Parishioners at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Kelmscott have been fleeing the flock over church leader Reverend Father Pavol Herda’s increasingly political messaging about the government’s response to COVID-19.
The Examiner understands that up to 100 former members of the church refuse to attend his services due to his ‘anti-mandate’ stance, with one describing his rants about the government response to COVID-19 as “crazy”.
Ex-members of the Kelmscott church told the Examiner they are sick of the messages coming from the Reverend, known to those around him as Father Paul, and say he is not doing his job as a priest.
The church’s website also carries instructions about how to keep parishioners safe from COVID-19.
In a Christmas Message to his community (full message – see page 20), Rev Fr Herda references the bible, the words of Jesus and Pope John Paul II, as well as the church document of Veritas Splendor, in a thinly veiled attack on government COVID-19 health measures.
“Coercion is not consent.
“Spiritual coercion is not consent.
“Emotional manipulation is not consent.
“Withholding employment is not consent.
“Limiting movement in daily life is not consent.
“Restricting travel is not consent.
All of our leaders should realise it,” the Christmas message reads.
But such sentiments are at odds with the Catholic Church’s official position.
A Church Spokesperson told The Examiner that there should be no doubt as to what the Catholic Church teaches in regards to government health advice relating to COVID-19.
“The position of the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth was clearly enunciated by Pope Francis, who indicated that it is “an act of love” to receive the vaccination in order to protect the common good and the health and well-being of our community,” a church spokesman told the Examiner.
“Archbishop Costello SDB has consistently stated and reaffirms his commitment that the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth will support, and comply with, all government directives and associated public health advice relating to Covid19.
“Catholics may or may not accept the official teaching of the Church in these matters, but there should be no doubt as to what the Church does actually teach in this regard,” the spokesperson said.
Since the arrival of COVID-19 in WA in early 2020, the Australian and Western Australian governments have sought to curb the spread of the virus through a range of community health directives, including lockdowns that restrict travel and vaccination mandates for selected industries and sites.
Earlier this week, Premier Mark McGowan announced the re-opening of the WA Border on February 5 – a decision experts warn will increase the prevalence of COVID-19 in WA.
Australian Medical Association (WA) President, Dr Mark Duncan-Smith, spoke to reporters last week.
“People in Western Australia need to understand the reduction in (border) restrictions in WA is not the end of COVID in Western Australia, it is just the beginning,” he said.
“Of the people that get admitted to the Intensive Care Unit in the eastern states of Australia, 95 per cent of them are unvaccinated.
“Of the people that get admitted to the intensive care unit, one third of them die.
“The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against COVID is to get vaccinated.
“We want people to be protected.
“The COVID vaccine is safe, it’s effective and it’s the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and your family from COVID,” he said.
The Examiner contacted Rev Fr Herda but he refused to comment.
Father Pavol Herda’s Christmas Message
“Freedom is a means to human excellence, to human happiness to the fulfilment of human destiny.
Freedom is the means by which exercising both our reason and our will, we act on the natural longing for truth, for goodness and for happiness that is built in us human beings.
The medieval Christian philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas helpfully distinguished between fear as an emotion and fear as a way of living.
Fear as a way of living stifles us and locks us into a prison of self-protection. We jealously protect our own safety and the safety of those closest to us.
We abandon those outside of our close circles, who are vulnerable and who are different from us, as “not our concern.”
Both of these ways of living — reckless disregard and stifling self-protection — are not centrally problems of fear. They are problems of love. Fearing well in the time of COVID-19 requires that we love well.
To love well in the face of fear, Aquinas says, is to be courageous.
To be courageous is not to run headlong into the face of danger with no regard for the consequences, nor to deny or dismiss fear.
Courage is not the opposite of fear. Rather, to be courageous is to rightly appraise danger and feel the weight of fear, and yet, even so, to stand firm and do what love requires.
It is hard to keep an open heart in the midst of overwhelming suffering.
Jesus encouraged us to persevere, not because the way would be easy, but because “the kingdom of God and his justice and truth” is worth loving, living and even dying for.
Commit yourself to this way of love, Jesus says, and you will find yourself equipped with what you need.
The global COVID pandemic has revealed many examples of human sin and smallness. But it is also revealing the beauty of you who stand courageously in the face of fear, because you love. You are witnesses and inspiration to the world.
Pope John Paul II famous slogan were Jesus words: Do not be afraid. The phrase do not be afraid is mentioned in the bible 365 times. That’s our daily reminder from God to live every day being fearless.
Coercion is not consent. Spiritual coercion is not consent. Emotional manipulation is not consent. Withholding employment is not consent. Limiting movement in daily life is not consent. Restricting travel is not consent.
According to church document of Veritatis Splendour, there is insistent demand that people be permitted to enjoy the use of their own responsible judgement and freedom and decide on their actions on grounds of duty and conscience without external pressure or coercion. In particular, the right to freedom and to respect for conscience on its journey towards truth is perceived as the foundation of the cumulative rights of the person. All of our leaders should realise it.