Cardinal Farrell again says priests have ‘no credibility’ for marriage prep

Dublin, Ireland, Jul 5, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican official leading the Church’s office for laity, family, and life has said that priests do not have the credibility or experience to prepare couples for marriage. The official made similar remarks to Catholic leaders in September 2017.

During an interview with the Irish Catholic magazine Intercom, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, said that “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,” the cardinal added.

Last September, speaking to a convention of Catholic leaders in Ireland, Farrell said that priests have “no credibility when it comes to living the reality of marriage,” calling for laity to organize and administer marriage preparation programs.

Pope Francis’ 2016 exhortation Amoris laetitia called for renewed attention to marriage preparation programs, with particular focus on “grounding marriage preparation in the process of Christian initiation by bringing out the connection between marriage, baptism and the other sacraments.”

Francis encouraged the involvement of “missionary couples,” “pastoral resources,” and the entire “parish community” in marriage preparation.

“There are a number of legitimate ways to structure programmes of marriage preparation,” Francis noted, adding that “each local Church will discern how best to provide a suitable formation without distancing young people from the sacrament.”

The pope also emphasized the importance of the sacrament of penance during the marriage preparation process.

Born in Ireland and ordained a priest in 1978 as a member of the Legion of Christ, Farrell eventually relocated to Washington, DC, serving as director of Washington’s Spanish Catholic Center, before becoming the archdiocese’s finance officer in 1989.

In 2002, he became an auxiliary bishop of Washington, serving as moderator of the curia and vicar general, a chief advisory role, to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, with whom Farrell lived in a renovated parish building in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood.

In 2007, Farrell was appointed the Bishop of Dallas. He became the first prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in September 2016. The office was established when Pope Francis merged the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family, calling for a streamlined office focused on marriage preparation, family formation, and promoting lay apostolates.

Farrell became a cardinal in November 2016.


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  1. Of course, cancer specialists have no credibility when it comes to treating cancer unless they have had it themselves.

    • Indeed. And of course priests know nothing about keeping vows in spite of temptation, nor of patience, nor of dealing with conflict, nor of any other skills that married people should have.

  2. Priests should be involved in marriage preparation to emphasize the sacramentality of marriage, the spiritual gifts it brings, and the obligations the Church imposes on the couple, such as acceptance and faithful bringing up of the children. Emphasizing these, and discussing the day-to-day challenges of marriage, would be a proper function of the laity. So-called Pre-Cana programs have been important in concept and useful to couples. In my experience, their success depends on the orthodoxy of the participating parish priest and the orthodoxy of the participating moderators. Difficult to deal with couples who have been taught very little about the Catholic faith. Regarding Cardinal Farrell and his living at Cardinal McCarrick’s residence, this would be a good time to ask the famous question, what does Cardinal Farrell know and when did he know It. The same should be asked of every priest/bishop who served in any diocese where McCarrick served.

  3. If the Cardinal believes clerics do not possess knowledge because they haven’t experienced marriage then he either was married and knows what should be known or was never married and doesn’t know. If he was never married and disqualifies himself from the needed knowledge How is he able to determine his priests do not possess that knowledge if he doesn’t know what it is? Is it possible that the prerequisites for counselling married couples can be known by the unmarried? If it is not, then how can the Cardinal logically pronounce these prerequisite can’t be known when he doesn’t have a clue himself and is unable to identify what they are, if they are lacking. Unless he’s speaking from sheer stupidity.

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