To the Most Reverend Mark Coleridge BA DSS,
Archbishop of Brisbane
I am a bad Catholic. I have been to Mass only a handful of times since a little before Easter of 2020; that is, since your embrace of the restrictions on Church attendance and your lifting on the Sunday Mass obligation. I was amazed that media and political hysteria modelled on the example of China—an hysteria not present in advanced industrial countries like Sweden, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore—could, with the snap of your fingers, wipe away the very mortal sin into which most Catholics were at greatest risk of falling. It said to me, as I’m sure it did to others, that you didn’t take this mortal sin stuff very seriously at all. And neither, because you so readily denied them to the Catholics of your Archdiocese, did you take very seriously the Sacraments, and especially the Eucharist.
Ah, but people’s lives were at risk! Yes, a small percentage of the elderly, increasing with the number and severity of co-morbidities, were at risk of dying, as were a vanishingly small percentage of under-35s. The risk to children was so small as to be difficult to determine. In the face of these negligible risks to earthly life, you dispensed with the bulwarks of eternal life. It seemed to me than, as it does still, that you could treat the supports of our immortal life so cavalierly only if you had no belief yourself in the reality of life everlasting; or at the least, no belief that the Sacraments were our pathways to eternal life in the light of our Blessed Lord. To put it another way, you advertised to me that you regarded the ostensible rationale of your episcopacy as theatre—a costumed performance, a sham.
The seemingly uncertain foundations of your faith did not undermine mine. My conscience complained when I was required to book to attend Mass, or to sign in, or, later, to notify the State directly of my attendance. It complained when I was required to participate in the Kabuki theatre of masks. I grew up with the understanding that as an axis of tyrannies had been defeated, another had grown stronger; that accommodating tyranny does not end well; that, on a personal scale, a bully must be confronted immediately of his (or her) power will grow and the fight you must eventually have will be tougher. I knew that we, and especially men, are called to confront and oppose bullying, thuggery and tyranny, one way or another, early or late. I, intermittently at first, have done what was within my capacity to resist. At the moment that means minimal and surreptitious attendance at Mass.
Had you, your Grace, fought on behalf of the faithful I would have followed, even to reluctant admissions of defeat. But you abandoned us, and now you attack your own charges on behalf of the tyrant State, and you do it using phrase like, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and, may the God of peace bless you and those entrusted to your care. With these phrases, you propose to crush the consciences of your religious by the threat to suspend their faculties, and of employees by effectively sacking them. You will be the willing agent of the State in shutting the doors of the churches to those like me who will not be vaccinated. And these egregious actions against those you have sworn to serve, protect and teach, you perform—so you would have us to believe—at the behest of your conscience.
In support of your demands of all clergy, you quote Canon 529 §1.
A pastor or assistant pastor in parish ministry is to know the faithful, visit families, care for the faithful strengthening them in the Lord and refresh the faithful with the sacraments. Diligently, he is to seek out the poor, the afflicted, the lonely and the exiled. He is to support spouses and parents in fulfilling their proper duties and to foster growth of Christian life in the family. That means that clergy engaged in parish ministry must be close to the people.
Aficionados of chutzpah can only smile in admiration at this brazen inversion. But better is to come.
I recognise that having a vaccination, including the COVID-19 vaccination, is a matter of personal choice.
If it were true, that would be all you would need to say. That it is not—that in fact you proceed to completely contradict your initial assertion—simply indicates that you did not mean it in the first place. Not for a moment did you consider it a matter of personal choice. You considered it to be your choice on behalf of all.
I owe the clergy of the Archdiocese (including those religious engaged in parish ministry) a significant duty in canon law…in these terms: A diocesan bishop is to attend to presbyters . . . He is to protect their rights and take care that they correctly fulfil the obligations proper to their state. (Canon 384)
What are those rights? Unfortunately, your Grace, you do not elaborate on—or even mention—the rights of presbyters subsequently. Happily, you are more expansive about obligations, as seen in your quoting Canon 529 §1, above.
