Catholic World Report

Oakland bishop: Unmasked Massgoers should not be ‘policed’

Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland/ Diocese of Oakland

The bishop of Oakland, California on Monday said that Catholics fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not have to wear masks at Mass, adding that those not vaccinated will not be forced to wear a mask.

“The mask rules for offices, schools, travel, public transportation and businesses are still being worked out by government health officials. But churchgoers may dispense with the mask if they have been vaccinated,” Bishop Michael Barber, SJ wrote in a June 21 column. He added that no one should be “forced or requested to prove their vaccination status to participate in worship.”

Those who are not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 are asked to continue to wear masks at Mass, Barber said, but the new protocols are based on the “honor system.” He cautioned that “no one should be criticized if they choose not to be vaccinated, and/or wear a mask inside our churches.”

“Our ushers and greeters should extend a warm welcome and answer questions about the new policy, but they should never be used as ‘mask police,’” the bishop wrote.

Dioceses across the country are continuing to lift the general dispensations from the Sunday Mass obligation, put in place last year due to the pandemic. The dispensation in the diocese of Oakland will end on Sunday, Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption.

“I extend a warm ‘welcome home’ to our parishioners, who have been starving spiritually during this pandemic,” Barber concluded.

“The Lord has given us ‘Bread from heaven, containing all sweetness within it.’ Let us do what the Good Shepherd commands us and open wide our doors to ‘Feed His lambs, feed His sheep’,” he said.

California’s Alameda County, which includes the city of Oakland, has recorded about 90,000 total cases of COVID-19.

Other dioceses have similarly discouraged “policing” of the vaccination status of Mass attendees.

The Diocese of LaCrosse, Wisconsin announced on Tuesday the reinstatement of the Sunday obligation on the weekend of June 26-27. Bishop William Callahan noted that “vaccinated-only” Masses are not allowed, and that “checking vaccination status of Mass attendees is also not permitted.”

The ecclesiastical provinces of Baltimore and Washington – which include the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the dioceses of Wilmington, Arlington, Richmond, and Wheeling-Charleston – will lift the dispensation that same weekend. Fully vaccinated people will not need to wear a mask at Mass, and “do not need to supply proof of vaccination,” the dioceses announced recently, adding that “parishes should not ask to see or check vaccination cards.”

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  1. To those of us who are living in “freer” parts of the country, it is obvious the Bishop is dealing with something which HAS been happening, and all which comes to mind is,
    “Kahn eye zee your papurz pleez? Your papurz do not zeem to be in ohhhrder.”

    When I was a child, this was something only in dictatorships and NEVER in the United States. Checkpoints everywhere today. And all to keep us “safe”. And everyone feels safer today, right?

  2. They need to go the next step and simply say that no one needs to wear a mask, period, which is what should have been done last year. But at least the “no mask police” attitude is a small step in the right direction.

  3. Should the reception of the Eucharist also be “on the honor system” or should the very Body and Blood of Christ be treated as something of utmost consequence? Should someone who actively advocates the slaughter of the innocent and defenseless be cautioned not to approach the altar to receive the Body of Christ? Is someone in Communion with Christ if they advocate the killing of the innocent? It seems to me that bishops are spending too much time and energy on “masks” while they are avoiding are far easier task of governance about the proper reception of the Eucharist.

  4. Amen to that. Our bishops and catechists need to assume that many in the pew are not properly catechized about the reception of the Holy Eucharist, being in the state of grace, having gone to Confession recently, etc. If a drop in the collection plate results, after such catechizing, so be it. The Lord does not abandon any of us at any time. This is where Faith comes in. The bottom line is NOT how much $$$ is taken in during a month or a year. If we truly believe God always provides our shepherds should be emboldened to speak the truth at all times. In fact, if we do not hear the “hard truths” from the pulpit, maybe a change of parish or even a diocese is in order, in my opinion.

  5. Bravo. Finally. I was in the Oakland Diocese only last month to visit family and that parish was STILL having Sunday Mass outside!!! In NY, we have been having indoor Mass for many months. California is the most crazy of all the blue states. I had covid and I have also been vaccinated. Lately I have stopped wearing my mask into businesses like the grocery store and restaurants. Whats the point of vaccination if we are going to continue to wear these masks forever? And I will ask, why is the Sunday obligation still 2 months away?? My diocese is saying the same thing. Is there a REAL, sensible point in the further delay?

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