By Charlie Johnston
More than a few people have asked me about this story of my Archdiocese considering disciplinary action against a Priest who publicly urged people to openly disobey the Archbishop on the matter of masking at religious services. I am glad, for it gives me an opportunity to reiterate some points that are important to me.
I almost always make clear the difference between a prelate’s lawful authority – and illegitimate efforts at overreach. No prelate has the authority to contradict plain teaching of Scripture and the Magisterium. No prelate has binding authority on political and temporal matters outside of their own property and holdings. I always say that whether or not I agree with a Bishop’s judgment is irrelevant to whether I obey a lawful order. This is the perfect example to illustrate that.
Regular readers know that I apparently objectively disagree with the Archbishop’s judgment on Covid. (I say apparently, because there may be other good factors I am unaware of affecting that judgment – including wanting to avoid direct confrontation with secular authorities at this time). Even so, I believe the Priest involved should be disciplined. Routine matters of safety and protocol within Church property are clearly within the legitimate administrative purview of the Archbishop – and subject to his judgment and responsibility, not mine or anyone else’s. Now certainly, I reserve the right to disagree with such judgments. Frankly, if I am part of an organization to which another has the responsibility of leading, I keep such disagreements private, even though I may dispute the judgment vigorously internally. Publicly, I accept and obey the judgment of the one who is responsible for making such judgments.
Yes, I want reform – and a lot of it. But I want my reform such that it does not burn down the structure I am trying to reform. You could exterminate your house by burning it down, but the problem you end with is bigger than the problem you were trying to solve. The Priest who urged this public disobedience does not have responsibility for the whole Archdiocese or for the consequences that would follow the course he urges. I give a wide latitude to those who accept the responsibility for the authority they exercise – and it has little to do with whether I agree or disagree with their judgment on a matter. If things degenerate into a mere contest of whose judgment is best, that is a formula for anarchy. I won’t abide such a thing. It is even more egregious because the Archbishop has given a lot of latitude to individual Parishes on how to interpret and enforce his directive.
Allowing such disputes to degenerate into a contest of will destroys the very concept of legitimate authority and makes it impossible to form coherent organizations. This is a time to challenge authority in many things – but it is not a time to burn the house down.
Some have taken me to task for my gloomy short-term outlook on the state of the culture, society, government, and the hierarchy. Let me ask you, what institutions do you still have confidence in? I honestly cannot think of a single public institution I have confidence in, anymore. My disgust with some is not as bad as with others, but my confidence in all is just about shot. Yeah, big government is horrible…but in this awful year, little governments have shown they are every bit as degenerate and corrupt as the big variety. I love this video of a woman in Palm Beach County reading the riot act to county commissioners and then formally serving them with papers that they are being sued for treason. Government, media, entertainment. sports, the legal system…tell me where there is an entity that is dedicated to the welfare of the people they supposedly serve rather than the dreams of self-actualization of the hollow men who run these entities?
If you have an old wooden structure that you intend to put into use, you must first find whether there is enough good wood left where it can be rehabilitated or whether you need to let it fall and start with fresh, strong lumber to rebuild.
There is a time to rehab – but I think the wood of our culture is now so rotted that we must clear it away and build anew. Like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn felt about the Soviet Union, I love my country, but absolutely hate the governments that have taken it hostage.
Finally, many have made suggestions to me on how to enhance security in these times where the government, at least under Barack Obama, promiscuously spied on ordinary people, newsmen, and opponents – including an incoming president.
I am normally prudent and I certainly treat some things with confidentiality. But my basic attitude about the battle before us is that I intend to do everything right in front of God and everybody. I know that will likely make me a target at some point. I have no illusions that I am invulnerable to the depredations of a vast segment of our population who will lie, cheat, steal, riot, frame the innocent and murder in order to get their way and augment their power. I am haunted by the story of young Agnes Chow, a woman who has demonstrated peacefully, but forcefully, for the freedom of her native Hong Kong. I see lowlife professional athletes screaming that they don’t get enough respect in between cashing their millions, but punish or fire any employees who dare to criticize China. China routinely commits real atrocities against innocent people who dissent from the government line, often murdering them and sometimes harvesting their organs for sale. The great nation of China has an old and honorable culture, one that was hijacked by Communist barbarians in 1949 – and that culture has been held hostage by these barbarians ever since. But China is a cash cow for many sports empires – and all these ignorant “idealists” in athletic uniforms are not so idealistic that they would risk a few dollars from their bottom line to stand up against real atrocities. They disgust me. I would rather imitate and keep faith with young Agnes Chow – and speak openly for the values I cherish; faith, family and freedom. If the “idealists” who are looting, rioting, maiming and killing want to take me, let it be public – and another entry in the indictment they are forming against themselves before God.
There is a time for the catacombs, but I don’t think we are there yet. The quality and openness of our defiance will have much to do with whether we get there. So, for now, I will keep doing what I do before God and everybody. I understand the potential consequences and am willing to risk them. If they come for us and their attacks fall impotently by the wayside, that will be a sign, itself. But I don’t leave room for that potential sign if I act fearfully from the shadows.