On November 4, the Archbishops of Westminster and Liverpool wrote again about the proscription, in the parts East of Offa's Dyke within this Kingdom of England, of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
I would have no real objection to their words "it is important that we, as responsible citizens, observe [the regime's] Regulations, which have the force of Law", were they not followed by a NT quotation (Titus 3:1). The problem with citing Holy Scripture can be that, given human nature, it encourages the cheerful bandying of texts; one bangs the ball back across the net with Acts 5:29.
I groaned to read again the grim old Utilitarian justification for Worship: "the essential contribution made by faith communities to the well-being, resilience and heath of our society."
But it was the next words that floored me. "It is also important to recognise that these Regulations are not an attack on religious belief."
I just can't throw off the feeling that those words are, if you unpack their doctrinal import, exactly and precisely wrong. The regime's Regulations are what the archbishops say they aren't; at attack upon our belief. The regime permits various things deemed 'necessary' or 'essential' still to happen, but categorises Worship with such activities as playing golf. Its assumption is that Christian Worship is a private hobby which is harmless when it exists on the margins of social life and provides a bit of comfort to some odd people. The Sovereignty of Christ is thereby pitchforked out of the the central affairs of human existence. There is no understanding that the Most August Sacrifice of the Mass is the central action of all human community, of all existence, the most important thing which happens each day, each second, on this planet. Sadly, our episkopoi have again failed to take the opportunity to explain any of this. All they are capable of dishing out to feed their flocks is a covert appeal to the ethical teaching of Saint John Stuart Mill.
Even Boris Johnson must surely have picked up enough of the Catholic Faith, before he apostatised, to wonder if these two Archbishops might be selling the Faith short. The chairman of the back-bench 1922 Committee said in the Commons debate how very surprised he had been, last time round, that 'the Churches' had knuckled under so fast.
In the Obamachronos, I remember feeling miffed, as an observer from afar, when he replaced 'Freedom of Religion' with 'Freedom of Worship', because he wanted to exclude Christianity from the public forum and confine it within the four walls of ecclesiastical buildings. But things are worse, not better, over here under the Johnson regime: even our poor little tolerated enclosure on the edge of the zoo is now under close police supervision.
Come back to us, Diocletian, we have taken you for our God. We are killing the babies and fawning upon the sodomites and barring the way to the Eucharist. What other simple duties, Master, will you require of us next?
Our Pastors keep on assuring us that your Regulations have the force of Law, so that, as responsible citizens, we must observe them.
But citizens, S Augustine might have asked, of which Civitas? Whence, according to Philippians 3:20, is our politeuma?
Do we need to ask ourselves these ancient questions anew?