On the evening of July 18, I tuned in to the Catholic broadcasting behemoth during the liturgy of the Eucharist. Like every good Catholic, I arrived late.
As the camera panned the congregation, I watched in shock as about 30 people (in addition to the altar servers and choir members) processed to the altar. Mostly elderly but with a couple families, fewer than half the people wore masks — not the priest, altar servers, or choir members
The most distressing part was that every person they showed on camera received communion on their tongue.
Whether electronically or in person, I rarely pay attention to the way people receive communion; it feels intrusive. Nevertheless, all I could see was this gathering of Catholics becoming a vector of coronavirus transmission, especially considering the high and growing infection rate in Alabama.
The way Catholics receive communion has become a public health issue, a political statement, and a theological declaration all rolled up into one.
In the early days of quarantines, media characters and internet trolls falsely claimed that the government was trying to close churches. Since then, some Catholic leaders and media personalities have suggested churches could remain open with no attendance restrictions and not experience any public health consequences.
We’ve all seen and heard loud segments of the population refusing to wear masks, and that group includes Catholics. Many make bizarre claims like mask wearing increases the risk of getting infected or you could accidentally swallow your mask and choke. One infamous conspiracy Catholic admitted having given a false name to church employees seeking to help with contact tracing. Also, a popular cable news host lied by saying that the Archdiocese of Toronto was colluding with the (American) federal government to cede control of the Catholic Church to the secular authorities.
Meanwhile, Catholic so-called traditionalists (including high-ranking cardinals) insist that receiving communion on the tongue is the only proper way to receive the Eucharist.
Imagine thinking that one person could put his hand into the mouth of a group of people without spreading this highly communicable disease.
It is stunning to see people who identify as pro-life not taking the deadly coronavirus seriously. Following the guidance of the public health professionals is not relinquishing control of the faith to the government. Instead, it is using our God-given ability to reason in order to make decisions that will benefit everyone.
Scientists from Dr. Fauci (a practicing Catholic) to Bill Nye agree that wearing masks helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The U.S Catholic bishops have issued controversial guidelines, and theologians have argued that the faithful should wear masks. Some parish priests refuse to encourage any restrictions — to alleged applause from parishioners.
Churches around the world are opening again. If the U.S. had taken rational precautions early on, the spread of the pandemic would have been slowed and churches would be closer to opening at full capacity.
Catholics need to stop buying in to wild conspiracy theories and put away our selfish desires to receive communion in ways that harm others. The Catholic Church is losing any of its remaining credibility and relevance by not acting as leaders in preventing spread of the pandemic. Christ calls his followers to be the salt of the earth. If the salt has lost its flavor it is no longer good for anything but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.