Argentine lawyers take legal action against restrictions on Mass attendance

Argentine lawyers take legal action against restrictions on Mass attendance Pro-life advocates attend a rally outside the Basilica of Our Lady of Lujan in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2020. Photo: CNS.

The Catholic Lawyers Corporation of Argentina filed a writ of amparo on May 18 contending that recent health regulations decreed during the Covid-19 pandemic “flagrantly violate” the free exercise of worship and religion.

An increase of coronavirus cases in April, especially in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area, which accounts for 40% of the country’s population, led health authorities to announce more restrictive measures through a Decree of Urgent Need April 30.

Through May 21, in areas with epidemiological and health safety alerts such as Buenos Aires Province, business hours and the hours when people may freely move about were restricted by the decree; sports, social, recreational, and religious activities in enclosed spaces were suspended, as were social gatherings of more than 10 people in public outdoor spaces.

The Catholic Lawyers Corporation filed their writ of amparo because, they maintain, the DNU “flagrantly violates the freedom of worship and religious freedom guaranteed in the National Constitution and in human rights treaties”.

“This has been a total suspension with no exceptions, not even by complying with limited attendance requirements and other protocols, an action which we consider prohibited by Article 27, paragraph 2, of the American Convention on Human Rights.”

The health safety decree violates “all the principles of necessity, proportionality and temporality established by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights”, the lawyers argued.


Regarding the restriction only to hold outdoor Masses with no more than 10 people, the Catholic Lawyers Corporation pointed out that this “causes greater harm than what is sought to be avoided because it exposes the Faithful to inclement weather, thus risking their health”.

In their appeal, the lawyers also expressed their surprise that “the most traditional and sacred celebrations in the churches are prohibited, but not live television programs which are mere entertainment, which do not have any informative character”.

Bishop Alberto German Bochatey Chaneton, Auxiliary Bishop of La Plata, acknowledged May 15 the importance of safety precautions to avoid spreading the virus, but maintained there is “a primal human right to live our religiosity, our piety, our worship that the government of the day cannot grant or take away”.

Bishop Bochatey, head of the Argentine bishops’ healthcare ministry committee, said: “That belongs to the human being, it is a human right that goes beyond the world of governments and circumstances. The government, of course, has the proper authority to act during this time of pandemic” and to take measures to care for people’s health.

The bishop said that decreeing that only 10 people can attend an outdoor Mass, and no one can attend in an enclosed area, are measures “totally unresearched, disproportionate”.