England's Christmas is threatened by ... streakers?

Reverent Christmas observances in Britain  are increasingly the target of irreverent pranksters -- who are disrupting such solemn events as Midnight Mass.

"Priests are voicing growing fears," writes John Bingham for the Telegraph, "because of invasions by raucous drinkers and even streakers."

"Streaking in December in England?" asks  a staff writer at Healthista. "You have got to be bonkers."

American filmmaker Kirk Cameron examines a number of such threats in his film "Saving Christmas." The hit was held over beyond its scheduled limited run in a number of venues nationwide -- and new theaters were added -- despite a campaign by activist atheists to slur the movie. He says Christmas is also threatened by Christians in many cases -- believers who preach that celebrating Jesus' birth is sinful.

British clergy didn't blame atheists or fundamentalists.  Instead, drunks and exhibitionists were cited. A survey by the British Catholic magazine, the Tablet, discovered 50 venues where festivities have been scaled back or cancelled altogether due to disruptions in years past.

"Priests at more than 50 deaneries – groups of parishes – across England and Wales contacted this week confirmed," wrote the Tablet's Joanna Moorhead, Liz Dodd and Katherine Backler, "that there has been a decline in the number of churches offering a Mass that ushers in Christmas Day on the stroke of midnight.

"In some pastoral areas it will not be offered at all, while in many the first Mass of the nativity is now scheduled for as early as 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve."

Many priests reported problems with drunks infiltrating services that begin just as the pubs close.

Some congregations have been forced to boost security, effectively putting bouncers "at the doors to deter those overcome with festive excess from making unscheduled appearances," writes Bingham.

"Monsignor David Hogan, of St Bernadette’s, in Nunthorpe, Middlesbrough, estimated that less than a quarter of parishes in his area now offer mass at midnight on Christmas Eve.

“Last time we had it, we ended up with a drunk trying to get the doors off the church,” he told the Tablet.

“So we’ve made the decision not to have Mass when people are pouring out of the pubs sloshed.”

"One parish in York has brought the mass forward to 8 p.m. after last year’s service was interrupted by a streaker," writes Bingham.  "Meanwhile a church in Havant had to call police three times after drunken yobs threw bricks at worshipers during Christmas prayers.

But other churches are holding firm with tradition. Father Michael Marsden of Our Lady of Lourdes in Hessle, East Yorks, who will be presiding over the only midnight mass in his immediate area, said: “Going to midnight mass at Christmas used to be one of the hallmarks of being a Catholic, it is sad if that is changing.”