ASK FATHER: Can the bishop forbid lay Catholics from gathering in public or private places because of COVID-19?

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

Does the bishop of a diocese have the authority to prevent lay faithful from gathering in public or private with non-household members?

The following is background for the question.

A group of lay Catholics were organizing an informal faith walk on Good Friday. The bishop found out about it, so I sent him an invitation in order to avoid the appearance of being clandestine. In his response to my invitation he sent a letter stating he expected me and other to not proceed and further stated that, “The suspension of public Masses and all other gatherings is extended until further notice.” He implied this included gathering of lay faithful in public parks.

The present COVID “lockdown” is creating sad situations, strife, confusion and disappointment on many fronts.

However, it is also an opportunity to live our live from a more interior view.  It is a chance to sort out values and plan for our renewal in the future when things let up.  My hope would be that all those who want to do things now – in this time of pandemic lockdown – will be that much more zealous and outgoing and present when we are able to move around again more freely.

Your local bishop would not have the right to prevent Catholics from gathering across the board.

He would have the right to prevent such gatherings on church owned property or from being called a “Catholic” gathering (cf. can. 216).  A bishop can and should exhort the faithful to be obedient to reasonable laws passed by civil governments.

Whether this is a reasonable “law” and whether it has been legitimately issued under our constitution is a matter for debate.  The Constitutional right of the people to gather seems to be encumbered by the same interpretation as the Constitutional right to free speech (which does not permit, for example, yelling “fire” in a crowded theater).

In effect, the bishop expressed his preference to you and he may also be covering his back in case anyone points a finger at him because you, saying you are Catholics, gathered somewhere in contravention of local civil laws.

May I remind us all to pray for a MIRACLE?

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28 Responses to ASK FATHER: Can the bishop forbid lay Catholics from gathering in public or private places because of COVID-19?

  1. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Thanks for posting the link to the Prayer for miraculous end to covid-19 again Padre. I had copied it from one of your previous posts, but then couldn’t find my copy. When I first saw the prayer, I started reading it and then about a third of the way through, I found myself praying it – then just kept going.
    We’re in the novena to the Divine Mercy guys.

  2. Sadly, in this day and age, it seems to be a mistake to bring the bishop into the loop on any worthwhile enterprise, even when it’s not something a bishop can lawfully restrict. We and our bishops do not seem to be on the same page.

    I second the thanks for the COVID-19 prayer. I have added it to my bedtime prayers.

  3. iamlucky13 says:

    Aside from the Constitutional question related to quarantines and similar restrictions (which a fair amount of writing can be found on from various sources, going all the way back to the first decades of US history), I see two distinct moral questions to consider:

    1) Whether individual decisions to participate in non-essential gatherings, by increasing the risk of transmission, may cause unreasonable harm to others.

    2) Whether civil authority is exercised justly, and therefore whether disobedience to civil restrictions on activities violates the 4th Commandment, as discussed in CCC 2234-2243.

    I’m just raising these as considerations for our individual examinations of conscience, not stating a conclusion about them. I did initially have some concern about just exercise of civil authority, though, when there was discussion of restricting religious activities more than secular activities.

  4. roma247 says:

    When we look at the wholesale suppression of our Constitutional rights in this case: our ability to have no say whatsoever in the complete shutdown of our country and our livelihoods, even the total curtailing of our right to worship, and then to make the case that exercising our 1st amendment rights to peaceably assemble to address these grievances, might be tantamount to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater…

    …is to compare being shot by a firing squad, to a toddler yelling “bang” with his finger gun.

    Not only do we have a right to exercise our 1st amendment rights in this situation, WE HAVE A DUTY TO DO SO. If we don’t, we will only have ourselves to blame in the aftermath of this disaster.

    We are not living in totalitarian China. And we are not fighting the Bubonic Plague, or the Smallpox, or any other pandemic that kills 10-60% of its victims. We are ruining the lives of a majority of our fellow countrymen…for a virus that has been proven to kill at most 1%, probably less, once we have enough data to look back.

