A recent email criticized editors of The Compass for failure to take the COVID-19 virus seriously. The writer stated that the newspaper should do more to encourage readers and members of the Catholic community to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
“You could be doing your part,” said Andy, who submitted the email. “Your issues are full of pictures of people standing right next to each other, no masks, no precautions whatsoever. Would it be the end of the world if you tried to encourage health among readers?”
To be fair, The Compass has written stories and editorials in recent months that encourage safe health practices. However, it does fall on leaders of church organizations — parishes, schools and dioceses — to encourage individuals and families to do their part to protect themselves and others from exposure to the virus.
Now that the Catholic bishops in four of Wisconsin’s five dioceses have lifted the dispensation for Sunday Mass obligation (Bishop William Callahan of La Crosse announced Sept. 18 that he would not be lifting the dispensation at this time), it is even more critical that the health and safety of our congregations be a priority. In other words, there is no dispensation from our obligation to require safety measures, especially those encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A recent spike in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin is a reminder to all of us that safety is a priority. According to news reports, Wisconsin has seen some of the nation’s fastest coronavirus spread since mid-September, with an average number of daily cases increasing by 950. It is one reason why Gov. Tony Evers issued an emergency order Sept. 22 requiring people, age 5 and older, to wear face masks indoors. The order remains in effect until Nov. 21.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis urged people around the world to follow health precautions due to the pandemic.
“Be careful, do not sing ‘Victory!’ yet, do not celebrate victory too soon!” he said after reciting the Angelus prayer at St. Peter’s Square in June. “It remains necessary to follow the rules in force carefully because they are rules that help us to prevent the virus from gaining ground. … Thanks be to God we are coming out of the (pandemic) epicenter stronger, but always with the rules authorities give us.”
As the church observes Respect Life Month in October, there is no easier way to demonstrate respect for life than to practice safe measures for avoiding the spread of disease. Not only does wearing a face mask in public and physical distancing indoors help prevent our own exposure to COVID-19, it protects those around us who may be more vulnerable to illness.
Thanks to Andy, who contacted The Compass, for his concerns about the role the church plays in promoting awareness of COVID-19’s spread. Every now and then, we all need reminders of the obligations we have to our brothers and sisters in Christ. As Catholics begin their return to Sunday Mass, let’s all keep this important message in mind and do what we can to protect ourselves and those around us.