The other day, in a burst of feeling, I posted the short piece Bishops, Rouse Yourselves! Serve the Living God! One insightful reader (my high opinion of whom being only slightly lessened by learning he reads this blog) emailed me and said, “What are you proposing?”
A fair question, and I will try to answer it. The following plan is just my own, and perhaps just the skeleton. It could certainly be improved. I welcome any attempts to do so:
1a. Immediately announce that the Mass and sacraments are the most essential components of society— indeed of true civilization and of human life itself. Thus, while the Bishop is committed to the physical safety of the faithful, he must be concerned more so with their souls.
1b. Announce that by her very nature, and furthermore also under the First Amendment, the government cannot dictate to the Church how, let alone whether, she conducts worship of God. Thus, whatever accommodations to “public health” concerns she makes she makes voluntarily and not under any order. The bishop will decide based solely on his charge from Christ.
2. In light of items 1, immediately resume regular confessions (where they are suppressed) and immediately restore public Masses on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation. At the very least, outside Masses with the proper “social distancing”. (I refrain from commenting on the wisdom of social distancing generally). Holy Communion to be available or not, at the priest’s discretion. Remind everyone that reception of Communion for the faithful is voluntary. Protect the health of the truly vulnerable by continuing the dispensation from Mass obligation. Anyone who goes is going of their free will and assuming any risk.
3. Form a task force to set up a plan to best utilize parishes’ space to have regular Mass back in consecrated space. In other words, at a very large parish building of which I know, for instance, lots of people will go. There are 3 priests. Thus at least 3 Sunday Masses are possible (or 6 of priests allowed 2 Masses). The size of the church building could easily support a congregation of 200 or more, spaced about. That’s 600 Mass goers (or 1200?). Resume daily Masses there with a sign up sheet up to the desired amount for those, whatever the clergy decide. They will not likely be overwhelmed at daily Mass, especially if Sunday Masses are held.
There are other parishes with small buildings or overwhelmingly old populations. And sad to say, after the meek giving-up of the Holy Sacrifice without a whimper, I guess that many of the flock, to whose faith in these sad times this was the last blow, will not return. Or there may be particularly elderly priests who may not wish to be celebrating with a congregation, or whom the bishop doesn’t want to risk. The task force could therefore identify well-located parishes throughout the diocese, conveniently dispersed, and have a temporary Mass schedule for them with appropriate priest assignments.
The mere assertion of rights and the knowledge that the Mass is available will greatly encourage all of the faithful remnant.
4. Any place where priests are unwilling to give Communion can be addressed by a diocesan sign-up, where priests at least from time-to-time can arrange for private reception.
5. Finally, announce a sort of local jubilee, and set it for Pentecost Sunday. What better day? On that day, the diocese will be back to normal scheduling as far as possible, and, while continuing the dispensation as long as the bishop thinks necessary, announce that on Pentecost each parish can celebrate Masses if they wish without regard to size limits or indoor/outdoor concerns. And the bishop himself will celebrate Mass in his cathedral without regard to any secular ordinance. The celebration of the year. A new birth of the Church.
Following the above plan will also set a better precedent for the next time they try to shut us down. Better than the sad precedent of submission to the state we have now.
Well, there it is. What do you think? Bishops, please, rouse yourselves! Serve the Living God!