Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

Quick hits on Covid: one bold bishop, and a plea for more

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 10, 2020 | In Quick Hits

While other American bishops hasten to encourage use of a Covid vaccine, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas is once again taking a strong stand. “I urge you to reject any vaccine that uses the remains of aborted children in research, testing, development, or production,” he writes. Some Catholic moralists would argue that he is too rigorous; distinctions can be drawn between the vaccines that actually use fetal tissues in production, and those that were merely tested using fetal tissues. But Bishop Strickland wants to establish a zero-tolerance policy, as a powerful witness in defense of unborn human life. And he makes the important point that this witness does not require rejection of all vaccines. “There are ethical vaccines in development which are worth waiting for,” he remarks.

No Covid vaccine is readily available in the US today. The vaccines that will soon be available are being rushed to market, and we still do not have complete information about their effectiveness and/or their potential side-effects. So there may be good reasons to take a “wait and see” attitude. Indeed for most Americans there probably won’t be any choice in the matter, since the vaccines will not be available to the general population for some time.

So Bishop Strickland’s point is worth noting. As long as we’re waiting, why not wait for—and lobby for—the development of a vaccine that will not undermine our pro-life witness?

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Matthew Hennessey asks Catholic bishops to hold firm on a related front:

There is no evidence that the virus is spreading in the churches, so my message to these bishops is this: Show some backbone. Open the churches. Get rid of the sign-up sheets. No more roped-off pews. No more 25% capacity. Call the faithful, young and old, to communion. Let the civil authorities try to shut it down. Chain yourselves to the altars if necessary. Be the heroes we need you to be.

While bishops have been restricting access to the sacraments, and explaining that the restrictions will save lives, Hennessey questions how many souls are being lost in the process. The bishops have acceded too easily, he writes, to the dictates of politicians who argue that religious worship is “non-essential.” “We are tired of watching our leaders kneel before junior-varsity Caesars,” he says. It’s time for bold bishops to open their churches, lest their people come to the conclusion that the sacraments aren’t that important after all.

“The alternative is subservience,” Hennessey concludes. “The alternative is empty pews forever.”

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

  • Posted by: grateful1 - Dec. 11, 2020 9:36 PM ET USA

    Pinging off another commenter, I returned to Mass on Aug. 1st ONLY because my Cathedral in Arlington VA has implemented such careful measures to enhance safety (masks, the use of every other pew, hand-sanitizing by priests & parishioners before Communion, etc.). In my high-risk age group, I'm relieved we have to "reserve" a seat for Christmas Mass, to ensure distancing. Sadly, some parishioners will stay away for good. But more are returning every week.

  • Posted by: fenton1015153 - Dec. 11, 2020 3:47 PM ET USA

    Do masks work? Scientists say they are potentially dangerous due to improper use and reuse of old masks. How is this disease spread and what is the agent? Neither of these questions has been definitively proven but if we avoid all contact with other people and use hand sanitizer we will have a fighting chance. The PCR test has been shown to have an over 90 percent false positive when over 40 cycles are used. The bishops know all this but their backbones fail them. Pray for REAL leadership.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Dec. 11, 2020 2:46 PM ET USA

    The existence of Bishop Strickland's letter, and the absence of an overwhelming number of equivalent letters from all bishops, is further evidence of how far the mother of all Churches has strayed from pragmatically ("concretely") living the faith handed on to us from Christ and the Apostles. What we have seen from most quarters is half-hearted, mediocre "feel-good" "guidance" that fails to pass the test of faith lived by Christ and His Apostles. Our duty is to God and neighbor, not the worldly.

  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Dec. 10, 2020 6:25 PM ET USA

    Hennessey correctly notes the virus has not spread at Catholic churches, but fails to recognize that is BECAUSE of the care taken. By all means, ditch the signup sheets and have a full (or even more than full) schedule. Encourage people to return to Mass. But the alternate pews and masking are what let churches be open without spreading the virus, and will need to continue for some time yet. A balanced approach is needed, not an extreme one way or the other.