Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Remember the Discussion Here About Dangers of Singing Together in Churches During Pandemic? See the Update Below

Over a month ago, I pointed readers of this blog to a statement by Harvard epidemiologist Bill Hanage indicating that gatherings of any size pose dangers during this pandemic, and churches pose particular dangers given their habit of encouraging people to gather close to one another, to hug, shake hands, and sing together, etc. As Hanage states, church gatherings of any sort have the capability to be "super-spreading" events, and we know for a fact that some serious clusters of coronavirus infection have spread right from churches into surrounding communities.

I cited as well an article by Jim McManus noting that  a highly contagious virus like the coronavirus can be spread easily in churches that host gatherings of any sort because we know that it is spread by droplets that can end up on surfaces in churches and then be transmitted to those coming to church gatherings. Those spreading infection in church gatherings are often asymptomatic carriers of this highly contagious disease, and it's in this way that churches have become perfect petri dishes of infection — which is then carried into the wider community — during this pandemic.

I was offering you these pieces of information, in part, because a rather belligerent person had leapt into the discussion threads here and was boasting about the private Masses he was attending in his cathedral in Wisconsin, in which he and others sang together as the Masses were videotaped for others to view later. He assured us that, as someone with a pharmacy background, he understood that these activities — which are necessary for Catholic churches to engage in right now, he adamantly maintained — are perfectly safe.

I begged to differ, and pointed him to Bill Hanage's statements — and got nowhere by doing so. 

Now see the tweet at the head of this posting that the CDC tweeted out a half hour ago. The information the CDC is sharing about the church choir in Washington state is also discussed in a recent blog posting by Erin Bromage that has now gone viral on social media. It's entitled "The Risks — Know Them — Avoid Them." Bromage writes (pointing to this link),

The church choir in Washington State. Even though people were aware of the virus and took steps to minimize transfer; e.g. they avoided the usual handshakes and hugs hello, people also brought their own music to avoid sharing, and socially distanced themselves during practice. A single asymptomatic carrier infected most of the people in attendance. The choir sang for 2 1/2 hours, inside an enclosed church which was roughly the size of a volleyball court.  
Singing, to a greater degree than talking, aerosolizes respiratory droplets extraordinarily well. Deep-breathing while singing facilitated those respiratory droplets getting deep into the lungs. Two and half hours of exposure ensured that people were exposed to enough virus over a long enough period of time for infection to take place. Over a period of 4 days, 45 of the 60 choir members developed symptoms, 2 died. The youngest infected was 31, but they averaged 67 years old. 

So there's that. And even as this information appears, a group of Catholic leaders including the notorious Archbishop Carlo Viganò, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, and former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Gerhard Müller have issued a manifesto attacking the attempt of governments to control the spread of the virus by restricting gatherings including church gatherings. (Cardinal Robert Sarah also reportedly signed the document but now denies having done so.) 

As Tom Gjelten reports in his "Some See Plot To Create 'World Government' In Coronavirus Restrictions,"

[A] manifesto promoted by conservative Catholics alleges that the Covid-19 pandemic is being used as a "pretext' to deprive citizens around the world of their fundamental freedoms and promote 'a world government."

To anyone who has spent much time among white evangelicals in the Southeastern US and has looked at the omnipresent road signs along many Southern highways issuing ominous warnings about the threat of world government, this rhetoric is very much old hat. It has historical roots that need to be kept in mind as we assess the attempt of Catholic leaders including  and others to attack effective government and its social support networks. This is exactly the argument used by neo-Confederate Southerners to attack FDR and his New Deal programs to ameliorate the effects of the Depression and provide a social safety net (e.g., Medicare, Social Security) for people in need.

The ultimate goal of these right-wing Catholics allying themselves with right-wing white evangelicals and their neo-Confederate cousins is, as it is the goal of right-wing white evangelicals and their neo-Confederate cousins, to dismantle government altogether, and, in particular, the entire New Deal project.

Behind this is another goal: to hand everything to the super-rich, who have promised special perks and privileges to churches and church leaders when they have total control of society.

This is all evil in the extreme and is a repudiation of Jesus and the gospels. It should be stoutly resisted by Christians.

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