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The Sale of Pre-Signed Mass Cards

The Irish Charities Act 2009 governs the distribution and sale of pre-signed Mass cards in Ireland, along with guidelines specified by the Church and Canon Law. Section 99 of the Charities Act was established in direct response to widespread issues with counterfeit pre-signed Mass cards on sale in shops across the country.

Section 99 of the Charities Act states that “a person who sells a Mass card other than pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person shall be guilty of an offence”. A recognised person is identified as “a Bishop or Provincial of an order of priests established under the authority of, and recognised by the Church”.

What this means is that any person or organisation selling Mass cards will be required to produce official confirmation, in writing, from a Bishop or Provincial, stating that the arrangement is approved. However, Canon Law and Church guidelines both state very clearly that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not permitted to be traded through commercial outlets, and as such, a Bishop or Provincial will not issue the confirmation required by the civil authorities. In effect, this means that the distribution and sale of pre-signed Mass cards for commercial interests is forbidden.

Mass cards distributed by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and other recognised religious congregations print their registered charity number on the back of each card, assuring transparency for the public. Cards that do not have such a number printed on the back are easily recognisable as being fake, and are not issued by a genuine religious organisation.

This legislation has been welcomed by valid religious charitable organisations, as it helps to ensure that the sacred nature of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass is protected. This law also safeguards unsuspecting members of the public from purchasing fraudulent Mass cards in the misguided belief that they are supporting their local church.

In the debate on the Charities Bill in the Oireachtas (the Irish Parliament), Senator Fergal Quinn emphasised the importance of retaining the integrity of authentic Mass cards, saying: “I wish to highlight the massive scam of bogus Mass cards for sale in shops. I believe that, in a number of cases, it was found that the Mass cards on sale were questionable. One priest had been dead for two years, and in another case, a priest received 12 cents from the sale of a Mass card that retailed for €4. They are fraudulent cards, and are very offensive to those who carry out the work of the Church. They upset many people who believe they are doing the right thing, and they hamper many generous efforts.”

In compliance with the guidelines issued by the Irish Bishops’ Conference for the proper administration of Mass cards, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart do not supply Mass cards to shops or other retail outlets. We do, however, have a specially developed range of MSC Mission Prayer Cards available for sale at commercial outlets, which have been approved for retail in accordance with this legislation. There is a broad range of MSC Mission Prayer Cards on offer, covering a variety of different occasions – more details on these cards can be found here.

MSC Mission Prayer Card Endorsements

Our cards are endorsed by the Episcopal Commissions for Missions, and have the support of the Irish Missionary Union, which represents 85 congregations. Our MSC Mission Prayer Cards are also recommended by The Convenience Stores & Newsagents Association, The Irish Postmasters’ Union, and The Retail Grocery Dairy and Allied Trade Association.

A representative of the CSNA, which represents 1,500 family-owned shops and businesses in Ireland, stated: “The Irish Catholic Bishops recently outlined their concerns at what they considered was a growing abuse by Mass card providers of the integrity of the Mass card system. As retailers, we need to be assured that the products we sell are fit for the purpose that they are intended; as such, concerns expressed by the Bishops must be considered very seriously. The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart provide alternative cards called MSC Mission Prayer Cards. Cards can be ordered from the MSC Missions Office on the Western Road, Cork.”

Tara Buckley, Director General of the RGDATA (which represents over 4,000 independent, family-owned shops, supermarkets, convenience stores, and forecourt stores throughout Ireland), also spoke out in approval of the range of MSC cards: “The MSC produce a range of Irish-made cards that comply with the new government regulations which make it illegal for a retailer to sell pre-signed Mass cards that do not have the written approval of a bishop or the superior of a religious congregation.”

Shop owners who wish to stock MSC Mission Prayer Cards are welcome to contact the MSC Missions Office on +353 (0) 21 4545704 or email us at cards@mscmissions.ie.