Bishops Closing Parish Doors

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by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  March 26, 2020   

Faithful being left without the sacraments

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NEWARK, N.J. ( - Now that nearly all public Masses have ceased in the United States, some bishops are saying the faithful cannot even visit their parishes or receive the sacraments.

A directive issued on Wednesday by Cdl. Joseph Tobin of Newark is decreeing the distribution of nearly all sacraments be suspended in reaction to the Wuhan virus.

Cdl. Joseph Tobin

Tobin suspended all wakes, funerals and weddings "until further notice," and adds, "There are no exceptions to this, regardless of the size of the group."

He's also suspending all baptisms and confession "with the exception of an extreme emergency," and directs that all parishes and adoration chapels be "closed and locked until further notice" adding that "private prayer in any parish building must be discontinued."

The archdiocese of Los Angeles is taking similar actions, saying, "Priests may offer the sacrament of reconciliation only in danger of death or extremely extraordinary situations" and even forbidding drive-by confessions.

While suspending all wedding ceremonies, the archdiocese also expressly forbids that priests conduct secret marriages, forbidding a priest to participate in a marriage without a legal civil marriage license. Owing to the Wuhan virus outbreak, many civil authorities have suspended the distribution of marriage licenses.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont also announced yesterday the closing of all diocesan property including churches, chapels and indoor shrines. 

In response to several priests and parishioners in the diocese of Brooklyn, New York, contracting the virus — with at least one parishioner dying, Bp. Nicholas DiMarzio has also closed the churches off from the faithful.

On March 20, the Vatican issued a directive, clarifying that if confession is impossible, the penitent can make an act of "perfect contrition" for sins, which includes a "sincere request for forgiveness" and the resolution to pursue a sacramental confession as soon as possible.

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It also notes that priests can offer confession in a "ventilated place outside the confessional" but makes no mention of cutting off the faithful to confession as in the archdioceses of Los Angeles and Newark.

Church Militant reported last week that an unnamed east-coast bishop is banning priests from conducting private Masses at a person's home.

But, in some dioceses, the churches are still open and people can go in to pray and visit the Blessed Sacrament despite the fact no public Masses are being offered.

There are no exceptions to this, regardless of the size of the group.

Rather than barring the faithful from Churches and the sacrament of confession, Bp. Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, has asked his priests to conduct eucharistic processions to implore God to end the scourge of the Wuhan virus.

On March 21 he said in a tweet,

I plan to stand at the busiest intersection in our city this evening with a deacon, vested in a cope & bless the people of God with the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in His Blessed Sacrament. I urge every priest to do the same in their city. Bring the LORD to His people! 

In Poland, the bishops called for more Masses, rather than closing churches and blocking off the faithful from the sacraments. On March 10, Abp. Stanisław Gądecki asserted, "That is why it is unimaginable for us not to pray in our churches." 

In Africa, the president of Tanzania John Magufuli commented he will not be closing churches, adding, "they should be always open for the people to seek refuge to."

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