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Why give the Sacraments to those who don’t believe?

A conversation with my parish priest reminds me of the difficulties the Church faces with baptisms, weddings and Holy Communion

By on Monday, 28 May 2012

During Mass the other morning our parish priest asked the congregation to pray for a “Day for Priests” that will be held in our diocese in July. He told us that several areas of concern would be discussed at this meeting, such as: when should the sacrament of Confirmation be administered? When should Holy Communion first be given? What should be said to cohabiting couples wanting a church wedding?

After Mass I cornered him and asked him to expand. He told me that in the early Church Confirmation was given at baptism, as the seal of faith; it seems this is still the case in the Eastern churches. Now the question arises whether it should be given to children when their faith is still immature or whether to wait until it has matured.

The pp told me that in his experience modern children were simply not ready to make their First Holy Communion at the age of seven. I mentioned St Pius X who had first ruled that children were ready by the age of seven to do so. “Ah yes” said our priest, “but in Pius X’s day the atmosphere in homes was much more pious than is generally the case today. Today children might be extremely knowledgeable in certain areas by the age of seven, such as knowing how to operate any number of technological gadgets and watching all sorts of programme on TV, but they are woefully immature when it comes to their faith. He added with emphasis, “They simply don’t have the spiritual maturity today to receive Christ with proper devotion at that age.”

He told me that once, as a school chaplain, he had been informed later that eight Hosts had been found discarded in the school hall when Mass was over. “I have called children back when I see them walking away with the Host in their hand” he added. Personally, he believes that First Holy Communion should be delayed until the Sacrament of Confirmation.

On the question of marriage, the pp told me occasionally he sees couples who, although nominally Catholic, never practise their Faith, yet tell him they want a “proper church wedding”. After a conversation with him, in which he points out what a Catholic wedding means and the responsibility of raising any children as Catholic, they usually walk away.

Over the question of baptism, he says he would have a “pleasant but frank conversation to elicit the couple’s intentions and to discover if there is a spark of faith left”. If they have no faith, he says, they also “usually go away”. For those who are cohabiting, he reminds them that if they want to receive Holy Communion they must do so in a state of grace – so need to go to Confession before the wedding.

Our pp feels embattled. He is in his late-50s and tells me that as a young man he could never have imagined the secularism he sees everywhere today. He remarks to me he thinks that “God is purifying our faith. He is telling us that we must either re-Christianise the surrounding culture or live a more spiritual Christianity ourselves.” In his view, in the past many people were cultural Catholics rather than truly pious: “This didn’t matter so much when the surrounding culture was a Christian one – but when this changed the faith of many people was weak so it collapsed likewise.” He adds, “When people tell me that everything was so much better before Vatican II, I point out to them that if this was the case, why did the faith fall away so quickly?”

Our conversation reminds me to pray harder for priests. They have an uphill battle in our society today. Yet there are also fewer of them and we need them more than ever. In this connection it was good to read Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury’s address to seminarians and staff at Oscott for the Ascension, in which he said that “Celibate chastity is a Christian sign for our times… The challenge today is to offer priests all the support they need to sustain this generous response to the call of Christ. Celibacy is not just a discipline or a practical requirement. Evangelical celibacy is a vocation.”

  • Dantesinferno

    Well done your priest!  Here in Ireland we dare not ask those kind of questions quite simply because: a) The priest would be cannon fodder for the hostile media and b) there will be no support from the bishops to shy from making such decisions or necessary reforms in the sacraments.  Yes, First Holy Communion is too early and too commercialised, but who will take the charge to change it?  It would be interesting to hear what your priests ‘Day for Priests’ will come up with. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_T66SMPJX2FB34SAS4GD7SDVE4U Richard

    Winston Churchill said of the battle of El Alamein:
    “Before El Alamein we never had a victory, after it we never had a defeat.”
    Before Vatican 2 the Church was growing steadily, the number of Catholics would now have been about 11 million if the trends had continued. When the “new springtime in the Church” broke out every indicator of growth went into reverse and has remained in reverse.
    What about the influence of secular society? some might say. Well there are other religious groups one could mention which are not having any problem with secular society.
    Vatican 2 gave us false doctrines,disciplines and sacraments. All is not lost however. There are still groups keeping to the Old Faith if one knows where to look.

