The epidemic seems to multiply its victims these days. The Austrian bishops have expressed their collective attack in writing. But it may not be what the reader expects.
This brief does not set out to inform about a massive attack on the entire Austrian episcopate by Covid-19. At least, no information has circulated on this subject and the Austrian Episcopal Conference (ÖBK) has not communicated anything on this point.
On the other hand, this same ÖBK published the “standard rules for the celebration of public offices,” valid from November 3 to 30, 2020. These detail all the precautions to be taken during the various liturgical services.
Unsurprisingly, they have included the obligation to receive communion in the hand, despite the repeated intervention of doctors contesting this measure from the angle of their medical art. For example, 21 Austrian doctors wrote to the ÖBK in June to explain the reasons why communion in the hand is less safe than communion on the tongue when seeking to avoid contamination.
But two rules leave the Catholic reader stunned. “The baptismal celebrations must be postponed to a later date.” And the one that immediately follows: “Wedding celebrations must be postponed to a later date.”
The first especially. Indeed, the Code of Canon Law of 1917 prescribes: “Infants should be baptized as soon as possible” (Can. 770). And the new 1983 Code says substantially the same thing. It prescribes that “parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized…as soon as possible after the birth or even before it, they are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child” (Can.867 §1).
A commentator on the 1983 code specifies that “the obligation to have children baptized as soon as possible is imprescriptible, because no reason exempts parents from this duty which is based on the need for this sacrament for the supernatural life and for salvation.”
It therefore seems that the bishops of Austria have the privilege of exempting what, by divine right, is imprescriptible in the Church. And, unfortunately, it also seems that they have lost sight of the supernatural life and the salvation of their flock, being themselves affected by a virus much more dangerous than SARS-CoV-2: the Second Vatican Council and its muddled modernism.
But they cannot prevent the Catholic faithful from conferring simple baptism on their children, or from finding a priest who prefers to obey God rather than man.
As for marriage, the rule seriously undermines the rights of future spouses. It is increasingly flawed. Indeed, Canon 1098 of the 1917 Code specifies that “if the pastor…or delegated priest who assists at marriage…cannot be had or cannot be present without grave inconvenience …marriage is contracted validly licitly in the presence only of witnesses…provided it is prudently foreseen that this condition will perdure for one month.” Canon 1116 of the New Code says the same.
And so, fiancés who have planned to get married in November, can do so in front of two witnesses in a perfectly lawful and valid way. What good, then, is this episcopal rule? And what lesson can the faithful deduce from this? Particularly as episcopates around the world are looking for solutions to avoid the privatization of worship and resorting to “virtual” solutions.
As Dr. Christian Spaemann rightly says: In Austria “people always go to work, always do their shopping, and are always allowed to meet in small groups. It is still possible to attend Mass every day…The implicit message contained in the episcopal regulations on the importance of baptism and marriage is problematic to say the least.”
The Austrian faithful will find it easy to decipher the implicit message: the relativity and the lapse of the sacraments of Jesus Christ, taught by their own bishops. A teaching that gravely opposes the faith of the Church.