On Friday, March 27, I received the news that Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay had died of COVID-19, becoming the first priest believed to have died of coronavirus in the United States.
This has been the strangest Lent of our lives, as it will be during the Holy Week we start this Sunday. The crowds that usually fill our churches with palm leaves in their hands, won’t be there. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the suspension of Masses and the closing of churches.
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; / Lord, hear my voice! / Let your ears be attentive / to my voice in supplication.”
On Thursday, March 12, within a five-minute span, I received three big pieces of news: my youngest son’s school was going to close due to a coronavirus case in the district; the Archdiocese of New York was closing its schools to avoid spreading the virus; and the New York Philharmonic decided to cancel all its performances for a week.
Many may be worrying a lot about the world’s current situation. There’s the threat of terrorism, coronavirus, and the stock market’s fluctuations. But consider the hand that was dealt to Pope Benedict XV. He was elected pope six weeks after the beginning of the World War I or, as he called it, “the suicide of civilized Europe.” He had to lead the church not just through war, but also the Spanish flu pandemic that killed some 50 million around the world in 1918.
Our body politic has been contaminated with the coronavirus of polarization. That’s one of the few things we all more or less can agree on. But disagreement isn’t a social sickness in a democracy. On the contrary, democracy is a collective agreement to disagree.
In his pastoral letter to the Chinese Catholics of our diocese, which was published on Ash Wednesday, Bishop DiMarzio retells a beautiful story from his family.
“Is there such a thing as a pro-life Democrat in your vision of the party?” Bernie Sanders was asked recently.
During the last two weeks, I received several letters about two separate stories that appeared on the front page of The Tablet. The first article, “Catholic Iowa Democrats Weigh Choices,” was published on Jan. 25. The second article, “Presidential Seal of Approval,” was published on Feb. 1. You can see a sample of some of the reactions in this week’s Readers’ Forum.
On Jan. 30, an appeals court in France overturned the suspended jail sentence against Cardinal Philippe Barbarin for failing to report abuse. Cardinal Barbarin is the highest-profile French prelate implicated so far in the clerical abuse crisis.