Sunday 17 December 2017

Church divided over ban on funeral eulogies

Enda Dowling and Fiona Ellis

THE decision to ban funeral eulogies by family members and friends in one of Ireland's largest Catholic dioceses has deeply divided opinion within the church.

Bishop of Meath Dr Michael Smith has issued the new directive to priests in his diocese, warning against "dumbing down" at Catholic funeral services.

But while several dioceses contacted by the Irish Independent confirmed a similar approach, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) was lukewarm to the directive.

ACP spokesman Fr Sean McDonagh said he "doesn't really understand" the reasoning behind a directive to ban songs, poems and texts devoid of a Christian context.

"As far as I can see there is no way that eulogies interfere with the integrity of the Eucharist. Most of them are totally appropriate for funerals," said Fr McDonagh.

"The essence of a eulogy is that you are giving thanks to the light of the person that you are mourning. I don't think there would be a need to ban them in this way," said Fr McDonagh, who is priest for St Columba's boarding school in Dublin.

However, Fr Adrian Egan, of the Redemptorists' Monastery in Limerick, who is also a member of the ACP, agreed that "the primary task of a funeral is to offer Requiem Mass for the dead and to ask that they will rest in peace. Everything else after that is secondary.

"I know what some priests complain about when they describe funerals that go too far. It isn't a 'This Is Your Life' show." However, Fr Egan said that the majority of eulogies he had seen were "perfectly acceptable".

Several other dioceses outlined their own interpretation of what should take place at a funeral Mass.

Fr Eddie McGee, spokesman for Down and Connor Diocese, said if possible the personal reflections of family members should not take place in church.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Raphoe said they followed guidelines issued by the Bishops' Conference and anything of a secular nature would be out of place in the funeral liturgy.

Micheal Murphy, communications officer for the Kildare and Leighlin Diocese, said the diocese "does not have a published set of guidelines but our priority always is to uphold the dignity of the liturgy and thereby use appropriate scripture reading and sacred music for any liturgical celebrations".

Rev Fintan Monahan, diocesan secretary for Tuam, said he wasn't aware of a written policy in his own archdiocese.

"The normal practice is that occasionally, but not always, a family member says a few words of thanks to people after communion.

"Music, as far as possible, is kept within recognised liturgical norms and is discussed beforehand by the priest, parish bereavement team, family and music ministers," he said.

Irish Independent

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