Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Wednesday 28 July |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Stanley Rother
home iconNews
line break icon

Infectious disease expert supports federal guidelines on reopening churches

Courtesy of Dr. Timothy Flanigan

John Burger - published on 05/27/20 - updated on 05/27/20

Is a house of worship safe in the time of pandemic? It's likely to be, if it follows CDC protocols, says Dr. Timothy Flanigan.

The decision of some U.S. governors to regard church services as “non-essential” during the coronavirus pandemic was a mistake, says a prominent physician. But he expressed strong support for guidelines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued so that houses of worship can safely welcome their flocks back.

Dr. Timothy Flanigan, a professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University who served in Liberia during the Ebola epidemic in 2014, made his comments during an interview with Catholic News Agency. He said that if anyone has reservations about going to church as houses of worship begin to open again, the answer is based in large part on whether the church is following CDC guidelines. The federal agency has a special section on its website devoted to “Community and Faith-Based Organizations.”

“CDC offers the following general considerations to help communities of faith discern how best to practice their beliefs while keeping their staff and congregations safe,” the agency says in an introduction. “Millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life. For many faith traditions, gathering together for worship is at the heart of what it means to be a community of faith. But as Americans are now aware, gatherings present a risk for increasing spread of COVID-19 during this Public Health Emergency. CDC offers these suggestions for faith communities to consider and accept, reject, or modify, consistent with their own faith traditions, in the course of preparing to reconvene for in-person gatherings while still working to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

A number of Catholic dioceses have been issuing their own plans and guidelines for reopening parishes. Some have relied on guidelines developed by the Thomistic Institute at the Pontifical Faculty of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. Flanigan, who is also a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, assisted in developing those guidelines.

“The question is: can I follow the CDC guidance just as carefully, in each setting, in order to decrease transmission of coronavirus?” Flanigan said in the CNA interview, which was conducted May 21. “Can I maintain safe distancing? Can I maintain good hand hygiene? Can I ensure that I am not ill?”

Just as important, in Flanigan’s view, is the mental and spiritual health that churches naturally support.

“Being able to come together and pray together, being able to receive the sacraments, to encounter the Lord, right there in the sacraments, is so important,” he told the news service. “We are a whole self, which has a mind, a body, a heart a soul. To be able to pray together, to be able to support each other, to be able to worship together, to be able to receive the Lord in communion, is so important for us to be healthy and to thrive.”

“That is why our churches are essential,” he told CNA. “That is why this whole argument of essential vs. non-essential was a mistake, and not supported by anyone. Some governors just made assumptions that church is non-essential, and that is a grave error. It is an error from the public health point of view,…” One hallmark of the Covid-19 pandemic, he said, is isolation. “We are alone in the hospital, we are alone in our nursing homes, we are alone with our fear at two o’clock in the morning. The way we normally get our support is suddenly taken away from us,” he reflected. “That alone-ness is very very difficult. The evil one can attack us, gravely, during these times.”

The entire interview can  be read here.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Philip Kosloski
This morning prayer is easy to memorize
J-P Mauro
Reconstructing a 12th-century pipe organ discovered in the Holy L...
Joachim and Anne
Philip Kosloski
Did Jesus know his grandparents?
Daniel Esparza
5 Curious things you might not know about Catholicism
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been know...
Cerith Gardiner
5 Ways grandparents impact our lives for the better
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.