“This religious community will be denied its most fundamental right — the free exercise of religion — for no legitimate reason whatsoever.”

From the In My Backyard Desk:

The Diocese of Brooklyn is suing the state of New York over a new order that restricts some indoor Masses in New York City to just 10 people.

The diocese alleges that the new health restrictions by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, put in place in Queens and Brooklyn amid a new spike in the coronavirus, “arbitrarily reduce capacity” at churches which worked with public health officials earlier in the summer to reopen safely after the initial wave of the virus.

“If this latest executive order stands, parishioners won’t be able to go to Mass this Sunday, even though the Diocese has done everything right to ensure safe conditions in its churches,” said the diocese’s attorney Randy Mastro.

“Thus, this religious community will be denied its most fundamental right — the free exercise of religion — for no legitimate reason whatsoever.”

Earlier this week, Cuomo capped indoor religious services in Brooklyn and Queens at 10 people in the areas deemed most seriously affected by the virus, and at 25 people in some other areas.

The Brooklyn diocese joined all other U.S. Catholic dioceses in halting public Masses in March to help slow the spread of the virus. The churches were closed for 16 weeks until July 5 when they were allowed by the state and city to reopen with precautions.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said that churches in the diocese faithfully abided by new precautions including that Mass attendees wear masks and sit at least six feet apart.

“The executive orders this week have left us with no other option than to go to court,” DiMarzio stated on Thursday. The bishop called it “an insult” for the state “to once again penalize all those who have made the safe return to Church work.”

Read on. 

As my pastor noted in an interview this week, my parish — like many others in the diocese — has been slowly drawing back parishioners. Last week, we averaged 125-150 people at each of the four weekend Masses — roughly doubling the attendance we had in July and August. But we are in one of the zones that has seen a serious uptick in COVID cases, and our services are being restricted.

Plans for the coming weekend are to limit attendance to just 25 people for each Mass in the main church, but to use the convent chapel to accommodate another 25 people, while encouraging parishioners to join us for Mass online through the parish website.

There’s no getting around it: this is painful.

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