Monica Doumit: Twits multiply on Twitter

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Some in the twittersphere are attacking Archbishop Fisher by inventing or repeating false claims about his position on COVID vaccination. Nor do they appear to be constrained by troublesome little things like the truth. IMAGE: Mathew de Sousa

Twisting the truth sows doubts, confusion and division

Honestly, I’ve had just about enough.

On Monday of last week, just as I sat down to start the day, I received a message from a friend of mine, asking if Archbishop Fisher was planning to restrict the reception of Holy Communion to the double-vaccinated only. “He’d die before he did something like that,” was my reply. She responded again, telling me that it had been posted on a US-based Facebook page with close to 20,000 followers.

The post read:
“Pray for the Archbishop Anthony Fischer (sic) in the diocese (sic) of Sydney Australia. He is holding meetings with priests to talk about restricting Communion to only those who are vaccinated, WHILE refusing Communion to the unvaccinated… Pray for the Australian Priests that they can stand up to this evil…”

What a load of rubbish. I responded to the post – several times – commenting that I work for Archbishop Fisher and that the post was untrue and should be removed. In a style all too common for these types of social media pages, the site owner blocked me from commenting anymore (and even from being able to see the page.) He messaged me privately to say that he had two Sydney priests telling him it was true, and so he was sticking by the claim.

Utter rubbish.

As the day went on, the question kept arising, as more people saw the post and wanted to know if it was true. Good and faithful people, not only in the Archdiocese of Sydney but in other parts of Australia, bought in to the rumour as well.

I must have sounded like a broken record by the end of the day. “Does it sound true?” I kept asking. “Archbishop Anthony Fisher, of Sydney, with his courage and leadership and orthodoxy is going to limit the Sacraments only to the vaccinated. Does it sound even a little bit true?” Common sense seemed to be in shorter supply than toilet paper.

The week didn’t get much better.

On Wednesday, there was an article from Detroit-based media outlet Church Militant, reporting on a pastoral letter the Archbishop had written to Sydney clergy, urging them to be vaccinated so that their ministry – particularly in hospitals and aged care facilities – could continue uninterrupted. Church Militant described this as a backflip from the Archbishop, who last year petitioned the Federal Government to provide ethical alternatives to the AstraZeneca vaccine so as to not create an ethical dilemma for people.

“The division is causing so much harm, not only to the Church but to the mental health of so many individuals of faith …”

There was no such backflip. Accepting of the use of vaccines using the HEK-293 cell line and simultaneously pushing for alternatives is not only logically consistent, it is consistent with 2003 guidance from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith that remains unaffected by the COVID pandemic. But hey, what more would a Catholic Archbishop with a Doctorate in Bioethics who helped draft the CDF’s position know than a website citing two Sydney priests so ‘courageous’ that they go anonymously snivelling to Michael Voris and his friends?

That was Wednesday.

Friday gave us a similar hit piece from another US site, LifeSite News. This one nastily even suggested that the Bishops were being paid by the Government to encourage the vaccine, or at least being threatened with a withdrawal of funding from Catholic schools.

Utter rubbish. Utter defamatory rubbish, actually.

The problem with the take on vaccines being presented by commentators like these (and many other members of the Twitter Magisterium) is that they are making the issue of accepting any vaccine that uses foetal cell lines in its development or testing tantamount to accepting abortion.

They are treating it as the new ‘litmus test’ for Catholic orthodoxy. They equate being vaccinated or encouraging others to do so as participating in abortion, even though the Church has made it clear that this is not the case. They do so because they like to think of themselves as being more Catholic than this (or any) Pope.

“This deliberate turning of the faithful against the bishops has to stop.”

They build on people’s frustration over vaccine coercion, lockdowns and church closures and turn them against their bishops. They entice people with the idea that because the Bishops did not defy public health orders that required places of worship to remain closed while people were free to go to the supermarket, or didn’t make a bigger public fuss over the labelling of religious worship as ‘non-essential,’ that they have abandoned the faithful, and the vaccine is just the next step.

[For the record, just because the Bishops aren’t running a public campaign doesn’t mean they have acquiesced to the governmental requirements without making representations on behalf of the faithful. Nothing could be further from the truth!]

This deliberate turning of the faithful against the bishops has to stop. The division is causing so much harm, not only to the Church but to the mental health of so many individuals of faith who are just trying to do the right thing.

I hear every day from people who are turning themselves inside out over the vaccine decision, losing their sleep and their minds, because they have been drawn into the idea that taking it is a great moral evil, or not taking it is a great moral evil (depending on which site they are reading at the time.) COVID has made them so crazy that they are literally believing anything.

I’m not saying that the way the bishops have responded to the pandemic is beyond criticism; you can disagree with the bishops all you like. And I honestly don’t care where you stand on vaccination. I know good and faithful pro-life Catholics who have been vaccinated, and I know good and faithful pro-life Catholics who have not been.

But we need to stop letting it be a cause of disunity amongst the faithful, and a weapon with which to attack the bishops or each other. This latest lockdown has left our community far too divided already. Can we please not let it divide the Church as well?

Related:

Faith amid the Pandemic