When reading history the times that make me squirm the most are when the Pope passed an interdict on a city or even a whole country. Under the corrupt rule of King John (Plantagenet) things got so bad that the entire country was put under an interdict. The people were denied the Sacraments. The babies were not baptised, Mass was not said and the Sacraments of the Sick were not given. I cannot begin to imagine the loss, the feeling of being orphaned that the people bent under such a ruling must have suffered as they were thrown into a spiritual desert. It seems, on first reading, that the Holy Father of that time, or at other times was cruel indeed.
But then Scripture warns us that God too will cause an interdict of the people if we so choose. If we can’t be bothered with God, finding other things in life more interesting, more useful or just more relaxing, then He will leave us to it. He doesn’t force Himself on us.
The consequences of abandoning His way happens naturally. So we contracept and abort away our children and find we are short of priests and religious, and even those traditional lay people who cared for the parish. We have made those few children that got past the barriers into princes and princesses so they don’t know how to serve. We have made vocations into professions and undermined the meaning of the word vocation.
Now we see our priests working overtime to run more than one parish, and sick priests being run into the ground as there is no one to take over from them.
We are supposed to learn from this, just as Israel was supposed to learn from the diaspora and their being removed from the Temple liturgy. Israel did learn and she was taken back to the Promised Land and allowed to rebuild the Temple – although not so grandly as Solomon had done. She went back to her liturgy and was blessed.
I don’t think I am being overly optimistic when I say I see some signs that we are coming out of our exile and that God will allow us to rebuild our liturgy and worship Him in freedom, ‘freed from the hands of our enemies in uprightness before Him’. But we still have a very, very long way to go and must face the growing persecutions across the world and the real possibility that in the Western world we may bring an inderdict on ourselves.