The Ohio Conference of Catholic bishops sent a letter on May 8, 2020, to the dioceses across the State of Ohio, about the eventual re-opening of churches for the public celebration of Holy Mass.
This plan provides for the possibility of the gradual return to the public celebration of Mass/Liturgy and prepares us for the Solemnity of Pentecost on the weekend of 30/31 May, when Sunday Mass/Liturgy will be publicly celebrated.
The key points of the letter are:
- Public celebration of Holy Mass is to return on Pentecost Sunday, May (30) 31, 2020.
- Each diocese will have to implement guidelines which observe Caesar’s social mandates.
- Parishes can have only 50% occupancy capacity of the church building.
- Pastors and parish staff will receive further guidelines from the Diocese, concerning human distancing, safe environments and the distribution of Holy Communion.
- Dispensation of Sunday obligation remains.
- The medically vulnerable, those who are actually sick, and those who fear compromising their own health are to refrain from attending.
This all appears to be good news, but the forthcoming issuance of guidelines from the diocese will ultimately determine how the re-opening of churches actually goes. Pastors and parishes should be preparing for how they will adhere to eventual hard guidelines. Hopefully, pastors are brainstorming now.
On a particularly good note, it was reported on May 4, 2020, that the USCCB forwarded a set of recommendations to prelates across the country. The statement included thoughts on the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue.
“We believe that, with the precautions listed here, it is possible to distribute on the tongue without unreasonable risk.”
“Opinions on this point are varied within the medical and scientific community: some believe Communion on the tongue involves an elevated and, in the light of all the circumstances, an unreasonable risk; others disagree,” they state. “If Communion on the tongue is provided, one could consider using hand sanitizer after each communicant who receives on the tongue.”
Its hard to imagine the practicality of using hand sanitizer after each communicant. One thing that is bothersome is the potential for a gagging reaction if the communicant detects the taste or smell of the alcohol in the sanitizer. Some people just have strong reactions. And, when a Traditional Mass is sandwiched in between two novus ordo masses, wherein time tolerances are already stringent, how long will Holy Communion take? As I stated in a previous post, the liturgical complications involved in distributing Holy Communion under social-distancing guidelines may introduce more problems than solutions. Always at the forefront of anything concerning the Most Blessed Sacrament should be the assurance of protection from abuse and profanation. The response to the privation of the Eucharist “cannot be desecration,”said Cardinal Sarah.
“It should not surprise us,” he said. “The devil strongly attacks the Eucharist because it is the heart of the life of the Church.”
If Holy Communion is to be distributed, on the tongue, under human distancing mandates, then how?
- Pieces of tape to mark six-foot distances on the kneeling pad at the communion rail could be used. Or, dismiss the rail and have two communicants approach the center of the rail. Marked spots, six-feet apart, will guide the communicants, and Father can distribute Holy Communion that way. A stop sign would keep those in the communion line from getting too close to the rail. Ushers would allow each pew to approach for Holy Communion when appropriate. Or……
- The pastor could just allow communion as normal, giving the individual the freedom to “put his or herself at risk” or not. My body, my choice. Or…..
- Forget the gymnastics and not distribute Holy Communion at all, because its too difficult and all the innovation demeans the Sacrament.
I favor the second possibility. But I’m sure others can come up with even better solutions. Comment below.
Fifty percent occupancy capacity restrictions should bear little to no impact on most churches. Even at St. Stephen, where the TLM crowd dwarfed the ordinary masses in attendance numbers even before coronavirus hysteria, it did not approach 50% capacity of the building.
The image to left, which you can click on to enlarge, reflects the attendance numbers at St. Stephen for February 2020, about a month prior to the suspension of Holy Mass. Clearly, there should be no problem with accommodating the Faithful. I will assume this rings true for any TLM in the diocese.
It seems to me that the longer the dispensation from Sunday obligation goes on, the more people will get used to it. I offer as evidence the dispensations of the past. How many freely choose Saturday evening worship today, since Sunday can be fulfilled a day earlier? How many fast at all during Lent, since the daily fast was dispensed with? How many properly prepare for Holy Communion when only a one-hour fast is required, often just the time it takes to get ready and drive to Mass? How many have dispensed with the Church’s teaching on Holy Communion for adulterers, when the language from the hierarchy has obviously softened that doctrine?
The Sunday obligation should remain intact and those in complicated medical situations should be encouraged to stay home, without the pain of mortal sin. Just as we are not micromanaged in any other sin, why can’t we be left to prudential judgment on this one?
Pray, Friends, that our parishes do re-open, that the Sacraments are made accessible to us again, and, as always, for the purification of the Church.