Q1: My question is simple. There is no requirement by my diocese that we must wear masks at Mass. Can a parish priest require it? –Bill
Q2: We just received an email from our parish communications director stating that we will be required to wear face coverings to Mass…. Is this something that the parish has the authority to mandate? Are they permitted to deny my family (with 5 small children, of whom 3 would be “required” to also wear masks, over the age of 2) entry to Mass if we do not wear masks? –Jessica
Q3: Our bishop, who has had all parishes completely shut down since March, has recently issued “guidelines” regarding the opening of churches for Masses again. In the guidelines, it is written that the congregation is to wear masks. Several of our parishioners have let us know that they cannot wear masks because of their health; one woman has asthma attacks and cannot breathe with a mask on, another gets severely claustrophobic and cannot wear one for an extended period of time, such as the length of a Mass. The bishop’s published guidelines make no mention of provisions for those with medical reasons for not wearing a mask.
My pastor has claimed that Canon Law gives the bishop the authority to deny these Catholics’ right to attend Mass under the current circumstances and that he himself will enforce it. He also spoke about our responsibility to protect those around us and the bishop’s need to comply with the requirements of civil authority. Where I am, government officials do not require wearing masks. Other Catholic churches in [nearby dioceses] do not require masks…. –Angela
A: After the historically unprecedented, breathtakingly illegal closures of churches and cancellations of Mass and the sacraments in dioceses all around the world “because of the virus” (discussed at length in “Do Bishops Have the Authority to Cancel Masses Completely?” and “Refusing a Funeral Mass, Because of the Virus,” among many others), millions of Catholics were hoping that things could eventually return to normal again in the Church. As we can see, they were wrong.
Bishops in dioceses all over the world have decreed that among other things, the faithful must wear masks if they want to attend Mass; and as the above questions indicate, in some places where the diocesan bishop has not done this, parish priests have decided to require it on their own initiative. Can they do this?
As was true of the legal situation discussed in “Contributing Financially to the Support of the Parish: A Precept of the Church,” if you expect to find a canon in the code which specifically says, “Diocesan bishops cannot mandate that the faithful wear masks if they wish to attend Mass,” or alternately, “Diocesan clergy have authority to require the faithful to wear masks when they enter a church,” you’re going to be disappointed. Until just a couple of months ago, nobody would ever have dreamed of such a scenario. So why would anyone expect to find laws on this subject?
That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s impossible to draw reasonable inferences and arrive at a logical conclusion. In fact, if you take into consideration Catholic theological teachings on the nature and dignity of the human person, the theology of the Mass and the sacraments, the rights and obligations of both clergy and laity, and the broad canonical concepts which naturally follow from all these theological teachings … it’s actually relatively easy to reach a verdict that is fully consistent with Catholic doctrine. And in the process, you may realize how insidious and frightening these new and unprecedented ideas really are—and why they have to stop.
Before delving into the details of issues like the authority of bishops versus that of parish priests, or the responsibility of the pastor to maintain order, we must first and foremost address a far more fundamental theological fact that isn’t getting enough attention: it is the job of the diocesan clergy to take care of the spiritual needs of the faithful entrusted to their care. When priests celebrate Mass for the people and give them Holy Communion, and when bishops administer the sacrament of confirmation, etc. etc., they’re not doing anybody a favor. Quite the contrary—they are doing what they are required to do, as servants. Our Lord Himself explained this clearly, when He washed the feet of His Apostles on the night before He gave His life for us:
Do you realize what I have done for you? You call Me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the Master and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. (John 13:12-16)
Of course this wasn’t the first time that Jesus had emphasized to His Apostles that they should consider themselves the servants of others. When James and John asked Him for places of particular honor in His Kingdom, Our Lord said this:
You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:42-45)
Thus it is no coincidence that for roughly 1500 years, Popes have regularly referred to themselves in various official documents as “servants of the servants of God.” Clerical ministry in the Church isn’t about power, authority, and the esteem of the crowd—it’s about sacrificing oneself on behalf of the souls of others, in order to bring them ever closer to God. We see this theological concept articulated numerous times in the Code of Canon Law, including canon 276.1, which tells us bluntly that because clerics have been consecrated to God by the sacrament of Holy Orders, they are dispensers of the mysteries of God in the service of His people.
