Abuse of Power To Ban Church Services?

Abuse of Power To Ban Church Services?

From SSPX District of Asia…

The question of the resumption of masses will probably be addressed in the near future. In the meantime, according to the directives of our superiors, services and masses at the usual times are not held in our chapels, either during the week or on Sundays. In doing so, are we obeying a just order from the State for the common good? Or is it an abuse of temporal power that the Church must tolerate out of prudent realism? We have asked Father Jean-Michel Gleize, professor of Ecclesiology at the seminary of Ecône, for his clarification.

“Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its reaching and practice-not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion -it is a public crime to act as though there were no God.” (note 1).

1. These strong words of Pope Leo XIII are not the expression of an outdated vision. For in them the Vicar of Christ points to the very principle of the Christian social order, an order which is necessary because it is an expression of divine wisdom. Cardinal Billot gave its theological justification in the second part of his Treatise on the Church (note 2).

2. This order finds its deep root in the very nature of man and in his gratuitous elevation to a supernatural order. Man’s external goods ( wealth) are ordered to his bodily well-being, and man’s bodily well-being is ordered to his natural spiritual well-being, that is to say, to the natural good of his soul, and this natural good of the soul is itself in some way ordered to the supernatural final end, to man’s supernatural union with God, for which the Church is responsible; it is so to the exact extent that the natural good of the soul is the necessary, though not sufficient, condition of the supernatural good, since grace presupposes nature. This hierarchy of goods entails the hierarchy of powers to which it is incumbent to procure these goods (note 3).

The Church has to ensure the exercise of the worship due to God

3. The power of the State has (among other things) the purpose to preserve public health, in its own order (which is the good of the body) and to neutralise for this purpose the harmful effects of a contagious disease. The power of the Church has the purpose in its own order to ensure the exercise of the worship due to God and to determine for this purpose by means of precepts the concrete conditions of Sunday sanctification. In order to be distinct, each in its own order, the power of the state and the power of the church must not be separated (note 4), for the good which falls to the state is not in fact an ultimate end; it is itself ordained at the end of the supernatural order.

St. Thomas explains this very clearly in De regimine, Book I, Chapter XV: “It is to the Pope that the care of the ultimate end is entrusted, and to him must be submitted those whom the care of the intermediate ends beholds, and it is by his orders that they must be directed. » (n° 819). The Pope thus exercises an “architectural” power vis-à-vis the Heads of State, and this expression means that the Pope has responsibility for the ultimate end, according to which the Heads of State are obliged to organize the entire government of society.

4. Health, which is one of the principal aspects of man’s bodily well-being, has something to do with sanctity, for it is ordered in some way to the exercise of worship and the sanctification of Sunday. Indeed, even if it is not enough to be healthy to be a saint, and even if one can be a saint without being healthy, ordinarily, in order to be able to go to Mass on Sundays, to be healthy is one of the conditions required. The role of the State is therefore to preserve public health (and to neutralize an epidemic) in order to achieve the best condition for the exercise of worship, for which the Church is responsible, and to make ordinarily possible holiness.

Pope Leo XIII says that “in a society of men, freedom worthy of the name consists in the fact that, with the help of civil laws, we can more easily live according to the prescriptions of the eternal law” (note 5). The State is therefore in this instance, as elsewhere, dependent on the Church and subordinate to Her, to the exact extent that its role is to place the temporal good for which it is responsible at the service of the eternal good, for which the Church is responsible. “The temporal”, says Billot, “must see to it that nothing prevents the realization of the spiritual and establish the conditions of grace under which it can be freely obtained”. And he adds that the temporal end “must put no obstacle in the way of the spiritual end, and if it were to oppose it, it should favor the spiritual, even at the cost of its own prejudice” (note 6).

These words are astonishing in the eyes of simple reason, but true words in the eyes of reason enlightened by faith. For “it is better to enter eternal life with one eye than to be cast into the fire of hell with two eyes” (note 7).

