Short answer: I don’t know. But not now.
As a parish community, we rely on the guidance of the diocese. The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, in turn, relies heavily on the recommendations of the Working Group on Infectious Disease Protocols for Sacraments and Pastoral Care of the Thomistic Institute under the aegis of the Pontifical Faculty at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington D.C.
Whatever decision our diocese makes next, it will be based on three principles already in use:
1. The Church decides
In a blog entry of May 4, 2020 (link), I quoted Archbishop Lori:
“I remind Catholics that it was the Catholic bishops who suspended public liturgies, not the civil gov-ernments. In many places, Masses were suspended before there were any stay at home orders from governors. It is the bishops who will decide when public Masses will begin again. 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 over-riding 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 Church has to take steps to ensure that we are kept safe and healthy and those steps have to be rational. We do not feel as though we have been forced into doing anything 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 restrictions, the Roman Catholic Church might decide to wait a little longer.”
For example, in our diocese, Bishop Rhoades suspended public Masses as of March 18, 2020, but Gov. Holcomb’s stay at home order was not issued until March 23. The same delay will be experienced this time as we lift the restrictions.
To quote Archbishop Lori again, the guidelines and protocols of the Catholic Church have been “emin-ently reasonable”. The science news aggregator Real Clear Science went so far as to say that the Amer-ican Catholic Church’s “evidence based guidelines for celebrating Mass safely” have proven themselves to be effective, in that “no outbreaks of COVID-19 have been linked to church attendance” at any of the 17,000 Catholic parishes in the U.S. This, a number of scientists say, is because the Catholic Church in this country has consistently applied “the three W’s” – watch your distance, wear your mask, wash your hands.
Social distancing, masks, frequent washing – these measures are working, so we will be slow to aban-don them.
3. We do not want to discriminate between the vaccinated
and the unvaccinated
This principle is less clear. On the one hand, people who are fully vaccinated really are in very little danger of getting or giving Covid-19. Those parishioners who have made it a point to get the vaccine as soon as feasible have done a great act of charity to all of society, including to the Church. This is why the Catholic Church in general has been so eager to promote the vaccine.
On the other hand, many people have not yet gotten the vaccine through no fault of their own. It has only been a few weeks since the vaccine was made available to younger people, and many people really are quite busy. They’ll get the vaccine, they just haven’t managed it yet. A small percentage of people have legitimate medical reasons not to get the vaccine yet.
Yes, there are some people who are just stubborn, or are refusing the vaccine for worldly ideological reasons. Such a refusal is a conscious decision to refuse an act of virtue, which I have described else-where as almost a form of violence. (I will admit here that my statement follows the argument of the ethicist Peter Singer q.v.) Yet even these people are our sisters and brothers, part of the parish.
We will not, therefore, have something like a “Mass for the vaccinated” and a “Mass for the unvaccin-ated” with different rules for each Mass. We will follow the same protocols at all Masses and other liturgies. So the sooner everyone gets the shot, the sooner we can all ditch the masks!
Conclusion: hurry up and get vaccinated!