Priests have no credibility in marriage preparation

Priests are not the best people to train others for marriage, according to the head of the Vatican’s office for the family.

“They have no credibility; they have never lived the experience; they may know moral theology, dogmatic theology in theory, but to go from there to putting it into practice every day … they don’t have the experience,” said Irish-born American Cardinal Kevin Farrell.

Farrell heads the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and is the point man for the Aug. 21-26 World Meeting of Families in Dublin.

The cardinal was born in the Irish capital, but moved to the United States in 1984, later serving as an auxiliary bishop in Washington before becoming bishop of Dallas in 2007.

In 2016, he was tapped by Pope Francis to head the new office – which combined several other Vatican councils as part of the reform of the Curia.

In an interview with Intercom, the official magazine of the Irish bishops, Farrell spoke of the differences between the Church in the United States and the Church in Ireland.

He said the United States was a country where “the laity run the Church.”

“In my own experience as Bishop of Dallas, 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,” the cardinal said.

He said this also meant many pastoral tasks usually left to priests in Ireland – like marriage preparation – are done by others.

“We have 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 organizing marriage meetings,” said Farrell.

He said the Church in Ireland would have to adapt to this lay model of Church governance, due to “sheer numbers.”

The Dublin diocese – with a comparable number of Catholics to Dallas – currently has over 400 priests, but that number is dropping as fewer and fewer men are being ordained to replace clergy that die or retire.

“We have to worry about the 99 per cent, about the baptized, and not worry about the other things we have been obsessed with,” Farrell said.

The cardinal said this would lead to a less clericalized Church, which is a good thing. Continue reading

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