Catholics are obligated to attend Mass, says the Madison diocese spokesperson: “As of right now, we are not inclined to reinstate a diocesan-wide dispensation.” He was careful not to sound as draconian as Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, who recently instructed Catholics that if they deliberately fail to attend Sunday mass, they “commit a grave sin.” Fear of getting sick is no excuse to this strongman.
Of course, pressure on parishioners to attend in-person services is not just happening in Wisconsin, but throughout the nation. The archbishop of San Francisco wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post a few weeks ago charging that the right to worship has been “unjustly repressed by an American government.” Echoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said “fundamental rights do not come from the state . . . they come from God.”
The Justice Department, headed by Attorney General William Barr (described by the National Catholic Reporter as a “culture warrior Catholic"), kindly got in the act, sending a three-page warning to San Francisco Mayor London Breed that charged her with discriminating against religious believers. The city, which had repeatedly issued warnings to the archdiocese for violating health orders, responded by allowing indoor worship at 25 percent capacity or up to 100 people this month.
Cordileone wrote, “I sometimes wonder whether the increasingly secular elites imposing these restrictions understand the pain they are unnecessarily inflicting. The sacraments as we Catholics understand them cannot be live-streamed.” Naturally, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Roman Catholic theocratic legal group, is eager to charge that churches are being persecuted. Yes, they are being persecuted so much that when the U.S. bishops lobbied for an unprecedented exemption from federal rules, they got it — at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer coronavirus relief. The Catholic diocese in San Francisco got between $1 million and 2 million, Catholic Charities in the archdiocese $5 million to $10 million. Many millions went to dioceses that have paid out huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of cover-up of clergy sexual abuse crimes.
Catholic bishops, while busily guilt-tripping their parishioners to potentially endanger their lives by participating in in-person Mass, are ironically also very busy issuing “pastoral guidance” on the importance of basing Catholic voting on “life issues,” e.g., denial of abortion rights. In case there is any confusion, the bishops’ own press release, titled, “Bishops in US emphasize importance of life, Church teachings in voting guidances,” prominently depicts a fetal sonogram.
This brings us squarely back to the Madison diocese, where Bishop Donald J. Hying — he who thinks parishioners need to get back into the pews for hours-long masses, group communion, group singing and other risky business — recently wrote an editorial titled “How to vote according to our Catholic faith.”
While saying “The Church cannot and will not endorse a particular candidate or party,” Hying subtitled his editorial “Abortion: ‘preeminent’ moral issue.” He reminded his parish that a year ago, the Catholic bishops issued a statement “in anticipation of this moment, stating that abortion is the preeminent moral issue facing our nation.”
“Some Catholics are asking if they can vote for a presidential candidate who advocates for legalized abortion, as long as that is not the reason they are voting for that individual.
“Let me quote Faithful Citizenship: ‘There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate's unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.’ . . .
“As we cast our ballot in the election this fall, the Lord calls us to pray, study Church teaching, form and examine our conscience and vote in light of our Catholic principles.”
Wink wink, nod nod. Sounds like more spiritual blackmail to us.