Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Masking Morality 101

August, 4, 2020 BEAUMONT, Texas — A Southeast Texas doctor is talking about his recovery from COVID-19, and says he never expected to get it. 

Dr. Ray Callas says on July 27, he had symptoms he'd never felt before.

"I couldn't bend down to tie my shoes. All my muscles and my bones ached and that's never happened before," Callas said.

He tested positive for the coronavirus. 

"My temperature was normal but I had some of the worst chills you could possibly imagine," Callas said. 

He doesn't know where he got it.

"I wore a mask everywhere I went. I used hand sanitizer everywhere I went," Callas said. 

He wants to share his story, letting others know what to do if they test positive.

"They need go get treated right away," Callas said. 

Dr. Callas acknowledges there's no known treatment for COVID-19.

"I also took hydroxychloroquine, and that's very controversial. I just felt personally that I needed to throw the kitchen sink at it," Callas said. 

According to the FDA, doctors can make their own decisions about hydroxychloroquine. 

Dr. Callas also took an antibiotic cocktail that included Albuterol, vitamin C and zinc.

He believes the medications helped him recover.

"It gets rough very quickly and a couple of times last week I was concerned about going to the ER. The shortness of breath is very scary and you just letting it sit in your body, and you think it is going to go away is not the right away to approach," Callas said. 

The story brings up a point that has concerned me from the beginning of the restrictions: the effectiveness of the measures in preventing the spread of the virus to any given individual. If an individual has known comorbidity, the morality of the risk of exposure becomes subject to more scrutiny. Prudence in such circumstances requires a close examination of the true efficacy of the personal equipment one is using, not only for the protection of others, but for the protection of oneself, primarily. This is simply a very basic application of the principles of morality. One cannot knowingly expose oneself to the threat of deadly disease without a sufficient reason. This is a perplexing moral issue because there has been so much confusion coming from so-called experts. Indeed, from a moral point of view, some things we have heard have been wrong and accepting of the ignorance of the people to whom this is directed. This method of operation is not the stuff of moral action. Indeed, duress, ignorance, and fear all reduce the moral quality of an act. My impression is that many people are still of the opinion that by wearing a mask they are protecting themselves. In fact, however, the scientific literature up to this point disputes that point. There are different types of masks and the masks that we don are allegedly more effective at preventing the spread of the disease agent from the wearer to others than they are at preventing the wearer from becoming infected. According to the Mayo Clinic surgical masks and cloth masks "may" protect others by reducing exposure to the mask wearer's secretions. This is why it is often asserted that wearing a mask is an act of kindness or charity because by doing so one is preventing another person from being exposed to the virus. Of course, the mask may mean nothing at all as a disease preventative. Wearing a cloth mask only has a real pragmatic effect, to whatever degree, if the wearer is carrying the disease and is capable of spreading it. Moreover, there are many other factors that would suggest that one with comorbidity must exercise great caution. There are reasons that most of us are not permitted to visit our relatives in the hospital who have COVID-19. For those of us who are permitted to go in to a patient's room, the type of equipment is very specific. It is designed to prevent the wearer from contracting the disease and it is far more extensive than a mere mask. This is certainly our experience as priests. I would suggest that everyone in healthcare knows this. No professional would send one of us into a COVID patient's room with a homemade cloth mask.

Under the circumstances, the mask mandate gives concrete expression to two assumptions, one that is somewhat well-suited to the purpose while the other is a social control measure. The first assumption is that wearing a mask lessens the chance of expelling the contagion though the nose or mouth. This is a morally acceptable position though the degree to which such is effective is far from clear. The best the Mayo Clinic seems to muster here is by suggesting that it "may" be effective. The second assumption is that the only way to control the spread is to assume that everyone is contagious and should, on that basis, be required to wear the cloth mask. As I have said before, that is a social policy determination. It is not a medical or scientific conclusion. The degree to which a society should enforce the action based upon that assumption is a matter for public debate. There could be other factors that mitigate against it. This is the reason that there are health exemptions from the mandate. Without better scientific evidence, we simply trust the one with the authority to make such mandates. And while we might, for a time, concede that such authority exists, we still do not know why a particular individual should or should not be forced by political authority to wear a mask. Or, to put it another way, we do not know why it would be more dangerous for one individual to be permitted an exemption than to risk spreading the disease. How, exactly, is that calculation made? Does anyone know? Of course, not. It is a public policy estimation at this point.

