ARCHBISHOP THOMPSON ANNOUNCEMENTS

A Letter to the People of God

 

May 6, 2020

Statement on the Resumption of Public Liturgies

The five Catholic dioceses of the Province of Indianapolis will begin resuming public liturgies (e.g. Mass and Sacraments) by 30 May 2020, the Vigil of Pentecost, with restrictions outlined by each diocese and provided to the parishes within their respective jurisdictions.  The dispensation from the obligation to participate at Mass on Sundays is extended throughout the State of Indiana until 15 August 2020.

 

A Letter to the People of God

Moving Forward from Pandemic

Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson

Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ:

Easter greetings in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ!  Despite the ongoing challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and staying in place, we continue to celebrate the Easter Season that culminates in the Solemnity of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter.  For many, the peace and joy of this great season, has been put to the test.  Practically everyone is anxious to get back to some sense of “normalcy,” whenever that may be possible.

While I do not have many answers at this point, please be assured that I am engaged in ongoing conversations with the Indiana bishops, Council of Priests, College of Deans, Indiana Catholic Conference leaders, Archdiocesan Leadership Team and others on determining how best to move forward in the reopening of churches, the celebration of sacraments and resuming public Masses.  While care of souls is always the pivotal focus, we must also act in a manner that is both safe and responsible.  We do not want to be reckless about endangering lives, especially the elderly and vulnerable, nor do we want to have to start all over in the fight against the virus.  I am grateful for the many people, both clergy and laity, who are assisting in the discernment process rooted in prayer throughout this ordeal and looking toward the future.

Although we do not yet know the exact protocols for moving forward, as much of this depends upon the handling of the pandemic, it is important that we maintain a clear understanding of our identity as Catholics.  Some have complained about churches remaining closed while various stores or businesses remain open.  The Church is not about a few individuals wandering around in the aisles of a building but the gathering as a community of believers in prayer, worship, catechesis, and service.  Christ-centered moral responsibility and the understanding of the Church as community, the Body of Christ, are key components that drive our discernment process and decision-making.

Most, if not all, of us are growing a bit impatient.  Let us not let fear or frustration get the best of us.  Through the inspiration and intercession of St. Joseph, may we continue to remain open in mind and heart to the voice and will of God amid this time of chaos and hardship.  I am looking so forward to the opportunity to gather again with the entire People of God—clergy, religious and laity—in our churches throughout central and southern Indiana.  That time cannot come fast enough for my liking, but it will come.  All in God’s time.  In the meantime, I ask for your continued prayers and understanding. 

With assurance of my prayers and best wishes, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Charles C. Thompson
Archbishop of Indianapolis

 

Closure of churches is necessary to keep all safe

Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ,

Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson

 

I bid you grace, peace and hope in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen! As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to take a great toll on our lives, especially the livelihood of so many, let us not allow our spirits to succumb to the virus or other any enemy visible or invisible.

In addition to the great efforts of health care workers and first responders, there are many unsung heroes continuing to provide care, assistance and encouragement to others. Though there has been a great shift in the way in which we provide spiritual and pastoral care, necessity has spawned much creativity in reaching out to individuals and families particularly through the Internet. Many thanks to those who manage our archdiocesan and parish websites, and to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for providing so many wonderful resources.

There has been quite a bit of speculation on social media about the closing of churches during the pandemic in many dioceses throughout the country and world. Some have been supportive while others have been critical of these decisions. To be sure, this is quite unprecedented in our lifetime. It is most painful for all—clergy and laity. As human beings, we are social by nature. As Christians, we are drawn to gather as a community of believers. As Catholics, gathering for Mass is our greatest form of prayer and worship. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our identity and mission.

Each bishop is responsible for his decision in this regard. With that in mind, if it will help to bring about some understanding and appreciation for such action, I take this opportunity to explain the reasons for churches remaining closed in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

First and foremost, please be assured that the closing of churches and the celebration of Mass without community is a painful reality for everyone. I know of no one among the clergy or the laity who does not lament this sad and difficult hardship. Celebrating Mass in an empty cathedral or church is a surreal experience, especially during the apex of the entire liturgical year—namely, Holy Week, the Triduum and Easter. So much in our Catholic culture has been disrupted during these special weeks such as fish frys, Stations of the Cross and penance services. We can’t get these things back from this year. Pope Francis has reminded us that the Church is missionary by nature. As Church, rooted in memory of the past and assurance of divine promises made, we must always be reading the “signs of the times” in the present and looking toward the future of eternal life. We have not lost what matters most; namely, the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. With the Father and the Holy Spirit, He remains forever with the Church, His Body, carrying forth the mission for which He was sent.