    What people are totally failing to realize, as we float through this limbo of lockdown, is that we are facing a global depression of epic proportions once this is done. There is not going to be a “return to normal.” There will be a new normal. And it will be one where we have shown that no one cares enough to defend the sovereign rights that our forefathers died to give us.

  5. Suburbanbanshee says:

    People walking outside six feet apart are creating no more hazard — probably less hazard — than people lining up six feet apart at the checkout.

    Most states permit outdoor walks and exercise.

    So yeah, full points on sacrificial obedience to the laypeople, but boo to the bishop. His command over his diocese’s laypeople is limited, for a reason.

  6. TonyO says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for a very balanced comment. Bishops have authority over the sacraments, the liturgy, and Christian life as it considers morality etc. They do not exercise authority over civil matters (not directly), so it does seem like the above bishop was expressing an opinion about conforming to civil laws. He may have been implying (not too clearly) that the proposed event would contravene civil ordinances, but that’s probably as far as it goes.

    Overall, I would suggest qualifying considerations to what roma247 suggested. For example: if civil authorities have, in principle the right to order strict quarantines for something as bad as the bubonic plague or the black plague, then they probably have the (seemingly lesser) degree of authority needed to order less-than-strict “quarantines” for something less sever than the bubonic plague. It may be, for instance, that in order for a governor in OUR constitutional order to have the authority to start issuing edicts like this, according to state law there first needs to be a finding by the competent medical authority (i.e. the state Medical Officer) that “this is an epidemic with significant life threat” or some such. THEN the governor would have quarantine powers that he doesn’t normally have.

    Similarly, I too fear the down-stream economic impact of the lock-downs, especially on the poor. Indeed, it may be (we cannot be certain it WILL be) as bad as a world-wide depression, but then again, it MAY be less severe. There is legitimate uncertainty, due to contingent future events that we cannot foresee clearly. Hence there is room for prudential judgment that goes this way or that about how long or how strict to order a lock-down, or how to divide up “essential” and non-essential jobs and activities. Because there is lots of uncertainty due to a vast array of particulars that cannot be sorted out scientifically, those who have executive authority to pursue the common good can indeed (in some cases) oblige us to follow stricter regimes than we are used to, i.e. curtailment of usual “rights” for the time being.

    I encourage people to be informed, and to be as careful as possible, while also looking out for the poorer among us who have not the resources to fall back on that many do have.

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  8. JustaSinner says:

    The First Amendment GUARANTEES NOTHING. It is stating what is FORBIDDEN of the Federal Government. It shall NOT establish a national religion, NOR prohibiting the free exercise thereof… Closing Churches sure seems to be prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
    Yes, these ‘freedoms’ are not absolute, (yelling fire in a packed theater), but our Founding Fathers were quite aware of plagues and epidemics–smallpox anyone?–and made no limits of our freedoms for medical/disease reasons.

  9. Fr. Reader says:

    He might be very happy that you gather informally to talk about the faith, and might pray for you, and wish there are more like you (obviously depending on the different circumstances of each place during this time). But he may “be covering his back in case anyone points a finger at him because you…”

  10. JonPatrick says:

    It bothers me that there has not been more push back from the Church about many of the restrictions. We can have 50 people shopping in a supermarket but cannot have 50 people praying or attending Mass spaced 6 feet apart in a large cathedral. The “social distancing” is being done in theory at the supermarket but in practice from what I have seen it is violated often, whereas the church situation would actually be much easier to enforce. What we are doing is basically agreeing with the implied view of the secular authorities that attending Mass or adoration is a non essential activity in the same category as going to the golf course.

  11. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear roma247,

    You wrote:

    “And we are not fighting the Bubonic Plague, or the Smallpox, or any other pandemic that kills 10-60% of its victims. We are ruining the lives of a majority of our fellow countrymen…for a virus that has been proven to kill at most 1%, probably less, once we have enough data to look back.”

