From now on, Mass cards will have to be signed by a priest in the company of those who request them, or can be pre-sold only by a “recognised person” – either a Catholic bishop or provincial of a Catholic religious order.
Some bishops had raised concerns that Mass cards were being sold, for about €5 each, and pre-signed by priests who were either dead or not in good standing.
One example was cards on sale in shops in Cork signed “Fr Joe Carroll” who was in fact Mgr José Carolo, an Italian priest who worked in Quito, Ecuador, and died two years ago.
Some retailers argued that the sale of pre-signed Mass cards was helping communities in developing countries. A Longford Mass card supplier, David Hughes, told a Sunday newspaper recently he had sent €200,000 and built three churches in the Philippines by selling cards signed by a Bishop there.
The new laws are contained in Section 99 of the Charities Act 2009, which the Government has agreed to commence.
The junior minister with responsibility for charities regulation John Curran said this will ensure the good faith of people cannot be taken advantage of.
“The sale of pre-signed Mass cards in shops, as opposed to directly from the Catholic Church, has been a matter of public concern for some time. The concerns are twofold: One, will a Mass will actually be offered in respect of the specific intentions offered? Two, is there an element of profit behind the sale of such cards?” he said.
“A Mass card is purchased in good faith, and often at times of great sorrow to demonstrate a person’s empathy and concern for others. It is an inherently decent act. I believe people in such circumstances should have no doubt whatsoever that a Mass will be offered for their intentions. This is what section 99 will achieve,” said Mr Curran.