The Government have succeeded in keeping our Churches – not their Churches but our Churches – closed during Holy Week: a week on which our whole Christian faith pivots. It cannot be said too often that there was no medical reason to do so. It has been a repressive policy; and the misinformation and fear-mongering that has been evident.
It need not have been like this – the religious and cultural sensibilities of people need not have been disrespected. Bullying people for their faith convictions when they are manifestly compliant with public health protocols is not wise. It is a poor thing to do, indicative of weakness .
The Government have ‘covering fire’ from an anti-Catholic establishment, ‘anti-Catholic’, because it is not ‘the thing’ to attack minority faiths. But every Christian denomination is in their sights: it just plays better to the gallery to keep the Catholics in their place. Even in Holy Week.
Behind this obdurate mind-set, ‘progressives’ and fellow-travellers know that that the Churches could be open. Fair minded people of all faiths, and none, know it too. You can buy Easter eggs from your local Tesco on Good Friday – but you can’t attend a Church service to pay homage and praise to the Christ who hung on a cross. This, from an Administration which on St Patrick’s Day purports to represent all that is authentic about Ireland, all that it has endured by way of discrimination and persecution throughout its history.
They simply don’t get it. They are good at solemn-seeming, reassuring speeches – that others have written. ‘Sincerity’ is a currency in which they trade. Isaiah, who prophesied of the “suffering servant” whom Christians across the world commemorate this week, got it right: “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me…”
It’s been clear for some time that protests, reasoned and grounded protests, are a waste of time, and worse. Such protests cede control to this Administration. It allows them to manage and manipulate the narrative.
Controlling government are not good at facticity – they are always the last to internalise the reality that they are living on borrowed time. This Administration is headed for a reality check. Its not just the implications for a heavily indebted country, running on the ECB’s IOU’s, of financial markets that are spooked by instability. Nor is it what the bad loan provisions of the banks tell us about what they think is coming down the road. Nor is it the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ that binds Ireland in a dependency on a manifestly incompetent EU, wracked a failure to manage the distribution of vaccines and the economic consequences.
Its all that, but its more. History tells us that only faith gets an individual, or a people, through existentially hard times. Faith, but in whom? This government? Really?
No – faith in all that Easter is and the Hope that Easter represents to people who have been scarred by the pain and the fears of the pandemic. People who understand the importance of prayer and public worship as the truest form of human solidarity.
Respect for our own lives and the lives of others, especially for the medics and nursing professionals who put their lives on the line, demand of us compliance with evidence-based Public Health restrictions.
But that’s not what we are talking about here, is it? We are talking about the repression of our religious freedom to worship this Holy Week, by those who don’t think it matters a bit – and dressed up in ambiguities and in veiled threats, that aren’t so veiled.
But all forms of repression run out of road. People are seeing that religious freedom and political freedom are woven from the same cloth. People will not be cowed forever by fines and by threats – and people are deeply concerned about where their country is being taken. Many of these people will seek out the Holy Eucharist this week in quiet places, with coded messages, in every county in the country. Extraordinary, isn’t it ? That’s what people have been driven to. For Christians, it was ever thus. In one of the greatest crisis in our history, our Churches are being shut down, not by “the stranger”, but by those who pass themselves off as ‘our own’.