Ideas to ensure access to the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick:
- Bishops should request (and insist upon) permission from medical facilities for priests to minister to the sick and dying who are hospitalized. This is a matter of religious liberty. Priests will follow CDC recommendations for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other suitable precautions in such settings. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/guidance-evaluating-pui.html
- Priests should be informed of the precautions they need to take to protect themselves and minimize the risk of transmitting the virus to others when facing possible exposure to COVID 19. In medical settings, they should follow the protocols required of other facility staff. The diocese should make every effort to secure required PPE for priests who attend the sick and dying.
- Inform parishioners that they should call a priest immediately if they or a family member need to go to the hospital or if they are confined to their home because of the COVID 19.
- If a priest is not permitted to attend to the patient in the hospital, he should either meet them at their home or at the entrance of the hospital to anoint them. The priest should wear PPE if available or a mask and gloves, and upon returning home, immediately change his clothing, launder them, and shower (precautions taken by health care professionals).
Ideas to maximize the faithful’s access to public Mass and reception of Communion:
- The priest could celebrate Mass inside the Church and broadcast to cars in parking lots. Alternatively, Mass can be celebrated outdoors in parking lots, using a sound amplifier or other technologies.
- Priests also might make the Eucharist available in the parking lot after a livestreamed broadcast.
- Factors such as the size of congregation, the prevalence of the virus, and legal restrictions in different geographical locales will influence the available options. Where conditions and the law permit, the priest may celebrate Mass in the Church itself with every person observing the required social distancing
Ideas to increase the faithful’s access to communion.
- Priests could use some form of suitable, beautiful tongs or other instrument to give communion either on the tongue or in the hands. (Byzantine priests use a spoon.) The hands of the priest and communicant could be kept at some distance even though the tongs would be, say, only 6-8 inches in length. The tongs could be sterilized between each use. If receiving on the tongue, a paten could be used, even held by the communicant to ensure that the host not be dropped.
- The priest could give communion to people as they stand outside their cars, suitably spaced. (This seems no more risky than store clerks handing change and receipts to customers.) Priests should use hand sanitizer between every encounter.
- A row of kneelers or cushions could be placed 6 ft apart and the priest could provide communion to those kneeling. A server would sanitize the top of the kneelers between uses.
- Every attempt should be made to give communion to those who want to receive, but where it is not possible to offer communion, priests should lead all in an act of spiritual communion.
- Be aware that some jurisdictions make exemptions to directives against large assemblies for worship ceremonies. Check out the policies of your state.