  • Fr. Stephen

    Thanks for this. I am a parish priest in America. I appreciate knowing that I am not alone in my thinking about my role as a Provider of Ceremonies for Non-Believing “Catholics”.  I am very clear with people about their lack of practice and/or belief when they come to our Ceremony Shop, I mean parish, looking for baptisms, weddings, first communions or confirmations. What I tell them is not always well received, but I go to bed with a clear conscience. However, I often get up the next day to find I have a few less parishioners - off they go, some of them, to a neighboring parish where no one says anything about anything.  I grew up in the ’50′s and never thought that things would be this way. I try not to be discouraged, but I am. God have mercy.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    It’s odd:

    On the one hand, I entirely agree that this priest – and other priests like him – have an absolute right to deny a  “proper church wedding” to couples who aren’t actually faithful in their religion. Indeed, as an atheist, I think this entirely proper: people should go with the ritual that actually represents what they believe, and I suspect many “proper church weddings” are significant more of family pressure (“you’re not properly married unless it’s in church!”) and of wanting the ritual as a presentation, an appearance, rather than of any religious committment. Humanist ceremonies and civil ceremonies are much more appropriate in that respect.

    On the other hand: Isn’t it ridiculous that the anti-gay marriage campaigners are coming out with nonsense about how “Churches will be forced to marry same-sex couples!” It’s evident from this very article that no priest can be forced to marry any couple if he feels it would be contrary to faith and practice, and rightly so.

    The notion that a couple would sue a priest in order to have his dour face “celebrating” their marriage is frankly absurd even if it were legally possible – which it is not. Spain and the Netherlands, both staunchly Catholic countries, have lifted the ban on same-sex marriage 7 years ago and 11 years ago: in neither of those – nor in any other country which recognises or performs same-sex marriage – has a priest been “forced” to wed a same-sex couple.  Fears that it might happen are so ridiculous one would have thought that Catholic priests and pundits would be reassuring their followers of the unlikelihood, not scaremongering.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     What I tell them is not always well received, but I go to bed with a clear conscience

    Good for you.

    People ought not to treat religion as a game.

  • WSquared

    God bless you, Father.

  • WSquared

    Part of the problem is the cultural Catholicism that you mention:  there’s a sense that being Catholic is more of a “family tradition” and equatable to ethnic background or heritage, and so having a “church wedding” (urgh!  I really hate that term…) becomes a cross between fond memories of family “tradition”– sort of like reducing Christmas to “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and always relegating it to the realm of the past– and just another aesthetic choice among many that is “personally meaningful.”

    It’s not hard to find people who openly flout Church teaching (some of them are proud of it), but who  nonetheless feel that it is their “right” to get married in the Catholic Church.  And if Father doesn’t give them what they want, then he’s being… “mean.”

  • mrpants2

    “I try not to be discouraged, but I am. God have mercy.”

    Father you shouldn’t be in the least discouraged. You are doing God’s work. If only we had more like you, but there should be nothing in this we find seriously discouraging. Christ said I will be with you until the end of time. If we have faith we believe those words and refuse to descend into maudlin self pity.

  • paulpriest

    Because we’re not Donatists/Pelagians – We’re not allowed to stand in the way of sacramental grace or presume desert in its reception; nor are we arbiters/adjudicators of the faithful and their faith…

    …and I’m sorry but your Parish Priest is in error regarding a ‘tradition’ of those ‘deserving’ Baptism. The Council of Trent is quite clear – instruction then public declaration – judgment on the moral or credible worth of the Catechumen was absolutely prohibited .

