Letter #19, 2022, Friday, January 28: Top Ten 2021 #4
Monica Smit, an Australian woman who founded the anti-lockdown advocacy group Reignite Democracy Australia in 2020, was charged last year by Australian authorities with multiple counts of “incitement” — and not incitement of others to commit a crime or even disobey Covid restrictions, but simply incitement to “opposition” of those restrictions. We find Monica a true representative of the best aspects of the human and Australian spirit — aspects which the government officials of Australia tragically seem to have lost sight of.
For this reason, we chose Monica Smit as one of our Top Ten People of 2021. —RM
The world can be a dark place,
yet these are people who refuse
to let the darkness prevail
It’s been two years since Covid first came to international attention, and countless aspects of life have never been the same since. Yet, one thing that has remained constant is the determination of individuals to follow the Spirit’s call to transcend their own comfort, their own desires, their own interests, and brave sometimes severe difficulties in service to their brothers and sisters in the human family.
It is the call echoed by Pope Francis: “The gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed in abundance so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity.”
“Go out,” he says, “…become the Word in body as well as in spirit.”
And so we highlight here 10 people — admittedly, just a tiny few among the many, many faithful and selfless souls around the world — to underscore not only the need and the challenge of following the Gospel command to “love your neighbor,” but also to hold them up as a beacon of encouragement. We are all called to live lives of service and we all find it daunting at times; but the Lord sustains us and gives us hope.
These are men and women who bring us some of that hope. The world can be a dark place, yet these are people who refuse to let the darkness prevail. They are Inside the Vatican’s Top Ten of 2021.
“It’s our duty as Catholics to act”
One Australian Catholic stands up to the government
Monica Smit can wax eloquent about the beauty of her native Australia, but she hastens to add, “Beauty is nothing without freedom.”
Monica, 34, has in fact devoted herself for the past two years to that very ideal: freedom. She is the now-famous Catholic Australian who was arrested in 2021 after breaking the severe lockdown restrictions in her home state of Victoria: she drove her car more than 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) from her home, against the emergency rules enacted by the state’s health authority.
Three unmarked police cars followed her and stopped her car, arresting Monica and taking her to jail. She had the presence of mind to livestream the arrest, which went “viral” on social media and the internet. “If I had merely recorded it, they would have destroyed my phone,” she explains.
Monica, who founded the anti-lockdown advocacy group Reignite Democracy Australia in 2020, was charged with multiple counts of “incitement” — and not incitement of others to commit a crime or even disobey Covid restrictions, but simply incitement to “opposition” of those restrictions.
In other words, she was charged for articulating reasons for people to disagree with the government’s Covid policies—at the time, among the most draconian in the world. Vaccine mandates were in place for large sectors of society, businesses were shut down (as always, excepting fast food and liquor stores) and travel from one’s home was severely restricted to just a few reasons of necessity. People were made depressed, lonely and fearful – all without rational justification.
“It was like a concentration camp in your own home,” says Monica.
The judge in her case imposed unreasonable bail conditions, including the removal of the online content posted by her and Reignite Democracy Australia, a nightly curfew beginning at 7 pm, and even the shutting down of her bank accounts. She had already decided not to let herself and her group be muzzled; she refused to sign the bail conditions; she was remanded to prison for 22 days, in solitary confinement.
A mainstay of her ability to accept prison time was prayer.
Monica, raised in a Catholic family of five children, did not always practice her faith. “From age 18 to about 26, I tried the world instead of the Faith to see if it was better than being a Catholic; turns out it wasn’t,” she says.
After that, Monica realized that she needed a purpose in her life. “I was young, single, I was in a position to do something for people, I just didn’t know what it would be.”
Then along came Covid, and seemingly overnight, a series of burdensome restrictions was put in place in Victoria. And as she educated herself about the actual health issues surrounding Covid, she came to realize that the new Covid vaccine which was touted by the government as the only answer to the pandemic was really no answer at all. About the vaccine’s efficacy, and especially its safety, she says, “The government lies to us.”
“I really think that we are the petri dish for the world,” she explains. “The world powers who want to take over control of everyone’s lives – they are trying it out first in Australia. We are an island, we are all very spread out, and of course we started as a penal colony…”
She revealed that the Premier of Victoria state, Daniel Andrews, has proposed new legislation, called “permanent pandemic legislation,” which eliminates citizens’ rights even more dramatically than previous emergency measures.
This legislation says that “they can detain pretty much anyone they want, for any reason, and there is no penalty if they get it wrong, there is no punishment for law enforcement to come into your home, they do not need a search warrant, there is no appeal process, there is no right to silence as a detainee, they can force test you and they can inject you with anything they want while they are in there. This is on paper. This is in black and white,” she says.
“It’s our duty as Catholics to act. If you cannot act, you can pray. Catholic action is 100% necessary.”