Saturday, January 26, 2008

Patrick Archibold at Creative Minority Report has posted excerpts from two of Fr. McCartney's columns in the bulletin of St. Matthew's Church in Dix Hills.

In this column, Fr. McCartney he takes on people who do not provide funerals for their Church-going relatives:

"However, as pastor, I will refuse any request for a priest to go to a funeral home and do a small prayer service instead of a funeral Mass. It is simply wrong to manipulate religion like that. The Catholic Church cannot force people to have funeral Masses, but at St. Matthew’s any funeral service outside of Mass will only be done as the Church intends: by bringing the body to the church and conducting the prayer service there. Let the non-practicing family sit in God’s house, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and stare into the darkness of their own unbelief. If I am the one to throw some Catholic sand in the secular eye, I am only too happy to oblige."

And in this one, he takes on parents' lack of understanding of the importance of religious education:

"[Note to enraged parents: A voicemail in an hysterical tone of voice beginning “I am absolutely furious at you . . .” does not improve the likelihood of your call being returned.]

One parent called me to say she objected to her child being assigned a Confirmation name. I told her that we do not assign Confirmation names at St. Matthew’s, nor in any Catholic Church, for that matter. She insisted. It went on and on. After investigation, it turned out that the 7th Grade students had been asked to write a report on some assigned saint whose life they had to research. It had absolutely nothing to do with the Confirmation name, but still took several hours to unravel. And no apology.

More often, I find, are the truly bizarre complaints: “Why does my child have to memorize the Act of Contrition?” “I don’t want my child to have to do any homework from religious education; he’s too busy already.” “You don’t really expect us to come every week, do you?” “My child doesn’t have to go to confession, she hasn’t committed any sins.” “What’s the big deal if he got a zero on the test, it’s not like it’s the S.A.T. or something.” I am not joking here. These are actual questions posed to me by some St. Matthew’s parents. The purpose of our Catholic Faith is to help people get to Heaven. Its purpose is not to allow people to have nice parties after Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation.

At the end of our lives we will all face an exam. Each and every one of us will be judged personally by Jesus Christ on the practice of our Catholic Faith and the actions of our lives. Believe me, that test is going to be much more important than the S.A.T."

Fr. McCartney's purpose in these columns is to focus on "what it means to be a “practicing Catholic,” and we have seen how secularism, its attitudes and its apathy, has been creeping into the Church." Patrick Archibold comments in reading the obnoxious things some parents have said and done it would be hard for him to have the patience to be a priest and deal with this stuff. I concur, and would add that priests are in a no-win situation with many parents regarding religious formation and the sacraments. They have to battle the secular attitudes of many people who use Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation, and Matrimony as excuses to party with no regard for their religious nature. But they must provide these sacraments none the less. The Church needs priests strong enough to do battle with these people without losing patience and by insisting that the religious nature of these sacraments are taken seriously. Often the priests who do this will be labeled "intolerant" or "mean". If you read the columns by Fr. McCartney, you will notice an intelligent, firm, but loving approach that is both reasoned and blunt.

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