The following is a commentary by Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News:
“Treating pandemic choices as a scorecard on which some people racked up more points than others is preventing us from moving forward.” That’s the conclusion of Emily Oster, in her Atlantic article, “Let’s Declare a Pandemic Amnesty,” which has launched a thousand clicks.
Here’s the problem with that argument: We can’t move forward until we decide which direction is forward. Having come through a very painful experience, we now hope to learn from it. How can we learn, if we don’t pause to take note of what we did right (not much) and wrong (a lot)?
Many people made honest mistakes in their early responses to the Covid epidemic. “But in the spring and summer 2020, we had only glimmers of information,” Oster explains. Yes, but why did we have so little reliable information? Then people argued over which vaccine to promote. That, the Atlantic article continues, “was the result of uncertainty.” But why was there so much uncertainty, about an injection that everyone was strongly advised—in many cases commanded—to take?
The lack of information, and the uncertainty, were direct results of a frantic rush to judgment. As soon as our government leaders organized a response to the epidemic, they imposed a rigid orthodoxy, suppressing all dissent. With the aid of the mass media, and invaluable help from the censors of social-media outlets, they prevented the free flow of information. “Trust the science,” they told us, and pointed to a general consensus among public-health experts. But scientific facts are not established by consensus. They are tested against competing theories, and proven by laboratory tests, and subjected to peer review.
The great tragedy of the lockdown was not caused by the people who made innocent mistakes—like wearing cloth masks or wiping down counters—in the mistaken belief that they were preventing the spread of the virus. The tragedy occurred because, once the appointed experts had issued their edicts, no one was allowed to question them. From the early days of the Covid era, there were eminently qualified scientists offering reasonable arguments against the lockdown policies. (See the Great Barrington Declaration, which has now drawn nearly one million signatures.) But they were not given a hearing. On the contrary, they were treated as pariahs, in many cases stripped of their academic credentials. How about an amnesty for them, now that their ideas have been vindicated?
As a Catholic, looking back on the appalling effect that the lockdown had on our Church, I insist (as I did in my book Contagious Faith, written as the madness peaked) that “moving forward” entails asking how our pastors came to believe that our physical health was more important than our spiritual health, so that for months they denied us the sacraments. That was not a failure of scientific judgment; it was a failure of faith.
Full story at Catholic Culture.