Delay communions until adulthood, says priest

First communions and confirmations should be delayed, potentially into adulthood, to prevent the events from becoming hollow moments that mean nothing to those taking part.

The claim has been made by a leading Catholic priest, who said the age-specific system has lost almost all connection to what is meant to be intended.

Speaking on RTÉ Liveline programme yesterday, Fr Paddy Byrne said the modern-day version of the religious rites of passage has become a “hostile” event involving families who do not want to be there.

He said cultural changes in recent years mean many ceremonies now involve parents who have moved away from the Church, but feel peer pressure to allow their children to join the ceremonies.

In other cases, he said, otherwise religious families see the events more as family parties and opportunities for their children to be given money and presents.

The Laois-based priest said: “One of the big initiatives in South America in the past few months was to implement a lot of the sacraments of initiation — ie, baptism, communion, confirmation — much later on in life.

“It should be when people have choice, when they have proper formation [of faith]. What I’m saying isn’t off the wall, it’s realistic.”

Speaking afterwards to the Irish Examiner, Fr Byrne said he wants to see this non-age-specific reform considered for this country.

The priest said such a change would remove the issues surrounding the rites of passage. He said while the current system has worked in the past, it is now causing situations where up to “85% of children taking first communion are not seen again by the Church”.

While Fr Byrne stressed he is not criticising the changing nature of Irish society and people’s right to have different faiths and none, he said communion and confirmation are losing their real meaning for Catholics. “There’s a majority [of parents] who are quite unruly when it comes to the basic etiquette of how to behave. I’ve often been asked do you have wi-fi here, can people go on Facebook.

“It’s time for a wake-up call, to be pragmatic and honest in changing the way we do our business.”

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