In view of the efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, I had thought of writing a post about how pastors, priests, and bishops should be imaginative instead of supine, finding ways to administer the sacraments without having to pack large numbers of people into small enclosed spaces.
Reality has out-distanced me, for yes, some ministers have been more imaginative – and some officials have tried to step on them anyway.
It began with threats, for example when the mayor of New York City warned that he would permanently shut down some churches and synagogues. Now, in some places, people have been charged with crimes just for worshipping.
Do you think this is just about the coronavirus? It isn’t. The coronavirus is an excuse for the oppression of faith -- and the precedents set now will persist. Public officials may take reasonable measures to protect the health of our bodies, but some of them want to command our souls.
If the matter were not so abominable, it would be ridiculous. Tell me why it is an acceptable risk to allow a restaurant to offer drive-by takeout of a sandwich, but not to allow churches to offer drive-by distribution of a consecrated wafer. Tell me how it is that abortion is an essential service that may continue during the epidemic, but Holy Communion is not.
We need to add a new perversion to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Some people find the exercise of brute power to discriminate between activities they like and activities they don’t an orgasmic experience. Unfortunately, such persons are disproportionately attracted into government careers.
Pastors, priests, bishops, I was going to ask you to be bold. That advice is weeks out of date. Please continue to be bold. Be prudent, but be witnesses. Respect legitimate authority, but do not allow yourselves to be intimidated by threats and arrests. Lean into them. Have us worship outside with six-foot gaps between worshippers if necessary. Set up breezy open-air confessional booths. Whatever it takes. But please, do it for us.