Earlier today, Pope Francis warned against creating an eighth sacrament of “pastoral customs,” whereby people in positions of authority in the Church create barriers to Christ — and actual sacraments. He has a very valid point, which he unfortunately mars by speaking mostly in generalities and then citing some fairly disconnected anecdotes. In any event, if there’s one area where “pastoral customs” have created genuine barriers to grace, it’s how many dioceses treat baptism. Typical parents dial up the parish office and are then told by the secretary of DRE that they must attend a series of breathtakingly boring and content-free talks at the parish center. They then must accommodate themselves to the one Sunday afternoon during the month when baptisms are given en masse. Unless it’s in Lent. Then they wait until Easter. A no-nonsense pastor will circumvent the process if you ask him, e.g., by conferring baptism during a Sunday Mass, but for most parents the effect is to delay needlessly the baptism of their child beyond what canon law stipulates. A second area, more of an annoyance than a genuine problem like the one above, is the suspension of confessions during the Triduum. (Shouldn’t we be increasing access during Lent’s home stretch?) Rightly or wrongly, Francis has been perceived by the Catholic left as a fellow traveler. Since they’re the folks who’ve implemented these customs, perhaps they’ll listen to him.

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