Dear Editor, I was astounded to read in The Irish Catholic about a priest in Cork who was allegedly threatened by gardaí with punitive action for celebrating public Mass [IC 12/11/2020].
The Department of Health and the Minister of Justice have both said that if a priest celebrated public Mass they were not making a penal offence. That is their interpretation of the temporary regulations introduced to the Health Act 1947, so why is there any confusion for An Garda? To make threats about enforcing the law is a terrible abuse of power, a priest is no criminal for giving his flock access to the Eucharist, he is a saint.
Admittedly, it’s important for everyone to be cautious and safe in these times of the coronavirus pandemic but we must keep a keen eye on those who would abuse their authority. Let’s social distance, wash hands and all the rest, but we also need some common sense, the world can’t just stop indefinitely. The hidden costs of locking down the country will surely be felt for years to come, so there needs to be a balance.
When members of the Republic of Ireland’s police service decide that it’s their duty to accost a priest and threaten him not to celebrate Mass publicly; that’s a line that should never be crossed. People of faith should not stand for it, as it leads down a dark road. Regardless of whether people of faith think the priest in question was a hero or was endangering people at a time of pandemic, our authorities should not be repressing religious activity.
It’s a sad day when people’s religious needs are respected and facilitated just over the border, in the North, while on the same island police are reprimanding priests in the south.
Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow
Trinity College should explain behaviour towards Catholic society
Dear Editor, Evidence is mounting on Trinity College in Dublin that it’s an unfriendly place for young Catholic students, in my opinion. Judging by the article about the college which appeared in your paper [IC 12/11/2020] it seems to be getting worse.
The article states that college’s Central Societies Committee wrote to the Catholic Laurentian Society to inform them they aren’t allowed to advertise or hold prayer meetings under the society’s banner as this would breach its status as a “cultural” society. What monumental rubbish, who is running the show over there and what’s their intention? They seem dubious at best. Culture and faith go hand in hand for people who are religious. The ‘source’ of this article – who probably decided to remain anonymous to avoid bitter condemnation just for being Catholic and defending prayer – stated they felt it was religious discrimination if it was being applied across all religious orientated societies. I would wholeheartedly agree and hope Trinity College find it in themselves to explain and then apologise profusely for such a pathetic display.
Gerard Flynn, Cork City, Cork
Ban on Mass attendance a ‘grave deprivation’
Dear Editor, Recent Government directives regarding Covid-19 include the prohibition of attendance at Church services especially the Holy Mass which the Government directs to “move online”.
Regrettably I have not heard even one archbishop, bishop, priest or deacon state publicly that such directives are unconstitutional and contravene Canon Law.
The fact is that watching the Mass on TV/screen is not at all the same as being physically present no matter how fervently one prays. Bunreacht na hEireann Art. 14 recognises “the free profession and practice of religion”. While it is true that one can pray anywhere it is not possible to fully participate in the Mass, or indeed, any other sacrament, remotely. According to Canon 1221 “entry to a church is to be free and gratuitous during sacred celebrations”.
In the case of the Mass, not being present in church immediately precludes those suitably disposed from receiving Holy Communion which, for Catholics, is vital, and a grave deprivation indeed.
As for marriages, Baptisms, First Holy Communions and Confirmations these too are restricted. And some churches have been closed altogether – again in contravention of Canon Law 937.
This begs the questions as to whether our Government is acting unconstitutionally; and our bishops and priests are ordained to serve themselves or the needs of the flock entrusted to them.
The fact of seriously ill persons whether in hospital, nursing homes, or their own homes being deprived of the sacraments because the priests did/do not attend them is quite scandalous and to my knowledge has never occurred even in times of plague. One cannot imagine doctors and nurses abandoning their patients in such fashion.
It is time our Government took note and our bishops exercised their authority under God to provide for the needs of the flock entrusted to them.
Ashbourne, Co. Meath
Plea for public Mass during Christmas
Dear Editor, With the easing of restrictions hopefully in sight on December 1, the desire for public worship to resume, with of course the necessary safeguards in place, is currently to the forefront in the minds of many practising Catholics. The sacraments are absolutely necessary for us and many are now suffering for want of this essential spiritual nourishment. Online worship is an inadequate substitute. We need to be physically present for Mass inside our churches, in the presence of the priest, to receive the sacraments. Most other European countries have deemed it unconstitutional to ban public worship. Why are the Irish the outliers in this regard?
The extraordinary lengths to which the priests and volunteers in every parish across the country went to a few months ago here, to ensure a safe environment for all church attendees, was exemplary.
Article 44 of our Constitution states that ‘The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold his name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion’. Many elderly, and not so elderly people, whom I have spoken to over the last few months are suffering deeply from the lack of the sacraments. It is affecting the mental and spiritual well-being of many Irish citizens at this time. Why should they suffer any longer? Christmas, the celebration of the birth of our Saviour and the highlight of the christian calendar, is only a few weeks away. After months of deprivation of public Mass, we now look forward with anticipation to be able to receive him in person. It is our constitutional right and our plea. The opening of our churches for public worship can ensure Christmas to be celebrated in a manner that is fitting for the feast that it so rightly deserves.
Aisling Bastible, Clontarf, Co. Dublin