Church attacks commercialismof communion as benefit is cut
THE Catholic Church last night attacked the commercialism of communions and confirmations after the Government cut the special payments to families on low incomes for these occasions.
The average payment of €200 for holy communions will be reduced to €110 and will only be paid in genuine cases of hardship.
The church hierarchy didn't criticise the Government's move and its response appeared to be an endorsement of the cut as a step towards reducing the massive spending by some parents on their children.
Responding to the debate on the sacraments prompted by the cut, the church pointed to its tradition of encouraging parishes to have a "locally organised and modest gathering" after the Mass.
In a statement, the Catholic Communications Office said the pressure of trying to make the communion and confirmation days special for the child can cause parents a lot of stress.
"Bishops, priests and schools are very concerned about the cost issue facing parents with children for first holy communion and/or confirmation and have discussed this matter in parishes," it said.
"If the emphasis for sacramental preparation is placed on commercially related concerns, rather than on the spiritual significance of the sacrament, then it is not a good preparation for Catholic children."
But Sinn Fein vice-president Mary-Lou McDonald told Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore the cut was part of the Government's "continuing crusade against families on low incomes".
Mr Gilmore said the guidelines had not been reviewed since 1995 and were being changed to reflect the current realities.
In one area of the country, 14,000 payments for communion and confirmation were made last year, at a cost of €3.4m.