It is a quiet morning before the sunrise. I am getting used to the change of parish, locale, and of course weather. The autumnal days of Virginia in October are far different than those in the Tampa Bay region. Since Virginia is not a “swing state” for the upcoming elections, I am also getting used to being able to watch television without the bombardment of political ads. I am not sure what is more refreshing the lack of political ads or the autumnal days and nights.
I was reading the news online (from a variety of sources) and several of them reported that in the face of steeply rising coronavirus infections, increasing positivity rates and hospitalizations, and the decreasing level of available ICU beds,a governor is moving to mandate the wearing of masks and social distancing in all public settings. The lieutenant governor agrees that masks and social distancing are vital to controlling the virus, but held that the mandate of wearing a mask is an infringement on personal freedom and an unnecessary intrusion of government into the lives of its citizens. This logic escapes me.
It escapes me on two levels. Recently a young adult, refusing to wear the required mask at a Sunday Mass, proclaimed that the church-mandate was a violation of his first amendment rights. Given the First Amendment protects the freedom of religion, speech, press, petition, and assembly – I wondered what logic he was applying. He offered it was freedom of speech. Given he would be able to be heard if he spoke with a mask, the logic escaped me.
I would guess that young adult and the lieutenant governor obey traffic safety rules, use seat belts, don’t knowingly pollute, do not sell alcohol to minors, and follow any other of a number of public safety rules and regulations. I can only speculate as to the reasons why they would follow those rules and then raise the argument of the First Amendment on wearing a mask. Maybe last February one could have argued that the public safety threat was overblown and exaggerated; but this is 8 months and 220,000 deaths later. Biology cares little for one’s perception of rights.
Lots of places we can read/hear a lot of talk about “freedom” and “personal responsibility.” Our civic leaders are willing to say that people should cover their faces and avoid indoor gatherings and yet refuse to use their power to impose rules to that effect, insisting that it should be a matter of individual choice. It is not hard to hear the echo of Ayn Rand and libertarianism gone astray, misunderstanding the ideas of freedom and the common good. The libertarian-leaning Cato Institute might argue against the imposition of masks mandates from the national level, arguing for subsidiarity in government (making such rules at the most local level that is feasible and makes sense), but they seem to agree that local authority can and in some cases should implement mandatory mask rules.
That’s one level – the socio-political level. Here’s the other level – the life in Christ.
But what does all this have to do with our Life in Christ, our life in the Spirit, Human Communion, and participation in social life? Take a moment and read the Catechism of the Catholic Church on these very topics. as well as the pages that follow on the idea of solidarity. (and if you like, you can also search out and read the Catechism on subsidiarity) What does the Catholic Church have to say about solidarity. Consider the writings of St. John Paul the Great (whose feast day we just celebrated):
[Solidarity] is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. (St. John Paul II, On Social Concern [Sollicitudo rei Socialis], no. 38)
Did that young person consider the common good as pertains to the coronavirus? The elderly couple sitting about 12 feet away did not think so. They felt threatened. All they wanted to do was come to Mass and receive the Eucharist. Later they told me that his refusal to wear a mask made no sense, to come for Holy Communion with disregard for the human communion for which we are morally responsible. The logic escaped them, too.
Something to think about, consider and take into prayer on a Friday morning.