    …and as for Communion for children – I’m sorry but how dare a priest blame anyone other than himself or a school for a child’s ignorance and subsequent violation of the Blessed Sacrament. Ever seen a child watch a lengthy serialised cartoon series with plotlines more complex than a brazilian soap opera? Or play with their pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh cards and their knowledge/expertise of each card’s intrinsic value & utility, its role in the animated television series’ mythos etc; or see them play a complex, intricate computer game where they need one crystal from one cave to form one sword to kill a specific dragon?

    To suggest a child is immature or incapable rather than simply denied religious instruction is a mendacious scandal and a submission to the instructor’s ineptitude and fundamentally? Acedia and dereliction of duty.

    Quam Singulari made it quite clear: Children are capable of recognising Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament [irrespective of their socio-cultural nurturing] PROVIDING they receive adequate instruction; this is obviously not the case and the fault lies squarely at the door of those in charge of religious instruction and education of our youngest.

    …and yet again I’m enfuriated at the attribution of blame upon the ordinary faithful after the cataclysm which resulted from the “fruits of the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II”…

    Ordinary Catholics were told the majority of their beliefs, devotions, moral principles, liturgical and spiritual praxes…no longer mattered!
    They were told quite bluntly these past opinions and practices were anachronistic, erroneous, counter-productive and insensitive to modern ‘all-embracing’ sentiments!

    One was told one was not a ‘proper’ Catholic unless one became involved in a parish ministry, or educated oneself in the ‘new theology’ or ‘new charisms’ or became informed in the ‘new lay-centric ecclesiology’ as manifested in the pages of the Tablet…

    Ultimately the message from the narcissistic self-indulgent and negligent priesthood was ‘we’re not important’ [you'd soon find out how deceptively untrue that statement was if you disagreed with them on any issue]
    The message from the ‘professional laity’ was ‘you’re not important unless you do x,y or z’

    ….and meanwhile the ordinary Catholic parishioner
    - trying to instruct their children n the faith only to have every aspect of Church teachings and practices countermanded by some ethereal kaftan wearing primary teacher
    - trying to understand why so many traditions, sacred prayers and devotions were cast to oblivion and vociferously mocked & spurned.
    - incomprohensibly stunned at the massacre of the Church and sanctuary – the breaking of altars and statues, the burning of vestments and altar cloths – the consigning of sacred vessels to the kitchen cupboard while chipped mugs and bri-nylon and cardboard cut-outs of wheat-grains and stylised doves became the only symbols as half the parish ‘elite’ paraded round the new orange-box ‘table of the Lord’ while swaying to Bob-Dylanesque Balderdash on the Bontempi that ‘Jesus wants me here cos I’m special’…

    …the faithful didn’t walk out – they were kicked out – forcibly!!!

    How DARE anyone suggest that these people were only culturally Catholic and that’s why they fell away in their millions….

    They were Catholic and suddenly they had their Church taken away from them only to be replaced by some hippy commune running a methodist-like school hall….

    Now yes I will agree it’s tough for Priests – but 90% of the problem is not external socio-cultural factors – it’s the fault of the Church itself and the self-indulgent ‘emotional spasm’ it underwent over the past half-century – Priests haven’t been adequately trained or educated – they’ve been so indoctrined in the mantra of ‘lay-empowerment’ that they feel bereft, irrelevant and are hopelessly engaging in a slowly-dying meaningless exercise in futility…

    We’re not going to get anywhere if we continue to ‘resolve’ issues or crises by ongoing retreat, submission and watering-down….

  • George

    I would be interested to know where you got those numbers from. Do you have a link?
    If Muslims are one of the other religious groups you refer to, its worth remembering that their increase in numbers in this country is largely due to immigration. Many did not grow up in our secular society and indeed came from countries that are most definitely NOT secular.

  • parepidemos

    As
    someone has pointed out, we are neither Donatists nor Pelagians and that is
    crucial. I do understand the struggle of clergy to challenge people to return
    to the Faith, and that must be done. However, I suspect that more folk are
    turned further away, rather than towards, the Church by this hard a– approach.
    It is, I believe, worth remembering that our Eastern Rite Catholic and Orthodox
    brethren give all three sacraments of Initiation to babies – even though the
    child knows nothing about the power and sacredness of what is taking place. I find the notion that we have to earn grace repulsive. God gives freely, allowing His rain to fall on the good as well as the bad and the sun to shine on the bad as well as the good.

