SAN FRANCISCO (ChurchMilitant.com) - Secular elites are blasting a California priest for his traditional presentation of the Catholic faith.
San Francisco mayor London Breed and Bay Area media are excoriating Fr. Joseph Illo, pastor of Star of the Sea parish in San Francisco, for encouraging his parishioners to attend Holy Mass — safely — during the California shutdown. Late last week, media source SFist accused Fr. Illo of making "a number of outrageously irresponsible statements that sound like they came from Fox News."
One statement SFist found "outrageously irresponsible" was the priest's empirical observation that among the "thousands of people" he knows, only three have tested positive for COVID-19, and all three are doing fine.
SFist source also found problematic Illo's comment that "The only reason to be a Catholic is to become a saint." Reporter Jay Barmann boasted, "I'm sure many contemporary Catholics would disagree with" the priest's comment. Illo's supporters, however, have noted that many saints through the ages agree with his statement, including Pope St. John Paul II, St. John Vianney, St. John of Damascus, Pope St. Clement I, to name just a few. "We are all called to be saints," says Pope Francis.
While the San Francisco Chronicle claimed the priest "slammed" parishioners — for putting "safety over sacraments," Star of the Sea parishioners who spoke with Church Militant came to Fr. Illo's defense, describing him as "our wonderful pastor" who "has been fighting for Tradition and true faith."
The parishioners pushed back when SFist claimed that Illo "is proving himself to be a Trumpian 'conservative' — something the leftist news source intends as an insult — for trying "to convince parishioners to put their attendance at church services ahead of their own health."
They told Church Militant Fr. Illo is simply "putting God above man and State," not downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic. He is "trying to save our souls, not just our bodies."
Indeed the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds the faithful of the Third Commandment: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work."
San Francisco mayor London Breed also lashed into Fr. Illo. "It is absolutely irresponsible for anyone to use their spirituality to spread potentially deadly misinformation," Breed said. "Whether you are a religious or political leader, we all have a responsibility to serve and protect the public at all times, especially during a pandemic that has killed 150,000 Americans."
Father Illo has followed the state rules regarding the pandemic. In the Aug. 2 church bulletin, he wrote:
Some have been saying that I trivialized the pandemic in my bulletin column last Sunday. It was not my intention to make light of the disease or the suffering it is causing. I have always taken the safety of our people seriously, and have gone to great lengths to make sure our church is distanced and sanitized at all times.
And during his Sunday homily June 12 at Star of the Sea Parish in San Francisco, Illo remarked, "Twelve are allowed and 12 have come," referring to the number of attendees allowed at the outdoor Mass, so mandated by Gov. Gavin Newsom's then-current order.
The Chronicle accused the priest of calling the pandemic "a political ploy" and chastising "his parishioners for putting fears over faith and skipping Mass to 'avoid the remote possibility of dying from COVID.'"
But parishioners have said rather than feeling chastised, they find hope for the future in their pastor's words:
Many of us are gripped by fear of COVID or social collapse. Meanwhile Star of the Sea is opening a new school, and God will prosper us. I tell you there is nothing to fear, as FDR said before the seemingly invincible German army, is fear itself. God is with us. Keep coming to Mass and adoration.
But the San Francisco priest has cautioned his flock:
I want you to know that there is nothing more important in this life than the next life. "What does it profit a man," Jesus said, "to gain the the whole world but to lose his soul." It is easy to fixate on the things of this life, forgetting the things of God.
"Forgetting the things of God" is something the secular media and the mayor have forgotten, said Fr. Illo's parishioners, as they remain disconcerted "that every single [SF media] outlet is tearing apart Star of the Sea."