For the State, to prohibit or limit worship is an abuse of power

5. Consequently, to prohibit or limit worship in order to neutralize an epidemic would be, on the part of the power of the State, not only illegitimate (by abuse of its temporal power, which cannot as such relate to the exercise of worship) but even absurd, since the ultimate purpose of neutralizing the epidemic must be to promote the exercise of worship. Unless we assume the radical inversion of ends and substitute disorder for order: instead of health (with the neutralization of the epidemic) being ordered to the exercise of worship, it would be the exercise of worship (with its restriction and prohibition) that would be ordered to health.

And this is unfortunately what we see in the present circumstances, and which justifies the recent statement of Bishop Schneider: “Men of the Church give more importance to the mortal body than to the immortal soul of men” (note 8). This can be explained by the radical inversion introduced by the Second Vatican Council: it is no longer the State which is subordinate to the Church and to the service of the Church, but the Church which has become dependent on the States.

It is not for the state to forbid or restrict the worship in the name of health; it is for the church to decide the conditions of worship in the light of circumstances…

6. It may happen that, from the point of view of contingency, which is that of concrete circumstances, it may not be possible to provide sufficient public health and to neutralize the contagion of a disease, so as to make it possible to practise worship in the ordinary way. It is then up to the ecclesiastical authority – and to it alone – to determine the particular form of the exercise of worship required by the circumstances, and to make it possible by relying on the secular arm. The State could thus, for example, put at the disposal of the Church sufficiently large spaces where the faithful could attend Mass while remaining confined to their vehicles.

In the worst case, the Church could dispense its faithful from attending Mass and there again rely on the resources, technical and financial, which the State would place at its disposal to broadcast massively in homes television broadcasts of the celebration of Mass. Situations and solutions may be very diverse; but in any case the Church has the power to decide the conditions under which the total order is to be established, the total order according to which the exercise of worship is a higher good to which the good of public health is to be ordered. It is not for the state to forbid or restrict the worship in the name of health; it is for the church to decide the conditions of worship in the light of circumstances, seeking, as it has the duty and power to do, the support and assistance of temporal power.

7. This necessary and normal hierarchy of powers was still largely in effect in the Catholic cantons of Switzerland at the beginning of the 20th century. Even in the wake of the great upheavals that had shaken the Christian social order throughout Europe, the political authorities in the Valais, for example, had only limited power in the churches and could only intervene diplomatically to recommend to the church authorities that the health measures necessitated by the Spanish flu epidemic be respected. “It is therefore not surprising to find in the decree of the Council of State of 25 October 1918: “The ecclesiastical authority will prescribe the necessary hygiene measures with regard to the churches and the celebration of divine services”.

In doing so, the clergy had the choice of the measures it wished to apply without any question of financial or legal reprisals. As a result, the various letters addressed to the parishes are more like a succession of recommendations seeking to protect sensitivities rather than a firm political decision. A second circular concerning more specifically burials stipulates that the coffin should be taken directly to the cemetery for burial and that the burial mass should be celebrated only in the presence of the immediate family and after burial. Once again, the letter ends with a diplomatic note: “We hope that you will understand the need for these measures designed to remove the danger of contamination as far as possible and that you will comply with my instructions”, which is quite different from the letters addressed to the various trades, which end instead with a reminder of the possible sanctions if the measures are not followed.

It is interesting to note that this same circular, dated July 20, 1918, was found in the Episcopal archives of Sion, but a small handwritten footnote was added to it: “We would like to receive on this subject directions from the Vicar”. Political authority is not universally authoritative … “(note 9). When, one hundred years later, the apostate States of the twenty-first century unilaterally decide to prohibit or restrict the exercise of worship, in the name of health, the Catholic faithful of course react under the guidance of their pastors not as fanatical reactionaries, but as prudent and realistic people, and they tolerate (note 10) or patiently endure unjust decisions contrary to supernatural prudence. But under no circumstances can they be held to a true act of the virtue of obedience to what remains in reality an abuse of power.

“What does it profit man if he gains the whole universe if he loses his soul?”

