Reader Mail

Speaking of the Dead

Do Catholic eulogies have a future? How will Gray Davis be recalled? Plus more.

2.3.03

Send to Kindle

SILENCED EULOGIES
Re: Paul Beston's Tone Dead:

Mr. Paul Beston in his article "Tone Dead" suggests that the decision of the Archbishop of New Jersey not to permit eulogies at funeral Masses is somehow wrongheaded or is a manifestation of myopia since he more appropriately "might be occupied with more pressing matters" to correct problems in the Church. Although Mr. Beston does not disclose whether the Church in New Jersey has already dealt with the other, more important abuses he suggests, in any event, his conclusions are exactly wrong. Any "abuse" of practices or people in the Church occurs because whoever is responsible for preventing them has "more important things to do" than to prevent them. The celebration of the Mass is the most important act in which Christians can participate. The fact that Church officials intend to prevent the giving of eulogies at funeral Masses -- where they do not belong -- should give the faithful hope rather than despair that Church officials will correct all abuses where they occur.
-- Luke A. Lafferre
Huntington, WV

The traditional time for eulogies at a Catholic funerals is after the mass has concluded. This is standard Roman rite practice worldwide, and has been for centuries. The archbishop of Newark did not "take it upon himself" to rearrange anything. He is merely doing his job in assuring the integrity of the liturgies conducted in his archdiocese. Length of time is not the issue. These informal canonizations could theoretically last as long as there are listeners willing to stay seated in the pews. But paeans to the dearly departed rightfully belong at the conclusion of the mass. Is that so difficult to accept? Yes, the Catholic Church in America has many problems these days. But Mr. Beston's lengthy protestation is overblown.
-- Tim Hughes
Fairport, NY

Paul Beston has forced me to do something I haven't done in ages: take the side of a Novus Ordo Catholic Church official in an argument. Just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, the modern American Catholic Church is not always wrong. A funeral Mass is just that, a Mass. It is not a Protestant service where the centerpiece is a sermon. To the contrary, the focus of a funeral Mass is precisely that of any Mass, the Eucharist. Just as the profane modernist "sign of peace" is a dissonant intrusion upon the solemnity of the Mass, so is a eulogy. In fact, in a Traditional Catholic Mass in Latin, it is not unusual for the priest to remove his maniple, worn around the arm, during the sermon to signify that the sermon is not a part of the Holy Mass. In addition, the presence of anyone near the altar other than the priest or altar server is a further profanity. Therefore the laity must not approach the pulpit. A wake is precisely the appropriate forum for a eulogy, so kudos to the Archdiocese of Newark for, against all odds, finally getting something right!

Does the Church have more important things to worry about now? Well, it depends on your point of view. Proximally, yes, the sex scandals are of more import. Ultimately, however, it is, among other things, the degradation of the liturgy since Vatican II that has paved the way for the plethora of abuses we now see, including the sex scandals. A story is told of King Philip of Spain (Philip II, d. 1598, I believe) once stopping a small child from climbing over the altar rail to enter the Sanctuary with the admonition that only the priest may enter. He understood that not only was the small child not to enter the Sanctuary, but as king he was also bound by the same liturgical practice. It applies to all of us, kings and eulogizers.
-- Bill Murphy

Paul Beston replies: I agree with Mr. Murphy that the modern, post-Vatican II liturgy is a degraded one, and that its decline has something to do with the abuses that eventually grew out of a new, more permissive climate in the Church. But citing the Traditional Catholic Mass is really beside the point, since that is not the liturgy in use anymore. Not only are the laity on the altar and at the pulpit -- where they give readings -- but, as I note in my article, they dispense communion. I never claimed to like any of this; I just find the focus on eulogies to be scattershot and pointless in the absence of more systematic reforms.

GRAY MATTER
Re: Peter Hannaford's Gray Davis and the Bare Cupboard:

I would imagine that if Proposition 187 had actually been implemented so that illegal aliens, who don't pay taxes, could not get free education and medical care furnished by those who do pay taxes, the deficit might not be the monster it has become.
-- Pete Brittain

Though I was pulling for Bill Simon I'm glad he lost the election to Gray Davis because it is only fitting that Davis be forced to deal with the mess he helped create. Maybe what has happened in the people's republic of California will serve as a wake-up call to people elsewhere that there just are no free lunches in life and fiscal prudence ought to be something that they insist on from their politicians.
-- unsigned

Californians of all political persuasions will be happy to know that a recall petition campaign may be started on February 23, 2003, by the (CA) Republican Party Secretary and a host of radio talk show personalities spearheaded by KSFO's Melanie Morgan.

With a low voter turnout in November, the required number of signatures to force a recall election should be around 667,000 -- a very doable number -- considering that a sizable block of these recall votes may come from disgruntled Democrats (sorry -- redundant) who are less than thrilled with the antics of our esteemed Goober. The aftermath of a successful recall and subsequent election would cause a political donnybrook that -- win, lose or draw -- would be the height of political entertainment for the summer and fall of 2003.

Sadly, no matter what happens, the budget must be balanced and -- oops, I feel my wallet vibrating. I'll get back to you all later.
-- Mike Horn
Tracy, CA

WILD AND FREE
Re: Bill Croke's Eco-Terrorist Academic Chic:

Thank you for the "Godfather-Part Tree." While my neighbor rants and raves every time I kill a line of ants crawling into my home, they do leave their cat outside 24/7 to "experience life" -- fleas, dirt, hostile people and cars. Ahhh, wildnerness.

Croke's piece reminds me of the on target, satire song "Junk Food Junkie." Thanks for printing it.
-- Wolf Labounty

BARRY'S GOLD
Re: G. Barnard's "Choice Remarks" letter in Reader Mail's Rude in Public:

Whoops -- guess I touched a raw nerve with Greg Barnard. Didn't realize my arguments were "tried and predictable" -- candidly, hadn't heard them expressed before. Thought they were kinda original, or, at the very least, patterned after my only hero's ideas.

Now, I may not patronize them, but I have nothing against prostitutes; and I don't recall mentioning school choice, social security opt-outs, or SUV choice -- but I favor all three. Also, I admit once hiring a gay guy -- a super employee; and, what has "pseudo-science" got to do with anything? Or nudity. Miss anything? Oh, folks who choose to take heroin are just stupid. And, no, I don't smoke or drink. Did plenty of both, thank you -- but no longer.

The point I attempted to make had to do with future elections and the Republicans' vulnerability because of the hard-headed ultra-right, that's all. There are, I feel, a whole lot of people who agree that the Morality Police has no business messing up future political choices, but, guess I could be mistaken.

Anyway, your point, Mr. Barnard?
-- Geoff Brandt

P.S. My aforementioned "hero" -- the late Arizona Senator Barry M. Goldwater who, incidentally, also was pro-choice. Today, Texas's Ron Paul is about the closest politician/citizen deserving of my respect.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article