Bishop Walter Hurley, the activist temporary administrator for the Diocese of Gaylord, has indefinitely extended the dispensation from attending Mass on Sunday and Holy Days. His rationale for doing so, in addition to more positive test results for Coronavirus in the Diocese, is as follows:
People continue to be at risk. Some are fearful, and many for good reason. While most of our churches have observed the required protocols for safety, such as wearing masks, not all have done so, placing others at risk. If safe distancing is maintained in the diocese, many of our churches would be unable to accommodate all.
Never before in the history of the Church has there been such as push to keep people out of church. Never before in history have doctors’ offices and churches restricted access due to an epidemic. If there are concerns about social distancing, why not increase the number of Masses instead of issuing a directive to incentivize a lack of Church attendance?
Bishop Hurley continues with a confusing set of seemingly contradictory statements. He seems to indicate that a dispensation is not a blanket license not to attend Mass, but then he “invites” parishioners to return to Mass regularly if they can.
The granting of this dispensation is not meant to be a reason to absent oneself from Mass. Without a dispensation, many would be excused from this obligation because of age, health or other family situations or issues. Conscience will always need to be our guide. If you are able to do so, I invite you to come back to the parish celebrations.
It just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense; this is consistent with the Diocesan response to COVID-19 as a whole since the beginning of the epidemic in March. It doesn’t seem that Bishop Hurley is too concerned about our obligation to keep the Third Commandment.
It has been longstanding Church teaching that the faithful are not obligated to attend Mass on Sunday for a variety of reasons, such as if they have significant illness, have severe difficulty getting to Mass for whatever reason (bad weather), they live in an area where Mass is not available, etc.. If that is the case, then why confuse Catholics with a vague directive that many will interpret as the Church no longer mandating we “Keep Holy the Sabbath?” Wouldn’t it be better to remind Catholics that during these times, prayer and Mass attendance is more important than ever? Would it not be more appropriate to remind those who are ill to stay home while simultaneously urging all others to increase their Mass attendance? Is this the preview of another Mass shutdown?
The Coronavirus is real and people are dying of it; so is influenza. Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a world-renowned researcher of COVID-19, stated the following:
It still seems to be a common perception that COVID is equally dangerous to everybody, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a thousand-fold difference between the mortality rate in older people, 70 and up, and the morality rate in children. In some sense, this is a great blessing. If it was a disease that killed children preferentially, I for one would react very differently. But the fact is that for young children, this disease is less dangerous than the seasonal flu. This year, in the United States, more children have died from the seasonal flu than from COVID by a factor of two or three.
Then why try to keep people out of Church if they are healthy, especially young parishioners?
We will continue to monitor this situation closely. If you can, increase your Mass attendance for the sake of our Diocese and our nation.