GLENDALE — In the wake of a setback in the courts on Friday, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said the Diocese of Brooklyn will explore its legal options in its fight against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new regulations governing attendance at houses of worship in COVID-19 hot spots.
“We’re looking at our options,” the bishop said at a press conference at St. Pancras Church, Glendale on Oct. 10. The previous night, a federal judge denied a request by the diocese for a temporary restraining order to stop the governor from implementing his new regulations.
“We thought we had a good case,” the bishop said.
The diocese filed a lawsuit on Oct. 8 against Cuomo in his official capacity as governor, charging that his new regulations are too stringent.
Bishop DiMarzio did not rule out an appeal in the case. “We’ll consult with our attorneys,” he said. He said the law firm representing the diocese, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, requested time to think about the next step in the legal process.
The diocese filed suit against Cuomo in his official capacity as governor, charging that the restrictions he put in under his New Cluster Action Initiative violate religious freedom. On Friday, a different federal judge sided with the governor in a lawsuit brought by Agudath Israel of America, a coalition of Orthodox Jewish organizations.
The governor announced his initiative on Oct. 6 in response to an increase in COVID-19 positivity cases in Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods — in some neighborhoods, the rate is as high as 5 percent.
Under the New Cluster Action Initiative, three zones are being created — red, orange, and yellow — with red zones falling under the most severe restrictions.
In red zones, attendance at services is limited to 25 percent capacity, but with no more than 10 people.
Bishop DiMarzio held a news conference today responding to a federal court ruling that upholds Governor Cuomo’s new mandate on churches in so-called hot zones. The bishop said the diocese is weighing its options to possibly appeal the ruling. According to the bishop, while other religious communities may be experiencing a spike in COVID cases, the diocese has followed all guidelines to keep parishioners safe with no rise of infections. He said the new mandate is unfair and unnecessary to those who wish to worship in church. Parishes in the “red zone” can now only allow 10 people inside.
Posted by The Tablet on Saturday, 10 October 2020
There are 14 churches in the diocese that fall within red zones. Pastors might feel it isn’t worth holding public Masses if only 10 people can attend, according to Bishop DiMarzio, who pointed out that the number is really nine people since the priest celebrating the Mass would be counted among the participants.
“Can we shut the doors after nine people?” he said.
A better way, he said, would have been for the governor to limit the capacity in proportion to the size of a church. Many churches in the diocese have room for 800 or more worshipers, he noted. Prohibiting more than 10 people from attending Mass in a large church where social distancing can be safely practiced is going too far, according to the bishop.
Besides, said the bishop, while churches might technically be located in red zones, the churches have not seen spikes in COVID-19 cases.
The dispensation issued by the bishop freeing Catholics in the diocese from the obligation to attend Mass in person will continue, he said. The Masses will continue to be live-streamed, he said.
Here are the churches in Brooklyn and Queens that are located in red zones, according to the diocese.
- Good Shepherd Church
- Holy Spirit Church
- Our Lady Help of Christians Church
- Our Lady of Grace Church
- St. Athanasius Church
- St. Brendan Church
- St. Catherine of Alexandria Church
- St. Edmund Church
- St. Francis de Chantal Church
- St. Rose of Lima Church
- St. Thomas Aquinas Church
- Our Lady of the Angelus
- Queen of Peace Church
- St. Mary Star of the Sea Church
In orange zones, attendance at religious services is restricted to a maximum of 33 percent capacity with no more than 25 people. There are 13 of these Catholic churches in Brooklyn and Queens:
- Guardian Angel Church
- Mary Queen of Heaven Church
- Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church
- Our Lady of Refuge Church
- Resurrection Church
- Saints Simon & Jude Church
- St. Agatha Church
- St. Columba Church
- St. Rosalia/Regina Pacis Church
- St. Vincent Ferrer Church
- Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church
- St. Gertrude Church
- St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church
In yellow zones, houses of worship will be permitted 50 percent capacity at religious services.
St. Pancras Church, where the bishop held his press conference on Saturday, is located in a yellow zone. The bishop was at St. Pancras on Saturday for a confirmation Mass.
Francesca Ferraro, a parishioner of St. Pancras, said she thinks the governor is wrong to implement such strict blanket regulations. “We come here to worship God. Why Cuomo doesn’t understand that?,” she told The Tablet.