As abstract and non-juridic as such teachings may sound, it is this very concept of selfless service to others that undergirds canon 843.1, a law which has been cited many times before in this space (in “Can a Pastor Set a Minimum Age for Baptism?” as well as “Can a Priest Refuse to Hear Your Confession if He Knows You?” and “What Happens when Canon Law Conflicts with Social Custom?” among others). This canon tells us that sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times (see “Can Catholics be Prohibited From Marrying in Lent and Advent?” for a good example of this), are properly disposed (discussed in “When Can the Parish Priest Postpone a Wedding?” and “Can the Pastor Refuse to Baptize Our Child?”), and are not prohibited by law from receiving them (an example of which can be seen in “What Does it Mean to Have Your Marriage Blessed? (Part II)”).
And because it is the responsibility of the Catholic clergy to nourish us spiritually with the Mass and the sacraments (c. 213, cf. also c. 836), it follows logically that when they refuse these to us, there must be some reason which is grounded in concern for our spiritual wellbeing. In other words, “I’m not going to hear your confession because I’m tired” or “because it’s pouring rain and I don’t want to walk over to the church,” or “because you’re obnoxious” is not a valid reason for a parish priest refusing the sacrament of Penance (for example) to someone who gives every indication that he sincerely needs to get these sins off his chest, and seeks to confess at a reasonable time of day. A priest is supposed to want to help bring people to God—regardless of whether he’s got a splitting headache, or is starving because it’s 4 PM and he still hasn’t found time to eat lunch yet. As any parent can tell you, that’s what “self-sacrifice” is all about.
At the same time, it’s precisely because a priest is supposed to be concerned about your spiritual wellbeing that declining to administer a sacrament can indeed be the correct move sometimes, because he judges that you don’t take it seriously, or otherwise aren’t properly prepared for it (see “When Can a Priest Refuse to Absolve a Penitent in the Confessional?” for an example of this). But—as he should explain at the time—even this very refusal is really supposed to be for your spiritual benefit: its goal is to ensure that you don’t celebrate a sacrament invalidly and/or sacrilegiously now, and that you return better prepared at a later date, when you can do it right.
In short, a Catholic who seeks Mass and the sacraments from the parish clergy, and shows no signs of poor preparation or insincerity, should never, ever have to beg for them. Catholic priests and bishops should be absolutely delighted that the faithful seek the spiritual goods of the Church, and should be doing everything reasonably possible to make them available. This cannot be emphasized enough!
As for the laity, it goes without saying that we should be humbly grateful for the service of the Catholic clergy—who have received from God, through the sacrament of Holy Orders, the awesome ability to offer the sacrifice of the Mass and to administer the sacraments for/to us. Without Catholic priests and bishops, we would be largely helpless: no matter what heights of personal holiness we may reach, we will never be able to do for ourselves in the spiritual realm what the clergy can do for us. This is the fundamental reason why we treat our clergy with respect.
So how do we apply all these broad concepts to the specific notion that the faithful in many places are being required to wear masks if they want to come to Mass?
First and foremost: depending on where you live, a major factor in this whole equation may be the civil government. We all know that a frightening number of elected officials around the world seem to believe that the emergence of a virus automatically gives them dictatorial powers, and nullifies their national constitutions—and in many cases they have decreed that people must wear masks outside their own homes, or when entering closed buildings like churches. Here in Italy, where the bishops’ conference has cravenly caved in to every conceivable demand made by the state, churches now have signs in their vestibules declaring that mask-wearing is required (although in many parishes the sign is pro forma and is simply disregarded by both clergy and laity). If your diocese/parish is located in a region where power-crazed politicians have declared that everyone must wear masks in church, this obviously puts the diocesan clergy in a tight spot. Here’s an Archdiocesan policy which may (?) have been written in such circumstances: it declares that masks are required, yet immediately provides for a broad “exemption” for which the faithful need to provide no evidence—meaning that the requirement is, in actual fact, entirely optional.
But as some of our questioners indicate, there are bishops and priests out there who have taken it upon themselves to introduce this condition as a requirement henceforth for attending Mass—even though there is no civil law obliging them to do so. They invariably claim that this is “for your safety” and in many cases even assert that it is “an act of charity,” because (they say) by wearing a mask you are protecting others from contracting the virus which you may unknowingly have. According to such logic, not wearing a mask is therefore uncharitable.
