Over the last few months of this pandemic, I have made a lot of face masks which I have given to family, friends and colleagues.. This is very much the ‘age of the mask’ and they are now quite unibiquitous. It is impossible to walk along the street of any city or town without seeing masks on almost all faces. The reasons for this are very well-established – facial coverings help to reduce the transmission of the droplets which play a part in passing on coronavirus. Science fully supports this contention; it is not a perfect protection, certainly, and it has it’s limitations – but it is very helpful in preventing transmission of the vuris and in this way it saves lives.
And so it astonishes me to read the words of those who are against wearing masks – and who give, as their rationale, the contention that doing so infringes their human rights. Such people could also argue, I suppose, that not being able to consume a large quantity of alcohol then drive a car, similarly infringes their rights; but common sense and popular opinion would restrain them from doing so.
For Catholics, we sometimes forget that along with our rights come responsibilities; that for each of our actions, there is a consequence. Also as Catholics, we believe that one day we will stand before the Lord in judgement and be asked to give an account of every decision and every action of our lives.
In this time of pandemic, the refusal to wear a mask goes far beyond one’s personal rights – it has a direct bearing on the health and the lives of others around us. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, calls it “the logic of taking responsibility for others”.
Such refusal, I think, shows a loss of the sense of ‘the other person’. It places the love of self above all things. And it is the antithesis of the second Commandment – “love thy neighbour as thyself”.