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Our Lady of Public Health
An Augustinian Response to the Public Health Revolution, Part 1
La fête de la raison à Notre-Dame de Paris, Charles-Louis Müller (1878) or, for present purposes, La fête de sa trahison.
The following essay, which will appear in five parts, is the expanded version of a presentation on 25 May 2023 to the Hale Institute in Moscow, Idaho, where I had the privilege of participating in a symposium with top-notch medical, legal, and theological minds from across America on the topic of Health and the State. Neither the Institute nor the other participants are responsible, beyond the friendly hearing they gave me, for what was said there or is written here. The reader will notice that, unusually for this site, I have resorted to endnotes, since I've more to say than the main text will bear.
In AD 427, three years before his death, Augustine delivered the complete manuscript of The City of God to his publisher in Carthage. He had begun it some fifteen years earlier, shortly after the sack of Rome by Alaric in 410. It was, inter alia, a response to those who laid the blame for the collapse of the western empire at the feet of Christianity. The gods, they said, were angry at the defection of many to this new religion and had abandoned the city.
Augustine was having none of it. He would make reply. He intended to show that the weakness of the Roman people could be traced back to the gods they had long worshiped. It was a moral weakness, and the habits of a corrupt religion, that had rendered them defenceless before the barbarians. As for Christians, they too had been weak. They had not corrected or rebuked their neighbours while there was still time, because they cared more about their own social standing than about their neighbour's need for the truth.
I've been thinking about our own situation in this light. Hordes of ideologues, well financed by wealthy industrialists, have gone forth to pillage or to conquer. They are passing through the land leaving devastation in their wake. They have sacked schools, hospitals, houses of parliament, even churches, and led riots in our streets. Why have we proved so vulnerable to their assaults?
Our vulnerability has a cause, our weakness an explanation. Surely it, too, can be put down to false gods and to compromises with those who worship false gods. To Mammon, naturally, and Power, who as gods go are highly durable. Sex, too, and Entertainment. But now also Science and Safety and Public Health, that messenger of the gods who speaks for them all. She was recently heard saying (soberly enough, though according to her sibyls a certain Dr Fauci was heard sniggering) something like this:
When revering Sex, see to your attire; wear a mask as well as a condom. Entering the temple of Entertainment, however, even to pray, is forbidden until Mammon has properly rewarded Pharma for appeasing the wrath of Pandemic. Rumours of an incestuous liaison between the Net-Zero gods, Covid and Carbon, shall not be discussed among you, for all the affairs of the gods are holy. You may consult the Unknown God, WHO, as need be, but do not pry into matters too great for you lest Censor rebuke you. Just follow Science. There you will also find Safety, whom you crave.
Who knew that we were so morally and intellectually emaciated, so spiritually exhausted, that we would receive her counsel gladly? That even Christian bishops would bow and scrape and do homage? Who knew that we were so given to Fear, and so desperate for Safety, that we could not even rouse ourselves to follow the Mammon instead of the Science? That we would welcome Censor, who descended upon us with hosts of heavenly fact-checkers whenever we looked like straying?
We took no offence when the priests and priestesses of Public Health, having forbidden observance of the first great commandment, presumed to instruct us in the second, through many parables and holy riddles. "Love thy neighbour," we learned, meant keeping well away from him, particularly if he were dying in a ditch or an LTC facility.1 Then it meant getting the shot, and getting it again and again, as a libation for Safe and Effective. It meant meticulous observance of Public Health liturgies and para-liturgies, even to assiduous pew scrubbing. It meant hating those who did not so love and exchanging our baptismal certificates for QR codes. It meant a society over which Power could reign supreme; for Power, or Emergency Power to give him his full name, heads the new pantheon, as he headed the old.
But even as Christians were thus prostrating themselves before Public Health and burning their pinch of incense to Power, they themselves were being blamed—this time not for the collapse of Western civilization but for its very existence. That was rather a paradox, though the explanation is really quite simple. For all their folly and compromise, Christians remained an impediment to the havoc and destruction being wreaked by gods still angry about their defection. Gods, though promiscuous, have long memories and hold grudges. They are determined to tear down what remains of Christendom and to restore their former dominion; indeed, to build back better. Pandemic was interrupted by outbursts from Racism and Colonialism for that very reason. The former served Power well enough by taking advantage of Chaos, but the latter roused Condemnation, who was still more useful. Churches could now be burned or vandalized with impunity. The last laugh would belong to Julian, not Theodosius.
