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Bob Dunning: Get us to the church on time

While I have been completely supportive of the stay-at-home, wear-your-mask, keep-your-distance guidelines imposed by our various civil authorities, they have at times been inconvenient, frustrating and disturbingly disruptive to the way I’d like to live my life.

I realize, however, that the minor irritations that pop up for me almost every day pale in comparison to the 330,000 lives lost worldwide and the suffering and heartbreak those deaths have caused for everyone who has loved those people throughout their lives. 

365体育投注My family and I are getting through each day just fine as we take note of the gradual easing of restrictions that gives us all hope that brighter days are just around the corner.

365体育投注We can’t wait for the day when the kids can return to school, when we can safely attend a baseball game, when we can all go out for pizza and when we as a family can return to attending Sunday Mass with our fellow parishioners.

Which brings me to the great state of Minnesota, a place I’m incredibly fond of, mostly because it’s the place where my parents met and, shortly thereafter, married. But for Minnesota and that first magical meeting between Jim and Dorothy, there’s pretty much a 100 percent chance that my life would never have happened.

365体育投注Like so many other states, Minnesota has gone through the various stages of this pandemic, but has now started to dramatically ease restrictions under the careful guidance of Gov. Tim Walz.

365体育投注According to a report from TV station KSTP in Minneapolis/St. Paul, “Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday that the state will implement a phased reopening of bars, restaurants, barbershops and salons.”

Not to mention casinos and malls, including the world famous Mall of America. Big Box stores like Minneapolis-based Target have been open all along.

However, “the governor plans to continue to limit church services to 10 people or less, inside or outside.”

Which makes absolutely no sense, given that bars and restaurants and many other businesses will be able to operate at 50 percent of capacity, which in most cases is a far greater number than 10. And don’t forget about those essential casinos.

Ironically, church leaders in Minnesota, primarily Catholic and Lutheran, have been supportive of the previous restrictions, figuring they would be allowed a limited opening in line with the opening of other activities when the time was right.

As it turns out, to the governor’s way of thinking, the time appears to be right for just about every activity except going to church.

I have always felt that religious institutions and their houses of worship should be treated on equal footing with the rest of society when it comes to things like dealing with a global pandemic, fire safety, building codes and the like. No special treatment, but no discrimination.

Granted, the First Amendment does reserve a special place for religious freedom, along with freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Virtually all churches in Minnesota closed voluntarily before the state compelled them to do so.

As the Catholic bishops of the state explained in a letter released just yesterday, “Our decision to suspend the public celebration of Mass was painful. We made that decision because we judged that the circumstances required it.”

365体育投注Added the bishops, “It is now permissible for an unspecified number of people to go to shopping malls and enter stores, so long as no more than 50 percent occupancy is reached. Big box stores have hundreds of people inside at any one time, and the number of goods that are being handled and distributed in one store by many people — stock staff, customers, cashiers — is astounding. Workers are present for many hours per day, often in close proximity.

“In these circumstances, and given the well-researched protocols that we have proposed, how can reason require us any longer to keep our faithful from the Eucharist? An order that sweeps so broadly that it prohibits a gathering of 11 people in a cathedral with a seating capacity of several thousand defies reason.”

365体育投注Indeed, the governor’s refusal to modify this requirement is virtually impossible to justify given the significant loosening of restrictions everywhere else in the state.

365体育投注Stated Walz in defense of his position, “I confess on this one that we struggle on some of these things and there is not a perfect answer.”

However, Walz added, “Restaurants and bars are integral. They’re the places where we had first dates. They’re the places where we celebrate our anniversaries. They’re the places where we gather together on special moments, and they make life just a little bit better. If it’s a local brewery or a Juicy Lucy or a walleye dinner, Minnesotans are going to be able to get back out there.”

365体育投注The Church, unfortunately, does not serve walleye dinners during Mass, though it might do so in the basement of the parish hall on Friday nights during Lent.

Wrote the bishops, “The governor’s remarks further underscore a failure to appreciate the role of our church and other faith groups in serving the community. The human cost of this pandemic has been extraordinary, not just in terms of lives lost to the virus, but the rapidly growing problems of job loss, depression, crime and violence, and substance abuse. As Pope Francis has said, the church must be a field hospital, ministering to all, especially the poor and the vulnerable. He has cautioned that overly drastic measures that limit church life will have a disproportionate impact on those who have no one to rely on.”

365体育投注It’s time for Gov. Walz to put churches on equal footing with malls, casinos, tattoo parlors, restaurants, bars and many other activities in his beautiful state.

Jim and Dorothy, married in St. Paul 80 years ago before one priest, two witnesses and Almighty God, would be pleased.

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

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