We do not know the degree to which the social whole is protected by the universal wearing of cloth masks. We think it will help. As the experts say, it "may." The degree that it alleviates the spread of the contagion is completely unknown. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

St. Thomas Aquinas: Mercy and truth are necessarily found in all God's works, if mercy be taken to mean the removal of any kind of defect. Not every defect, however, can properly be called a misery; but only defect in a rational nature whose lot is to be happy; for misery is opposed to happiness. For this necessity there is a reason, because since a debt paid according to the divine justice is one due either to God, or to some creature, neither the one nor the other can be lacking in any work of God: because God can do nothing that is not in accord with His wisdom and goodness; and it is in this sense, as we have said, that anything is due to God. Likewise, whatever is done by Him in created things, is done according to proper order and proportion wherein consists the idea of justice. Thus justice must exist in all God's works. Now the work of divine justice always presupposes the work of mercy; and is founded thereupon. For nothing is due to creatures, except for something pre-existing in them, or foreknown. Again, if this is due to a creature, it must be due on account of something that precedes. And since we cannot go on to infinity, we must come to something that depends only on the goodness of the divine will—which is the ultimate end.We may say, for instance, that to possess hands is due to man on account of his rational soul; and his rational soul is due to him that he may be man; and his being man is on account of the divine goodness. So in every work of God, viewed at its primary source, there appears mercy. In all that follows, the power of mercy remains, and works indeed with even greater force; as the influence of the first cause is more intense than that of second causes. For this reason does God out of abundance of His goodness bestow upon creatures what is due to them more bountifully than is proportionate to their deserts: since less would suffice for preserving the order of justice than what the divine goodness confers; because between creatures and God's goodness there can be no proportion.

I really, really wish we could reboot some things in the Church, things that happened in connection with the Second Vatican Council. Today, I am not talking about the discarding of the Tradition of the Mass and the invention of the form we have today. That’s a biggie, though. (Why did we get rid of the Requiem Masses?) I am, however, talking about the complete abandonment of the long-standing moral tradition of the Church.
The Second Vatican Council called for a renewal of moral theology, which I would suppose was meant to reinvigorate the study of Moral Theology for our modern times. What happened, though, was a profound break with the long-standing moral teaching of the Church going all the way back through St. Augustine, the Apostolic Fathers, and to the apostles. Now, you might think, Good. Moral teaching in the tradition was based so much upon the commandments and now we are all about love, or something like that. We are free now. We have grace and we don’t need to follow the law. It seems to me that the whole world thinks this way now. Otherwise, how could so many of us who call ourselves Christian think that keeping the moral law is not necessary if one wishes to go to Heaven. This, in spite of the fact that Jesus continually says exactly the opposite in the Gospel. "If you wish to enter life, keep the commandments." (Mt 19:17) Where did people find this new Jesus who says we don’t have to worry about the commandments? Where did he come from? How is it that many people we all know claim that even serious public sinners, as soon as they die, are in Heaven? At least we ought to be able to acknowledge that the Catholic Church traditionally held that we should pray for them, in case they were not in Hell and needed purification in purgatory. At least, that.

I think the problem with us modern people, including an untold number of bishops and priests, is that there is no longer any serious rational fear of the eternal punishment known as Hell. Or, if there is a consideration of such a state of life after death where there is nothing but torment, it is, according to the modern mindset, reserved for those who in fact are concerned about the Commandments. Those are the people that judge, no? You see, one considerate of the moral law is a person who hates.

It is disturbing that I see so many people who claim some authority, whether it is the authority of a Cardinal, the famous theologian, or the facebook guru, that suggest to us that Mercy renders concern for the commandments contrary to the heart of God. For thousands of years we had sound instruction and commandments. Now we have come to believe that there is just grace and love. It is certainly correct to say that God is merciful and we, too, should be merciful, forgiving, loving, reaching out to others, who, like me, are sinners. 

