Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.

Be Transformed by the Renewal of your Minds

08-02-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

At times when our thinking gets twisted our actions can become equally contorted. Two current hot potato issues that demonstrate this are facemasks and police.

So, to mask or not to mask, that is the question (my apologies to Shakespeare). The single biggest justification for wearing a face covering that I hear repeatedly, is that when you wear a face mask (properly) you are protecting other people and therefore it is a charitable act. When it is put in that way, rather than saying, when you wear a face mask you are protecting yourself regardless of what other people do, it creates a lot of hostility and judgment towards those who are not wearing a face mask. And that has led to self-appointed mask police.

The incident, now widely reported of a man who was leaving a Costco and took off his face mask was assaulted by another person. The assailant started screaming at him for not wearing a mask (even though he had been), declared that she was a school teacher who had COVID-19 and then proceeded to remove her mask and spit in the man’s face. There are unfortunately other examples of people being screamed at, harassed and even shot for not having a mask on.

Again, if you have the mask on you are protecting yourself first and foremost. People are also forgetting, or maybe never knew that the CDC recommends certain people not to wear a face mask. Specifically, those with serious breathing issues (COPD/ Emphysema), others with mental health issues and phobias, the handicapped who cannot not easily put on or remove a face mask and other categories of persons. So, if a person is not wearing a face mask, they may have a good reason, that you do not know about, for not wearing one. Please be charitable, kind and non-judgmental on this issue and don't deputize yourself as the ‘mask police’.

So to mask or not to mask, whatever you decide please decide to be kind and charitable.

Another issue that needs to be rethought is why have police? I would venture to guess that the majority of people who agree with the statement that, “we have police to protect us from the criminals”. But actually, it is the other way around. That is, we have police to protect criminals from the rest of us. It is a matter of justice and our collective decision to create a society whose chief characteristic is law and order.

There was a time before society had organized policing. Think of the old Western movies about the Wild West. In those days people took matters into their own hands and often the result was very disproportionate to the offense and hence unjust. Or even go way, way back to the Old Testament Law of an Eye for an Eye. That was actually a huge step forward in civilization at the time since it held that justice must be proportionate to the offense. So, if you stole one of my cattle, I could not steal your entire herd or worse. It placed balance into societal justice and help reduce the perpetuation of vengeance and its ill effects. It turns out fairer and balanced to have justice administered by a neutral party than by an aggrieved victim.

A tough example of this happened many years ago in Philadelphia. A man broke into a convent and brutally assaulted/raped one of the Sisters. The police quickly tracked him down and then proceeded to beat him within inches of his life and had him sign a confession. When the case came before the Court, the Judge (who happened to be my relative with the same name) threw out the confession since confessions must be freely given and not beaten out of a suspect. Despite the ugliness of the crime, the police were wrong to act as they did and needed to be held to account. When we ditch law and order we do not get justice but vigilantism and raw revenge that leaves the scales of Justice tilted.

Right now, many neighborhoods in the Portland area are organizing armed patrols to protect their people and their property from rioters. As policing decreases the more people will be forced to take matters into their own hands. While the police are trained to use only as much force as necessary to immobilize a suspect, (when they go beyond that we see what happens) however, most of us are not so trained. The sick irony here is that the same people who are insisting on doing away with police will not be happy with the results. Despite the failures of some police officers and departments, they still actually do protect criminals from the rest of us and when that is no more, well, it’s back to the Wild West.


Fr. John B.

PS Just another reminder that as of Monday, Aug. 31 our 8am Daily Mass (Monday-Friday) will move permanently to 8:30am. This is partially to accommodate our new School Drop Off procedures and to avoid parking lot pandemonium caused by COVID chaos!