After several weeks away, I went to mass at our parish Tuesday morning. Among the 30 or 40 attendees, I was the only one not wearing a mask. I felt a little distracted by self-consciousness. No one said anything, but I imagined fellow parishioners being perturbed and judging me selfish and disobedient.
I know of a family with five young children who now drive a long distance to a different parish, because they so oppose the mask mandate at ours. I know others who feel pressured to act in a way that feels wrong to them or otherwise alienated by church policy in these Coronavirus times.
Here's one of the main things that bugs me about it all: the laity have no say. Our thoughts and suggestions aren't solicited; we're not consulted; we're just instructed and expected to cooperate. There's no forum for discussion, nowhere to air our views or listen to others', never mind participate in the decision-making.
And it's not as if this is a small matter. For months, we were completely deprived of the Eucharist. People were left to die alone. Visits from priests and family members were prohibited. We weren't allowed to go to funerals or weddings. How many babies haven't been baptized, I wonder? How many people have left the Church altogether because they're demoralized and disaffected?
"We had to stop the spread to keep people from dying," "Better safe than sorry," I hear people saying in reply. And then of course there's the liability issue. Imagine the lawsuits if an outbreak were to happen in our church!
Fine. I understand that perspective. I'm not accusing anyone of bad motives. Rather, I'm pointing out that there's another perspective not being heard. Important values besides physical health and safety are at stake.
Set aside the dubiousness of masks as a health measure. What's most disturbing to me is that the Church as a whole seems to be paying no attention whatsoever to the large social and moral issues at play at this historical moment. The secular authorities are asserting a shocking degree of control over our freedom to worship, and the Church is meekly complying. A violent, marxist, atheistic, anti-family, anti-life ideology is making gigantic inroads in our society, and the Church is virtually silent.
The battle of our times is the same as the battle of all times since Eden: It's the master/slave dynamic of fear and objectification versus the interpersonal exchange of faith and love.
Masks abet the master/slave dynamic. They embolden the violent while they disempower the righteous and law-abiding. They thwart the interpersonal encounter that is the only true antidote to the evil sweeping our society. I hate them with a passion. I wear them in stores because I have to. I won't wear them at mass, where I go on purpose to meet God and fellow-Christians face to face.
Also, I want to publicly stand for what I deeply believe: "It's for freedom that Christ has set us free." We're not supposed to be slavish. We're not supposed to be timid and compliant. We're supposed to live and act like the sons and daughters of the Most High God we actually are.