I would want those in my pastoral care to know, however, of the fallacy of thinking that mercy cancels out God’s justice. That because of mercy, we will not have to account for our actions, good and evil. Again, let’s remember what Jesus tells us. (Rev. 22:12: Behold, I am coming quickly with my reward with me to repay each one according to his deeds.) My point is this, the saints and the Church, herself, tells us that God’s instruction, including the law, is a work of Mercy. God does not owe us salvation. He gave His Commandments to human beings to bring about the salvation of the human race, out of love for sinners. That’s His mercy. He gave us his law. Jesus is the perfection of the law. We see this in his standing up to the Pharisees and preaching, as in the Sermon on the Mount, that one cannot divorce and remarry, that unjust anger is murderous, that cursing and swearing are evil, that adultery leads to hell, that one must honor parents and not hide money in the temple to avoid it. “You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition."

"From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile."

The current crisis in the Church and the hierarchy is the direct result of a lack of fear of God on the part of these seriously misled clerics and others who imitate them. Do not be like them. 

The Pharisees had an excuse for everything they did.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Some guidance from the Diocese of Lake Charles on the Ruling on SSM

Diocese of Lake Charles: Further Guidance for Catholics

Further Guidance for Catholics
July 3, 2015

In the U.S. Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges, the opinion of the five-member majority creates the legal right of two persons of the same gender to marry one another. At the same time, the opinion states, “[I]t must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

It is a matter of natural truth and the universal teaching of the Catholic Church that “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”  (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons,” sec. 5, accessed July 2, 2015, Furthermore, while the Church obliges all to avoid every sign of unjust discrimination toward men and women with homosexual tendencies, clear and emphatic opposition to the court’s creation of this so-called right of same-sex marriage is a duty. Moreover, it is necessary that Catholics refrain from intentional cooperation in the application of this ruling and, as far as possible, from voluntary participation in its application. The traditional principles of formal and material cooperation apply. All Catholics can exercise the right to conscientious objection. The Catholic politician must oppose the ruling’s definition of marriage in ways that are possible and make his or her absolute personal opposition known. It is the duty of the Catholic politician to witness to the truth, to take action to help reverse the effects of the ruling redefining marriage, and limit the harm done by the opinion.

Anyone with questions about the meaning and application of the Church’s teaching in this matter should consult the pastor of his or her parish. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Rural hospitals struggle to stay open, adapt to changes - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

According to the AP story: "A total of 50 hospitals in the rural U.S. have closed since 2010, and the pace has been accelerating, with more closures in the past two years than in the previous 10 years combined, according to the National Rural Health Association. That could be just the beginning of what some health care analysts fear will be a crisis."

I have been talking about this for a while now. Many more hospitals will be closing. I just can't seem to put my finger on the reason. Does anyone know what happened in 2010 that could have caused this? OK, I shouldn't be so mischievous. See March 23, 2010.

Rural hospitals struggle to stay open, adapt to changes - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Transfiguration, Faith and Family Matters

An old post with corrected citations.

The Transfiguration, Faith and Family Matters

If a person wants to probe the mystery of the life of Jesus, one might find it helpful to think of the Transfiguration of Jesus as it must have impacted the Holy Apostles, Peter, James and John, but especially Peter.

It is clear, is it not, that this experience dramatically affected the Apostles’ way of winning converts to Christ? When they started to evangelize after the Resurrection, the Transfiguration had made them stronger in tough times.  Understanding this experience can help us be better teachers of the faith.

As we think of the climb up the mountain, who knows, maybe Peter was having a good bit of doubt at this point. Maybe he was saying, "One minute you treat me like a prince, you call me the 'Rock of your Church.' The next minute, when I want to stop you from dying, you treat me like the enemy and call me Satan. What is all this about?" Then, they get up on the mountain there and Peter, James and John have this spectacular experience of seeing Jesus shining, standing with Moses and Elijah.
This whole scene is capped with the voice from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

Ok, let’s take a step back then, and see what we can learn.  How does the Transfiguration change us, so to speak?  How can we learn from the Apostles, especially St. Peter? I want you to ask yourself what you might learn about transmitting the faith in your family from this experience.

