I AGREE THAT IDEALLY WE SHOULD ALL DRESS APPROPRIATELY FOR CHURCH – BUT LET’S NOT MAKE AN 11TH COMMANDMENT ABOUT IT.
Wen I was in St Peter’s Cathedral, Belfast I looked after the schools and youth club. I would have heard the youngsters confessions in a room in the school. Not to embarrass the teenagers I had a special way of going through the Commandments and the young person would answer yes or no to each.
Later when they left school they would come into the cathedral confessional and say :”Fa’rr an we do it the way we did it in school”? And we did.
One summer Saturday afternoon, with the sun splitting the stones, I was in the confessional and I heard the administrator screaming at someone at the top of his advice.
It was a teenage boy of 18 who had his shirt off for the summer and was coming to Confession to me. Father McKinley physically pushed him out of the cathedral. I ran after the young man called Brendan and apologised to him and heard his Confession walking around the cathedral grounds.
Brendan meant no disrespect to God or anyone else. He was passing and just said he would come to Confession.
God would have had no problem with his naked top. God made his body.
When judging matters like this we need to understand the person’s intentions. Brendan was coming to Confession out of respect to God and out of trust in me.
Let’s not forget that for the first part of their existence Adam and Eve met God naked in the Garden of Eden.
By all means, challenge and correct people who act to offend God.
But don’t punish people for being young or Travellers.
If only we had more young men and women in our congregations.
Finally, the priest DOES NOT OWN the church.
The people own it.
A church is the house of God’s people.
Teach Pobal as we say in Irish.
“Let the young ones come to me. Do not stop them. For theirs in the Kingdom of Heaven”.