Why the Catholic Church should take a back seat on pandemic issues

Why the Catholic Church should take a back seat on pandemic issues

IT IS the right of a diocesan bishop and his local parish priest, we have been told by the Church, to decide on delivering sacraments.

The right. Of the Church.

The right of the Church, in this instance, to break Covid regulations and create their own guidelines.

Bishops up and down this country, including most recently the Archbishop of Dublin, have decided it is perfectly okay for priests to administer Communion and Confirmation.

Despite it breaking Government guidelines. Despite it going against Covid pandemic guidelines. The right of the Church and the decisions of our democratically elected government.

Whatever we think about the government politically or even about their handling of the pandemic is irrelevant in this instance.

This is not about the political hue of the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste.

This is about the fact that we have a democratic system and it works by electing a government that makes political, economic and social decisions.

In the pandemic it makes health decisions. Those decisions are not made by publicans or restauranteurs or barbers or all the other cohort of groups who have struggled under the Covid restrictions.

They’re not made by the GAA, or the League of Ireland, or the IRFU.

They are made, after extensive health advice by medical experts, by the government.

Have they, at times, got it wrong? Absolutely.

There have been bewildering rules and rule changes. There have been blunders in the vaccine rollout. There have been mistakes.

People have been left angry, confused and bewildered. And fed up.

God only knows we’re all fed up. But, and again this is irrespective of political beliefs, governments don’t have a lot of experience of pandemics. Governments anywhere.

Did Trump play footloose with people’s lives? Did Johnson? Yes, they did. They’re flag-waving populists who took a gamble instead of attempting to lead. But even the good, responsible, able, governments were making it up as they went along. How could they not be?

Who else, though, did you want to make the decisions? The mistakes, even?

Who if not your elected representatives?

However flawed our democratic systems might be, what’s the alternative? The mob at the Capitol?

Certainly one organisation we might expect a little humility from is the Catholic Church.

After everything that has been revealed over the last few decades about the utter depravity at the core of the Church’s governance when it held power, the least we might expect is the Church to fall in line.

Of course, we’ve had rogue publicans and rogue retailers.

We’ve had any number of reality-denying conspiracy theorists.

We’ve had the odd mask refuser making hassle for shopkeepers and wasting the time of the courts.

We’ve had right wing politicians uttering embarrassing nonsense.

But we have had no organisation on this island declaring it had the unilateral right to make its own rules. To follow its own guidelines.

We have all seen pop stars and musicians from this island acting as if they knew better than doctors.

But the bishops? The Church?

Of all the actors in Irish society do we not think the Church might acknowledge that it should take a back seat.

Its arrogance clearly hasn’t diminished with its power.

Irish society is reopening in a delicate way. The response towards the pandemic has relied greatly on a sense of social solidarity.

The Archbishop of Dublin’s recent claim that the health guidelines are ‘discriminatory’ is disturbingly childish.

Is he claiming that health guidelines have been constructed in an attempt to curtail the Church?

Is he suggesting that any sector of the economy or any sporting body that is affected by the guidelines can claim discrimination and make up its own rules? Who on earth does Archbishop Farrell think he is? Archbishop McQuaid?

That the Church would implement policies to formally break social solidarity tells us a lot about the Church’s view of Irish society.

Society, yes, the Church says, but the Church first.

This pandemic will end. We will get through it.

Ireland will return to being Ireland again. And when it does, we would do well to remember the ragbag collection of those who opposed collective responsibility and the solidarity of society.

From internet Covid deniers, anti-vaccination healers, intellectually corrupt politicians, spoilt brat pop stars, and now, the Catholic Church.