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Above The Law?

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


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  • Mike and Cathy StuhlPosted on 5/23/20

    The church should be looking out for the common good. The communal health of it's community, both spiritually and physically. It should also be everyone's responsibility not to get infected or to infect others. We can't be too cautious. Great comments by all well intentioned people, we're proud to be associated with this community.

  • Ro MayPosted on 5/23/20

    Thank you Deacon Rich for your words of wisdom. I commend you and Father John for all you have done spiritually for our church members. As an older member of our beloved Church, I will miss worshipping with our community, but the Governor is correct in his actions. As one of our new Saints, Padre Pio (canonized in 2002) says, PRAY, HOPE, AND DON'T WORRY! Most of us have conquered the first two, but as for me, I'm still working on the last one! God Bless.

  • John McKenziePosted on 5/23/20

    Deacon Rich, I want to thank you for having the courage to express your well considered opinion. I basically agree with what you have said. I do think there is a time and a place for civil disobedience. This is not it.

    I waited to make my comment until I received Father John’s letter about resuming public masses. I commend Father John and anyone who may have advised him on the approach being taken at St. Pascal’s. We have lived without being able to attend mass and receive the Eucharist for over two months, including Holy Week and most of the Easter season. We can certainly be cautious in our return to public masses.

    One final comment. Archbishop Hebda has said several times that when public masses resume, persons over age 65 would be strongly encouraged not to attend. While I understand the reasoning for that, I don’t think it means everyone 65 and under should rush back to mass.

    I hope and pray that we will all be able to be together at mass again safely and soon!

  • Matt FlanaganPosted on 5/23/20

    Well I'm going to respectfully disagree here.

    1. The authority of the church comes from Rome not the State (or any nation). The archbishop doesn't answer to the Governor.

    2. Catholics are aching, yearning, craving Eucharist/community/MASS. Watching it on a computer is NOT the same thing.

    3. Why is it that it's "fine" for me to be around a hundred or so people at Walmart but I can't sit in a pew and celebrate mass?

    4. Our savior said ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS, "Don't be afraid." We need to stop living in fear and paranoia and trust in God.

    5. Physical health is important yes, BUT people need stability and a sense of normalcy...a return to mass is very important to mental and spiritual health.

  • Anita KennedyPosted on 5/23/20

    I watched the Rachel Maddow news program last night and they highlighted Wright County Mn and two of the Catholic Churches, St Timothy and St. Ignatius where Mass and other services have been shared by 3 priests. One of the three priests has now tested positive for Covid 19 and the other 2 priests are symptomatic. I am afraid with the churches opening their doors to Mass at this point that this scenario will be played out throughout the community. Common sense needs to prevail and the bishops' stance shows a true lack of thoughtful commitment to the community at large despite what was spoken. I miss attending Mass at church with my fellow parishioners, but my health and safety comes first and so should that of others. I think of the popular bracelet, WWJD, and in this case, I am pretty certain what Jesus would do.

  • Mary Ann AbtsPosted on 5/23/20

    Thank you Deacon Rich and fellow parishioners for giving voice to all my thoughts. Fr. John has ministered to all of us so well through this. I'm concerned for him being put in such a difficult position. Our church family has now been thrown into the political discord. It feels like such a betrayal. Keep our worship spaces a sanctuary for good.

  • Mary EmberleyPosted on 5/23/20

    Deacon Rich, I agree with you. I was really surprised at the Bishops stance on this and their decision to defy the law. It is irresponsible and reckless, and it puts a great deal of pressure on church pastors of all faiths to quickly reopen churches. Thank you for expressing your thoughts so well.

  • John KrebsbachPosted on 5/22/20

    My feelings exactly. My wife, Sue, and I wrote a letter to the Archbishop expressing our deep disappointment and strong disagreement.

  • Jane KennedyPosted on 5/22/20

    Deacon Rich, thank you so much for taking the appropriate stand on this issue. My thinking is that the Church is putting its bottom line ahead of the safety of its parishioners. Shame on Archbishop Hebda and church leadership who supports him on this issue.

  • Ann KarnerPosted on 5/22/20

    I totally agree with what you have said and admire your courage in taking such a public stand. As a Catholic I am embarrassed to see church leadership again show a disdain for law. We only need to listen to the news to know that in instances where churches have rushed to open many have suffered. I hope that is not the case this time.

  • Anne WeyandtPosted on 5/22/20

    Nothing good ever came from defiance. I just finished teaching a course on dissent, where we talked about dissent as being a hopeful act of justice designed to change the status quo. I can’t find any hope or justice or proposal for change in the bishops’ action. If we stopped posturing and started talking (to the faithful!) there are many creative and liturgically proper ways to bring Eucharist to the people. Maybe we need a volunteer corps who could be trained (including Virtus) to attend Mass and carry Eucharist to our friends and neighbors? Many of our seniors have been faithful ministers to the home bound for years and years; maybe it’s time that the rest of us step up to serve them.

    The church is the People of God, not the bishops; I have faith that the people will do what is right to stay safe while remaining in communion with one another through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Thank you for your courageous words.

  • Linda SpencePosted on 5/22/20

    Thank you, Deacon Rich, for your honest and courageous opinion on this issue. I am very disappointed that those in Catholic and Lutheran leadership roles believe it is okay to defy the Governor’s orders. The number of new positive cases, the number of hospitalizations and the number of deaths that Minnesota is experiencing is very concerning. Just this week, I registered with the Archdiocese to provide prayer support for Covid-19 patients, their families, their medical team and the anointing priest whenever an anointing has been requested. Today I have received text alerts requesting prayer support for 18 patients! This is so sad and convinces me even more that we are not safe to return to our church communities.

  • Toni & Dennis BehlingPosted on 5/22/20

    Thank you Deacon Rich for expressing exactly what we are thinking and feeling. Our Bishops are not above the law and willfully going against Gov Walz is not the example we want to set. Our Bishop's need to work with our Governor, not against him.
    Let's not forget that we are called to care for all of God's people, that includes the people in the pews as well as those ordained. Don't put my Pastor, Deacon and parish staff in harms way.

  • Terry NelsonPosted on 5/22/20

    Deacon Rich,
    Your words are thoughtful and respectful. Thank you! for giving them an audience.

  • Vic WittgensteinPosted on 5/22/20

    Thank you writing what I have been thinking. Disappointed, disturbed and embarrassed are only a few of my feelings. As an older, vulnerable person I believe that the Bishops will have endangered my life and may others with their actions. The latest updates show that community spread is growing rapidly, this action by the Bishops will only quicken that spread. I miss Mass and our wonderful Community but this is too soon. I trust God but I also trust Science, I believe God gave us Science for a reason---we should be using this gift from the Father and not ignoring it. I have felt comforted by viewing and participating in the streamed Masses and prayer services you and Father John have provided, which for now, fill my needs. This was a chance for the Catholic Church in Minnesota to show leadership---the Bishops blew it.

  • Barb AndersonPosted on 5/22/20

    Thank you very much for expressing your thoughts with us. I am extremely disheartened by the decisions of the bishops in Minnesota. I truly believe this is a life issue which has been ignored by them. Thank you again!



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