Before tackling this directly, an important distinction has to be made here, between encouraging people to stay home if they feel ill, and forbidding them to come to Mass without a mask. (In “Do Bishops Have Authority to Cancel Masses Completely?” we saw the need to make a similar distinction between telling parishioners they don’t need to come to Mass, and banning them from coming altogether.) As has always been the case, if you’re ill with a serious and contagious disease of any kind, you can reasonably consider yourself dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass—see “How Can You Get a Permanent Dispensation from Attending Sunday Mass?” for more on this. Quite a few bishops and priests around the world are pointing out to the laity that it’s fine under such circumstances to stay home, and there is nothing new about this. It’s a far cry, however, from being required by Catholic clergy to meet certain requirements or else you are barred from attending Mass.
At the same time, bear in mind yet another distinction: it’s one thing for the bishop/priest to say, “If you are ill, please contact us and we will come to your home and bring you the sacraments,” … and it’s quite another to say, “If you are ill, you can’t come to church!” and leave it at that—as if physical illness were some sort of moral flaw, rendering a Catholic unworthy of participating in the sacramental life of the Church. Clergy who are mindful that their ministry is one of service will not hesitate to offer a workaround, enabling the faithful to get, one way or another, what they spiritually need. After all, if this is really all about “charity to others,” it stands to reason that our priests should be “charitably” offering to visit sick people in their homes, and bring them Holy Communion and hear their confessions, since they’re “charitably” staying at home, right? But are bishops and parish priests demonstrating in this way that they themselves “consider the wellbeing of others,” i.e., the faithful for whose spiritual wellbeing they are responsible? If so, it’s odd that the new rules and regulations posted by so many dioceses make absolutely no mention of the clergy’s willingness to visit the sick—which is, after all, one of the Corporal Works of Mercy.
With all this in mind, the next question is why are Catholic clergy in many areas insisting that the laity must wear masks at Mass? To many people, including the bishops and priests who are mandating their use, the answer seems perfectly obvious: masks prevent the spread of the virus, of course! No matter what country you live in, if you watch the nightly news and/or read the papers, you’ve been absolutely pummeled non-stop by assertions that this is undeniable scientific fact.
But if you yourself are a doctor, nurse, or other health-care professional—engaged in treating sick patients, not in politics—the odds are high that based on your practical experience, you think differently. In an interview, one American scientist summed it up beautifully: “Why are the press running medicine?… This is not right.” (Watch here, starting at 4:46 min.)
If you do some objective research, you’ll find that assertions that “masks prevent the spread of the virus” are made by people who almost invariably fall into one of three categories:
(2) journalists; and
(3) doctors/scientists who are in the pay of either the government or some other quasi-political entity, or of a pharmaceutical company which stands to profit from the virus.
In great contrast, medical researchers who conduct objective, scientific clinical studies have, over the course of decades, produced a plethora of factual information showing that “There is little information on the efficacy of face masks in filtering respiratory viruses and reducing viral release from an individual with respiratory infections” (source). The New England Journal of Medicine published this report, which asserts up-front something that is no news to medical professionals: “We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection.” The largest study conducted to date into the efficacy of ordinary cloth masks, as opposed to surgical masks, concluded that “penetration of cloth masks by particles was almost 97% and medical masks 44%” (source). Meanwhile, a scholarly survey of all studies on the subject conducted over the past 70 years concluded that
There is limited evidence for their effectiveness in preventing influenza virus transmission either when worn by the infected person for source control or when worn by uninfected persons to reduce exposure. Our systematic review found no significant effect of face masks on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza (source).
A comparable survey of already existing scientific research led to identical conclusions. It was produced recently by a Canadian professor-scientist who posted it on an academic research site used by professors of all subjects (including yours truly)—but after receiving wide attention it was abruptly removed by the administrators of the site in an unprecedented and obvious violation of academic freedom, since its scientific findings evidently didn’t fit their preconceived political narrative.
In her question above, Jessica notes that even small children at her parish must wear masks at Mass. Compare this requirement, which the parish has undoubtedly declared is for everyone’s “safety,” with this study by France’s Pasteur Institute, showing that children are markedly unaffected by the virus in comparison with adults—which is why schools in various European countries already reopened months ago, with no significant signs of virus transmission. And this report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, statistically demonstrates a dramatically low incidence of the virus among children (something which has, incidentally, surprised countless doctors all over the world from the very start). But if you still prefer to rely on the news media, here’s a news report of young children in China who actually died at school when they were exercising in gym class while wearing masks.
