Here is a rather interesting story on a couple of levels.
A Umatilla teenager said she was forced to choose between her Catholic faith and serving as a delegate to Florida Girls State, a government-in-action leadership program for teen girls.
“I was shocked. This is basically discrimination,” said Margeaux (Mar-go) Graham, 16, a junior at Umatilla High School, who was told that she would not be allowed to attend Sunday Mass while Girls State is hosted June 15-23 at Florida State University in Tallahassee, even though a Catholic cathedral is across the street from FSU.
Graham’s mother, Mary, offered to make the trip to escort her daughter to church.
“The girls are not allowed to leave our program for any reason,” said Robin Briere, department secretary-treasurer of the American Legion Auxiliary, who noted it would be an insurance liability to allow any of the 300 delegates to leave the premises.
Briere said a non-denominational Sunday service is provided for the delegates.
As a faithful Catholic, Graham said it would be a mortal sin for her not to attend Mass, as it’s her religious and moral obligation to attend Mass every single Sunday.
“Missing Mass is not an option,” added Jackie Smart, director of religious education at St. Mary of the Lakes Catholic Church in Eustis, where Graham is a parishioner.
“If you’re Catholic, you’re obliged to gather with your fellow Catholics on Sundays to celebrate Mass and it’s not something that we can choose not to participate in, if you’re an active Catholic,” Smart said. “If you really believe what our faith teaches, there would be no way to keep you from Mass and that’s the way Margeaux feels…
“Good for Margeaux for not being afraid to stand up for her faith. There is so much pressure on these young men and women nowadays that it’s not cool to embrace your faith, and I think that it’s really great that Margeaux is willing to stand up for that. …She is just a very determined young lady. She has a very strong grasps of her faith and what it means to be a Catholic.”
A friend of the Graham family, Carl Ludecke, commander of American Legion Post 21 in Umatilla, called Robin Briere at the state American Legion Auxiliary and proposed the idea of allowing a priest or university chaplain to come to Girls State to celebrate Mass for the Catholic delegates.
“I thought, why not bring in somebody in at the same time as they were doing a service in another room?, Ludecke said, recalling the idea was immediately rejected.
“I was absolutely flabbergasted. I was just trying to get this resolved so everybody could be happy,” he said. “We had a screaming match on the telephone and I didn’t get anywhere, because I really don’t have any jurisdiction to do it.”
Briere said this is the first time in her 19 years on staff with Girls State, a privately-funded program, that religion has become an issue.
“We are a non-denominational program and intentionally keep religion out of our program out of respect for the 300 girls that come from many different faiths,” she said. “We set aside time on Sunday morning, from our very busy schedule, to allow each girl to honor her faith silently and the girls collectively put a program together to honor all faiths.”
The Sunday service is written and executed by the delegates, she said, adding it’s something that they enjoy doing.
What I find interesting is that this had never been seen as a problem before and surely a percentage of Catholics had participated in this program during all these years. Offering only a ecumenical Sunday service is certainly of the Protestant mindset where they think there is not any actual obligation in the first place. A non-sacramental mindset that reduces worship to a sermon that could just as well be heard on TV or the internet.
The keystone of the article is the subject of missing Mass on Sunday.
On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass; they are also to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord’s Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body.
The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.
If because of lack of a sacred minister or for other grave cause participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible, it is specially recommended that the faithful take part in the liturgy of the word if it is celebrated in the parish church or in another sacred place according to the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop, or engage in prayer for an appropriate amount of time personally or in a family or, as occasion offers, in groups of families.
With missing Mass requiring a “grave cause”. Of course illness or having to take care of a family member are often given as examples that meet this criteria. Being on vacation in an area with no convenient access to Mass is another example and there is no requirement to drive a long distance in these circumstances. Now whether attending a leadership conference and not being allowed permission to go to Mass is a sufficient “grave cause”, I certainly could not be definitive on. This would be an area that would be best discussed with their parish priest. Though I also think while possible this could fall into that category, it is more meritorious in taking this requirement obligation seriously.
It is also very nice to see a director of religious education at her home parish (Jackie Smart) say something like “Missing Mass is not an option” since the serious obligation to attend Mass is something that many serious Catholics seem to think has been done away with since Vatican II. I like Jackie Smart’s comment “If you really believe what our faith teaches, there would be no way to keep you from Mass and that’s the way Margeaux feels..” So often you hear Mass proposes as an imposition, something to get out of the way. That actually being told to go to Mass is rather mean or troublesome – a view I think bishops unintentionally reinforce when they do things like move the Ascension to Sunday.
The other interesting thing about the story is how the staff of Girls State will not make the simplest compromise on the subject. They wouldn’t even allow the mother to come in an take her to Mass across the street. If this is the type of leadership this organization is demonstrating then it is a good thing this young women is missing out on it. Why is this rule so unbreakable and no compromise possible. The staff of Girls State might have a promising career working for President Obama’s HHS.
“I’m just amazed at the uproar over this,” added Briere, who also is Catholic by faith. “It’s not like she’s forced to go to this program and we’re denying her religious rights. … What has surprised me the most, through all of this, was having the Umatilla American Legion commander call and demand that we had to do it.”
Briere said she does not feel less of a Catholic when she misses Mass while being involved in leading Girls State.
Because the objective state of something is based on what you feel. I don’t feel this is a sin, so thus it isn’t. The cry of “Officer I didn’t feel this was a crime” would be laughed at, unfortunately similar protestations are taken seriously. Besides is it really the case that Briere is not allowed to attend Mass when these conferences happen?
She goes on to say:
“I respect her religious beliefs, and certainly I share them as we’re the same faith,” Briere said. “The Catholic religion that I know is not that narrow thinking, but I do respect how she feels. I’m not disrespecting her in any way. I just feel bad that she is being put in the position to choose between the two. Unfortunately, because of this, she has lost her opportunity to go to Girl State and that cannot be changed now. She’s out of the program, and it was her choice.”
She is being put into that position simply because they refuse to make any compromise. Funny how so many will deride you for not making a compromise when they would not offer a compromise themselves.