Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has flagged allowing drive-by confessions as part of “creative responses” to maintaining religious observances after COVID-19 caused a shutdown of non-essential services. Source: The Australian.
Archbishop Fisher raised the proposal in a letter to the Sydney Archdiocese yesterday that detailed the latest restrictions on Church activity, starting with the suspension of public masses and communal devotions until further notice.
Archbishop Fisher urged congregations to instead view regular “Mass for You at Home broadcasts” on TV, watch live-streamed online services available from certain parishes or find ways to “pray from home”.
He said creative responses to church closures such as “drive-by confessions or confessionals set up outdoors” could go ahead with appropriate respect for privacy and subject to rules on social distancing.
Reminding followers of British convict settlement days, when Mass was not allowed to be performed, the Archbishop said: “Just as prayer sustained them through those times, so can it for us today. The spirit of those first Australian Catholics should inspire us through the times ahead.”
Under rules confirmed yesterday, Catholic churches will be closed to services and private prayer. The news came a day after Protestant churches, synagogues and mosques said they had agreed to hold “virtual services” online.
The Church response was delayed because of continuing discussions between its leaders and the Health Department related to what services might be able to continue to allow religious observance without breaching social-distancing rules. It is understood the main issue discussed was hygiene.
Archbishop Fisher said private Masses and religious gatherings outside church did seem “permissible” under government rules “for very small groups” in people’s homes. Baptisms are to be suspended for six months, except in cases where a baby’s life might be at risk.
The Archbishop said the faithful should accept the continuing importance of examining conscience and making an act of contrition while dispensed from their annual duties until they can be resumed.
“Priests may and should respond to individual requests for the Sacrament of Penance but may not advertise or open the church for confessions.