PATERSON, N.J. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Days after setting up a public "Parish Emergency COVID-19 Fund," McCarrick-ordained Bp. Arthur Serratelli of Paterson ordered every church and chapel in his diocese locked until further notice.
"Our parishes are life-giving places where the faithful join in the celebration of the Eucharist, grow in their faith, and come together in charity," begins the letter. "We embrace the joys of baptisms and weddings and shed tears at the funeral of a member of our parish family. Simply put, our parishes are our spiritual homes and serve as a refuge, especially in our times of need."
Dated April 1 — and as of Thursday, not published on the diocesan website — is a letter sent to Paterson pastors ordering that every church be shuttered.
"In order to both provide for the safety of the faithful and to attend to your well-being, I am directing that all our church buildings and chapels be closed until further notice, [Serratelli's emphasis]" begins the letter.
Titled "Liturgical and Church Access Regulations," the letter further highlights Serratelli's current outbreak-related rules. He adds:
Additionally, I want to emphasize that funeral Masses are not to be celebrated at this time. Following a brief committal service for the departed, which may include the priest, funeral director and no more than eight members of the immediate family, the priest may celebrate Mass privately for the soul of the departed.
Regarding livestreaming Masses, Serratelli says, "I emphasize that the number of people participating with their presence at the Mass itself is to be strictly limited and should never surpass 10, including the celebrant."
Fred Simon, a lifelong, proactive Catholic in the diocese, shared his thoughts on the situation with Church Militant:
As a lifelong resident and parishioner in the Paterson diocese, I have seen both good and bad. Being involved in various ministries, committees and positions in both Paterson and the Newark archdioceses (under McCarrick and DiMarzio) has given me a close look at the inner workings of the Church at large.
The current crisis is like no other. It involves the entire planet. On the home front, I am faced with Bp. Serratelli's communication to the laity on the diocesan website (March 27) wherein he emphasizes the spiritual storehouses of our parishes and dedication of priests and then only days later sends a letter to pastors directing them to lock their doors, send staff home and forbids those same priests to administer spiritually life-saving sacraments.
That not only smacks of duplicity but is telling the laity to go, quite literally, to Hell. Not allowing confession and last rites can literally send some souls to Hell without any hope of redemption.
He went on to say the "bishop asks us for online donations to help parishes and then cancels every aspect of those same parishes."
Explaining the bigger picture, Simon said the "Church has been hurting financially since it began closing its schools, which were its spiritual greenhouses, assuring a steady flow of Catholics for generations. Due to the lack of foresight, evangelization and, yes, faith, it now finds itself in a crisis of its own making."
"Bishop Serratelli and all the bishops of the Church need to be true shepherds of souls and not business administrators of a failed and misguided enterprise."
Simon concluded the "Church has derailed and there will never be business as usual. Thanks be to God!"
Serratelli made headlines in early March for ordering the destruction of a consecrated Host that parishioners of St. Joseph's parish in Paterson reported to be a eucharistic miracle.
The bishop has also been reported to protect and promote homosexual predator clergy and shuffle around priests caught in a gay photos scandal with each other after threatening to sue Church Militant for exposing the ordeal.
As of Thursday, the diocesan homepage prominently featured two items in the carousel: "COVID-19 Emergency Donations to Help Your Parish" and "Diocesan Updates on COVID-19." There was no information published on the locking of every church and chapel in the diocese.
The diocesan Facebook page also had no information on the locking of churches, but did have a post from March 30 with a link to the emergency fund and a brief message: "Our parishes are spiritual homes and serve as a refuge, especially in our times of need. Now, more than ever, our parishes need our help."