The Diocese of Gaylord, like most, if not all dioceses in the United States and the world, has taken an approach to the current Coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2, COVID-19) epidemic that is unheard of in Church history. Before the virus had even been noted to be significant in Michigan, and before the governor instituted vast executive orders shutting down the economy of the state, Michigan’s bishops had already cancelled public Masses for the faithful. This lasted for months. Finally, in May, public Masses were once again allowed. This was welcomed by faithful Catholics. But with the reopening of churches came bizarre and often incoherent regulations that offer no rational basis whatsoever. This has resulted in a noticeable drop in Mass attendance and a further contraction of the active faithful in our Diocese. Among the many inconsistencies, a few are worth highlighting:
- On July 29, Bishop Hurley decreed the following: “The only singing is to be by the musician or cantor, who may sing the Entrance Antiphon and the Communion Antiphon.” Despite this, singing still continues to be offered by the musician or cantor in many parishes. There is no consistent scientific evidence that singing, as opposed to breathing, spreads Coronavirus.
- The Bishop also stated the following with regard to face coverings: “Wearing a mask is one act of charity we do to protect others. Masks continue to be required for everyone in the Church, except children under the age of five, those with medical conditions and the ministers when in the sanctuary. Members of the assembly who refuse to wear masks should be invited to sit in a designated area.” Why an altar server or ministers in the sanctuary are not required to wear a mask when everyone else is required to wear one is a mystery. In some parishes, the priest only wears a mask during Communion even though he may be within 6 feet of altar servers, lectors, or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Furthermore, the requirement to wear a mask, supposedly to prevent spreading the virus to another individual or receiving the virus from another individual, is not based on scientific evidence. There is no scientific evidence that a face covering will prevent the transmission or reception of Coronavirus. The virus is 0.1 micrometers. Even an N-95 mask, touted by some as a great mask to prevent spread of infection, only prevents viral spread down to 0.3 micrometers. There is a significant amount of research to show that face coverings do not stop the flow of flu virus particles; they are the same size as Coronavirus particles (0.1 micrometers). Also, a study this past April done on active hospitalized Coronavirus patients showed that the virus was more concentrated on the outside of a mask compared to the inside of a mask in a patient who had the virus. Research has shown that asymptomatic individuals who may be carrying the virus have a very low risk of transmitting the virus (less than 4%). The use of masks, therefore, is not consistent with scientific research. Having priests wear masks during parts of the Mass and not others just doesn’t make sense. Other research has shown that wearing homemade cloth coverings or surgical masks on a regular basis can increase one’s risk of sinus infections including influenza. Is this really an act of charity?
- The Bishop has decreed that the faithful in the Diocese are dispensed from their Sunday obligation to attend Mass until September. Why? Why not make it until Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas?
- Mass times have been switched and Masses are being held outdoors in many locations. What will happen when winter arrives (or rain)? Or does it matter? With the decline in Mass attendance and the dispensation given to Catholics in our Diocese, who cares?
- What will happen when our politicians raise the alarm of a surge in cases? Will we shut down again?
In these troubled times, parishes are trying to do what they can within the constraints of regulations foisted upon them by their bishops. What is your parish doing, good or bad, to deal with these issues? We’d like to know. Please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org .