Looking distraught, my friend Bidwell confessed that he misses Mass on Sundays.
“Occasionally?” I asked.
“Repeatedly,” he replied.
“Well, don’t confess it to me,” I said. ”Confess it to your pastor.”
“Oh,” Bidwell said, “he and the bishop are well aware that I and many others in the parish miss Sunday Mass.”
“I thought you people were committed Catholics.”
“We are,” he said. “That’s why we miss it so much.”
“Now let me get this straight, Bidwell,” I said. ”Although you and many of your fellow parishioners consider yourselves committed churchgoers, you willingly avoid Sunday Mass.”
“On the contrary,” he replied, “We are unwillingly denied it.”
After pausing briefly, he explained that discontinuing the public celebration of Mass is one of the dire side effects of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
“Another,” I suggested, “is the exposure of ambiguities in the English language. Believe me, if they could fall prey to a linguistic virus, I’d welcome it.”
“No you wouldn’t,” he said. “Humour thrives on ambiguity and you’re supposed to be a humourist.”
He went on to say that he can’t wait until the pandemic subsides and Sunday worship resumes.
“I’m also looking forward to experiencing the new ‘normal’ that people are talking about,”
“New ‘normal’,” I said. “Are you aware of the mischievous synonyms that can turn ‘normal’ into an ambiguous stew?”
“‘Normal’ means natural, orderly, rational and sane,” Bidwell protested.
“In some contexts, true. But in others it means popular, conventional, customary and routine. In the present ‘normal,’ sexual disorders are identities and attempts to treat them crimes, while self-evident principles are violated and scientific facts ignored.
“What principles and facts?”
“The principle of non-contradiction for one, as our ‘normal’ society holds that we can’t change sexual orientation because we’re born with it, but we can change sex, even though we’re born with it.
As for facts, our ‘normal’ society holds that children don’t become human beings until they’re born alive, even though we can establish their pre-natal life with real time ultrasound and their humanity with DNA tests.”
“Maybe we can salvage something out of the COVID-19 restrictions and behaviour modifications,” Bidwell said.
“What restrictions and modifications?”
“Social distancing for one,” he said. “Surely you’ve heard that the demand for prostitutes has virtually evaporated and the use of public transit has declined sharply. Whether they realize it or not, the first is good for buyers and sellers in the so-called sex trade and the second is good for the dangerously inactive, who are forced to walk more.
“As for modifications, what can be better than encouraging us to work, and school our children, at home? And what can be a healthier side effect than home cooking? I’m hoping that the new ‘normal’ supports the nuclear family.”
“The nuclear family militates against equality,” I said.
“You sound like you’re against it.”
“On the contrary,” I said, “I’m for it. Not only do we love family members differently than we do outsiders, we treat them differently, preferentially. We rank kinship higher than citizenship and pursue private goals more intently than public objectives.”
“I see what you mean,” Bidwell said. “Family priorities undermine collectivism.”
“That’s why the family is such a threat to all egalitarian and totalitarian regimes. That’s why welfare states apply economic pressure through taxes and subsidies that penalize parents if they choose home care and reward them if choose daycare.”
“They want to direct the formation of our children?”
“Even though the home taught children average significantly higher than the classroom taught. Did you know the Smithsonian Institution has found that the history of genius is largely about children who were reared at home?
“In a culture marked by broken families and non-marital unions, poor communities have little hope, as the experience of some inner cities is teaching us. In a culture marked by strong, monogamous families, hope springs eternal and is not in vain, as the experience of hordes of early, penniless immigrants to North America demonstrates. At a time when public assistance was minimal, they lifted themselves out of poverty and built nations.”
“Now there’s the kind of new ‘normal’ I’d like to see,” Bidwell said.
“When you return to Sunday Mass, you had better pray hard for it. For as long as we know, the nuclear family has survived all proposals for its replacement and all predictions of its demise. It has not escaped unscathed. But when it has suffered a near death experience, it is the nation or civilization which disabled or failed to support it that has vanished, not the family. Rome fell and the Soviet Union collapsed. In both, the state usurped traditional family functions or failed to support traditional family values.”
“I’ll pray hard for the nuclear option,” Bidwell said.
“But beware of ambiguities.”