CHICAGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - Chicago's Cdl. Blase Cupich is dispensing Catholics in his archdiocese from fulfilling their Easter duty owing to fear of spreading the Wuhan virus.
In the first of the three-part decree issued on Sunday, Cupich mandated "that the obligation to receive Holy Communion during the Easter season is removed this year due to the impossibility of attendance by the People of God at celebration of Holy Mass."
The Easter duty is one of the precepts of the Church as related in paragraph 2042 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It obliges all Catholics to annually confess any mortal sins and worthily "receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season."
The time period for Catholics to fulfill their Easter duty stretches from Ash Wednesday to Trinity Sunday. This year Trinity Sunday falls on June 7. It would appear by the decree that Cupich doesn't anticipate opening Churches up again until sometime after the first week in June.
The decree cites canon 920 of the Code of Canon Law which stipulates that "each of the faithful is obliged to receive Holy Communion at least once a year." The canon does make the allowance for the obligation to be fulfilled outside of the Easter season "for a just cause."
But oddly enough, Cupich doesn't mention Catholics fulfilling this duty at another time. He instead decrees that Catholics are "encouraged to offer an Act of Spiritual Communion."
The cardinal does make mention that Catholics who can't confess serious sins now ought to confess them in the future:
All of the faithful, in accord with the Tradition and Teaching of the Church, are urged to offer a perfect Act of Contrition, in complete dependence upon the mercy and love of God, in sorrow for all sins and with a firm resolve to confess all serious sin at the next available time.
Cupich was one of the first U.S. prelates to close churches owing to the pandemic scare. On March 13, Cupich announced all liturgical services in the Chicago archdiocese would cease the following day and remain suspended indefinitely.
In shuttering all parishes the cardinal said, "We must take the better part of caution in order to slow the spread of this pandemic."
The virus has now infected more than 12 thousand people in the state of Illinois and killed more than 300 others. At present, the pandemic has spread to nearly 370 thousand U.S. citizens with nearly 11 thousand dying from complications related to the virus.
The diocese of Lansing, Michigan has also suspended the obligation for Catholics to confess mortal sins and receive Holy Communion during the Easter season. But it seems to leave it up to Catholics to fulfill the obligation sometime later in the year.
"While the basic requirement of the Church is for all Catholics to 'confess … grave sins at least once a year,' it is not essential that this take place during Lent," said Lansing's Bp. Earl Boyea.
He added, "And, while the 'Easter duty' of receiving the Holy Eucharist should be done during the Easter season, the Code of Canon Law specifies that 'for a just cause,' this obligation can be fulfilled 'at another time during the year.'"