BALTIMORE (CNS) -- During the June 11-13 spring assembly of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore,…
With the Delta variant on the rise, the Church has a responsibility to respond
I really didn’t want to write this column because a bunch of you aren’t going to like what I have to say, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway, because if my goal was being liked, I should have opened a bakery. I make fantastic chocolate chip cookies.
With the takeover of COVID-19’s more contagious and possibly more dangerous Delta variant, and the resulting dramatic increase in COVID cases across the country, Catholic churches should once again require people who attend Mass and any other church-sponsored event to wear masks. I also think churches should reintroduce social distancing, though I recognize spacing people out by 6 feet in all directions while maintaining the obligation to attend Mass leaves churches in a tough, and sometimes unrealistic, spot. If they can do it, however, I believe they should. And if they’re not sure if they can pull it off, I believe they should at least try.
I will not go as far as to say that U.S. bishops should once again dispense with the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Most left enough qualifiers in place — don’t come if you’re sick, or if you’re at high risk of getting the virus, or if you’re caretakers of those who are at high risk of serious illness — so that people of goodwill who legitimately feel they need to stay away from crowds can feel comfortable doing so without risking the penalty of mortal sin.
I’ve been having these thoughts for a while, especially as I watched individuals, many unvaccinated, including children, attend very crowded Masses with few masks in sight while reports of Delta’s rise were becoming more prevalent and urgent. Delta, you might remember, is the variant that swept through and devastated India earlier this spring and that is now raging across the world. It now accounts for 83% of all COVID cases in the United States, and it is much more transmissible.
Now, with the Centers for Disease Control’s decision to reverse its own statement from May and once again recommend that masks be worn inside in many places, even by fully vaccinated people — it seems that it would be beneficial for the Church to act proactively for the good of her people. For the most part, the Church has wisely followed governmental safety guidelines throughout the pandemic, and it should continue to do so. I do not say this out of fear necessarily for myself (I am fully vaccinated), but I do worry about my children (ages 4 and 2), especially as they are too young to receive protection from a vaccine.
For those who haven’t gotten their shot, the news isn’t good, and many experts are now referring to the coronavirus pandemic as a pandemic among the unvaccinated. Throughout this pandemic, Church leaders have had the opportunity to lead by example — an example that began with prioritizing Christ’s greatest commandment of charity. Most leaders have made good decisions amid very difficult times. Now they have another opportunity to do the same.
It’s not my intention to scare anyone or guilt anyone, but rather to make sure that we are properly responding to the demands of our faith to prevent the spread of illness to our loved ones, friends or colleagues — especially those who are the most vulnerable.
We’re all “over it” — at least I certainly know I am. This summer was supposed to be a time to relax, unwind and attempt to let go of the worries of the past year and a half. Unfortunately, the pandemic isn’t done with us yet. It’s our obligation as Catholics to respond accordingly, as our faith demands.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.