Cassandra 2012 Headline Animator

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Who should pay for your child's communion dress?

I heard an extraordinary thing on Will Faulkner's radio show this morning. Apparently there is in Ireland a social welfare payment especially to cover the cost of children dressing up for their first communion. Will drew attention to a report that the government wants, not to end the payment, but to cut it back. According to the report, published in the Irish Examiner today 2nd February 2012, €3.4 million were distributed in such payments in 2011.

I have blogged previously about the extraordinary excesses of the Irish social welfare system but the discovery that such a payment is available left me spluttering into my porridge. I suppose I should not be surprised. The importance attached to such religious ceremonies within Irish culture is well known. News reports at the height of the "tiger" years claimed that some parents were hiring helicopters to bring their little treasures to Church for confirmation or first communion.

Solemn occasion sullied by materialism
It is at this time of year that such events take place and the shops are presently full of communion dresses. Hotels and restaurants advertise their availability for confirmation celebrations. I have made no secret of my atheism so I hope people will not be too shocked at my reaction. But, growing up in England I never came across any such pomp in the protestant churches I attended. Indeed, such extravagance is generally frowned upon because it is seen as being a long way from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth that are supposed to form the basis of belief for all Christians.

In my mind confirmation and communion should be serious and solemn occasions at which the true Christian affirms his faith in the healing power of his/her Saviour, seeks the forgiveness of his/her sins and promises to lead a better life in the future. It should not be sullied by the materialistic symbolism of dressing up and partying. The idea that tax-payers should be asked to fund such behaviour at all, let alone at a time when the country is being bailed out by its European neighbours is surely beyond reason.

Irish parents are already in receipt of remarkably generous child benefits and those who qualify for this special occasion allowance will already have received a payment toward the cost of school clothing.

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