WASHINGTON, D.C., July 21, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Prominent blogger priest Monsignor Charles Pope is exhorting America and the Catholic Church to “man up” and not give in to “crippling fear” of the coronavirus pandemic, which he believes is a “far more serious ailment” than the disease itself.
“My pastoral concern is that we as a nation and as a Church have succumbed to excessive fear, which bespeaks a spiritual problem,” Msgr. Pope wrote July 18 in the National Catholic Register.
As a result of the pandemic, people are “cowering in fear,” and they view “every human being they encounter as a potential source of grave illness or even death,” and believe that “every human contact might pose an existential threat,” noted the pastor of Washington’s Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian parish.
“As a priest, I cannot imagine anything more demonic than this sort of fear. Satan wants us to fear and even detest one another. Our communion with one another is devastated by this extreme wariness,” he said.
As St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Hebrews, Jesus came to “destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death,” Msgr. Pope pointed out.
“I cannot avoid concluding that many people indeed are ‘in slavery through their fear of death’. There seems to be no end in sight for the fear they feel — no solution other than a cure for COVID-19,” he said.
“I write to express my concern and to reiterate the constant biblical cry, ‘Do not be afraid!’”
Msgr. Pope believes that medical concerns about COVID-19 are “not without merit,” but questions the prudence of ongoing restrictions as an attempt to contain the virus.
“Again, I am neither a doctor nor a scientist. But I am a priest, and as such I think we must count the other costs. There is more to life than just not getting sick and not dying,” said Msgr. Pope, who has led Bible studies in the U.S. Congress and at the White House in past years.
“In the current pandemic, which is admittedly severe, we have quarantined the healthy along with the sick, the resilient along with the vulnerable. Crippling fear has seized so many people, and at some point, fear begins to feed on itself,” he said.
“We have shut down our economy, depriving many of their livelihoods and of the dignity that comes from working, from using their talents and from providing for their families.”
Given the level of fear, it’s hard to know when authorities will lift the measures, he pointed out.
“What will it take to help people get their courage back? What is the endgame that public officials have in mind?” Msgr. Pope questioned.
“Will there ever be a day when we say, ‘Let’s all get back to normal?’ Will we always have to wear masks? … Will those who go about living life normally always be shamed and called selfish and irresponsible?”
The monsignor also criticized the Catholic Church for “collectively” capitulating, not teaching the value of suffering and the theology of death and dying, and limiting and denying the sacraments to the faithful, thus “conveying the silent message that physical health is more important than spiritual health.”
“While we could not recklessly disregard civil ordinances, too many of us were content to hunker down and forgo public Mass. We would not utter the biblical cry, ‘Do not be afraid,’ out of fear of being called insensitive or irresponsible.”
While such a response was understandable because of the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, “now we must reflect on all that has happened and resolve to never again allow a governor or mayor dictate whether, when or how we may give the sacraments,” Msgr. Pope observed.
As for how Catholics ought to respond going forward, they should follow precautionary measures for the time being, but ask themselves, “When will this end, and who will get to decide that?” he suggested.
The Church, “and each one of us, has a role to play in ending the fear that this pandemic has set loose,” said Msgr. Pope.
“Until we as the Church confronting the situation and ‘man up’ as Christians should, fear will masquerade as prudence, and folks like me who question whether we’ve gone too far will be called irresponsible and even reprehensible,” he said.
“But my take is that fear is a far more serious ailment than COVID-19,” the monsignor observed. “At some point we have to break out of the huddle and run the play. God will be with us.”
Msgr. Pope’s full article can be found here.