My parental responsibility

My parental responsibility

I’ve come to the realization that much of what we as a Church and a society do for children assumes a certain kind of abdication of duty (or even ignorance of such) by parents. Now, let me pause here and say that this is neither a criticism of parents or of those who engage in these practices. This is more about larger trends than about anything observed as the actions of any particular people.

Let’s start with an example. At some point in the past 40 years, as a Church we started the trend of children’s Masses. In some places this means music directed at children; or the children receive a special Liturgy of the Word with Scripture paraphrased into simpler language; or they are called up to the sanctuary where they sit around the homilist and the homily is directed at them. But why must this be so?  The way it should work is that the homilist speaks to the whole congregation, not just the kids, and then the parents spend the week breaking open that word for their own children. And eventually the children grow to understand and appreciate the Mass and Scripture and homilies for what they are.

I’ve always thought that the danger of “personalizing” the Mass for particular identity groups — children, teens, young adults, Charismatics, divorced, gays, etc.— was that it trains people to believe that a more universal expression of the Mass is not for them. When the 18-year-old who has spent the last four years going to rock-and-roll, skit-filled youth Masses where it’s all about him, what happens when he goes off to college or into the world and is presented with a regular parish Mass? Will he determine that it’s just not for him anymore? Have we fallen into the marketing demographic trap?

But back to my original point: It’s not just the Mass where the Church assumes parents aren’t doing the job. Safe-environment programs do that too. Schools make similar assumptions. I’ve heard more than one public school union apologist claim the need for one or another ideological indoctrination programs — like homosexual-education curricula—on the grounds that parents can’t be trusted to educate their own children “properly” or even that parents can’t be trusted not to be hurting their own children. Or that parents can’t choose where to educate their own children, whether in private schools or homeschooled, because they can’t be trusted to know what’s best for the children.

Our political leaders do the same thing. Recall Bill Clinton’s famous moment of truth in which he revealed that he wouldn’t follow through on his promise for a middle-class tax cut because we couldn’t be trusted to “spend it right.”

We’ve fallen into the trap of ceding these responsibilities to others and failing to demand that our rights as autonomous citizens and parents be respected. We’ve got to start taking our own duties as Christians, as Americans, as parents, as men and women seriously and stop abdicating them to others, no matter how well-intentioned they are.


Written by
Domenico Bettinelli