Dr. Anthony Fauci has urged Christians to wear masks, practice social distancing, and forego singing and receiving communion during worship services to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In an interview with the Jesuit-run America magazine published Wednesday, Dr. Fauci said that churches should “limit the number of people, so that you don’t have people in the pews right next to each other,” and the faithful should “absolutely” wear masks.
Regarding the distribution of communion, Fauci said he does not think there is a safe way to go about it and the practice should be abandoned until further notice.
“I think for the time being, you just gotta forestall that,” he said.
Fauci, who identifies as a Jesuit-educated Catholic who has distanced himself from “the concept of organized churches, religions,” said that at the moment he believes that receiving communion is too risky, even if it involves only the distribution of the consecrated bread without the cup.
“As many times as a priest can wash his hands, he gets to Communion, he puts it in somebody’s hand, they put it in their mouth,” he said, “it’s that kind of close interaction that you don’t want when you’re in the middle of a deadly outbreak.”
Fauci said he thinks that religious practice should vary from place to place, according to the intensity and extent of infections.
“It depends on where you are,” he said. “If you are in a region, a city, a county, where there is a significant amount of infection, I think with distributing Communion, I think that would be risky. I’m telling you that as a Catholic, it would be risky.”
In recent weeks, there have been numerous confrontations between religious and civil leaders regarding the proper jurisdiction of each when it comes to the practice of the faith.
One notorious case was that of Minnesota, where the state’s Catholic Bishops and Lutheran leaders announced that public worship would resume on May 26, in defiance of restrictions put in place by Governor Tim Walz.
Many people of faith “were disappointed in Governor Walz’s May 13 announcement that he would end the Stay-at-Home order to allow more commerce but prohibit religious gatherings of more than ten people,” an order that “defies reason,” stated the Catholic bishops in a May 20 letter.
Insisting that the life of faith is “essential,” the bishops declared that they have given Catholic parishes “permission for the resumption of the public celebration of Mass on Tuesday, May 26, which will give us time to be ready for the celebration of Pentecost on May 31.”
“We are blessed to live in a nation that guarantees the free exercise of religion,” they said. “This right can only be abridged for a compelling governmental interest, and only in a way that is narrowly tailored to be the least restrictive means of achieving the desired end.”
Last Saturday Governor Walz told reporters that it is unclear whether worship constitutes something “essential,” countering an assertion made recently by President Trump.
“I think the case that the president is making and that may be up for debate in this country of deeming houses of worship essential, essential services and that’s one that we take into consideration,” the Democrat governor said during an hour-long briefing on opening up religious services during the coronavirus lockdown.