DUBLIN, Ireland, April 21, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Irish Catholics have faced months of persecution from the national government, with public worship banned since December and attempts to host services punishable by fines and prison time for ministers. Now, a new law has been passed which further tightens gatherings both indoors and outdoors, effectively criminalizing attendance at any religious gathering, including sacramental Confession with a priest.
The updated legislation, (S.I. 171/2021), enacted under the guise of public health and safety, renders meeting a priest for Confession a criminal offense in Ireland, punishable by up to six months in jail, or a fine of €127 (about $152 USD).
There remains an arbitrary permission to attend weddings and funerals, albeit in limited numbers.
Oran Doyle, law professor and member of the COVID-19 Law and Human Rights Observatory at Trinity College, Dublin, explained on RTE Radio 1’s News at One, Sunday, the recent change to Irish law and why it is significant regarding Catholic worship and access of the faithful to the sacraments.
“What’s changed is really the legal treatment,” he explained. “Apart from the first lockdown last April/May, and the start of June 2020, there hasn’t been a legal prohibition on religious services.”
Doyle pointed out that the Irish government, until this point, “has talked in terms of ‘levels,’” with regard to the their lockdown regimes. These levels, or tiers of restrictions are supposedly based on the severity of the spread of COVID-19, with higher levels bringing about harsher impositions on social gatherings, and so on. “But really those levels aren’t always backed up by law, and the case of religious services in general … there was no legal prohibition [for attendance].”
The recent adjustment of law “is the first time that a clear, legal prohibition on religious services has been put in place, as I say, since the first lockdown last April/May,” Doyle informed listeners.
In a statement, Ireland’s pro-abortion Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, attempted to quell fears that members of the Catholic Church, and indeed all religious observers, were being attacked by the new legislation, saying that the law “was not intended to single out worship.”
But Doyle flatly contradicted the minister’s claim. “Well that can’t be correct because previously in the legislation there was a clear ban on any events in your households and there was also a ban on what they described as ‘relevant events,’ which, in the law, has a very clear definition as events for social recreational purposes, things like that,” he said.
“So those type of events were already banned but religious events weren’t, and they seem to be the most obvious thing that was cut by this change in the law that was made last week,” he responded.
The new provision in law applies to any religious event, be it held indoors or outdoors. “That’s where it is different from the restrictions on other events,” Doyle said. “So, for example, if a priest were to do the sacrament of Confession with one parishioner outside, socially distanced, that would be a criminal offence; but if the priest were to meet the parishioner for a chat, that wouldn’t be a criminal offence because that’s dealt with under one of the other provisions or regulations.”
Doyle clarified that the offense, in such an instance, would be on the part of both the penitent and the confessor, both of whom “attend” the sacrament together in the same place and at the same time.
He added that, whilst the provision “doesn’t mention ‘religious purpose’” as a specific offending event, the new regulations “are made by the minister for health under the statute passed by the Oireachtas [Irish parliament] last March, and it’s the statute that defines events to include an event for religious purposes.”
“So when these regulations use the same word ‘event,’ in the way that it was used in the main statute, well then that meaning has to follow through,” Doyle explained.
Irish bishops continue attempts to dialogue with government officials
Commenting on the new “draconian” impositions on the Church in Ireland, the Primate of All-Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, characterized the statute as “provocative and formally enacting a potential infringement of religious freedom and of constitutional rights.”
Editor, Catholic Truth: Well, you didn’t show too much (if any) concern that your Government was infringing God’s right to have His Moral Law observed when you meekly sat by and watched as evil laws were enacted which legalise both the murder of unborn babies and the sexual unions of same-sex couples. So, no point getting all hoity toity about “infringements of religious freedom now”. Justice towards God is even more important than justice towards the rest of us. Think about it.
Martin expressed his “disappointment” that the Church faces tighter restrictions, despite “the consistent support from the churches for public health messaging since the beginning of the pandemic.” In fact, the support from the Irish Catholic hierarchy for oppressive government restrictions went so far as to see the Archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, voluntarily prohibit priests in his diocese from distributing Holy Communion to parishioners privately “[in] the interest of health and safety.”
Editor, Catholic Truth: As it says in the headline, the Irish bishops are getting precisely what they deserve. They are reaping what they have sown by not standing against these disgraceful lockdowns and restrictions from the get-go, but, instead, actively co-ooperating with them. In other words, the Government is now treating the bishops with contempt, not “despite” their support for the unlawful pandemic measures but “because” of their support. Bullies never respect the bullied. Think about it; think, think, think, and when you’ve done that, think again. Yes, they are reaping – big time – what they have sown. Galatians 6:7-8: ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’.
“[D]espite the reassurances of the Taoiseach [prime minister] to church leaders … that he understood the importance of faith and worship to the people of Ireland,” Martin said, “this statutory instrument was introduced in a clandestine manner and without notice or consultation. We consider this to be a breach of trust.” Source
Editor, Catholic Truth: And you think that anyone (and I do mean anyone) cares what you think? Your politicians are treating you – deservedly in my opinion – with contempt. Get over it.
Don’t misunderstand my injected commentary above – I think the Irish Government is a disgrace, just as I thought when they legalised abortion and same-sex “marriage”. I’ve been consistent throughout. The Irish bishops have not been thus consistent. They are in the “let’s have our cake (social acceptance) and eat it” camp. But, as St Paul says, God will not be mocked and they are already, even in this life, getting what they deserve in terms of being held in utter contempt by the very politicians and people they’ve tried so hard to please. And they’ve more to look forward to in the next life: ‘He who will deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in Heaven.’ (Matthew 10:33).
So, feel free to criticise the Irish Government – they truly deserve it; but don’t forget that the real culprits are the bishops. I’ll email the link to this thread to the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference “across the water”. They’ll be thrilled.