The following reflection from contributor Father Tim McCauley offers a perspective on the financial impact of the lockdowns, in our current times of controversy. Many of our readers have reservations about the proposed vaccine, and I share any number of those – I will offer more thoughts on that shortly – We’re each going to have to make up our own minds and consciences (if you are so inclined, see my article today in Catholic World Report).
Here at Catholic Insight, as befits a magazine in the truly ‘Catholic’ tradition, we should be open to differing points of view – within certain limits. As the saying goes, which I will quote repeatedly and perhaps write a reflection thereon, in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. (In necessary things, unity, in doubtful things, liberty, and in all things, charity). So peruse Father’s thoughts, and feel free to let us know your own thoughts. The truth is found often in vigorous debate (Editor)
‘Ça va bien aller’ has become a popular slogan in Quebec to encourage people in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. It is always accompanied by a picture of a rainbow, which from a natural perspective we often associate with peace after a storm. It has gained some popularity in English Canada as well, with various translations such as ‘We will be OK.’ During these last months of doubt, fear, and uncertainty, a simple catchphrase like this can have a positive effect. Yet what is the basis of this slogan? Is it a statement of logic, an expression of natural optimism, faith in God, or a combination of these?
One could say with a reasonable amount of certainty that the coronavirus will not last forever. In our world’s history of epidemics, many of them were devastating, such as the black plague in the Middle Ages and the Spanish flu in the early 20th century, but they all ran their course and came to an end. The same should be true with Covid-19. Furthermore, there is hope that with the new vaccine being distributed, people will be immunized from the virus. Accordingly, when all is said and done, we should all be able to say with confidence, ‘Ça va bien aller or ‘We will be OK.’
But what about the economy and the long-term effects of coronavirus overspending among all western governments? With so many people out of work for months, no one would argue with the necessity of government intervention to assist people in need (i.e. ‘CERB’). But what does a country like Canada do with a projected $381 billon dollar deficit for this fiscal year? How could we ever pay off the resulting enormous and unprecedented debt? Usually if a country in an economic crisis responds by printing more money, the result is inflation, the devaluation of the currency, and a decrease in the value of people’s savings.
‘Ça va bien aller.’ ‘We will be OK.’ Truth be told, we are in uncharted waters, and no one can predict the future or the state of the economy once this pandemic passes and we return to ‘normal’ life. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to explore this issue a little more deeply.
Occasionally we read reports in the media about government expenditures, but rarely do we hear of any serious economic analysis of the long-term effects of Covid over-spending. Perhaps because we are so focused on the present, and making it through this pandemic, that we are not concerned right now about the ‘distant’ future. A sense of solidarity can also produce a type of optimism, even if it is somewhat naïve. If one country prints too much money and hyper-inflation results, it could produce an economic meltdown for that country. But what if nearly every country in the world has been over-spending due to Covid? We are all in the same boat. Surely that must account for something? Ça va bien aller?
I wonder about the ultimate basis for our optimism. Are we ostriches with our heads in the sand? Do we trust that the government will take care of everything? Do we assume that the economy will naturally re-set itself? Or do we trust in God?
In the global south, the consequences of Covid have been somewhat different. The case in Kenya is a good example. The government received assistance from foreign countries to help with the Covid emergency. They promised food donations to the poor who were most in need. Unfortunately, many of these people received nothing. A large portion of the population was already living hand-to-mouth, without enough money today to pay for food for tomorrow. How could they possibly survive amidst the current crisis? We must not minimize the severe hardships faced by the poor in countries like Kenya. At the same time, we must also recognize that Africans possess qualities often lacking in the wealthy countries of the West: an extraordinary resilience, resourcefulness and trust in God.
The majority of Canadians have never been forced to trust God for our basic needs. We trust in ourselves, our work, the economy or the government to provide. That is not to say that all these forms of trust cannot also include trust in God, but for most Canadians it is has not been necessary for us to trust God to supply our daily bread. It has always been there. But what would happen if we don’t have a job, if the economy falters or shrinks, and the government can no longer fully provide as before? What shall we say then? ‘Ça va bien aller’? ‘We will be OK’? Yes, if we have faith in God. When everything else is stripped away, we will all be faced with this dilemma of whether we trust God or not.
The 14th century mystic Julian of Norwich lived her early life in the midst of the worst epidemic in human history – the aforementioned black plague. She is well-known for her own ‘slogan’: ‘All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.’ She trusted all would be well because of her total confidence in the mercy and providence of God. She knew by faith that we human beings are dearly beloved children of our heavenly Father who takes care of all our needs. And if, in the mystery of His providence, He allows epidemics, evil and suffering, He will always bring good out of it. ‘All shall be well.’
In Canada and other countries, we may eventually have to face some sort of economic fallout from Covid over-spending. From the human perspective, the future is always uncertain, but we have God’s promise to give us a future full of hope. With good reason, therefore, we may continue to proclaim our statement of trust: ‘Ça va bien aller.’