It is worth recalling here, from the first book of The City of God, that Augustine makes much of the fact that pagans in Rome, when Alaric arrived, took refuge in Christian churches, in shrines to the martyrs who in earlier centuries had died at Roman hands. They were permitted by the invaders to do so, for Alaric's army, being of Arian background, did not desecrate these places. Yet this did not prevent surviving pagans from attacking those to whose sanctuaries they had fled for protection. There is a similar irony today, is there not? Today's neo-pagan, who attacks Christian institutions with abandon, desecrating whatever he can, even the hospices, is not (or not first of all) the mere hooligan. He is the intellectual or public figure or businessman who first fosters his own interests, career, and reputation in those same institutions and hopes to conclude them there.
I don't wish to make too much of that, however, but rather to observe what a recent namesake of Augustine's, the twentieth-century philosopher Augusto Del Noce, observed; namely, that a concerted attack is under way, coordinated by the captains of industry and of the state, not only on our civilization and on our churches, but on human nature itself. This time, in other words, it's a fight to the finish. The gods have lost patience. The sooner we realize that, the better. If we have any thought of delivering an answer while it still matters, it must be an answer that, like Augustine's, defends man as such and not Christian men only.
Del Noce saw this attack as focused on the human capacity for transcendence. Its success was visible in the rule of scientism, eroticism, and secularism, even to the secularization of theology itself, through which the churches were invaded, enervated, and finally, as in the profanation of Notre Dame in 1793, desecrated.2 Such are the forms immanentism takes in the modern world, with its materialist mindset; in the churches, too, when some permutation of Theophilanthropy takes hold.3 Such also are the conditions of what we may call the Public Health revolution, on which I will elaborate before returning to the business of giving answer.4
What is the Public Health revolution?
Health, construed in Augustinian terms, is wholeness or integrity—nothing missing or intruding, nothing misplaced or malfunctioning. The healthy person is rightly ordered and to that extent at peace. His rational soul obeys God and his body in turn obeys his soul. The whole man functions as a man was made to function. This harmony has its analogue in the family, ordained by God as the school of personhood, when parents follow and obey their heavenly Father and their children follow and obey them.5 It has its analogue in the polis or republic as well, when just commands are issued for the common good by those with genuine authority (for which justice, on some level, is the sine qua non) and when these are obeyed by loyal subjects, such that worthy objects of love bind the community together in pursuit of noble goals. Here it is possible to speak meaningfully of public health, referencing those regulations and exhortations directed to the bodily flourishing of as many citizens as possible, for the sake of things still more important.
But "health" no longer has this meaning. Indeed, it can have no fixed meaning at all where there is no human nature in view. Or rather, it can have any meaning we choose to give it. For where there is no nature, there can be no wholeness or lack of wholeness, no ordination to a proper and particular good. It is not the good of the whole person that comes into focus—the good of "the rational soul with a body in its service," as Augustine says in his anti-Manichaean work, De Moribus—but rather some fragmentary good, such as freedom from pain. Gone is the notion that health requires both medicine (whatever pertains to the good of the body) and discipline (whatever makes for the good of the soul), the former being ordered to the latter. That Augustinian principle is elided by the materialist, who refuses to take the soul into account.6
This helps to explain certain phenomena we have been witnessing of late: an inordinate fear of pain—focused exclusively on temporal pain, of course, quite thoughtless of the pains of hell—and with it the advance of euthanasia regimes, which are expanded to wider and wider categories of pain; the reduction of medicine to serial masking of pain, to "medicating" or drugging, with the pharmaceutical industry—an industry that creates still more pain through cultivation of opioid use, for example—as its main engine; the computerization of medicine, such that modeling and statistical analysis performed by machines intervenes between doctor and patient, whose relationship is increasingly subjected to economies of scale and to de-personalizing procedures.
