The unique situation we find ourselves in is getting worse by the day, with the peak several weeks away, and suspected cases of COVID-19 among some of our faithful already. No one can predict exactly how long these circumstances will last, but it may get worse before it gets better, and it might take longer than we expect. Severe restrictions on public life impact our apostolate.
For as long as we could, we kept our public apostolate as normal as possible. Your priests have tried, in recent weeks, to assure Masses and confessions in unusual or difficult scenarios: doing what we could, keeping our chapels open when all other places had closed for weeks before us. That time, I’m afraid, is at an end for most locations. Stay-at-home orders, restrictions to small groups, and obligatory social distancing make it impossible in almost all the places to serve our faithful and guarantee their health, even where we multiply the number of Masses. Please thank your priests for their tireless courage and extra work in these times! We must protect all of you, our priests, and the common good of the SSPX.
Sadly, we have to acknowledge the impossibility of exercising our apostolate as usual. In-person education in our schools has already ended. Outside of our control, in most places, Masses have been canceled over the past three weeks. Public sacramental life has dwindled away as more restrictive rulings have been made. Prudence demands I cancel most public Masses.
Believe me when I say I have never made such a hard decision in my many years of being a priest, let alone a superior. The present situation is unique and threatens all of us, especially those who are dear to us: our parents, the elderly, the pioneer faithful and priests of our Society. We must do what we can to protect them and cooperate with all legitimate authorities, in spirit not only in letter, to keep the virus away from our homes and chapels and to focus on the care of those who are already and who will be affected. For some of you, this decision is long overdue; for others, it comes too early. It is taken for the sole purpose of protecting your lives, physical and, as strange as it might sound, supernatural. Providence calls us to practice selfless charity towards our neighbor.
Alas, this situation is not new! Perhaps in degree, but not in kind. The Church has historically "shut things down" during times of pandemic. Please see here a short historical series by Fr. Iscara on our website. (See related articles below.)
Of course, we priests will continue to offer the Mass and pray the Divine Office, the public prayer of the Church, with the Church. We implore God every day to put an end to this situation. We keep you in our priestly hearts begging for the supernatural light to see God's hand, to understand His ways, and to grow in the Faith in these adverse circumstances.
We will, of course, continue to tend to your spiritual needs. Confession, Communion and Extreme Unction are still permitted, on a request-by-request basis, being prudent in all things. I also encourage priests where possible to keep our chapels open for private prayer, following the legal guidelines. From the District, we have made sure that the priests are close to you and can come to your aid whenever you call on them. I have also encouraged the priests to make more liberal use of Extreme Unction in these times, not waiting, for instance, for hospitalization to administer this powerful sacrament. Consider that some of our priests will now put their lives in danger to administer Extreme Unction! Never hesitate to call for guidance or to ask for priestly support, for Communion, confession, Extreme Unction, or special blessings.
Passiontide is upon us, a time where Our Lord goes to “hide” for a bit. In a real way, He will be hidden from us and you for the rest of Lent, and we have a duty to enter deeply into the mysteries Providence wants to reveal to us right now.
As you stay at home, many of you have already turned to us online, to watch our Masses, to hear our preaching. Be assured we plan to provide even more resources for you and your families, for the salvation of your souls and those entrusted to you. Unlike earlier plagues in the history of the world, we will use modern technology to stay in touch!
As District Superior, I must look after the common good of the SSPX in the United States. Again, it deeply pains me to make this decision. These unique times, unfortunately, call for unique measures. I look forward to lifting these restrictions as soon as possible!
Please be assured of my prayers while I ask for yours.
Fr. Jürgen Wegner