For priests (and bishops) worth their salt, these obligations would be prized as rights. In any case, what became of these obligations when you blithely shut and severely restricted access to the churches and the sacraments at the behest of the same Government that legislated for abortion on demand, compulsion of medical staff to refer for abortions, prison sanctions for counselling teenagers against physical and biochemical mutilation, compulsory referring for medical homicide, sanctions against trying to dissuade those seeking such medical homicide, prison sentences for the Christian counselling of people seeking to escape destructive sexual obsessions, and violation of the seal of confession? To your credit, you stood publicly against such abuses. But where were you when the sacramental obligations of religious and the sacramental rights of laity were being trampled on by the same people?
Rights do get one mention.
I will not consider conscientious objection to receiving the vaccination… I fully respect the rights of conscience… But I too have a conscience; and it is not just legal obligation but conscience which has led to my decision. [Emphasis mine.]
Put another way; my conscience is bigger that your conscience.
Your formulation of the novel doctrine of apex conscience is illuminating in another respect. Not only are all other Archdiocesan consciences lower down the food chain than yours, but yours pays obeisance to a still higher authority: legal obligation. Fortunately for you, the demands of your roaring lion of a conscience are comprehensively aligned with your legal obligations. What a relief that must be! How do you justify your imperial conscience?
Your argument follows two main tracks which intersect at various points. One is that you have certain legal obligations as the head of Brisbane Archdiocese Inc. The other is that you are independently obliged in Christian charity to take actions which coincide with the demands of the law. Your argument from charity rests on assumptions which are, at best, dubious.
…clergy engaged in pastoral ministry who are not doubly vaccinated put the faithful of the parish at risk. They present a risk to the faithful to whom they minister, as well as to their families. Clergy not doubly vaccinated are failing in their duty to care for the faithful.
To which of the faithful are the unvaccinated failing in their duty of care? It is absurd to claim that they represent a threat to the vaccinated. To do so is to confess that the “vaccine” does not vaccinate. Vaccine apologists contort themselves in pursuing such an argument. If the vaccine does not vaccinate against SARS-CoV-2 carried by the unvaccinated, what is it for? Apparently, for the few months of its effectiveness, it reduces the probability of severe infection. In this it mimics to some extent the protection enjoyed by those of the unvaccinated who have contracted and recovered from the disease. It does not prevent the vaccinee from contracting the virus; it does not reduce the viral load or transmissibility of the vaccinee relative to the unvaccinated carrier. The Queensland Government touts some such figure for the fully vaccinated as 75%. Is it the, say, 25% of unvaccinated parishioners whom you purport to be protecting? Haven’t they made their own decision about the risks they are prepared to run with the virus rather than take the vaccine? What reasons do they have for refusing the vaccine? Do you absolve yourself of your responsibility to minister to their spiritual needs, for they will be excluded from the churches along with unvaccinated priests, will they not? Why not let the unvaccinated priests minister to the unvaccinated parishioners?
More concerning is the mounting toll of injuries and deaths from the vaccine itself. The suppression of this reality is a crime which must, we hope and pray, surely be called to account in Justice and Truth. Nonetheless, in spite of this suppression, two Coalition Senators are refusing to support any Government legislation until adequate recognition of and compensation for these casualties is forthcoming from the Government and the taxpayer, the purveyors of and profiteers from the vaccine having been totally indemnified. Five Coalition Senators crossed the floor to vote in favour of a Bill to override State segregation actions such as you are implementing. Are you unaware of these things, your Grace?
Someone who relied exclusively on the mass media for information about this never-ending pandemic would be ignorant of these realities. Such a wide-eyed innocent would take a vaccine in good faith, as he had his smallpox vaccination and his polio vaccination, initially expecting that the taking of two doses would be the end of the matter. Then the metaphor would seamlessly have melded into the likeness of a tetanus shot, which offered protection for only a certain period. Bit whereas a tetanus shot offered protection for five or six years, this “vaccine” offers protection for only five or six months, so that an indefinite and possibly unending series of booster shots are required in order to emulate the protection once expected of a single course of a genuine vaccine.
