I saw a sweet photo of the first day of school in one of our diocesan parishes this week.
The kids were sitting, every other desk, wearing their masks, all neat and pretty in their uniforms while the parish priest stood talking to them in his mask. The comments under this photo were full of thumbs up and heart emojis and the verbiage was a chorus of awwwws.
My first thought when I looked at this photo was “I hope you guys don’t kill any of those kids.”
I don’t have any big illusions as to why Catholic schools are opening all over the country in the face of a pandemic. It’s the tuition money and the economic realities of keeping the schools closed for a few more months that’s driving this decision.
That is a hard boogie. I have no doubt about that. The incompetence at the top of our government has made sure that this pandemic drags on unabated. We could lose some of our parish schools.
On the other hand, the numbers on this pandemic say quite clearly that some of those precious kids will end up very sick as a result of this school opening and a few of them are going to die because of it. There really isn’t any honest way to pretend your way out of that reality.
Opening these schools is going to kill kids.
Not only that, it’s going to kill more of their grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, friends and family. It will increase the spread of this illness exponentially.
What confounds me is not so much that the Church has decided its pro life teachings don’t apply to itself. I’m not at all surprised that it regards a small number of the lives of the children in its care as expendable.
The Church’s profound indifference to the suffering of rape victims and victims of sexual assault, whether the assaulter is a powerful politician or one of their own priests, bishops or cardinals, is well established. That’s been signaling their indifference to the lives of the people in their care for a long time now.
If you don’t care about something as horrifically cruel as rape and sexual assault, then you don’t care about human beings. If power matters to you more than human beings — and their indifference to the crimes of the sexual predator in the White House clearly says it does — then you’re not pro life.
If you don’t care about the suffering of people who are right in front of you, then how can you care about people you don’t know and have never seen? The unborn child, which is largely a hypothetical to unmarried, childless priests, is an excuse. It can never be a reason.
Pro life in that circumstance is a political position. It’s not the kind of visceral commitment that is necessary to actually be pro life in a real-world way. Real world pro life isn’t about other people’s sacrifice. It’s about your own.
I’ve heard people excuse opening the schools with what amounts to sloganeering. “Kids have got to learn,” they say. Well, yes. But they don’t have to learn this afternoon. It won’t cripple their education to wait a couple of months. It certainly won’t cripple it to distance learn for a while.
The bottom line here is that the first requirement for kids to learn is that they have to be alive. Thanks to the school re-opening, some of them won’t be alive this time next year.
Most kids are resilient enough and lucky enough to skate through this virus. But some of them are not, and we can’t pinpoint which is which. We know that certain pre-existing health problems make it more likely that if you get this virus, you will die. But a lot of people who don’t fit inside those parameters end up desperately ill or dead from the virus, anyway.
All we have to predict who will die and who will be symptom free are indicators and probabilities. That’s the way life and death always work in the real world.
Here’s an example.
We now know that cancer cells pop up in everyone’s body. Just about everyone gets cancer.
But the vast majority of people who get cancer never know they had it. Their body knocks it out at that first cancer cell.
But if you’re one of the ones who hits the unlucky jackpot, cancer can still give you a really bad ride. It can make you horribly ill, and it can kill you. Cancer is not benign because most people never know they had it.
Once again, we have indicators and probabilities, but we can’t predict which cancer column you will fall into. So we tell everybody not to smoke, even though there are those like my mother who smoke for over 70 years and never have a problem.
That’s the way it is with any disease, including COVID-19. The fact that the guy down the street had it and never knew it doesn’t protect you at all. It could kill you. Or it could make you sicker than you’ve ever been in your life. It leaves some people with what are probably permanent heart and lung damage. It’s unpredictable.
All we know for sure are the numbers. The numbers say that many of the people who are surviving do so after horrific illness. Despite massive medical intervention, literally hundreds of thousands of people have died from it in a few months. It’s unpredictable, but it’s a killer.
Unfortunately, its unpredictability has allowed the demagogue who’s running our country to create an atmosphere of chaos and confusion. We’re fools to let him do this to us. But there is no greater fool in all the world than someone who puts their own child in harm’s way just to be obedient to men who don’t care.
The Catholic schools should not be open right now because the numbers say that, as a direct result of the school reopening, some of the kids in those schools will become horribly ill, and some few of them will die. The numbers say that some of the family members of these kids will also become horribly ill and some of them will die. All because the schools are open.
The Catholic Church claims that it speaks for Jesus Christ. It’s nothing if not outspokenly pro life. Yet by opening these schools it is deliberately and with full knowledge of what it is doing ensuring that some of the children who attend will be dead in a few months.
The statistics on this thing are pretty clear. Most of these kids will be fine. But some of them are going to die. Others will become very sick. The virus will spread into the families of the kids who are attending, and some of them will die or become very sick. These are people who would not get sick, who would not die, if the schools went to distance learning.
I’m tired of seeing the pro life issue used as a way to bully people in order to gain power while the people doing the bullying exempt themselves from the hard realities of being pro life in their own lives.
Being pro life is not lecturing and bullying other people about what they should do and what endless sacrifices they should make and what suffering they should undergo to protect the sanctity of human life. Pro life is being willing to sacrifice and do the hard things to save lives yourself.
If you refuse to make the hard decisions and sacrifices to care for and protect the human lives you are responsible for, then you are not pro life. If your pro life commitment begins and ends at no-cost-to-you political bullying — which, in case you haven’t noticed, hasn’t saved many lives these past 50 years — then you’re a poseur.
You are not pro life.