Today I read [another] story on CNA that talked about the Holy Father’s thoughts about Coronavirus in a way that I found very disappointing and yet so characteristic of him that it isn’t even surprising anymore.
“At this time, when indications have been given to exit out of quarantine, we pray the Lord will grant to His people, all of us, the grace of prudence and obedience to these indications, so that the pandemic does not return.”
I don’t say this disrespectfully but out of concern, and frankly out of my weariness of it all—the pope is too obsessively attentive to the physical order, to such an extent that he seems to be blind to higher realities. But it’s a problem many in the Church have, including us in the laity, where we obsess over the higher order (“Heaven”) or the lower order (“Earth”) but fail to be balanced between the two. Many of us fall into this trap.
Just for some clarification, I’m using “Heaven” and “Earth” metaphorically to represent the orders of grace, and nature, respectively. The words further represent the celestial order (or “higher realities” and the human order. While the Holy Father, and many others throughout the Church have an inordinate fixation on “Earth”, others in the Church have an equally imbalanced fixation on “Heaven”
The Holy Father spends too much time on “Earth”, and not enough time in “Heaven”. Everything he treats is centered on nature, the environment, poverty and hunger, immigration and politics. In short, social justice, or issues of the human order. All of these are realities with which we should all show some due concern. But the Holy Father seems concerned about only these things, and not of higher things. More accurately, he is concerned about social justice in a vacuum, which I believe is why, out of great concern for the feelings of Amazonian people, he didn’t see anything wrong with idol worship at the Vatican during the Amazon Synod. In that moment he allowed an offense against God, out of reluctance to offend the Amazonian people. Too concerned about “Earth” and not about “Heaven”. It’s also why he gives audience to all sorts of social progressives, yet he shuns or denigrates representatives of more traditional or conservative segments of the people of the Church—and those representatives include the Catholic laity, not just priests and cardinals. He’s too one-sided. He isn’t balanced. It’s frustrating, and it’s foolish.
But he has plenty of company on both sides of the spectrum, as many Catholics are often focused “Heaven” or “Earth” and not on both.
Many of us in the Church are so fixated on “Heaven” that we forget to be good stewards of the Gospel as it relates to the human order. We’re on our knees in prayer, and we’re at mass every day, but we won’t greet the stranger, act with kindness or charity toward others, or lift a finger to help our neighbor. We faithfully pray the rosary, and with those same lips and tongue we slander and gossip, tear reputations to shreds, degrade the dignity of others, because we feel they deserve it. In more extreme cases we’re so “pious” that we throw threats of God’s justice around like confetti and tell people they’re going to hell if they aren’t acting as holy as the Blessed Mother. We’re quick to judge and condemn, slow to treat with mercy and patience and compassion. We’re so obsessed with “Heaven” that we forget about “Earth”
Others are fixated on “Earth”—the human order, and social justice issues. They are so concerned about the environment that they practically elevate it to the status of a false god. They are so attentive to the poor that they’ll promote contraception and abortion to “help” these “poor, starving” people to afford a higher standard of life. They take every opportunity to talk about racism but never talk about the discrimination perpetrated against doctrine and truth. The only justice is social justice for them; God’s justice is satisfied by the cross…end of transaction. Everybody is going to heaven, so let’s all grab our guitars and sit around a camp fire singing songs of praise to mother earth for all the good things she provides!
Both of these fixations are ridiculous and unrealistic. By “unrealistic”, I mean they literally defy reality, because they ignore half of all reality. Reality is both the natural and human order as well as the celestial order and the order of grace. Reality is about both mercy and justice, about our care for the earth as one of God’s creations, and about the care of souls as God’s greatest creation. Reality is being attentive to God and to our fellowman; about respecting God’s majesty and the dignity of human persons. It’s about understanding the journey, the lived experience, and the plight of others as well as correcting them when their actions are wrong (Judge the sin, love the sinner). If you want to be a saint, have your right heel in Heaven, and your left toe on Earth—walking toward the former, but still present in the latter.
About the Pope’s Words
Going back to what the Holy Father said, I want to share a very brief thought.
All the “prudence and obedience” in the world will not insulate us from subsequent plagues, should God permit them. What we should all be doing is recognizing that God probably allowed this plague because of the great sinfulness of the world, and therefor we should be prudent about changing our lives, and have a renewed sense of obedience to His will. I’m very disappointed that the Pope and many others leaders in the Church are still failing God’s people by not talking about this pandemic from a perspective of “Heaven”. To them it’s all about “Earth”. They’re blind, and they are leading the people off of a cliff. They are obsessed with “Earth” and seem to have forgotten “Heaven”. And for that, I believe, God has other chastisement in store. Like Egypt, it will take more than one plague for some people to get the message. God forgive us, and have mercy on us all!
My friends, please pray and keep watch.
Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!!