Perth Bishop momentarily acts like a bishop (then has a change of heart)

Readers have no doubt heard about an incident that occurred recently in Perth, when a police officer interrupted Mass to check the parishioners’ mask compliance. One local newspaper described how, in response to a tipoff from a member of the public, police raided the church during Mass to check if there was anyone on the premises without a mask.

From a parishioner’s Facebook post: “… a policeman allowed himself in, strutting up the aisle demanding correct mask behaviour and checking exemptions. Where have we seen this behaviour before in history?”

What is noteworthy about this incident from our perspective is the response by Archbishop Costelloe, a prelate who is no stranger to the pages of this site (see also here). His initial press release reads:

Now, apart from that bit about “collaborating with the government”, this almost sounds like what a bishop should be about: “condemning in the strongest possible terms this impingement upon the free practice of the Catholic faith” and likewise condemning the “disruption of the Celebration of the Eucharist for any reason”.

Of course, a priest must never interrupt a Mass once it has begun – unless he is a Cardinal with an incoming call from a cranky pontiff. Then disrupting the Mass is A-OK.

One could almost believe that a fragment of Costelloe’s spine survived the consecration process. (Catholic folklore suggests that a priest’s spine is removed on the day he is made Bishop.)

However – and you just knew there was going to be a ‘however’ – this rather strongly worded (and frankly, CATHOLIC) statement was quickly followed by a more politically-sensitive one. Thus:

As you can see, the condemnation “in the strongest possible terms” has been reframed as being something merely “regrettable.” That’s like a Category Five cyclone being downgraded to a low pressure system. Thus in Perth at least, a police raid on a Catholic church during Mass is …. barely an inconvenience.

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