  • Benedict Carter

    Up to 1962, the number of adult conversions in England was about 14,000 a year. In the US it was about 100,000 a year. Now in England 4,000 a year is deemed a miracle.

    WHEN WILL YOU PEOPLE WAKE UP AND UNDERSTAND THAT THE DESTRUCTION LIES WITH THE COUNCIL?

  • guest

    While I agree that it is important that people are continually challenged to make a genuine commitment to a life-long relationship with the Church and not simply turn up for ceremonies, I do feel that in being to strict a future may be lost. I am from a family who only really had the children baptized in order to get them into a Catholic school, yet from that I have developed my own faith which is an active part of my life. It seems a shame to loose other Catholics like myself who come from a weak background of faith but who came into contact with those who offer guidance and hope in the Church as a result of sacraments which perhaps were not taken seriously by parents at the time. 

  • George

    It was a source that I asked for, not more figures. Where did you find those numbers? So far I haven’t seen evidence of correlation let alone causation. 

  • Honeybadger

    These important sacramental gifts of the Roman Catholic Church should be something for the parish and its priest to look forward to with eagerness.

    Yet, disturbingly, in the last few decades, celebrating the sacraments has become something that causes more headaches than a car stereo at full blast in a heatwave!

    What do I read in the parish bulletin last week but that there are so few candidates for Confirmation this year, they have postsponed it until next year!

    Then we have First Holy Communion time. ‘Nuff said! The Irish Times featured their lead article in their weekend supplement a few weeks ago about ‘communion time. It was as disturbing as it was depressing to think that attitudes displayed by families who don’t see the inside of the church regularly and the dismay of priests towards their lack of respect are uncannily similar to here - pointing in the direction of a ‘disease’ of ‘so-what?’ - itis!

    If the faith was actually lived in the home - thus becoming the responsiblility of the family with the church and sound Catholic teaching in the school - then there would be a good grasp of the faith, what’s involved and the teaching of respect for the church and the Real Presence.

  • teigitur

    Great to see you back. I totally agree.

  • cephas2

    Francis, I so agree with you and your pp! I sincerely wish before every Communion time, the priest would remind us that only practicing Catholics in the state of grace, who have fasted for an hour, may receive  the body, blood, soul and divinity of our dear Lord Jesus Christ.

  • cephas2

    Father, thank God for you!

  • Isabel Wood

    I definitely think it’s important for the Church to be consistent in the way that they treat the congregation. 

  • Jae

    Mr. Benedict Carter, what a misrepresentation of facts. Catholics are growing all over the world except in your own backyard, then blame the Church and Council for your brothers lost of Faith. There were 1.196 billion Catholics in 2010 and was increased by 1.3 % last year, meaning 13 million new saved souls for Christ. There are over 1 million converts from Protestantism to the Catholic Church every single year (prominent of those are well known, brilliant scholars).

    WHEN WILL YOU EVER WAKE UP AND UNDERSTAND YOU ARE BARKING AT THE WRONG TREE? Stop blaming the trees for the forest fire started by arsons, do you get the drip?

  • Sweetjae

    Of by the way, until now you haven’t furnish answers yet:

    1. If you blame VII for ushering in “bad fruits”, WHY don’t you also
    blame the Coucil of Florence that had ushered the “baddest fruit” of all time,
    Luther and Reformation? How about the Council of Ephesus for “mary
    worshipped”? 2. If you believe that the cause of confusion and
    separation was because some are statements are being “ambiguous”, then why not
    blame the Scripture-Bible as well? Te Book is very ambiguous sometimes with
    Justification, infusion by grace, Primacy of Peter, “filoque” clause, etc that
    caused massive confusion and separation of Orthodox churches and
    protestants?3. If you blame VII of being liberal, then WHY don’t you
    also blame the SSPX who were also labelled as being too liberal in its
    interpretation of pre-VII Tradition by those groups who split from it?

