Some Troubles in Dublin

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The Archbishop-Elect of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, gave an interview to the Irish Times soon after his appointment had been announced by the Holy See. (Click here for a transcript of the interview.)

The new archbishop declares himself in favor of women deacons and married priests. He does not find in the Scriptures an argument against the ordination of women to the priesthood. He calls the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on homosexuality merely technical. He also says he has no problem with the private blessing of rings for divorced and remarrying couples and for homosexual couples (though he finds public blessings problematic because people often misconstrue them as actual marriages).

Amid so many other troubles, the Irish Church appears to be headed for more rocky days.

Farrell’s treatment of Church teaching and practice regarding homosexuality, for example, is dismissive: “It’s a technical description. People misconstrue that then because it is technical theological language.” He considers amending this technical language, because “I think Pope Francis has discussed that (removal). It came up at the last Synod.”

Really?  Farrell is referring to this teaching of the Catechism: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (CCC 2357)

In common parlance, calling language in a document “technical” can mean that it is unintelligible or is commonly misunderstood by the uninitiated, and is there to serve some arcane or legalistic purpose. Its removal is desirable but may be difficult to do if sticklers, purists, or legalists object. Better just to ignore it and treat it as a dead letter, as in “Technically speaking that is true, but. . .”

To describe the clear, unchanging, and unchangeable teaching of the Church on the inherent immorality of homosexual acts as technical language that could, and even should, be dispensed with is plainly a rejection of that teaching.

The rejection of homosexual activity, and the homosexual lifestyle, by faithful Catholics, however,  is not a misconstruing of “technical” language found in the Catechism. Those who want the Church to embrace and bless the homosexual lifestyle object to the language of the Catechism not because it is misconstrued by clueless people who think it means that no one should engage in homosexual acts because, being intrinsically disordered, they are immoral. Rather, they object because the language is easily and correctly understood to mean just that. The problem for them is not the allegedly confusing words used, but rather the clear meaning of those words.

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Archbishop Farrell, in response to a question about blessing rings for divorced and remarried couples and for same-sex couples, says:

The difficulty with blessings is that they are very often misconstrued as marriage. Priests have given these blessings in the past. I remember one colleague of mine. I had said to him – he used to have this ceremony of the blessing of rings – I said to him I don’t have a difficulty with blessing rings if you’re doing that here in the house but if you go out into the public domain, in a church, and bless rings as you see it. . .they turned up with 200 people and they saw it as a marriage. Sometimes people use that phraseology. . .you’re into confusion there. It can be misconstrued as “yes, the priest married us.” Blessings are always going to be misconstrued and that’s where the difficulty arises because once you start blessing things like that people are going to construe that as a marriage. We can’t have that sort of situation in the Church because it creates all sorts of problems in terms of our own teaching and these teachings of the church have been constant.

Leaving aside the question of blessing the rings of divorced and remarried couples, what exactly are we to understand is the meaning of blessing the wedding rings of same-sex couples, whether in private or in public? Is it a misconstrual to consider that the priest who does such a blessing approves of the relationship that the homosexual couple has entered into (which is a counterfeit, pseudo-marriage), and asks God’s favor and approval upon that relationship as symbolized by the rings?

The Modern Catholic Dictionary defines a blessing thus: “In liturgical language a blessing is a ritual ceremony by which an authorized cleric in major orders sanctifies persons or things to divine service, or invokes divine favor on what he blesses.” The dictionary’s entry on rings states: “Conferring the ring is an integral part of the marriage ceremony to signify the mutual love of husband and wife, and wearing the ring symbolizes their pledge of marital fidelity.”

The main problem with blessing wedding rings of a same-sex couple is not that people will become confused and think that the priest was actually marrying them. No, the main problem is that a priest who does such an unholy act is giving the impression that God will favor what He has condemned. Same-sex “marriages” are not marriages in any way, shape, or form. It’s a gravely sinful relationship in which two men or two women pledge to sodomize each other. No blessing should ever be invoked by a priest upon this unnatural relationship nor upon the pirated symbols of the holy estate of marriage.

Archbishop Farrell says: “I don’t have a difficulty with blessing rings.” If that’s true, what he does have is a more fundamental difficulty: God has warned shepherds who mislead their flocks into paths of sin and error that they will be held accountable. Let us pray that the new Archbishop of Dublin will forswear his comments and reaffirm the Church’s actual teaching and practice.

 

*Image: El célebre ciego fijo (The famous local blind man) by Francisco de Goya, c. 1819-20 [Thyssen-Bornemisza Museo Nacional, Madrid]

Fr. Gerald E. Murray

The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is a canon lawyer and the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City.