Such developments, whatever the residual good in them, tend inevitably to the politicization of medicine and, conversely, to the medicalizing of politics, which becomes a public competition for the power to prevent or alleviate pain and the credit for doing so, or seeming to do so. The conditions are ripe for the Public Health revolution, through which many of the functions of government are assumed by a bureaucracy devoted to such prevention or alleviation rather than to sound decisions in their proper spheres.
That revolution, however, renders the collective pursuit of health subservient to extrinsic goals, first and foremost among which are the private financial goals of those who invest in medicine. Both medicine and discipline are displaced by advertising—that is, by propaganda—which in turn makes possible the adoption of preventive measures or putative cures that are plainly worse than the contemplated diseases. The invention of fictitious diseases, and of mitigation strategies that run directly counter to good health, follows.
While we have known this for some time, the last few years have revealed that Public Health bureaucracies, and medicine's own professional bodies, have been compromised to a quite shocking degree. Regulatory capture is all but complete, as the otherwise inexplicable approval or disapproval of covid therapies demonstrates. Offices and associations created in the public interest have become fronts for ruthless and powerful people; that is, for private corporations and for denizens of the deep state, working their own agendas. The military focus having shifted from mechanized and nuclear weaponry to bio- and cyber-weaponry, intelligence organizations and indeed the whole military-industrial complex now have a large stake in the Public Health revolution, and are among its chief drivers and enforcers.7
All bureaucracies groan under the weight of petty ambitions belonging to the bureaucrats themselves, to say nothing of their "groupthink" capacity for incompetence. But in Public Health things have gone far beyond that. Even Britain's Hancock files8 or the Fauci/Collins/Walenski revelations in America get nowhere near the bottom of it. A new world order is being created by manipulation and coercion, by fraud and by force. It is a contested order, yes, and therefore an imperfect order. Those creating it are playing multiple games of three-dimensional chess, winning some and losing others. Who will emerge victorious? We can only watch. It is manifest, however, to anyone watching closely, that the stakes are extremely high and that the gods themselves are at the table. It is also manifest that they all cheat.
Take "pandemic," for example. The word used to refer to the historically rare outbreak of a pathogen that was both highly transmissible and a severe threat to the general population. In 2009, the severity criterion was quietly dropped. Thus pandemics could be proclaimed more often and emergency powers deployed more broadly.9 A decade later, as COVID-19 arrived, the old playbook for dealing with emergencies was tossed out. The public was not calmed, as it should be. Fear and alarm were deliberately cultivated through fifth-generation warfare. The official strategy shifted from protecting the vulnerable to eliminating the threat altogether, something strictly impossible with a respiratory virus; and, because impossible, inviting the most draconian—hitherto unthinkably draconian—measures.
The definition of herd immunity was also changed, making it contingent on vaccination rather than on the natural immune system. The vaccines were not vaccines, of course, but experiments in genetic tinkering advanced under Emergency Use Authorization. They had to be called vaccines, however, so as to associate them with the sterilizing effect of vaccines, an effect they did not have and for which they were not designed or tested. Alternatives—tried and true life-saving alternatives—were suppressed for the sake of the EUA and for greater uptake of the mRNA products. Later, to rationalize the mislabeling, the definition of "vaccine" would itself be modified.10
All of this, while producing enormous profits for players at the table and their financial backers, allowed for a massive experiment in social control to be conducted, beginning with lockdowns; which prepared the way for vaccine mandates and the introduction of those health passports that Western powers (especially those of the European Union) had called for in advance. The latter were the proximate goal of the new pandemic planning and execution. Conformity to preferred narratives and to Public Health decrees would henceforth be monitored as a condition for liberty of movement and participation in public life.
The new digital identities and digital monetary system, also in preparation before covid and being rolled out hard on its heels, represent the next phase of the experiment. In other words, pandemic accomplishments—which saw medicine, education, law and law enforcement, the economy, the travel industry, the means of social communication, and even religion all delivered over to Public Health for some three years—were the precursor to a more permanent coup. The question asked already in early 2020, "Health Emergency or Seizure of Power?", was clearly the right question.11
The Public Health revolution does not reduce, as some would like to think, to a mixture of financial corruption, bureaucratic mission creep, and medical bungling. Calling Public Health back to basics, then, though a necessary response, is not a sufficient one.12 Effective resistance, through civic, political, and legal action, must carry the fight back into those spheres where it began. Reining in Our Lady of Public Health means restraining our men of private wealth. It also means attending less to the state of our health, or of our decaying health services, than to the health of our states. For the latter are under sustained assault by the former.13
© D. B. Farrow 2023
Read Part 2
The essays comprised by The Crisis of Modernity (ed. and trans. Carlo Lencellotti, McGill-Queens 2014) regularly return to this triumvirate, Scientism, Eroticism, and Secularization, which supplies a tidier and more sober list of our immanent deities than I did a moment ago while indulging, rather more clumsily, the kind of sarcasm Augustine himself sometimes indulged.
