The Diocese of Gaylord continues to provide a variety of confusing, contradictory, and at times outright bizarre and absurd requirements and practices to deal with the Coronavirus epidemic (Sars-CoV-2, COVID-19). For example, priests are not required to wear a mask unless they are giving Holy Communion to parishioners. This is despite their proximity to altar servers, lectors, and others. When Mass is over, they can often be seen mingling with the faithful without wearing a mask. We have already covered the worthlessness of masks in preventing Coronavirus transmission in a previous post. Recently, so has the CDC. In a July 31, 2020 communique, the CDC admits that when screening for possible significant exposure in the community, the possible exposure should be considered “irrespective of whether the person with COVID-19 or the contact was wearing a mask”! (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/public-health-recommendations.html) So where is the common sense in all of this?
In another parish, confessions will be only provided outdoors. Parishioners are requested to stay in their cars and wait for the priest to be free of penitents. The problem with this setup is that the outdoor confessional is not in clear view of the parking lot. Parishioners are therefore instructed to walk up to the confessional area and then walk back to their cars if someone is saying their confession.
At St. Anne Catholic church school, students are not allowed to go to the weekly mass for students. Instead, the Mass is live-streamed into the classroom which is a few feet from the church. This is despite well-known data that school-aged children are not at any significant risk of illness or death from COVID-19 (and some data states it is safer than influenza in this age group). Also, asymptomatic carriers of Coronavirus are at very low risk of spreading the virus to others. Two scientific studies have shown that the virus is spread almost exclusively from adults to children and not the other way around. And yet we continue to see the age group (individuals under the age of 30) with greater than a 99.9% chance of not being harmed from the virus being sheltered like severe cancer patients on chemotherapy to prevent exposure instead of being exposed and developing immunity to the Coronavirus. Did parishes adopt these draconian policies during a flu outbreak?
There is no end in sight with regard to these and other strange reactions to a virus that is not significantly more dangerous than influenza. Bishop Hurley’s Mass attendance dispensation until November 22, 2020, makes it almost inevitable that the massive decrease in church attendance in this Diocese already taking place prior to the Coronavirus epidemic will continue and accelerate. Also, will we see another full diocesan church shutdown if a “surge” in cases is proclaimed?
These policies regarding the shuttering of churches or the restrictions on church activities have been self-imposed. The Michigan governor’s executive orders bar prosecution of churches from the restrictions placed on Michigan businesses and residents. Therefore, these restrictions have been placed by the bishops in Michigan on the churches. Should they be obeyed? If wearing a mask, restricting singing, social distancing of healthy individuals, and outdoor Masses and confessions are not based on any consistent or reasonable scientific evidence, is it proper to obey such orders? Obedience must be secondary to truth. If obedience involves going against the truth, is that not sinful? Where is the truth in dealing with the Coronavirus? Where does the line need to be drawn to prevent confusion (wearing a mask only at Holy Communion, outdoor confessions but indoor Masses, singing some parts of the Mass but not others) and allow for proper worship? Will any priests or bishops rise up to meet the truth and act on it?
For over six months, Catholic life and worship have been either completely prohibited in parishes or remains significantly curtailed. When was the last time that the faithful came together in a full church to pray and sing as a parish? Will this return? What is the exit strategy for this mindlessness? When does obedience become subservience? Let us pray that our church and civic leaders will reset their fears and agendas to reflect the truth regarding the Coronavirus (ie, consistent science). May they act on that truth.