Please, bishops, promise not to lock down churches again
“It may be time to break out the masks against Covid, some experts say.” That was the headline on a CNN report posted yesterday.
Is Covid making a comeback, then? Actually, no. But it might, and CNN is anxious to ensure that your anxiety level stays high. The report concedes, with almost palpable regret, that the CDC “doesn’t make a broad recommendation for everyone to adopt masks.” But if the number of Covid hospitalizations reaches 20 per 100,000 population, CDC will make that recommendation, and CNN wants you to be ready.
Are we close to that 20-per-100,000 threshold? Not at all. CNN lets a few cold facts creep into its coverage:
Overall, there were about four new hospital admissions for every 100,000 people nationwide in the week ending August 12, which is considered low, according to CDC threshold. No counties had high levels of Covid-19 hospitalizations.
So nowhere in the country do the statistics merit a mask mandate, even by the CDC’s standards. It would take a five-fold increase in Covid hospitalizations to justify a national mandate. And yet the possibility is in the news. With CNN setting the tone, the mainstream media are poised to launch a campaign of fear.
The flu season is still a few months away, but already the headlines speculate about the number of people who might be stricken, and the advisability of receiving a vaccine that might become available. Schools that already require Covid vaccinations may add a requirement for a flu shot.
The Covid epidemic, and the intrusive mandates and lockdowns that it provoked, should have taught us the dangers of basing public-health policies on speculation about what might happen. But I fear that we, as a society, have not learned that lesson. And now we are being groomed for another set of mandates, perhaps even another round of lockdowns, prompted by inordinate fears.
In particular I fear that our Church leaders, having so readily complied with one set of mandates and lockdowns, will be ready to close down churches once again. Although I am theoretically in a vulnerable category because of my age, I am not afraid of Covid or the flu. I am very much afraid of being deprived, once again, of access to the sacraments.
Remember how enthusiastically Catholic bishops—led by Pope Francis—endorsed Covid vaccination as an “act of love,” since by taking the shot we would be protecting others from the disease? The major premise of that argument proved to be inaccurate; vaccination did not stop transmission. But countless Catholic institutions still require the jab, ignoring moral objections.
Nearly a century ago, in Casti Connubi, Pope Pius XI had the foresight to recognize the danger of giving public officials the power to “tamper with the integrity of the body, either for the reasons of eugenics or for any other reason.” Why did our bishops not show the same prudent skepticism when public-health officials demanded that we accept the injection of an experimental drug? Why did so many of them set their own policies—for clergy, religious, and Catholic institutions—that compromised the “integrity of the body.”
And was it an “act of love” to close down schools, businesses, and charitable institutions, depriving thousands of people of their work, their income, and their resources? Was it an “act of love” to hold senior citizens as prisoners in institutions, facing death without the comfort of visits from their families—or their priests?
In Contagious Faith I argued that lockdown of our churches was an egregious betrayal by Church leaders: a failure to recognize the spiritual needs of the faithful in a time of crisis. In the two years since that book appeared, the emerging facts—about the failure of the vaccination campaign and the devastating effects of the lockdown—have strengthened my case. But have any Church leaders admitted their mistakes, apologized for their policies, and/or assured us that it will not happen again?
In Contagious Faith I argued (as the subtitle put it) that “the Church must spread hope, not fear, in a pandemic.” At a time when the mass media are already fanning the flames of fear, it would ease my mind, and give me hope, to hear a Catholic bishop promise: “I won’t shut down the churches again.”
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Posted by: Randal Mandock -
Aug. 26, 2023 2:35 AM ET USA
It's a good thing the Catholic faith does not bind us by the opinions of clergy. Unfounded opinions based on fear, spite, anger, bad science, peer pressure, ignorant or lying press accounts, bad theology, and I am sure other uncompelling causes are the subject of prudential, not moral, judgments. As such, no cleric can use personal or consensus opinion to order the faithful under pain of damnation to accept a proposed remedy derived by immoral means. To do so is sinful and demands restitution.
Posted by: Randal Mandock -
Aug. 26, 2023 2:19 AM ET USA
It's a good thing the Catholic faith does not bind us by the opinions of clergy. Unfounded opinions based on fear, spite, anger, bad science, peer pressure, ignorant or lying press accounts, bad theology, and I am sure other uncompelling causes are the subject of prudential, not moral, judgments. As such, no cleric, for any reason, can order the faithful under pain of damnation to accept a proposed remedy that was derived by immoral means. To do so is gravely sinful and demands restitution.
Posted by: ewaughok -
Aug. 25, 2023 7:00 PM ET USA
Why won’t the USCCB issue even some general statement of regret for mistakes made because of COVID , including the disastrous lockdowns? Because of what you perspicaciously wrote, Mr Lawler: they were being “led by Pope Francis.” ‘Nuff said… admit
Posted by: loumiamo4057 -
Aug. 25, 2023 5:24 AM ET USA
"if the number of Covid hospitalizations reaches 20 per 100,000 population,..." If I recall correctly, and I always do, last time hospitals got a $500 bonus for every "COVID" hospitalization. Whatever the dollar amount is, you can bet "COVID" hospitalizations will reach the "danger" threshold after only three days, because as Benny Franklin said, fish and visitors and dishonorable hospital administrators, and let's not forget doctors, stink after 3 days. And you can take that to the bank.
Posted by: miketimmer499385 -
Aug. 24, 2023 2:18 PM ET USA
Since the last debacle I've been a roamin' Catholic. The lack of any introspection regarding clerical response to covid in my extremely large archdiocese is gobsmacking. If you're taking a poll, put me in a class even more critical of priests and bishops than you, Phil. They can't do well what their first responsibility is, but they can pontificate on immigration and ecology with abandon. I'm awaiting the future with bated breath. Masks and vaccines are useless; good nasal hygiene is the answer.