Thursday, April 9, 2020

12,000 US Catholics Sign Petition to Bishops to Permit Public Masses for Easter: "The Reckoning Is Upon Us"

Commentary I have found worth reading, and want to pass along to all of you:

Recently, Governor Laura Kelly issued a social-distancing order that restricted the crowds at church and/or funeral services to 10 people or less. From the Wichita Eagle
"House and Senate leaders — meeting as a body called the Legislative Coordinating Council — voted along party lines to throw out the directive. Their decision came as the number of reported COVID-19 cases in the state climbed to more than 1,000 and the death count ticked up to 38. Church gatherings have produced three case clusters across the state and health officials fear Easter gatherings could further spread the deadly coronavirus. Pastors and priests now confront a stark choice: forgo in-person services on Christianity's holiest day or open church buildings and potentially risk exposing parishioners."  ...
Is this really going to be the way politicians play games with religion? Passover has begun, so has the Christian Holy Week, and Ramadan begins in a couple of weeks. You're going to do with church services what Wisconsin did with elections—give people a choice between worship and epidemic disease? Shame on any cleric who goes along with this dangerous idiocy. See also: Matthew 6:6

The meeting to revoke the order took place the same day the state reported its biggest increase of both confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19, reaching 1,000. According to KCUR, state officials have tied state outbreaks to both group settings and church events. Three of 12 confirmed state clusters of positive cases of COVID-19 have been linked to church gatherings, prompting the order to ensure more do not follow suit. The March 24 order followed concerns for the safety of residents and efforts to limit the number of cases in the state; it did not only restrict church gatherings, but gatherings of any nature.

Meanwhile, a group of conservative Catholics is opposing the US bishops suspension of masses throughout the country with an online petition, "We Are An Easter People," calling for priests to hold mass, especially on Easter. As of Tuesday, the petition had gathered over 12,000 signatures. 

Each of the countries most heavily hit by the pandemic has reported similar stories of social, cultural or religious gatherings where large numbers spent numerous hours in close company – holding hands, kissing, sharing drinks from the same glass – which then turbo-charged the spread of the pandemic. … 
In the week of 17 to 21 February, around 2,500 worshippers gathered at the Porte Ouverte Christian church in the Bourtzwiller district of Mulhouse, in Alsace, eastern France, for one of the most anticipated events in the evangelical calendar. 
They came from far and wide including from France’s overseas territories and Corsica, for a week of fasting and prayer – held annually for the last 25 years.  ... 
By the time it had been identified as a cradle for the virus, church worshippers had unwittingly passed it on to others. A nurse who had been at the Porte Ouverte is believed to have originated a cluster that contaminated 250 colleagues at Strasbourg University hospital, where she worked. 
Two retired worshippers returned to their home in the Ajaccio region of the Mediterranean island of Corsica. There are now at least 263 positive cases and 21 deaths on the island. 
A delegation of five church-goers from French Guiana, led by their evangelical pastor Gilles Sax, returned to the French overseas territory on the north-east coast of South America, on 25 February. Sax said he felt ill and was “trembling like a leaf” as soon as he returned.. 
Other worshippers returned to cities and towns across France - Orléans, Besançon, Saint-Lô, Belfort, Dijon, Mâcon, Briançon, Paris. By 8 March, around 100 coronavirus cases had been linked to the church prayer week. 
Today, Mulhouse is one of the worst-hit areas in France with local hospitals overwhelmed by patients with the coronavirus.

Pope Francis says he hopes the global Covid-19 pandemic will help the Catholic Church better know how to be both an institution, with certain rules and regulations, and more free-form, able to respond to people's pastoral needs in creative ways.

I agree that this time is an opportunity to hear the Spirit anew, and to fashion a new church out of what remains of the pre-pandemic one. 

I think that cannot be done effectively, however, until the churches choose to seek out and listen attentively to the testimony of those of us who had already learned, prior to the pandemic, what it means to find the church's doors shut fast against us. The people most equipped by their experience to help point the church to a new post-pandemic future are women, abuse survivors, LGBTQ people, those on the margins of society, and so forth — the people who are least listened to by either the clerical club that runs the institutional church, or by its institutions including its academy and journalistic sphere, which continue to be overwhelingly dominated by straight men.

National Catholic Reporter, "Editorial: Catholics and Trump, a reckoning":

The question for the church in the United States is whether we will come out of this austere moment able to admit the role Catholics and their leaders played in electing and enabling a man who, far from being pro-life, has proven himself a distinct danger to life on several levels. ... 
Single-issue voting relieved too many of us of the responsibility to engage deeper political and historical realities. The questions we're left with are urgent. 
The reckoning is upon us.

Despite what some triumphalistic Catholics (and their fellow-travelers) who came here in the past week or so troll want to claim, it's not merely large evangelical mega-churches that want to and are defying orders to refrain from gatherings: Catholic priests are still holding public Masses in some places in defiance of the advice of medical experts and, in many cases, of their own bishops. An African-American theologian I follow on Twitter has talked about this just today on Twitter, citing her old parish in Texas.

I am not linking to her tweets because I understand she has had serious problems from people issuing threats against her on Twitter in the past, trying to get her fired, threatening violence to her. As she points out, Texas exempts religious groups from stay-at-home orders, so she does not know what would happen if she alerted the police about what's happening in her old parish.

As she also says, those attending these Masses are often the elderly.

Meanwhile, Cleburne County, Arkansas, where around 3 dozen members of a church were found to be infected by mid-March, continues to have far and away the highest percentage of known COVID-19 cases per capita in the entire state, and one of the highest rates of any county in the nation.

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