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Saturday, 06 February 2021 01:07

Church and State in the Age of Covid

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The Christian churches, their beliefs, their sacred practices and their pastors are under attack.  From new atheists, secularists, progressives - and from the state itself.  The state's assumption of extraordinary and dictatorial powers during the year of Covid has not been without impact on the Church.  The Covid state has imposed all sorts of restrictions on the faithful.  Caesar has taken more than his due.


Across Western nations, the secular state is in the middle of a war on Christians, and on the Catholic Church in particular.  The problem is, most Christians, certainly Catholics, seem either not to know this, or to care.  Or to act as if it were not happening, even though they know it is.

Church leaders are following the failed strategy of appeasement, already tried unsuccessfully in the 1930s in Europe and by the West against twenty-first century China.  We try to “work with” the state, and offer little resistance in the face of what are clearly, on any objective analysis, mortal threats.

As a result, the secular state is winning.

Some of the secular state’s field marshals in the war on Christianity are, sadly, self-proclaimed Christians, indeed Catholics.  Look at Daniel Andrews, the tin-pot dictator south of the Murray.  A Catholic.  Joe Biden.  Ted Kennedy.  Nancy Pelosi.  All Catholics.  They are doing as much as any Islamist I can think of to destroy Christianity.

The Church is losing for some obvious reasons.  Let us start with the sex abuse elephant in the room.

The Church not only made a moral blunder in allowing known child molesters among the priesthood to continue to roam the parishes, doing their demonic work.  It was also a strategic blunder.  At a single stroke, the Church ceded the moral ground to its enemies, who have cashed in, big time and without ceasing. 

Church leaders are now seemingly in a permanent state of cowed submission as a result of what can only be described as the greatest own-goal in history. 

Yes, I know sex abuse is not just about the Catholic Church.  It is a far, far greater problem in blended families (for example), an institution that the state and the ruling elites of our society will not allow to be criticised.  And yes, back when most of the abuse was occurring, nobody really knew the nature or the extent of the problem.  And no one in the Church could possibly have foreseen the sheer enormity of the backlash when it came, on the back of the public’s moral panic over sex abuse that emerged in the late 1990s and that has continued undiminished right through the McClellan Royal Commission and beyond.

Back in the day, it seemed easy and obvious from the Church’s perspective to just sweep child abuse under the rug and hope that nobody would ever find out.  Or seek revenge.  Or use the crisis as means of launching an all-out attack on the Church.

The war on the Church has taken a number of forms, and the state and society’s new clerisy, the ruling elites and their field operatives in every secular institution you can think of, are busy prosecuting the war with relentless enthusiasm.

These are merely the most obvious battle fronts:

  • Attacks on institutions upon which the Church relies for the formation of Catholic minds, principally the traditional family;
  • Condemnations of Church teachings, especially those related to matters of sex, as being out of touch;
  • Legislation relating to same sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia, transgender rights and so-called “conversion therapy” that fly in the face of Christian teachings, legislation that is supported by relentless bureaucratic and cultural reinforcement;
  • Direct hit-jobs on Christians in the public eye who, in their different ways, stand up to the popular onslaught and proclaim and defend Christian truths, like George Pell, Israel Folau and, most recently Margaret Court;
  • Strategic use of Church problems (like child sex offences) to mess with sacred Church practices such as the seal of the Confessional.

The Church has lost every single fight.  The woke, progressive state and its surrogates act as if the Church didn’t exist.

Now, the state is not our only enemy in these fights, or in the overall war.  What the American writer Angelo Codevilla has termed “the ruling class” and others have simply called “the elites” effectively govern us through state sponsored institutions – the taxpayer funded schools and universities, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, most of the political parties and the woke civil service – and through corporations and the media.  These institutions have very little truck with Church teachings, to put it politely.  Most actively oppose us in ways large and small, open and hidden.  There are both pitched battles – like same sex marriage – and also grinding, relentless, under-the-radar battle fronts.

These are the institutions which most shape social views, especially among the young. 

Then there are the social media hit squads who destroy reputations, narratives, careers.  These are not aligned to the state in a formal sense.  But the state bows to social pressure, and demurs when it comes to protections for those (Christians) destroyed in the process.  By absenting itself from a defence of religious liberty, the state effectively sides with the hit squads.  Christians are rendered helpless.

The deposit of faith passed down the generations for two thousand years is now under very heavy fire.

And now there is Covid fascism, perhaps the Church’s greatest challenge in our lifetimes and the scene of considerable cowardice.  The fruits of our submission in the face of public health totalitarianism will be a massive decline in Mass attendance – on top of the massive decline in attendance already witnessed across the West since the cultural revolution of the sixties and the Church’s ill-conceived attempt to engage with the world at that time.

