In relation to the coronavirus, Catholic Archbishop Jan Lenga, the former head of the Diocese of Karaganda, Khazakhstan, said that unlike the doctors and nurses on the frontlines, many priests and bishops have "hidden away" and that Pope Francis is "hiding away in his palace."
Churches are closed and Masses are cancelled, he said, adding that this is not the way faithful clergy behaved in the past when there were plagues. This "shows they are far from the true faith and far from God," said the archbishop.
"They choose to stay in hiding, in their cozy shelters," he said. "They are well-stocked and have multiple parishioners waiting on them hand and foot, making sure the bishop doesn’t lose any weight."
“There is a panicked fear of death everywhere, instead of the fear of the Judgment Day, or God’s punishment, which will come!" said Archbishop Lenga, 69, who is retired in Poland.
The archbishop made his remarks during a lengthy interview with the Polish Internet TV channel wRealu24.
“We had plagues in the past of different infectious diseases and people did not give up going to church," said Lenga, in reference to the coronavirus (COVID-19) "Churches were not locked down. A priest in the north of France was brave enough to take the Most Blessed Sacrament and walked with a group of people, blessing everybody and giving them hope that not all is lost."
“Where are the bishops [today]?" asked Lenga. "Where are the cardinals? Where are the Church hierarchy, usually so self-confident and important?"
“No, they are all hidden away, having left the people alone," he said. "You can’t reach them in their offices or on the phone. They are staying put, so as not to have to do anything. When they call for the people to pray the Rosary, they only very gently suggest that prayer is an option. Why don’t they come out and show people how to pray?"
Re-emphasizing the importance of prayer, Archbishop Lenga said, "If congregations are limited by law to 50 people, then you should go out in groups of 50 people. If all churches sent 50 people to pray, we could stop this epidemic!"
He continued, “The bishops closed down all churches, no Masses are available. This says a lot about the bishop and those poor priests, who separated themselves from the faithful, as if they didn’t exist."
"And look at the doctors and nurses!" he said. "How they are fighting, some of them are dying, fulfilling their duties on the frontlines. And the priests ran away from all this. They just want to live long. That shows they are far from the true faith and far from God."
Lenga then reminded his fellow clergy that a priest is supposed to serve as Alter Christus, or "another Christ," to set an example to the world and to provide the Sacraments, especially Confession and Holy Communion.
“You’re supposed to serve Christ, be Alter Christus’!" said the archbishop. "The hierarchy lack ideas to help people figure this out, find out-of-the-box solutions. Be creative! Have faith! Don’t just mindlessly listen to the government and do whatever they say.
"You are ready to deny Jesus and destroy everything," he added. "You are going to die sooner or later anyway. You, an old priest, or an old bishop, will soon die anyway and you’re still afraid of death?"
He continued, ““Sacrifice yourselves for the people! Holy Communion must be received internally, not just virtually. People need Confession. Why don’t you install protective measures to safeguard the priest and the penitent? Keep disinfecting the area, etc."
"They don’t even try, they don’t come up with any ideas," he said. "They don’t want to spend money on this. Spend the money and help people. They are lost, they don’t know what to do. And you closed down the churches and ran away from the people. How poor this world and this Church is, going astray without God."
In concluding his remarks, Archbishop Lenga said, “[Pope Francis] is hiding away in his palace. The cardinals are hiding away. Why don’t you come out to the people? [Pope Francis] used to ride on public transportation in Buenos Aires, visiting people. Why don’t you come out and visit the people now? Instead of saying quiet Masses [online].
“There is a real lack of real elites in the world today, in the state and in the Church. They are all hiding away. And if you try to tell them something bold, they start yelling, ‘how dare you say that? That is too harsh! Who listens to you?’ They said the same things to Christ: who is going to listen to you? But He knew what He was saying. And they also know it is the truth.
“But they don’t want to listen to the truth because they live in a different paradigm.
“So, brothers and sisters who believe in God, I am talking to you first and foremost. If you trust in God, stay strong in the Faith and don’t let this [coronavirus] throw you off. Do what you can do.
"If you can’t go to your own Church because the priest or the pastor is afraid to fall out of favor with the bishop, go to another church.
“What happened to Catholicism? It’s a disaster. Gentlemen, bend your knees. Amen.”
Archbishop Jan Paul Lenga was born in the Ukraine and studied secretly for the priesthood in Lithuania, which was controlled by the Communist Soviet Union. He was ordained in secret in 1980.
Lenga was appointed bishop of Karaganda, Kazakhstan in 1999 and elevated to archbishop in 2003. He resigned in 2011 and moved to Poland to retire. That year he was awarded the Commander's Cross of Merit and the Order of the Republic of Poland.