RorateCaeli was given a copy of this moving letter, written by a Catholic medical doctor to his bishop, who has continued to uphold severe restrictions on Mass attendance and sacramental reception.
The Ascension of Our Lord
May 21st, 2020
Last Monday, I received a copy of the diocese’s letter regarding the opening of our churches as we enter the “yellow phase.” After being denied access to the Sacraments for two months, I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely heartbreaking the letter was to read.
What has happened these last two months, to our Church and Sacramental life, is a tragedy, and it is unacceptable. It is a grave mistake, however well-intentioned, to consider the closure of the Church and denial of access to the Sacraments to be a form of “charity.” No one is being forced to attend Mass, forced into a confessional, or forced to adore Our Lord—the very same Lord, in the Blessed Sacrament, as He before whom we will one day stand in judgment. If a person is frightened or vulnerable to illness, they have always had the option to stay home. The implication of your letter, that those of us who wish to attend The Holy Sacrifice during these times are somehow uncharitable, selfish, and inconsiderate of the safety of others, is an unjust characterization.
I am a physician and work almost exclusively with acute illness and injury. I understand better than most people the risks—whether real, imagined, or feared—of the coronavirus, as well as every other infectious disease that I encounter. More importantly, I am the father of five very young children. Knowing full well that I come in contact with COVID, influenza, RSV, C. diff, Syphilis, Zoster, and an untold number of other pestilent entities, should I quarantine myself out of “charity” to my family, for their own safety, to protect them from the dangers of this life? Should I wring my hands, bemoan my circumstances, and give them my love from six feet away through a plexiglass shield? What of my patients? I can’t order them to stay home out of concern that they could be exposed to illness. I can’t repair a child’s head wound through a Zoom meeting or replace a dislocated shoulder via Facebook Livestream.
As a father and husband, I cannot in times of crisis simply lock my doors and sequester myself. I can’t wave from the window and wish my children well while they stand in the elements outside, deprived of food, clothing, and shelter. I cannot deny them my presence while I allow the crisis to pass. I’m obligated to care for them. A bishop is the spiritual father of his diocese, tasked with the welfare of the souls of his flock. Regardless of intentions, every single bishop in our country has deprived his spiritual children from their primary source of nourishment!
It is frankly scandalous that I may go to Home Depot and the grocery store but may not enter a Catholic church. I may receive a bag of fast food at a drive-through window from the hands of a stranger but not Our Lord from the consecrated hands of a priest. I may wash my clothing at a public laundromat but not wash my soul in the confessional.
How long will this go on, and how far will things be allowed to go? What will you do this fall when the virus surges again? What will you do during future flu seasons? Will laymen stand alone when immorality is legislated; when the forces of the world rage against the faithful, against Christ and His Church; when a greater crisis than this one strikes (which is very easy to imagine)? What would the great English Martyrs say? What of the Cristero soldiers? St. Damien of Molokai? What of Pope John Paul II, who famously said “Open wide the doors for Christ!”?
From the beginning, religious institutions and places of worship have been exempt from the government-implemented mitigation measures. Believe me, I checked, many times. Our interdict comes entirely from ecclesiastical authorities, and unless I am mistaken, only you, dear bishop, may lift our restrictions. Please, let us return to Mass. Don’t set limits on church capacity or mandate masks.
Please, I beg you, open wide the doors of our churches, and may they never be closed again.