Statement by the Irish Missionary Union on Illegality of Selling Pre-Signed Mass Cards under the provisions of the Charity Act 2009

The following statement was circulated by the Irish Missionary Union on 6 April 2009 

The practice of having Mass offered for a deceased person is a praiseworthy tradition in the Catholic Church in Ireland. It is a practice that manifests the centrality of the Eucharist in our faith. It fulfills the Scriptural invitation to pray for the dead as well as extending prayerful support to those grieving the death of a loved one. Unfortunately, in recent years individuals and companies have exploited this traditional act of support by offering pre-signed Mass cards for sale in shops. The impression given is that these are genuine Mass cards and that Masses will be offered by priests working in developing countries. To give such cards to those mourning the death of a loved one is not only a meaningless act, it is also an insult to the memory of the deceased and to those who grieve over their passing.

Such cards have no spiritual value. They falsify the significance of the Eucharist and trade on the faith and goodwill of people. It is a commercial operation with profit as its motive. Those who engage or facilitate this practice, including the shops that offer them for sale, seriously exploit the Eucharist and its sacred character.

The Irish Missionary Union welcomes the provision in the Charities Act 2009 which makes it an offence for anyone to distribute pre-signed Mass cards for sale without the written permission of the Catholic Church. That provision is very specific. As a Bishop, or a Provincial of an Order of Priests recognised by the Church, will not grant such permission to commercial operations, the distribution of Mass cards from retail outlets should immediately cease. Bishops now ask retailers and their trade representatives to cooperate in this regard.

People wishing to give a Mass card on the occasion of a bereavement, should have one signed by a priest known to them or obtain one from a missionary congregation. In that way the faithful can be sure that a Mass will be offered, that the mourning family will appreciate their prayerful support, and that their donation will support the priest or his congregation.