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Will the Coronavirus Lockdowns Usher in a Mustard-Seed Church?

NEW OXFORD NOTEBOOK

By Pieter Vree | September 2020
Pieter Vree is Editor of the NOR.

Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking. — St. Irenaeus

The bishop of the place is always responsible for the Eucharist. — Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 1369)

 

When COVID-19 has run its course, and life generally returns to normal — whenever that might be — it will be a time of reckoning for the Catholic Church.

In the wake of the pandemic, Catholic bishops, on the order of state governors, authorized the shuttering of churches and the prohibition of lay access to the sacraments. They also issued diocesan-wide dispensations from the “first precept” of the Church, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

In some places, like parts of California, Catholics saw their churches close, reopen, close a second time, and reopen once more, based on bureaucratic whim. Some churches, as of this writing, were still enduring their second closing and were waiting for gubernatorial go-ahead to reopen. This, even though the first reopenings, in most cases, were done with limited seating capacity, social distancing, mandatory masking, no singing, and other safety measures to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to Caesar’s prescribed protocols.

Nearly across the board, the bishops acquiesced in these unprecedented restrictions on the life of the Church and lifelines of the faith with nary a contrary word. It’s all for the benefit of the common good, they told us, necessary measures to help “flatten the curve.” In a strange inversion, Catholic bishops actually told their flocks that, in times of crisis, the things of the flesh take precedence over the things of the spirit. They acted, for all intents and purposes, like the king’s good servants — even as other establishments weren’t so tightly regulated.

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