A document titled “Appeal for the Church and the World: to Catholics and all people of good will” — principally written by former apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Viganò (shown) and promoted by an ad hoc organization that calls itself Veritas Liberabit Vos (the truth shall set you free) — makes some stark, accusatory statements about the harsh, restrictive abridgement of personal and religious freedoms imposed by governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the language used in the document is rarely seen outside of constitutionalist, conservative, or libertarian sources on “the right.”
The document wasted no time in getting to the point, stating in the second paragraph, “Under the pretext of the Covid-19 epidemic, the inalienable rights of citizens have in many cases been violated and their fundamental freedoms, including the exercise of freedom of worship, expression and movement, have been disproportionately and unjustifiably restricted.”
The statement, dated 8 May 2020, carried the signatures of three Catholic cardinals: Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, emeritus bishop of Hong Kong; Cardinal Janis Pujats, emeritus archbishop of Riga, Latvia; and Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
It was also signed by several bishops, including two Americans: Joseph Strickland, bishop of Tyler, Texas, and Rene Henry Gracida, bishop emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas.
Paragraph after paragraph, the document presented arguments often found in articles posted by The New American and a few other news sources still committed to defending the Constitution and personal freedom. It stated, “Public health must not, and cannot, become an alibi for infringing on the rights of millions of people around the world, let alone for depriving the civil authority of its duty to act wisely for the common good.”
Noting that there are growing doubts emerging from several sources about the actual danger of the virus, the document stated, “Many authoritative voices in the world of science and medicine confirm that the media’s alarmism about Covid-19 appears to be absolutely unjustified.”
The document then moved into deeper territory when it employed language very familiar to readers of The New American but usually dismissed as “conspiracy theory” by the major media:
We have reason to believe, on the basis of official data on the incidence of the epidemic as related to the number of deaths, that there are powers interested in creating panic among the world’s population with the sole aim of permanently imposing unacceptable forms of restriction on freedoms, of controlling people and of tracking their movements. The imposition of these illiberal measures is a disturbing prelude to the realization of a world government beyond all control.
The New American, its predecessor publications (including American Opinion), and countless books published by this publication’s affiliated book division (e.g, Global Tyranny... Step by Step: The United Nations and the Emerging New World Order, written by this magazine’s senior editor, William F. Jasper) have for decades exposed the machinations of power-hungry elitists who would impose world government, usually through the United Nations and its subsidiary agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO), which has been in the news so much lately.
The New American reported on April 8 that over 20 Republican cosponsors had joined in on a resolution to defund the World Health Organization (WHO) until its director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, resigns and the organization is investigated for its allegedly soft-on-China handling of the coronavirus outbreak. President Trump announced on April 14 that the United States would immediately halt all funding for the WHO, saying it had put “political correctness over lifesaving measures.” The WHO is, of course, an agency of the United Nations.
While not specifically naming the UN or WHO, the document “Appeal for the Church and the World” very clearly referred to such organizations when it mentioned “supranational bodies,” stating:
We also ask government leaders to ensure that forms of control over people, whether through tracking systems or any other form of location-finding, are rigorously avoided. The fight against Covid-19, however serious, must not be the pretext for supporting the hidden intentions of supranational bodies that have very strong commercial and political interests in this plan.
The expression “hidden intentions” is also suggestive of something most mainstream media people avoid saying — “conspiracy” — for fear it be tied to another word that tends to discredit it — “theory.”
The document also had something to say about the way many in the media have been reporting the pandemic:
We strongly urge those in the media to commit themselves to providing accurate information and not penalizing dissent by resorting to forms of censorship, as is happening widely on social media, in the press and on television. Providing accurate information requires that room be given to voices that are not aligned with a single way of thinking. This allows citizens to consciously assess the facts, without being heavily influenced by partisan interventions. A democratic and honest debate is the best antidote to the risk of imposing subtle forms of dictatorship, presumably worse than those our society has seen rise and fall in the recent past.
Not surprisingly, in a document originating with clerical leaders, the open letter defended the right of the Church (which by extension can be said of all churches, since freedom of worship is a universal right) to assert its autonomy to govern, worship, and teach. The document noted:
This autonomy and freedom are an innate right that Our Lord Jesus Christ has given her for the pursuit of her proper ends. For this reason, as Pastors we firmly assert the right to decide autonomously on the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments, just as we claim absolute autonomy in matters falling within our immediate jurisdiction, such as liturgical norms and ways of administering Communion and the Sacraments. The State has no right to interfere, for any reason whatsoever, in the sovereignty of the Church. Ecclesiastical authorities have never refused to collaborate with the State, but such collaboration does not authorize civil authorities to impose any sort of ban or restriction on public worship or the exercise of priestly ministry. The rights of God and of the faithful are the supreme law of the Church, which she neither intends to, nor can, abdicate. We ask that restrictions on the celebration of public ceremonies be removed.
The New American has reported about churches in this country resisting the onerous restrictions placed upon their efforts to conduct worship services. On May 12, we reported about two Illinois churches, Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and Logos Baptist Ministries, who filed for a temporary restraining order against the enforcement of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s “Five Point” coronavirus plan, which potentially prohibits religious gatherings of 50 people or more through 2021, or when a vaccine or viable treatment option becomes available.
Another article on May 10 noted that Tabernacle Baptist Church of Nicholasville, Kentucky, had successfully obtained a restraining order from a U.S. District Court judge against Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s edict banning in-person church services.
The threat to religious freedom being waged under the pretext of “health and safety” is not unique to Catholic, or Baptist, or even non-Christian congregations, but is but one facet of the attempt being made by government at all levels to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to consolidate power.
The document also noted the grave social and cultural costs of the many restrictions being placed on individuals in the name of protecting them from the coronavirus:
We are fighting against an invisible enemy that seeks to divide citizens, to separate children from their parents, grandchildren from their grandparents, the faithful from their pastors, students from teachers, and customers from vendors. Let us not allow centuries of Christian civilization to be erased under the pretext of a virus, and an odious technological tyranny to be established, in which nameless and faceless people can decide the fate of the world by confining us to a virtual reality.
The authors of “Appeal for the Church and the World” have done a comprehensive job of covering many of these threats to freedom being made “under the pretext of the Covid-19 epidemic." It is well worth reading in its entirety.
(To read the entire text of the document, “Appeal for the Church and the World: to Catholics and all people of good will,” click here.)