No prosecution against prayer house

 

THE DIRECTOR of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has decided there should be no prosecution against the House of Prayer on Achill Island, Co Mayo, following a lengthy Garda investigation into its activities.

Complaints had been made to gardaí by a number of people who donated money to the centre, founded by Christina Gallagher, a housewife from Knockmore near Ballina.

Supt Patrick Doyle, head of the Westport Garda District, confirmed that the DPP has decided that legal proceedings should not be initiated against Mrs Gallagher.

Large sums of money – totalling up to €250,000 – were returned to donors who had second thoughts about their contributions to the House of Prayer when newspapers reported allegations of Mrs Gallagher “amassing great wealth”.

The House of Prayer was set up by Mrs Gallagher in the old convent on Achill Sound in July 1993, following her claims that she was visited by Our Lady and was given messages from her for the people of Ireland. It was initially approved by the Archdiocese of Tuam, in which it is located.

However, a committee of inquiry set up by the Archbishop of Tuam Most Rev Michael Neary, concluded in 1997 that there was no evidence of “supernatural phenomena of whatever kind” there.

It also found that none of the evidence presented proved beyond reasonable doubt the occurrence of supernatural phenomena there, “other than that of faith”.

At the time, the archbishop spoke of “the force for good” of those associated with the House of Prayer and said there was no reason to question the sincerity or orthodoxy of those involved. His chief concern was that it be integrated into the life of Achill parish and the archdiocese.

Towards both ends, and by agreement with Mrs Gallagher and her associates, the House of Prayer was to become a private association of the Christian faithful.

Members of such associations operate in conformity with the church’s code of canon law.

It was to submit statutes to the archbishop for approval, which would include a clear and unambiguous statement of the purposes of the association and the means of achieving them.

The new association was to be subject to the archbishop’s authority in all matters concerning funds and how they would be used.

If a spiritual director was required, members could choose one from among those legitimately exercising ministry in the Tuam archdiocese, subject to the archbishop’s approval. However in February of last year, the archdiocese emphatically dissociated itself from the House of Prayer, stating that its activities were “entirely of a private nature” and carried “no ecclesiastical approval whatsoever”. It said efforts to integrate the work of the House of Prayer with the archdiocese had met “with a disappointing lack of success”.

The archbishop banned Masses there and wrote to all Catholic parishes in Ireland and the US, advising them that activities at the House of Prayer no longer had Church approval.

His public statements on the House of Prayer are available at www.tuamarchdiocese.org/news