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PUEBLO, Colo. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Colorado bishop is giving his priests and deacons permission to withhold sacraments from parishioners if they dissent to his mask-wearing policy.
Pueblo's Bp. Stephen Berg shocked parishioners at Our Lady of the Assumption Church before Mass on Sunday by having a deacon read a letter ordering them to wear masks in Church. One of the parishioners, Gary, told Church Militant the bishop's policy was "not negotiable."
The bishop, according to Gary, had given the deacon permission to discontinue Mass if the mask mandate was not strictly followed. After the letter was read, Gary witnessed one of the armed security guards with hand on pistol approach another parishioner whose mask was hanging around his neck. The armed guard escorted the parishioner outside the church.
A visiting priest referred to as Fr. Tony, had not dressed for Mass and told the congregation Mass was canceled. The priest was overheard saying, "I get paid whether I say Mass or not."
Gary said he later found out a sheriff deputy's vehicle was parked a couple blocks away in case the congregation "of mostly retirees" caused any trouble.
The security company that sent the two armed guards is owned by a former Pueblo County Sheriff, Dan Corsentino. Corsentino was hired because diocesan leaders had heard a lot of people were refusing to wear masks in Church.
A priest and former seminary professor anonymously told Church Militant the incident was outrageous:
Under the Church's ancient canons, the faithful have the right to receive the sacraments of the Church. Per the Church's canons, the pastor of a parish and the local ordinary is [sic] supposed to ensure that the faithful entrusted to their care can receive the sacraments if they are predisposed and devout.
"Contrary to what people think, there are no prohibitions in the Church's canons [barring] individuals with contagious diseases from receiving the Church's sacraments," the priest continued. "In generations past, pastors would go out of their way to make certain the sick would receive the Church's sacraments."
Gary related that he called the diocese and was told that no Sunday Mass would be scheduled for Jan. 24.
Previously, in 2019, bishops across the United States made Catholics less safe from the surge in church shootings by denying parishioners the right to carry weapons to protect themselves and others. Bishops also lobbied the government for stricter gun control in general.
Church Militant reported in 2017 on Bp. Robert McElroy, who is a vocal proponent of gun control.
"One of the problems is the organized opposition to gun control, taking the position that any limitation against guns is a limitation on the core rights of individuals," claimed McElroy. "The notion that to restrict automatic and semi-automatic weapons is a restriction on personal rights that should be given to society, to me, seems unacceptable."
For Gary and other parishioners in Pueblo, the choices made by local bishops seem to be politically motivated and not based on a deep concern for the souls and bodies of those under their care.
"They are not doing it for my protection," Terry Napolitan told KRDO Local News. "I'm an adult; I can make the decisions on what's best for me and my family."
The diocese responded to KRDO saying, "The need for some form of security in houses of worship is an unfortunate reality. The parishes across the diocese work with their local law enforcement agencies to develop a safety plan."
At the time of publication, the diocese of Pueblo has not returned a request for an official comment to Church Militant on the use of security guards armed with guns to supposedly protect Catholics from the China communist virus.