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When a bishop discourages baptism....

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 19, 2021

“Baptisms should be discouraged…” says Bishop Ronald Fabro of London, Ontario. He’s responding to the latest draconian lockdown orders, of course; he doesn’t intend that baptisms should be permanently discouraged.

At least I don’t think he intends to discourage baptisms for any considerable length of time. But tell me: What other result could this order possibly produce? If you think that it’s acceptable to discourage baptisms for now, how can you expect a sense of urgency when, eventually, politicians give the all-clear signal, and you decide to encourage baptisms again?

Or let me ask the question a different way. If a bishop of the Catholic Church begins the sentence that way—“Baptisms should be discouraged…”—what would be an appropriate way to end the sentence?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” says the Lord. In my translation, that verse does not end with an escape clause: “… unless it’s inconvenient this week.”

So whose advice should you follow? Whose orders should you obey? Jesus Christ, or Premier Ford? Jesus Christ, or Bishop Fabbro?

“Confessions should be discouraged…” as well, Bishop Fabbro adds. So there’s another sacrament put on hold. And Mass should not be celebrated for a congregation, although the Eucharistic liturgy may be livestreamed (with a lector and an “instrumentalist” and a cantor, but nobody in the pews).

I don’t want to exaggerate. The bishop does allow for the possibility of a sacramental confession “if the pastor determines a serious need.” Now tell me, how does the pastor determine whether a “serious need” for confession exists, unless he interviews the penitent beforehand for a sneak preview of his sins?

Parish offices are closed in the London diocese, effective today, by the bishop’s order. But wait: “Halls may be opened only for essential social and mental health services (e.g., addiction services, blood-donor clinics, child care.)” Ah, so those services are essential, but the sacraments of the Church are not?

“Restrictions imposed by the government are to be followed,” Bishop Fabbro intones. If that principle had guided the Catholic Church since Pentecost…there wouldn’t be a Catholic Church.

These instructions from Bishop Fabbro contrast quite starkly with a line from my forthcoming book, Contagious Faith: “When should the Catholic Church bow to orders from the state? I offer a simple answer to that question: Never.“

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: christosvoskresye5324 - Apr. 22, 2021 9:03 PM ET USA

    "If a bishop of the Catholic Church begins the sentence that way—'Baptisms should be discouraged…'—what would be an appropriate way to end the sentence?" Technically, a good answer would be "if the candidate has no reasonable chance to be formed in the Faith." There are certainly households where that would apply. I still prefer, however, "over my dead body."

  • Posted by: Cory - Apr. 22, 2021 7:34 AM ET USA

    Sadly Phil you are right again.

  • Posted by: [email protected] - Apr. 22, 2021 12:37 AM ET USA

    Agree strongly that the Church shouldn't bow to the state even when they claim it is for health reasons. Given that this government as well as the Canadian government lie and particularly during this "pandemic" the Church should use its own moral common sense. Look at number of CDC, FDA Fauci changes and most contradictory.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Apr. 20, 2021 6:22 PM ET USA

    Let me encourage the bishop to read his colleague, Bishop Strickland's, latest book, Light & Leaven, where he reteaches what a bishop should do.

  • Posted by: nix898049 - Apr. 20, 2021 11:47 AM ET USA

    When? NEVER. Period. Thank you, Phil. I just ordered your book.

  • Posted by: feedback - Apr. 20, 2021 7:51 AM ET USA

    Perhaps being regularly and directly involved in ministering to the sick and the dying would help many bishops like Ronald Fabro realize the proper priority and value of the Sacraments. Every life comes to an end, however, the government's newest regulations are not as important to Catholics, especially on their death beds, as are the Sacraments of the Church.