Is breast-feeding appropriate at Mass?

I’m a seminarian who has recently begun work in a teaching parish. My pastor recently had me perform a home pastoral visit to a woman who is very active in the parish. She heads the parish social concerns committee and is very involved at the local Catholic Worker house. Anyway, one of her particular quirks in her insistence to breastfeed her children, one of whom seems decidedly old for breastfeeding (3 or 4) at every Mass. Both Father and I have approached her, tried to talk about modesty, and even suggested that she could use the cry room (which would be occupied almost exclusively by other mothers and small children), but to no avail. Her claim is, of course, that God made the female form “and it was good,” and so it could not possibly harm people to see it. Further, our instinct to have her cover herself was in fact a sinful acquiesence to the our chauvanistic society. Any ideas?

Dear Finian,

I have avoided answering this in the hope that one of the woman apologists would. It’s now almost ancient history. Nevertheless, your request for help requires a response. There are ways of breast feeding in public that are quite subtle and hardly noticeable at all. But one gets the idea that she really wants to be a spectacle. Her defense shows that she obviously has some sort of an agenda. The agenda is what you have to deal with. Just under the surface lies a heap of anger, I suspect. You are in my prayers.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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