"I have found at times that some of the eulogies are really out of control in terms of the language and stories told, and others are just tremendous and beautiful," said Msgr. Thomas J. McDade, pastor of Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Franklin Lakes. "My point is to talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus and the promise of eternal life. That's what needs to be said at this time."
Newark Archbishop John J. Myers has banned eulogies at Roman Catholic funerals. [Stupid but free NYTimes.com registration required. You can also try a Reuters retread and the Bergen Record article that broke the story.] Although the Record story cites a couple padres who either don't support the ban or have worked out compromises, the Times says it's been welcomed by "priests who favor refocusing on the mysteries of the faith rather than on the deceased's love of the Jets or penchant for domestic beer." Families and friends of the deceased, on the other hand, are seeing red.
It's an interesting story not only for the spectacle of a totally discredited elite still wanting to demonstrate its authority to make people miserable, but also for what it says about the attitude of the parishioners. Technically, there should be no controversy, because there were never supposed to be eulogies at Catholic funerals (I always used to wonder why our funerals never had the entertainment value of the ones on TV). That people have come to expect them is a sign of how free consumers of religion feel to demand satisfaction from the clergy. Basically, no grownup believes in Jesus or the resurrection or the mysteries of faith, at least not in the same way they believe their dead pal liked the Jets and drank Yuengling. Who wants some priest coming along to talk about eternal life? (The most satisfying funeral-type thing I've ever been to was a Quaker affair where there was no priest or minister, and in fact no leader at all, and the mourners would volunteer some thoughts on the event; after a few excruciatingly silent minutes, we were all sharing great tales and jokes about our friend the stiff.) This attitude reduces the priest to a functionary whose job is to help cheer up mourning people, and they'd obviously prefer to be thought of as the gatekeepers of Purgatory. But it's the consumer who calls the shots.