I first witnessed what was to be a year of supine compliance while holidaying in Southern France in March 2020.  Having escaped Northern Italy (for obvious reasons) and repaired to Lourdes, my wife and I were greeted by one of the very early acts of surrender by Church authorities.  I simply couldn’t believe it.  The Lourdes healing baths were shuttered down, to avoid putting people at risk of getting sick!  At the place where pilgrims and the sick from all over the world come … to be cured.  I am not at all sure that Our Lady of Lourdes would be impressed by such a demonstration of faith in her proven miraculous powers.

Admittedly, at that time we didn’t know what we know now – that Covid is a relatively mild if unpleasant virus for over 99 per cent of the population, for whom the most persistent symptom is (as noted by Peter Hitchens) feeling fine.  But still …  lockdowns were still a ways away, in Europe.  Hardly a mask to be seen.  Still open borders.  And yet here we were, closing Lourdes from the get-go.

And so it began.  The churches were shut for three months in Australia and elsewhere.  No Easter in 2020.  No Holy Week.  No Good Friday.  No Pentecost.  No sacraments.  No Last Rites.  Lost souls aplenty, right there, I would think.

The video Mass became a thing.  Sadly, for some priests, seductive.  No Communion on the tongue in many places.  No holy water.  No singing.  Sign-ins, often abetted by the evil track and trace technology.  Social distancing, often enforced by those for whom Covid marshaldom seems to have been an unalloyed blessing.

No sign of peace.  Well, every cloud …

One bishop in regional New South Wales cited “medical advice” for these impositions, which include an ongoing prohibition of the Old Rite Mass that is normally offered once a month.  Clearly his medical sources are not the same as mine.

The wickedness of the state’s incursions on the Church’s sacred mission, abetted by Covid, continue to this day.  You can have thirty people in your home, doing whatever, not socially distanced, maskless (in New South Wales, as of early February 2021).  But you must mask up in church.  Attending Mass with everyone wearing masks is one of the most awful things I have ever experienced.

It is said that in the UK, faith leaders practically lunged at the Covid-panicked British Government to get them to shut the churches.  It was extraordinary to behold.

I am certainly not the first to observe that Bunnings and Woolies were able to convince the state that they provided essential services, and so remain open during the Australian lockdowns.  Not so the churches.  The state simply steamrolled the small minority of Australian Christians who still frequent their churches and their leaders into compliance, knowing they could.

In Australia, the state said – “shut your churches”.  No ifs, no buts, no exceptions.  And the churches said – “ok”.  We complied.  We tried, with timidity, to negotiate with heathen premiers who patently suffer from Napoleon complexes.  And we were shown the door.

Here is what Damian Thompson of the UK Spectator has said of the British situation (writing in November 2020):

Has there been a single Covid death as a result of someone attending a socially distanced church service? The answer is no, as you'd expect it to be. But, despite this, the Government will ban public acts of worship from Thursday. 

This decision is so perverse that even the Catholic bishops of England and Wales – who fell over each other during the last lockdown in their eagerness to shut churches – have written to the government asking for the scientific evidence indicating that properly supervised Masses pose a threat to the people attending them. So far they haven't received the courtesy of a reply, probably because there is no evidence. 

There is NO evidence.  Thompson suggested that the state was targeting religious believers.  Absent evidence to the contrary, it is indeed a plausible hypothesis.  Not a conspiracy theory.

There was at least one rebel priest, as reported by Thompson:

Fr David Palmer, a Catholic priest from Nottingham, tells me that his church will be open this Sunday, cleverly exploiting a loophole in the government guidelines. If the police try to stop him saying Mass, or administering any other sacrament, then he's willing to be arrested. Other clergy, including some in the Church of England, have taken the same decision.

This hero has been the exception, alas.  A priest in the tradition of Edmund Campion.  (Fr Palmer was proposing to say a “private” Mass while the church was open for prayer.  Alas, his Bishop ordered him to desist).

So, when struggling souls most needed the churches to be open, none were.  In a year that saw the utter destruction of personal freedom and fundamental human rights, and unbridled state power often viciously enforced, where was the defiance from Christ’s Church on earth?

A weakened and demoralized institution simply wasn’t up for the fight of fights.  This wasn’t just any old fight either.  It was a fight for the sanctity – and the credibility – of the Third Commandment.  Waive the Sunday obligation for a mostly mild virus?  No problem.  This abdication to the state will have consequences for the Church.  And for souls.