  • Parasum

    He adds, “When people tell me that everything was so much better before
    Vatican II, I point out to them that if this was the case, why did the
    faith fall away so quickly?”

    ## Because a lot of the substructure was riddled with woodworm ? Maybe they had been catechised – but that not the same as having faith.

    As for baptism – can postponing it until the potential candidate asks for it, do any more harm than the present practice ?

    IMO, things will have to get a lot worse if they are ever to get any better.

  • Patrickhowes

    Dear Francis,

    You hit the nail on the head when you comment about children not being spiritually ready to receive the scarament because of the environment is not right.The biggest culprits are the schools.I have withdrawn four of my own children from a reputable independent school as the school was so secular.When joining the school in January,the first things that I requested and repeated the request is that my eight year old be prepared for Holy Communion.This was ignored.I asked for the non catholic staff to stop taking Holy communion at the mass and receive a blessing only.Ignored.I asked for the children to learn the rosary and celebrate the month of our Lady.”No we are inclusive school” and we would make the non catholic parents feel uncomfortable!!!!.I asked for statues of Our Lady to be placed in the classrooms and got the same reply!.I wrote to the Bishop about the fact that one of the catholic teachers is having an affair with a member of staff and his wife even works at the school.”I can´t really get involved”….The beautiful old chapel is used for coffee mornings and the chidlren pray in a gymnasium!.Iam locked in a legal battle with adebt collection agency fro acting according to my conscience,in other words Iam being persecuted by the Church that I have tried to serve.It is the Church that has allowed herself to become secularised.It is spiritual suicide encouraged by a Bishop who has no character whatsoever.It is a Church that has become preocupied with money and political correctness rather than standing up for what it believes in.

  • Alan

    If you seriously think that the Church would be anything more than a tiny sect if it had remained stuck in the era of “error has no rights” etc., you are allowing your personal preferences/prejudices to override your objective judgement.  “False doctrines, disciplines amd sacraments”?  You really have to be more specific about this, and explain which VII doctrine is false.  I may not be 11 million people, but I would never have become a Catholic without VII.

  • am-s

    Best example of dumbing down in my parish this month : the  singing of ‘Big It Up For Jesus’ at primary school.

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

     It’s good to have you back indeed.

    It’s hard to pin down what you’re trying to argue for though. What Mrs. Phillips writes is that the sacraments are not a treat to given to anyone who pleases. If we have priests who have this approach, and who are willing to educate their parishioners that this is the case, then all well and good.

    I don’t see much of a contradiction in the problem you identify and the problems Mrs. Phillips identifies. Her solution is that sacraments which require some catechesis should be withheld until proper formation has taken place. I happen to agree with this entirely and also agree with you that a huge part for that blame rests with the leadership.

    However, we are beginning to see a greater reverence for the sacraments from many priests and bishops, and if people decide to turn away from them as a result, then it is regrettable, but is is also regrettably necessary if the church is to fulfill it’s mission of saving souls.

  • CM

    So why did Jesus give communion to Judas?

  • Lewis P Buckingham

     But whatever you do you must ‘Render unto Caesar’ the part that you owe.For the rest, put it to prayer and write to the bishop by all means, at the same time shake the dust off your sandals and move on.

  • cephas2

    What I have written are the requirements for receiving Holy Communion. At Latin Masses they are stated clearly for all to read. 

  • Patrickhowes

    Yes ,but what is of Caesar is Caesar and what is of God is God!Sadly and erroneously the two have become terribly entwined.A Catholic education is a blessing not a business.My point is that the onus is on profiteering rather than forming young people.So Iam going to move on fighting until I stop the abuse!.Remember that Chgrsit expelled the tax collectors from the temple for commercialising the house of God.A Catholic school is an extension of the Church and therefore it should not be materialistic

  • http://jacquelineparkes.blogspot.com/ Jacquelineparkes

    The Council was called by Blessed John XXlll..one of my heroes..

