Globally, as of last Wednesday, there are 121, 357 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 4,380 deaths all in approximately 78 days. In the Caribbean, the number of confirmed cases at the time of printing is 12.
On March 6, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), based here in Trinidad and Tobago, raised the risk of coronavirus transmission (COVID-19) in the region, from moderately high to ‘very high’. We are fortunate that thus far, of the 34 tested, all have been negative.
In response to the escalation, the Archdiocese of Port of Spain issued a statement outlining the precautionary measures, not unlike measures in other Churches around the world and which the Holy Father advised, to be taken to protect the faithful. And some of the faithful, a few of whom proclaimed proudly the positions of leadership they had within their respective parishes, took to social media to protest in an unseemly and vitriolic manner.
The basis of the complaints ran the gamut of lack of faith to “entitlement” to the Precious Blood. Church teachings on transubstantiation were interrogated with YouTube being used to refute, and the Archbishop’s position in light of the precautions, questioned and criticised by members of the clergy and laypersons alike.
Forgotten was early catechesis that there is fullness in the bread alone:
Were the responses arrogant, ignorant, or a selfish piety? Why wasn’t there a pause to consider whether it was reasonable to think that the Archbishop or the Archdiocese would somehow seek to actively limit spiritual benefits to its own flock?
Where was the humility or desire to seek clarification through appropriate ways, or even the ability to express views in a civil manner that does not amount to raging and, effectively, being a source of division?
Where, most importantly, was the concern for, not only the brothers and sisters who attend Mass, but the common good of the national community? The Catholic Church is universal and one.
The social justice teachings are not only in practise to the poor and marginalised but bespeak as well a greater good for the spiritual and physical well-being of the society. It is a mode of thinking, a culture that goes with the outward activities in mercy and charity.
The frequent complaint is that the numbers of individuals attending Mass are declining. There is the impetus to bring young people back into the arms of the Church.
But what is the example set when the default communication—on things where there may be partial understanding or disagreement—is hostile, defensive and reactive?
Social media, while having innumerable benefits, has unfortunately also given a platform for egos, for impulse speaking before thinking of overall impact. It is a new democratisation of opinion that ignores authority and expertise. This is itself a virus.
That this should have occurred during Lent is instructive, and while as well, many pursue the course of being Dynamic Catholics.
There are some other questions to be asked perhaps in the introspection and repentance that this period offers.
What is the nature of our belief and practise of faith as part of a larger community? How do we communicate when we don’t agree? With anger? Or in a way to understand and dialogue?
Lent is a beautiful journey and provides a real opportunity for self-examination beyond the superficial. May God continue to guide and mould us into the Church and people He wants.