Shouldn’t churches be ‘essential’?



Q. I am struggling with obedience. My father was Protestant (Bible Belt southern), and my mother was Catholic. I was encouraged to study and was allowed to choose my own church. Now, for the first time in 60 years, I am disagreeing with the Catholic Church and not sure how to approach it.

I feel that the church has established a terrible precedent by allowing religion to be deemed nonessential during the COVID crisis. Not to provide holy Communion at Easter, when missing Communion at that time was considered a grave sin, was shocking. In my parish, we had no services at all for the first two weeks. Then Mass was livestreamed for the next two months. That was followed by two weeks when Mass could be attended alphabetically (A-M one week, N-Z the next).

I have lost so many during this time -- a niece, four cousins, several friends. Four of these died alone in the hospital -- no family, no extreme unction. Six have not had funerals. With religion taking a hands-off approach, the fabric of our society is shredded. Right when we needed our church, it disappeared. I feel that obeying my church right now is a disobedience to God’s clear requirements. What can I do? I can’t talk to my friends, as they feel that watching Mass on television in a nightgown is the same as "attending." What do I do? (Courtland, Virginia)

A. To a certain extent, I understand what you are saying and sympathize. It's a bit difficult, though, to respond to your list of concerns because situations vary widely from place to place.

In some areas, the decision to close a church came from the diocese or parish, but in other places it was mandated by government entities. At the height of the pandemic, I believe that the church was well-advised to suspend Masses and other services. Now, thank God (I write this in early August 2020), parishioners in most of the United States are beginning to gather for worship once more.

A couple of your observations, I think, deserve particular comment: First, not receiving holy Communion during the Easter time could not possibly be sinful if there were no opportunity to do so; and secondly, I'm a little surprised that your friends think that watching Mass on television is the same as attending. By contrast, several people have mentioned to me how much they have missed parish Masses and the chance to receive the Lord in Communion.

And finally, I don't think the church has taken a "hands-off approach" at all; in fact, many parishes have made diligent efforts throughout the pandemic to maintain contact with parishioners through videotaped Masses and phone calls to each of their parishioners.

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Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.