A Co. Cavan priest who has not prevented parishioners from attending Mass in the church has been issued with a €500 fine by gardaí The Irish Catholic can reveal.
Fr PJ Hughes, Mullahoran parish in Co. Cavan has been warned by authorities in the past that the fact that the doors are open and a small number of parishioners can attend Mass is against Covid-19 regulation. This is despite the fact that some legal experts have insisted that religious gatherings are not illegal.
Now, The Irish Catholic understands that the gardaí have ratcheted things up and fined Fr Hughes €500. Fr Hughes previously revealed that a garda had told him: “this is your final warning”.
Sources close to the Co. Cavan-based priest have told this newspaper that he is determined not pay the fine and is prepared to go to jail if necessary.
Fr Hughes is also adamant that he will continue to celebrate Mass while the church doors remain open, although he does not advertise the fact.
In a note to parishioners in the bulletin this weekend, Fr Hughes writes that: “For those who are afraid of catching the virus in the church then they can have the free choice to stay at home and live their lives as they think it best to do.
“I have been reported again and the gardaí have issued a fine because I celebrated Mass with people present. I will exercise my constitutional right even though people are complaining, even though I am not obeying the bishop when I go against his advice,” he writes.
Fr Hughes continues: “We can’t just reject Jesus in the Holy Eucharist”.
In November, gardaí approached Fr Hughes asking that he lock the church when he is celebrating Mass to prevent parishioners from attending. However, the parish priest continues to leave the church open and parishioners are free to attend if they so wish.
At the time he insisted: “It’s a divine right. We have a divine right to worship God. Show me a law that says I’m wrong”.