Dear Ann:

Our bishop wrote a piece for our diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Exponent. He called his article "Matrimony: Is it Still Holy?" but admitted he was tempted to call it "Why Priests Hate Weddings." Here are some of the bishop's observations:

"Wedding rehearsals are a constant irritant for priests who have to deal with large, unruly wedding parties and people who aren't used to being in a church. Bystanders become liturgical experts, infusing the service with every sort of personal preference and creative innovation. Wedding liturgies become parties rather than prayer, making it impossible to maintain any sense of decorum. Guests arrive late, the bride goes into hiding, the groomsmen sit in the church parking lot drinking, flower girls and ring bearers are too young to follow directions and photographers scramble to direct the action rather than record it. The secular mentality continues into the wedding reception, which is characterized by ear-splitting music, too much drinking and vulgar language -- often by the best man during the toast."

I wonder if these experiences are common to clergypersons in general. How about getting a reaction from your readers in the clergy?

Henry in Ohio

You've written a provocative letter. Now, I would like to hear from the clergy of all faiths. Do you also hate weddings? If so, why? Please respond to: Clergy and Weddings, Ann Landers, P.O. Box 11562, Chicago, Ill. 60611-0562.

Dear Ann:

After several years of failed fertility procedures, my husband and I decided to adopt a child. We were thrilled when soon after, a baby became available through a private adoption agency. At the birth mother's request, the baby was handed over to us while the legal documents were being drawn up.

Four weeks after becoming settled into motherhood, my friends gave me a wonderful baby shower. As my mother so diligently taught me, I quickly wrote each and every one a thank-you note for the beautiful gifts. Three days after my notes were mailed, I received a call informing me that the birth mother had changed her mind and decided not to sign the adoption papers. She wanted her baby back. Of course, we had to give up that precious child.

My husband and I are devastated beyond words. I am at a loss as to what to do about the lovely gifts I received at the shower. Should I send them back? What is the proper procedure?

Empty Arms in Arkansas

What a sad letter. My heart goes out to you. Yes, dear, you must return the gifts with a brief note explaining the circumstances. I'm sure your friends will rally around and help you get through this painful time.

Dear Ann:

Can you stand one more letter about unmarried couples who preserve their virginity, even though they sleep in the same bed? These people are not only stupid and reckless, they are ill-mannered, especially the men.

If a civilized man puts up his girlfriend for the night and they are not sexually intimate, he should show her the courtesy due ANY female guest -- and permit her to have the bed to herself. He should sleep on the sofa or the floor. A gentleman does not tease or humiliate a woman by climbing into bed and spurning her body. A woman whose boyfriend treats her so rudely should kick him out of bed. If he is not gay or impotent, he is certainly an inconsiderate clod.

Disgusted in Iowa

Get the corn husks out of your eyes, Buster. This is not about manners. It's about human chemistry. When a female allows a male to share her bed, she should not be surprised when judgment goes AWOL and hormones get active.

(C) 1999, Creators Syndicate Inc.