The Association of Catholic Priests, a group representing over 1,000 priests in Ireland, has warned that a premature return to public Masses amid the coronavirus pandemic – before the date determined by health authorities, that of July 20 – would be “grossly irresponsible”.

“Moral responsibility trumps our individual rights”

Statement from the Association of Catholic Priests on COVID-19 Pandemic

(Source: Association of Catholic Priests)

In these strange coronavirus days those entrusted with the important and delicate task of seeking a balance between protecting life and a gradual and necessary opening up of the economy are to be commended for their careful, prudent and responsible approach.

In the first phase of this pandemic – as the sufferings, illnesses and deaths of thousands of Irish people attest – care, prudence and responsibility were established as the benchmarks against which the next phase of this national crisis can be measured.

An obvious danger is that groups, with real and reasonable fears around mental health, employment, business and social activities, may seek unreasonably to force their private agendas on the present careful process.

In these circumstances, leaders in Irish society – not least the leaders of the Christian churches – ­will be expected to give a robust and responsible example.

Efforts at present effectively demanding that churches be kept open, that public Masses be reinstated and that ‘rights’ to pray in churches be upheld are being canvassed by individuals and groups with their own self-serving and self-interested agendas.

In the present context, gathering people together – especially elderly people who are most at risk – is grossly irresponsible and will lead to great pain, suffering and loss of life for many individuals and families, so churches or religious groups claiming entitlement to special treatment is inappropriate and unacceptable.

As Christians, particularly in these difficult days, we need to be selfless rather than selfish,  and focussed on the needs of others, (especially the elderly and vulnerable) rather than on our own ‘rights’.

At this point in the on-going coronavirus pandemic, moral responsibility trumps our individual rights.

– Saturday May 23 2020

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.