As a local Catholic pastor in Greenwood (St. Francis of Assisi Church), I am responding to Tim Kalich’s heartfelt op-ed column from this past weekend’s edition of the Commonwealth (“Is fear a betrayal of faith?”).
Pope Francis has called upon all Catholics, and others, to be mindful of the need to care for others. This care has been manifested at the Vatican, as well as the entire Diocese of Rome (of which Pope Francis is bishop), by shutting down churches and religious services. Why is that? Because of fear? To an extent, yes, but fear that the other may be contaminated and suffer needlessly, and that person’s family, etc.
The concern for human life, all human life, is what is being addressed here. The Catholic Church has a long history, from the Gospels of Jesus to the present, of attempting to respond, because of faith in Jesus, to the common good. I think this is what the Rev. Peter Gray was addressing in his response on Tuesday when he was focusing on the neighbor (“Church suspension is what Jesus would do”). What will be best for my neighbor? As Christians are well aware, Jesus summarizes the Ten Commandments into two, “Love God with your whole being ... and your neighbor as yourself. The whole Law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Mat-thew 22:34-40).
I keep my distance not because I am afraid of you contaminating me, but because I don’t want to possibly contaminate you! It is, therefore, for the sake of the common good, loving my neighbor, that we have closed churches and other public places, not because we have given into fear of the other, but because of love of the other. That is why Pope Francis has done it in Rome, and the other Catholic bishops have done it in Italy, and that is why the US Catholic bishops have been implementing it here.
Rev. Joachim “Kim” Studwell, OFM
St. Francis of Assisi Church