    Just to correct the science: The CFR (case fatality ratio) of the 1918 Spanish flu was only 2.5%, but it killed 500,000 Americans and 50-100 million, worldwide. The CFR for Bubonic Plague can vary from almost nothing, if treated early, to 60% if left untreated. Obviously, the CFR in 14th-century Italy would have been 60%. Today, it is about 0%. The CFR for rabies is very small if treated early with the vaccine, but 100% fatal if left untreated (it is the deadliest disease on the planet).

    The reproduction number, Ro, is a measure of how many secondary infections result from a primary carrier (a measure of the disease’s transmissibility). The Ro for the 1918 Spanish flu was 1.8, meaning that 1.8 additional people were infected for every infected person. The Ro for the Bubonic Plague depends on circumstances – it is a vector-borne disease – primarily, with possible droplet transmission in close proximity. Its Ro has been estimated to be 1.3.

    COVID-19 has a CFR that depends on medical conditions, population demographics (more old people = higher CFR), etc. Yes, the CFR will, probably go down as more data becomes available, but for every asymptomatic undiagnosed case, there may be a significant number of undiagnosed deaths. We, simply, do not have a wide net of testing to give accurate data. Across the world, the current estimated CFR ranges from 15% in Algeria, to 4.4% in the U.S. to .19% in Qatar. The Ro of the typical flu is 1.3; for COVID-19 it varies from 2-4, but it usually is in the range of 2-2.5, so it is twice as transmissible as the flu. The flu requires 2% hospitalization; COVID-19 requires 19% hospitalization. The incubation period for the flu is 1-4 days; for COVID-19 it is 1-14 days, so the length of time for pre-symptomatic people to transmit the disease is triple that of the flu.

    COVID-19 is not some trivial disease. It will be around and affecting the world for at least 2 years. It will take that long for either a vaccine to be developed or enough people are exposed, over time, to create herd immunity (about 67% of a population need to be exposed, given the Ro value). The hope is that some existing treatment will be effective against it (and that isn’t hydroxchloroquine). In the 1920’s we began our relentless pursuit of combating bacteria. We were, largely, successful. Now, especially since the 1980’s and the AIDS epidemic, we have begun to take on viruses, but they are much more subtle and tricky. If this outbreak would have occurred in 2120 instead of 2020, it would have been a blip on the radar. This is the century of bioscience, but it is early on. Imagine if this disease had happened in 1960.

    I am not a great fan of sequestering, except among the old (who have a CFR of 8-14%), because after this first round of sheltering, 95% of the population will NOT have been exposed to the virus. The method of gradual easing of the restrictions is, probably, a phase problem (and, possibly, nonlinear) with a very tight window for easing restrictions without a blow-up reoccurring.

    This is what happens with globalization. Isaac Asimov wrote one of his Foundation series books (the fourth one) on the premise that globalization is good, but we know that this is wrong and we have known this since the 1970’s from statistical mechanics and a discipline called synergetics. The best approach is a hybrid mixture of large and small chunks of organization. This gives enough power and flexibility without coupling everything together. This is the principle on which the Internet operates.

    I do not think that sheltering-in-place is anything more than a stop-gap technique. In the end, the economy will survive. This is not 1928. It will cause a great deal of suffering, however.

    Bishops should allow people in churches. They should allow processions. I’ve gone on too long, already, but sin plays a role in this disease and we need to turn back to God. They didn’t learn from AIDS and, sadly, I don’t think most people will learn from COVID-19 that memento mori is not just a suggestion.

