Communion wine banned from Kiwi prisons

In a restriction described by a New Zealand party leader as "political correctness gone mad", Kiwi prison authorities have banned the taking of communion wine into prison, saying that they have no legal discretion to grant an exemption.

NZ Catholic reports that United Future New Zealand leader Peter Dunne comments come in response to a story in this week's issue of NZ Catholic, outlining enforcement of a ban on alcohol in prisons, even for eucharistic purposes.

In the article, Harry Hawthorn, the head of the Public Prisons Service, confirmed that Communion wine cannot be taken into prisons and said the department has "no discretion" in allowing an exemption to the country's Corrections Act 2004.

The Act prohibits unauthorised items, including "any drug, alcohol, or other intoxicating substance", from being taken into prisons.

"The last thing Parliament had in mind when passing the legislation in 2004 was banning the celebration of Mass in prisons, and it is stretching logic and common sense beyond any reasonable bounds to imply otherwise," Mr Dunne said.

He said denying inmates the opportunity to go to Mass is a denial of their human rights to worship, as recognised in New Zealand's Bill of Rights.

"I will be raising the matter with the Human Rights Commission," Mr Dunne said. "If this decision is allowed to stand it will make a complete mockery of the recent statement on supporting religious diversity."

An Auckland priest who has celebrated Mass at Auckland Central Remand Prison for more than two years was recently stopped from taking wine into the facility.

In 1999, the head of the Corrections Department granted an exemption to the ban on alcohol in corrections facilities, allowing up to 250ml of wine to be taken into prisons for eucharistic purposes only, the NZ Catholic story reveals.

New Zealand's Catholic bishops are set to discuss the current ban on prison Masses at their biannual conference in Auckland next week.

Dunne slams "political correctness gone mad" (NZ Catholic, 19/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Peter Dunne (Wikipedia)
New Zealand Catholic Newspaper
Catholic Church in New Zealand
New Zealand Public Prisons Service

20 Apr 2007

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