11 July 2018
Sarah Mac Donald
Cardinal Farrell claims laity best placed to advise couples
The former Bishop of Dallas said priests 'have no credibility' in the area of marriage preparation
The Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life has said priests are not the best people to train couples for marriage as they “have never lived the experience”.
Cardinal Kevin Farrell expressed his strongly held views in an interview with Intercom magazine, a publication of the Irish bishops.
The former Bishop of Dallas said priests “have no credibility” in this area and though “they may know moral theology, dogmatic theology in theory, to go from there to putting it into practice every day ... they don’t have that experience”.
The Cardinal was speaking about the role of the laity and the importance of not clericalising them. There are countries, such as the US, Cardinal Farrell explained where “the laity run the Church”.
Referring to his time as Bishop of Dallas, he said “we had one priest in a parish where 10,000 people would attend Mass at the weekend. We have parishes that have a $20 million annual budget. No priest is going to be able to run a parish of that magnitude without competent lay people.”
In Dallas, there are a million and a half Catholics and 75 priests, with a 45 to 50 per cent rate of Mass attendance. “Those 75 priests are not going to be interested in organising marriage meetings,” the Cardinal stated.
He said this meant many pastoral tasks usually left to priests in Ireland, such as marriage preparation, was done by members of the laity elsewhere.
Of his own dicastery, he revealed that Pope Francis had told him he wanted a department in the Vatican for lay people that is equivalent to all of the other congregations (for bishops, clergy and religious).
“And by lay people, he [Pope Francis] does not mean people who belong to ecclesial movements, rather the regular people who go to church,” the Cardinal said.
His views on priests’ credibility in relation to marriage preparation were criticised by the director of the Notre Dame Newman Centre for Faith and Reason in Dublin, Fr William Dailey.
In a tweet, Fr Dailey described the Prefect of Laity, Family and Life’s comments as “preposterous, juvenile and destructive”.
Fr Dailey said he was “flabbergasted that a Cardinal in his post would say something that is so false and destructive. Many couples have reported to me that our conversations were fruitful, and have returned to keep them going long after the wedding reception was a distant memory.”
He accused the Cardinal of undermining the work of many priests and added, “It seems to me to merit his resignation from a post he’s perhaps not insightful enough to hold.”
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