  • Ingrid Ydén Sandgren

    I liked he converstion and I admire the priest for his honesty. It is the same situation in Sweden and the only way to tackle it is to teach the rules of the Catholic church.And to live as a true Catholic, whethr you are a priest or a laywoman. Thanks a lot!
    Ingrid Ydén Sandgren,Sweden

  • Jae

    So by you very assertion that the Council of VII which is of course valid and legitimate, promulgated “false doctrines, disciplines and sacraments” therefore it follows that the Catholic Church and Pope B16 are all false, because the True Church of God can’t make and promulgate false teachings.

    This is the position of Sede vacantism which is just truly logical, however, if you are a SSPX adherent their position is logically untenable.

  • rjt1

    I would be more worried about whether Catholic schools will be able to teach what we believe to be true: that marriage is a union of one man and one woman and that other arrangements are not marriages, whatever other people may call them (though they are free to call them whatever they wish). This no doubt will be deemed ‘homophobic’

  • Patrickhowes

    The Netherlands is and was never a staunch Catholic country

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     Fair point – Roman Catholic is the largest single religious group (30%) but not a majority. Should have checked.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     When the ban on same-sex marriage is lifted in the UK, as will likely happen by 2015 in Scotland and perhaps a little later in England/Wales, it will be factually inaccurate to teach children in UK schools that only a man and a woman can marry.

    Why would Catholic schools want to teach children things that aren’t true? It will still be true that a same-sex couple can’t marry in a Catholic Church, just as a divorced couple can’t marry – or indeed a couple who aren’t particularly religious, providing the priest cares about that (and as I made clear, I think it’s quite right and proper priests should care).

    If a Catholic school wants to teach children as part of their religious instruction that Catholicism doesn’t permit non-Catholics, non-practicing Catholics, people who have been previously married, and same-sex couples, to have a Catholic wedding, well, who could stop them? But a state school – whether or not it identifies as Catholic – will have students who aren’t Catholic, and their beliefs should be respected too. Indeed, one might ask why it’s such a big deal for these schools that they HAVE to teach all their students the exact rules about who can’t get married in a Catholic Church – it’s not exactly something that most schoolkids need to know, at their age. If they want to know later, they can always ask.

    This no doubt will be deemed ‘homophobic’

    Well, yes – that is the overwhelmingly obvious reason why Catholic schools would want to teach that lesson, to impress on LGBT students how inferior they are to the “normal” kids.

  • Lex

    You are SO far off the mark there. In the UK the number of Catholics as a percentage of total population continued to increase steadily for twenty years after Vatican II. It has fallen slightly since the 80′s but it is still higher today than it was at any time during the decades before Vatican II

  • rjt1

    I would disagree that it will be factually inaccurate. We believe that a particular definition of marriage is true. There is no particular reason why we should think otherwise, just because the government says so:  we merely believe that the government is mistaken. I trust you do not deny us the right to say so.

    While stating what the Church teaches in a Catholic school, it will still be possible to say that other people and the government hold a different position. We can give the reasons why the Church holds that, and why other people think differently. If children take the latter view, they will not be punished or disadvantaged.

    If, on the other hand, we hold to the faith of our Church, you will most certainly seek to disadvantage us by removing the right to teach what we believe.

    Seems to me your attitude is very illiberal.

  • theroadmaster

    This piece provides profound food for thought, regarding the de-christianization of societies in these Islands and in mainland Europe.  When one imbibes a culture that is highly visible and with deep roots, one takes it’s reference points almost for granted.  This was indeed true of Catholicism in such traditional heartlands, as Ireland, Italy or Spain for many centuries, and this was reflected in the once high-levels of mass-going and the reception of the sacraments in these countries.  Once the external religious symbols, structures and communal census are eroded in a church-going society, ideologies tend to fill the resultant void with catastrophic consequences, as evident in the disheartening statistics over recent decades.  But we must question the level of the maturity of Faith in these nations, in the light of the ability of competing forces, such as securalization, to reduce reduce Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular, to side-lined, powerless rumps.   We can of course dispute the causes of this, e.g  the different interpretations of the implementation of Vatican 11.  But real progress can only come at the grassroots level, when present and future Evangelism reconnects people to the Person of Jesus Christ and knowledge of the scriptures.  The sacraments and their significance will only make sense in that context.

