SAN FRANCISCO (ChurchMilitant.com) - A California archbishop is leveling powerful words of criticism at San Francisco officials — even calling City Hall's sweeping ban on Holy Mass "a mockery of God."
To a crowd of over 1,000 faithful at the plaza outside San Francisco's St. Mary's Cathedral — in parking lots and on surrounding streets — Abp. Salvatore J. Cordileone delivered a rousing sermon to attend one of 18 Masses being offered. The archbishop — holding high the Blessed Sacrament — led the faithful in a eucharistic procession before the Mass, a holy display intended to bring attention to the city's suffocating restrictions on religious gatherings.
The archbishop confirmed that he has continuously petitioned government officials to open up restrictions to public worship, but with no result. "For months I have pleaded with the city on your behalf, advocating for your need of the consolation of the Mass and the consolation you derive from the practice of your faith and connection with your faith community," the archbishop told the attendees.
But "City Hall ignored us. City Hall ignored you," he said. "It has become clear to me that they just don't care about you. To them you are nothing, to them you don't matter. Let me repeat that: to City Hall, you don't matter."
He lambasted the mandate of one indoor visitor per worship site. "One person at a time in this great Cathedral to pray? What an insult," he said. "This is a mockery. They are mocking you, and even worse, they are mocking God." The cathedral has a 2,500-person capacity.
"We have been patiently putting up with unjust treatment long enough, and now it is time to come together to witness to our faith and to the primacy of God and to tell City Hall, no more," the California prelate said.
The archbishop's announcement of the eucharistic procession came just five days after San Francisco officials posted news of an accelerated reopening on Sept. 14 of nail and hair salons, as well as hotels and gyms. Indoor massage businesses, tattoo and piercing services, outdoor family entertainment centers, drive-in movies and outdoor tour buses and boats were also allowed to reopen. San Francisco's church closings have been harsher than in other California dioceses.
But City Hall continued to limit indoor church attendance to one person for individual prayer and outdoor attendance to 50 socially distanced people, an increase from the previous 12-person limit.
"Our people are hurting because they cannot come to church, they cannot receive the sacraments, they cannot exercise their natural right, protected by the First Amendment, to worship without suffering punishment from our city," he said.
Many are praising the bishop's speaking truth to City Hall's power.
Enggrid Tjia, Star of the Sea parishioner and Life Runners San Francisco Chapter Leader, told Church Militant Monday, "Our archbishop delivered a powerful, truthful and bold homily. He spoke from our hearts — and his heart — without fear regarding our injustice situation."
"We need our worship, we need our Lord, we need our spiritual food — the Holy Eucharist — we cannot go on without it," Tjia said. "Thank God for the Eucharistic procession."
Nicholas Wolfram Smith, writing Monday for the Catholic San Francisco, quoted two parishioners who participated in Sunday's event.
Clemente Silva, a parishioner of St. Peter Church in the Mission District, said, "Let them open the churches to us because our children need to continue with faith in God."
"The government does not listen to us, so we have to go out to protest and let the government see that we really need our faith and to make ourselves visible because we are many," Silva, who was joined by his family, said. "As you can see we are thousands of people who want the church open again."
St. Dominic parishioner Joseph Stillwell said, "[T]he restrictions should be lifted in accordance with actual scientific data, so basic social distancing with a percentage of capacity. What's important is that the restrictions are not discriminatory, especially as things reopen."
But House speaker and Democrat representative for California's 12th District, Nancy Pelosi, disagreed with her San Francisco archbishop.
Responding to an attack Cordileone leveled against the restrictions in a Sept. 16 Washington Post op-ed, Pelosi said science, not the archbishop, must be followed. "We should follow science on this," she said.
In the op-ed titled "Americans' right to worship is being denied by governments. I won't be silent anymore," the archbishop spoke forthrightly. He said:
I never expected that the most basic religious freedom, the right to worship — protected so robustly in our Constitution's First Amendment — would be unjustly repressed by an American government.
But that is exactly what is happening in San Francisco. For months now, the city has limited worship services to just 12 people outdoors. Worship inside our own churches is banned. The city recently announced it will now allow 50 for outdoor worship, with a goal of permitting indoor services up to a maximum of 25 people by Oct. 1 — less than 1% of the capacity of San Francisco's St. Mary's Cathedral.
Making a case regarding the discrimination against the Church, Cordileone said:
People can freely go to parks here, as long as they stay six feet apart. If they follow proper social distancing and wear masks, people can eat on an outdoor patio with no hard numerical limit. Indoor shopping malls are already open at 25% capacity. Catholics in San Francisco are increasingly noticing the simple unfairness. As one of my parishioners asked recently, "Why can I spend three hours indoors shopping for shoes at Nordstrom's but can’t go to Mass?"
But Pelosi doubled down on her argument. "I believe that science is an answer to our prayers," Pelosi said. "It is a creation of God and one that is an answer to our prayers."
Cordileone shot back at Pelosi.
He underscored scientific evidence that shows zero COVID-19 contagion in churches."[T]hree major infectious disease specialists recently pointed out over 1 million public [M]asses have been celebrated following guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus,'" he wrote, and "for Catholic churches following these guidelines, no outbreaks of COVID-19 have been linked to church attendance."
"One million public Masses without any COVID outbreaks demonstrates that it is just as safe [to gather] in San Francisco as in other parts of the state, such as San Mateo County, to permit large gatherings for outdoor public worship with reasonable safety precautions," he underscored.
He also pointed to the hellish human conditions in San Francisco, part of Pelosi's 12th district:
Just look around our city. What has happened to our beloved city? San Francisco was once known as a place of great beauty and hospitality, a world-class city of great culture, the first home of the United Nations, whose very name conjured up images of "little cable cars [that] climb halfway to the stars." Now what images come to mind when people think of San Francisco?
Look around the city and see: rampant homelessness and sprawling tent cities, drug dealing and shooting up in broad daylight, human feces on the streets. What has happened to our beloved city? All of this is happening, and we Catholics are at the end of the line, because our city has abandoned God.
Our blessed Lord is openly mocked to the gleeful grins of the cultural elites. The sacred symbol of the religious habit is blasphemed with glowing approval of those who profess mutual respect and tolerance for others who are different, while they openly discriminate against us.
But he urged the faithful to keep "spiritually grounded" by the grace of Mary, the Mother of God.
"Three years ago I had the great grace to consecrate our archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary," he said. "I wish to appeal to you all once again to live the consecration."
"Live the consecration by praying the Rosary daily and as a family at least once a week. Live the consecration by spending at least one hour a week in adoration of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament," Cordileone said. "Live the consecration by fasting on Fridays and by frequently availing yourselves of the sacrament of penance."
Tjia, the pro-life leader, added, "I pray we will have more of the eucharistic processions in our city and other cities in the near future."