There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of similar scientific studies and surveys out there in different languages, written by medical researchers with no political agenda to promote. They stand in stark contrast to the hysterical warnings of those doctors hired by various governments, whose authoritative declarations frequently contradict themselves from week to week. Here in Italy, for example, masks are required throughout the nation in enclosed places (including churches), and the top medical advisor to the Italian Health Ministry gives ominous warnings to the nation on an almost daily basis, keeping millions of simple, uneducated Italians in a state of perpetual terror … even though he publicly admitted to the British press months ago that the actual statistics for virus deaths in Italy are in reality only a tiny fraction of the publicly declared figures! Meanwhile, the best known member of the US government’s virus task force has dramatically flip-flopped on the wearing of masks:
(March 8, 2020) There is no reason to be walking around wearing a mask. When you are in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better, and might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection people think it is… (Watch here, at 0.29 min.)
(July 14, 2020) Right now, I’m convinced enough in the summation and totality of the data that has been analyzed by meta-analysis that I’m convinced that the benefit of wearing a mask clearly is there and is better than not wearing a mask. (source)
How can such contradictory statements possibly be grounded in scientific facts? And why should anybody attribute to doctors like these any credibility, since they’re plainly being guided by something other than objective medical research? In the UK, one finds a virtually identical situation, as the government stated publicly in April that “We need to absolutely be guided by the scientists.” But in July, the government abruptly did an about-face, not because it relied on scientific findings, but in response to political pressure brought to bear by the World Health Organization:
The WHO only advocated face masks after political lobbying despite the science being unconvincing.
“The World Health Organization committee that reviewed the evidence for the use of face coverings in public didn’t back them. But after political lobbying, the WHO now recommends them,” reported BBC Newsnight. (source, emphasis in original)
Incredibly, the UK government now insists that people are to wear a type of mask which comes in a package bearing a specific warning that the mask does not protect against coronavirus.
So to return to our diocesan and parish clergy who are mandating that the faithful wear masks “to prevent the spread of the virus,” the question must be asked: where are they getting their information from—and given the science, how does their mask-requirement demonstrate concern for the genuine spiritual wellbeing of their flock?
It’s ridiculously easy to do a little internet research and find objective, scholarly sources of factual scientific information like those cited above. One would assume that your average diocesan bishop has even greater resources at his disposal, including a staff with access to medical professionals who could explain these things in more detail if needed. Instead, it seems like mask-mandating Catholic clergy are relying blindly on politically motivated statements from the mainstream media and the government-paid medics who promote the state’s agenda, with little apparent regard for sound medicine.
As was observed in “Can the Bishop Cancel Our Annual Parish Fundraiser, Because of the Virus?” Catholic priests and bishops are trained in philosophy and theology, which hardly qualifies any of them as a medical expert. That’s why it’s bewildering to find so many clerics declaiming authoritatively on the virus and what’s necessary to celebrate Mass and the sacraments “safely,” when actual doctors and scientists have long been in agreement that this isn’t necessary at all. (It’s worth noting at this point an exception to the rule in Cardinal Wim Eijk, the Archbishop of Utrecht, Holland, who was already a physician before he became a priest. Interestingly, in his Archdiocese as of this writing there doesn’t appear to be any requirement about masks.)
But as if that isn’t problematic enough, one also has to question what is more important to the mask-mandating Catholic clergy: the spiritual wellbeing of the faithful entrusted to their care, or the faithful’s physical health? Canon 387 tells us that the diocesan bishop is to strive to promote in every way the holiness of the Christian faithful, and is to endeavor constantly that the Christian faithful entrusted to his care grow in grace through the celebration of the sacraments; and according to canon 386.1, he is also to take care that the prescripts of the canons on the ministry of the word, especially those on the homily and catechetical instruction, are carefully observed so that the whole Christian doctrine is handed on to all. It is difficult (to put it mildly!) to reconcile these grave spiritual responsibilities with the often dizzying array of rules and requirements that the faithful are now faced with if they wish to attend Mass and/or receive the sacraments—accompanied by a warning that if they don’t comply, then Mass/the sacraments will be denied to them, period. Recall that Jesus told us, “Come to Me!” (Matt. 11:28), and yet these clerics are telling the faithful, “Go away!”
