Another view on 'football priest'

Q: I am disturbed by a question you printed from an anonymous person requesting your thoughts on a retired priest who talks about the local sports team and concludes the liturgy with the words, "The Mass never ends; it must be lived by each of us today." I know this priest well and have the honor of assisting him each week.

First, it must be noted that the vast majority of our city and our parish are strong fans of the "local football team." Our priest's comments (which I never recall as having lasted more than 30 seconds) are offered as a way of uniting the worshipping community.

More importantly, his comments are always connected to a virtue that relates either to the scriptural readings or to our relationship with the Lord. I find them most pastoral.

As for his dismissal formula, admittedly that is not the exact wording offered in the Roman Missal. But as a more traditionally minded deacon, I always follow the priest by saying (verbatim from the missal), “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life." And the loving way in which the priest dismisses people has become an encouraging reminder of the universal call to holiness.

The priest described in your column doesn't begin to capture the one who serves our parish. He is widely loved and respected and goes to great lengths to keep the liturgy fresh and relevant. Our priest is a humble and caring individual, and we are incredibly blessed to have him in our lives.

One final thought: Please make it standard policy to print the author's name when you run a letter in your column; that will deter a "ring and run" anonymity. (Columbus, Ohio)

A: A few weeks back, I published in this column a letter from Columbus, Ohio. The writer complained about a priest in his parish who takes several minutes each Sunday to comment on the fortunes of the local football team — the writer said that it "borders on sacrilege" — and uses his own wording for the dismissal rite.

The original letter and the above response from the deacon serve as an important reminder that a priest's words and actions can be viewed in different ways by different members of a congregation. That is why I support the practice — used by a few priests I know — of gathering a small group of parishioners each week for a "debriefing" session; the homily and the entire liturgical celebration are reviewed, together with comments heard from the congregation.

As for your proposal to identify letter-writers by name, I would argue against that. That has never been the practice in the five years I have been doing this column — nor, to my knowledge, in the history of the column which long predates me. Though I am normally a big fan of transparency, I think the anonymity gives writers the chance to speak honestly without subjecting themselves to the "slings and arrows" of their neighbors.

Q: My son and his wife were married by a justice of the peace at a lake. A Polish National (Catholic Church) priest said a lovely blessing over the couple. Later, I heard a Catholic priest say that, if the sacrament of marriage was not received in a church, they should not receive Holy Communion.

Up until that point, my son had been receiving Communion — until I told him not to. Does the blessing suffice? (Delmar, N.Y.)

A: In order to determine the status of your son's relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, I would have to have more information. To be validly married in the church's eyes, a Catholic needs to be married by a Catholic priest or deacon in a Catholic church or, if by a different officiant or in a different setting, to have obtained the necessary permissions (dispensations) from the church.

I have officiated at weddings involving a Catholic and a Jew (or a Catholic and a Muslim) in "neutral" settings — e.g., a secular wedding hall or a garden. I have also, on a couple of occasions, obtained permission for a Catholic and a non-Catholic to be married by a civil official when the involvement of clergy of any denomination would have been awkward for one of the parties or for their families.

So it is theoretically possible that your son could have obtained the Catholic Church's permission to be married "by a justice of the peace at a lake" — but it is probably unlikely.

The "blessing" by the Polish National Catholic Church priest seems irrelevant to the issue of validity, since he was evidently not the officiant at the wedding. (The Polish National Catholic Church, which is not in union with the Vatican, was established in Pennsylvania in the late 1890s as a result of a series of pastoral misunderstandings and property disputes. There is currently a dialogue between leaders of the Catholic Church and the Polish National Catholic Church, including on the question of the validity of mixed marriages performed by Polish National clergy.)

To be able to receive the Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church, one needs to be in full communion of faith, which would include being validly married in the Catholic Church's eyes. Why not have your son discuss his situation with your parish priest? If neither he nor his wife had been married before, it may be as simple as doing a few minutes of paperwork and arranging to receive a blessing of their marriage (a convalidation) by a Catholic priest.

Questions may be sent to Fr. Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, N.Y. 12203.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017