Riverside Newsletter Volume 16 - November
Supermarket staff: ‘We feel unsafe when customers don’t wear masks’
“As soon as someone walks through the store without a mask or a lanyard showing they’re exempt, it automatically makes me uneasy.”
Arron’s worked at a supermarket in Wrexham for seven years. He loves his job, his colleagues and his regular customers. But he’s looking for new work now because of shoppers who don’t wear face masks. “There are people who work and shop in supermarkets who still have a fear of catching Covid – me being one of them,” he says. “It really does bother me.” He’s told Radio 1 Newsbeat his colleagues feel the same.
Arron’s store’s policy is not to order customers to wear masks. “We can ask them if they’d like a mask, but when they just walk past us, often not socially distancing, it’s rude and it puts everyone around them at risk,” he says.
Legally, it’s the job of police to enforce mask wearing but government guidelines say shops should “encourage” it. It’s also up to individual shops if they want to refuse people entry without one.
“I’d love to be able to tell them to wear a mask or even refuse them entry to the store,” he says. “I wouldn’t get angry over it. I’d just like them to be more thoughtful and think about others.” The 24-year-old says he’s seen customers wearing masks arguing with customers without them.He also thinks it’s “ridiculous” when people don’t wear masks properly.
“If you’re wearing a mask and it’s under your nose, you’re not doing yourself any favours or anyone else around you,” he says.
Arron says the company he works for does a “great job” trying to keep staff safe though, providing things like face masks and having good social distancing rules.
'Holiday clubs cash boost' could tackle school meals row
The proposal could see a scheme trialled in some areas over the summer scaled up to cover many more children.
The prime minister is said to be considering giving councils extra money for holiday clubs in a bid to end the free schools meals row.
It would mean children getting at least one meal a day during the holidays, and could be combined with extra study to help them catch up on missed classes, the Daily Telegraph reports.
The paper says it is too late for this half-term, but it could be in place for Christmas.
The government has so far refused to change position on the issue, despite a high-profile campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford and growing disquiet among Tory MPs.
Boris Johnson said on Monday that Rashford’s campaign to extend free meals to all school holidays was “terrific”, but highlighted measures already brought in, such as an increase in Universal Credit.
The holiday clubs idea is said to be the work of government food tsar Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of the Leon restaurant group, and was trialled in 17 council areas in the summer.
The government is in discussions on “scaling up” the trial programme, says the Daily Telegraph.
However, some experts have already shot down the idea as insufficient.
Dr Robert Winston – renowned for his TV documentaries on child development – said the proposal “doesn’t remotely cover the problem”.
The Labour peer told BBC2’s Newsnight that poor nutrition led to “a rise in depression and decrease in cognitive ability – you can’t learn when you’re starving”.
Many councils, private businesses and community groups around the country are providing free meals this half-term to children whose families are struggling.
It comes as Rashford’s petition – which also calls for the free meals scheme to be extended to all those on Universal Credit – closes in on a million names.
The Manchester United star, 22, has been retweeting firms who have been helping during the current school break.
Recent posts highlighted include a catering company that said it provided 280 meals across London and Hertfordshire, and a chef who tweeted that 700 meals had been handed out in Liverpool.
The government initially extended free school meals to nearly a million-and-a-half eligible children over the summer to help those struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.
However, ministers have insisted the support now in place is sufficient, including June’s announcement of another £63m for local authorities to help vulnerable families.
“We support the local councils and, indeed, we fund the local councils and many of the organisations that are helping in this period,” said Mr Johnson on Monday.
“But we’re also uplifting Universal Credit by £1,000 and we think that is one of the best ways you can help families in this tough time.
“I totally understand the issue of holiday hunger; it is there, we have to deal with it. The debate is how do you deal with it.”
A motion to extend free meals was defeated in the House of Commons last week, but several senior Tory MPs have since criticised the government and indicated they would vote differently if Labour forces another vote.
