Mass and Masks

Let me begin by begging everyone’s prayers and patience regarding this topic.

Over the past few weeks, I have heard from many people on the topic of Mass and masks, and have heard very strong feelings on both sides of this issue.  No decision that I, or the Archbishop, or the Governor make on this topic could ever please everyone.  We truly do need to pray for one another during this time, and to have great patience with one another.

There is a very difficult balance between implementing reasonable standards to keep everyone safe and yet also respect everyone’s personal freedom.

As you know, the Governor has mandated an executive order “Requiring Minnesotans to Wear a Face Covering in Certain Settings”.

Nowhere in this executive order does he specifically address churches or places of worship.  Therefore, while churches are an “indoor space”, yet, as Archbishop Hebda has noted, “decisions regarding safety protocols within Catholic churches are ultimately within the authority of the diocesan bishop”.

Archbishop Hebda went on to issue the following statement:

Parishes have already instituted strict distancing and cleanliness protocols, and this requirement [to wear masks] may be an additional burden. Nonetheless, the Archbishop appreciates encouraging mask use, promoting community health, and not giving scandal to others by not wearing masks.

Therefore, I ask that all parishioners please begin wearing a mask at Mass.

I ask that you take personal responsibility regarding yourself and your family, and not feel the need to police or criticize one another.  The last thing we need right now in our community is greater division, name calling, or resentment of one another.

Additionally, Archbishop Hebda has noted: “liturgical ministers such as priest-celebrants, cantors, and lectors are exempt from Gov. Walz’s Order and are not required to wear face coverings when lectoring, singing, or celebrating Mass.”  Furthermore, children under 2 should not wear a mask, children under 5 may choose to not wear a mask, and those with health reasons such as difficulty breathing may choose to not wear a mask.

Those who are not healthy or not comfortable being around others during this pandemic should continue to stay at home.  Do not think that because everyone is wearing a mask we suddenly are saving the world.  This is a false sense of security.

I do want to express some serious reservations I have about this new mandate:

  1. The use of most masks is of dubious scientific value in preventing the spread of the virus, and thus may actually give a false sense of security. Do not think you and others are suddenly safe from contracting the virus because you and others are wearing a mask.
  2. Being forced to cover our faces is a serious afront to personal freedom and normal human interaction. The simple ability to smile at one another is one of the most human things we do daily.  This is a great tragedy to lose this freedom.
  3. When will this end? Next month, or more likely, next year?  This simply cannot continue indefinitely.

As I began, I recognize that no matter what I say some people will be unhappy.  Please pray for me and for our world, and have patience with one another.  The last thing we need right now is to tear one another down because of our differing viewpoints on this topic.

You are in my daily prayers.

May God bless you,

Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke