Why opposing the blasphemy law is pointless

As is my habit, I stopped in a local store on the way home this evening to pick up a few essentials – milk, a bottle of orange juice to slake the thirst from the Summer heat, you know the drill.

As I queued to pay at the checkout, I read the signs on the wall to pass the time. Special offers. A couple of announcements from the local GAA team. And a legal notice.
It’s not a great image (my phone camera is pretty old) but the image to the right declares that the retailer guarantees it is is ‘compliant with canon law and all statutory regulations as defined in the Charities Act 2009 section 99‘.

Canon law?

In case you’re wondering, there’s a section of the Charities Act which promises to protect Irish priests against competition from foreign clergymen selling Mass cards.

Mass cards are big business. But the holy men aren’t immune to the vagaries of the marketplace, and found themselves undercut until the government stepped in.

A few weeks ago, the Ryan report criticised the ‘deferential and submissive attitude’ of the department of education in dealing with the Catholic church.

They haven’t gone away. you know.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.


  1. Query: what is meant by “foreign” clergy?

    I ask b/c I fondly recall reading, years ago (in Dinneen, I think) “prod” rendered as “Sasanach; Albanach”, and “prod church” as “teampall galldha”. (I’m probably messing up the spellings. I am teh suck as Gaeilge.) If that’s what’s meant — dirty black heretics, that is — cripes but it’s offensive on paper*, but in fact few of the false holymen would have fallen afoul of of the CA anyway (bar the odd high Anglican on holidays from England, perhaps).

    OTOH if what is meant is swarthy French and Italian clerics peddling their suspect Mediterranean wares on Irish territory, that’s pretty offensive too, but more on a free trade than a religious basis. But, I mean, if that’s the case — and it seems to me to be so, b/c SFAIK you’re not going to find the holymen of many religions other than the RCC selling mass cards — then surely this is not deferential submission to the RCC, but rather to the specifically Irish hierarchy thereof? And, as such, a first faint move towards restoring the distinctly non-Roman pre-Synod of Cashel tenor of the mainstream Irish church, perhaps? A baby step, to be sure, but a welcome and historically interesting one, if true. (Mind you, a hearty and unequivocal “You witch-doctors of whatever variety sort things out amongst yourselves, the law will take no cognisance of your fetish-peddling” would be preferable. But one takes what one can get.)

    * Years ago I would have cared a lot more about this. These days? Meh. I’m all for parity of disesteem.

  2. Thanks for the link. Good heavens. I’m astonished, and little astonishes me these days.The jokes are obvious, but I ain’t gonna touch ’em.

    I actually almost feel sympathy for the more intelligent members of the RC hierarchy; they must be mortified at such shenanigans.

    Almost. Once you have taken the position that fetishes work some sort of magic, you’ve only yourself to blame when volume discounters move in on your trade.

  3. Actually, on mature recollection, you’re right. There I am hampered by my sectarian perspective again. This is as deferential to the domestic RCC as you suggest. That their concerns are undoubtedly sincere and well-meant is irrelevant. That the state takes to heart concerns that could not possibly have meaning outside a specifically RC context is the scandal.

  4. UPDATE:

    July 28 2009 press release from John Curran TD, junior minister in the Dept of Rural, Community and Gaeltacht Affairs:

    The department has confirmed that the commencement order giving effect to section 99 of the Act will come into effect on September 1.

    “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,” says junior minister John Curran.

    “It is not my intention to stymie the sale of genuine Mass cards, but to enhance public confidence and to ensure that people’s good faith is not taken advantage of.”

    And so, the churching of our government continues.

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