Mediating institutions, especially the corporate (legacy) media, have simply been doing the government’s work for it, with propaganda, infomercials, fear campaigns and implementation/enforcement.  The Church, sadly, can be seen as having joined the state in its war on the people.  The very same state that is slowly but surely destroying the Church. 

Regularly, we hear at Mass prayers for victims of Covid and their families.  Mercifully, there haven’t been that many of those in Australia (for a whole range of reasons, too many to address here).  There have been, however, countless thousands of people who have lost their jobs, businesses, savings and dignity.  Pornography is a growth industry in the age of Covid.  Mental illness is up.  As are suicides.  As is domestic violence.  Then there are all the lockdown deaths.  Untreated cancers and heart attacks. Children are losing their youth, their schooling.  Mostly this all seems to be put down to “Covid”.  No, all these things are the direct result of government policies.  Would that we prayed, too, for the victims of lockdown.

Tracey Rowland has recently argued that whenever the Church has created a relationship of dependency with the State, it has ended up coming off second best.

The general conclusion of history is that whenever the Church becomes reliant upon governments for money she loses a certain amount of her freedom.

Quoting Cardinal Muller, Rowland notes:

… the Church no longer defines herself in terms of her divine mission for the salvation of all people, but rather in terms of the service that she can perform for society within the parameters of the common good and dependence on the State. 

Referring to Cardinal Newman, Rowland suggests:

One of Cardinal Newman’s arguments in favor of the superiority of the Catholic Church over that of the Church of England was precisely that the Petrine Office served to protect Catholics from being governed by local civil authorities.


The immortal words of the former Obama adviser and Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, suggested - “never let a crisis go to waste”.  It is almost the first rule of politics.  Whatever one believes about the origins of Covid, there is no doubt that governments everywhere, whether democratically elected or not, have accrued more new power in one year than in all of our lifetimes.  Direct power over all our private lives.  Under the pretext of protecting our health.  Nothing will ever be the same.  That which was unthinkable a mere twelve months ago will never be unthinkable again. We have lost much. 

A massively weakened Church has lost much too. 

The Church Militant must grow more militancy if it is to survive the onslaughts of a state emboldened by the weak faith it observes, by the Church’s self-inflicted wounds during these last two, purgatorial decades, by the Church’s inability to sway voters and carry the day on core social policy questions, and by the Church’s meek unwillingness to defend its own innocent caught up in the crossfire.  (The public defence of George Pell in his darkest hours was left to writers in Quadrant magazine, by and large, and how we did suffer for it). 

Covid has confirmed all of this.

In the Reformation, the Pope unleashed a new order of priests on the English world to defend the Faith.  They said secret Masses in hideouts and lived in priest holes, and the likes of Edmund Campion were slaughtered for their trouble.  They kept Catholicism alive in the face of a vicious totalitarian (Christian) regime.  I wonder how many underground Masses were celebrated in Australia during the infamous attack of 2020 on the Mass and on the Church. 

Principled and brave Australian Church leaders have told the state that they will not break the seal of Confession, under pain of imprisonment.  This is the kind of bravery that is needed, across the board, wherever and whenever the state attacks us.

The late, great Cardinal Francis George famously said:

I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. 

Just ask the other Cardinal George. 

None of us should be in any doubt that the attacks will continue, and that they will increase in intensity and breadth.  While it is not the state that is trying to stop Israel Folau from playing football again in Sydney, nor is the state trying to stop Margaret Court from getting a Companion of the Order of Australia.  It is the media and assorted woke social media thugs doing these things.  But it was the state that set up the bureaucracies (human rights commissions) to which our enemies generally appeal for their cover.  And the state and the ruling elites facilitated, indeed championed the arrival of homosexual marriage and homosexual child adoption.

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”, Our Lord said. Sadly, it might be concluded that we-the-Church have rendered the whole shebang to Caesar, especially in the age of Covid.

Paul Collits

Paul Collits is a freelance writer and independent researcher who lives in Lismore New South Wales.  
He has worked in government, industry and the university sector, and has taught at tertiary level in three different disciplines - politics, geography and planning and business studies.  He spent over 25 years working in economic development and has published widely in Australian and international peer reviewed and other journals.  He has been a keynote speaker internationally on topics such as rural development, regional policy, entrepreneurship and innovation.  Much of his academic writing is available at
His recent writings on ideology, conservatism, politics, religion, culture, education and police corruption have been published in such journals as Quadrant, News Weekly and The Spectator Australia.
He has BA Hons and MA degrees in political science from the Australian National University and a PhD in geography and planning from the University of New England.  He currently has an adjunct Associate Professor position at a New Zealand Polytechnic.