US bishop: Choir members, Communion ministers must be ‘fully vaccinated’
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas, April 9, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — The first bishop in the United States to cancel all public Masses has now barred lay people from delivering Communion to the sick, and choir members from singing in Mass, unless they are “fully vaccinated” with an experimental coronavirus vaccine. He also still requires everybody to wear masks.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, issued a letter to parishioners in his diocese on March 25, outlining new COVID protocols to be implemented in parishes under his direction beginning Holy Thursday (April 1).
Regarding taking Holy Communion to the sick and housebound, Taylor stated: “Unless the minister is a family member or caretaker, the Communion minister must be fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus.”
Communion during Mass can only be distributed in the hand, not on the tongue.
“Choirs can be permitted only when all members have been vaccinated and preferably wearing masks,” the bishop noted, and congregational signing should be “masked and kept to a minimum.”
All three vaccines currently authorized for use in the United States by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, are experimental. Clinical trials are ongoing, and they have been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) only. EUA status is distinct from being “approved” or “licensed” vaccinations and as such, cannot be mandated by public or private entities.
Arkansas’s Governor Gov. Asa Hutchinson lifted his eight-month-old mask mandate March 31, saying the state had met set targets for COVID-19 case counts. COVID-19 case reports in the state fell 25% in the past seven-day reporting period since the mask mandate was repealed.
The State Department of Health continues to recommend that Arkansans wear masks in public settings when unable to maintain a six-foot distance from others outside their household. Bishop Taylor’s letter states that “gatherings for Catholic worship have their own dynamics and so mask-wearing will continue to be obligatory for everyone at least until May 12, when we will reassess this requirement in light of the situation then current.”
Lectors and priests on the altar may remove their masks when reading, the bishop dictated, “but it is preferred that masks stay on even then.”
“Thanks to the cooperation of our people with the protocols we have had in place to mitigate the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing number of people who have been vaccinated, we are now in a position to make a few modifications in the protocols to be observed effective April 1,” the bishop stated.
The latest protocols include allowing holy water to be restored to fonts (although there is no evidence anyone has ever gotten the coronavirus from shared water), resuming entrance and exit processions, and the use of collection baskets for donations.
Bishop Taylor issued letters in March 2020 canceling Masses and “non-essential gatherings,” including confirmations. As well, he said that the sacrament of anointing of the sick, including for those ill with coronavirus, was to be withheld stating that it “would be problematic” as exposure to infected patients “would make you a danger to others.” The bishop recommended leading such patients in prayer for healing, while “maintaining a distance of at least 3 feet.”
Bishop Taylor has opposed withholding sacraments from those in public office who support abortion on demand, however. “Denying Communion to politicians who oppose us in matters of public policy on this or any other topic misses the mark, even in the preeminent matter of abortion,” he said in a homily marking the anniversary of the 1973 pro-abortion ruling Roe v. Wade in January this year.
“Who are we to judge the state of another person’s soul?” the bishop asked at the Mass on the date which would mark the deaths of more than 62 million American unborn babies since the Roe v. Wade decision.
The bishop also equated the quest to end the slaughter of babies in the womb with the need to reform immigration, gun control, and tackle racism. “If life is sacred, then immigration when necessary is a pro-life issue (this planet belongs to all of us), as is welcoming refugees and working to end gun violence and unemployment — and on this Martin Luther King weekend, racism,” he said.
Taylor defended Pope Francis’s controversial statement in October 2020 about extending civil unions to homosexuals, stating that he was referring only to granting “some of the tangential civil benefits of marriage” such as insurance and inheritance benefits and property-transfer rights where there was “a stable bond between persons of the same sex.”
His statement regarding civil unions was merely “one small expression of a much broader vision of inclusion that Pope Francis has proclaimed,” the bishop said.
Deacon Matthew Glover at the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock said that e-mailed questions about the bishop’s policies which exclude Catholics who decline injections and those who do not wear masks would likely not be answered this week as the bishop’s media officer was unavailable.