Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Excommunication By Any other Name...
A virulent brouhaha has erupted here in the idyllic burgh of Staten Island, NY over the pronouncement of a local priest concerning church attendance and religious instruction.

Father Richard Chicon of St. Thomas-St. Joseph's RC Church has decided to toss 250 children out of his catechism program since they do not attend church on a regular basis. Father Chicon knows the children are not attending mass because each child was provided with a series of bar-coded envelopes to be used for the donation plate when they did show up. Having identified a whole battalion of non-churchgoers via electronic means, Father Chicon decided to make a point; you cannot come to my school for religious instruction and then not follow up by attending mass.

The Father is correct, of course, on many a level. He's also wrong on a variety of others.

I'm a product of the Catholic schools here in New York. As such, I was practically in church every day. Many of the kids who attend the catechism are not members of the church school next door. They attend public or other non-religious private schools. They attend religious training for the purposes of receiving the sacraments, for the most part. By denying these children the opportuniy to be taught church doctrine and theology, Father Chicon is simultaneously denying them the right to receive the sacraments.

Policies like this helped kick off the Protestant Reformation, you know. If the Church is supposed to be saving souls, why is it trying like the Devil to keep the souls from the instruction they require? The issue, of course, is money. Hence the bar coded envelopes.

It takes money to run the church, it's school and it's catechism program. Parents, of course, pay a fee for their children's instruction, but it's not enough. The Catholic church never has enough money, it seems. So, while the Reverand might be perfectly right in his assertion that receiving instruction and not attending mass afterwards is hypocritical, he's also wrong in selling indulgences. Which is what this amounts to.

But then again, this is also the same church which invented the concept of purgatory in order to suck money from guilty noblemen. The concept of purgatory, basically stated, was that a soul did not immediately proceed to heaven or hell upon death, but lingered in a waiting room of sorts before judgement. During that time, a borderline sould might be saved if he had enough people pray for him. So, many a rich aristocrat ponied up vast sums to have masses said for them, or candles lit in their honor, have churhces and monastaries built, or simply left everything to the chantry (litterally a fund to pray for the souls trapped in puragtory). The message was then, as it is now, if you don't pay up, we cannot vouch for the safety of your soul. Chruch policy is that only people who have been properly prepared and educated (counselled) about the sacraments can actually receive them. If you deny the counselling, you deny the sacrament. Father Chicon has reinstated the purgatory chantry.

Of course, most of the parents and children involved have little or no intention of attending mass on a regular basis. They send their children to catechism because they feel that some traditions, whether they actually mean anything anymore or not, have to be obeyed. Father Chicon is not just denying people the sacraments, he's denying them their traditions and heritage.

No comments: