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June 4, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – As Catholics, as Christians, and as people of good will (regardless of their faith or non-faith), we are all supposed to love truth. This includes not only theological truth, but scientific truth, medical truth, historical truth, and truth about matters of justice, laws, policies and politics.
The response of Canada’s federal and provincial governments to COVID-19 appears to have been driven by Dr. Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, who predicted in March 2020 that as many as 510,000 people in the United Kingdom would die of COVID-19, along with 2,200,000 Americans. Once unleashed, this “Ferguson Fever” infected the minds of politicians around the globe, as well as the media and the public at large.
In the name of “saving lives,” politicians have shut down schools, universities, businesses, gyms, recreation and entertainment facilities of every kind, restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, libraries, mosques, temples, synagogues, churches, and much of the economy. All of this to make room for the wave of COVID-19 patients who would soon overwhelm our hospitals, needing thousands of ventilators and Intensive Care Units. With very few exceptions, politicians have made no effort to calculate, or even to attempt to calculate, the numerous harms and the predictable suffering which these lockdown measures would inflict, and indeed have inflicted, on so many people.
What we now know in June, and sadly did not know in March, is that the global COVID-19 death toll (374,000 as of June 1) is within the range of deaths resulting from the annual flu. The annual flu tragically claims between 290,000 and 646,000 lives each year, most of them people who are elderly and already very sick. We also know now that COVID-19 poses little if any threat to children and healthy adults. Yet Dr. Ferguson’s wildly inaccurate predictions are still used by fearmongering politicians to frighten Canadians into accepting the continued violation of their Charter freedoms to move, travel, associate, assemble and worship.
Government measures which continue to violate our human dignity and our fundamental Charter freedoms could arguably have been justified in March, and imposed temporarily, at a time when we did not know what we know now. But in June, we know that 95% of COVID-19 deaths occur amongst those 60 and older, with more than two-thirds of COVID-19 deaths in people 80 and over, and next-to-zero deaths among people under 20. COVID-19 tragically targets the same demographics as the annual flu. This is what publicly available government data is telling us, from provinces, states, and countries around the world.
Sadly, it seems the Catholic bishops of Alberta have accepted the Ferguson-like predictions of Premier Jason Kenney, who claimed in early April that as many as 32,000 Albertans could die of COVID-19. At the end of May, COVID-19 had claimed the lives of 143 Albertans, not 32,000. Putting aside conjecture, hypothesis and speculation, there is no actual evidence that the number of COVID-19 deaths would have been higher without a lockdown.
Premier Kenney has repeatedly compared COVID-19 to the Spanish Flu of one hundred years ago, which killed between 20 and 100 million adults, most aged 20-40, at a time when the world’s population was only two billion. Globally, the 374,000 COVID-19 deaths (as of June 1, 2020) constitute 0.00005 of the world’s population: one half of one percent of one percent. This means the Spanish Flu was between 200 and 1,000 times more deadly than COVID-19. Any comparison of the two is ignorance of fact, or deliberate fearmongering.
Relying on the inaccurate and fear-inducing predictions of March rather than on the facts that have been readily available since early May, Alberta’s Catholic bishops are asking their flock to behave as though COVID-19 is a very serious threat to everyone, regardless of age or health.
Rather than quelling unfounded fears, Alberta’s bishops, touting “safety,” now require Mass attendees to wear masks; to subject themselves to personal health questions before being allowed to enter the church; and to provide their names, addresses and phone numbers to be written on a sheet and made available to the government upon request.
While Alberta’s more than 11,000 restaurants can seat six people from six different households at the same table, only a foot or two apart from each other, the bishops insist that Catholics at mass must maintain “social distancing” of six feet or two metres, unless they are from the same household. While restaurants can operate at 50% capacity, such that a large restaurant can welcome 100 or 200 people at the same time, the bishops insist that no more than 50 people be permitted inside a church, even a large Cathedral that can seat over 1,000 people.
While the Alberta government has re-opened daycares and day camps, the bishops insist that infants and children at Mass must remain with their parents or guardians at all times, in spite of the fact that COVID-19 is less likely to kill children than a lightning strike.
Restaurant patrons are treated like adults, free to shake or not shake the hand of another person, but the bishops prohibit Catholics from shaking hands before, during and after Mass. Albertans are now free to socialize at bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes, but the bishops insist that Catholics cannot socialize with each other before or after Mass.
Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, and many other drive-throughs serve hundreds of thousands of Albertans every week, yet the bishops prohibit the faithful from receiving Holy Communion on the tongue “in view of the common good.” The bishops’ requirements pre-suppose that the wildly inaccurate predictions made by Dr. Neil Ferguson and Premier Kenney are correct, that COVID-19 kills people as the Spanish Flu did, and that everyone should be very, very worried. The bishops seem to have forgotten that the common good must be based on truth, not on fearmongering predictions that were discredited many weeks ago.
The bishops have also banned congregational singing as a “high-risk activity”; the presentation of the gifts; and our entrance and recessional processions. The bishops have banned summer camps for Catholic children and families, which is entirely unnecessary.
Since the lockdown in March, Premier Kenney has deemed box stores, hardware stores, abortion clinics and liquor and marijuana outlets as “essential.” By failing to insist to government that churches are more essential than gyms and health clubs, the bishops have effectively taught that, while Tim Horton’s coffee may be essential, the Holy Mass is not.
Perhaps the average Catholic cannot be faulted for failing to spend a few minutes to get acquainted with readily-available government data that suggests that COVID-19 is not more deadly than the annual flu and targets the same demographic as the annual flu. Perhaps the average Catholic can be forgiven for remaining fearful when Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer Deena Hinshaw made a demonstrably false claim when stating, in regard to COVID-19, that “some people who are young and healthy will go on to have severe disease and die.”
In contrast to the laity, bishops have a higher duty: to acquaint themselves with the facts that were already available in early May. When politicians impose measures which very obviously violate the freedom of Catholics to practice their faith, Catholic bishops have a duty to look at the facts, rather than permit themselves to be led about by dubious political claims.
In the past 2,000 years, whenever Caesar demanded that Christian worship be curtailed, appropriate disagreement with Caesar has been a vital part of our Christian tradition, from which we should draw wisdom and courage. Bishops should be guided by love that is rooted in truth, rather than encouraging Catholics to live in daily fear.
Attendance at Mass is currently not obligatory. Why then do we need all these prohibitions and restrictions, which are not enforced on other public places? Those who attend Mass in person, instead of virtually, assess the risks and choose to attend, just as people decide to enter a grocery store or a restaurant rather than ordering online. Why not hold separate Masses, with a myriad of precautions, for the truly vulnerable?
My objection to the Alberta bishops’ new requirements (even if the requirements are supposed to be temporary) is that they are based entirely on the acceptance of the government’s demonstrably false claim that COVID-19 is an exceptionally deadly killer that threatens everyone.
For me to comply with these measures would be to assent, by my conduct, to the false claim on which these measures are based. As someone who is called to love the truth, and to bear witness to the truth, I will not do so.