    The Chicken

  12. pbnelson says:

    Dear OP,
    .
    Pardon me, but I think it was a mistake to invite the bishop. By doing so, you passed the buck of responsibility from yourself up to him, and put him in an impossible situation.
    .
    When someone had merely informed on you to the bishop he could reasonably reply “I haven’t officially heard about it and cannot respond to every rumor.”
    .
    But when you went ahead and officially invited him you forced him to take a position. At that point he could no longer claim to know nothing for certain about it, and he had to either:
    .
    1) explicitly permit your enterprise and thus generate a confrontation with the authorities on your timeframe not his, or
    2) explicitly forbid your enterprise and thus go on record as being lukewarm, or
    3) do nothing – thereby implicitly permitting your enterprise (see point 1)
    .
    The better move would have been to take the responsibility wholly onto yourself and leave the bishop out of it. If the authorities came and broke up your gathering the buck would have stopped with you. And your example might have even served to embolden the bishop.
    .
    After all, if the bishop had wanted to attend your gathering he could have reached out to you through the same informant who initially complained, right?
    .
    If that all sounds a little too Machiavellian, remember Matthew 10:16b, “Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves.”

  13. Semper Gumby says:

    Masked Chicken: Regarding Hydroxychloroquine, it has some value.

    See: Karen Whitsett (D-MI), Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD), Dr. Robin Armstrong, FEMA and the Strategic National Stockpile.

  14. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    I understand the idea of not formally inviting the Bishop, but it was stated that the purpose was not to be rude.

    When doing things we should keep things as much as we can off Churh property. Also, keep in mind how we will do things safely(masks/ social distancing) Also, recording to prove what is actually being done when someone starts point the finger. (And they will)
    Recording will also give others ideas of what and how to do and not to do.

  15. robtbrown says:

    MC,

    I don’t know of anyone who says that Hydroxychloroquine is the answer. There has, however, been a certain success with using it as part of a cocktail, along with zithromycin, sometimes including zinc. It is quite common in medicine to treat disease with a combo of meds. I know someone who exercises regularly but takes 4 different meds for high blood pressure–and one of the 4 is itself a combo of 2 distinct meds.

    From what I’ve seen on TV, the media has been its usual irresponsible self, driven by its addiction to sensationalism. For example, we are regularly treated to the number of people who have died from coronavirus, yet never told how many days are included in this number. In 2019 there were an average of 6000 US deaths every day from natural causes–180,000 deaths every 30 days.

    At the end of the first Iraq War the Iraqi army set fire to oil wells while leaving Iraq. The media said that those wells would burn from 2 to 5 years. Enter Red Adair and his cohorts–six weeks later the fires had been extinguished.

    TV news is little else than show biz.

  16. Semper Gumby says:

    JustaSinner: Excellent point.

    It is the duty of solid citizens to keep an eye on federal, state and local officials. The last few weeks have revealed the tyrannical disposition of certain governors and mayors. Insight for catastrophic situations down the road.

    We are blessed with a First and Second Amendment. Two books: Michael Novak’s “On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding” and “The Heritage Guide to the Constitution.”

    robtbrown: Good points.

  17. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    It is quite possible that a drug cocktail will be effective. I am aware of the HCQ + azythromycin + zinc combination. It might work, but a good controlled study needs to be done to prove it. For good statistics that means a minimum of n=30. At least, when I have worked on biological samples in the past, this was the minimum the statistician I consulted would let me get away with. In general, the larger the same size, the better the statistics.

    The pressure on the biological community is quite severe, these days, with the normally rigorous safeguards of science being stressed beyond the norm as everyone hopes for a sudden magic bullet to materialize. I hope one does mateialize, but we won’t even have good preliminary data from most clinical trials for at least three months for pre-existing treatments. Watching too much tv, especially science fiction and medical dramas, has over-inflated the public’s perception of the speed of most medical research.

    To put this in perspective, four types of coronavirus cause the common cold and we don’t have treatments anywhere near the hoped for level of the magic bullet for COVID-19, despite these viruses being around for research for 50 years or more. Granted, the symptoms are much less severe, but someone who had managed to cure the common cold would have won a Nobel Prize. This isn’t Star Trek. We are pushing the current limits of science as it is.

    The Chicken

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    Should be, hoped-for.

    The Chicken

  19. Semper Gumby says:

    Masked Chicken: Certain situations require flexibility. That flexibility has nothing to do with TV or Star Trek.

