From a reader…
Our Gov. In NC has banned gatherings of 100, church and schools alike (but not restaurants, malls, etc). One is subject to Misdemeanor II charges. Our holy priest told a parishioner that he will say mass at 8 am and not ask anyone to leave should they come. Although our Bishop\ has cancelled and given dispensation, is it considered going against magisterium by the priest and or faithful to attend in this scenario? What about separation of church and state?
Thank you Fr Z for your courage and wisdom in these trying and dark times. God bless
The civil government cannot ban religious services. But they can ban gatherings of over X number of people. Where I am, it’s now 50!
A church is a public place, and subject to civil codes. Also, statutes protect churches from, for example, interruption of a service. It is, in most places, illegal to stand up and disturb a Mass. If we want that to be respected, we should also respect other laws and statutes.
Priests are not obliged to say Mass every day, but they are strongly encouraged to do so. This is a time when, more than ever, priests should say Mass even though the diocese cancelled Mass.
And, Fathers, DON’T CONCELEBRATE! Say your own Mass.
So, what to do? Here’s what I would do.
Since public, scheduled Masses are officially cancelled by a diocese, the priest has no reason to think that anyone will come at the regular time. However, someone, not expecting Mass, might want to come in to pray. Therefore, unlock the church as usual and let people come if they choose to.
Meanwhile, since routine is good, Father may as well say Mass at the time that he has become accustomed to say Mass. If people wander in and stay, fine.
If need be, the priest can simply plow forward not distribute Communion. Depends on the circumstances and when people wander in. We need some more catechesis on that point, too.
Thus, if Father says Mass privately (that is it isn’t scheduled) he doesn’t have to preach. Why would he? Just say Mass. Hence, the rites of Mass itself don’t allow for Father stopping and telling then anything at all, much less that people to leave. Priests are obliged to follow the rites of Mass.
And, frankly, if he sticks to the rubrics, there is eventually a something that obliges a priest to tell people to leave… at the end: ITE!