Bishop Cozzens: Bishops offering wider opening of Masses is not civil disobedience

| May 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

In his second livestreamed “Quarantine with Cozzens” conversation for young adults May 21, Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Minnesota bishops offering parishes the opportunity to broaden Mass attendance during the coronavirus pandemic does not amount to civil disobedience.

“We actually believe the law is on our side,” Bishop Cozzens said of the plan to allow parishes to offer public Masses starting May 26 at one-third capacity, along with additional safety precautions, to help curb the spread of the virus. Gov. Tim Walz’s recent directives stated that 10 or fewer people should be at religious gatherings.

During the livestream Q&A with submitted questions, Bishop Cozzens was asked how many times he had been arrested for civil disobedience during college. He said six to eight times for blocking the entrance to abortion clinics, and he served some time in jail. But the bishop doesn’t see disagreeing with the governor’s limit on religious gatherings as civil disobedience.

“We have an amendment of the Constitution that allows us and gives us the responsibility to decide when we’re supposed to worship, the First Amendment,” Bishop Cozzens said. “So we’re not too worried about that.”

Asked if he thought priests were willing to be arrested for going against the state directive, Bishop Cozzens said he thought a few of them would be, but he didn’t believe that was going to happen.

“We’re still trying very much to work with the governor,” he said. “We’re actually quite hopeful of working out a plan together to go forward. We’re just at a certain point; we had to say what we needed to say, and do what we needed to do.”

The livestream followed an April 23 event as the second in a series called “Quarantine with Cozzens: Conversation for Young Adults.” Vincenzo Randazzo, evangelization manager for the archdiocese’s Office of Marriage, Family and Life, served as moderator.

“As we said in the letter (to the faithful), it wasn’t the governor that forced the bishops to suspend Masses,” Bishop Cozzens said. “We were advised by the Minnesota Department of Health, but we made the decision ourselves that, in accord with our understanding of prudence, that this was a smart thing to do. And we also then realized that it wasn’t the governor’s decision to allow us to open Masses, but that we had to make the decision for what is best for our people.”

Bishop Cozzens said it became clear that the bishops had two moral responsibilities: to provide the Eucharist and to allow people to fulfill their duty to worship. “We take that as a solemn responsibility,” he said. “Of course, we also have the solemn responsibility to keep people safe.” Strict protocols covering factors from sanitization procedures to social distancing are required before parishes can open Mass to one-third their church’s space.

During the livestream, Bishop Cozzens recalled recently driving south on Highway 169 to New Ulm, and passing what is billed as the “world’s largest candy store.” He saw more than 100 cars in the parking lot and a line to get in longer than a football field.

“And that’s when it hit me … If you can go in there and get candy, why can’t you come to a church and have the Eucharist, you know, and which is actually more important?”

Many questions submitted for the chat pertained to Mass and the pandemic. Others turned to Bishop Cozzens’ favorite Scripture verse during difficult times, his favorite metaphor for the Church and favorite restaurants these days for ordering food.


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