Bishop Raica, on March 13, declared Catholic liturgy non-essential by prohibiting Masses as well as other Church functions in the Diocese of Gaylord. All priests of the Diocese have also become “non-essential”. This occurred more than a week before Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s statewide economic lockdown. Furthermore, the Governor’s executive orders regarding the lockdown specifically exempted Churches from prosecution if they decided to stay open. Despite this, Catholic Churches remain closed for Mass. This is in light of data clearly showing the death rate from Coronavirus may be as low or lower than the average flu season. This in no way minimizes the epidemic. All COVID-19 deaths are tragic. But these lives lost must be viewed in the broader context of what people die of, such as heart disease (over 500,000 per year) and cancer (over 400,000). Fear has gripped millions of people.
As of today, Governor Whitmer continues to unilaterally extend the state of emergency without approval of the state legislature in what appears to be a violation of state law. However, she has recently “allowed” certain industries to reopen: bike shops, landscaping, certain daytime activities at state parks. Religion remains non-essential.
We have received word that some priests in the Diocese have contacted Bishop Raica to have public Masses be given and he refused. We cannot independently verify this. Many faithful Catholics in the Diocese have urged priests to fulfill their duties as pastors and offer Masses despite the directives of the Bishop.
What will be the future for Catholicism in our Diocese? When will the Bishop allow public Masses to be provided – in a few weeks, a few months? Can Holy Communion be distributed? Will extraordinary ministers be allowed? Will social distancing be enforced if parishioners are once again allowed to attend Mass? Will there even need to be any social distancing rules since many Catholics will no longer consider Mass as important? After all, isn’t Church attendance now “non-essential” thereby making the number of those attending Mass so much less that no one will need to worry about social distancing? How about Church functions such as funerals, weddings (if there are any), baptisms (if there are any)? What will happen when the next “crisis” occurs? Will Catholics be allowed to even enter a Church when the next crisis occurs? What will governmental authorities prohibit the next time they feel they need to be “protecting” the public?
The Catholic Church hierarchy has allowed religion to be made a form of light entertainment that can be considered dangerous when a viral epidemic occurs. This is a very perilous time for the Church and our country. Please pray for reparation, mercy, and Divine intervention for our Diocese. Pray for an end to the virus and a response to the virus based on the truth and the light of Christ.