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Beyond The Lockdown

By Russell Shaw Sunday, June 7, 2020

GEORGE DUNLAP, JUNE 7, 2020. Return To Normalcy is not a successful course to follow…….we are failing to excite our children about our Catholic Faith and love of God. We are losing our children to ……..our Catholic weddings are down, our Catholic schools are decaying, our attendance at mass is evaporating weekly, We can not Return to the Old “Normal”, we must pray and take action for the Godly New Normal. We must pray and come together as faithful Catholic families must. Russell Shaw’s post today says it all. Please find the time to digest this powerful post. God Bless our children and their families.

As the Church in America emerges from lockdown, blinking and a bit unsteady on its feet, there are two familiar sayings to which Catholics emphatically should not turn for guidance on what to do next. They are: “Return to normalcy” and “The more things change, the more they are the same.

” Besides being the slogan of Warren Harding’s 1920 presidential campaign, the problem with “Return to normalcy” lies in its unspoken assumption that the condition of the Church before the lockdown is worth getting back to. Clearly it isn’t.

The cynical “the more things change” isn’t acceptable either because of its world-weary assumption that improving the state of American Catholicism is out of the question. Difficult, yes. Out of the question – pray God it’s not.

But, someone might ask, why this haste to rule out returning to how things were before the lockdown? The answer is simple: going back to the way things were in the not-so-distant past would mean returning to an ecclesiastical ethos of steady, debilitating decline.

You don’t think so? Consider the numbers (source: the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate). Between 1970 and 2018, annual figures for Catholic marriages in the United States fell from 426,309 to 143,087; infant baptisms from 1.089 million to 615,119; students in Catholic elementary and secondary schools from 4.4 million to 1.8 million; and elementary and secondary school students in parish religious education from 5.5 million to 2.9 million.

The number of diocesan and religious priests dropped from 59,192 to 36,580; religious sisters from 160,931 to 44,117; and the rate of weekly Mass attendance from 54.9 percent to 21.1 percent. One of the few categories with a significant upward trend was “former Catholic adults,” who increased from 3.5 million in 1970 to 26.1 million two years ago.

Here it may be objected that at least the Church in the United States is better off than the Church in most places in Western Europe and Canada. But this is rather like saying somebody with one broken leg is better off than somebody with two broken legs: it’s true, but it isn’t helpful. And it sheds no useful light on what either party needs to do to recover.

Whatever else it may or may not have done, the coronavirus crisis is an invitation to us to think big about the future of our Church. If we make good use of this opportunity, what we’ve lately been through might even turn out to have been at least somewhat for the good. *

My immediate practical suggestion, therefore, is that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) create a blue-ribbon commission to study the impact of the lockdown on the Church in America and make recommendations for the future. Among the things to be examined are these:

  • How did being cut off from most usual exercises of priestly ministry affect priests’ attitudes toward their priesthood?
  • How did being without the Eucharist and other sacraments for so long impact the laity?
  • When the lockdown ended, did attendance at weekly Mass return to what it had been, rise dramatically and remain high, or decline?
  • Cut off from most ordinary sources of income, what alternative sources did dioceses, parishes, schools, and other institutions find to stay afloat (supposing, that is, they managed to do that)?
  • What practical conclusions about using the media can be drawn from the apparent popularity of televised and live-streamed Masses while the churches were closed?
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CORONAVIRUS DIARY: NEW YORK, MAY 12

GEORGE DUNLAP, MAY 13, 2020. Yesterday I heard that the Bishop’s in Ohio are preparing to Re-Open our Catholic Churches for Mass. Below is an account of one mans diary writings about his May 12th dealings with life and going to Mass in the Underground.

Tuesday: Bright morning sunshine, but cool temperatures. It’s been a chilly spring. I’m still running the space heater in my office; the landlord turned down the heat at the outset of the lockdown. The vibrant blue sky and the sunlight on the buildings make it impossible not to be cheerful.

The last two or three weeks have clanked along like a slow-moving excavator, patiently gobbling up the hours day after day as New York City continues in its semi-comatose condition. I walk the dog, head into the First Things office—where I’m almost always alone—and grind away at my editorial tasks.

There are distractions and adventures.

On Monday, April 27, I visited an emergency room at a hospital in one of the hard-hit neighborhoods in the outer boroughs. (I can’t reveal details, because my visit was not “authorized,” and in the present conditions of  public health hysteria, my host might lose his job if higher-ups found out I penetrated the “no visitors” cordon sanitaire.)

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RE-OPENING, during COVID19, OUR CHURCHES – AND OUR PLAN IS?

George Dunlap, May 9, 2020. As the good news bubbles to the top of several daily conversations, regarding possible and limited re-opening with COVID19, that I have had, with many of my customers in the United States, the topic we all discuss is, so…what is the plan to re-open our businesses? What are the suggested guidelines and how can we all be part of the solution, “To Re-Open Intelligently and with Cautious Optimism” ? That is the same question I pray to God, how can we as faithful Catholics be part of the Overall Re-Open Our Churches Solution? WE CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT THE LORD’S DAY…….. JOHN SAFRANEK, M.D. wrote a very good article at First Things several days back.

WE CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT THE LORD’S DAY

, by John Safranek, M.D., May 7, 2020

My hospital, like all hospitals throughout the country, has adopted new procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Emergency Room, where I work, patients cannot even enter the building until someone has determined whether they are harboring the coronavirus. There are elaborate gowning, masking, and gloving routines, as well as a host of other procedural changes. 

Nearly every other department has taken similar measures. When taking X-rays, radiology technicians stand outside the patient’s room, shooting rays through the windows to avoid contaminating the machine. Respiratory therapists no longer use the standard nebulizer machines for fear of propagating the virus. Each department, even the cafeteria, has creatively altered its practices. We have to continue working during this plague, because what we do is essential for individual and social well-being.

I have been thinking about the bishops’ cancellation of public Masses in light of these hospital changes. When many states declared the celebration of the Eucharist non-essential, few bishops resisted. My state banned public gatherings of more than 8-10 people except for “essential” services, which included courts of law (apparently Shakespeare was right: justice delayed is justice denied), business operations, airport travel, and even daycares. My spiritual life is the most important aspect of my being, and the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of my faith—yet it was deemed less essential than daycare, and few bishops demurred.

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