American Orthodox Bishops Deceived by COVID - Accept it and Move On

Originally appeared at: Orthodox Reflections

In early June 2020, multiple contributors to the brand-new Orthodox Reflections blog emailed their bishops to ask the most important question in our minds at the time – what will it take to get back to normal parish life? Our concern, even back then, was that Orthodox Bishops would blindly follow public “health” officials / politicians in keeping some parishes closed and others reopened but with a badly crippled liturgical life. Here is part of one letter:

My family wants to return to Divine Liturgy the way it was and the way it should be. To that end, I would like to ask, on behalf of all Orthodox Christians in the United States, what will it take to end these changes to the practice of the Orthodox Faith?

My fear, like many Americans, is that “temporary” measures taken in a crisis often long outlive that crisis. Many of your faithful look at these draconian measures, which are far out of proportion to the actual threat of this virus, and we fear the worst. As a shepherd to his flock, please tell us, what are the criteria for resuming normal Orthodox life? There must be some, or else how can we ever get back to the real normal?

Your Eminence, please understand that these changes to the practice of the faith will cause parishioners to leave. Potential catechumens will never enter the Church. Most of those who leave will never reach out to you or even to the local priest. They will simply vanish. Their souls will be tragic casualties not of the virus, but of the reaction to it. Please do not let that happen to your flock. Communicate to us, clearly and succinctly, how we get back to authenticate parish life. Give us hope, Your Eminence, as you are the only one who can.

We got some responses from some hierarchs (mostly auxiliary bishops), but no real guidance on what the hierarchs were thinking about how to get back to normal. We were basically told to shut up and get in line with the official narrative. Some priests did tell us that this was, obviously, going to be a temporary situation and to calm down. Just how temporary, no one could say, nor could anyone say how we would know that the need for all this was over. To our knowledge, none of the bishops ever did draft any guidelines as to what metrics would be used to assess for ourselves the safety (or lack thereof) of how we conduct our own worship services.

Since March 2020, the Orthodox Faithful have been treated to months of sermons, press releases videos, and other communications from the bishops that sounded like quotes from a Dr. Fauci interview. Wear a mask. Social distance. If parishes are closed, then put a positive spin on it and obey the authorities. Don’t resist, not even to file or assist in a lawsuit defending constitutional freedom of religion. Roman Catholics and protestants do that, not us Orthodox.

Be afraid, the virus is real and it is a danger to all the vulnerable. Christ loves the least of these, so we must do whatever we are told to protect them. If we don’t follow the rules, we are literally trying to kill grandma. In many places, the bishops actually went above and beyond the local regulations. More than a few bishops ordered masks in all their parishes, even those located where there were no mask orders. Multiple spoons appeared at communion, even as bishops proclaimed that the Holy Eucharist could not be a source of contagion.

Within months of the start of the “pandemic,” it became apparent that asymptomatic spread was not a thing, the virus was much less deadly than feared, masks were useless at best / severely harmful at worst, social distancing was not working, and lockdowns did not save lives overall. Lockdowns merely traded some lives for others, while destroying our future as a civilization. Yet, no matter the evidence, most bishops did nothing but continue to counsel us to follow illogical directives that appeared to be no more than politically motivated pseudo-science. As the situation wore on and 15 days to flatten the curve became hundreds of days in a waking nightmare, the patience of many of the Faithful grew thin. On our own blog, we went from begging the bishops to stand up for the Faith and the Faithful to eventually criticizing them for their failure to do so.

In every article, we presented data showing the measures taken against COVID were causing harm and were not even remotely cost effective for a virus with such a low mortality rate. Even so, every article was met with at least some pushback, often from priests, and we were more than once accused of wanting people to die. Over time, we noticed that the bishops and clergy were engaging in hypocritical behavior (along with politicians and journalists) in terms of violating mask orders, travel restrictions, and other COVID measures. We called that out, because it meant that at some level more than a few bishops and clergy already understood that the relentless negativity of the press and public health officials was unwarranted.

Since nothing seemed to change on the ground, we eventually speculated on whether or not at least the Greek Archdiocese was intentionally harming the Church to further The Great Reset which is the latest project from the New World Order.  It just didn’t make sense that bishops, despite all the evidence to the contrary, would continue to speak about COVID as if the Black Plague were upon us, and only a bandana over our nose at Liturgy could keep it at bay. Still, nefarious possibilities aside, up till now one could plausibly give some of the bishops the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, just maybe, they really believed we were all on the verge of mass death.

But now, that is over. As of January 2021 and the inauguration of Joe Biden, any bishop who doesn’t immediately realize he has been played is either willfully ignorant or is intentionally cooperating for some purpose.

