An old joke goes all the way back to the early days of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. A young man is stopped by a partisan at a checkpoint in the road. The partisan demands to know what religion the young man is. “I’m an atheist,” he responds. “Sure ya are,” the partisan says, “but are ya a Catholic or a Protestant atheist?”
For my part I’m a Protestant agnostic. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of my identification as a WASP with a P for Protestant. Both Catholics and Protestants have much to answer for, such as the Spanish Inquisition and a Borgia Pope in the case of the former and the virulent antisemitism of Luther and brutality of Henry VIII in the case of the latter. And I don’t identify with atheists because to me they are too much like a religion with their own peculiar dogma.
So I want to make it clear I am not attacking Catholics per se. I am, however, taking emphatic exception to one Catholic in particular, Cardinal Raymond Burke. Burke is a friend of Steve Bannon and a venomous anti-vaxxer. He’s so confident about his position on vaccination and his faith that God will protect him that he goes maskless in Rome where he lives and whenever he tours the United States. Recently while visiting Wisconsin he tested positive for COVID-19. He is now on a ventilator. God, it would appear, has a sense of humor.
“Doctors are encouraged by his progress,” the cardinal’s official Twitter account announces, paying ostensible lip service to the efficacy of the medical
profession after all. Then with a sudden U-Turn the tweet asks supporters to “pray the Rosary for him.” It appears the Cardinal can’t make up his mind and has decided to hedge his bets. The Cardinal will not say if he’s been vaccinated yet. I suppose that means he probably has.
But the other more embarrassing paradox many anti-vaxxers often face is that many of them get sick and some of them die. I do not wish death to come to the 73 year old Cardinal, but I do hope he finally shuts his stupid, ignorant and dangerous mouth. He has loudly and self-righteously declaimed against mask-wearing and vaccinations, now both have come back to bite him on his red tail feathers.
Burke has spread his share of stupid propaganda, finding trouble where none exists. “It must be clear,” Burke once contended, “that vaccination itself cannot be imposed in a totalitarian manner on citizens.” It’s not. No one has said it should be. So what exactly is your problem, your Eminence?
But the stupidity doesn’t stop there. Burke also said vaccines had been developed “through the use of the cell lines of aborted fetuses.” No they haven’t been. He also said that “a kind of microchip needs to be placed under the skin of every person, so that any moment he or she can be controlled by the state regarding health and about other matters which we can only imagine.”
First of all, no microchip is involved in the vaccination. The idea that a microchip is being transmitted through the syringe in COVID vaccinations is so stupid that it’s hard to believe any sane person could possibly believe it. Hundreds of millions of doses of COVID vaccines have been distributed worldwide. It would be a simple matter for anyone to get hold of one and examine the contents for the presence of a microchip. Why can’t people think?
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) transponders can be administered through a syringe needle allowing for what is known as “near field communication.” That is how pets are microchipped. But these sorts of microchips are not so small that you wouldn’t see them in a vaccine with your naked eye. They would also show up in X-rays. Such standalone embedded microchip devices can only be tracked using a reader that is close to the human body, not more than 10cm away. They cannot be used to “control” people. That technology doesn’t exist.
Why this ignorance being spread by an officer of the Catholic Church doesn’t get him excommunicated might also explain why the Catholic Church protects child rapists. When it comes to sin they turn a blind eye when the sin is committed by one of their own. As sins go you might even say that in his anti-vaxxer conspiracy-mongering capacity Burke has committed a cardinal sin. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.