Rorate Caeli

Drive-in Masses: Why Not?

Today's Wall Street Journal features an article on page A11 entitled "Conservative Catholics Decry Halt on Masses; Vocal minority sounds an alarm, saying crisis raises the need for the church even more."  Francis X. Rocca, the paper's Vatican correspondent, features several voices, including this writer's:

"U.S. dioceses are really turning into the political equivalent of red dioceses and blue dioceses, depending on their bishop," said Kenneth J. Wolfe, a contributor to the traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli.  "The difference between Baltimore, which is forbidding even the sacrament of penance, and nearby Arlington, which has almost every church open for 10 or fewer people, is staggering."

According to the Archdiocese of Baltimore's website, "It is no longer deemed safe to administer the sacrament (confession) during the present health crisis, therefore the sacrament is only available to those for whom death may be imminent."

Above that quote is a photograph from another diocese of a priest granting absolution via a drive-up confessional, where the penitent stays in his car and the priest is six feet away to offer the sacrament of penance. The arrangement is likely more physically safe than going to the legally open liquor store, or even the supermarket.

To that end, there is no legitimate excuse for bishops to prohibit confession during the pandemic, knowing souls could perish with mortal sin. As much as it would be nice to know when each of us will die, often we know not the day nor hour.

Thankfully most U.S. dioceses are readily providing the sacrament of penance, baptisms and last rites, even if some bishops, archbishops and cardinals have abandoned their flock.  The open question is on public Masses, currently prohibited (by bishops, not by the state) in every diocese in America.  Yet, there is an option that is both safe and legal in many places, particularly in the suburbs:

Why on earth are bishops not encouraging drive-in Masses during the coronavirus pandemic?

The Fraternity of Saint Peter and the Society of Saint Pius X have been experimenting with such drive-in Masses.  Michael Matt at The Remnant shared video from one in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  Lucas Richard Photography has shared pictures of another at its public page

This image begs the question: why not?

Drive-up Masses (this writer attended one yesterday) obviously need firm rules. An open parking lot or field needs to be identified or even rented.  Members of the congregation should not get out of their cars during the Mass.  An audio conference line, muted, should be set up with a microphone from the makeshift altar. Finally, spiritual communion should be promoted.  Although some drive-in Masses are offering public communion, this is likely a deal-killer for most dioceses should the idea of drive-in Masses pick up steam. The pandemic is a teachable moment where Catholics can learn communion for the faithful was not assumed to be a right until the 20th century.

Priests who have worked hard to livestream traditional Latin Masses are to be thanked.  They have been helpful to many Catholics.  But as lovely as computer Masses are as an aid for shut-ins, Catholics want and need more than a video screen. As Rorate stated yesterday, the Catholic religion is intrinsically social and inherently physical.

If the salvation of souls is not enough to allow drive-in Masses and confessions during the pandemic, perhaps the thought of an offertory bucket coming in and out of the parking lot would get the attention of U.S. bishops.