The High Court has today reserved judgment in a constitutional challenge against a provision of the Charities Acts which outlaws the sale of Mass cards except through an arrangement with the Catholic church.
Mr Thomas 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 Act, which became law in early September.
Today following the conclusion of submissions from both sides Mr Justice John MacMenamin said he was reserving judgment. The Judge said that hoped to give his decision "as soon as possible".
In the action the McNally's claim that the Act is unconstitutional and unlawfully confers a monopoly on the sale of Mass cards to clerics of the Catholic Church or to persons approved by them.
According to the act, Mass cards can only be sold by agreement with a bishop or provincial of an order of priests of the Catholic Church. It is claimed that a breach of the restriction could lead to a 10-year jail sentence or a fine of up to €300,000. The State is opposing the application.
The court had been told that over the years Mr McNally had arrangements with several priests who agreed to permit him to affix their signature to Mass cards in return for a fee.
The court heard that Mr McNally, whose business sells more than 120,000 mass cards per year at €1.75 per unit to retailers, has an agreement a Polish priest based in the West Indies. That cleric, a Fr Bernard Latus, receives €100 to say three masses per month for those for whom the masses are intended.
The State has opposed the challenge and has argued that the provision is constitutional in order to ensure that members of the public do not purchase bogus mass cards.