[Updated] Church Without Mass: Case Study in Green Bay, WI

[Update: With permission, we include here a “scrubbed” copy of a letter that has apparently been sent to several Wisconsinites who have written to their bishop requesting the restoration of Holy Mass. Almost incredibly, the bishop suggests in this letter that a secular government’s assessment of Mass as “non-essential” is a just law for the common good, even going so far as to claim that a Successor of the Apostles has the “duty to obey” such a determination.]

Maledictus qui facit opus Domini fraudulenter
“Cursed be he that doth the work of the LORD fraudulently”
(Jer 48:10)


A reader recently informed us of new liturgical guidelines issued by Bishop David Ricken for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The press release is viewable here, with guidelines here and a video here.

Before commenting on these directly, an aside: there appears to be a lot of COVID-19 materials on this diocesan “Be Not Afraid” page… even a (deplorably written, it must be said) Coronavirus Deliverance Prayer. The diocesan communications office must be fully staffed and functional to crank out this much content – one supposes there isn’t much else to do at the chancery!

On to the guidelines, Bishop Ricken insists: “a lot of time and prayer among many people has gone into preparing these guidelines,” and he looks forward “in the not too distant future” to “get back to partially filled churches, then maybe to completely filled churches in not too long a time.” So that’s great, in a maybe not so vague kind of partial way!

Church Without Mass? Green Bay Guidelines

For coming Sundays, parishes and chapels in the Green Bay Diocese may NOT hold public Masses, but may have a simple Communion Service, under stringent sanitary measures and gathering-size restrictions (which apparently are no longer binding viz. local government?).

Per the bishop’s Directives, these Communion Services

[W]ill include reading briefly from the Word of God, praying the Lord’s Prayer together, and receiving the Eucharist… [with] a small table with the proper items for sanitizing near the Communion station… only one Communion line… there should not be use of the communion rail… communicants may not stop or stay in the church prior to or after receiving Holy Communion… and should go immediately to their vehicle…

You get the picture.

Now, inasmuch as the above could easily describe a typical Sunday Mass in a Novus Ordo parish, one wonders why these Communion Services are being allowed, whereas Mass is not? Surely nobody would maintain that one is more likely to catch the Terribulous Virus at a Mass than at a Communion Service… and more puzzling still, why are weekday Masses permitted (under heavy restrictions, cf. guideline #4), but not on Sundays?

Apparently, this is due to some unexplained “particular circumstances of this diocese.” Whatever these circumstances are, it clearly has everything to do with the presence of a priest (this being the only essential difference between an NO Mass and this Communion Service) and the higher likelihood of the presence of the faithful at a Sunday Mass (because after all, who really goes to weekday Masses, anyways? Eh?).

So clearly we have a C-Y-A in effect here, to insure against possible litigation that could arise from resulting infection spikes if His Excellency permitted a full-on return to Sunday Mass (horror of horrors). To be fair, there may also be a real intention to protect the bodily health of the increasingly few priests among the (disproportionately aged) population of Northeast Wisconsin, as Bishop Ricken’s Directive #11 allows:

11. In the case that the presiding priest is at heightened risk due to age or pre-existing conditions he should not participate in the distribution of Holy Communion.

This probably covers just about every priest in his diocese.

Of course, these are two depressingly worldly calculations and contrary to the entire spiritual and canonical tradition of the Church, but there it is… complete with a prayer for wisdom as the Diocese seeks “to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of all people” – apparently in that order.

The estimable Dr. John Rao’s recent piece is spot on here (as is his latest one), and worth quoting:

These sad and lamentable prelates have made it crystal clear to the entire globe that laundromats and abortion mills are more “essential” to the life of man than the grace of Christ. Why would the world possibly take their “magisterial” teaching seriously after that kind of confession? How much of the spiritual literature of the Church must be rewritten to justify their new mentality? How foolish must we consider the priests of the Black Death who perished to give last rites to the sick in comparison with the sensible bishops of the present, huddled in their pointless palaces, warning the clergy of the physical dangers of shepherding the sheep?

Still, this bishop is at pains to avoid suggesting any kind of equivalence between these Communion Services and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. From his Directives:

Communion Services are never an alternative to the celebration of the Mass and must only be used for serious reasons. Living in this time of a global pandemic, which has led to thousands of deaths in our country, is a serious reason… We will stay the course, following the gating criteria as the health experts have shown at the Federal, State, even County level.

See, it’s not that a Communion Service is an alternative to the Mass… it’s just that it is. Or at least, it is for the time being. That is to say, Mass just isn’t all that essential. In fact, the diocesan website strongly suggests the Mass is non-essential:GBScreenshot

And apparently “this global pandemic, which has led to thousands of deaths in our country” fully justifies the unprecedented, canonically illegal, and indefinitely ongoing suspension of public worship; whereas diabetes, cardiac disease, and the seasonal flu – which are currently killing several times more people in our country – do not. These “health emergencies” are apparently not “grave” enough.

Or at least, not yet.

For, these guidelines are a superb exercise in social conditioning. There is no reasonable explanation for the continued prohibition of Sunday Masses in Green Bay, while Communion Services are nevertheless allowed and conducted by priests, as the new guidelines themselves envision.

…Unless, of course, your intention is to accustom someone to a Church without Mass.

The Introductory Rite for Green Bay’s proposed Communion Service is so thickly ironic as to be almost sickening. One need not comment further:

How gracious you are, Lord:
your gift of bread [sic] from heaven
reveals a Father’s love and brings us perfect joy.
You fill the hungry with good things
and send the rich away empty.


One begins to wonder if the faithful would have a case, if they brought suit against a diocese for failure to provide services?

Ah, well. In the meantime, at least we’re all staying safe and healthy, amiright?

Kyrie eleison.

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