Irish priests fear driving bans over altar wine

Clergy, Eucharist and OUIL:

Celebrating more than one mass a day may push Roman Catholic priests over the alcohol limit if tougher drink driving rules come into effect in Ireland, a leading clergyman said on Friday.

Altar wine is an essential part of the eucharist, the ritual in which Catholics believe the priest turns bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. A priest drinks a small amount of the wine during the mass.

Under proposed Irish legislation, the limit of 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood is expected to be tightened but no new level has yet been specified.

Because the ranks of the Catholic clergy are thinning out, priests — especially in rural areas — often drive to several churches on Sunday to say mass for congregations who have no resident clergy.

“You could be over the limit trying to travel between maybe two or three churches on a Sunday morning and coming back again,” Father Brian D’Arcy told Reuters.

D’Arcy is a broadcaster and rector of the Passionist Monastery in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, where similar changes have also been proposed.

He said wine prepared for use in services had to be consumed and throwing it away was blasphemous.