UNITED KINGDOM, May 7, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the U.K.’s senior Catholic cleric, told Catholics that it would be a “scandal” for churches to open for private prayer at present. This comes after the bishops previously made it clear that they helped convince the government to close the churches.
The comment was made in a letter sent to Catholics in the U.K. who had written to the bishops asking that the churches be reopened.
“I ask you to remember that the churches are closed because of the restrictions established by the Government,” Nichols’s letter states.
“The Prime Minister said this explicitly on 23rd March. These restrictions are still in place as part of the great effort to contain this deadly virus. To do so is a serious moral imperative. To act contrary to this guideline would be to endanger life and to act in a way that gave scandal,” he continued.
The letter does not acknowledge that the bishops themselves, according to their own statement, played a key role in the U.K. government closing churches even to private prayer.
The Catholic bishops prohibited the celebration of public Masses before the lockdown came into force and, according to their own statement, played a crucial role themselves in convincing the government to require that churches be closed altogether.
A March 24 statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales (CBCEW) explained the role played by Professor Jim McManus, a member of the health care reference group for the bishops’ conference, in convincing the government to close churches after guidance from the ministry of housing, communities, and local government had stated that “places of worship should remain open for solitary prayer.”
“Professor Jim McManus has spoken with a senior civil servant and it was quite clear they just had not thought through the issues of infection and security of churches and when he made these points clear, they were appalled and agreed they had made a mistake,” the diocese’s statement said.
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“Keeping churches open sends an utterly inconsistent message and therefore they must be closed for the benefit of others and stopping infection,” the bishops continued.
Maria Haynes, a Catholic housewife, mother, and NHS professional who has spent over thirty years working as a pro-family, pro-life activist, told LifeSite that “when supermarkets are open, maintaining government guidelines, there is no case to support Catholic churches being closed.”
Haynes, who received the letter from Nichols, told LifeSite that she has written a response to the cardinal asking him if at this time of great stress it has been explained to the government that Catholics desperately need access to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.
“In the secular world in which we are living, we Catholics cannot assume that any of our government ministers have the slightest understanding of Catholic belief in this regard and therefore we must make sure that they are made aware of this,” Haynes said.
Haynes told LifeSite she has respond to Nichols, asking him:
Did the government “establish” these “restrictions” following consultation with you as leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales? I ask this because my understanding is that the government’s jurisdiction over Catholic Church matters ends at the front door of each Catholic church.
In his letter, Nichols also suggested that Catholics contact the secretary of state for the ministry of housing, communities, and local government, Rt. Hon. Robert Jenrick, to express their “deep desire” to have renewed access to churches “for prayer and for the celebration of Sacraments” and to “stress how essential these matters are in your life.”
Haynes told LifeSite she has responded to Nichols, asking: “While we had already done this prior to receiving your letter, Your Eminence, I must ask you as our cardinal, have you done this on our behalf?”
Haynes told LifeSite that she has spoken to other Catholics in the U.K. who have received similar letters from Nichols.
“Catholic parishes throughout England and Wales are perfectly capable of putting systems in place to ensure that government guidelines on social distancing are followed,” she said.
Last month, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth questioned the wisdom of churches being closed during the coronavirus lockdown. LifeSite wrote to Egan to ask if, in light of his comments, he was planning to reopen his churches for private prayer but did not receive a response.
To respectfully and charitably communicate your wishes to your bishops, please use this search engine to find contact details for Catholic bishops in England and Wales and this one here for Catholic bishops in Scotland. Cardinal Nichols can be contacted at [email protected]