Suspended priest's name on Mass cards, court told

 

A MASS card distribution company knowingly used the name of a priest who had been suspended by his bishop, the High Court was told yesterday.

On the second day of a constitutional challenge to a provision of the Charities Acts outlawing the sale of Mass cards except through an arrangement with the Catholic Church, the court was told Thomas McNally used the name of Fr Oskar Mkondana, based in Mangochi, Malawi, on Mass cards sold by him.

Fr Mkondana was suspended by his bishop from celebration of Mass and the sacraments on October 23rd, 2003. Mr McNally said he was given assurances by both Fr Mkondana and other clerics that the African priest was entitled to say Mass in private and had complied with the intentions on cards sold by Mr McNally’s company to retailers all over Ireland.

Mr 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 proceedings against the State over the Mass card provisions in the Act, which became law early last month.

Cross-examined yesterday by Donal O’Donnell SC, for the State, Mr McNally said he was aware of Fr Mkondana’s suspension and, as a result of false rumours in the media about Fr Mkondana, he brought him to Ireland to deal with those.

Mr McNally said he communicated with the priest’s bishop in Malawi, Gabriel Malzaire, and was further satisfied from consultations with other clerics the decree suspending Fr Mkondana prohibited him saying Mass in public, not in private.

In evidence, Fr Ed Grimes, a Holy Ghost priest who liaises with missions throughout the world, said that having spoken to Bishop Malzaire, his understanding was Fr Mkondana was suspended from saying Mass in public or private.

Det Sgt James McCarthy said he had in 2004 conducted an inquiry into complaints about alleged bogus Mass cards.

He interviewed Mr McNally and Fr Mkondana, who met him in Longford Garda station by arrangement. He sent a file to the DPP and a decision was taken not to prosecute due to evidential difficulties.

The case, before Mr Justice John MacMenamin, is expected to conclude today.