  • theroadmaster

    The institute of marriage i.e sacred union of one man and one woman, pre-dates the foundation of the western nations and their legal systems, by thousands of years.  Thus one cannot glibly state that ”
    it will be factually inaccurate to teach children in UK schools that only a man and a woman can marry.”, despite what the Scottish or English parliaments may or may not do in the future, in terms of “marital” re-engineering.   As for your comments on what the Catholic Church cannot do or not do in relation to Faith teachings on marriage, one must respect the right of each religious community  to  have their beliefs at the heart of their school’s mission.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     I would disagree that it will be factually inaccurate

    And you would be wrong.

    . We believe that a
    particular definition of marriage is true. There is no particular
    reason why we should think otherwise, just because the government says
    so:  we merely believe that the government is mistaken. I trust you do
    not deny us the right to say so.

    Of course not. Even after the ban is lifted and same-sex couples can marry in the UK as in other countries, you have the right to say that they can’t: also that men never went to the Moon, and that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. But you don’t have a right to teach factual inaccuracies in school.

    While stating what the Church teaches in a Catholic school, it will
    still be possible to say that other people and the government hold a
    different position.

    Why would you want to?

    We can give the reasons why the Church holds that, and why other people
    think differently. If children take the latter view, they will not be
    punished or disadvantaged.

    Well, indeed – it would be grossly unfair to punish or disadvantage children for speaking the truth. But again – why would you want to make such a point of teaching children that the Catholic Church thinks that same-sex couples shouldn’t be able to get legally married and won’t recognise those marriages as religiously valid?

    If, on the other hand, we hold to the faith of our Church, you will most
    certainly seek to disadvantage us by removing the right to teach what
    we believe.

    How would it “disadvantage” you?

    The right of same-sex couples to marry, or the banning of same-sex couples from marriage, is not a central tenet of Christianity or of Catholicism. It is not mentioned in the gospels or the epistles or the Acts, it is not part of the creeds or the catechism. The belief that same-sex couples ought to be excluded from marriage has become a big campaigning issue for the Catholic Church, but even if we’re now to assume that “gays mustn’t marry” is Catholic doctrine, how is it “disadvantaging” Catholics to say “teach doctrine at Church, stick to the facts at school”.

  • Honeybadger

    You have summed matters up perfectly here, Patrickhowes. It paints a disturbingly real picture, for sure, and your Bishop has let you down badly. Pray for him and for that errant school.
     
    Do what my parents and grandparents did to prepare me for Holy Communion 39 years ago – buy good books which will prepare your children for the reception of the Real Presence.
     
    Might I recommend you look up an AMERICAN Roman Catholic online shop called Aquinas and More (Google, Bing et. them). Their business statement somewhat puts the CTS to shame – they only supply SOUND Catholic books and do not supply anything made in China or printed matter contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium. They are very good indeed and they cater for overseas customers – I advise you make your orders for occasions well in advance as Aquinas and More is based in Colorado, USA.
     
    39 years ago, there was the CTS which supplied the books I read to prepare me for my Holy Communion and a Passionist nun to instruct me, as recommended by the parish priest of the time. This initiative galvanised and enriched my faith.
     
    You are in my prayers.

  • Honeybadger

    What the ….. ????

  • Honeybadger

    For the record, The Netherlands WAS a Catholic country until - like most European countries esp. in Scandinavia - it became Evangelical Protestant – the religion of its monarchs up to the present day.

    There is still a population of Roman Catholics there and are regular pilgrims to Lourdes.

