Editorial: A plea for prudence and charity as things ‘open back up’

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A man prays March 21, 2020, at St. Patrick Church in Huntington, N.Y., during the coronavirus pandemic. Church life is expected to reflect new practices when public Masses resume. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

“Open back up.” Like “new normal,” “stay at home” and “social distancing,” this phrase has suddenly become an unanticipated addition to our 2020 lexicon.

Even as the number of cases and deaths associated with the coronavirus pandemic continue to rise, states and businesses, fearing long-term economic repercussions, are beginning to emerge once again into public life. Individuals, tired of being cooped up, also are anxious to return to some semblance of their old routines and freedom.

As governments ease their recommendations, dioceses, too, are loosening in various ways the tight restrictions adopted earlier this spring to help flatten the curve. Church leaders are having constant conversations about what such a loosening means for public gatherings, availability of the sacraments and safety for all. As these conversations ensue and decisions are made, we would implore decision-makers and individuals: Proceed with prudence, proceed with charity, and please don’t forget those who are left behind.

During this time of pandemic, there is still much uncertainty. As the number of cases continues to rise, there will be many people who do not feel comfortable returning to public life at this time or for some time to come. Additionally, there are those who shouldn’t fully reenter society, even with precautions. This includes the elderly, those with underlying medical conditions and their caretakers.

As they make decisions about next steps, it’s wise for bishops to continue granting dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for the faithful — all of the faithful — who, for whatever reason, don’t feel comfortable attending public Mass. Dioceses and parishes also should continue using the technological strategies put in place out of necessity this spring to reach those who choose or need to stay home. This includes livestreaming Masses, Eucharistic adoration and other resources for prayer and discussion. The creativity and ingenuity displayed over the last several months by our clergy and other Church leaders should continue to be developed, especially as the potential of another shutdown in the future remains.

In addition to dioceses, Catholic institutions and apostolates can and should be leading by example. Employees, as they are able, should be not only allowed but encouraged to continue to work from home for as long as possible. If remote working is impossible, every precaution should be taken for employees to feel safe and comfortable in their working environment. Care should be taken not to give preference to those who choose to work onsite. Prudence, fairness and charity should underscore the policy of every Catholic institution. Here, OSV is leading by example, having changed its own corporate policy to allow for more flexible remote working for the foreseeable future.

As individual Catholics begin venturing out, we recommend that they keep the common good at the forefront of their minds and take all possible precautions to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. This includes wearing masks, washing or sanitizing hands frequently, and maintaining social distance in lines and in pews. It also includes charitable acceptance of any diocesan policies about modes of reception of the Eucharist, keeping in mind that one of the sacrament’s names is the “sacrament of charity.” We should all want to avoid putting at greater risk the cashier, the bus driver, the clerk, the janitor, the health care worker, the fellow parishioner or the priest. Our faith compels us to bring Christ’s charity into the world, and these are some concrete ways to live this out.

Finally, making decisions out of prudence and charity is not the same as making decisions out of fear. Pope St. John Paul II, whose 100th anniversary of birth we celebrate May 18, famously told the Church to “be not afraid.” In his homily for Good Shepherd Sunday, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, reminded us that “as disciples of Jesus Christ, as people of faith, we must make a conscious effort not to worry. As Christians, when our minds are troubled and we feel anxious, we should very quickly make an act of confidence in the Lord.” And one of “the most beautiful acts of confidence in the Bible,” he reminded us, is the very psalm we prayed that day: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.”

As life begins to “open back up,” be not afraid and trust in the Lord. But remember, too, to practice prudence, to practice charity and to be sure not to leave anyone behind.

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board

The Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board consists of Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, Gretchen R. Crowe, Matthew Kirby, Scott P. Richert and York Young.