Priests visiting parishes in other dioceses must show documentation proving they are allowed to minister publicly when saying Masses, the head of the Irish Church’s child protection board has said.
Following reports that two priests out of ministry because of abuse allegations had celebrated public Masses, Teresa Devlin, CEO of the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church, wrote to all bishops and provincials urging that all priests carry appropriate documentation and that that this documentation be checked.
“As a minimum, a priest who is visiting within Ireland is required to show his celebret to demonstrate that he is a priest in good standing,” she wrote.
A celebret is a license to celebrate Mass, issued on an annual basis, and renewed or withdrawn based on whether a priest is in good standing or not.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Ms Devlin said when preparing new child protection guidelines last year the board wanted to tighten up on guidance around visiting priests, with a simple sacristy notice advising that visiting priests should show their celebret and sign the sacristy register being an effective way of addressing this issue without causing difficulty or embarrassment.
“In one diocese’s parishes there’s even a sign that says ‘no celebret, no celebration’, which is a quirky and good way of doing it,” she said, adding that the regulations are more rigorous and laborious for priests visiting from abroad. “The days of just turning up from America or wherever and wanting to say Mass hopefully are long gone,” she said.
During work on the national case management committee, Ms Devlin learned of the two cases where priests who were not in ministry had been allowed to celebrate Mass, and thought this would be a good opportunity to emphasise good practice.
“It was good that this was brought to our attention,” she said, continuing, “before there’s a creep on this and it becomes bad practice across the country, I’m just saying get a notice up, make sure that the celebrets are viewed and the sacristy register is signed – then everybody understands the process and we should be able to wipe out any bad practice before it even starts.”