Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Last month I announced that our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois plan to be open for classes with students and teachers together in their classrooms in August, and our administrators are working hard to ensure we can do so safely. Across our country, however, people continue to debate the pros and cons of reopening the public schools and having students and teachers return to the classrooms. The daily news reports about the coronavirus pandemic have many people feeling understandably afraid.

We best overcome fear by confronting it. To use an acronym, FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. Many of our fears are based on false or misleading information. We can face our fears because science, reason, logic, and natural law are aligned with our faith and the teachings of God’s Church.

A persistent message repeated throughout the Bible is, “Be not afraid.” These are also the words Pope St. John Paul II chose as he entered into his pontificate. He showed us how to face our fears. He taught us to confront death by joyous living, fearless rectitude in facing the evils of our world, and prayerful, regular intercession for God’s guiding hand in difficult situations.

It is a mistake to view faith and reason as opposed to each other, yet many people are not willing to take things only as matters of faith, so it is important to show the scientific basis for returning students and teachers safely to our schools and going about our lives without being crippled by fear.

In this regard, it is helpful to call attention to a report that appeared on NBC Nightly News on July 12, in which five pediatricians from across the country were asked if it is safe for students and teachers to return to schools. They unanimously and emphatically responded yes. All five of these doctors — from California, Tennessee, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont — also answered without hesitation that they would “absolutely” be comfortable sending their own children back to school.

The five doctors are:

  • Dr. Buddy Creech, associate professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
  • Dr. Jennifer Lighter, Pediatric Infectious Diseases physician, Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at New York University Langone Hospital, New York, N.Y.
  • Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, professor of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif.
  • Dr. Shilpa Patel, pediatrician, Northern Valley Pediatrics, Rockleigh, N.J.
  • Dr. William Raszka, director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, University of Vermont Children’s Hospital, Burlington, Vt.

The five pediatricians agree that the benefits of children being back at school outweigh the risks. As the report notes, “In fact, kids account for only 2 percent of all cases. Doctors say they don’t expect that number to significantly increase when schools open because kids don’t appear to be good at spreading the virus.” One doctor adds that masks are not even “useful” for elementary students.

The full video report of the interview with these five physicians may be viewed at go.dio.org/pediatriciansonreturningsafelytoschool.

These scientists affirm a basic message that is consistent with the teachings of the Bible and our faith: Be not afraid!

Please pray for our teachers, school administrators, students and their families as our Catholic schools prepare to reopen next month with proper safety measures and welcome them back into the classrooms.

May God give us this grace. Amen.