A Word From Bishop Medley: Let us treat one another with respect
Just a very few weeks ago I thought it safe to assume that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic had been turned back in the United States. Infection rates and hospitalizations had been declining for months and people were seeking vaccinations in good, if not ideal, numbers. Of course, in the larger picture we knew that the virus was still raging in parts of the world where vaccinations remained scarce.
Then we began to hear with ever-escalating frequency about variants that seem to be spreading more easily that the initial virus, which was itself highly contagious.
So here we are in September, 18 months since our lives and our society were upended in ways we could never have imagined, and we may feel like we are back where we began. The good news is that nationwide more than 50% of the U.S. population has been vaccinated and while that provides no guarantee of total immunity, it does appear that the vaccinated, if infected, are experiencing far milder symptoms. The bad news is that nearly 50% of the population has not been vaccinated and that the new Delta variant is far more contagious than previously thought – and thus infection rates and hospitalizations are soaring again.
As I often do with time sensitive subjects, I caution you that it is very possible that by the time you read this around the first of September the whole picture may be different – much better or much worse.
Schools are reopening in-person across the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Our Catholic schools last year had in-person classes most of the year. Some public districts are returning to classrooms for the first time in 18 months. I never thought I would be in a position to be talking again about requiring masking in classrooms again. But here we are.
Trust me, I know how upsetting this is to some parents. Let me say again that our goal is to have in-person learning and to ensure the safety of children, teachers, and staff. We pulled this off very effectively last year and can again.
We have implemented again some cautionary restriction regarding our worship. I hesitate to articulate these here because it is very likely they will be adapted often.
It is disheartening to see reactions sparking such hostility around the country to renewed restrictions. As Church, I would hope that we can find a way to model respectful discourse and disagreement that avoids shouting and questioning other peoples’ motives.
I have echoed before what many others have said that we should act in these matters with an abundance of caution. To that I have encouraged that we act even more so with an abundance of charity. When the day comes that the whole pandemic nightmare has ended around the world, it might be that we will see that our caution was excessive in some matters. But it is unimaginable that we would ever say that our charity was excessive.
Let us treat one another with respect. Most especially, please treat those burdened with making decisions about the pandemic with respect. Though I do not agree with every decision or restriction that I hear of, from what I observe leaders are striving to serve the Common Good. They deserve our gratitude even if at the same time we offer them respectful challenges.
In our lifetimes we have seen the world endure colossal wars, famines, natural disasters of immense scale, terrorism and many other abominations – yet, in all that, we hear the words of Jesus assuring us of his promise to be with us and that we need not be afraid.
Most Reverend William F. Medley
Diocese of Owensboro
Originally printed in the September 2021 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.