8. All of this can be explained by a final cause. From this point of view, the power of the Church is to the heads of state like the power of a caretaker to a care assistant. The assistant carer carries out the dosage of medicines as much as is required for the health of the body, which the caretaker is in charge of. Likewise, the head of state must ensure the good order of society as much as is required for the salvation of souls, for which the Church is responsible. For man should seek health and wealth only in so far as it is required – as St. Ignatius says – to save his soul: “What does it profit man if he gains the whole universe if he loses his soul? (Mt, XVI, 26). What use is it to man to win the victory over the epidemic if he neglects the sanctification of his soul, losing the habit of going to Mass on Sundays? The ancient liturgy of the Church provided for a Mass in times of epidemic and the rubrics said that such Masses should be celebrated “with great participation of the people”….     Father Jean-Michel Gleize

(1) Leo XIII, Encyclical Immortale Dei of November 1, 1885, ASS, vol. XVIII (1885), pp. 163-164.
(2) Louis Billot, L’Eglise. III – L’Eglise et l’Etat, Courrier de Rome, 2011.
(3) Louis Billot, op. cit. no. 1183.
(4) The separation of Church and State was condemned by Pope Saint Pius X in the Encyclical Vehementer nos. of 11 February 1906.
(5) Leo XIII, Encyclical Libertas of 20 June 1888, ASS, vol. XX (1887), p. 598.
(6) Louis Billot, op. cit. no. 1182.
(7) Mt, XVIII, 9.
(8) Bishop Athanasius Schneider, “Interview with Diane Montagna” published on The Remnant and translated on Jeanne Smits’ Blog, page of 28 March 2020.
(9) Laura Marino, La Grippe espagnole en Valais (1918-1919), thesis presented at the Faculty of Biology and Medicine of the University of Lausanne for the degree of Doctor of Medicine, 2014, pp. 182-183. Thesis on deposit on the University of Lausanne archives site, http://serval.unil.ch under the reference BIB_860E861187545.
(10) This explains the appearance of the concordat regime, with the definition of certain so-called “mixed” subjects. Cf. Billot, n° 1247 et sq.


Comment – note video clip in the above introduction, added by the Editor of Catholic Truth.

Share your thoughts on Father Jean-Michel-Gleize’s article.  IS the UK Government abusing its power by restricting the power of the church authorities to make decisions about Mass and various church services?  Oh, and what about this… MPs are being allowed an extra £10,000 expenses for working from home – see The Times report here – so why not pay something to the Church for having to make alternative arrangements for the worship of God?  Any chance of that happening before Hell freezes over?  Share your thoughts on that, as well – within the confines of the House Rules!   

Comments (31)

  • editor

    Me, again, folks…

    I had no sooner posted this thread, than today’s edition of Catholic World Report arrived in my inbox with this piece from a Bishop on the subject of the lockdown as it affects churches.

    Spot the difference between his focus and that of Father Jean-Michel Gleize in the blog introduction above. There are no prizes, because the answer is as plain as the mask on any face – I won’t risk using the old saying “plain as the nose on your face” in case that’s considered provocative these days 😀

    April 29, 2020 at 11:50 am
    • Lily

      The SSPX priest speaks about the lack of worship owing to God, the Bishop speaks about the people missing the Eucharist.

      It’s all about “community” in the modern parishes, not about God, very sad to say.

      April 29, 2020 at 7:46 pm
  • editor

    Yet again, me, folks! I do sometimes talk to myself, I have to admit (they say it’s a sign of intelligence) but never this much!

    Given the lockdown, I thought I would reassure those who normally receive the newsletter by hand at church, that the May edition went into the post yesterday, and is now online, as from a few minutes ago. https://catholictruthscotland.com/MAYnewsletter20.pdf

    Now… goodbye!

    April 29, 2020 at 12:22 pm
  • Miles Immaculatae

    I do not all disagree that it is an abuse of the power of the state to limit the rights of God, from Whom all true rights come. Absolutely I agree with this. But we must be careful not to promote an attitude of entitlement in regards to the sacraments, because ultimately, none of us have the right to the sacraments … We only receive them because God deigns to give them to us on account of His infinite mercy and goodness. We have no more right to the sacraments than we have to demand of God that he have become incarnate in human flesh! God in his wisdom has permitted us to be deprived of participation in Holy Mass and the sacraments at this time, and this is our just punishment. Praise be God in his chastisements!