The decision to close churches here in central and southern Indiana had nothing to do with fear or pressure from government. Despite being dispensed from the obligation of Mass and being encouraged to remain at home just prior to the suspension of public Masses, many elderly and vulnerable persons attended Mass in very risky ways. Crowds of people continued to gather closely together. This was the same for communal celebrations of penance. A number of people told me that their elderly parents or grandparents would not stay home unless everything was suspended and churches were closed. Maintaining our primary focus on salvation of souls does not mean turning a blind eye to reason and prevention of serious harm.

As the data has shown, people who are asymptomatic, that is, not showing signs of having been infected, have passed on the virus to others before being diagnosed with COVID-19. While it was first thought to be transmitted through touch, evidence now reveals that it is being transmitted by air (e.g. coughing, sneezing and even breathing). There is further evidence that the virus can remain on various surfaces—wood, metal, paper, cardboard, plastic, etc.—for hours or days at a time. That means everything being touched or breathed by someone unsuspectingly carrying the virus may be left for the next person coming along. This may be the case in a pew, a confessional, a chair, a doorknob, a missalette or even a palm. A priest who wants to hear confessions or take Communion from car to car in a parking lot cannot guarantee that he would not be an agent for transmitting the virus from one person to another or, even more devastating, from one family to another. In the case of an invisible and vicious enemy like coronavirus, as I have said before, there can be a fine line between being heroic and being an agent of transmitting disease.

Our priests continue to respond to sacramental and pastoral needs in danger of death, including entering hospitals and other places to hear confessions and administer the anointing of the sick, Viaticum and last rites. We are most grateful to those hospital chaplains that are on the front lines to provide spiritual comfort and assurance to both patients and their families.

Finally, trying to do all that we can to support our health care workers and first responders, maintaining closed churches at this time is one means of lessoning the curve of cases in our communities. Marion County, as would be expected, has by far the most diagnosed cases and deaths from the virus. While outlying counties within the archdiocese do not have so many cases, health care facilities in those areas are ill-equipped for any type of spike in such cases. We owe it to them and one another, especially in light of the Church’s preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, to do all we can in support of this effort to overcome this pandemic.

Our Catholic faith, while we have some beautiful cathedrals and churches throughout the archdiocese and world, is not confined to buildings. It is in buildings that we gather to pray, worship, learn Church teachings and gather in fellowship. But the living of our Catholic faith takes place in all facets of society such as homes, places of work, schools, neighborhoods, athletic events, political arenas, cultural venues and on the streets. While there has been a disruption in our ability to gather as a community of believers, we continue to be Catholic, Church, the Body of Christ, missionary disciples and stewards of God’s grace by carrying on the mission in whatever form circumstances make possible. We need only think of the creative ways the first disciples were able to worship, learn and proclaim the faith in carrying out their call to holiness and mission in Jesus Christ.

There are great challenges before us during this pandemic and, no doubt, “staying in place” and “social distancing” is taking its toll on us. But there is also unique opportunity for us to delve deeper into prayer, spiritual reading, enriching our sense of devotion (via the rosary, the Divine Chaplet of Mercy, the Stations of the Cross, litanies, etc.), meditating on the Word of God (lectio divina), examination of conscience, learning more about our Catholic faith and discerning how to become more involved in the Church’s mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Whether inside or outside any given church structure, above all, may we remain Christ-centered in all we say and do.

+Charles C. Thompson
Archbishop of Indianapolis

3 April 2020

Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ,

            Greetings in Jesus Christ the Cornerstone!  Though it may seem as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel during this time of sheltering and social distancing to combat the coronavirus, let us not forget that every Lenten Season of penance and sacrifice gives way to the awesome joy of Easter.  Beyond the cross is the wonder of the empty tomb and encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

            Given the drastic shutdown of so many businesses and various places of work, many are already experiencing great economic, emotional and personal hardship.  The prospect of enduring another month or so before the economy can begin to reverse course weighs heavily on many households.  The poor and vulnerable are often most impacted by the effects of any crisis.

            For those who are blessed with economic security, if you have not already been doing so, please consider providing financial support to your parish in this critical time.  The Church stands as a beacon of hope in many communities, hope that does not so much radiate in the brick and mortar of a building as through the ministries and services provided by your parish.  Many in our communities, including fellow parishioners, are in need of various forms of medical care.  Throughout this pandemic, the archdiocese and parishes are continuing to provide service to the poor and vulnerable, especially by way of food and shelter.  This is a particularly lonely and confusing time for those who have never found themselves in a situation of needing to ask for assistance.  On behalf of all those served by your generosity, thank you. 

            Catholics are not very good at advertising our great works and successes and rarely do these make the spotlight.  The fact remains, however, that the Catholic Church is the single most charitable institution in the United States and the world.  The Catholic Church daily provides ministries and services of outreach to thousands of individuals and families.  We do so because we are Catholic.  Anchored in Word and Sacrament, especially the Eucharist, Service is the hallmark of our baptismal call to holiness and mission in the name of Jesus Christ. 

