Credit: Gript

Donnelly’s penal laws treat religious with contempt

Rosary Rally and protest outside the closed doors of The Cathedral of Saint Mary and Saint Anne in Cork city Photo Credit: J Walshe

Last week’s hushed amendment to the regulations, coming only hours before the State’s lawyers had to clarify the law in the High Court, are the latest in a litany of contemptuous steps taken by the government to prevent people from freely exercising their beliefs.

The calculations being made by our political leaders and health officials are clear: religion is non-essential and about the same level of importance as getting your nails done. No offense to beauty salons, who should also be open, but the vast majority of old people whom these laws claim to protect would see the absurdity of the situation.

Having claimed ad nauseum that no priest was under threat of prosecution for holding a public Mass, Minister Stephen Donnelly’s latest addition to the health regulations last week now confirm what many had suspected: that ministers of religion, whom politicians and media-types have made careers from caricaturing as knuckle-dragging undesirables, are now officially on the “wanted” list should they do their job of offering people more hope than the never-ending pontifications and fear-mongering of our new high-priests in NPHET.

The optics of the situation appear grim, with priests like Fr. PJ Hughes, who has refused to pay a €500 fine, and other religious ministers now facing the threat of prosecution for holding any services or Masses in public, whilst Declan Ganley’s action in the High Court certainly appears to have concentrated the minds of the State’s legal advisors tasked with crafting our lockdown regulations.

The spectacle of last-minute regulations being inserted into the statute books gives the clear impression that the State was scrambling for a surer legal footing before the High Court last week following months of legal uncertainties about whether Mass was prohibited at all.

Some legal experts like Professor Oran Doyle of Trinity College say last week’s amended regulations confirm what he and others had surmised all along: that holding a public Mass or religious services was not illegal up until now, despite the misleading impression given by health officials and politicians.

Whether true or not, the relegation of a constitutional right to the level of an inanity, where people can fill planes but not pews, play rugby but not pray together, sets a precedent that all citizens of right mind should push back against, religious or not.

Stephen Donnelly and his confreres have inserted themselves into the most intimate moments of a person’s day and life, to a degree that would make Stasi policemen blush.

Our leaders might look with contempt on the values and beliefs of a large section of the population, but it’s heartening to know that they cannot quench what is held most dear in the heart of man.

 

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