We are a people of faith and reason ...
This article originally appeared in the pariosh's eBulletin for April 24, 2020
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has a clear message for people who think that the suspension of religious services is a violation of our religious liberty or is some sort of political plot: it is not. Even suggesting that it is puts life in danger and is therefore a sin.
Archbp. Lori used to be the chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference Committee on Religious Freedom. He is still the leading member of the board of theological consultants for that committee. On Easter Sunday, Archbp. Lori made a statement with several points:
1. The bishops will decide
The archbishop reminds Catholics that it was the Catholic bishops who suspended public liturgies, not the civil governments. In many places, Masses were suspended before there were any stay at home orders. It is the bishops who will decide when public Masses will begin again. [For example, in our diocese, Bishop Rhoades suspended public Masses as of March 18, Gov. Holcomb’s stay at home order was not issued until March 23.]
The U.S. bishops make this statement not to show their power, but because they want to make clear that no earthly power is forcing us to suspend public events, rather Catholic morality compels us. “One of the overriding responsibilities of government is to keep people safe. This is a health and public safety issue. And this is not only a concern that the government has, it’s also a concern of the church,” the archbishop said. “The Church has to take steps to ensure that we are kept safe and healthy and those steps have to be reasonable, rational. We do not feel as though we have been forced into doing this by the government. We feel like we’re doing the right thing.”
This means that it is possible that, even after some local governments lift the stay at home orders, the Roman Catholic Church might decide to wait a little longer.
“We are a people of faith and reason”, Archbp. Lori said, and the suspension of public liturgies is “eminently reasonable”. Following government orders and guidelines to stem the epidemic “does not in any way attack or undermine our faith or our religious liberty”. The suspension of public Masses and other sacraments is happening “out of pastoral love for our laity, our priests and the people of our society”.
3. Good will come of this
Even amidst suffering, we believe that God can draw goodness out of any situation. Indeed, there is opportunity here to develop aspects of our Church life and tradition that otherwise are somewhat neglected. “In extraordinary circumstances, God’s grace nonetheless reaches us. And we can certainly draw upon this tremendous treasury of holiness and merit unto which the Church has access during this time as part of our faith always has been and always will be.” As Pope Francis says, “The Church has many resources in our rich tradition.” Now is the time to explore that tradition and make use of our spiritual richness!