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Did you know it was illegal to sell mass cards not authorised by the Catholic Church? Only in a banana republic.
Eamonn McCann, 29 Oct 2009
Should the courts be called on to rule on matters of magic and death? I think not.
The question arises from the case of Thomas McNally of Longford, who is challenging the constitutionality of the Charities Act 2009 which outlaws the sale of Mass-cards not officially authorised by the Catholic Church.
For the benefit of Protestants, it should be explained that a Mass-card betokens a Mass celebrated for the repose of a soul lingering in purgatory. (Purgatory has not been abolished. That’s limbo. Although limbo hasn’t actually been abolished either. I shall return to this important topic.)
Anyway, Mass cards. Eternal bliss for a loved one for the price of 40 fags. Can’t be bad.
Mr. McNally has been shifting cards by the shed-load across the Three Parishes, each signed by Fr Oskar Mkondana of Mangochi, Malawi. Appearing for the State before Mr. Justice John MacMenamin, Donal O’Donnell SC argued that the cards weren’t bona fide because Fr. Mkondana couldn’t deliver on the undertaking, having been banned from saying Mass by Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Mangochi.
Mr. McNally responded that Fr. Mkondana was merely forbidden to say Mass in public: the Masses said for the souls for whom his cards had being bought were private.
The State called Fr Ed Grimes of the Holy Ghosts, an expert on both missions and Mass-cards, to testify that Fr Mkondana had been suspended from saying Mass full stop.
At the time of writing, Mr. Justice MacMenamin has yet to deliver his verdict. If it would help, he can give me a call. (I knew him years ago, once helped him home after a feed of drink in Grogan’s. Is it contempt of court to mention this? Do I care?)
The thing is, it doesn’t matter a hoot whether Bishop Malzaire has banned Fr. Mkondana outright or only from saying Mass publicly. What matters is the validity of the Mass: that is, the validity of the Sacrament of the Eucharist at the heart of the Mass. Bishops cannot decide such matters.
Bishops can order a priest not to say Mass. But they cannot second-guess God with regard to the sacramental validity of a Mass which, disobediently, he goes on to celebrate. If they want to delegitimate Mkondana’s Masses, they must laicise him – “defrock”, as the vulgar phrase has it. Which they haven’t.