In a new essay published in The New York Times, Pope Francis — the head of the Catholic Church — speaks out about the COVID-19 pandemic, calling on observers to “recover the knowledge that as a people we have a shared destination.” As he puts it: “This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities — what we value, what we want, what we seek — and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of.” The Pope also addressed those who’ve failed to rise to this standard of finding a meaningful path forward amidst the crisis; he spotlights the dangers of groups that have protested COVID-19 restrictions and of governments that have failed to act appropriately.
The Trump administration, of course, falls into that latter category. The Pope did not mention Trump, but the relevance of his remarks to the American experience seems clear. Throughout the duration of the crisis, Trump has tried to downplay the significance of the pandemic. His administration has financially supported the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, but in the here and now, they’ve frequently hesitated to act decisively — to say the least. Trump has talked about the country supposedly learning to live with the disease — as Joe Biden poignantly noted in response, the actual process has been more like learning to die with it.
‘With some exceptions, governments have made great efforts to put the well-being of their people first, acting decisively to protect health and to save lives. The exceptions have been some governments that shrugged off the painful evidence of mounting deaths, with inevitable, grievous consequences. But most governments acted responsibly, imposing strict measures to contain the outbreak.’
As for those who’ve protested COVID-19 restrictions — who’ve repeatedly enjoyed the support of Trump himself — the Pope added the following:
‘Yet some groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions — as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom! Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate.’
Trump and his allies have frequently failed to meaningfully grasp this message. Just recently, Trump offered public support for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against COVID-19-sparked restrictions on gatherings in New York. Speaking to all observers, the Pope concluded, in part, as follows:
‘God asks us to dare to create something new. We cannot return to the false securities of the political and economic systems we had before the crisis. We need economies that give to all access to the fruits of creation, to the basic needs of life: to land, lodging and labor. We need a politics that can integrate and dialogue with the poor, the excluded and the vulnerable, that gives people a say in the decisions that affect their lives. We need to slow down, take stock and design better ways of living together on this earth.’
Read his essay at this link.