Popular US priest urges bishops amid increasing COVID restrictions: ‘Fight for us!’
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November 10, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — In a blog post at the National Catholic Register, Msgr. Charles Pope appealed to the country’s bishops to fight more proactively for the right of the faithful to practice their faith publicly. He said their response to the lockdowns in the spring, as well as to continuing restrictions, have given many people the message that “(y)our physical health is more important than your spiritual health.”
Noting that many European countries are heading into severe lockdowns in response to increasing positive test numbers, he worries that pressure to follow suit will likewise increase in the United States, and that this will be a test of the bishops’ resolve to put spiritual concerns above temporal ones.
The role that the Church will play leading up to potential new draconian lockdowns is particularly concerning to the priest of the Archdiocese of Washington. The bishops’ supine acceptance of coronavirus restrictions has had the effect that “people got the message that the Church, the sacraments and the Sacred Liturgy just aren’t all that critical,” such that “only 30 percent on average have returned to Mass.”
Pleading with the bishops to “fight for us,” Pope outlined nine points the bishops should consider in order to show their faithful that the public practice of the faith is indeed essential. In summary form, these points are:
Proactively resist lockdowns by engaging officials and making use of every legal appeal available.
Demand clear evidence that church gatherings are a source of spread, allying with Protestant and Jewish communities whenever possible.
Demand legal hearings when government fails to produce evidence, while insisting that gathering for public worship is essential to religious liberty.
Emphasize the difference between the way that people gather in churches as opposed to restaurants and bars with respect to seating and socializing.
Insist that the care of souls is more essential to human flourishing than any of the services the government is calling “essential”.
In the event that public liturgies are forbidden, bishops should support clergy who seek ways to provide the sacraments in creative ways, and should not forbid clergy to keep churches open or to administer the sacraments.
Clergy should not so much encourage the practice of making a spiritual communion but seek to provide Holy Communion to the faithful outside of Mass.
Even if Mass attendance is limited, do not cancel Masses entirely. The Mass should be offered publicly, even if only 10 people can be in attendance.
“Please, good bishops, fight for us! The sacraments are too important to simply cancel their availability.”
Saying the costs of lockdowns “seem clearly to outweigh the possible benefits,” Pope pointed out some of the “severe,” “heinous,” and “odious” effects apart from the impact on Catholics going to church, including the harm to the poor and small business owners and the increase of “depression, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, deferred medical and dental treatment, divorce and loneliness.”
Noting that “we have accepted mandates that don’t even seem to work,” Pope expressed deep concern “that we have ceded our rights to government officials out of a fear that far outweighs the actual threat.”
He considered it “far wiser to do what we have done in previous pandemics: isolate and protect the sick, the vulnerable and those known to be contagious” while upholding the rights of everyone to live a fully human life.