And your, your Grace, impose just such an indefinite and possibly unending series of injections on your priests and all employees of the Archdiocese.
The purpose…is…to enable me to ensure that all clergy in active parish ministry…comply with their obligations, which include receiving both doses of a COVID-19 vaccination by 15 December 2021 and subsequent booster vaccinations as directed by the government health authorities. [E.m.]
In this demoralising proclamation, you have washed your hands all of your obligations to your priests, religious and employees. Their consciences, physical and mental health you have thoughtlessly consigned to the whims of “government health authorities” for the unforeseeable future, irrespective of the mounting concerns and the mounting evidence of the dangers of these therapies.
Some of our bishops aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. They might legitimately be characterised as wide-eyed innocents incapable of picking through the mass of misinformation and disinformation on both sides of the argument. I don’t believe that you, your Grace, are one of these. So, if you are naïve of these legitimate concerns for the health and safety of vaccinees, you are wilfully so. If you are aware of these things, then, quite apart from the horrible moral consequences of your arrogantly overriding the moral concerns of your priests, religious and employees, you are directly culpable for injury to or death of any person whom you obliged to take the vaccine.
If only the Archdiocese were able to negotiate indemnity, like the drug companies. Will the Archdiocese set up a compensation fund? It may also be useful to lay out a protocol for those good Catholics who might still trust you to negotiate compensation outside the adversarial processes of litigation. You might call it Towards Vaccine Healing.
The conclusion I am left with is the one you yourself pointed out.
As an employer, the Archdiocese needs to comply with the government health directions … I am the sole member and officer of the Archdiocesan Corporation which in civil law is the employer of Archdiocesan staff… I am therefore bound to take seriously compliance with health directions. Further, I have a legal obligation to ensure that the Archdiocesan Corporation meets its workplace health and safety obligations. …my duties and responsibilities in civil law as the sole officer and member of the Archdiocesan Corporation…it is not just legal obligation…
It is not just legal obligation, indeed. But it is, overwhelmingly, your concern with the civil law that underlies and motivates your discriminatory diktat. To suborn the consciences of so many who are under your protection is a grievous act, which will be applauded by corrupt secular authorities and institutions. The true state of your conscience and your true motivations, which I must attempt to excavate from your words, are known with certainty to the assessor who most matters, or so Catholics both good and bad believe.
As I sat down to consider this letter, I had in mind the readings for the Wednesday of Week 34 in Ordinary Time. It is the memorial of Saints Andrew D?ng-L?c and his companions. From the Universalis notes on the memorial comes this:
The evangelisation of Vietnam began in the 16th century… There are now about 6 million Catholics in Vietnam, some 10% of the population.
This growth comes partly from the fact that since the earliest times the seed of the Faith has been watered by the blood of the martyrs of Vietnam … In the course of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries no less than 53 decrees, signed by the lords and emperors of the country from 1625 to 1886, launched one persecution of Christians after another, each one more savage than the last. Over the whole territory of Vietnam about 130,000 Christians were killed in these persecutions…
Since the beginning of the 20th century 117 of these heroes (those whose sufferings were cruellest and best documented) were beatified, in four groups. They were all canonised together by Pope John Paul II on 19 June 1988.
…with such a huge crowd one can only classify. By nationality, there were 96 Vietnamese, 11 Spanish and 10 French. By status, there were 8 bishops, 50 priests, and 59 laymen and women. By mode of death, 75 were beheaded, 22 strangled, 6 burned alive, 5 torn to pieces while still alive, and 9 died of torture in prison.
Fortunately, they did not fall foul of contemporary civil law in Queensland. How many would have recanted in our terrifying circumstances?
Finally, your Grace, I conceal my identity, not because of any concerns for myself, but for those good Catholics of my acquaintance who may be tarred by association, who would suffer more greatly than I from any hostility arising from this letter.
God bless and keep you, your Grace, and may God bless and sustain those in your care.