Final week, the Diocese of Brooklyn, which I lead, filed a lawsuit in federal court, asking for aid from restrictions positioned on church buildings, regardless that they haven’t contributed to the latest COVID-19 spikes. In doing so, we’re taking a stand for non secular liberty and in opposition to irrational and arbitrary lockdown measures.
Final Sunday, we needed to all however shutter 28 Catholic church buildings all through Brooklyn and Queens, as a result of they’re located in Gov. Cuomo’s red and orange zones. We may solely admit 10 folks to red-zone church buildings, 25 to orange-zone church buildings. Phrases can’t specific my disappointment.
The restrictions defy logic. Our church buildings have for months safely operated with none vital outbreaks. To disclaim the trustworthy the flexibility to return to church and participate within the celebration of the Eucharist, after they have adhered to our strict security protocols, is an insulting violation of their basic proper to worship.
Throughout our 186 church buildings in Brooklyn and Queens, nobody is allowed to take part in Mass and not using a masks. Everybody sits six toes aside, and the pews in between have been roped off. Carrying a masks and training social distancing works.
As well as, there are sanitizers on the entrances to all church buildings. There are markers on the ground so folks stand six toes aside on the communion line and when coming into and exiting companies. The companies themselves, together with Holy Communion, have been altered to make sure security and keep away from contact. Church buildings are sanitized in between Lots.
These security protocols had been spearheaded by former New York Metropolis Workplace of Emergency Administration Commissioner Joseph Esposito, who guided us to a secure opening of our church buildings and colleges.
Nor do restrictions take account of the sheer dimension of our church buildings within the crimson and orange zones. Some are huge, capable of match wherever between 500 to 1,000 folks. Given these scales, limiting attendance to 10 or 25 folks is unfounded. No priest must be compelled to pick solely a small group of parishioners from his congregation to attend Mass.
Most vital, locations of worship must be thought of important to the lifetime of the group and never be lumped in with theaters and leisure services as “nonessential.”
As a bishop, a successor of the Apostles, I’ve a sacred responsibility to spiritually present for all parishioners. And meaning defending their proper to attend Mass. I’ve heard from many Catholics who’re devastated by this newest spherical of closures. On the peak of the pandemic, I made the troublesome choice to shut all of our church buildings, and our parishioners couldn’t obtain the sacrament of Holy Communion in the course of the holiest days of our calendar, Holy Week and Easter.
Whereas Mass could be seen at residence on tv or through the Web, the efficient closure of the 28 church buildings means our folks must once more forego receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion, one of the vital central and sacred acts within the Catholic Church. That, certainly, is probably the most painful half, as a result of the closures have an effect on our numerous communities.
The 28 church buildings serve Catholics of all nationalities, races and ethnicities. Collectively in our diocese, we have fun Mass in 33 languages however type one group of believers.
I perceive that our state and metropolis leaders have the immense duty to maintain everybody secure. I share that duty with them on behalf of the 1.5 million Catholics in our diocese. If I assumed our security measures weren’t working, I might be the primary to impose extra limitations. However that isn’t the case.
Throughout these occasions, we want the ability of prayer and the Eucharist to maintain us. I pray that each one of us in Brooklyn and Queens will be capable to get again to church quickly. And most of all, I pray for an finish to this horrible virus, which has taken the lives of too many individuals, together with two of our personal beloved monks.
Whereas our request for a brief restraining order was denied, the decide within the case acknowledged the problem in rendering the choice. He inspired us to pursue a preliminary injunction, which might enable the diocesan case to be defined in larger element. We’re all our authorized choices as we pursue what is true.
Catholics all through Brooklyn and Queens shouldn’t be penalized by a broad-brush strategy when we aren’t the issue. We are going to proceed to press the courts and our elected officers on this battle to vindicate our basic constitutional rights. All whereas we proceed to be a mannequin for security in our non secular group.
Nicholas DiMarzio is the seventh bishop of Brooklyn.
Native New Yorker. Travel addict. Hardcore thinker. Analyst. Pop culture fanatic. I live in Queens with my wife Linda and our dog Clemenza.