reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke

It seems to me that the waters are getting muddy as a myriad of things are being redefined and labeled incorrectly.

Yes, we can believe it’s not butter.

And we also don’t buy that wearing a mask and masking our children is the most pro-life thing we can do.

I have taught my children that at its most basic level the pro-life position is that each person has an inherent dignity and the right to exist without having their freedom to do so impeded. I tell my kids that they are valuable and they are a force for good in the world, that their existence is celebrated not only by me but by the world itself and by the God who made and loves them.

How is that message compatible with, “By your very living and breathing you are a danger to the world. Your very breath could literally kill someone without you knowing it. So, put a mask on and hide your face”?

Can children separate this message of shame from the message of love that is their identity? I am 41 and I struggle to do so.

What does it mean to do an evil? We are taught by the Church that to commit a mortal sin, three conditions must be met: 1) It must involve grave matter, 2) You must know it is a sin, 3) You must will it, give consent to it.

My child is just playing outside, being free of care and malice, innocence itself. And I go to him and say, “Wear this mask, because if not you are committing an evil.” No, not by intention or knowledge or consent or will. But by existence. By existence he is hurting others and is therefore guilty by default. His exchange of oxygen to carbon dioxide is enough to send someone into eternity and perhaps to hell.

No. This is a proposition I can never support. I will never look into the eyes of my child and tell him that he is dangerous—not because of anything he does, but because he dares to live.

Doing evil or doing good require consent and participation.

People have told me that wearing the mask and requiring my children to do so is the pro-life thing to do. But, I think being pro-life means a lot more than apologizing for your existence. I think being pro-life is to live unafraid, to be free to smile, to laugh, to cry, to greet strangers, to reach out to those who are lost, to be liberal with affection, and forgiving of faults, to touch a leper (or COVID patient) and to assist those who ask with words or pleading looks for help.

The Church tells us what mercy is:

  • To instruct the ignorant.
  • To counsel the doubtful.
  • To admonish the sinners.
  • To bear patiently those who wrong us.
  • To forgive offenses.
  • To comfort the afflicted.
  • To pray for the living and the dead.
  • To feed the hungry.
  • To give water to the thirsty.
  • To clothe the naked.
  • To shelter the homeless.
  • To visit the sick.
  • To visit the imprisoned, or ransom the captive.
  • To bury the dead.

In studying this list, I would say that it leaves no place for fear—fear of a virus, fear of an unmasked stranger, fear for our lives. Of all the things we are called to love, our lives are not one of them.

“They triumphed over [the accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Revelation 12:11

This is what it actually means to be pro-life. To exist freely and to fight for other’s right to exists freely. Existence is to be celebrated and not feared.

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