Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bishops issue Mass cards guidelines

The Irish Bishops' Conference has issued a set of guidelines dealing with the Church's official stance on Mass offerings in a further step to raise awareness of the prevalence of bogus Mass cards.

The bishops discussed the regulation of the sale of Mass cards in their October meeting and agreed to publish support information on the issue. 

The new seven-point guidelines stipulate that the Mass must never be an occasion for ''buying and selling'' or ''making money'', nor should there be even the slightest appearance of making a profit from Mass offerings.

The guidelines state that ''signed or stamped Mass Cards for sale to the public in shops and other commercial outlets is a practice that is not approved by the Irish Episcopal Conference, the Major Religious Superiors or the Superiors of Missionary Societies''. 

The bishops say this practice undermines a ''correct Eucharistic Theology'', is ''unacceptable'' and they ask that it be discontinued.

The sale of pre-signed Mass cards without the permission of a bishop or religious superior is illegal in Ireland under the Charities Act (2009), and the bishops point out that the Church's norms and regulations about Mass offerings were already clearly set out in the 1983 Code of Canon Law and in the 1991 Decree Mos Iugiter.

A spokesperson for the Irish Bishops' Conference has confirmed that the bishops have undertaken to write to several Episcopal conferences overseas in order to ''enlist their support to prevent the sale of pre-signed Mass cards'' in Irish shops.

It is also understood that the Irish Charities Tax Reform Group (ICTRG), which lobbies on legislation on behalf of charity groups, are drafting guidelines on fundraising under the Charities Act, which will give advice to retailers being offered Mass cards for sale and also for members of the public who wish to buy such cards.