January 20, 2022 (Edward J. Barr) – On January 25 the Pope will hold a vespers service to commemorate the end of the week of prayer for Christian Unity. The week of common worship unites many denominations in the Christian world to pray for each other and strengthen their common love for Jesus Christ. First proposed in 1908 by a Franciscan Friar, Father Paul Wattson, it received formal status after Vatican II. 1968 is recognized as the official start of the formal ecumenical observance. The Church celebrates the week with hope and joy. Many homilies focus on the embracing nature of Christ and His Church. However, while the Church is welcoming others to come together in the love of Christ, she is continuing her waves of abandonment toward the faithful.
The first wave was the worldwide shutdown of the Mass and the restriction and/or elimination of the sacraments. The Church reflexively succumbed to the teachings of the political class, who prioritized the material world over the spiritual world. Ignoring alternative voices that challenged the global narrative, they appeared to agree with the world that the material is more important than the spiritual. In several jurisdictions politicians asked the Church to remain open, yet the bishops dispensed with the option to tend to their flock and went on vacation. The result of this ‘teaching’ is evident. According to secular (Pew Research) and religious (Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate at Georgetown University, Center for Church Management at Villanova) polls, the numbers of Catholics attending Mass after the shutdown continues to drop. Mass attendance of self-identified Catholics fell from roughly 20-25% before the shutdowns to 10-15% after services resumed. The ‘faithful’ have agreed with the bishops that the sacraments aren’t ‘essential.’
The second wave of abandonment was more targeted. The July 16, 2021, Moto Proprio, “Traditionis Custodes” sought to restrict and suppress the Catholic cohort most faithful to Church teachings. From adherence to the dogmas of the Church to increased vocations, ‘traditional Latin Mass’ (TLM) attendees represent the most vibrant part of the Church. This missive was preceded by smaller volleys toward the faithful, such as the restricting the TLM at St. Peter’s Basilica. When a good number of bishops dragged their feet over the suppression the Vatican decided to respond to certain questions posed. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) published a set of responsa ad dubia that further clarified the suppression. The results of the heavy-handed approach have yet to be confirmed, but there will be some fallout.
The third wave of abandonment was targeted and heavily influenced by the secular state. On January 5, the Vatican expanded its COVID-19 regulations by requiring masks inside all buildings. It also stipulated that ‘vaccinations’ and booster shots are mandatory for employees and visitors that enter the Vatican Museums and gardens. Many Catholics have objected to participating in remote evil and declined getting COVID shots. Others have family histories of vaccine injury and have been advised by medical professionals not to take the shot for health reasons. The rationale for the restrictions was minimal yet consistent with the Vatican state following the lead of secular European nations. Any exemptions to the rules are expected to be assessed by the Vatican Secretariat of State. Given senior leaders statements and the consistent nature of Vatican policy being in accord with lockdowns and the repression of the ‘unvaccinated,’ it is doubtful exemptions will be viewed favorably. The result is another subset of Catholics being abandoned by the Hierarchy.
The week of Christian unity brings many exhortations to focus on what unites all followers of Jesus Christ. From ecumenical themed homilies and prayers of the faithful, Catholics will be told about what unites those who love the Lord. Yet for many, the Church has unleashed a wave of abandonment that causes confusion, concern, and uncertainty. Nearly all Catholics have been impacted. From the implication that the sacraments are not vital to our lives, to the attack on the most orthodox members of the Church, to the dismissing of those whose conscience or health led them to reject abortion tainted gene therapies, the waves of abandonment continue. The Church is preaching Christian unity while fostering Catholic disunity.
Edward J Barr is a Catechist and public speaker in Florida. He earned a Master of Theology degree from the Augustine Institute. Mr. Barr is a contributing writer for the Roma Locuta Est blog (www.RomaLocutaEst.com