His Holiness, Pope Francis, published an op-ed piece in The New York Times last Thursday, entitled “A Crisis Reveals What is in Our Hearts.”
In this article, the Holy Father writes concerning the many people protesting governmental restrictions put into place due to the spread of COVID-19.
“With some exceptions, governments have made great efforts to put the well-being of their people first, acting decisively to protect health and to save lives. […] Yet some groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions — as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom! Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate.”
As you know, the Supreme Court of the United States of America decided in favor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America, an orthodox Jewish organization, against the decision of the Governor of the State of New York. Several restrictions were enforced that were severely limiting the number of congregants who are permitted to attend Holy Mass and other religious services, while at the same time, in the very same “red zones,” shops and other businesses had fewer limits imposed on them.
It is important for us to clarify two opinions that seem to be held by some: first, that the Diocese of Brooklyn’s action in suing somehow goes against the opinion that is held by Pope Francis; and second, that the reopening of Churches for public Mass is a dangerous act.
First, in no way was the Diocese of Brooklyn’s lawsuit in opposition to what His Holiness proposes in his New York Times column. The Bishop of Brooklyn, Nicholas DiMarzio, in an interview with the Associated Press, addressed that false idea directly and stated:
“I think the pope’s words are wonderful. I don’t think we protested. I don’t think we’ve ever negated the rules that were imposed upon us, except we had a difference of opinion on the number of people that could go into a building. That’s a big difference from flaunting the rules, as some congregations have done in Brooklyn and Queens.”
And that leads us to the second point — few organizations have done more to follow rules about social distancing, mask-wearing, sanitizing, and other preventative measures as much as the parishes of the Diocese of Brooklyn. All of these prophylactic initiatives have been done to protect parishioners and others and also at great expense to the parishes. There are more people contracting COVID-19 in other circumstances than from Holy Mass.
Bishop DiMarzio in his interview with the Associated Press puts it best, getting to what this lawsuit was really all about: “So, I think that it’s a big difference. I don’t think those words of the pope really apply to us — this is not an ideological issue. It’s not anti-government, but it is looking at the First Amendment that people have a right to worship when it’s possible.”