This blog post is my response to the action of the Minnesota Bishops stating they would allow parishes to return to mass with capacities that violate the current emergency order of the State of Minnesota. I write this as a concerned citizen of the State of Minnesota and also as an ordained Permanent Deacon in the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis.
I was very disappointed by Wednesday’s letter from the Bishops of Minnesota that will allow parishes, if they want, to break the current emergency order by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. The tone of the letter seems to encourage parishes to do this and potentially incur legal action as has been done by the Attorney General’s office towards restaurants that have tried to open in defiance of the orders.
As a disclaimer, I believe that expressing my contrary point of view is not covered by my oath of obedience to the Bishop which I took during my ordination. When my class was on retreat with Bishop Campbell, I asked him directly about the oath of obedience and his response was that if it concerned something illegal, immoral, or unethical we were not bound to obedience. I believe this action by the Bishops falls under at least one of these categories.
The letter has put Parish leadership and staff in a hard place. Do they move forward as the Bishops have suggested knowing they are violating state law? My personal position is that I will not be part of such a move and that the Bishops need to follow the proper legal avenues available to them as can any other entity in our country. They had the full right to challenge the order in court to get a legal ruling, but until then I personally believe they did not have the legal right to proceed in violation of the current order.
It feels very much like the Church is putting itself above the law of the land. Unfortunately, we have been living through the repercussions of such action by Church leadership for many years with the never-ending sexual abuse scandal. For many years we as Catholics have talked about Faithful Citizenship and how we are called to work within our government systems for change. In this case, legal action and peaceful protest could be avenues that are well within the rights of our country for working towards a change, but to willfully disobey a current law is not.
I will keep it short and I am sure there are those that disagree with me, but this action has caused me a lot of concern and continues to be a continued behavior that troubles me deeply.
Peace, blessings, and prayers
Deacon Richard Moore