BIRMINGHAM, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - In flagrant violation of state and canon law, the vicar general of the archdiocese of Birmingham is barring unmasked Catholics from attending Holy Mass at the diocesan cathedral.
Father Timothy Menezes, dean of St. Chad's Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica, issued a diktat on Sunday asking parishioners to "to choose a church that is more in keeping with your own wishes" if they refused to don a face covering.
"We accept that this is not required in all churches, but it remains our standard here, and, if you choose to come here, we respectfully ask you to abide by this standard," the dean wrote in the cathedral bulletin.
"For the purposes of safety for all concerned, the cathedral directive is that everybody coming to Mass in the cathedral wear a face covering which you bring yourself," Fr. Menezes explained.
"We ask that you do not seek to change what we have established here for good reason and which is reviewed regularly," he urged, noting that "our stewards and volunteers are simply doing what has been asked of them to keep this standard of safety in the cathedral."
"Now that the government has removed all COVID restrictions, it is untenable and irrational for parishioners to be told to go elsewhere if they won't wear a mask at St. Chad's Cathedral," popular English writer and deacon Nick Donnelly told Church Militant.
"It seems Fr. Menezes needs reminding of canon 912: 'Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to Holy Communion,'" Donnelly stressed.
Menezes played an active role in irrevocably damaging the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham — England's leading academic center upholding the teaching of the Church, a clerical source told Church Militant.
Acting on behalf of Abp. Longley, Menezes imposed a pro-homosexual priest, Fr. Edward Clare, as the director of Maryvale, despite appeals from the academic staff that he was unsuitable and unqualified. The archdiocese's intransigence led to senior academic staff leaving en masse from Maryvale, the source said.
The legal requirement to wear masks in public places (including churches) expired on Jan. 27, although the government continues to recommend wearing face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces.
In Nov. 2021, government legislation exempted places of worship from mask-wearing, even though the law on mandatory masking applied to shops, banks, post offices, hairdressers and public transport.
The government reintroduced mask-wearing in churches in Dec. 2021, but stated that face coverings could be removed "when it is reasonably necessary ... to sing, including singing as part of a choir or during a service or rehearsal or for performance."
Government authorities removed legislation mandating masks on public transport as early as July 2021, leaving it up to the companies themselves to decide the matter. Train, bus and coach operators said they did not require passengers to continue wearing face coverings.
However, the government also permitted exemptions for those who, for reasons of age, health or impairment could not wear masks. Government legislation categorically stated there was no need to "show an exemption card" or to "show any written evidence of this."
"This means that you do not need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering," the government explained. "Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law."
But in direct defiance of the law, Fr. Menezes is ordering worshippers who "do not have a recognizable lanyard that says you are medically exempt" to wear masks when they are asked to by the cathedral stewards or ushers.
Even the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales noted that Mass-goers in England "may continue to wear a face covering," while "face coverings remain mandatory in Wales until further advised."
In response to queries, the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches explained how the government's guidance on communal worship has always been "largely pastoral" and "in England, the only legal requirement on churches is that services are risk assessed."
In comments to Church Militant, Jewish anthropologist Karen Harradine lamented how "religion is being replaced by the quasi-religious cult of COVID," with "people signifying their allegiance to the cult by wearing these filthy face coverings, as dependent on them as a child is on a security blanket."
Outside medical settings like hospitals, masks are, at best, useless and, at worst, harmful. But science has been ignored these past two years, to be replaced by magical thinking. Churches have historically acted as places of refuge. To turn away those who don't want to wear masks, as Menezes is doing, grossly negates the concept of churches as sanctuaries.
Genesis 1:26–27 states that we are made in God's image. Our faces are what make us uniquely human. To cover them up based on superstitious nonsense is profoundly anti-human and dehumanizes the wearer. COVID cultists may think they are virtue signaling their "goodness" by forcing others to wear masks, but this only shows them as smug narcissists.
Drawing on the work of French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, distinguished medical doctor and historian Richard Gunderman is warning of the danger of "widespread mask-wearing promot[ing] a social ethos more in line with Thomas Hobbes' so-called state of nature, in which people look out for themselves and fear others."
Levinas argued that "the human face is the conduit for the word of God," developing the biblical motif of Jacob's meeting with his estranged brother Esau and his exclamation that "for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God" (Genesis 33:10).
"If the face is crucial to our human identity and moral responsibility, then reduced face-to-face interaction would be expected to take a toll," Gunderman writes. "To be fully responsible to and for one another, Levinas would say we need to see each other's faces."
Church Militant contacted archbishop of Birmingham Bernard Longley and Fr. Menezes for comment, but there was no response as of press time.