President Donald Trump signed an executive order that proclaimed that all churches were required to open as essential businesses, whether they wanted to or not. It prompted one priest to explain that he's been working the whole time in ways that ensure the safety of those who need his blessings and prayers.
Speaking to CNN Sunday, Father Edward Beck explained that opening churches for massive congregations doesn't make people more likely to practice their faith than they should have been under quarantine.
"Who says that religious organizations haven't already been providing 'essential' services without this presidential 'blessing?'" asked Father Beck. "I am a Roman Catholic priest in the Passionist Community serving, at the moment, in New York. During this pandemic I have buried the dead at cemeteries — with limited family members present. I have prayed with people via FaceTime and Zoom. I even heard a confession in a supermarket parking lot."
"If instinct is to avoid harm and possible death, then, yeah, I think it has been instinct," he told CNN's Fredericka Whitfield. "I mean, we know that this virus is a killer. For a religious example, a rabbi in Brooklyn who contracted COVID-19 died and thousands of his congregants showed up for the funeral. Well, that's not common sense. It's not looking out for the common good, and certainly I think it's going against any instinct. So, yeah. I think the instinct has to lead us, but then our common sense also has to take over."
Whitfield asked what Father Beck tells congregants who feel guilty for not attending services in person.
He quoted the Commandments, saying that social distancing, quarantine and wearing a mask is simply an example of "love thy neighbor."
"I would say, throw that guilt in the river, and rather feel guilty about possibly putting your common man and woman in harm's way," the New Rochelle priest explained. "Love of God and love of neighbor, right now, means looking out for the common good. That's how love of the other is to be transferred. So, what you should feel guilty about, going against that. Not if you can't right now happen to participate in person. There are many other ways to access faith and spirituality. We are opening. Do it slowly, incrementally and safely."
Watch the interview below: