As the Irish public continues to grow weary of its government’s completely incompetent approach to the pandemic, the 6 bishops of the Province of the Archdiocese of Tuam have spoken up.
In a statement that expressed frustration with Ireland’s increasingly leaderless efforts to fight the pandemic (or pass the time until it ends in other countries), the bishops have called for limits at funerals to be increased and also for a proper date to be set so that First Holy Communions and other events can be cared for.
The bishops make the distinction between merely following restrictions and asking for the best:
As Church leaders, we have consistently supported the public health restrictions on the grounds that they serve the common good. The state has a particular responsibility for the common good and, on that basis, the Church teaches that Catholics must obey the law unless it is manifestly unjust or immoral. That does not mean that we cannot or should not speak out when we believe that something seems unfair or could be done better. We have consistently made representations, not only for the timely reopening of the public pastoral life of the Church, but also for better protection for elderly residents in nursing homes, for equity in the delivery of critical care in our hospitals and for a fair distribution of vaccines both in our own society and in the wider world.
The bishops then cautiously, but firmly, criticise the government’s refusal (what else can it be called) to bring clarity to the issue of public worship:
We recognise the need for prudence and caution at the present time, in the light of the terrible loss of life in January and February, and we accept absolutely that now is not the time for a major reopening of society. We have carefully considered the five stage plan “Covid-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021: The Path Ahead”, published by the Government last week.
There are two things in this plan which we find very difficult to support.
One of those is the fact that at level 5, all funerals are still limited to 10 people. We believe that a modest increase to 25 would, without compromising safety, bring much consolation to grieving families.
Our second concern is that public worship is still excluded even at level 3. This would suggest that we may not have the opportunity to celebrate Mass together for months to come. It ignores the important contribution of communal worship to the mental and spiritual well-being of people of faith. The fundamental importance of Holy Week and Easter for all Christians, makes the prohibition of public worship particularly painful. While, as Christians, we are obliged to obey these regulations, we believe that it is our responsibility as Church leaders to make the case for change. We will continue to make fair and reasonable representation and we encourage you to do likewise.
They then encouraged the practice of Confession as a means of providing spiritual nourishment to people deprived of the Mass:
Bearing all of the foregoing in mind, it is also important for us to do as much as we can within the current restrictions to provide pastoral and sacramental care to our parishioners. Experience teaches us that with suitable precautions, the individual celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is possible, as is the sacramental care of the sick. These, together with various other pastoral initiatives, can supplement the various online outreaches that have proved so helpful and successful.