    FYI, if one rummages around on the NIH website there are Hydroxychloroquine articles dating back to the SARS coronavirus. One example from 2005:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1232869/

    Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) from a Monday, April 13 article:

    Noem said South Dakota will be the first state to run a state-wide trial to test hydroxychloroquine. There are several other trials being conducted elsewhere.

    The governor said she pushed the White House last week to provide enough hydroxychloroquine to give it to every hospitalized person, others who are vulnerable to the coronavirus and “front line” health care workers.

    Allison Suttle, the chief medical officer for Sanford Health, which will be conducting the trial, said the side effects of the treatment could include nausea or fatigue, but did not list anything more severe. A press release from Sanford said there can be serious side effects from the drug, but they are rare.

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/apr/13/kristi-noem-south-dakota-run-hydroxychloroquine-tr/

  20. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    I believe the 6000/day figure for death by natural conditions is an amalgamated figure. The best current comparison I have seen is that flu is 1400 deaths/day, while COVID-19 is 1900 deaths/day, although it varies quite a bit. This is with partial sheltering. There is little sheltering for the flu, so it is more of an absolute figure than the current COVID-19 statistic.

    Semper Gumby,

    This has little to do with flexibility. We are dealing with a virus we only partially understand. Science aims for rigor, not public satisfaction. The data should lead. Richard Feynman was very clear about the dangers of acting precipitously in his Challenger report appendix. Hopefully, some of these treatment protocols will pan out (I know of 20 compounds currently being developed or in clinical trials).

    As for the NIH article, this was an in vitro test, not in vivo. It is suggestive, but plenty of compounds work in a cell culture. These are pilot studies, at best. In fact, the author of the article you cited tried not only HCQ, but ammonium chloride and found that ammonium chloride, NH4Cl, worked just a well as HCQ and, yet, no one, to my knowledge is looking at NH4Cl as a treatment. I wonder why? It has a modest use in medicine. They both work, according to the author, by changing the intracelluar pH and inhibiting ACE-2 production. This is in a cell culture of SARS-COV.

    The only way to know if HCQ works in humans is clinical trials. They are underway, but there are no definite results that would survive a moment of scientific scrutiny, yet. That will have to wait for about 3 months. That is how long it takes to properly process the data and go through expedited peer review.

    No compound has had the type of rigor to prove its effectiveness against COVID-19 that we would have demanded in less stressful times. None, yet, but people are working as fast as they can to provide the answers. Thalidomide was going to be a treatment for first trimester nausea in pregnant women back in the 1950’s, but it became a nightmare because of poor clinical trials and a rush to use. We don’t want to make the same mistakes, here.

    The Chicken

  21. Semper Gumby says:

    Masked Chicken: Thanks for your intelligent response.

    “This has little to do with flexibility.”

    MC, it most certainly does. Alot of lives are impacted here, alot of moving parts both foreign and domestic.

    “We are dealing with a virus we only partially understand.”

    Fair enough, but that is not a reason for a protracted response. Some things should be explored or initiated sooner rather than later. Flexibility.

    “Science aims for rigor, not public satisfaction.”

    Possibly the Anthropomorphic Fallacy here MC. No doubt you are aware that more than a few scientists are motivated by ideology and disregard rigor.

    “The data should lead.”

    Possibly the Anthropomorphic Fallacy. Leaders lead, not data. Data collected by humans informs human decisions. Also, faith, ideology, worldview, bureaucratic inertia and policy inform decisions. Back to data. In a complex situation data is rarely comprehensive, timely and pointing clearly to one and only one proper course of action.

    “Richard Feynman was very clear about the dangers of acting precipitously in his Challenger report appendix.”

    That’s fine, also irrelevant. This situation differs: a pandemic with numerous geo-political complications.

    “Thalidomide was going to be a treatment for first trimester nausea in pregnant women back in the 1950’s, but it became a nightmare because of poor clinical trials and a rush to use. We don’t want to make the same mistakes, here.”