  • Honeybadger

    If my chronology is correct, Judas was the one who dipped his bread into the dish before Jesus told him to do what he had to do i.e. betray him.

    This happened before Jesus said the first Mass at the Last Supper.

    Judas was well out of the picture by then…

  • JessicaHof

    Your priest sounds a lovely man, and his sense of being embattled is shared by many. But on some of the specifics, Grace is a free gift from God, and sealing a baby as His as soon as possible is always a good thing. I can appreciate his point about communion, and practices differ in different churches. The Copts are happy for young children to receive; Anglicans tend to wait until confirmation; what really matters is catechesis, and it is here we are all wanting.

    Given the ease with which we tend to forget that active homosexuality is not the only sexual sin the Bible condemns, your priest is right to remind people of other sins and of the need to repent.

    We must certainly avoid the heresies of Donatism and of Pelagius, but your priest is right to remind people of the need to take what they profess with seriousness. I can understand a priest not wanting to marry those who have no belief, but have known cases where attending a course of marriage preparation has helped bring a couple to Christ.

  • Lewis P Buckingham

     You want to be careful not to tie yourself in knots trying to work out what is true, and so what legitamately may be taught in schools and more importantly by parents who actually have the natural and universally accepted prior right to teach their own children.
    I can’t speak for the Catholic Church or for all those religions or ordinary people that think that marriage is between a man and a woman, but I can certainly tell you that biologically speaking this is scientific truth.So if the CC or some other organisation teaches this then so what?

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    You want to be careful not to tie yourself in knots trying to work out
    what is true, and so what legitamately may be taught in schools

    I think you’re addressing this comment to the wrong person! It’s straightforward and simple – when people can get married, it would be untruthful for schools to teach that they can’t.

    and more
    importantly by parents who actually have the natural and universally
    accepted prior right to teach their own children.

    Quite. But if parents opt to send their children to school, they can have no quarrel with schools teaching their children facts.

    I can’t speak for the Catholic Church or for all those religions or
    ordinary people that think that marriage is between a man and a woman,
    but I can certainly tell you that biologically speaking this is
    scientific truth.

    You want to be careful not to tie yourself in knots trying to figure out some way that “Two men can get married” isn’t true.

    Marriage can be religious, though it need not be, but it is not biological nor should it be scientific.

    Religious people may believe that (as the Religious Society of Friends say) “Marriage is the Lord’s work and we are but witnesses” and so that they have no right to ban same-sex couples from marriage in their faith. Or they may believe that God wants them to ban same-sex couples from marriage in their faith. But in a free country, no one religion has a right to set rules for people outside their faith. Quakers can’t force Catholics to recognise same-sex marriage, and vice versa.

    So if the CC or some other organisation teaches this then so what?

    The Catholic Church has a right to teach that Catholics shouldn’t believe the Earth is round, that contraception and masturbation are mortal sins, and that same-sex couples don’t get married.

    State schools, even those run by the Catholic Church, have an obligation to teach students facts, not doctrine.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     The institute of marriage i.e sacred union of one man and one woman,
    pre-dates the foundation of the western nations and their legal systems,
    by thousands of years.

    And in all that time, it’s never changed, so a father gives his friend or business partner his daughter’s hand in marriage, divorce is forbidden, a man can marry multiple women if he can afford them, and the morning after the bedsheet is hung up so that all the wedding guests can see the bloody evidence of a broken hymen.

    Quite so.

    Marriage has become the legal relationship of two equal partners, who pledge to be each other’s nearest and dearest lifelong.

    You may not like it, but in the UK and throughout Western Europe and North America and other parts of the world, that’s what marriage is.

    Lifting the ban on marriage for same-sex couples won’t change that.

    As for your comments on what the Catholic Church cannot do or not do in
    relation to Faith teachings on marriage, one must respect the right of
    each religious community  to  have their beliefs at the heart of their
    school’s mission.

    It’s very odd that suddenly the belief that same-sex couples can’t marry has magically become such a core part of Catholic teachings just recently.