There would seem to be confusion among many of the Catholic clergy, between genuine pastoral care and concern for the wellbeing of the laity, and arbitrary rule-setting “because we can.” In his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis addressed the concept of misuse of power over others—although probably nobody would have imagined at the time that it could become so applicable to Catholic bishops as well:
Yet it would also be mistaken to view other living beings as mere objects subjected to arbitrary human domination. When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society. This vision of “might is right” has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all. Completely at odds with this model are the ideals of harmony, justice, fraternity and peace as proposed by Jesus. As he said of the powers of his own age: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matt. 20:25-26). (82)
Bishops rightly have a lot of power in their dioceses, and the same can be said of parish priests in their parishes. But as has been repeatedly explained in this space in recent weeks, it is not absolute, as it must always be exercised in accord with universal law—and the wording of the law generally reflects that. For example, canon 838.4 tells us that in the local Church entrusted to his care, the diocesan bishop is to establish liturgical regulations which are binding on all—but the canon adds “within the limits of his competence.” And you’ll look in vain for any law indicating that the bishop’s competence extends to making brand-new rules which have been proven to serve no medical purpose as conditions for attending Mass/receiving the sacraments!
And what has been said thus far with regard to the authority of bishops applies likewise to that of parish priests. Canon 519 tells us that the pastor is the proper shepherd of the parish entrusted to him, exercising the pastoral care of the community committed to him under the authority of the diocesan bishop, in whose ministry of Christ he has been called to share … “according to the norm of law.” As we just saw with diocesan bishops, the parish priest likewise has a lot of power, but he can only exercise it within the limitations of the law—which means he can’t randomly create his own sine qua non conditions that parishioners must follow, or else they won’t be allowed to attend Mass/receive the sacraments. On the contrary, canon 528.2 says explicitly that the parish priest is to see to it that the Most Holy Eucharist is the center of the parish assembly of the faithful; and he is to work so that the Christian faithful are nourished through the devout celebration of the sacraments and, in a special way, that they frequently approach the sacraments of the Most Holy Eucharist and penance. It should be pretty obvious that driving people away from Mass and the sacraments because they don’t meet your own made-up conditions doesn’t jibe with either theology or canon law.
Since when have bishops and parish priests in the Catholic Church had the authority to set hoops through which the faithful are required to jump, in order to receive the spiritual treasures of the Church to which they have a right? With mask policies, what we are seeing is an unprecedented setting of conditions (which have no basis in science!) if the faithful are to be permitted to attend Mass and receive the sacraments—in other words, the clergy are behaving as if they are doing us a favor, instead of bringing us closer to God through their ministerial service. And the faithful are being reduced to begging for the spiritual goods of the Church which are their right.
How else can one explain the situation described in Angela’s question, where Catholics with asthma and claustrophobia are being told that despite their physical infirmities, they must nevertheless suffer by wearing a mask—which does nothing to protect anyone from the virus—or else they can’t attend Mass? And in the case of Jessica’s family, one can only imagine the potentially traumatic effect that a mask-requirement could have on a small child, who may for the rest of his life equate “attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” with “suffocating with this strange thing on my face”! If bishops and priests were striving to drive the faithful away from the Church for good, they’d be hard pressed to do a better job than this. Is that what they want?
At this point, some readers might be tempted to object, “are you suggesting that bishops and parish priests should have no concern whatsoever for the physical health and safety of the laity when they come to church?” Of course this is to suggest nothing of the kind. It only stands to reason that diocesan clergy have always been correctly exercising their pastoral authority when (let’s say) they’ve taken measures to repair/prevent physical hazards in church buildings, like falling plaster and rotting floorboards, in the name of safety. But as we all have probably experienced at some time or other, when a church is in need of extensive repairs of this kind, parish priests routinely make temporary arrangements to celebrate Masses in another location, like a school auditorium or even at another parish. The emphasis in these situations is always on two things simultaneously: (1) ensuring that the church building is safe to enter, and (2) providing the faithful with continued access to Mass and the sacraments. Note that there is never any talk of imposing conditions that parishioners must meet or else this access will be denied to them. The fundamental aim of diocesan clergy at such times is to serve the people, for whose spiritual welfare they are responsible before God.
But if many among the Catholic clergy now assert that they are anxious to protect the faithful from deadly viruses that they could possibly catch while at church, here’s a logical question: to date, what have they been doing to rid the parish churches of bats?
In many regions of the world, bats are well known to carry the rabies virus; in a number of countries the only threat of rabies comes from bats (for example, Britain’s National Health Service says rabies is “not found in the UK, except in a small number of wild bats.”). This virus can be transmitted to humans if they’re bitten by a rabid bat; and as the World Health Organization says, “Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is virtually 100% fatal.” And just in case you’re thinking that bats with rabies are a thing of the past, here’s a news report of rabid bats being found in the US in June 2020; and here’s a different report from another location, from July 2020.
