Coronavirus FAQ for the Faithful

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During the time in which public Masses are suspended in the Archdiocese of Detroit, are Catholics in the archdiocese dispensed from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass?

Yes. In a letter to the faithful on March 12, Archbishop Vigneron wrote that all “are excused from your Sunday Mass obligation in situations where there is a physical or moral impossibility.” Although this was written prior to the decision to temporarily suspend public Masses locally, the subsequent decision certainly places a significant physical obstacle to attending Mass. Meanwhile, the risk of spreading disease, especially to those most vulnerable among us, presents a moral obstacle to attending Mass and other large events. Therefore, all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit are dispensed from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass until public Masses resume.

I live near a diocese that is still holding public Masses. Is it permissible for me to attend Mass outside the Archdiocese of Detroit during this time?

While each of us has God-given free will, all are encouraged to “love one another” by heeding the advice of healthcare experts and government officials to limit the size of public gatherings. By attending Mass elsewhere, we increase the size of that gathering and risk increasing the spread of illness. Rather than traveling to a neighboring diocese to attend Mass, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit are encouraged to participate in Mass by watching one of the many Masses being broadcast on television or streamed over the internet and to make an act of Spiritual Communion.

Does Archbishop have the authority to suspend Sunday Mass and our Mass obligation? I don’t want to commit a mortal sin.

Bishops have the authority to authorize or suspend the public offering of Mass within their diocese. In addition, they may offer the faithful in their care dispensation from their Sunday Mass obligation because of health concerns or during natural disasters. This dispensation means you do not commit a mortal sin by missing Mass.

However, this does not release the faithful from honoring the Lord’s Day on Sunday. We encourage all Catholics to honor this day by reading Sacred Scripture, making a Spiritual Communion while watching Mass on television or streamed online, and praying the Rosary or other prayers.

Where can I watch Mass now that there are no public, in-person options?

The Archdiocese of Detroit has an up-to-date list of broadcast and livestreamed Masses available at www.aod.org/livemasses.

Do I have a moral obligation to watch one of the Masses that are being livestreamed or recorded on social media, websites, and television?

With the cancellation of public Masses, the moral obligation to attend Sunday Mass has been lifted by Archbishop Vigneron. The faithful are dispensed from their obligation and therefore not required to watch a Mass. However, it is obviously highly encouraged.

How should Catholics respond to the Coronavirus?

Prayer! Providentially, we are in the Lenten season – a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. God is giving us this time to journey with Jesus on his way to the Cross.

According to Fr. Charles Fox, a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit, “We need to take the coronavirus seriously, but we should not panic. We are called to put our trust in the Lord, which is an act of supernatural faith. But we should not speak or act as if we have no concern at all about taking appropriate natural measures to prevent the spread of this illness.” Read his article here.

What can my family and I do at home if we’re not attending Mass?

It has long been a Catholic understanding that when circumstances prevent one from receiving Holy Communion, it is possible to make an Act of Spiritual Communion, which is a great source of grace. Spiritual Communion means uniting one’s self in prayer with Christ’s sacrifice and worshipping him in his Body and Blood.

In addition, all are encouraged to pray the Rosary, seeking the intercession of Our Blessed Mother for her counsel, consolation, protection and for an end to this virus.

How do Church closures affect other Sacraments and Sacramentals, specifically the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent? I’m concerned since I thought Catholics are supposed to make a good Confession before Easter.

We understand that many Catholics want to celebrate the Sacrament of Confession prior to Easter. While communal celebrations of the Sacrament of Reconciliation are suspended during this time – in order to avoid large gatherings – individual confessions may be heard at the discretion of the priest and with the proper care taken to prevent the spread of the virus.

The pastoral care of the faithful must always be paramount. Therefore, priests should consider the best options for the celebration of private confession for those in dire need of the sacrament. See the accompanying directives regarding sacramental confession and General Absolution.

We encourage the faithful to contact their parish to inquire about the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

How about the Anointing of the Sick, especially those in hospitals? Who should I call?

If you or a loved one is sick, or near death, you should call the priests at your parish. Archbishop Vigneron has asked priests to be generous with their time and prudent with their actions. Our priests must follow the guidance of health care facilities, some of which may only allow their own chaplains to minister to those with COVID-19 since they receive intensive training regarding safety protocols.

What if a loved one dies? Can I still have a funeral Mass?

Funerals are to be suspended during this time. Graveside services are still permitted provided they observe proper social distancing.

 

What about weddings?

Weddings are to be suspended during this time.

My child is scheduled to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation during this time. Will that still occur?

Parish Confirmations scheduled for the remainder of 2020 are suspended until further notice. Plans for their resumption will be examined at a later date.

My child was scheduled to be baptized during this time, now what?

Baptisms are also to be suspended during this time. Where there is a real danger of death, the person should be baptized in the hospital or home of the parents. In danger of death, the faithful should consult with their pastors.

What about First Communions?

First Communions generally occur after Easter. Thus, at this point, we are hopeful these joyful First Eucharist celebrations will still occur.

I’m currently in the RCIA process at my parish and I’ve been looking forward to my full entrance into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. Is that postponed?

Archbishop Vigneron will determine a suitable time for the reception of these members into the Church. This will be announced in advance to allow proper preparation. At the time of the announcement, a plan for (or dispensation from) the Scrutinies will be announced (RCIA, 20, 30).

Catechumens and Candidates for Full Communion have been a part of the RCIA process for many months and are supported by the RCIA team and parish. Part of our Easter joy is the parish seeing and celebrating their entrance into the Church.

In the case of an emergency, a person may at any time be baptized, confirmed or received into the Church.

