Although most Irish identify as Catholic, over a year ago Ireland saw its country vote in abortion. Practicing Catholics were horrified at the result, and many still have trouble coping with the reality of this ‘new Ireland’.
But even worse than the result of the referendum is the fact that the majority of voters were Catholic. As if that wasn’t bad enough, many of them had the audacity to receive Communion afterwards. Some, who were rightfully refused the reception of the Blessed Sacrament, used it as an occasion to protest it as a form of ‘exclusion’ in the Church.
Such an exclusion is not simply an opportunity for the Church to exercise Her authority but is rather a safeguard of Her sacraments which have been put under Her care and protection. If the Church failed to act in such cases, She would be failing in Her divine mission, failing to protect the deposit of Faith. But the Catholics who have ceased to live their Faith and yet continue to wear the badge of Catholicism when it suits them, neglect to understand this important distinction.
The practice of the Faith has happened at such an alarming rate in this country that many have not even had a chance to align their actions with their newfound ideologies. In other words, Catholicism was such an integral element of Irish culture, and when people abandon it they find that there is a massive cultural void. To compensate for this, many continue to ‘go through the motions’ of a typical Catholic otherwise they run the risk of feeling cut off from the community.
This is manifesting itself in many different ways in Irish culture. The most recent way which has come to the fore is the First Communion of primary children in the national schools. Although the majority of children have little if any Faith, nearly every pupil participates in this ceremony at the local parish church. Although there is some preparation, most children come from families who do not regularly attend Sunday Mass and consequently these children have little or no idea of the real significance of the event; the focus is on the externals and celebration afterwards. Last spring this was sadly portrayed in a recent video of a Dublin girl who, on the verge of making her own First Communion, entertained some adults by ridiculing the event.
Although the sacraments are for the faithful, the Church must be careful to not give the sacraments to those who receive them unworthily; just as Our Lord warned His disciples not to ‘throw pearls before swine’. She must carefully guard the sacraments given to Her by Our Lord Jesus Christ and dutifully prepare the faithful for the worthy reception of these sacraments. And if the clergy don’t understand this, they will begin to think that they are mere social workers rather than dispensers of the mysteries of God.