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SAN FRANCISCO (ChurchMilitant.com) - A bishop is criticizing restrictions on worship in California.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone says the archdiocese of San Francisco has developed "safety protocols that are effective" and "scientifically shown" to deter the spread of the Wuhan virus.
"We're still not allowed to have indoor services, while indoor retail is allowed to operate," Cordileone told Fox News' Sandra Smith on Wednesday.
He went on to say, "I accept the need for the State to give us guidance on safety, but we've shown we can do it. We should be allowed to do it."
The archbishop argued that strict, prolonged bans on public worship are a violation of Americans' constitutional rights, adding, "The State does not have the authority to intrude into matters of the Church. The State cannot tell the Church not to worship."
He clarified that he is not opposing health protocols in principle, saying, "Again, I accept that the State can tell the Church what we have to do to keep people safe, but it can't be so severe as to, in effect, ban public worship."
"It's very worrisome to me," the archbishop remarked, "that the State is intruding its authority in areas of Church matters, where they have no authority."
These comments come as many Catholics (and other Christians) are fearful that public worship will be canceled again in the near future, in the name of "fighting COVID-19."
Matthew Hennessey, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, observed in an op-ed Tuesday, "They canceled Easter. Is Christmas next?"
This is just the latest example of Abp. Cordileone speaking out against the lockdown restrictions imposed on churches by California's governor, Gavin Newsom, and other government officials.
Back in August, the faithful in San Francisco were subject to a 12-person limit on worship services. Cordileone got around this for the Feast of the Assumption (Aug. 15) by having Masses offered by 5 priests simultaneously — thus allowing a crowd of 60 worshippers (12 for each Mass).
In September, he invited laity to participate in Eucharistic processions, noting that the archdiocese was having banners made that read, "We are essential; Free the Mass!"
Cordileone is one of the few bishops who has resisted or spoken out against oppressive Wuhan virus restrictions on religion.
When lockdown orders started in March, every diocese in the country shut down public liturgy. Many bishops did this well ahead of government stay-at-home orders, while others did this despite local officials encouraging churches to find a way to continue services.
Some dioceses took it a step further, banning marriages and baptisms — and even confession.
Many laymen made the decision to baptize their own babies this spring because some bishops prohibited their priests from baptizing.
For months, most Catholics had to tune in for Sunday Mass livestreamed online or broadcast on television.
Some priests found creative workarounds to bring people the sacraments, even in the face of strict lockdown rules — whether from local government or the local bishop.
In some places, outdoor Mass has been a feasible option — often drive-through style in a church parking lot. Many parishes implemented radio, loudspeakers or other technological solutions for the laity to listen in.
Since many bishops' decrees only named "public Masses," some priests found ways to offer private Masses with small numbers of laity present. Technically, the only difference between public Mass and private Mass is whether it has been publicly announced or advertised (for example, in a parish bulletin).