There has been a fair amount of criticism of Catholic bishops over the period of the coronavirus epidemic, but if you want to put things in perspective, you only have to look at the bishops of the Church of England (Episcopalians). While Catholic priests up and down the land were optimising their churches’ live-streaming technology, Anglican clergy were forbidden to enter their own places of worship, even if these actually adjoined their homes. Their flocks have been treated to the sight of services celebrated in kitchens and living rooms instead. This utterly pointless ruling was roundly criticised, but the bishops stuck to it even over Easter, only finally succumbing to the pressure of common sense on May 5. What possible motivation could they have had for insisting that their clergy not go through the sacristy door into their empty and locked churches to celebrate the liturgy?
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury who thinks of himself as the successor of St. Augustine of Canterbury, who brought the Christian faith to England directly from Pope St. Gregory the Great, told us that it was to set an example. Referring to the government’s message about public health, he told the press that “by closing the churches, we make a powerful symbol of the need to listen to that message.”
I’m not someone who has called for people to flout the government’s guidelines, but going beyond them in this extraordinary way seems to me a powerful symbol of the Church of England’s worship of the idol of “health and safety.”
This isn’t the first time Welby has jumped on a bandwagon without engaging his brain.