For centuries, many church steeples and attics throughout the Christian world have been inhabited by bats—this is where the old expression “he’s got bats in his belfry” comes from. This means, logically, that there is potential for some of these bats to have rabies; and rabid animals are prone to bite other animals (including humans) when they have the chance, thereby passing on the contagion. Thankfully, treatment for this otherwise fatal disease exists today, but as just stated above, it has to be started before symptoms occur. Here’s the US Centers for Disease Control, with some heart-rending descriptions of children contracting rabies because they were too young to understand and tell adults that they had been bitten by a rabid bat.
(Note that this rabies info comes from some of the same politicized sources upon which so many bishops seem to be relying for their unsound and unjustifiable coronavirus mask-requirements—but at least in the case of rabies, these sites are in fundamental accord with all the apolitical medical research that has been conducted to date.)
Rabies isn’t the only disease that humans can get from bats, either. As any commercial bat-removal company can tell you, exposure to guano (bat-droppings) can lead to histoplasmosis, a pulmonary disease causing flu-like symptoms (sound familiar?). In fact, if you think about it, attending Mass in a bat-invested church has the potential to be extremely dangerous! Yet oddly enough, many of these same clergy who now insist that they are so concerned about our physical health when it comes to the virus, have been indifferent for decades to the very real possibility that parishioners, including very young children, could be infected with rabies by the bats living right there in the rafters of their church. Why the inconsistency?
There’s no avoiding the conclusion that since mandatory masks don’t really increase our safety, they must be about social control. Masking a person’s face can be dehumanizing; as this Catholic evangelist explains from a spiritual perspective, “the face is an icon of God.” This isn’t an exclusively Catholic notion, or even necessarily a religious one: here’s an Irish journalist succinctly describing the dehumanization of the person by mandatory mask-wearing, in entirely secular terms.
Given all this, why are many Catholic clergy mandating the wearing of masks? Part of the answer might be found in this illuminating comment by an American Archbishop, on attending Mass after the coronavirus lockdown:
…[T]the archbishop said, expect it to “look and feel quite different from the Mass you remember from two months ago.”
And that’s the real goal, isn’t it? Going to Sunday Mass isn’t what it used to be—and that’s not “because of the virus,” but because they want it to be different. Consider what has happened in thousands of parishes around the world in the past few months, ostensibly “for your safety”:
- Holy water, that most powerful sacramental (cf. cc. 1166 ff.) which exorcists know well to be so effective against demons (here’s the Bishop of Buenaventura, Columbia, using it correctly last year, in spiritual combat against the crime wave in his diocese) has almost completely disappeared from parish fonts “because of the virus.” Inexplicably, most bishops and clerics don’t appear to be providing “safe” individual bottles of it for the faithful to take home, or encouraging them to bring their own bottles to church for the clergy “safely” to fill with holy water for them.
- The faithful are being subjected to a host of requirements, such as mask-wearing, glove-wearing or the mandated use of hand sanitizer before entering the church, and the refusal of admittance if they have any ordinary illness, not just coronavirus—as if parishioners’ access to Mass and the sacraments was something to be determined by a decision of the clergy.
- Social distancing “for your safety” leaves the faithful isolated from each other, with no sense of community as we publicly worship God at Mass. And instead of viewing our fellow-parishioners as Catholics who, like us, are made in the image and likeness of God, we are being conditioned to regard them as potential sources of contagion, which must be shunned.
- The Eucharist is being demeaned in truly unprecedented ways, most commonly when clergy illegally insist that all the faithful must receive Holy Communion in the hand (see “Can We be Required to Receive Communion in the Hand, Because of the Virus?” for more on this egregious violation).
The end-result of it all is this: instead of worshipping Almighty God by our prayerful attendance, together with our Catholic brothers and sisters, at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the atmosphere at church on Sunday is becoming more like that a lab filled with scientists engaging in a potentially deadly scientific experiment; and the distribution of Holy Communion resembles more the handling of anthrax or some other hazardous bio-weapon, rather than the reverent reception of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.
It’s time to stop playing games, and acknowledge what is really happening to the Church. This isn’t about the virus; it’s about destroying the Church’s highest form of public worship, and the sacramental life of the faithful. Pretending that these new requirements are “for your safety” is dishonest and disingenuous. And diabolical.
So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, (overseeing) not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-3)
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