SANTA FE, New Mexico (ChurchMilitant.com) - A pro-LGBT bishop in New Mexico is continuing to lock down his archdiocese while, conversely, a neighboring diocese is opening its doors.
Santa Fe archbishop John C. Wester announced last Friday that parish attendance would remain limited, despite the fact that Democratic New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham the same day allowing public worship to resume at 100% capacity.
In his statement, Wester declared that parishes must "continue to follow the color-coding system as to capacity for indoor Masses and do not allow 100% attendance at this time."
New Mexico's color-coding system (no longer mandatory, only advised) limits indoor capacity based on the risk of China-virus infection in a particular area. Turquoise counties require 75% capacity; green counties require 50% capacity; yellow counties require 33% capacity; red counties require 25% capacity. Restrictions also include mandatory mask-wearing during indoor worship services.
But the archbishop is encouraging "those that are at risk for COVID-19 ... to stay home and watch the numerous live-stream Masses available in the diocese." He's keeping in place his dispensation from Mass attendance.
Wester's restrictions come despite New Mexico ranking 14th in Wuhan virus deaths per 100,000 people. Santa Fe County has seen only three deaths during the entire month of April, with an average of just under 10 new infections per day.
Santa Fe's archbishop is no stranger to controversy. In 2019, reports emerged of him allegedly harboring a priest suspended for molesting a 13-year-old altar boy in 1984. Wester denies the accusations, claiming the accused priest was merely "visiting his friends."
In 2018, the archbishop was busted for agreeing to provide "assistance and support" to the dissident Association of United States Catholic Priests, a group that, inter alia, is pushing for the ordination of women and gay men.
Wester even issued a public reprimand of a priest who warned his parishioners against voting for pro-abortion candidates in 2016.
In the wake of these scandals, the Santa Fe archdiocese has suffered a drop in Mass attendance — even before COVID-19 hit. The archdiocese noted in a recent statement that continuations of these China-virus restrictions were not an issue for them, as "pre-pandemic parishes averaged a 50–70% attendance at best."
On the other hand, a fellow New Mexico prelate is hastening to return his diocese to its normal, pre-COVID protocol.
In a Saturday letter, Bp. Peter Baldacchino said he's allowing Churches to reopen at 100% capacity:
Effective Friday, April 23, Bp. Peter Baldacchino has removed the restrictions on Mass attendance and will continue to leave it in the capable hands of the priests in the diocese to celebrate Masses, funerals and weddings at the capacity which they deem prudent, while continuing to be aware of their parish realities and the current health precautions set forth by the state and federal government.
Despite Baldacchino's history with the disgraced homosexual predator Theodore McCarrick (who ordained him to the priesthood in 1996), he was among the first U.S. prelates to reopen his churches back in April 2020.
At that time, the bishop declared, "Depriving the faithful of the nourishment offered through the Eucharist was indeed a difficult decision, one that I deemed necessary until I had further clarity regarding our current state of affairs."
Both bishops have seemingly opposing plans for how to handle the pandemic. One prelate is pushing faithful Catholics toward the sacraments and Mass attendance, and the other is forcibly depriving them of both.