It is now six years since it became a criminal offence to sell a Mass card without the permission of a Catholic bishop.
It is also six years since I first applied to the bishop of Cloyne for permission to sell Mass cards. Over the years I have received various reasons why permission was not forthcoming.
The last letter I received from the bishop, in March 2014, gave me permission, sort of, to sell unsigned Mass cards. This, however, is wholly unacceptable as I make clear in my reply to the bishop.
29 July 2015
Dear Bishop Crean,
Thank you for your letter dated 24 March 2014.
Since receiving your letter I have been engaged in research and negotiations in preparation for the launch of my business project – the selling of signed and unsigned Mass cards.
I am now at a point where it is impossible for me to proceed without your express permission as required under Section 99 of the Charities Act, 2009.
In your letter dated 24 March 2014 you express the following understanding regarding the selling of unsigned Mass cards:
It is my understanding that the relevant section of the Charities Act refers to the sale of Mass cards which at the time of sale already bear the signature of a priest and thus indicate that a Mass will be offered for a specific intention.
The Bishop has no role in the sale of Mass cards which are unsigned at the time of sale.
If I was confident in your interpretation of the relevant section I would consider proceeding immedately with the sale of unsigned Mass cards.
However, I believe your interpretation is flawed. The relevant section makes no mention of specifically allowing the sale of Mass cards bearing the signature of a priest at the point of sale.
The relevant section makes no mention of, and therefore no distinction between, signed and unsigned Mass cards. It would therefore be very unwise of me to engage in the selling of unsigned Mass cards without your specific permission.
I have consulted with a legal expert on the issue and he is in agreement with my conclusion.
You will understand that I must be very careful in my actions at this point as the punishment for the illegal sale of even a single Mass Card is extremely severe.
A conviction for selling a non-authorised Mass card carries a ten year jail sentence or a fine of up to €300,000.
Furthermore, you will be aware that the law on this matter dispenses with the long-established legal principle of ‘innocent until proved guilty’ and replaces that principle with a ‘guilty until proved innocent’ provision as follows:
In proceedings for an offence under this section it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved on the balance of probibilities, that the sale of the Mass card to which the alleged offence relates was not done pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person.
In order to be absolutely safe in proceeding with my business project I require, by law, your formal permission.
I therefore again formally request permission to sell signed and unsigned Mass cards as required under Section 99 of the Charities Act, 2009