Mass card sale ban challenged in court


A CONSTITUTIONAL challenge to a provision of the Charities Acts, which outlaws the sale of Mass cards except through an arrangement with the Catholic Church, has opened before the High Court.

The Act outlaws sales of Mass cards other than by agreement with a bishop or provincial of an order of priests of the Catholic Church.

A breach of this legislation could lead to a 10-year jail sentence or a fine of up to €300,000.

Thomas McNally, head of Mass card producers MCC, New Street, Co Longford and his sister, Marie Reilly, a card retailer of Ard Na Rí, Ardnacassa, Co Longford, have taken the proceedings against the State over the Act, which became law in early September.

It is claimed the Act is unconstitutional and unlawfully confers a monopoly on the sale of Mass cards to clerics of the Catholic Church or to persons approved by them.

The court was told that Mr McNally had an arrangement over some years with several priests who agreed to permit him to affix their signature to Mass cards in return for a fee.

Yesterday, Mr McNally, in reply to Dr Gerard Hogan SC, said he has an arrangement with a Polish Catholic priest, Fr Bernard Latus, whose name appears on the Mass cards distributed by MCC.

Fr Latus, who is based on the West Indian Island of St Kitts & Nevis, receives €100 to say three Masses a month for those for whom the Masses are intended, the court heard.

Mr McNally said he met Fr Latus three years ago while he was on holiday.

Mr McNally agreed with Donal O'Donnell SC, for the State, that MCC had wanted legislation relating to the sale of pre-signed Mass cards in order to deal with "bogus Mass cards".

The case continues before Mr Justice John MacMenamin.