Is the suspension of Masses unprecedented in the Archdiocese of Detroit?

While some dioceses have suspended Masses because of health issues or natural disasters, to the best of our archival knowledge, we have not.

Why were Masses suspended in the Archdiocese of Detroit?

The Church has always had great esteem for experts in the scientific fields. We rely on their expertise and best judgment to give us counsel and advice for how best to respond to issues that arise. The expertise from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) along with local health care experts, including leadership at Ascension Health, shared the imminent need for drastic measures to ensure that the spread of COVID-19 can be managed. We have seen many large-scale organizations – from sporting events to conferences and concerts – postponed and rescheduled due to this counsel. We, as the largest faith-based organization in the state of Michigan, have an important responsibility to do our part. Canceling Masses and all other parish activities is a very serious step. However, it was determined to be necessary to ensure that medical providers are not overwhelmed by the rapid spread of this virus. By taking these measures, the Catholic Church in Metro Detroit is demonstrating our cooperation with the best of the scientific community’s recommendations and our commitment to caring for one another, especially those most vulnerable to illness or death due to COVID-19.

What should a parish do if a parishioner dies?

If a member of the parish dies, the family should handle this in normal fashion by contacting the funeral home. At this time, in order to keep the community safe, Funeral Masses or other services in the church are not permitted. Additionally, clergy are not permitted to perform services in funeral homes for the same reason. This does not mean, however, that the parish is not able to support the loved ones and pray for the deceased. A graveside service is permitted, since it will be outside, and a Memorial Mass can be scheduled at a later time to allow the family and friends to gather around the Sacrifice of the Altar for the repose of the loved one’s soul.

What should I do if my wedding is scheduled during the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order?

Weddings are not permitted during this executive order. You should contact the deacon or priest who is scheduled to assist at your wedding to determine a new course of action.

I heard that churches were exempt from the governor’s executive order; is this true?

The enumerated Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the United States, particularly the first amendment protecting all people against the prohibition of the free exercise of religion, enshrines our most precious liberties. The Archdiocese of Detroit desires to work closely with government leaders and local health officials to keep our local community safe. The extraordinary measures of not holding public gatherings – including Holy Week liturgies and Easter Sunday Mass – demonstrates the Catholic Church’s cooperation with these leaders to secure the common good. It is an act of justice and charity to help protect everyone in society since COVID-19 can spread so rapidly and so easily.

Are churches open during this executive order?

While we are cooperating with the governor’s order and not holding public gatherings, parish churches can remain open for the spiritual well-being of the faithful and for all of society. As people of faith, it is important for us to pray for an end to this pandemic, as well as praying for health care workers, government leaders, the sick, and all those who are most acutely affected by COVID-19. It is up to the discretion of each pastor to determine if his parish church can be kept clean enough to be open and what hours the parish church will be open. Additionally, priests can hear confessions (particularly of the sick and dying), anoint the sick, and provide digital ways for the faithful to remain connected to their parish community and grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.  

What about parish outreach ministries (food pantries, blood drives, parish nurses, etc.)? Will they still be available during the time of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order?

Food pantries and blood drives are considered essential services and may, at the discretion of the pastor, remain open. Other parish outreach ministries may remain operational at the discretion of the pastor. 

I asked my parish to offer Mass for an intention. With no public Masses, will that intention still be prayed for?

Priests are reminded of their obligation to fulfill Mass intentions which have been allocated. Collective Mass intentions are permitted twice a week if the donors agree to such. If Mass intentions cannot be fulfilled in the near future, the intention (and the attached stipend) should be sent to priests at other entities, such as the missions or Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where they can be fulfilled.

Will blessed palms be distributed on Palm Sunday or during Holy Week?

Palms are not to be distributed in the parish during the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order and may be distributed at a later time.

I know that parishes usually receive new Holy Oils following the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday. Without a publicly-celebrated Chrism Mass, how will parishes receive Holy Oils?

Arrangements will be made for the oils to be distributed to the parishes through the vicars.

Even though public liturgies are suspended, can parishes celebrate those liturgies privately and stream them over the internet (whether through the parish’s website, Facebook page or other means)?

Yes. Holy Week Services are to be continued in parishes which are able. Pastors are to take into account all of the other guidelines and principles for private liturgies during this pandemic. 

Can a priest hear confession over the phone?
With regard to Penance, it is clear that the Sacrament is not to be celebrated via cell phone. In addition, in the present circumstances cell phones should not be used even for the amplification of voices between a confessor and penitent who are in visual range of each other. Current threats against the seal of confession also raise questions about information on cell phones.
 
When it is impossible to receive sacramental absolution through individual confession, perfect contrition obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1452). Perfect contrition consists of:
  1. The love of God, beloved above all things, expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (that which the penitent is at present able to express) and
  2. The firm resolution to go to sacramental confession as soon as possible.
How can I support my Church right now?

 The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges to the Archdiocese of Detroit and our parishes, including offertory funds lost due to the suspension of public liturgies. Parishes rely on the generosity of their members to cover expenses related to ministry, maintenance, staffing, community outreach programs and other pressing needs.

Please consider making a one-time or recurring gift to your parish to support the vital ministries and services it provides.

How do I make an online donation to my parish?

Your parish may have an offertory and donation platform set up online. Check your parish website for more information.

If your parish does not have online giving or if you want to make a quick donation, go to give.aod.org to make a gift to your parish. Thank you for supporting your parish at this critical time.

How can I make a gift to the Archdiocese of Detroit?

Visit give.aod.org to make a gift to the Archdiocese of Detroit. Please be assured of Archbishop Vigneron's prayers and the prayers of those who minister through your generosity.