Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is urging San Francisco officials to ease restrictions on public worship, saying the city’s “excessive limits” limits to curb Covid-19 are unfair and a deprivation of religious organizations’ First Amendment rights.

No outbreaks have been linked to U.S. Catholic churches that follow safety guidelines, the archbishop said.

“I am grateful that the mayor and other government leaders in San Francisco acknowledge the importance of mental and spiritual health to the overall well-being of our people, in addition to physical and economic health,” the archbishop said in a Aug. 31 statement directed to Mayor London Breed, public health director Dr. Grant Colfax, and health officer Dr. Tomás Aragón.

“I am therefore calling on the mayor and her public health officials to, at a minimum, remove the excessive limits on outdoor public worship,” he said.

The archbishop said that, particularly for us as Catholics, “attending the Mass and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in person is the source and the summit of our faith, and we have shown we can celebrate the Mass safely.”

He cited a recent article by three infectious disease specialists that “over one million public [M]asses have been celebrated following guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus…for Catholic churches following these guidelines, no outbreaks of Covid-19 have been linked to church attendance.”

The article by Thomas W. McGovern Deacon Timothy Flanagan and Paul Cieslak, “Evidence-Based Guidelines to Celebrate Mass Safety are Working,” was posted Aug. 19 on realclearscience.com. The writers are physician members of the Thomistic Institute Working Group on Infectious Disease Protocols for Sacraments and Pastoral Care.

San Francisco is the only government in the Bay Area that restricts public gatherings to 12 people out of doors.

“Ours and others’ faith is being treated as less important than a trip to the hardware store, or a nice dinner out on the patio,” the archbishop said. “This denial of access to safe outdoor public worship is a serious deprivation of our rights as Americans under the First Amendment and our spiritual needs as people of faith. One million public Masses without any Covid outbreaks demonstrates that it is just as safe in San Francisco as in other parts of the state, such as San Mateo County, to permit large gatherings for outdoor public worship with reasonable safety precautions.”

Most Covid-19 safety indicators in San Francisco are trending in a positive direction, city data show, although the daily rate of new infections is at a relatively high level. The rate of positive Covid-19 tests is 2.4%, a low to moderate level under state guidelines.

San Francisco is flagged “red” under a new color-coded scheme by California Gov. Gavin Newsom to give more discretion to counties to reopen their economies based on local Covid-19 data.

Red is the second most severe of four levels under the new system and indicates that Covid-19 spread is termed “substantial.” However, counties with a red designation may allow limited reopening of many of the most severely impacted activities under stay-at-home orders imposed last March, including indoor worship services for up to 100 people or 25% percent of capacity whichever is fewer.

The above comes from an Aug. 31 story in Catholic San Francisco.