Obviously, he’s not literally a Protestant. You’d hope they’d have noticed that when they interviewed him for the job. But judging by this interview he gave to the Irish Times last week, he’s more a Henry VIII loyalist than a Thomas More man:

Dublin’s Catholic archbishop-elect Dermot Farrell has said he would like to see women becoming deacons in the Church.

Archbishop-elect Farrell also indicated a more flexible view on celibacy, saying the Orthodox approach to celibacy might be discussed as a possible future model in Catholicism. In the Orthodox churches, a priest may choose whether or not to take a vow of celibacy at ordination.

He noted that in the eastern Orthodox churches, “you have the celibate language and you have the married language. You have to make a choice before you are ordained, usually, in those churches.”

Married Priests? Women Deacons?

To be honest, both of those sound relatively sensible to me. The Church’s problem, after all, is that it’s running out of priests, in Ireland, and those that remain are having to cover more and more ground. When you have a shortage of candidates, the logical thing to do would be to expand the recruitment process.

But that’s not really the point, is it? The Catholic Church is many things, but it’s not a Democracy. The Archbishop’s views on changing the priesthood have about as much relevance, when it comes to changing those rules, as yours or mine. His job is to promote the teachings of his own church, not to challenge them. Mary McAleese spends enough time doing that, after all.

Of course, it’s likely that the Archbishop’s views are pretty much in line with those of a good majority of practicing Irish Catholics, which brings me to the point of this post: It often amuses me to think what Henry VIII would think today, if he could see that the Irish Church he’d spent so much time and effort trying to stamp out had adopted, almost lock stock and barrel, the views and attitudes of his own Anglican church.

How many Irish Catholics believe today, for example, in transubstantiation – that the wine and bread become the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ, during the sacrament of the eucharist? And how many believe the much fuzzier (I mean that with no disrespect) Anglican view that while Jesus might be present in the eucharist, it’s not literal flesh and blood that they’re consuming? That’s not to question, or mock, anyone’s belief or faith. But in many cases, the views of mainstream Irish catholics seem increasingly aligned with the Anglican church, rather than their own.

The Archbishop wasn’t questioned on that issue, but LifeSiteNews seems pretty outraged about something else he said:

Farrell touched on the issue of homosexuality in his recent interview, too, seemingly inferring that he was opposed to blessings of same-sex couples, but only due to the confusion such an action would cause: “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.”

However, Farrell did note that “I don’t have a difficulty with blessing rings,” provided it was not done in the “public domain.”

Again, this writer has no particular difficulty with the notion of blessing wedding rings for gay couples. But then again, I’m not the Archbishop of Dublin.

Will the last Catholic Priest in Ireland who still believes in the things the Church teaches blow out the lights?

Regardless of one’s personal view on things like Gay Marriage, it doesn’t do much for the Church’s teaching on the subject, or its moral authority in general, when there’s a question mark over what the people in charge of the church in Ireland actually believe. Obviously, in the society that we live in, defending a position that opposes gay marriages is a tough job. Most of us wouldn’t want it. But then, we didn’t accept investiture as the Archbishop, did we?

The problem here, long term, is simple enough: It becomes nearly impossible for the church to assert any kind of moral, or theological authority for the things it teaches when the people charged with teaching them are giving nods and winks to the public in a way that suggests that they don’t really believe them themselves.

It does a real disservice, too, to practicing catholics who want to, for example, assert a right to conscience in matters of sincere belief: Because Church teaching is so malleable and questionable that even an Archbishop can question it, the obvious conclusion for non-catholics is that only absolute weirdo god-botherers are actually sincere about any of this stuff.

Nearly all of the things the Archbishop said, incidentally, are perfectly compatible with the teaching of the Anglican Church. Women priests, married priests, ring blessings – you can get all of those if you submit yourself to the ecclesiastical authority of Elizabeth II.

Perhaps the new Archbishop is in the wrong church.