Granted, he did so over the course of a few years, but it’s still a high number. What crimes did these people commit?
Father Marijan Jelinic is priest of the church of St. Blaise in Vodnjan, Croatia. It is located in Istria, the destination of many tourists in summer. The church contains many relics and the priest thinks these remains of saints deserve all due respect. He is right, of course, and that is at the root of the reason that he expelled so many from the church. People, often tourists in their summer clothing, need to be properly dressed when they enter a sacred place. In a Catholic church not only the remains of saints are present, but most importantly, Jesus Christ Himself is. That fact alone should influence the way we behave when in a church. That is part of the reason why people usually limit themselves to whispering, for example (even if they’re not really aware of it). What is less known, I think, is that a dress code is also assumed.
People don’t need to dress up to the nines before stepping across the threshold of a church, of course, but short or revealing clothing are usually a big no. This article, from which I got the information above, mentions a dress code that was not respected. If Fr. Jelinic had placed signs at the door, explaining appropriate attire, he is totally right when he asks people who don’t abide to leave. That’s what they do in Rome as well. No shorts or revealing tops at St. Peter’s, please. If it’s frowned upon there, why not in any other Catholic church in the world?
I think that these rules actually add to the experience of attending Mass, or even just visiting a church. The realisation that this is some special place you are visiting is all the easier to reach when you have to go through some effort to do so. And that realisation could, God willing, grow into a fuller one: you are not just in a special place, but in the most special place, where Christ is physically among us, where our salvation is within arm’s reach, so to speak.
Of course, Fr. Jelinic has his share of opposition. People say he scares away young people with his draconian measures. Well, I highly doubt that. I think that a priest who has the guts to be clear and enforce certain simple rules gets more respect, especially from young people, than one who goes with every flow.