Pope Francis backing same sex unions isn't a surprise. But it's still a big deal
Francis once called me, a gay man, to affirm my priesthood. Now he’s expressing solidarity with gay people everywhere had no advance knowledge either of Evgeny Afineevsky’s documentary, Francesco, or the interview in it that contains Pope Francis’ new formulation of his earlier position on same-sex civil unions. However, it didn’t come as a surprise to me. Anyone with any pastoral experience knows that in dealing with an individual’s personhood, you start from where they are. Given a very gay and very closeted episcopate in many countries, for whom serene and adult conversation about these things has, until recently, been almost impossible, the question has largely been: how long would it take for the basic good sense of the majority of Catholic people and what they have learned about human sexuality to percolate upwards so that senior clergy needn’t be frightened of it? And it is here that Pope Francis has been so good. He clearly isn’t frightened of the issue.
This was apparent to me when he called me by phone to affirm me in my priesthood, nullifying an attempt that had been made to remove my clerical status because I’m an openly gay man. “Soy el Papa Francisco,” came the voice on the other end of the line, out of the blue, on a July afternoon in 2017. And then this: “I want you to walk with deep interior freedom, following the spirit of Jesus. And I give you the power of the keys. Do you understand? I give you the power of the keys.”
When friends yesterday started to bombard me with news links to the story that Pope Francis had stated his support for same-sex civil unions, I experienced both surprise and surprise at the surprise. As I see it, what he said is both something not especially new and yet genuinely “a big deal”. Not especially new in that it was well known that, prior to becoming Pope, the then archbishop Bergoglio had proposed same-sex civil unions during the debate about same-sex marriage in Argentina in 2010. That was at the time a very brave position: the Vatican had specifically and publicly forbidden Catholics from supporting any form of recognition of same-sex relationships, even as a “lesser evil” to supporting same-sex marriage. Since becoming Pope, Francis had referred to his Buenos Aires position in interviews on a number of occasions, though not, as far as I’m aware, on camera.
So why are these latest comments “a big deal”? In part because the holy father is clearly representing such civil unions as a good and desirable thing, to be actively promoted, rather than a lesser evil. And second, because he affirms the rightness of same-sex couples forming a family and being part of the family of the church. This will evidently create waves in countries where homosexuality is illegal, as well as causing heartache to conservative Americans who have sought legal exemption from the employment of same-sex couples who have entered into civil unions. While only apparently a tiny shift with regards to the “lesser evil” view, Francis’s position is inconceivable for someone who believes same-sex acts to be mortal sins, leading those involved to go to hell. If you believed those things you would seek to break up such couples, not stabilise them.
From which we can deduce that Pope Francis does not believe those things. And here I want to express my surprise at the surprise. I think the English-speaking world, with its enlightened and Protestant assumptions about how religious teaching works, doesn’t really grasp how the discussion of LGBT people in the Catholic church has been panning out. There are no major points of doctrine at stake, nothing in the creeds, putting at risk the shape of our salvation. And there are no real scruples about the apparently hostile biblical texts, since fundamentalist readings are, in any case, officially disapproved by church authority.
The presenting issue is one of anthropology, and is fairly simple: either it is true that being gay or lesbian is a vicious or pathological form of a humanity which is only authentically heterosexual; or it is true that being gay or lesbian is simply something that is a non-pathological minority variant in the human condition. If the former, then “giving in” to being gay or lesbian is to follow the path of your objective disorder, and ultimately to exclude yourself from grace. If the latter, then becoming who you are starts from who you find yourself to be, including your sexual orientation, and the appropriate humanisation of your sexual desire will be worked out in appropriate relationships over time.
Some commentators have been quick to point to the distinction between same-sex civil unions and marriage, saying that the one is possible for Catholics while the other never will be. I think that’s a bit of a canard. As a priest who has been privileged to be a witness at several same-sex ceremonies, where on each occasion the couple gave their own title to what they were doing, I would say this: let the cake rise before you put on the icing. The cake in question is our shared culture and knowledge concerning publicly lived and legal same-sex couplings.