The decision by some Catholic bishops to defy public health councils by allowing first communions and confirmations in their dioceses this month has been criticized by the co-founders of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).
The bishops were also accused by Andrew Madden, survivor of abuse by clerics, of putting the children in danger of “reckless endangerment”. Still.”
To date Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran in the west, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Phonsie Cullinan in the south, Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan in the east, Bishop of the Cross-border Diocese of Clogher Larry Duffy and Bishop of Raphoe (mainly Donegal) Alan McGuckian has informed parishes that Communions and Confirmations can take place from mid-August.
Mr Madden, who was abused by former Dublin priest Ivan Payne, said taking public health advice as advice rather than regulation reminded him of the late Cardinal Desmond Connell’s description of protective measures from the infancy of the church to the time as “only guidelines” without authority in canon or civil law.
“That’s why children first [State’s child protection legislation] has been brought up to statutory level, ”he said.
In Mr. Madden’s opinion, it was clear that some bishops “have learned nothing from all of this and now encourage people to ignore health and safety.” He said “church before children, old habits die hard.”
Father Tony Flannery, co-founder of the ACP, accused the bishops of “effectively aligning with anti-vaccines” by defying medical and state authority. He contrasted this with the way the bishops themselves rigidly applied the rule of law in the church itself, “as I know it.”
The bishops, he said, “defying health and official advice” were wrong and would be better off “if they faced the reality that these events have little real religious significance.”
Another CAP co-founder, Father Brendan Hoban, said that “common sense demanded that First Communions and Confirmations could be postponed indefinitely and that the fallout from this necessary decision – disappointment of the children, cancellation of holidays, purchase of outfits, etc. important and pleasant in terms of faith and family, were not cumulatively more important than the loss of life at Covid ”.
The “plain and simple fact is that if church authorities can control the [First Communion] ceremony, the feast is quite another thing. Hence the danger, ”he declared.
“Throw more gasoline on the anti-Nphet [National Public Health Emergency Team] fire are a number of groups with their own agendas who claim that Nphet is unfairly targeting them. These include religious groups, ”he said in a recent Western People column.
Current Covid-19 measurements indicate that ceremonies, including First Communions and Confirmations, are not expected to take place at this time. Baptisms can take place on August 5 and they must follow all protective measures. Gatherings after the ceremony should be avoided.
Masses and other in-person religious services are permitted, but with protective measures and a maximum of 50 people are permitted to attend. When a site can accommodate more than 50 people, this may be allowed, provided security measures, including social distancing and ventilation requirements, are met.
Martin Long, spokesperson for the Catholic bishops, said last week that there was no centralized policy or approach to communions and confirmations.
“The responsibility for the ministry of the sacraments lies with the diocesan bishops and their local pastors,” he said.
The Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Friday that he did not approve of any “one-sided violation” of the Covid-19 regulations. Mr Martin said he wanted to know if it was “too much to ask” for current regulations to be followed as the country makes significant progress on the Covid-19 vaccination campaign.