Churching of women


#1

This thread is being opened to address a topic that came up in the thread about “don’t read the Bible”. forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=136888

Johnboyfl said that his mother had undergone an enforced separation for 6 weeks before she was ‘churched’ and was ‘kept from the Mass’.

Well, that had never been the experience of my parents or anybody I knew. And when I did a Google search, the sites that talked about treating women as though they were impure and dirty, and ‘enforcing isolation’, were sites like infidel.org.

Johnboyfl did give me some sites. Womenpriests, of course, is not reliable. But fisheaters is a site I know, so I looked there. This is what fisheaters said:

(the Church permits women to stay home, without culpability, from church for 6 weeks after giving birth) and after baby has been baptized.

Well, the words are ‘permits’ and ‘without culpability’, not ‘enforced.’ Further, the topic specifically says that, at least from the 1800s on pretty constantly, as opposed to more sporadically before, the whole ceremony is one of ‘thankfulness’ and has nothing to do with ‘ritual purification’.

Remember, even the Blessed Virgin, at the time that the Jewish purification law taught that childbirth made a woman ‘impure’ (according to their culture and standards which were held by virtually every previous and contemporary historical culture), underwent the ceremony *knowing * that she herself was pure. It is only relatively recently that as our society has grown and has advanced in various learning and reason that we have better understood St. Paul’s words that, in Christ, there is neither male nor female, slave or free. . . and made those words into literal as well as figurative truth.

As I said, it is possible that some priests, even in the 1950s, took to themselves a personal interpretation of church teachings, customs, and ceremonies that was not in line with what the church teaches. That is sad.

But one of the reasons that places like these forums exist is to help ‘set right’ various misconceptions about the Catholic faith. And yes, misconceptions are not necessarily the ‘fault’ of one who has indeed experienced something done by anyone who professes himself/herself a Catholic yet does not correctly say or do any or all of the teachings of the Church.


#2

bear in mind that this custom was in a time when women commonly did not go out of the house at all for several weeks after the birth of a child, and even remained in bed for a few weeks (yes, gals, they had lots of household help with the chores and the little ones, hard to believe I know) it was called “lying in”. So obviously they had to be dispensed from the Mass obligation. That is why it was usually the godparents who took the child to church for baptism within the first couple of weeks, or in some places baptism was done at home. the blessing given–I can just remember since it was still done when my mom was having her children in the 50s–was usually at that time given once a month to all new mothers in the church. It did not have the connotations of ritual impurity inherent in Jewish family purity laws (for a good description of those laws, search under poster stillsmallvoice).

since the modern practice of maternity medicine has changed, and women are kicked out within a few hours of giving birth, and it is common to see newborns and new mommies everywhere, the custom has little social relevancy. There is still in the book of blessings a blessing for new mothers and it can be done as part of the baptismal service or separately at any time, including the first time she comes to Mass after giving birth.


#3

I agree with Puzzle Annie… My relatives talked about hospital for 10 days, 6 weeks of staying home(to recuperate, not as some cleanliness thing), at which time the father of the baby and his parents (or the godparents) took the baby to the church to be baptized(this is when the child is named). I have 9 aunts and 2 uncles…some of them didn’t receive the name that grandma picked out for them. In fact, one of my aunts urged my mom to check into it because she couldn’t get social security until it was straightened out. Her birth and baptismal certificate didn’t match her marriage certificate or her social security card… Apparently my grandpa didn’t like some of the names grandma picked so he assigned his own!


#4

My Mom was in the hospital for 10 days with each of us (1940s) and I was in 4 days with mine (1960s). Mine were considered short stays actually, because they were military hospitals and they booted you sooner than civilian hospitals.


#5

Here is the original post from johnboyfl:

The responses here are quit interesting. I went to 11 years of Catholic school prior to Vatican II. We were told NEVER to read the bible unless a priest was present to guide us. We were also told that every house must have a bible under the pain of sin. As I grew older and put all this into perspective I realized that it was a control thing by the church. They were trying to protect us from interpreting the bible in the wrong way. The times were different prior to Vatican II. In school I was taught nothing but guilt and fear of God. There was never any mention of love. I was also taught that one NEVER should question anything a priest says. Remember this was an era when a women were considered dirty and vulgar for giving birth to a baby. The only way she could re-enter the church was to go through a ritual called “Being Churched”. The priest meet her at the back of the church and forgave her sin of childbirth. I remember this well for my mother sat and cried because she could not go to Sunday mass until she was churched. So back to the bible

See the big difference between what we or our parents experienced, with the churching being a thanksgiving ritual, as opposed to what johnboy’s experience was.

The idea of ‘forgiving the sin’ of childbirth, the idea that women were dirty and vulgar for having a baby. . .the guilt and the no love, the control stuff–this is what I cannot find reference to in reputable sites, though as mentioned I saw it on many anti Catholic web sites. This is why I say that if the priest actually taught this to johnboy’s mother/family, he was not teaching what the Catholic Church taught. After all, the whole issue of purification is not doctrine or dogma, but relates to cultural issues and is taken from the mists of antiquity, therefore, while the idea of purification may have had an imperfect understanding of why and an emphasis placed on what ‘joined’ with a cultural practice/understanding, the church has never officially taught that women were ‘dirty’ for having children. That would be like saying that the Lord, in commanding us to ‘be fruitful and multiply’, but making birth ‘sinful’, would be forcing us to sin.


#6

We had our 5th child recently, and a priest friend of ours ‘churched’ my wife after a few weeks.

It was a very beautiful series of prayers, in thanksgiving for a safe delivery and asked for the intercession of the Holy Family and St. Cecillia (our daughter’s patron saint) for the continued safety and spiritual growth of our daughter and our family.

I would highly recommend it any new mom :thumbsup:


#7

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