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Super-spreading the faith

In Maine, a Baptist pastor doubled down on his opposition to masks and social distancing, resulting in the worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the state.

A health care provider conducted COVID-19 testing in the parking lot of the Millinocket Regional Hospital's walk-in clinic in East Millinocket, Maine, after an outbreak traced to a wedding.
A health care provider conducted COVID-19 testing in the parking lot of the Millinocket Regional Hospital's walk-in clinic in East Millinocket, Maine, after an outbreak traced to a wedding.Linda Coan O'Kresik/Associated Press

Back from vacation.

In my absence, the Globe printed a letter from a group that calls itself the Catholic Action League which was highly critical of a column taking Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin to task for suggesting Joe Biden isn’t a “real” Catholic because he supports abortion and LGBTQ rights.

The Catholic Action League complained that I have written five columns criticizing Bishop Tobin over the years.

I guess someone deserves an apology.

So I apologize to Helen McGonigle and Jeff Thomas, whom Tobin refused to meet with even though they were raped by a priest in the Providence diocese. Also, to all the survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of priests whom Tobin has failed.

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I could have and should have written more columns about how Tobin has been and continues to be an embarrassment to the Catholic Church.

Sorry. My bad.

Tobin is not representative of ordinary Catholics. Some of the greatest, most selfless people I’ve met are priests and nuns who dedicate their lives to helping the poor and the marginalized. They’re all over Boston and all over the world: Doc Conway, the Dorchester priest who learned Portuguese so he could talk to the Cape Verdean kids in their native language; Sister Stanislaus, the nun who has done more for the poor in Dublin than any government program.

In fairness, members of the Catholic hierarchy do not have a monopoly on using religion to spread ignorance.

So, in the name of ecumenism, let’s head straight to Maine, where a Baptist pastor named Todd Bell officiated at a wedding in Millinocket last month where people eschewed masks and social distancing, leading to the biggest outbreak of COVID-19 in the great state o’ Maine, the infection of more than 100 people, and the death of an 83-year-old woman who didn’t even attend the wedding and at least one other person.

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After officials at Maine’s CDC cataloged the extent of the human carnage, you would think a man of the cloth like Bell would be abashed and apologetic and, dare I say, repentant?

Nah.

Bell responded by climbing to the pulpit at his Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford last Sunday to quote Scripture and Donald Trump, which is not oxymoronic as much as moronic.

Bell accused “the world” of wanting to shut down religious people who spread the good news of the Bible.

Actually, “the world” just wants irresponsible wackos like Bell to keep their unsubstantiated, religiously inspired views about medical science to themselves and stop spreading COVID-19.

While most of “the world” anxiously awaits a vaccine that will prevent the virus from killing people, Bell warned his flock that the vaccine would include “aborted baby tissue.”

Bell said he didn’t need a vaccine to prevent infection. Instead, he prefers to put his trust in “the one that has the power to remove pestilences.”

Not sure if he was talking about God or Trump, but after watching this guy on YouTube I’m not so sure he sees a distinction or a difference.

Looking for divine inspiration, Bell echoed the words of President Trump, who at a rally in Manchester last Friday, surrounded by acolytes who crowded together without masks, accused Democrats of not believing that “law-abiding citizens can go to church anymore.”

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If, as the pastor and the president suggest, it’s the godless who believe in social distancing and wearing a mask during a pandemic, I’m down with the godless. When it comes to Judgment Day, I’m with Mark Twain, who preferred Heaven for the climate and Hell for the company.

I wanted so much to talk to Pastor Bell, to have him expound on his intriguing theories of science. Alas, his voicemail was full and wasn’t accepting messages, and his church’s website is now down.

“I want the people of God to enjoy liberty,” Bell said in his sermon.

The document that rules this land is not the Bible but the Constitution. In the Declaration of Independence’s listing of unalienable rights, life comes before liberty.

The pursuit of happiness, such as partying at weddings, comes a distant third.


Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at kevin.cullen@globe.com.