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Priests do not have experience to prepare people for marriage, says Vatican Cardinal

Pope Francis, ‘unnoticed, has gradually been putting women into positions of power’

Pope Francis and Cardinal Kevin Farrell. Photograph: Diocese of Dallas

Priests have no credibility when it comes to training people for marriage, according to the most senior Irish cleric in the Vatican.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, from Drimnagh in Dublin and prefect (head) of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life said “priests are not the best people to train others for marriage.

“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.”

Clericalism is dead, the Cardinal behind the World Meeting of Families in Dublin next month also said, “not because we’ve done anything to kill it, but out of sheer numbers.” In Dallas, where he was Bishop from 2007 to 2016, “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 organising marriage meetings,” he said.

“We have to worry about the 99 per cent, about the baptised, and not worry about the other things we have been obsessed with.” (Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese, with a population of 1.15 million Catholics, has 413 diocesan and religious priests).

Cardinal Farrell was speaking in an interview with Intercom, a magazine published by Ireland’s Catholic bishops. “The basis of all human life is the family, but in some countries the Church is so clerical,” he said.

But there were, however, “countries 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.”

At the Vatican Pope Francis “realises that the Roman Curia is overloaded with clerics, and it shouldn’t be like that. Administrative functions within the church can be done by anybody. They have been mainly done by priests, but they can be done by lay people too.”

Where women were concerned Pope Francis had “for the first time in history of the Church” appointed women as consultors at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “which is, whether people like it or not, the ‘powerhouse’ of the Vatican.”

He had also appointed three women to senior positions at the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, the Cardinal said. “Francis, unnoticed, has gradually been putting women into positions of power,” he said.

Where ordination of women was concerned Cardinal Farrell asked “do we want to turn them into clerics? We don’t. They have to be people of the world who live in the world.”

None of the women who hold senior positions at the Vatican were “consecrated members of lay communities. They are married women.”

In his view “the ordination of women is truly not a solution for the Church because if you just ordain women you will just isolate them, if you continue the system, if you don’t change the structures.”