Underlying the incredible charitable works of the Church is the commitment of its members being good stewards and faithful disciples.  Please continue to support your parish in helping others who are less fortunate and in need.  Pope Francis often points to the Parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Luke 10:29-37) and the Parable of the Talents (cf. Matthew 25:31-46) as the measure for loving and serving our neighbor.  Each of us makes a difference in the lives and spirits of many beyond what can be truly appreciated.

 

            With assurance of my prayers and blessings for everyone throughout the archdiocese, I remain

                                                                                    Sincerely yours in Christ,

                                                                                    +Charles C. Thompson

                                                                                   

                                                                                    Archbishop of Indianapolis

March 30, 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, 

Greetings and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ! If there is any truth in the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” our fondness for the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and one another should be growing leaps and bounds. Circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic seem to change by the hour. Since my last message to you, our governor, like those in other states, has issued a “stay at home” order at least through April 6. 

Especially given the continued spike in confirmed cases throughout the Hoosier state, the suspension of public Mass as well as all liturgical, sacramental and pastoral restrictions remain in place. Please understand that this is not so much to protect our priests, although we certainly need them to be healthy and able to serve, as it is to protect lives while maintaining our primary focus on the salvation of souls. In the case of this pandemic, there is a fine line between being heroic and being an agent of spreading the virus. 

The effects of this pandemic in just a couple of weeks are already taking a great economic, emotional, mental and spiritual toll on many in our families and communities. We must remain particularly attentive and concerned for the poor, vulnerable and elderly. Even amid “social distancing” and the “stay at home” order, the archdiocese and parishes continue to provide services to those in great need, especially in terms of food and shelter. Each of us can do our part, even from a distance, checking in on family members, friends, and neighbors. Let us be especially aware of those who may be overwhelmed with anxiety, depression, fear, and loneliness. Where some see challenge, others may see opportunity. Certainly, this is a time of challenge and hardship. For those of faith, this can also be a time of opportunity. Some people have told me about how they are taking the opportunity for spring cleaning, going through boxes of memories and looking at old photos. As both individuals and families, we might take the opportunity for deepening our prayer life, examining our conscience, spiritual reading, reflecting on scripture, studying to better understand Catholic teaching and count our blessings. 

Let us not lose heart in these difficult days and even weeks. Let us hold each other in prayer. Let us not forget that we are beloved children of God who have been claimed by Jesus Christ as co-heirs with Him in the everlasting Kingdom of God. In the last days of the Lenten Season, let us remember that we continue to bear the cross with Jesus in this life so as to share in his victory and glory in eternal life. In every household, let us remain Christ-centered. 

With assurance of my continued prayers and best wishes, I remain 

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Charles C. Thompson Archbishop of Indianapolis 

 

 

March 24, 2020

Statement of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis Regarding Holy Week

Out of great concern for the health of our people and as it is a celebration of the entire archdiocese and the opportunity for the priests to renew the promises of their ordination in the presence of the archbishop and the faithful, the Chrism Mass will be postponed until the current health crisis subsides. Newly blessed Holy oils will be distributed at that time.  Until then, the Holy oils blessed at the 2019 Chrism Mass may continue to be used.

Palm Sunday and Holy Week Liturgies will not be celebrated publicly in our parishes.
 

  • There are to be no public celebrations, even outside – including live Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.
  • There is to be no distribution of blessed palms; however, if a priest blesses palms privately, those palms may be reserved for distribution at a later date to be determined.
  • Easter sacraments for RCIA candidates and catechumens and for Catholics who are to be confirmed at the Easter Vigil are to be postponed – guidance will be provided later on when they might be celebrated after this crisis subsides. (Please note: If a member of the elect is in danger of death, please follow RCIA Part II, no.3, “Christian Initiation of a person in danger of death.” The ritual book The Pastoral Care of the Sick also contains the rite for Christian Initiation of the Dying. Also, Canon 1183 §1 states, “when it concerns funerals, catechumens must be counted among the Christian faithful.”)
  • The Mass of the Lord’s Supper (without washing of the feet), the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, and the Easter Vigil will be celebrated by Archbishop Thompson and 2 or 3 concelebrants in Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral without a congregation and will be live-streamed on www.archindy.org.
  • Directions for priests celebrating the liturgies of Holy Week have been provided.
  • There should be no distribution of Holy Communion in any way outside of Last Rites currently or during Holy Week until we are cleared to return for public liturgies.
  • Please continue to follow the stay at home order of Governor Holcomb.

The guidelines of the statement from March 17 regarding funerals remain in force. Please adhere to these, as well as the ongoing suspension of ALL public liturgies, which includes all Masses AND Communion services.

Again, these guidelines and all current liturgical guidance, developed in line with that of the CDC and competent authorities can be found at www.archindy.org. Please reference this page often to remain familiar with how best to serve the people of God during this pandemic.

