New Irish Law Banning Gatherings Threatens Prison for Priests Who Say Mass

ER Editor: Why are the populations of Ireland (and Wales) being especially targeted for their church attendance in new coronavirus leglislation?

Ireland has all the usual constitutional protections in place regarding freedom of worship, yet it appears to be under rather unique assault. Michael Haynes’ report for LifeSite News below cites a report by the Iona Institute (Clergy who hold acts of public worship can go to prison under new Covid measures). Of note:

UNDER new Covid restrictions passed into law last night in the Dail, a priest can now be fined, or imprisoned, or both, for saying Mass in public. The same applies to any minister of religion who holds a public act of worship.

This is drastic, draconian and unacceptable and must raise questions about the Constitutionality of the measure, quite apart from its total disproportionality.

Aside from Wales, the Republic of Ireland appears to be the only place in Europe where public worship has stopped, and in our case, now attracts penal sanctions.

Prior to this pandemic, when did such a law exist in Ireland? You have to go back to penal times.

It might be pleaded that similar penalties apply to many other citizens and sectors, but we can only repeat how extraordinarily draconian these measures in respect of religion are, when compared with other countries.

The Constitution guarantees: “Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen.” It also acknowledges the importance of public worship.

From the Pope’s recent pronouncement relegating property rights (see this critical piece against this titled Pope Francis is mistaken, property rights are human rights; we also recommend The Pope Just Called Private Property a ‘Secondary Right.’ He Couldn’t Be More Wrong), to his other recent one calling for civil unions among homosexual couples (see Pope Francis Backs Same-sex Civil Unions in Major Shift on Catholic Church’s Stance), this measure threatening priests for doing their jobs seems to be just another way to attack the Catholic faithful by the authoritarian / globalist / Marxist / pro-corporate crowd.

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New Irish law banning gatherings threatens prison for priests who say Mass

Ireland’s health minister claims that the law doesn’t apply to religious services, but nothing in the law as written exempts them.

MICHAEL HAYNES for LIFESITE NEWS

DUBLIN, Ireland, October 23, 2020 (LifeSiteNews)

As a result of an astonishing new law passed in Ireland last night, members of the clergy could now face imprisonment for celebrating Mass or other ceremonies.

An amendment was made to the 1947 Health Act, concerning temporary restrictions in the nation-wide lockdown, and passed into law by the Irish Parliament, or Dáil, on October 22. Article 8 of the new regulations outlines restrictions on events, and reads: “A person shall not organise, or cause to be organised, a relevant event in a relevant geographical location other than in accordance with paragraph (2).”

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Paragraph (2) lists the only two permissible exceptions to the law, which are if the event takes place “only outdoors” and if the organizer “takes all reasonable steps to ensure that the event is attended, or proposed to be attended, by persons residing in no more than 2 different places of residence.”

The now amended Health Act specifically states that forbidden events include gatherings for “religious or other reasons.”

Funerals are permitted under the law, but only with the strict condition that there be no more than 25 people present, excluding the priest.

Anyone contravening the law has committed an “offence” against the Health Act, for which the penalty is “a class C fine, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or both.” A Class C fine is one that does not exceed €2,500 (about $3,000).

The Iona Institute first reported the news, noting that the last time priests faced such a penalty for saying Mass was in the penal times, when Catholics in Ireland were under bloody persecution.

Minister for health Stephen Donnelly seemed unaware of the text of the legislation, claiming that “I assure the Deputy and other colleagues that with regard to penalties, religious services are non-penal in that there is no penalty attached to them.”

However, Deputy McNamara, the recently appointed chair of the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Response, issued a blistering attack on the government: “Priests will be committing a criminal offence if they open the doors of their churches for Mass.”

He continued, “Is the Government is going to send Gardaí after priests who decide to say Mass? If the Government is thinking of that, I have one word to say: Don’t.”

The Irish Constitution holds that “[f]reedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen.”

It also states: “The State shall not impose any disabilities or make any discrimination on the ground of religious profession, belief or status.”

The Irish government has provided a list of “essential retail outlets” that are permitted to remain open, among which are included normal supermarkets, opticians, shops with animal supplies, and food markets.

The government originally re-closed the churches on October 5, despite widespread compliance from religious communities with the existing government measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Senator Rónán Mullen expressed his confusion about the heavy-handed restrictions on churches: “It is strange that there is this lack of nuance and sophistication in the government’s recommendations or regulations because, in all groups of society, those who are attending Masses and services are probably the most compliant.”

At the time, the four archbishops of Ireland expressed their concern that people be allowed to continue to attend Mass. “While we fully support the guidance of the public health authorities, we will continue to engage constructively in the coming days with the civil authorities to ensure that our people have continued access to the support of Mass and the Sacraments and essential spiritual nourishment for these challenging times.

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