Pope Francis in a New York Times op-ed on Thanksgiving Day criticized groups that protested coronavirus lockdown restrictions, as Americans gathered to celebrate the holiday.
He praised those governments making “great efforts” to protect people from the virus and criticized “exceptions.” He then criticized groups that protested the restrictions and appeared to dismiss the idea of “personal freedom.
He wrote in the November 26 op-ed:
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.
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.
It is all too easy for some to take an idea — in this case, for example, personal freedom — and turn it into an ideology, creating a prism through which they judge everything.
Pope Francis did not address in his op-ed that many groups in America protested severe restrictions in order to save their businesses and their and their families’ livelihoods.
That was despite, in the beginning of the op-ed, his talking about hardships such as going hungry “because there’s no work.”
He compared the experience of coronavirus to his experience of getting sick at the age of 21, and he talked about how it gave him an appreciation for medical workers.
“I remember the date: Aug. 13, 1957. I got taken to a hospital by a prefect who realized mine was not the kind of flu you treat with aspirin,” he wrote.
“Straightaway they took a liter and a half of water out of my lungs, and I remained there fighting for my life. The following November they operated to take out the upper right lobe of one of the lungs. I have some sense of how people with Covid-19 feel as they struggle to breathe on a ventilator,” he wrote.
He credited two nurses for saving his life, and praised health care workers in the pandemic.
“They are the antibodies to the virus of indifference. They remind us that our lives are a gift and we grow by giving of ourselves, not preserving ourselves but losing ourselves in service,” he said.
He also advocated for changing political and economic systems from before the pandemic, in an echo of leftists in America and around the world.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he said.
He concluded: “Solidarity is more than acts of generosity, important as they are; it is the call to embrace the reality that we are bound by bonds of reciprocity. On this solid foundation we can build a better, different, human future.”