Eulogies

Yesterday’s New York Times included a front-page article about euologies and the recent crackdown on them in Catholic churches. The paper asks when they became excessive and looks at Princess Diana’s funeral or some other celebrity event.

Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Newark archdiocese, traces part of the trend toward expansive eulogies to a 1990 change in church rules that allowed “a few words of remembrance” during Mass.

“But a couple of moments became long treatises,” said Mr. Goodness, “and all of a sudden people were talking about how what they really wanted to say could be best expressed in the words of Dr. Dre,” the hip-hop performer.

The fact is that they’ve been an issue for years. Part of the problem is that people believe that what they see on TV is real so that when some TV show depicts a eulogy at a funeral, they think that’s what they should be able to do in real life. It isn’t helped either when exceptions are made by Church officials for the rich or famous. If they’re going to allow it for JFK, Jr., then they have to allow it for everyone.

But the other part of the problem is that most people don’t understand what funerals are about. Most people don’t recognize the reality of sin and the symbolism of the Resurrection.

For one thing, most euologies sound like canonizations, where the deceased, no matter what kind of life he lived, is assumed to be in Heaven. I know it makes the family feel better, but if they think he’s in Heaven, then who’s praying for the soul that might be in Purgatory?

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli

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