As we go to press there has been a development in Declan Ganley’s case against the unjust State imposed ban on public worship. The State had been asked by the High Court to clarify whether there is a legal basis for Covid-19 restrictions on people attending Mass or whether they are merely advisory. The State have confirmed that the restrictions are not merely advisory but carry legal weight — in the eyes of the State it is therefore illegal to attend Mass. This authoritarian and unjust response comes in spite of the fact that similar legal challenges in several countries have found in favour of the freedom to worship. The most recent case being in Scotland at the end of March.
Places of worship in Scotland were allowed to reopen immediately after Covid regulations forcing their closure were deemed unlawful. A group of 27 church leaders launched a judicial review at the Court of Session arguing the Scottish government acted beyond their emergency powers.
Lord Braid agreed the regulations went further than was lawfully allowed. The ruling was issued with “immediate effect” meaning churches could open their doors on the same day.
Lord Braid said those who brought the judicial review were entitled to have the regulations declared unlawful. He said the Scottish government regulations disproportionately interfered with the freedom of religion secured in the European Convention on Human Rights.
He added: “It is impossible to measure the effect of those restrictions on those who hold religious beliefs. It goes beyond mere loss of companionship and an inability to attend a lunch club.”
Rev Dr William Philip, senior minister at the Tron Church in Glasgow, welcomed the ruling.
He said: “From the outset we have recognised the serious decisions the Scottish Ministers had to take in response to the pandemic.
“However, its approach to banning and criminalising gathered church worship was clearly an over-reach and disproportionate and if this had gone unchallenged it would have set a very dangerous precedent.
“……….criminalising corporate worship has been both damaging and dangerous for Scotland, and must never happen again.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said she was “thankful and relieved” that the court had recognised what she described as a “dangerous interference”.
She added: “The fundamental principle of freedom has prevailed with a strong dash of good old common sense.”
Canon White, parish priest of St Alphonsus Church in Glasgow, said: “I’m overjoyed to hear that the court has understood the essential need to protect not only the physical and material health of our society but also its spiritual needs and therefore overturned the disproportionate, unnecessary and unlawful blanket ban on public worship.”
On hearing that the restrictions would be lifted immediately, Canon White confirmed he would be organising Mass at St Mary’s immediately.
It is hoped that the Irish courts will reach the same judgement as other places and declare the ban on public worship to be unlawful. Declan Ganley is challenging certain temporary regulations introduced by the Minster for Health to deal with the pandemic — Regulation 5(1) and (3) of the 1947 Health Act.
He claims the regulations are incompatible with various articles of the Constitution, including Article 44 where the State acknowledges the right to the free practice of religion. Alternatively, he wants a declaration the regulations do not prevent him leaving his residence for the purpose of practising his religion.
Meanwhile a recent study in the US suggested that, with the right guidelines in place, churches can reopen with little or no risk of transmission. But in Ireland the attacks on Christianity continue and are getting worse.
Garda checkpoints were erected close to Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Mullahoran, Co Cavan, on Sunday 7th March as parish priest Fr PJ Hughes said Mass in defiance of the Covid-19 regulations. Fr Hughes likened the Covid-19 Level 5 restrictions to the penal laws and Oliver Cromwell. The Gardaí stayed outside during Mass and Fr Hughes was given a €500 fine which he is refusing to pay.
Father Hughes told the Irish Times he was “just absolutely sick at the whole idea of closing the church. The people who are making the decision about closing the church are not people of faith. They can’t be because if they were they would know the damage they are doing to themselves, their own souls and to the whole country.”
He said he is “disappointed with the archbishops, that they don’t stand up and see what’s going on, what’s happening.” He believed “the Archbishop of Armagh should be doing more, He’s responsible for the souls of the baptised in this country because he is the Archbishop of Armagh.”
The Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Francis Duffy, had told him “to close the doors. It does not represent the official church, what I am doing. They are towing the line of a Government who don’t believe in God.”
In Limerick Gardai have been taking the names and addresses of Catholics who were praying outside the Sacred Heart Church.
It is becoming clearer by the day that the biggest casualty of Covid is our personal freedom and I encourage you to read the excellent article on page 24 by Dr. Joseph Mercola which discusses the impact of this. The article highlights the following:
While the casualties of government-imposed COVID-19 countermeasures are manifold, the biggest and most tragic of them all is the loss of individual freedoms.
We either choose freedom, or we choose to live under authoritarian rule. Even if restrictions are lifted, public attitude can place freedom on shaky ground, as public acceptance of overreach will allow for the same to occur again and again at a moment’s notice.
The freedom to interact with other human beings is a crucial, most basic human need.
The inevitabilities of life — which include uncertainty, moment-to-moment risk and the surety of death — demand that we not require people to cease living in order to “save” others from the ramifications of ill health.
The answer, if we really want to protect the masses, is to educate and promote healthy living at all stages of life. Improving your health through a healthy lifestyle, sunshine, fresh air and real food, is the best way to protect the most people.
I will close with a short update on my wife’s progress. Unfortunately there has been a setback and Kim is now back in hospital, it appears there is more damage to her back than originally thought and so she requires more scans and a new program of physiotherapy. It means her journey to recovery will be slower than we originally had hoped for and could take a number of years so please keep her in your prayers.