Father P.J. Hughes is the parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Mullahoran, a township in rural County Cavan, Ireland. He recently earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first Irish priest for centuries to find himself on the wrong side of the law for saying Mass in public.
All acts of public worship are currently banned in Ireland under a law imposing one of the strictest COVID-19 lockdowns in the world. The Garda—the Irish police force—has fined Fr. Hughes €500, and he refuses to pay it. He now faces possible imprisonment. A Catholic priest has not been jailed for saying Mass in the country since the worst days of the Penal Laws several hundred years ago, when Britain suppressed the Catholic faith in Ireland.
Fr. Hughes continues to allow his parishioners to attend Mass in his church. On Palm Sunday, the police set up checkpoints on the approaches to Mullahoran. Parishioners attempting to get to Our Lady of Lourdes Church by car were turned back. Some had traveled far, drawn by the news that somewhere in Ireland a priest was allowing Catholics to attend Mass. Some received fines for doing so. Those who did manage to get into the church seem to have arrived mostly by foot.
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