browser icon
You are using an insecure version of your web browser. Please update your browser!
Using an outdated browser makes your computer unsafe. For a safer, faster, more enjoyable user experience, please update your browser today or try a newer browser.

Suffer the Children

Posted by on August 16, 2011

Is this the face of a child likely to be kicked out of church?

“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” After he placed his hands on them, he went away.” – Matthew 19:13-15

Our family had a new experience this Sunday. We were asked to leave the building during mass.

Well, more precisely, Joel was asked to leave. You see, he’d been antsy, noisy, and generally uncooperative in the chapel. That was rather unusual for him until recently, but it’s certainly not unusual for two-year-olds. We went through a similar rough patch with Alex when he was about 18mo. So, I followed standard operating procedure and took him outside the chapel.

Once out in the lobby area, the hysterics didn’t end. So, I did what I’ve always done in that situation. I took him into the meeting room adjacent to the lobby, shut the doors, and let him scream to his heart’s content. At that point, Joel had a classic, textbook tantrum, complete with kicking feet and pounding fists. Still, on the scale of “calm” to “Alex’s worst day”, he barely scored a “miffed”. I figured the situation was basically under control, and that Joel would get over himself in time for me to receive communion.

Well, it turns out I was half right.

Just a couple minutes into closed-room writhing and screaming, I was startled by one of the room’s doors opening behind me. The woman watching the reception desk during mass (who’d been standing in the lobby to participate in the mass) stuck her head in to inform me that people had complained about not being able to hear mass and to ask me to take Joel outside.

I was initially rather offended and irritated by the request, but I sympathize with those distracted from prayerful mass participation by children doing their best banshee impression, so I acquiesced without objection. It wasn’t long after going outside that Joel calmed down, which I’d expected him to do quickly, anyhow. As I calmed and soothed him, I was surprised by the desk attendant again. This time, she was much less stern and much more pleasant. She smilingly apologized for shooing us outside and explained that someone in the chapel had complained about not being able to hear the mass. Furthermore, they threatened to close the chapel door, leaving the spillover crowd – consisting primarily of parents of small children – either outside in the lobby or squeezing into the already crowded tight space behind the last row of pews.

Say what?!

This makes no sense to me. I exercise due diligence with respect to removing my disruptive child from the chapel and confining him to room with closed doors. I know my children, and I knew Joel would be calm in quiet after a short, but intense, outburst. Furthermore, when Alex was around 18mo, he would throw epic, dramatic, prolonged tantrums, screaming many times louder and many times longer than Joel had achieved at the time of his eviction. We were never asked to leave.

Do people really expect children to be quiet and calm all the time? Do they really expect to never hear them at mass? I know this kind of intolerance is an aberration at the Pittsburgh Oratory, but I suspect it’s rather common in too many parishes.

Is it just me, or are an awful lot of Catholics hostile to fecundity? Sure, most toe the line with respect to abortion, but few fully embrace the Culture of Life. Few joyfully accept the privilege to participate in God’s creation by welcoming children into their homes. Contraceptive use among Catholics differs little from the general population. Few families have more than a couple kids. Most modern churches have a crying room, where children need neither be seen nor heard. When they’re treated as such an inconvenience as children, is it any wonder, then, that so many young people leave the faith?

So much for “Go forth and multiply”. So much for “Suffer the children”.

Conscientious efforts should certainly be made to minimize disruptions, and children should certainly be taught to be attentive participants at mass and respectful of those around them. However, a Church that’s intolerant of children is a Church that has lost its faith, a Church of hypocrisy, and a Church with no future.