There is a recent study published in a book called “Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations,” (Oxford) by Vern Bengston, with Norella Putney and Susan Harris.  Bengston and his crew follow 350 families composed of 3500 individuals over several generations.

In a recent article on Zenit, (, March 16, 2014) a review of the book says,
Church attendance in the United States hit a peak in the period 1950-59. Following that there was a gradual decline in the 1960s and a sharp decrease in the following decade.
Immigration from Hispanic countries has offset the numbers of Catholics leaving the Church, but what Bengtson singled out was the growth in the number of ‘nones,’ that is, those who say they have no religious affiliation. By 2012 they represented almost 20% of the adult population.”

The Zenit article then makes a number of observations from the book about the impact of family on the transmission of religion:

Nevertheless, the type of family life does influence the degree to which religious faith is passed on. Warm, affectionate parenting is most likely to result in the successful transmission of religion, Bengtson noted. This was particularly true for relations with fathers, he added.
….Grandparents can have considerable influence and are often more important regarding the religiosity of their grandchildren than is recognized.
Apart from the type of parenting, there are other family situations that have an important impact on the transmission of religion.
Parents in a same-faith marriage are more likely to achieve religious continuity across generations. This is particularly true when both parents are actively religious and religion plays an important role in their lives.
Divorce often, but not always, is a disruptive force in the transmission of religious traditions.

Here are three points to consider for faith in the family.

My first point:  Don’t let the crosses in your life be a stumbling block for your children’s faith.  Peter, in particular, has learned that you cannot reject the Cross without turning your back on God’s plan.  In doing so you become the enemy of God.  If you have been turning away from the Cross, get back to it. Get back to Jesus. When the going gets tough, don’t run. Let our blessed Lord show you the true meaning of the crosses in life. If you have difficulties, crosses, that are impacting the way you live and present the faith in the family, fight the devil. Remember, he will use anything to win the souls of your children including making you think you are unhappy, causing financial difficulties and any other problems that can take your mind off the most important things in life.  All the time you are thinking about how miserable you are, have you ever thought that maybe that is just the devil’s way of taking your children to hell? If you need help to get on the right footing, seek it out.  All things are possible with Christ.

Second: If you are following your own ideas about what the faith ought to be, you need conversion. The Apostles come to a deeper knowledge of who this Jesus is.  He is like Moses and Elijah, but even the voice from the cloud tells them that He is greater. If they had any questions about how to interpret the law and the prophets before this, they do not have any now. 

This is important for us.  Many times, people dip a finger into the Bible and come up with a morsel from one of the prophets or from the law and they want to judge that the Church has made a mistake.  But, if we are supposed to listen to Jesus, then we know that the Church, founded on the Rock of Peter, is the one against whom the gates of the netherworld cannot prevail.  So those Catholics who depart from this haven of safety, the One Holy Catholic Church, are living by following their own private interpretations. Don’t confuse the issue about those born into other communities of faith. God can handle that. That’s not your problem right now. I am talking about your Catholic children. Peter’s experience with his own faith propelled him to be very clear about the duties of his office.  In 2 Peter 1:20 he tells us to “know this, first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation.”  I ask you, what better lesson could Peter have had than these events to cause him to write this to us?  Remember Peter also warns in chapter 3 v. 16 that in the letters of Paul there are some things that are hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures.

My final point:  You see the Risen Lord at each Holy Mass and it is your duty to lead others to Him.  I think you should know that Jesus expects you to speak about him in your life.  You are a prophet, a teacher, a priest, and a missionary to your children. You have a position in your current situation that requires that you speak of what you have seen and heard. This, my friend, is really very simple.  You are standing at the end of a line. If you do not attempt to bring some one to Christ that you are close to, what do you suppose will happen to them and to the Church? If you do not go to those around you and bring the Lord to them, that line, that part of the Church ends with you.

Now, if the Father is well-pleased with Jesus and tells us so.  Shouldn’t we be able to tell others.  If God can say how wonderful his Son is, won’t you do it, too?