Lord, teach us to pray:
(To be read by the Leader)
Happy Fall 2021 my dear Brothers. The recent morning coolness reminds me that it is only a matter of time, until we see some of that hard water stuck to our windshields as we go out the door in the mornings. Yikes.
I know that we are all aware of the challenges facing Alberta’s health care system presently, and of course of the new restrictions that have been mandated by our Provincial Government. Some may think too much (to hot), some too little, (to cold) and perhaps there are even a few of us who think the restrictions are (just right). OOOPs, forgive me, I slipped into the Goldilocks and the three bears fairy tale. With the mandated restrictions, there has also been presented what is referred to as a “restriction exemption”. Basically the “restriction exemption” states that for non-essential services, to be exempt from the one third code capacity limits, every one entering the facility, needs to present proof that they have received the double jab Covid vaccination. There is a significant number of the faithful who have chosen not to be vaccinated and this is for several reasons. Most prominent among these is a lack of evidence on the long term effects of the vaccine. The other is the moral objection to the sourcing of these vaccines and their distant though real connection to the sin of abortion. I am sure there are others as well, but those are the concerns I have been hearing about.
So, the implicit message presented by businesses, cities, organizations, who are implementing the “restrictions exemption” is that if you wish to participate in what they have to offer, recreation, movies, funerals, I must be able to show proof of double vaccination. This may well appear to some to be an assault on our freedom of conscience that the Catholic Church upholds as an elementary and pivotal right. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that a person: “has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He/she must not be forced to act contrary to his/her conscience. Nor must he/she be prevented from acting according to his/her conscience, especially in religious matters, (1782 CCC)”.
The caveat or preamble to this statement is that there is a presumption that the person’s conscience is well formed, in the light of God’s Word, assisted by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Guided by the light of reason, and the authoritative teaching from legitimate sources of specific expertise. God gave us great rational intelligence and we need to use these gifts to form our conscience and perspective on many different elements of our society. The formation of our conscience is really a lifelong endeavor, as more and more learning comes into the light of understanding. We all have an obligation to understand the morality, the good or the bad of any act or event in which we anticipate participating in, or not. We must remain diligent in forming our conscience lest the “moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgements about acts to be performed or already committed, (CCC 1790).” Let’s face it, a well-formed conscience is essential to our journeys of faith, and it is the vehicle to a successful and joyful culmination of our earthly journeys to the Promised Land.
(To be read by the Leader)
I and many of my Brother priests have received requests from individuals who are requesting letters of religious exemption (based on religious beliefs) from being required to follow the “restriction exemptions” that are now in place throughout Alberta. My Brothers, the Church will always respect and promote the freedom of a person’s individual conscience.
However, the reality is that the Church and her clergy are unable to objectively assess and or attest to an individual’s process of discernment in coming to their decision of conscience. What does this mean pragmatically? I respect and support your freedom and your conscience. I, however, have no way of knowing the process, the sources of information and learning that you pursued, in order to come to your stance of conscience. I can and must respect your conscience, but I have no way of knowing how you came to your conscientious stand. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for me or any other clergy, to write a letter requesting that you be exempted from these particular requirements. I don’t know your conscience or your heart. (I may think I do, but that is only a subjective opinion and not helpful). We can stand together on issues where there is not a question on moral righteousness, where there is not, and can be no wiggle room. For example, the dignity of all life, from conception until natural death.
Brothers, my heart goes out to those of you who are being negatively affected by your conscience decisions as they are affected by the rules and mandates now in place in our Province. I can and do pray for you, and for resolution to the challenges we face together. However, I cannot in good conscience write a letter supporting a religious exemption for you, when I have no way other than subjectively, of knowing your conscience formation and the steps you have taken to form it.
I will continue this conversation next month under the topic of, Considerations in the Formation of Conscience, and the Common Good. My Brothers, if we desire resolution to our present dilemma, we need above all else to pray for one another and for our community. Prayer allows God His correct place of influence and inspiration that is rightfully, and only His.
(The Leader now invites the members to spend a few moments in silent reflection, as the above text is not meant to be a ready-made answer but a starter for personal reflection on the theme.)
(The leader now invites the members to share with their Brother Knights any relevant thoughts that came to them during the meditation period.)
(Recited by all)
Let us pray:
“Almighty ever-living God, grant that we may always conform our will to yours and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.