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Holy show Dublin priest demands Government end ban on communions and confirmations 

We can no longer accept a fob-off from a Government who either don’t respect or don’t understand the problem of deferring liturgical life indefinitely,” he said.

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Fr Joe McDonald. Photo: Frank McGrath

Fr Joe McDonald. Photo: Frank McGrath

Fr Joe McDonald. Photo: Frank McGrath

A well-known Dublin parish priest has called on the country’s Catholic bishops to follow the lead of Bishop Kevin Doran and permit communions and confirmations to go ahead in their dioceses this month.

Fr Joe McDonald said he had run out of patience with the Government over its indefinite postponement of the sacraments and its treatment of the Church.

He told the Irish Independent that he has 1,200 children awaiting confirmation and communion, 600 of whom belong to last year’s cohort.

“We can no longer accept a fob-off from a Government who either don’t respect or don’t understand the problem of deferring liturgical life indefinitely,” he said.

Although Fr McDonald had been supportive of the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis which was “a terribly difficult situation”, he said when it came to the churches, “they have been treated disgracefully”.

“I wonder if there is some subconscious notion within the Government that this is an opportunity to show the country that the bishops have no power any more and that they will not be dictated to by the Church,” he said.

He added that if that is the reason for the ongoing ban on certain sacraments, his response to “this immature nonsense” was “grow up”.

“We are not talking about some devotional extra, we are talking about something that is core to our faith,” he said.

“The Government needs to be reminded that for us the liturgy is the summit and source of our life in faith.”

But he was also critical of the lack of leadership from the bishops.

“Is it too much to expect that a bishop could toss the table like Jesus in the temple and if you are not going to toss the table at least thump it. For God’s sake – speak up,” he urged.

Writing in the Irish Independent last week, Dr Doran said: “The mission of the Church cannot be put on hold indefinitely.”

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Having consulted his priests, he said the Diocese of Elphin had decided to proceed with communions and confirmations from this month.

The diocese covers parts of Sligo, Roscommon, Galway and Westmeath. Priests in the diocese are expected to contact local communities in the coming days to begin the process of scheduling the delayed religious services.

Children were asked to register for the sacraments in March and dates have been set for some services.

The dioceses of Meath, Clogher and Waterford and Lismore have also decided to go ahead with the sacraments.

While the Government has eased restrictions on baptisms and weddings, the ban on communions and confirmations continues.

A spokesperson for the Irish bishops was unable to say whether the country’s largest diocese, Dublin, will begin holding communions and confirmations as Archbishop Dermot Farrell is currently on leave.

He said the decision to administer the sacraments to the faithful was a matter for an individual diocesan bishop and his parish priests.

Fr McDonald, who is parish priest in Celbridge and Straffan in Co Kildare, praised Bishop Doran for “stepping up” as a pastor and “showing courage”.

The priest’s stance is indicative of growing frustration within the Church over the Covid-19 restrictions.

Fr Michael Toomey, parish priest of Ardfinnan, Ballybacon and Grange in Co Tipperary, tweeted this weekend: “While the Government can give us advice, they can’t tell us how to pray or perform our ordained ministry without discussing it with us any more.

“How is it we can celebrate the sacrament of marriage with 100 people but can’t celebrate communion and confirmation? Enough is enough,” he wrote.

The rules for general religious ceremonies allow 50 worshippers in smaller buildings and pods of 50 spaced by four metres in bigger premises.

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