Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sinead O'Connor's home truths

Sinead O'Connor was quoted recently as saying: 'We don’t necessarily need religions but we like rituals ... The only real use for priests is for bereavement or dying. In the 21st century we don’t need anyone dictating to us what we should think.'

I've been a fan of Ms O'Connor since Mandinka made the charts. It didn't hurt that I was an Irishman abroad & it made me feel proud that this singer with the hauntingly beautiful voice was also Irish. However, I find I must disagree with her views on this. Perhaps as a priest I am biased! The problem with that line of thinking is that the prayers and rituals of the Church are inextricably intertwined with its teaching. The ancient Christian principle of 'lex orandi, lex credendi' (loosely 'as we pray, so we believe') is as true today as it ever was.  

However, it is also true that the days when the Church could be accused of dictating what people should think are long gone. Today, it simply offers its teaching, which people are free to accept or reject. A problem arises, of course, when people reject the teaching but feel uncomfortable with any reminders that their behaviour is not in accordance with that teaching. Ironically, they are most likely to encounter such reminders during the end-of-life rituals that Ms O'Connor approves of. While I sympathise with their dilemma, it seems unreasonable to suggest the solution is that the Church keep silent and restrict its role to that of some on-call provider of ritual.

It would not, in any event, work. As I said, the ritual contains teaching woven into its very fabric. Perhaps the time has come for people to ponder whether, since they need this ritual and teaching at difficult times in their lives, are they right to reject it as part of the remainder of their lives?

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