By FATHER KENNETH DOYLE
Recently, I responded in this column to a question about disruptions at Mass. The letter writer said that a parishioner had been creating a scene regularly in church -- throwing her arms toward the sky, shouting out in a loud voice and walking up to the altar before anyone is invited to. The writer asked what could be done about the woman to maintain quiet and reverence.
I answered that the pastor should have a quiet conversation with her about the sense of prayerfulness needed in a church, and I quoted one diocese's written policy regarding an individual who causes a disturbance during the liturgy.
Several people wrote in comments on that response, criticizing me for not discussing disability or mental illness and what might be a way to help that parishioner. Those comments are valid, I accept the criticism and I apologize.
Here were some of the comments: "I certainly understand that your response is technically correct and that protecting the sanctity of the Mass is important, but I was surprised to find that the response never even mentioned the possibility that the individual causing the disruption may have some sort of disability or neurological condition causing that behavior."
Still another wrote: "I was shocked at your answer. ... It may be the most unchristian thing I've ever seen in this paper. My husband, who had Alzheimer's disease, often called out during Mass, waved at the priest and was otherwise 'disruptive.' ... The other parishioners were loving and understanding. The church created a special room where parents or caregivers could take a child or disabled adult if the disruption became too great."
But the most comforting comment of all came from Virginia from a fellow parishioner of the original letter writer. He said: "Our parish staff, including our wonderful pastor, know this lady very well and they are very kind and patient. ... Yes, the lady can be disruptive and a little startling to people who are not familiar with her, but our parish is filled with loving, kind members who understand her behavior."
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Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.