Monday, March 9, 2020

Coronavirus Brings Suspension of Mass, Sacraments & Sign of Peace

It seems clear that we are in the times.  I thought I would never live to see the day where the Vatican and other dioceses have suspended the Mass, Sacraments, funerals and limited the Sign of Peace simply over mass hysteria over the Covid-19 or Coronavirus. Even holy water fonts have been emptied! The virus has taken storm since cases of it began to sprout out of nowhere in Wuhan, China. Now it has begun to spread in the United States and has spread like a wildfire in Italy.  New York state is now the state with the most cases of Coronavirus.

The news of the suspensions of religious services in the Church has raised the eyebrows of many Catholics, including myself. Here are some reactions from Social Media:

The scenes of the Vatican deserted is troubling indeed.  What bothers me and many others is the lack of faith being demonstrated by our leaders in the Church.  How can they suspend the Mass and restrict Holy Communion?  The news today is odd considering in 2009 during the SARS event, the Catholic Church made it clear that Holy Communion could not be denied to the faithful on grounds of viral infection; particularly, Communion on the Tongue. Here is the letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. 

So there is no reason to deny anyone Holy Communion, granted they are not in the state of grace. To deny Catholics Communion because of a virus is contrary to the faith.  There is no evidence that Holy Communion is a conduit for the spread of disease. I will write a post on this later on to go more into detail.  As for the Sign of Peace, the rite is optional. Many do not know this.  The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments wrote the Letter on the Ritual Expression of the Gift of Peace at Mass in 2014 stating:

284.Pope Benedict XVI, further than shedding light on the true sense of the rite and of the exchange of pace, emphasized its great significance as a contribution of Christians, with their prayer and witness to allay the most profound and disturbing anxieties of contemporary humanity. In light of all this he renewed his call that this rite be protected and that this liturgical gesture be done with religious sensibility and sobriety.5.This Dicastery, at the request of Pope Benedict XVI, had already approached the Conferences of Bishops in May of 2008 to seek their opinion about whether to maintain the exchange of peace before Communion, where it is presently found, or whether to move it to another place, with a view to improving the understanding and carrying out of this gesture. After further reflection, it was considered appropriate to retain the rite of peace in its traditional place in the Roman liturgy and not to introduce structural changes in the Roman Missal. Some practical guidelines are offered below to better explain the content of the exchange of peace and to moderate excessive expressions that give rise to disarray in the liturgical assembly before Communion.6.Consideration of this theme is important. If the faithful through their ritual gestures do not appreciate and do not show themselves to be living the authentic meaning of the rite of peace, the Christian concept of peace is weakened and their fruitful participation at the Eucharist is impaired.Therefore, along with the previous reflections that could form the basis for a suitable catechesis by providing some guidelines, some practical suggestions are offered to the Conferences of Bishops for their prudent consideration:a)It should be made clear once and for all that the rite of peace already has its own profound meaning of prayer and offering of peace in the context of the Eucharist.An exchange of peace appropriately carried out among the participants at Mass enriches the meaning of the rite itself and gives fuller expression to it. It is entirely correct, therefore, to say that this does not involve inviting the faithful to exchange the sign of peace “mechanically.” If it is foreseen that it will not take place properly due to specific circumstances or if it is not considered pedagogically wise to carry it out on certain occasions, it can be omitted, and sometimes ought to be omitted. It is worth recalling that the rubric from the Missal states: “Then, if appropriate, the Deacon or the Priest, adds: ‘Let us offer each other the sign of peace’” (emphasis added)(MISSALE ROMANUM, Ordo Missæ, no. 128).
So as you can see, the Church is within her right to stop the Sign of Peace or limited. The faith is not based on this rite. The rite exists in connection to Jesus in the Eucharist and is not meant to be a display of humanism or family reunion.  So barring the shaking of hands, hugs or the rite altogether is fine and logical.  However, the news of the Church actually suspending Mass and the Sacraments is just absurd to me. It is, quite frankly, embarrassing. As a former atheist, I can say that the optics are not good for the Catholic religion. A faith lacking faith defeats the purpose of the religion.  While I understand that diseases spread, viruses spread and human beings are nasty creatures that often forget hygiene, we cannot forget what the religion is about.  It is about having faith in God the creator.  The Church exists because of the Eucharist. To reduce the Eucharist to a conduit that can spread disease is just unscientific and blasphemy.

Cardinal Dolan even took to task on suspending the Rite of Peace during Mass.  A new video surfaced of him contradicting a deacon's call to peace.

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