The Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, said that the on-going restrictions placed on religious worship by the city of San Francisco are “an injustice” that must be fought against and “eradicated.”
In an interview with the Daily Caller, Cordileone said that when the pandemic was beginning and civil authorities issued lockdown orders, he agreed to temporarily cease religious services in order to help “flatten the curve.” But the length and extent of the ban has become too much for him to abide. (RELATED: ‘Serious Deprivation Of Our Rights’: San Francisco Archbishop Demands Mayor End ‘Excessive’ Worship Restrictions, Cites First Amendment)
“There was much we did not understand, so shelter in place orders were severe,” the archbishop said. “I was aware at that time that the government did not have the right to tell us to close our churches, but I consciously did not speak out on this because of the importance of cooperating with our government leaders in working to ‘flatten the curve.’ All along I’ve tried to be a partner with government leaders in caring for our people.”
Cordileone continued,”But when we started to understand the virus better and get the spread under control, and things starting opening up, we started being treated differently from others. This is what has changed.”
Outdoor gatherings of more than 12 people are still banned in San Francisco, though Mayor London Breed has said that residents can expect places of worship to open “by mid-September.”
By end of September:
• Indoor personal services, like hair salons, nail salons, barbers, & massages;
• Places of worship;
• One-on-one personal training sessions or solo personal training;
• Tattoos & piercings.
All must be done safely with masks and capacity limits.
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) September 1, 2020
However, Breed has made it clear that these plans are only temporary, and has threatened to walk back these re-openings should they not meet “key health indicators” in the future.
The archbishop is demanding that the right to worship be re-instated immediately, and without conditions.
I want to stress again that as we move forward the most important thing is protecting public health. We don’t want to move forward only to have to once again take a step back.
All of these plans are subject to our city meeting key health indicators as we move forward.
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) September 1, 2020
“Many types of activities are allowed to operate while people continue to get infected. Infections, then, are obviously continuing to happen in those venues – grocery stores, restaurants, crowded parks, street protests, day care centers, airports, etc. The people are getting infected somewhere, yet, the government does not shut down those activities.”
“The state has no right to decide whether or not [to] worship, nor what kind of worship, is essential,” Cordileone said. “It does have a legitimate public health interest in guidelines to help churches worship safely, such as social distancing and masks, as long as they apply to everyone else – just like the government can tell the Church it must meet the same building codes as everyone else, but it cannot tell the Church how to design the liturgical space.”
As to whether he would be prepared to openly defy the local authorities and perform mass against pandemic restrictions, the archbishop said he would rather not focus on disobedience, but that Catholics had an obligation to “eradicate injustice wherever we find it.”
“I really prefer not to go there. Our faith dictates that we are to respect our governing authorities and exercise responsible citizenship. But it also calls us to eradicate injustice wherever we find it. We have been tolerating an injustice against us for months now.”
Cordileone cited statistics provided by the Becket Fund, a religious liberty non-profit, that currently tracks and analyzes state policy in the face of the pandemic.
According to the Becket Fund, 31 states currently have no state-wide regulation on worship, while 14 have placed limits on religious gatherings on par with other facets of society. Six states have prohibited religious worship or have placed unequal restrictions on it.
“San Francisco’s health guidelines are more restrictive than even Governor Gavin Newsom’s. No other Bay Area government has tried to restrict the Mass to 12 people outside for indefinite months,” Cordileone said.
Cordileone maintains that worship in the near-future will take full precautions to prevent any viral spread. This includes masks, sanitation, and outdoor worship.
“I will be working every day with my priests to keep both my people and my San Francisco neighbors safe while offering the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ to the faithful. I do not see why the Mass is less likely to be safe in San Francisco than Atlanta, or New York City, or Phoenix.”
Breed recently posted images of herself with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an LGBT non-profit that hosts contests and social events featuring costumed attendees dressed as sexualized versions of sacred figures, including Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.
I went out with @sfsisters and @RafaelMandelman to hand out masks today at Dolores Park because we know that everyone wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways we can prevent the spread of COVID-19. #MasktheSFup pic.twitter.com/K7mC4cjdYq
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) September 5, 2020