    April 29, 2020 at 12:36 pm
  • Athanasius

    Of course Fr. Jean Michel-Gleize is correct and the Californian Bishop is wrong. California has a population of 39 million yet has only 19,000 deaths from Coronavirus, and many of these as we know from the poor testing and bad counting may not even be Covid-19 related. How does a Bishop justify a deadly pandemic on numbers like that? Besides, in many places the bishops were stopping public Masses even before governments mandated it.

    Fr. Jean Michel-Gleize presents a masterpiece of Church teaching to justify his conclusion, the Californian Bishop produces only a one-liner giving us his opinion. I think it is perfectly justifiable, theorefore, that the faithful should feel abandoned by the bishops at this time. They have all been too quick to deprive the faithful of the Mass and the Sacraments. Like the Polish priest in Michael Matt’s latest Remnant video, they could have come up with a number of ways to provide Mass and the Sacraments while observing social distancing rules, but that was too much like hard work.

    Here’s a further clue that tells us this Coronavirus has been politicised and blown out of all proportion by very clever orchestration.


    April 29, 2020 at 1:03 pm
    • West coast of Florida Daily life in Florida blog . News stuff of interest

      Comment removed

      April 29, 2020 at 4:33 pm
    • Presbyter Catholica

      Dear Athanasius,

      I agree with you completely. Then again, I would 😃

      April 29, 2020 at 5:11 pm
      • Athanasius

        Presbyter Catholica

        Once upon a time I was quite conceited and would have taken offence at any criticism of my views. Now that I’m perfect, however, I tend to indulge dissent with a smug egotistic smile, so worry not should the occasion arise when you feel it necessary to differ with me. My other quality, as you may have detected from said indulgence, is my profound humility! Could have sworn I just heard a Gregorian choir singing Aye, right!

        April 29, 2020 at 6:04 pm
  • West coast of Florida Daily life in Florida blog . News stuff of interest

    Comment removed

    April 29, 2020 at 4:33 pm
  • RCAVictor

    Does anyone have a link to the actual [UK] government order “restricting the power of the church authorities to make decisions about Mass and various church services?” I’ve googled and can’t find anything.

    April 29, 2020 at 4:55 pm
    • editor

      RCA Victor

      I doubt if they would see the need to publish a particular order, given that the Bishops anticipated the restrictions and beat the Government to it, so to speak!

      I think it’s just a general set of guidelines applying to everyone, including the churches.

      April 29, 2020 at 5:16 pm
  • Ed Mulrenan

    Sad to Bf. In Italy etc. has done what he accomplished in Red China with Mccarrick and Parolin etc.. He Bf orchestrated the Shutdown of the Cino Novis Ordo church worldwide and cancelling of the sacraments permanently in Red China and coming soon to the Usa. canada and Europe etc.

    April 29, 2020 at 6:26 pm
    • editor


      Your avatar is not present with your comment so I presume you’ve logged in with a different email address. Once you attach an avatar to your email, you have to always log in with the same email address. Either that, or you’ve made a typo when logging in…

      Catholic Truth at your service!

      April 29, 2020 at 7:38 pm
    • Lily

      Ed Mulrenan,

      What does Bf mean?

      April 29, 2020 at 7:43 pm
      • RCAVictor


        I suspect it means either “Bergoglio Francis” or it’s a typo that should read “PF” – i.e. Pope Francis. However, since he typed it twice, it’s probably not a typo.

        April 29, 2020 at 8:56 pm
      • editor

        RCA Victor,

        You sound like that comic in the video about the lockdown rules – “It’s maybe a typo but maybe it’s not a type….”


        April 29, 2020 at 9:20 pm
      • Lily


        LOL! That’s just what I was thinking!

        April 30, 2020 at 7:58 pm
  • Therese

    What a difference to the martyrs who willingly risked unspeakable torture and slaughter to offer Holy Mass for the faithful in times past in this country. They did break the law of course, so probably the hierarchy of today would condemn them. I wouldn’t be surprised.

