Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Catholic Mass: A Critical Analysis

Previously, I reviewed the Nitelink, Brendan Thompson getting his mickey caught in his zip and, of course, your ma. Those all took the piss. This on, the other hand, was written for the Irish Times. Therefore I’ve striven to make my opinions as boring and not insane as possible. The Vatican has, apparently, issued a whole load of guidelines about what a mass sermon should be.

Last Sunday, I was asked to head along to mass and offer up my verdict. I wasn’t hugely impressed with what I found.

There was a sparse attendance for mass at Saint John’s Lane Church on Thomas Street in Dublin city centre. The gospel was the parable of the Prodigal Son, which arguably has a certain relevance to the dilemma Ireland finds itself in today. Think about it:

The prodigal son took leave of his senses and embarked upon a decade-long orgy of hedonism and free living. Belatedly, he came to realise his folly and returned to his rightful place in the world a chastened man. In a sense, are we, the Irish people, not all prodigal sons? And is our Catholic faith not the benevolent father to which we must now return for comfort?

Ah, it practically writes itself, I think.

That wasn’t, however, the route the celebrant in Saint John’s Lane chose to go with his sermon. He spoke of forgiveness in more abstract terms. As per recent Vatican guidelines, he spoke without notes, maintaining eye contact with the congregation throughout. And at a svelte three minutes and thirty seconds, there certainly weren’t many people anxiously looking at their watches.

The delivery was faltering, however. Seated in the middle of the church, I could decipher only about half of what was said. The celebrant was in his seventies and this sermon may have been one plucked from virtually any decade of his career.

To believe in sin, he argued, one must believe in God. A non-believer has a conscience, granted. But whereas a believer can ask and receive the Lord’s forgiveness, a non-believer must live with his guilt for the rest of his life. This must be a great source of pain and unhappiness to the non-believer, our celebrant speculated.

Now this man could be forgiven, I suppose, for neglecting to make any zeitgeist-y cultural references along the way. His parishioners were, for the most part, very elderly people who probably haven’t heard of Twitter or Lady Gaga even if he’d bothered to name-check them.

But at a time when there is so much enormous public outrage over horrific crimes committed by the Catholic Church in the recent past, it seemed insensitive (at best) for him to boast about the cleansing power of a short trip to the Confessional.

March 18th, 2010.

21 Responses to “Catholic Mass: A Critical Analysis”

  1. Dolly Says:

    Fuck them. Fuck them all. There is nothing the Catholic church could do now that would satisfy me except curl up and die and put us all out of our misery.

  2. Eoin Says:

    Urgh. Humungous hangover. I’d volunteer to curl up and die if that would help at all Dolly.

  3. Andrew S Says:

    By Golly, I Second Dolly!

  4. Lisa Says:

    Offer it up.

  5. Colin Says:

    I think priests should start presenting sermons with Seinfeld style observations, plays to the crowd better, and should increase Mass ratings.

    What happens with all the confessions to child abusing priests or one’s who had money resting in their accounts (Fr Crilly). Do those ones count or was the hotline to God down for them? Surely they were disconnected..

    What about the people who confessed terrible sins to them and then died shortly after? Do they get a pass at the pearly gates or is it hot pokers in the rump for eternity?

    …fuck, I’ll not sleep tonight.

    Oh wait, I forgot I don’t give a shit, phew!

  6. Eoin Says:

    @ Lisa – you do realise you’re channelling my mother there!

  7. Eoin Says:

    @ Colin – haha… just imagining our priest at home standing at the pulpit saying “What’s the deeeal with airplane food?”

  8. Lisa Says:

    @Colin/Eoin: try getting a hold of a book called “Trendy Sermons” written in 1982 by Dermot Morgan. It’s all the sermons from a character called Father Trendy he used to play back in the late 70s/80s who was down-with-the-kids and hip-to-the-groove-daddy-o.

  9. Eoin Says:

    @ Lisa – you could spend a long, long time looking for it and get nowhere. But if its for your thesis, the National Library would have a copy of every book published in the history of the state!

  10. Lisa Says:

    Thanks! So does Trinity. I’m sure the librarians were wondering what sort of dosser I was altogether, ordering the Father Ted scripts and back issues of Hot Press. Cultural criticism, innit.

  11. Eoin Says:

    It’s not on Google Books but there is a listing for it:

    Title Trendy sermons
    Author Dermot Morgan
    Publisher Ward River Press, 1981
    ISBN 0907085083, 9780907085089
    Length 92 pages

  12. DD Says:

    “Whats the deeeeal with Protestantism? You’re not cool with the Pope? Hes like the Vicar of Christ! Ya gotta recognize the Pope!”

  13. Conal Says:

    Re: Confessions to a paedophile priest. The thing is the Church does not categorise the man as a paedophile, they see him as a fallible child of christ, with paedophile tendencies that can ultimately be redeemed through their methods of prayer, reflection all that shit. It’s sickening.

    The catholic tendency to default to forgiveness and understanding is what has the Church fucked, seeds of their own destruction and all that.

    Indeed it is this same tendency in the electorate that has the country fucked.

  14. Lisa Says:

    @Eoin: tip-top. First class investigative journalism.

  15. Eoin Says:

    Just doing what I do best, Lisa. Tomorrow I crack that Mary Harney cakeoholism story wide open.

  16. Colin Says:

    @Lisa/Eoin/DD: Now I miss Father Trendy.. and Scrap Saturday… and Dan Bars… and the proper f’n Wham Bars. What’s the deeeaalll with making bars we loved smaller, and dulling the sour bits? We need a bar law stopping them from raping our childhood memories…

    @Conal: You make me sad. Sad and angry, it’s a dangerous combination. I might start a facebook group. I am 21st Century Man, hear me whine!! (in private)

  17. Conal Says:

    @Colin. You’re only angry because of the wham bar thing, and what about king-size twixs and jumbo kit-kats?

    You should start up your own blog man, the comments/links on here are mighty, who knows? your ideas might end up in d’paypor under someone else’s name too



  18. Neal Says:

    Eoinser – if you’re looking for Trendy Sermons, there’s a copy in my parents’ somewhere, I could root it out for you if you want…

  19. Eoin Says:

    Thanks Neal, I’ll contact you in private!

  20. Colin Says:

    @Conal: Yeah, here’s to defending the old full sized bars. Also miss cutting open the tin-foil on regualr kit-kats with my thumb nail.

    Ouch, Zing indeed. “If this is anyone but Steve Allen, you’re stealing my bit!” – Krusty the Clown

    Think I’ll take inspiration and call my blog “Falling Aside The Ridge”.

  21. Darragh Says:

    yikes. hateful. my dad went to mass last week. it seems to be catching on. all publicity is good publicity. anyway, he told me the sermon was about how misunderstood the church is. misunderstood: like a fox.

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