I received very little response to my email to the three Munster MEPs regarding the criminalisation of those who sell Mass cards without the permission of a Catholic bishop so I’ve sent the same email to all 13 Irish MEPs.
I’ve also submitted the following petition to the European Parliament.
To Whom It May Concern:
In February this year the Irish government enacted a law which makes it a criminal offence to sell a Mass card not authorised by a Catholic bishop (Charities Act 2009, Section 99).
I strongly object to this law for the following reasons.
1. Contained within the Act is a presumption of guilt until proved innocent. This runs contrary to Article 48 (1) of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights which states:
“Everyone who has been charged shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.”
2. Section 99 is an unjustified restriction on Article 44 of the Irish Constitution which guarantees the free profession and practice of religion (See newspaper article below).
3. The criminalisation of the sale of Mass cards is a disproportionate reaction to what is a very minor business activity (See newspaper article below).
4. This law confers an absolute monopoly to the Catholic Church for the sale of Mass Cards. I believe this to be contrary to EU law.
5. The requirement to obtain permission from a member of a religious organisation to engage in legitimate business is an infringement of the right of all EU citizens to engage in such activity.
I request that the EU take action to force the Irish government to repeal section 99 of the Charities Act, 2009 or, at a minimum, have that part which is offensive to the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights regarding the principle of ‘innocent until proved guilty’ struck out.
Section 99. (Charities Act, 2009)
(1) A person who sells a Mass card other than pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) In proceedings for an offence under this section it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved on the balance of probabilities, that the sale of the Mass card to which the alleged offence relates was not done pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person.
(3) In this section—
“Church” means the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church;
“Mass card” means a card or other printed material that indicates, or purports to indicate, that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass howsoever described will be offered for—
(a) the intentions specified therein, or
(b) such intentions as will include the intentions specified therein;
“priest” means a priest ordained according to the rites of the Church;
“recognised person” means—
(a) a bishop of the Church, or
(b) a provincial of an order of priests established under the authority of, and recognised by, the Church;
“sell” includes, in relation to a Mass card, offer or expose the card for sale or invite the making by a person of an offer to purchase the card.
Irish Times article
Mass card section of Charities Bill could be unconstitutional
CAROL COULTER, Legal Affairs Editor
Thu, Feb 26, 2009
A SECTION of the Charities Bill may be unconstitutional because it makes it a criminal offence to sell a Mass card not authorised by a Catholic bishop, according to a former attorney general. The Bill went to President Mary McAleese for signing earlier this week.
The section in question was inserted into the Bill by the Seanad on February 11th last to deal with a problem of the sale of “bogus Mass cards”, which purport to be signed by a priest, but where the signature is not genuine and no Mass is actually said.
The Government amendment was put forward following the earlier proposal of a similar amendment by Senator Ronan Mullen.
Former attorney general John Rogers SC has provided an opinion on it to the solicitor for a man who sells genuine Mass cards, signed by a priest in the Philippines by arrangement with a bishop there. The money raised goes to build churches there. He fears shops may feel pressure on them not to sell if the Bill becomes law.
During the Seanad debate, Senator David Norris read from Mr. Rogers’s opinion, which stated that section 96 was “an unjustified restriction on the Article 44 guarantee of the free profession and practice of religion.”
The section provides that a person who sells a Mass card “other than pursuant to arrangement with a recognised person” is guilty of an offence. A “recognised person” who can authorise the sale of such Mass cards is defined as a bishop of the church, or the head of an order recognised by it.
The section defines a Mass card as a card that indicates that “the holy sacrifice of the Mass” will be offered for a person’s intentions.
In any proceedings it will be presumed, unless proved to the contrary, that an offence has been committed.
In his opinion Mr. Rogers says this goes further than is reasonably required to deal with the problem of the sale of a Mass card not properly signed by a priest, where no Mass is said, or where the purchaser thinks it is for a charitable purpose and it is not.
“The narrow categories of persons is arbitrary and unfair and represents a serious interference with the religious practice of some priests and others who are members of non-Catholic churches and religious communities in this State,” he states.
He also points out that it presumes an offence has been committed until the contrary is proven. “The criminalisation of the sale of Mass cards is another aspect of the disproportionate nature of this piece of legislation,” he says.