Minnesota’s Catholic bishops say that they will be reopening churches for mass at 33% capacity, boldly defying Governor Tim Walz’s decree that limits the size of religious services to 10 people.
Governor Tim Walz gave a press conference, Wednesday, where he layed out a “phased plan” to allow his state’s businesses to reopen. While his new agenda permits bars and resturants to host up to 50 patrons at a time, churches are only allowed to admit 20% that number of worshipers. The public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minneota, the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), says that their churches simply will not abide by this order come Sunday. (RELATED: Minnesota Casino Allowed To Reopen Unencumbered)
“We have attempted to work collaboratively with the Walz Administration up to this time,” wrote the MCC in an open letter to Walz, Wednesday. On May 8, the Conference says it submitted a plan for limited reopening of churches with added safety measures that was drafted “by a group of national medical experts.” Even though Walz ignored this plan, instead opting to maintain his harsh restrictions, the MCC says it’s going to push forward, conducting mass at 33% capacity with a heavy emphasis on sanitization and social distancing.
“The bishops of Minnesota are united in our conviction that we can safely resume public Masses in accordance with both our religious duties and with accepted public health and safety standards,” reads the letter.
Walz’s continued efforts to limit religious gatherings to 10 participants undervalues “both the vital importance that faith plays in the lives of Americans, especially in this time of pandemic, and the fundamental religious freedom possessed by houses of worship that allows our country to thrive,” says the MCC.
“The Governor’s remarks today [Wednesday] further underscored a failure to appreciate the role of our Church and other faith groups in serving the community,” the Conference adds.
The Catholics also say that their original decision to suspend mass months ago in obedience to Walz’s orders was made under a set of circumstances that are very different from those that exist today.
“Our decision to suspend the public celebration of Mass was painful. We made that decision not because we were compelled to do so, but because we judged that the circumstances required it. We believe that those circumstances have changed, as confirmed by the Governor’s decision to end the Stay-at-Home order and allow more commerce,” says the MCC.
Given that big box stores are allowed to host customers and staff in close proximity for many hours per day with no mandated cleaning protocol, Minnesota Catholics are left asking: “how can reason require us any longer to keep our faithful from the Eucharist?”
“As we work together, we can provide for the essential sacramental life of our faithful, fulfill our duty to worship God, and do so in a way that also protects the common good of our state,” the MCC’s letter concludes.
The Conference’s four page message to the governor is signed by the leaders of Minnesota’s 6 Catholic diocese.