Attending public Mass is a legal offence, the State confirmed in the High Court Tuesday April 13, claiming that the restrictions are “justified and proportionate”.
The State’s confirmation came as part of the challenge brought by Catholic businessman Declan Ganley, who argues that his constitutional right to free practice of religion is being breached because he cannot leave his house to attend Mass.
The State had previously pointed out that there are no Masses to attend currently but were asked by the High Court to clarify whether the ban on Mass had a legal status or if they were merely advisory.
If they were merely advisory, Mr Ganley may not need to proceed with his case.
The State has now clarified that it is in fact an offence to leave your home to attend public Mass, except in certain specified circumstances, such as weddings or funerals, as had been revealed by The Irish Catholic previously.
The State is also now claiming that the restrictions are justified and proportionate given the circumstances and also that they do not prohibit the free practice of religion under the constitution.
Counsel for Mr Ganley said that in light of this information they would need extra time to file an amended statement of grounds.
In response, counsel for the State said, while they didn’t believe there was any validity to it, they weren’t objecting to the extra time required.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan said that any further affidavit by Mr Ganley must be filed by this Friday 16 April and in order to allow the State time to consider this, he would put the case back to Tuesday the 27 April when it would be up for mention again.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic April 1, Bishop Tom Meenihan of Meath had said that the criminalisation of Mass set a “worrying precedent”. While he had not seen the response made by the State to Mr Ganley at the time, “what was reported was of grave concern”, he said.
Meanwhile, a number of bishops and TD’s spoke out against restrictions on public worship over the Easter period.
One TD, Mattie McGrath, called the penalising of public worship “outrageous” and “totally anti-Christian”.