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Maryland gov. no longer calls churches ‘non-essential,’ still prohibits Sacraments

Clergy are banned from going within six feet of parishioners, making it impossible to baptize them or give them Holy Communion.
Thu Apr 2, 2020 - 6:42 pm EST
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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Scott Eisen / Getty Images

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ANNAPOLIS, Maryland, April 2, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has issued new “interpretive guidelines” revising former official directives which had deemed clergy and churches as “non-essential” due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state has relaxed restrictions on certain activities, but continues to prohibit Sacraments such as Baptisms and the Anointing of the Sick. 

On Monday, Maryland’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) published guidance on Hogan’s order to state residents to “shelter in place,” which had decreed “Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other similar religious facilities are considered ‘Non-Essential Businesses.’” Clergy were essentially limited to “facilitating remote worship,” virtually reducing religious services to those conducted via the Internet. 

The OLC has now walked back that stance, allowing for parking lot services but forbidding direct physical contact between clergy and the faithful.  

The revised interpretive guidelines, while now permitting “Limited in-person services,” requires that “Participants, clergy, and staff must be at least six feet apart from one another at all times,” rendering the administration of Sacraments impossible.  

LifeSiteNews has reached out to the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. (ADW), which encompasses five Maryland counties, to see if “drive-in Masses” might now be permitted by Archbishop Wilton Gregory. The ADW’s online coronavirus statement has not been updated since March 12, 2020. 

The Archdiocese of Baltimore, which lies fully within the state of Maryland, has not posted new guidelines following the recent relaxing of Governor Hogan’s shelter-in-place directive, and was last updated on March 31, 2020.  

LifeSiteNews has reached out to the Baltimore Archdiocese to see if the guidelines will be changed as a result of the new interpretive guidance from the Maryland OLC, and will update this article if new information becomes available. Here are the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s current guidelines due to the coronavirus:

Archdiocese of Baltimore Guidelines

Gov. Larry Hogan announced March 30 that the State of Maryland is implementing a shelter-in-place policy for all Marylanders. This standard will be applied in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Archbishop William E. Lori has instructed churches throughout the archdiocese to close. Churches will no longer be open for private prayer, confession or adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. 

“Like Governor Hogan, I want to take every precaution and every step necessary to ensure the health of the people we serve,” Archbishop Lori said. “While no bishop wants to ever close a church to one seeking closeness to God, I pray that in doing so we prevent further suffering, further death and will be closer to the day when we can reopen our church doors to the people we so deeply love and miss.”

Liturgical

Masses

ALL MASSES are to be offered without the physical presence of the faithful until further notice. There are no exceptions. Masses may not be celebrated for small groups of the faithful in chapels or homes. For a list of parishes that livestream their Masses via radio, television or the Internet, visit www.archbalt.org/online-mass.

Stations of the Cross

No formal Stations of the Cross services may be scheduled. Archbishop Lori conducted a livestreamed Stations of the Cross from the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen March 20. The recording may be viewed on the Cathedral’s website.

Sacraments/Liturgical Events

BAPTISM, WEDDINGS and FUNERALS- No baptisms or weddings will be offered while Gov. Hogan’s shelter-in-place restrictions are in effect. No funerals will be offered; only graveside services with a limit of no more than 10 people present.

CONFIRMATION- All Confirmation Masses are suspended until further notice, and will be rescheduled once restrictions are lifted.

RECONCILIATION- The Archdiocesan-wide “Day of Reconciliation” has been canceled. While Gov. Larry Hogan’s shelter-in-place policy is in effect, churches will not be open for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The archbishop has instructed priests not to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation in parishes and to only perform the sacraments in cases where the individual is in danger of dying.

ANOINTING OF THE SICK- The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick will only be administered in cases when death is imminent.

Here are the revised interpretive guidelines issued by the State of Maryland’s Office of Legal Counsel issued April 1, 2020:

  1. Drive-In Religious Services. Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other similar religious facilities of any faith (“Religious Facilities”) may conduct “drive-in” services, where participants gather in their vehicles near the Religious Facility and participate in the service together by remote means, subject to the following requirements, which are intended to protect public health, safety, and welfare:
  • Participants may leave their Homes to travel by vehicle to and from the Religious Facility, and must remain in their vehicle at all times.
  • No vehicle may contain more than 10 persons, in accordance with paragraph III of the Order.
  • Participants may not interact physically with clergy, staff, or participants in other vehicles. This includes, but is not limited to, collecting donations by basket or plate.
  1. Limited In-Person Services. Clergy may conduct limited in-person services at their respective Religious Facilities, and participants may leave their Homes to travel to and from the Religious Facility for such services, subject to the following requirements, which are intended to protect public health, safety, and welfare:
  • No more than 10 persons, including clergy, staff and participants, may be present inside the Religious Facility during the service.
  • Participants may not interact physically with clergy, staff, or participants. This includes, but is not limited to, collecting donations by basket or plate.
  • Participants, clergy, and staff must (i) be at least six feet apart from one another at all times, except for participants that are part of the same household; and (ii) comply with all applicable guidance from the CDC and MDH regarding social distancing.
  • There must be at least a four hour gap between the end of one in-person service and the beginning of the next in-person service. The Religious Facility should be cleaned between services, in accordance with CDC cleaning and disinfection guidance.
  1. Minimal Operations at Religious Facilities. Clergy and other staff of Religious Facilities are permitted to continue conducting Minimal Operations under paragraph IV.c of the Order, provided that they comply with all applicable guidance from the CDC and MDH regarding social distancing. In the case of religious facilities, the term “Minimal Operations” includes, but is not necessarily limited to, facilitating remote services.
  2. Effect on Prior Interpretive Guidance. Paragraph 6 of Interpretive Guidance COVID19-08 is rescinded and superseded by this document.

  catholic, coronavirus, larry hogan, maryland, william lori, wilton gregory

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