Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

Wanted: a Covid Truth-and-Reconciliation committee

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 04, 2022

How much has the Covid epidemic cost us, apart from the obvious medical costs?

Not too much, actually.

Covid has ended many thousands of lives, and caused suffering, ranging from mild to severe, to millions more. But it is not Covid—that is, not the disease—that has shut down thousands of small businesses, kept millions of children out of school, driven millions of adults into depression, forced the postponement of important medical screenings, and drastically curtailed our civil liberties. All those nasty effects—which are so commonly attributed to “the pandemic”—were the results of public-policy decisions, made by our political leaders.

Now that the medical threat is gradually fading, the same political leaders poised to declare victory and claim credit for beating the epidemic. Not so fast, please.

In the first place, there is little if any solid evidence that the public-policy response hastened the end of the epidemic. The Covid epidemic spread, crested, and finally ebbed in roughly the same pattern everywhere, regardless of whether people wore masks, took vaccines, or stayed at home from work.

Second, and more important, the public-policy choices took a demonstrably heavy toll on our public health, morale, education, and economy. It is at least debatable (I have made the argument at length) that the public-policy measures have cost more lives than the disease itself.

So before we close this sorry chapter of our history, I propose that we make an honest effort to weigh the overall effects of our public-policy choices, to identify the mistakes that were made, so that we may be ready to avoid them in the future.

I make this suggestion realizing that the odds are stacked heavily against its adoption. The political forces that have dominated the public discussion during the last two years, and supported the public-policy decisions that were taken, will not readily submit to any critical appraisal.

Have you noticed that even as they rescind mask mandates and vaccine-passport requirements, health officials make it clear that they are prepared to reinstate those policies if they see a need? Three years ago it was unthinkable that two or three unelected bureaucrats could tell free citizens what they must wear, or forbid them from gathering in public, or force them to divulge medical information. Must we now grant them that power in perpetuity?

Tight limits on our actions and our movements—that is, restrictions on fundamental liberties—were justified by the invocation of “emergency” legislation, which authorized executives to take action in the absence of legislation. An “emergency” does not ordinarily last for two years or more. Over that period of time, legislators certainly had ample time to discuss the best options and devise the most prudent laws to meet the crisis. But our lawmakers are still reluctant to end the state of emergency, and those in executive offices are loath to surrender the extraordinary power they have wielded.

If we are emerging from the Covid era, it is not because of an extreme and inconsistent public-policy response to the epidemic. It is because the disease has taken its toll and run its course—as diseases always do. But we cannot safely say that the Covid era has ended until we demand that our political leaders justify the steps they have taken, and the mischief they have caused—until we have resolved not to make the same tragic mistakes again.

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.

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  • Posted by: Japheth - Mar. 09, 2022 1:45 PM ET USA

    Mike, I've read/viewed some of the orgs you mention, others I haven't heard of. The ones I've looked at like AFD generate misinformation. It's very seductive, but they manipulate people for money. As a Catholic, why will people believe us when we say Jesus rose from the dead, when we also make claims that are so easily shown to be false? We have to be more skeptical of the information from whatever political tribe we say we belong to.

  • Posted by: johnk64 - Mar. 09, 2022 2:17 AM ET USA

    Japheth: A targeted response would focus on the demographics most at risk, and spare the other costs I mentioned to the larger population. Those costs are real. Of course, you know some in their 50's who died. Some very young people die of the flu. Should we re-apply the covid strategy forever for the flu because some die from it? At what cost? That's the question. The government's strategy caused a great deal of death and suffering to those who had little risk of dying from covid.

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - Mar. 08, 2022 6:39 PM ET USA

    A good way to respond to Japheth would be to direct him to Brownstone Institute, Health Freedom Summit 2022, Vladimir Zelenko, Truth for Health Foundation, Frontline Critical Care Consortium, America's Frontline Doctors, American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, The World Council for Health, America's Frontline Nurses, Healthy-Skeptic, MyFree Doctor, and the doctor who has directly and indirectly had a hand in what should have been the correct medical response to C-19, Peter McCullough.

  • Posted by: Japheth - Mar. 08, 2022 11:40 AM ET USA

    John, what would a "targeted response" look like? Lockdowns for the elderly, the infirm, and the overweight? I knew men in good health in their 50's who died from Covid. How would a targeted response have helped them?

  • Posted by: johnk64 - Mar. 07, 2022 2:44 PM ET USA

    An even larger point is that the church completely caved to the state. Many saints gave their lives to practice the faith, but our bishops closed churches at the command of the state with hardly any pushback, as though the spiritual life must take a back seat.

  • Posted by: johnk64 - Mar. 07, 2022 2:41 PM ET USA

    Japheth: The vaccines did not inhibit the spread of covid. Vaccines benefited the individual, but a vaccinated person could still catch covid and give covid. The larger point is that there has been no cost/benefit analysis of the governmental response to covid. The response devastated many through increased mental illness, drug use, unemployment, and bankruptcy – all for a disease that targeted the elderly and infirm. A targeted response could have avoided this.

  • Posted by: Japheth - Mar. 04, 2022 10:35 PM ET USA

    Phil, ignoring the statistics on the difference in death and hospitalization rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated people undermines your credibility here. The vaccines were very effective in that regard.

  • Posted by: Japheth - Mar. 04, 2022 10:31 PM ET USA

    All the people who have claimed that vaccines killed massive multiples of VAERS data won't want this scrutiny either.

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 04, 2022 4:50 PM ET USA

    Catholic Bishops need to do the same.