Three Cardinals, one Archbishop and three bishops – mostly from the US Catholic Church – recently issued a stern warning to various governments that their respective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the quarantine protocols, infringe on inalienable human rights.
Church leaders from around the world are invited to add their signatures to the statement.
At first glance, the statement seems to support the growing American protests against stay-at-home impositions that gravely constricted economic activity.
One male protester demands shops to reopen so he can get a haircut. Others said the pandemic is a hoax. They refuse to see the more than a thousand daily infections in their country.
The warning from a few Catholic officials seems alarming because it looks at human rights instead of human survival.
But the essence of their concern on human rights infringement is revealed on their focus on restrictions in celebrating the Sacraments such as holding regular Masses.
Filipino Church leaders may be tempted to join the clamor because of our Constitutionally-enshrined separation of Church and State.
It’s important to note the warning does not have an imprimatur from the Vatican.
It’s also important to understand that the absence of Masses in the parishes means absence of any source of funds for priests. Parishes in turn are obligated to contribute part of their funds to the dioceses and archdioceses that are run by bishops and archbishops.
So, it is fair to say for the last three months, Church leaders are suffering from dire lack of funds in the absence regular Masses.
While Filipino parishes can manage to survive without Masses because their operating expenses are simple, bishops and archbishops need to maintain bigger operations.
Just days after the issuance of the deeply disturbing warning, one of the Cardinals withdrew his support, indicating shallow grounds for a seeming minor mutiny inside the Church.
Others say this is another prophesied element of the Apocalypse or end of days – disunity inside mankind’s oldest institution.
What if governments heed the warning and allow celebration of Masses? Priests and bishops will be happy but the second wave of the pandemic will be inevitable, even with strict protocols.
In the Philippines, churches will be swamped by Mass-goers who thirst for their regular worship service. Social distancing cannot be enforced as scheduled parish activities resume, attracting hordes of parishioners.
Only in the Philippines are parish churches visited by parishioners even outside of Sunday Masses – for baptisms, retreats, seminars, prayer vigils, choir practice, etc.
Pope Francis has yet to respond to the disturbing warning of the cardinals and archbishop after he refused to react to previous criticisms from traditionalist American cardinals.
As Christian Protestants say, what’s important is one’s personal relationship with God – definitely not with a bishop or cardinal.