DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - The U.S. bishops won't be gathering this June in Detroit.
Citing fallout from the Wuhan virus, the bishops announced Wednesday their Spring General Assembly is canceled.
"Given the current situation with the coronavirus that has been classified by the World Health Organization as a pandemic, the Administrative Committee of the USCCB voted earlier this week to cancel the June assembly," read the announcement.
Church Militant's Michael Voris said his apostolate was planning to be present at the meeting.
"Church Militant had been in contact with various faithful Catholics around the country who were interested in having some presence at the bishops' Detroit meeting (now canceled)," related Voris. "These Catholics are very upset at the continuing 'business as usual' attitude of the bishops."
The cancellation was announced by Los Angeles Abp. José H. Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Gomez said the bishops' Administrative Committee voted to cancel the meeting owing to health reasons for all concerned.
"The Administrative Committee made this very difficult decision," relates Gomez, "with consideration of multiple factors, but most importantly the health, well-being and safety of the hundreds of bishops, staff, observers, guests, affiliates, volunteers, contractors and media involved with the general meetings."
The meeting that had been slated for June 10–12 in the Motor City isn't going to occur, he said, even if the various restrictions related to the pandemic are lifted by then.
"Additionally, even if the numerous temporary restrictions on public gatherings resulting from conditions associated with COVID-19 are lessened by June, the priority for the physical and pastoral presence of the bishop in his See will be acute to tend to the faithful," clarified Gomez.
Bishops of every Latin rite diocese in the United States had canceled all public Masses by Mar. 19 and placed grave restrictions on the other sacraments including confession. On Sunday, Chicago's Cdl. Blase Cupich told Catholics of his archdiocese to disregard their Easter duty and to instead make a spiritual Communion and a perfect Act of Contrition.
Multiple dioceses around the country are even forbidding priests from hearing confessions for fear of contracting the virus. At least 30 bishops have followed suit. Other bishops, such as Detroit's Abp. Allen Vigneron have suspended all baptisms. Public weddings have also been put on hold.
This stoppage is causing a backlog of Catholics wishing to receive the sacraments. Most states, however, have travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders making it difficult for Catholics to seek out even the select priests who are willing to shepherd them.
Catholics wishing to receive the sacraments are growing restless. Prominent Catholics and theologians joined moral theologian Dr. Janet Smith in her open letter petitioning bishops to restore the sacraments.
"The bishops, our spiritual fathers, must take active and public roles in bringing to our wounded world the sacramental graces needed to survive the COVID-19 pandemic," read the letter. "While safety and cooperation with civil authorities is necessary, we must do everything we can to have access to what is essential for our spiritual lives."
"It is not an exaggeration to say that the health of the world and the salvation of souls depends upon [the restoration of the sacraments]," the letter continued. "The sacraments are the spiritual 'personal protective equipment' of Catholics and enable us to be in the field hospital of the sick and dying."
Sensitive to this situation, Gomez said bishops will be busy attending to the spiritual needs of the faithful in each diocese once fear of the pandemic has subsided and Catholics are free to meet with their priests again.
The cancellation of the bishops' general assembly in June marks the first time in the USCCB's history that a plenary assembly was canceled. It's not against canon law, however, to make such a cancelation, as the bylaws of the Conference require that U.S. bishops meet only once a year.
Voris said the number-one priority that bishops need to address at their next meeting is whether each bishop still holds to the Catholic Faith.
"They need to discuss the lack of supernatural faith within their body," said Voris.