“Political elites issuing health orders that they themselves don’t obey—and destroying countless livelihoods without any scientific basis for such action—is infuriating,” Archbishop Cordileone noted, in reference to government officials not abiding by public health orders.
Cordileone added that such episodes were “especially” infuriating for Catholics, who had scientific proof that indoor Masses could be celebrated safely.
“Only religious authorities have the right to determine which religious services are essential for their people,” he wrote.
The Archdiocese of San Francisco has battled public authorities for months on worship restrictions. After churches were ordered closed for months due to the pandemic, Archbishop Cordileone marched in outdoor Eucharistic processions in protest, and said that the restrictions were mocking God.
In mid-September, the city allowed for outdoor worship services to accommodate 50 people at once, but still allowed only one person at a time inside a church building. After the Justice Department told the city its rules might be unconstitutional, San Francisco then allowed for indoor worship at 25% capacity.
Then in November, the state determined that San Francisco and San Mateo counties were among the areas at highest risk of COVID-19 spread. Under the state rules, the counties could not allow indoor worship services—although other businesses such as hair and nail salons, massage parlors, and tattoo parlors could remain open.
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Critics of the order noted that religious worship was being treated more harshly than were secular activities.
A week before Christmas, the archbishop said he instructed priests to offer Mass indoors “if weather or safety required it,” in contravention of the state order against indoor worship.
“I knew my people had to have access to the Eucharist, rain or shine,” he said in his op-ed. Archbishop Cordileone noted that he instituted safety measures for indoor Masses, including an attendance cap at 20% capacity and requirements to wear masks and socially distance.