Apr 9, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic shows no sign of abating as this is written, but it’s none too soon to start thinking about what we have already learned from this painful experience. I leave it to the physicians, the politicians, and the economists to draw appropriate conclusions in their areas of expertise. Here are some thoughts on the pandemic’s lessons for people of faith.
The most important lesson obviously was how much we value certain things and people that we ordinarily take for granted. That includes spouses, family and friends, the freedom to come and go as we please, and, for us Catholics, the Mass and sacraments celebrated in our own familiar churches. The social distancing imposed by COVID-19 served as a reminder that nothing beats being without someone or something to remind us how much he or she or it really does matter to us.
In particular, the pandemic has been a reminder for many of what a precious gift life is. And here distinctions are required.
I agree entirely with religious commentators who’ve used the occasion of closed churches and cancelled Masses to point out the error of absolutizing mere staying alive, as if simple survival were the highest value there is. That’s the error one Catholic writer called “the sentimentalism of saving lives at any cost.”
That said, though, I seriously question the good sense of those who moved from the general principle to a highly dubious application by lambasting religious leaders who closed churches and cancelled public Masses as step to slow the spread of the virus. Although the announcements that accompanied these steps may occasionally have sounded more bureaucratic than pastoral, the criticism itself seemed at times to err by missing the point.