Catholics Ask Shepherds: Where Are You?

A national open letter campaign launched this week. Its aim? To urge all U.S. bishops to find safe ways to restore the sacraments to Catholics, who’ve been deprived of them because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Full disclosure: I added my name to the list of signatories.)

“Something is terribly wrong with a culture that allows abortion clinics and liquor stores to remain open but shuts down places of worship. While safety and cooperation with civil authorities is necessary, we must do everything we can to have access to what is essential for our spiritual lives. We should certainly not voluntarily deprive ourselves of the sacraments,” the statement said.

The campaign is spearheaded by Dr. Janet E. Smith. Recently retired, she long was Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. She is the author of many books and articles on life issues.

“The sacraments are the spiritual ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ of Catholics,” said Smith. “They enable us to work in the field hospital of the sick and dying. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Catholics are being deprived of what is central to our faith — the sacraments. The sacraments are gifts of inestimable value. They open up for us the gates of Heaven and bestow upon us graces that enable us to be loving disciples of Christ our Savior.”

The open letter comes after a city in Texas was forced to walk back parts of their shelter-in-place order because it infringed on religious liberty rights. It includes practical suggestions on how to implement the restoration of the Sacraments, especially the Anointing of the Sick and the Eucharist, while adhering to CDC recommendations on personal protection.

“We hope bishops are pressing governments and hospitals to rescind policies that deny priests access to seriously sick and dying patients,” said Smith. “This is a matter of religious liberty! We should be free to practice our religion.”

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