    April 29, 2020 at 6:50 pm
    • Lily


      I couldn’t agree more. What would happen, I keep asking myself, if we had some kind of persecution come – as warned about at Fatima – would the priests suddenly grow some courage? I doubt it.

      April 29, 2020 at 7:44 pm
  • catholicconvert1

    The Church and State need to cooperate in order to minimise deaths and to enable a recovery from the pandemic. The government could present the Church with scientific evidence, and advise the authorities on what to do. There is a world of difference between closing pubs and football grounds. They are worldly, the Church, the True Faith to which God enjoins all men to join, whose Truth is testified to by countless miracles, the extraordinary lives of the Saints, it’s durability, the holiness of its Divine Founder and the testimony of Scripture, is not. The Church takes it’s commandments from God. We are commanded to “remember the Sabbath day”. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”, to enable us to rest from work and give God the worship He is due. The Church could have dispensed the elderly, disabled and those with underlying health issues from attending or limited attendance to a percentage of the normal congregation. Likewise, for priests to refuse to hear confessions is a dereliction of duty. If the penitent is behind the grille, and the priest sanitises the prie-dieu afterwards, I don’t see a problem. Priests could sanitise the pews if they have to. However, people, including the hierarchy, have no concept of the supernatural, of faith and trust in God. Do we really think that we can stop this pandemic? God permitted the pandemic to happen, as He permits others calamities as part of the disfigurement of our bodies, health and the world due to Adam’s Original Sin. It is time we recognised His power, and imitated the inhabitants of Nineveh.

    April 29, 2020 at 9:33 pm
  • RCAVictor

    I thought Bishop Barron’s column was singularly uninspiring. I got the impression that here is a man who’s spent most of his life in a library, utterly removed from reality. And I noticed that he was not among the clergy who drove around his diocese with the Eucharist exposed…

    As for this lockdown giving him an opportunity to work on his new book, I think the Church Lady says it best:

    April 29, 2020 at 10:27 pm
  • RCAVictor

    Here’s a satirical barb aimed at Cdl. Nichols, among others:


    April 29, 2020 at 10:40 pm
    • Lily

      RCA Victor,

      The link made me laugh, but I couldn’t make out what the Church Lady was saying in the video. Can you translate for me – and I’m sorry for probably being thick again!

      April 30, 2020 at 8:00 pm
      • Theresa Rose


        That link made me laugh too. I’m sure the Church Lady is saying –

        “Well isn’t that special” – but maybe her accent makes it a little harder to catch what she is saying. In times like these we do need something to smile about.

        April 30, 2020 at 8:21 pm
      • RCAVictor


        “She” (that’s Dana Carvey from an old Saturday Night Live episode) is saying

        “Well, isn’t that special!”

        April 30, 2020 at 8:55 pm
      • RCAVictor


        Oops, I see Theresa Rose beat me to it!

        April 30, 2020 at 8:57 pm
      • Lily

        RCA Victor (and Theresa Rose)

        I can’t believe how clear that was, listening to it now, I can hear what she is saying no bother! I think my sound must have been very low and that explains it because I’m embarrassed at how clear it is, listening to it again, LOL!

        April 30, 2020 at 10:35 pm
      • editor


        I could make out every word first time – and I wear a hearing trumpet!


        April 30, 2020 at 11:27 pm
  • Sanoj Jose

    Each home has become a church now which was lacking by the way.

    May 20, 2020 at 6:32 pm
    • Miles Immaculatae


      You have a point. We are always called to sanctify the circumstances we find ourselves in.

      May 20, 2020 at 8:03 pm
    • Athanasius

      It’s sad that it takes a crisis like this for Catholics to realise they should be sanctifying their home, but I suppose that’s one good to come from this. However, houses are not chapels, at least not in the true sense of being blessed for the offering of the Holy Sacrifice and residence of the Blessed Sacrament. That our chapels were closed under the pretext of this fake pandemic is utterly appalling and the government should be voted out of office as soon as possible for daring to impose such a Communist/Masonic evil on Catholics. The clergy also should be defrocked for going along with it.

      May 20, 2020 at 10:37 pm

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