    A sterling point, MC. That said, this brings us to Last Resort. Take a look, for example, at the case of Michael Goldsmith and the drug remdesivir.

    Flexibility is important in this complex situation. There is room to maneuver with policy and rhetoric. Scientific research and the scientific method are important tools, but not the only tools, in the toolbox.

  22. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Semper Gumby,

    We might be talking about two subtly different things. I agree that there is a great need for flexibility in the social and political aspects of the current situation. The sad fact is that there will have to be a background infection rate of COVID-19 that society is willing to put up with in order to send people back to work. Hopefully, treatments can lower the death rate, but few people won’t get infected over the next two years, so we have to develop a certain flexibility and patience in that regard and carry on in the face of an uncertain future.

    For Catholics, staying close to the sacraments and maintaining a clear conscience as best as possible should provide a certain measure of peace, since all sacraments, at least remotely, prepare one for death. This is why I am appalled at the lack of creativity among some bishops with regards to providing access to the sacraments.

    With regards to the science, strictly speaking, yes, I know all about the imposition of fallen human nature into what should be a dispassionate search for truth. My remarks were not anthropomorphic; if anything, they were a plea to remove, as much as possible, the human element from science. It was the human element that got the Challenger crew killed, not the science – that was set aside by some of the managers at NASA for the sake of publicity. Galileo got nailed not for his science, but because of his bristly humanity. It is gravity that makes object fall, not Galileo. Nature can’t be fooled and when a fallen humanity tries to do so, everyone suffers.

    Unfortunately, in times of fear, humanity often seeks quick remedies and holds to false hopes and I am trying make a plea to resist those temptations, nothing more. Remdesivir has great promise as both a treatment and a prophylaxis for COVID-19. Whereas HCQ, for the most part, treats a symptom of COVID-19 (inflammation), Remdesivir is an actual anti-viral agent. HCQ treats SARS in a cell culture, but HCQ is metabolized in a human and it is the metabolite that should have, properly, been tested for any antiviral properties beyond its anti-inflammatory properties. So, it remains a possible treatment, but there is no data on whether or not it is a prophylaxis (a true antiviral) because no one has tested the actual bioactive form, to my knowledge. President Trump should not have been jesting that he might take it in advance of the disease. That is just scientific neglegence and that is humanity contaminating science.

    The Chicken

  23. robtbrown says:

    The Masked Chicken says:

    I believe the 6000/day figure for death by natural conditions is an amalgamated figure. The best current comparison I have seen is that flu is 1400 deaths/day, while COVID-19 is 1900 deaths/day, although it varies quite a bit. This is with partial sheltering. There is little sheltering for the flu, so it is more of an absolute figure than the current COVID-19 statistic.

    I didn’t do a good job of making my point. The 6000 I mentioned was just an average of the 2,200,000 deaths from natural causes in 2019 divided by 365. Obviously, there are seasonal and geographic variations. My criticism was directed at the media, which is addicted to sensationalism and false accuracy, e.g.,

    “High today was 76”–which means what? Move 100 yards away, and it’s likely a different number.
    “If convicted on all counts, he could be sentenced to as many at 75 years in prison”–or probation.

    No doubt that Covid19 has produced more deaths, but the media just tossing out the number as if it’s the tote board in the Jerry Lewis Telethon is little else than sensationalism. It’s manipulating rather than informing the public.

  24. robtbrown says:

    Re the numerous geo-political complications of the virus: Those complications existed prior to the last six months–the virus has just exposed them.

  25. Semper Gumby says:

    “My remarks were not anthropomorphic;”

    Let’s agree to disagree.

    “…if anything, they were a plea to remove, as much as possible, the human element from science.”

    You appear to be idolizing “science” and denigrating human beings. Scientific research and the scientific method should serve humanity, not the other way around. Recall the 20th century and those who removed “as much as possible” the human element from science. That did not go well.

    “Unfortunately, in times of fear, humanity often seeks quick remedies and holds to false hopes and I am trying make a plea to resist those temptations, nothing more.”

