Letters to James di Fiore of the Madawaska Valley Current

Letter to James di Fiore of September 14, 2020:

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross +

Peace to you, James,

Thank you for your email and inquiry. For now, I’d like to keep what I say in this reply off the record:

To begin, some of the opinions on the magazine I edit are not necessarily mine, but others, and I strive to keep my own opinions on matters – and not just the masking protocols – distinct from the policies and positions of the College, as well as other persons at the College. Each one of us will approach this and many other questions differently, in our own ways. Sharpening and honing our opinions should include honest and open dialogue, as befits citizens a free society.

Further, I also strive to fulfil the requirements of public law and policy insofar as I am able, as well as the protocols adopted by the College in accord with these.

My own position on masking – which is open to modification as more evidence and truth come to light – is nuanced, which I hope comes across in the article. As I implied, I am not against masking in all cases, nor am I for masking in all cases.

The scientific studies indicate that masking, outside of certain restricted environments (e.g., sterile operating rooms) does little to limit the spread of airborne illnesses, evinced by the epidemiological studies, to which my article refers. There seem to be various reasons for this that are complex (inefficacy of most masks, infecting the masks themselves, transmission by other vectors and so on).

A scant few months ago they – the various governmental and non-governmental agencies – were telling us that masks were of no use. Then, well, we were told we could mask up if we wanted to. Now, everyone has to wear a mask.

As far as I know, no inductive science moves that fast, especially epidemiological studies, which often take years for their evidence to support a hypothesis. I would think that some degree of skepticism – necessary in any inductive process – is requisite here. (But that does not necessarily lead to violation of laws or protocols).

As far as the negative effects of wearing a mask go, at least in terms of long-duration and longer-term, use, this is difficult to quantify and measure, but the anecdotal evidence is not hard to come by. They are uncomfortable, off-putting, lead to difficulty breathing for many, cause the breathing in of our own exhalations (carbon dioxide), and, as mentioned, are propaedeutic to a de-personalization of the human populace by hiding our faces from each other. One wonders what masks do to children, who cannot fully grasp the reasons whereby and wherefore.

Of course, we may be willing to tolerate these negative influences under the principle of double effect, to achieve a greater good or avoiding a greater evil (limiting the spread of infection and such).

But that returns to my first point, in terms of their efficacy, as well as the true nature of this disease, and what it means to ‘have Covid’, an ambiguous term. Do all who test positive for the RNA ‘have’ the SARS-2 disease connected with the virus? It seems not, and many may already be practically immune. Even those who do, the vast majority don’t need hospitalization.

I could go on, but I hope you get the gist. These are thoughts, which I air out, and hope they are tested in the open forum. If I am off base on anything, I am quite willing to be corrected.

As mentioned, the administration at the College is committed to fulfilling the protocols, and our primary purpose is teaching the students, all – or at least much, or even some – of the best that has been thought and said, so they can go forward and make up their own minds on this and other issues.

Hence, we are not out to undermine anyone’s authority, nor to act out. Rather, we seek to ask pertinent questions, as well as the answers, as best we might.

I hope this helps to clarify things, and I’m happy to add or clarify anything further. Perhaps in future correspondence, I could offer you something ‘for the record’.

In caritate et veritate,


John Paul


Follow-up letter of September 16, 2020: 

Peace to you, James,

Again, this will have to be off the record, reasons for which I will explain.

First, thank you for your reply, which I also found interesting. My own ‘narrative’ on the masks, and the whole response to Covid, is not based on one particular statement from the government – even if, once caught in a lie, or multiple lies, ‘tis indeed difficult to trust – but rather from a series of converging and convincing arguments and evidence, all of which tend to undermine the ‘primary narrative’ propagated by the government and its apparatchiks.

To the point at hand: I do not fear to state my views publicly, again in the interest of pursuing truth (hence, I am open to listening to other views). Further, there is a proverb that we write to learn what we think, in shaping our views by the precision of putting them into coherent text. People are free to read what I write, and to rebut and refute as they see fit.

The difficulty in this context is having those views in the Madawaska Current. I support local news, and think such media a good thing. However, the masking issue is so polarized, that putting my own views into that local forum would tend to make me, and the school, the ‘champions’ of some mostly mythical resistance movement, which is not our intent, nor our primary vocation which, as mentioned, is to teach.

When my own private views – again, which are not necessarily those of the College, nor of those at the College – are aired out in a broader forum, out there in the world, so to speak, they get more diffused, and I’m not so connected with the College. But in this local environment, where some, for reasons I find difficult to discern, already have it ‘in’ for us, well, we must adopt caution as the more prudent course. We have enough to deal with, without adding more controversy. So, yes, the potential for ‘negative impact’ does play a role here.

I hope this is amenable, James, and I am grateful for your interest, as well as this brief dialogue. I hope we can continue to do so, on this and other topics.


John Paul