 

 

March 24, 2020

Statement on the Care of Souls and the Forgiveness of Sins During this Pandemic in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis

The following directives are being issued by the archdiocese, including those things decreed within the normal law by Most Rev. Charles C. Thompson, Archbishop of Indianapolis:

The necessary and prudent measures enacted by government officials to prevent and slow infection rates during this current pandemic come with a great many sacrifices. As in all areas of life, these measures also affect the Church in her mission for the care of souls. The faithful have been overwhelmingly understanding in adapting to the restrictions of public gatherings and the temporary cessation of public Masses by attending Eucharistic celebrations virtually and participating in spiritual communion.  Another crucial aspect of the spiritual life is the forgiveness of sins, which is ordinarily accomplished through individual and integral confession to a priest followed by individual absolution.

In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson suspended the public celebration of the Mass as well as all other liturgical services and gatherings of the faithful and that was effective Wednesday, March 18 and until further notice. This resulted in the cancelation of many Penance Services and group gatherings for confession in our archdiocese.  One of the guiding principles in all decision-making is to try to encourage people to stay home for their own safety. In fact, now a stay at home order has been given by the governor that is effective on March 24 at 11:59 pm.  The reality of our situation is dangerous and unsafe for many right now. If regularly scheduled opportunities for confession were hosted, then that would create opportunities for people to put themselves in harm’s way by potentially putting them in dangerous contact with others.  In our statement from March 17, priests were instructed on how to respond to minister to individuals who are in danger of death and to administer Last Rites.  It was also indicated that they may respond to individual requests for confession but with the caveat that those who can be encouraged to postpone that celebration of the Sacrament of Penance should be strongly encouraged to do so.  Ways need to be found for people to be cared for spiritually but also to keep them and their priests safe physically.  This will create some instances where an individual is not able to able to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance in some of the days ahead.  And so, at this time priests and penitents are reminded of the Church’s teaching in these cases.  When a person finds themselves in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolution because they can’t connect with confession, it should be remembered that perfect contrition, (1) flowing from their love of God, (2) expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (like praying the act of contrition) and (3) with the intentional to go to sacramental confession as soon as it is offered, obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones (cf. CCC, no. 1452).”

The current pandemic and the measures taken to combat it make responding to individual requests for confession very difficult. Therefore, out of great concern for the health our people and until further notice requests for individual confession should be postponed unless it is requested by one who is in imminent danger of death.  The guidelines of the statement from March 17 regarding ministering to those in danger of death remain in force.  For all others, they are to be asked to rely on perfect contrition described in the three steps above.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson may, in the current situations, determine that the circumstances warrant the use of the third form of the Rite of Penance, often called “general absolution.” However, it has been determined that this scenario has not yet presented itself, and this form may not be utilized at this time.  Not having the opportunity for individual confession or general absolution will make some of the faithful anxious, especially during this Lenten season of penance.  To help in this, the Holy See, through the Apostolic Penitentiary, has offered this additional recourse for the faithful:
 

  • “The gift of special Indulgences is granted to the faithful suffering from COVID-19 disease, commonly known as Coronavirus, as well as to health care workers, family members and all those who in any capacity, including through prayer, care for them.”
    • This is a time of suffering, especially for those who have contracted COVID-19. As such, it may be a time for us to “rediscover ‘the same redemptive suffering of Christ’ (Salvifici doloris, 30).” Trusting in Christ, a Plenary indulgence is “granted to the faithful suffering from Coronavirus, who are subject to quarantine by order of the health authority in hospitals or in their own homes if, with a spirit detached from any sin, they unite spiritually through the media to the celebration of Holy Mass, the recitation of the Holy Rosary, to the pious practice of the Way of the Cross or other forms of devotion, or if at least they will recite the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, with the will to fulfill the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father's intentions), as soon as possible.”
    • Health care workersfamily members and all those who, following the example of the Good Samaritan, exposing themselves to the risk of contagion, care for the sick of Coronavirus according to the words of the divine Redeemer: ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (Jn 15: 13), will obtain the same gift of the Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions.”
  • An indulgence is “the expression of the Church's full confidence of being heard by the Father when - in view of Christ's merits and, by his gift, those of Our Lady and the saints - she asks him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering its medicinal aspect through other channels of grace” (John Paul II, General Audience, September 29, 1999).
  • A plenary indulgence removes all the temporal punishment due to sin (CCC, 1471).

Promotion and catechesis on these remedies during the absence of the sacrament of reconciliation can be a source of great consolation for all the faithful. A short catechesis on how the faithful can participate in both the indulgence and the act of perfect contrition will be coming shortly to the USCCB website usccb.org.  For further reference, please see:
 
https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2020/03/20/200320d.html

https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2020/03/20/200320c.html