One of the old chestnuts that makes it regularly to the newspapers is the issue of people receiving Communion when they are in second relationships or involved in some other 'activity' that is not approved of by Mother Church.
Some years ago a Kerry priest refused to give Holy Communion to a woman who was in a second relationship. It happened at her daughter's first Holy Communion. It made news right across all media platforms.
Priests are not moral policemen. When a person presents him or herself to the altar the priest is obliged to treat that person as he treats every other member of the congregation.After all, no priest is going to ask someone for their tax clearance certificate before administering the sacraments to them. It's interesting how when it comes to anything and everything to do with sex some priests are suddenly checking all the credentials and paper work.
Some might argue that people have simply lost their faith. But it's not as simple as that. Are we less spiritual today than we were 30/40 years ago?
The Christmas lights are in place on Dublin's Grafton Street. Christmas ads are appearing. Those of us old enough will remember the 'good-old-days' when the Christmas rush began on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. But it's all changed now. Good or bad? I don't know.
The purists and the ideologues on all the different sides will express definitive views. The type of people, who today shout that we are all heading for damnation, were probably doing exactly the same 30/40 years ago.
And then it dawned on me that the less attention we give to religious practices the more insistent we are in 'celebrating' all the Christian festivals during the year. Christmas, Easter, all the religious feasts, now receive great attention, baptisms and weddings too. On occasions it can be somewhat embarrassing/funny as there are people in the church who are no longer familiar with what is taking place. Some stand, some sit, some no longer know the responses to the prayers.
And yet today people give far more attention to these events than they did say 30/40 years ago. Children were baptised straight after birth in the quietest of occasions, weddings took place in the morning followed by a wedding breakfast. Confirmations and first Holy Communions were far more discrete.
Things are done differently today. We have seen extraordinary change and development in the world. Social media has us all bamboozled.
Walking down Grafton Street as they were erecting the Christmas lights three weeks ago my immediate reaction was to say, this is far too early. I went off thinking about the commercial aspects of Christmas. Of course that's what commerce and industry always do. Isn't that the way of the world? But at least I'd much prefer commerce and industry to be messing about with flashing light bulbs than building weapons of war. And that's exactly what they were doing 100 years ago in the lead up to Christmas 1914. In World War I men had been ordered to kill and maim each other.
Was that generation more spiritual than today's?