Theophilanthropy, to maintain religious trappings, affirmed "the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, a morality based on self-interest, solidarity and tolerance—in fact the teaching of Rousseau in dogmatic form": thus H. Daniel-Rops, The Church in an Age of Revolution, 1789–1870 (J.M. Dent 1965), 52; cf. 68ff.. Though the admission is ominous, I think we must concede that the description fits much of today's Church.
Del Noce, I dare say, would quickly see that the Public Health revolution is very like the sexual revolution that preceded it, to which he attached no small importance. Both are directed to the destruction of religious authority and the waning of religious aspiration. Both represent an inverted gnosticism. The one is libertine, the other rigourist, but each drives a wedge between body and soul. Where they differ from ancient gnosticism is that they are forms of materialism rather than of spiritualism. They prefer body to soul. But, as we shall discover, they lead right back to a perverse spiritualism.
See Eph. 3:14ff. See further a brief address I gave at a U.N.-related event in honour of the beatification of John Paul II, published in First Things as "The Dignifying Family." Augustine presents the reverse side of this coin at Civ. 19.5.
For a more expansive account of this, see my "Reckoning with the Last Enemy," in Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics (Springer 2018, doi.org/10.1007/s11017-018-9437-0).
It is well known that the Department of Defence ran America's covid countermeasures, including distribution of the mRNA products. Moreover, the co-called censorship-industrial complex remains primarily, though not exclusively, a military-industrial complex. (For a fuller picture of its evolution, see Jacob Siegel's "A Guide to Understanding the Hoax of the Century: Thirteen ways of looking at disinformation," Tablet, 28 March 2023; cf. Debbie Lerman at Brownstone.) But see further n. 13 below.
The severity criterion reappears in the proposed pandemic treaty (WHO CA+) at par. 1.b, but par. 1.e, which references pathogens "with pandemic potential," may well be used to negate the criterion in question.
Vaccination was once "the act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease." After the militarized rollout of the genetic therapies that for legal purposes remained merely "countermeasures"—a vague category requiring no demonstration of safety or effectiveness—the CDC redefined a vaccine as "a preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases." Now, that is a very loose definition indeed, arguably applicable to one of my own favourite countermeasures, a pint of Guinness, as I pointed out in "Vaccinate, fools, vaccinate!" (August 2022).
See Kees van der Pijl, "Health Emergency or Seizure of Power? The Political Economy of Covid-19" (new coldwar.org, April 2020) and, of course, the work of Giorgio Agamben, collected in Where are we now? The Epidemic as Politics (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021). See also my essay, "The Emerging Nowa Huta" (August 2021) and others that appear on my Academia or SubStack pages. Covid, I still contend, was for the vaccines, not the vaccines for covid, and the vaccines were chiefly for the passports. A more complex analysis, taking account of other variables, including things that happened quite by chance, is certainly possible and indeed necessary; but it is impossible, in my opinion, to maintain that covid was merely an accident to which the mRNA products were the handiest response, and that all else was either bungling or bureaucratic overkill.
The Great Barrington Declaration (April 2020), for example, attempted to do that, as does the Hillsdale "Statement on the Ethical Principles of Public Health" (August 2022). Conspiracies to suppress such statements, and to cancel their authors, only lend weight to the claims made in the previous note.
For greater certainty: I think those who have fingered military intelligence as the main culprit, at least in the covid fiasco, right on some level. If one cannot easily explain the failures of the Public Health bureaucracy strictly on its own terms, however, neither can they be explained exclusively in military terms. My earlier essays, "America's War" (December 2022) and “Public Impoverishment, Private Wealth” (February 2023), triangulate what will be said here, especially in Part 2.