Brooklyn bishop questions state decision to limit attendance at Sunday services

NEW YORK — Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, standing Saturday outside a 550-seat Catholic church, criticized the state-imposed COVID-19 cap of 10 worshippers for Mass in his diocese.

“We believe this blanket prohibition against using our churches doesn’t make any sense,” he told reporters outside St. Pancras Catholic Church in Queens. “We believe it’s a misunderstanding of the situation.”

DiMarzio spoke hours after a Brooklyn federal judge offered sympathy but no support for the diocese’s lawsuit seeking to reverse the restrictions ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The bishop said the churches would close down rather than hold Sunday services with one priest and a congregation of nine.

U.S. District Judge Eric Komitee, in a Friday night decision, upheld Cuomo’s crackdown on religious services in several “hot spot” Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods with significant upticks in coronavirus cases.

Komitee called it a “difficult decision,” noting a Friday CNN appearance where Cuomo flatly said the problem was linked to the Ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community.

“The governor of New York made it remarkably clear that this Order was intended to target a different set of religious institutions,” wrote Komitee. “Plaintiff appears to have been swept up in that effort despite having been mostly spared, as far at least, from the problem at hand.

“Nevertheless, the government is afforded wide latitude in managing the spread of deadly diseases,” Komitee concluded.

One day earlier, a separate federal judge upheld the shutdown on Jewish houses of worship that filed their own lawsuit against Cuomo.

The Brooklyn judge suggested the diocese could apply for a preliminary injunction in light of the governor’s comments. DiMarzio said the church was considering its legal options.

But he wasn’t happy: “Show me the science. When I see neighborhoods where we know there’s contagion that are not in this, I don’t think they’ve got the science right.”


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