Missionaries warn retailers over pre-signed Mass cards

“IF I opened a head shop here, I wouldn’t be facing penalties like these,” a newsagent said when reminded he could serve 10 years in jail or face fines as high as €300,000 for selling pre-signed Mass cards.

Just when you thought it was safe to buy everything in your local shop, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) have reminded retailers of the illegality of selling pre-signed cards.

“Such cards have no spiritual value. They falsify the significance of the eucharist and trade on the faith and goodwill of people. It is a commercial operation with profit as its motive. Those who engage or facilitate this practice, including the shops that offer them for sale, seriously exploit the eucharist and its sacred character,” the letter to shopkeepers states.

Mark Hanley, a newsagent on Magazine Road in Cork, said he was shocked by the tenor of the letter, especially the reminder that penalties for selling pre-signed Mass cards can be 10 years in jail or maximum fines of €300,000. “If I was selling drugs the penalties wouldn’t be much harsher,” he joked.

As it turns out, Mr Hanley has never sold pre-signed Mass cards, “so, I presume this letter has been sent out to all retailers, regardless”.

“The only cards I sell are ordinary, un-signed Mass cards,” he said, adding that recently, “nobody seems to be buying these any more.

Section 99 of the Charities Act 2009, states that “a person who sells a Mass card other than pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person shall be guilty of an offence”.

A “recognised person” can be a bishop or a provincial of an order of priests. “This means that the distribution and sale of pre-signed Mass cards by commercial interests should cease,” retailers were told.

There was no answer to calls to the MSC Mission Office in Cork last evening.

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