|Adults and children kneel for the Consecration at the St Catherine's Trust Summer School|
I was inspired to write it by realising that the notion of excluding children from the rest of the congregation, or even from Mass entirely, was an idea with a following among not a few conservative and traditionally-minded Catholics. It is a reaction against the experience of chaotic liturgy where children are allowed to wander around, perhaps even into the sanctuary, which I suppose is more associated with a 'progressive' liturgical attitude. The thought would be: if we want a well-ordered, reverent liturgy, we need to get the small children under control; since we can't rely on parents to do this, we should bundle them into a separate space where they won't spoil things for everyone else.
This is short-sighted, however: as I explain the article, children won't learn to behave if shoved into a room where they can behave as badly as they like, and their parents won't learn to discipline them in that context either. Neither the parents nor the children will experience the atmosphere of the liturgy, and both are left with the impression that they are not truly welcome.
I have noted on this blog that another element in the anti-child mindset is the idea that children won't get anything out of the liturgy anyway because the liturgy has to be grasped intellecually in order to have any effect on the worshipper. This, of course, is absurd; indeed I fancy that few people who are influenced by this idea would actually agree with it when set out in black and white. But if it is false, then obviously children, and indeed infants, will benefit from the sacraments and blessings of the liturgy, which is of course why we get babies baptised.
Here's the beginning of the article.
To many people disturbed by children making a noise during Mass, “crying rooms” must seem like an answer to prayer. The children can just go in there, and the problem is solved.
Things look rather different from a parent’s perspective, however. If your noisy child goes into a crying room, with other noisy children, then you have to go as well, and quite probably your other children with you. The problem of the disturbance hasn’t actually been solved: it has been alleviated for most members of the congregation, and made much worse for others. If you haven’t had the incomparable experience of screaming babies in a confined space, you should try some long-haul flights in the holiday season.