ as if you actually went to Mass. I cannot imagine what it must be like to go for months without confession and the Eucharist.”

The truth is, most of you have not said this because most of you cannot imagine what it is like on this side of a locked church door. You, our spiritual fathers, are still being nourished by the sacramental graces offered by the Church. Meanwhile, your children starve and are being told that it is good for them. 

Let me be clear: this is not a fast. Fasts are voluntary. This is the spiritual starvation of your children. If you would walk with us as shepherds should, perhaps you might consider doing a voluntary “sacramental fast” for ten weeks. Then you would understand how the soul languishes without the lifeblood of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Of course, God’s grace is bigger than the sacraments, but that does not negate the ontological truth that Catholics are being deprived of the sacramental graces available through reception of Jesus and through confession. 

We keep hearing that the churches will open soon. We are told that the bishops despise this as much as everyone else does. We are told the bishops are desperate to move forward. But, are they? In some places, parking lot religious services have been permitted by the government, and it would appear the Protestants and Evangelicals are taking advantage of the freedom. Not the Catholics. Stores are allowed to open with limited customers. Are churches? Not where I live, though the bishop of my diocese is supposedly eager to get sacramental life back to normal. We are not even allowed to enter a church to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. 

In some places, priests have been innovative and offered Eucharistic Adoration in the church parking lot. Yet, in at least one diocese, this practice was not endorsed and was deemed not “necessary at this time (nor) good liturgical practice.” 

Dear bishops, how can it be unnecessary to bring Jesus to the people? And when we consider the stories from Nazi concentration camps where imprisoned priests would pretend to be weeding but had placed a portable altar on the ground to offer Mass secretly, we must concede that sometimes it may be necessary to relax some liturgical norms to accommodate the needs of the times. 

Some of us are willing to risk being fined for attending a Mass or entering a church that has more than five people in it, but you will not stand beside us and also take that risk. Should Catholicism be outlawed and priests declared illegal, many of us would willingly hide you in our homes to keep you safe. We would risk the fines and the imprisonment. But you will not even let us into our own spiritual homes – the churches to which we belong – for fear of being fined by authorities. 

We cry out, “Where is your courage? Where are the saints? Why is Jesus deemed ‘non-essential’ by both the state and the Church?”

Dear priests, we know you could be punished by authorities and by your bishops for feeding your flock and thereby doing what can only be right in the eyes of God. It is terrible that we have come to a point in the history of the Church, likely not for the first time, that some in the hierarchy are not true shepherds. They seem more concerned about losing charitable tax status than they are about losing souls. They seem more concerned about media reports and lawsuits than about preaching the Gospel to the world. 

Let us remember, though, that every profession has its punishing overlord, whether it be a power-hungry employer, a society that demeans women who wish to be homemakers, or a screaming infant in the middle of the night. Suffering is part of life. I know you will be punished and I am deeply sorry for it. But real fathers go out and slay dragons to protect their families. They do everything in their power to ensure their families are loved and fed. If my children were starving, my husband would risk his life to bring food to them. Can the same be said of you? Do you see that your children are suffering a worse fate than physical starvation? Our souls are wilting. Will you not feed us? Jesus admonished Peter to “Feed my sheep!”

If enough of you decided together that it was time to open the churches, could the bishop punish all of you? No bishop can risk losing 15 priests from his diocese. There are not 15 “outpost” parishes to which he could send you as punishment. Yes, you pledged your obedience to him on the day of ordination, but are you not also to be obedient to a higher power, namely Christ, who made you a priest to feed His flock? When you receive orders, either from health authorities or a bishop, that deprive your children of sacramental grace, would God hold you accountable if you refuse to obey such directives that are based on pure human law, not on the supreme law of the Church which is the salvation of souls? 

Priests ran out onto the battlefields to administer the Last Rites to dying soldiers during the great wars. St. Thomas More lost his head because he would not approve the king’s marriage. St. Tarcisius died protecting the Blessed Sacrament from sacrilege. St. Maximillian Kolbe offered his life in place of another in a concentration camp.

We cry out again, “Where is your courage?” We are not exactly asking you to dodge bullets or risk imprisonment. Even if we were, Catholics believe that eternal glory is reserved for those who have fought the good fight and finished the race.

People around us are saying they do not know whether they will be able to look you in the eye and call you “Father” after this is over. The sheep have been abandoned. The shepherds are cowering behind locked doors. Some are saying they can never give a dime to a church that has left them out in the cold. These statements are not coming from nominal Catholics or those who only attend on high holy days. These are the words of those who deeply love the Church and who have been wounded to the heart by the Church’s ministers. 

A growing number of us no longer buy the ivory-tower arguments we are hearing from the dioceses. When it is permissible to walk through a Costco with two hundred other customers, but we cannot gather in groups of five to pray in our Catholic churches, we sense that you are not truly concerned about our immortal souls. 

I urge you to listen to the pleas of those who love the Church. When this is all over, they are likely the only ones who will be left in the pews. Many elderly will be too scared to attend Mass. The nominal Catholics are accustomed to a televised Mass. And all the rest will no longer care, for they have received the message loud and clear: “Christ is not essential.”

Dear bishops and priests: Will you be remembered as shepherds of your flocks, or as servants of the government?

Andrea Black is a Catholic wife, and homeschooling mother. She has a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degree from St. Augustine's Seminary. She is the author of In Case I Don’t Make It from Justin Press and has an upcoming book this fall, Light in the Darkness: A 21st Century Guide for Catholic Families.


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