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Bishop issues rules for funerals to stop ‘dumbing down’ of Mass

A parish priest in Brooklyn, New York, sprinkles holy water on the casket of Bishop Octavio Cisneros (Photo: CNS)

The Bishop of Meath in Ireland has issued new guidelines for funerals to counter the “dumbing down” of the Mass.

The guidelines clarified that eulogies had no place during a liturgy, but should take place outside the church.

They received some criticism, including from the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

In a statement Bishop Michael Smith thanked his priests for upholding the dignity of the funeral liturgy “often in difficult circumstances”.

Quoting a book by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he said secular culture tended towards the “materialistic trivialisation of death”. Cardinal Ratzinger, he said, wrote that: “Death is to be deprived of its character as a place where the metaphysical breaks through. Death is rendered banal so as to quell the unsettling questions that arise from it.”

Bishop Smith said the funeral liturgy had a clear focus. “It is a prayer of petition for the deceased, a prayer commending the deceased to God’s tender mercy and compassion, a prayer rooted in the hope engendered by the Death and Resurrection of Christ.”

Eulogies, therefore, as well as secular songs, poems and readings, “should not take place” during the Mass, the bishop said. He added that priests should only engage with the family about the Mass, not with a “funeral planner”.

His guidelines were criticised by ACP spokesman Fr Sean McDonagh, who said he “doesn’t really understand” the reasoning behind the directive. He said: “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.”