For months, New York governor Andrew Cuomo kept the state in strict lockdown even as thousands of restaurants and other businesses failed. He threatened massive fines, tried to limit holiday gatherings, and even curtailed freedom of worship.  But on January 11th, as part of the run-up to Joe Biden’s inauguration, Andrew Cuomo walked all of that back in this Tweet:

Coronavirus has not left the state of New York. In fact, the state set a record high for cases just three days before Cuomo’s tweet, with deaths rising as well. But suddenly, it is time to get back to work and even open indoor dining. Nor was Cuomo alone. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced plans to reopen the city’s bars and restaurants for indoor dining, even though Illinois’ daily load of coronavirus is far higher than last Spring. If you recall, that was when Mayor Lightfoot held back the city from reopening, even though cases were far lower back then than they are today. Two days after Biden was inaugurated, DC lifted its ban on indoor dining.

A week before the inauguration, Newsweek ran a story entitled COVID Lockdowns May Have No Clear Benefit vs Other Voluntary Measures, International Study Shows. We have quoted other studies that have been available for months showing quite clearly – lockdowns do not work. But those previous studies were largely ignored. This time, in January 2021, the conclusion of a new study comparing case growth in 10 countries got widely reported: “no clear, significant beneficial effect of [more restrictive measures] on case growth in any country.”

Anyone paying attention could have seen this by comparing Florida, which is practically wide-open, to California which is among the most restrictive states.

But wait, there is more! The single biggest driver of panic during the “pandemic” has been ever climbing numbers of “cases.” These cases were diagnosed on the basis of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. These tests take samples and then amplify them repeatedly in a process called “cycle thresholds.” The higher the number of cycles, the greater the likelihood of a false positive as the initial viral load in the sample was likely too tiny to really indicate an active infection. Labs in the United States have been using a Ct of 37-40, which even months ago many epidemiologists warned was too high. Already in Fall of 2020, the New York Times report noted the CDC’s own data suggested the PCR did not detect live virus over a Ct of 33. There is the possibility, in fact, that over 97% of the testing is inaccurate as a result of the high Ct count. The false positives were making the “pandemic” appear much worse than it is. The reporter also noted that clinicians were not receiving the Ct value as part of the test results. There was no way to really know who was infectious and who was not.

Yet PCR test instructions from the CDC continued to specify use of a Ct 40 up through December 2020. Then literally one hour after Biden was sworn in, the WHO admitted that PCR testing at high amplification rates alters the predictive value of the tests and results in a huge number of false positives. The WHO went on to admit:

Most PCR assays are indicated as an aid for diagnosis, therefore, health care providers must consider any result in combination with timing of sampling, specimen type, assay specifics, clinical observations, patient history, confirmed status of any contacts, and epidemiological information.

A positive PCR test in the absence of symptoms means nothing at a Ct of higher than 30, but it is precisely that number of “cases” that major media obsessed over. It is also on the basis on these tests that deaths get attributed to COVID, even if the deceased had nothing more than dead viral fragments in the nostrils.

Remember CNN and other news channels used to show the grim statistics of cases and deaths all day? Well that all ended the first full day Biden was president.

CNN was not the only media outlet to suddenly stop caring about cases and the over 400,000 Americans that died “with” COVID or “from” COVID or maybe just “around” COVID. Look at how just a couple days made all the difference in NPR’s coverage:

If we had predicted how swiftly things would change as a result of Biden coming into office, we would have been pilloried as conspiracy theorists. Yet, here we are and the month of January is still not even over.

So what now? With a lower Ct, we can expect case numbers to plummet and deaths right along with them. Since everything won’t be labeled COVID, the Flu should make its reappearance. The politicians and public health experts will probably declare their methods a success, and the economy should start to improve. Too little, too late of course for the hundreds of thousands of businesses that will never reopen, but the establishment is banking on enough of a rebound that most Americans will move on. Until the next politically useful crisis, that is..

Masks and certain other measures are likely to stick around a long, long time. Only when the people finally simply stop abiding by them will they go away, if history is any guide.

We were scammed, and now the proof is in front of our eyes that this was politically motivated. Hurt the economy, justify mail-in ballots, defeat the Orange Man Bad. Of course, there was more to it than just Trump. Globally, local factors also fed the hysterical reaction to a rather mild virus.

Regardless of how and why we got here, the important thing, as Orthodox Christians, is to repent of our folly and move on.

The bishops, clergy, and the various parish-level COVID Karens need to recognize that there is no need to close parishes, limit attendance, or change in any way the practice of the Faith. It is time to open up completely and to draft our own policies, separate from the government, for dealing with any future health “crisis.” If we merely do whatever we are told, then we open the door to the government closing or constraining our parishes for any reason that seems good to those in charge. And there are a lot of very bad reasons that could be used.

It can be hard to admit that you got suckered as all of us were, to a greater or lesser degree. But it is even worse to double-down on a bad hand because you refuse to admit you were wrong. Glory to God that this was all overblown, and we really were not facing the Black Plague.

Now, let’s prepare for Lent!

Nicholas – member of the  Western Rite Vicariate, a part of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese in America, a COVID refugee from the Greek Archdiocese

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