Priest continuing mass 'irresponsible and unchristian,' health expert says

Priest Continuing Mass 'Irresponsible And Unchristian,' Health Expert Says
A Cavan priest has claimed that stopping people going to mass is a breach of constitutional rights.
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By Vivienne Clarke

Public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally has described the actions of a priest who is insisting he will continue to celebrate mass as “irresponsible and unchristian.”

Fr PJ Hughes, who ministers in Mullahoran, Co Cavan, told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that stopping people going to mass under coronavirus restrictions was a breach of constitutional rights.


The priest said people had a “divine right” to public worship: “I’m helping the country through prayer.”

He said that when two gardaí called to the sacristy door last Sunday morning to advise him that he was in breach of public health regulations, five minutes before he was due to celebrate mass, it was “like a punch to the stomach.”

I’m not looking for trouble

The timing was unfortunate he said, querying why the gardaí had not called to him an hour previously. When the gardaí asked him to send the people home, he said he would not do it. Two hours later, two more gardaí called to him to inform him that a file was being sent to the DPP.


“The Government has no concern for people living alone. The Government should apologise to people who are not allowed to practice their faith," he said.

When asked why other priests had not adopted the same position as he had, Fr Hughes said they were afraid. People who did not want to go to mass should not, he said, but those who wanted to go to mass should be able to do so.

God could cure the worst diseases, he said. “I’m not looking for trouble," he added.

Fr Hughes said that he thought sending four gardaí “on a Sunday to try to annoy a priest” was an effort “to make an example of me.”


His parishioners were “100 per cent” in support of him. “Not one person has asked me to stop.”

Mass gatherings

Responding to the priest's comments, Dr Scally said they had brought a new meaning to the term “mass gatherings”.

While he understood strong religious views, he did not see why they had to be exercised communally: “They can say a prayer by themselves.”

Bringing more than 50 elderly and vulnerable people together was “just wrong,” Dr Scally said.


There was a strong record across the world of people active in religious worship who thought they were exempt from the virus, he added. That view had resulted in deaths.

Clergyman running ‘underground’ religious services...
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Dr Scally said he would urge Fr Hughes to listen to his bishop and to the gardaí. As an individual Fr Hughes was entitled to his beliefs, but he had no right to endanger people.

It comes amid recent reports of another senior clergyman continuing to allow churchgoers to physically attend weekly religious services, despite Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions making it illegal.

The religious official offers a 90-minute service, now in his home in the south-east, as he fears for the “psychological health, isolation and loneliness” of his congregation.

This clergyman warned if places of religious worship are not allowed to open shortly, more would be driven “underground”.

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