    Humanity: put your faith in Science! Science will show you a better way…

    “President Trump should not have been jesting that he might take it in advance of the disease. That is just scientific neglegence and that is humanity contaminating science.”

    MC, you are fetishizing “science.”

    “…contaminating”…

    robtbrown: Fair. Though one might say in addition to “exposing”: aggravated and added several more.

  26. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Semper Gumby,

    I am not fetishizing science. If I were, I would be guilty of scientism (and I am not). I have seen too much nonsense in science when human personalities get involved. Remember the Cold Fusion debacle? Science has, recently, gone through a terrible period of the Reproducibility Crisis, especially in the soft sciences, which was almost entirely caused by a humanity seeking tenure and not truth. We learned a lot from that humiliation. I saw tenured faculty members either suspended or lose their jobs because of academic misconduct. I know the sociology of science; I, also, know where Kuhn and Poppler were wrong.

    Many of us spend most of our careers just trying to make sure that nothing blows up in the lab (although, I tend to theory and nor practice). It tends to make many scientists not as connected to humanity as they, perhaps, should be, but electrical equipment and chemicals don’t really care if you are human. They will explode if improperly used, whether you are contrite or not. Natural law is of a higher order than human law and it is impartial.

    More than that, I cross disciplines. I am as comfortable in science as in the humanities. I have a doctorate in music (and advanced degrees in both history and performance), so I’ve seen the full scope of academia. I’ve seen virtue and vice on both sides of the field. One of the reasons that I am not a professional orchestra player is that if you make one mistake during a concert, they fine you; if you make two mistakes, they fire you and it is all on tape. If you think I am stringent regarding science, the standards are equally as high in the performing arts and last I heard, no one said that the concert-meisters of the St. Louis, Cleveland, or Chicago orchestras were fetishizing music.

    Any worthwhile endeavor must have standards. Apparently, we differ on what those standards should be in the sciences. It is one thing to coach a high school science fair project. I have been both a judge and a coach and I am and have been an academic mentor to high school STEM students working on things from building electric violins to making rocket fuel from candy (yes, it can be done). I don’t hold them to nearly the standard that I do professionals and, yet, as any band director will tell you, generally, students rise to the level of expectations of the conductor (as long as he isn’t off the deep end).

    I appreciate the human element in science and the arts, but as Fred Astaire once said to, I believe, Ginger Rodgers, “It’s okay to be scared, but get it right.” That is what I am asking, what I insist on – that they get it right. That does not ignore humanity. It makes humanity rise up and makes the Old Testament notion of pride in one’s work mean something.

    The Chicken

  27. Semper Gumby says:

    Masked Chicken: Thanks for your reply.

    “I am not fetishizing science. If I were, I would be guilty of scientism (and I am not).”

    Debatable, e.g. “… contaminating…”

    “I have seen too much nonsense in science when human personalities get involved.”

    Fair, everyone has a limit. Though, “nonsense with personalities” is…life. Humans do science, personalities will be involved.

    “Any worthwhile endeavor must have standards. Apparently, we differ on what those standards should be in the sciences.”

    “Scientific standards” is not the source of our disagreement.

    “Natural law is of a higher order than human law and it is impartial.”

    Once again, see: Karen Whitsett (D-MI), Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD), Dr. Robin Armstrong, FEMA and the Strategic National Stockpile, Michael Goldsmith. Here, natural law and human law meet. Here are real flesh-and-blood people under pressure. Flexibility, MC.

    “That is what I am asking, what I insist on – that they get it right.”

    MC, that is fine in your classroom, your concert hall or your laboratory. A global pandemic is a complex situation with many moving parts and tasks. And, as we have seen, many colorful personalities. Many tasks will not be perfectly done, but merely done well, to the best of one’s abilities, and utilizing the resources at hand.

    “…the Old Testament notion of pride in one’s work…”

    A good point, MC. In 2016 the blessed Chicago Cubs averaged about two wins for every loss. They won the World Series. No doubt they took pride in their work.

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