COVID-19, SACRAMENTS, AND CLOSING CHURCHES

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Use your Voice to Keep the Church Doors Open!

Hindsight is a beautiful thing. 

In March of 2020, religious leaders around the world started closing churches and stopping public worship due to the fear of spreading Covid-19. As a result, multitudes of people were unable to practice their faith – even the dying were denied the sacraments and the consolation of visits from the clergy of their choice. Denying the faithful the ability to practice their faith resulted in the removal of the primary means of the salvation of souls. Now, as fear of a second wave of coronavirus infections is spreading across the world, leaders are once again starting to close churches.  

Can the government close our churches and deny sacraments to the faithful?

What does the Constitution say? What does Church law say?

  • Constitution – The First Amendment to the Constitution provides for the autonomy of churches and the free exercise of religious worship. By depriving the faithful of the ability to worship and receive the sacraments, the government has trampled on everyone’s constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.
  • Church Rules – It would be wonderful to quote a specific rule or canon law (Catholic) that states church leaders do not have the authority to prevent the faithful from attending Mass or other worship services. While this does not seem to be explicitly stated, it should be patently obvious to church leaders responsible for the spiritual welfare of the faithful that their number one priority must be the salvation of souls. Unfortunately, many of our leaders have lost sight of this; they also seem to have forgotten that God has complete power over this virus and any other virus. 

As our Lord himself said, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 8:26) Perhaps church leaders should encourage the faithful to trust in God, who will surely reward those who confidently attend Mass or other worship services. If someone does catch the virus in church, isn’t their immortal soul more important than their mortal body? It is noteworthy that the fear of losing one’s life to this virus is stoked by the closing of churches, while the risk of losing one’s soul is, in reality, much more to be feared. We are each the sum of our parts – body, mind, and spirit. Ignoring our spiritual needs results in an unhealthy imbalance.

We pray that our leaders be inspired by the courage and leadership of past heroes. Consider the example of four chaplains who valiantly gave up their lives for others. George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode, Clark V. Poling, and John P. Washington met at a chaplain school.  Each had a different faith background. (Fox was a Methodist minister, Goode was a rabbi, Washington was a Catholic priest, and Clark was from the Reformed Church of America.) On a winter evening in 1943, all four were aboard the Dorchester, a luxury liner transporting troops, when it was hit by a torpedo from a Nazi U-boat. The surviving seamen reported the chaplains’ unbelievable courage in the face of death. All four chaplains gave up their life jackets, refused to abandon the ship, and as the ship started sinking, the four were seen linked arm-in-arm praying. This is the kind of courage and faith we need from our leaders!

Undoubtedly, the spiritual health of the faithful has suffered because of the coronavirus pandemic. After all, churches are places where the faithful can seek true healing. Removing an integral source of hope and consolation during such a challenging time has significantly damaged the spiritual lives of many.

CALL TO ACTION

To prevent even greater harm to the faithful, we need to use our voices and demand that churches remain open to serve as refuges for those who seek God. 

“If God is all you have, you have all you need.” – John 14:8

What steps can you take to ensure churches in your area remain open? How can we comfort the shut-in and dying who may not be able to receive sacraments?  Here are a few ideas.

  • Call your church and civil leaders. Not sure what to say? Click here for suggestions.
  • Send an email to your church and civic leaders demanding we keep our churches open.
  • Submit a request to your church to have language addressing this issue published in the church bulletin and/or posted on the church website. 
  • Send people who are shut-in or dying alone a card or letter. Encourage the schools in your area to organize a program around this.
  • Do a faith-filled project with a family member or friend. Click here for examples.
  • Reach out to everyone you know (friends, family members, book club participants, etc.) to explain what is happening and ask them to spread the word.
  • Most importantly, pray that our churches remain open for worship, and pray for our shut-ins and dying.

In closing, the number one priority of our church leaders is the salvation of souls. In the words of General Douglas MacArthur, we need to remind our leaders that “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” (Source: thecoursehero.com)

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