From a reader…
Our sun is waking up. One sunspot let loose half a dozen flares ranging from C-class to M-class over the weekend. Our magnetic shields are weak and getting weaker. Barring Divine intervention, it’s only a matter of time before the next Carrington event sends us back to a world lit only by flame.
In thinking about this recently, I wondered, given the direct role that the Holy Father plays in appointing bishops around the world, what would happen in the event of a sudden and prolonged interruption of international communication?
Given the age and general location (densely populated urban areas) of most of our bishops, I’d imagine many dioceses and eparchies would very quickly find themselves sede vacante. Are there any canonical provisions for appointing or consecrating bishops without the input of the Holy See in our ultramontanist Church of the 21st century?
Bishops, for all their human failings, seem kind of important for the continuation of the Church in a given area. Is anyone in the hierarchy tasked with thinking about this, or will we be caught as offguards as the rest of the world in preparing for this event?
What you are talking about with a new Carrington Event is damn scary, given our global lack of preparedness.
For those who are not in the know, the adjective “ultramontanist” refers to the tendency to place huge importance on the person of the Pope, to centralize all authority in Rome, and to subordinate all local Churches to the Pope and Rome to a high degree. There was a sharp uptick in ultramontanist attitudes after the First Vatican Council and the decrees about papal primacy and papal infallibility. The point here is that all choices of bishops must now be approved by Rome and receive a papal mandate, otherwise the consecrations would be illicit although valid. For more on this shift take a look at John W. O’Malley’s Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church.
And again for those who are not in the know, on 2 September 1859 an extremely powerful CME, coronal mass ejection, struck the Earth. The “Northern Lights” were seen as far south as the Caribbean. People could read at night as if during the day. The electricity dumped into the atmosphere was devastating. There was not much electric tech yet but, for example, telegraph wires melted.
Imagine that today. In one day we would be plunged into the early 19th century. Some tech, hardened again EMPs and the like, would survive, but there would be no grid.
Think of all the stuff today that we depend on, most of which requires electricity. Think of all the gizmos with delicate circuitry which would be fried. Everything would stop. The result would be death on a scale that can hardly be imagined.
It would be a darn good idea for dioceses and others to have ham radio equipment that can be quickly stored in a very hardened place. These days there would be at least some warning that a huge CME was on the way and likely to strike us. We would have a little time to put some things away. The ensuing chaos that would likely erupt in the world even as warning was given would be hard to deal with, but some people will be able to take steps to protect some useful equipment.
Will you have what it takes to survive?
On the other hand, perhaps there will be nuclear attacks that cause EMPs, or perhaps there will be a pandemic or other natural events which brings down the world’s economy, resulting in much the same.
What about the state of the Church?
Massive swathes of the population would be dead within a year and most of the surviving world would make Mad Max look like Downton Abbey.
What will happen to the buildings and clergy?
In those places where it is impossible to establish communication with Rome, with whomever survives as Vicar of Christ … remember that Rome will be chaos and I imagine that a distraught populace would eventually storm the Vatican City … bishops would have to fend for themselves. If before the CME hit, the Pope didn’t issue worldwide directives for what to do, I imagine that, in the absence of the possibility of a mandate from Rome for consecration of bishops, bishops would just have to take matters into their own hands. They would have to consecrate some men as bishops on their own and then do their best. Perhaps things would get sorted out later.
Let us also recall that while the Lord promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church, He didn’t promise that the Church would survive everywhere and in the form we recognize. He didn’t make any promises about the Church surviving in these USA. He didn’t make any promises about the borders of dioceses or the numbers of our schools and churches and chanceries. He didn’t say anything about many of the things we have now. We have had to do our best based on what He passed to the Apostles and what they passed in the Deposit of Faith.
It may well be that the Church will not survive a new Carrington Event… in these USA or wherever you are.
Some people have given thought to various disaster scenarios and have spun them into speculative novels.
Here are a few books you can try out, just to scare the stuffing out of you.
Lights Out by David Crawford
One Second After by William R. Forstchen (a sequel – One Year After)
Dark Grid by David. C. Waldron
The following isn’t a CME/EMP scenario, but the effects are in many respects the same.
Patriots by James Wesley Rawles.
It is really good to think about these things, especially if you are responsible for others.
Something for you hams out there to think about, too.