Death Knell for Illinois Churches?

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by Martina Moyski  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 1, 2020   

Cupich's reopening plan involves surveillance

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CHICAGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - Cardinal Blase J. Cupich's litigious multi-phase "reopening" plan for Illinois Churches is raising alarm among many faithful who see it as a political power grab and not a move to satisfy their hunger for the sacraments. 

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Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker

Referred to simply as "the Plan," it requires, among other things, that individual churchgoers be contact traced for COVID-19 and that individual parishes undergo a multi-step certification before being able to proceed with the overall reopening process.

All Illinois bishops approved the Plan, which was unveiled on May 13 in English, Spanish and Polish on the Chicago archdiocese website and on Facebook. A definite date for when Holy Mass will be reinstated has not been given. 

The Plan was created by Cupich in consultation with state Illinois governor Jay Robert "J.B." Pritzker, the Chicago Department of Public Health and other civic leaders. The state, along with health care professionals and bureaucrats, will "review" the Plan "at each stage with an eye to making adjustments in accord with new data," according to the executive summary

In a letter posted on the archdiocese's website, the cardinal assured the faithful of his good intentions saying, "[T]here have been moments in history when governments and rulers have persecuted Christians and banned their public worship," emphasizing, "This is not one of them." 

Calling for compliance, he said, "While everyone must exercise good citizenship in observing these restrictions, I call on the Catholic faithful, as advocates for justice and charity, to comply with these regulations."

Referring to the story of Cain and Abel to persuade Catholics to buy into the plan, he says: "In the first pages of Scripture we learn that we indeed are 'our brother's keeper,' a truth that must inspire us as we are called to sacrifice."

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And framing the plan as a pro-life issue — which surprises many pro-lifers — Cupich added: "We should also be motivated to cooperate with public safety norms, given our reverence for life and human dignity. This is, at its heart, a moment to proclaim the breadth and depth of what it means to be pro-life, particularly as this virus preys on the most vulnerable in our midst."

Basics of the Plan include:

  • Phase I which allows parishes to reopen for Baptism, Reconciliation, weddings and funerals with a limit of 10 attendees
  • Phase IA which allows for parishes to reopen for private prayer and adoration with a limit of 10 attendees
  • Phase II will allows for reopening for weekday and weekend Masses for larger groups — depending Gov. Pritzker's future guidelines and the capacity of the church building

To assist Church pastors to do the work required for the reopenings, the cardinal has called on "non-vulnerable" (meaning less than 65 years old) volunteers "to assist ... in implementing the Plan." The volunteers complete training by way of a webinar, according to the archdiocesan website.

Details of additional phases have not been made public.

Auxiliary bishop of Chicago Ron Hicks sees hope in the Plan, according to the Chicago Catholic. "I'm delighted that the plan was in coordination with all the Illinois bishops so that we as Catholics can look at ways of opening safe and prudently," Hicks said. “It sends a message of unity and it also confirms for all of us that we're in this together." 

But a number of Illinois Catholics, who spoke with Church Militant and who have asked for anonymity, have expressed serious concerns about the Plan. 

About the 10-person limit for Phase I, a Chicago attorney said, "Chicago Churches are huge — limiting attendance to 10 people is absurd." The lawyer expressed concern about the sign-in requirements for entrance into Church services asking, "How can private prayer be private when the governor will know about it?" 

Another Chicagoan described the conditions of Phase I playing out in some parishes saying, "Volunteers are checking people into Church and making sure they sanitize hands and adhere to other safety stipulations," adding, "If you say something to someone in Church while waiting for confession, the volunteers SHUSH you up."

A millennial observer said of the volunteers, "They remind me of the bouncers at the bar that check IDs and won't let you go in if there are too many people inside."

One Illinois Catholic who remembers pre-Vatican II days when Catholic Churches were open 24/7 in Chicago — and around the world — for people to find sanctuary and solace finds the details of the Plan literally "disgraceful."

There are powers interested in creating panic among the world's population with the sole aim of permanently imposing unacceptable forms of restriction on freedoms.

A priest, also asking for anonymity, told Church Militant: "Cupich's sly ruse of having people submit their contact information to go to Mass, in order to forward the faithful’s personal information to the State is abominable."

"[It's] right out of the communists playbook on how to control and manhandle people," he added. 

The concerns and fears of the Illinois faithful mirror the spirit and substance of Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò's recent open letter, reported on by Church Militant, that warned: "illiberal measures is a disturbing prelude to the realization of a world government beyond all control."

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Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò

"There are powers interested in creating panic among the world's population with the sole aim of permanently imposing unacceptable forms of restriction on freedoms, of controlling people and of tracking their movements," said the former apostolic nuncio to the United States said.

The use of contact tracking or tracing of human movement — and the unprecedented dangers it poses — is gaining attention.

Assistant Prof. of Digital Media at Brock University in Canada Aaron Mauro says the upside of "Contact tracing using digital technology [is that it] represents an opportunity to battle COVID-19 and reopen the economy," but he warns, "its application will create unprecedented surveillance infrastructure beyond anything we have seen before."

Mauro adds: "The complexity of these systems is a risk for the general public who may agree to something that is not well understood. It is critical to inform the public about these risks before governments take extraordinary powers and infringe on our civil liberties."

A YouTube video posted by a person who received 9 hours of online training to become a tracer expressed her trepidations with the process.

She explained that a person who tests positive for COVID-19, either through a test or symptoms, will be contacted by phone by a tracer, who will require the infected person to be isolated for ten days with no contact with other humans or animals.

How can private prayer be private when the governor will know about it?

The tracer will also "help" the person determine — using telephone records and social media —  who they have come into contact with within a given length of time so that these people, in turn, can be contacted and informed they must also quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus.

The YouTuber explains that although the word "voluntary" is often used to explain the tracing process, it is not voluntary, pointing to information on state websites such as Washington State's Department of Health's, for example, which reads

It is very important that you comply with this request for voluntary quarantine as your health and the health of others depend on it. If you do not comply with this request for voluntary quarantine, we may use a detention order, enforced by the police, to assure your compliance.

More people are becoming alarmed about the tracing and tracking processes and are seeing the expressed concern for the safety and protection of citizens against the COVID-19 virus  — for example, Cupich's — as a hypocritical cover-up for naked power-grabbing and the implementation of unbridled surveillance.

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