From a reader:
I have a good friend who is much older than I. Sadly, he disagrees with a lot of the Church’s stances. Despite that, he hears Mass regularly (every Sunday), and Holy Days of Obligations. He is an usher and “lector” at his parish, and although he is not a Daily Communicator, he does practice and try to live his faith more than most people in 2011. [Okay. He is an older fellow who still seems to know the difference between right and wrong.]
His nephew, one of my good friends, is getting married next month. [Uh oh.] His nephew is also (tho cradle-catholic) a self-proclaimed agnostic. My friend is becoming a Justice of the Peace in order that he may officiate the wedding ceremony. Now, I know that if my friend were becoming “ordained” in one of the heretical faiths, that would no doubt be an act of self-excommunication. Is his becoming a Justice of the Peace and officiating the ceremony also an act of self-excommunication?
Members of the Catholic Church are bound to follow the Church’s law on marriage.
If Catholics contract civil marriage before a Justice of the Peace only, they sin and the marriage is not valid. They may not receive the sacraments in such a relationship. Catholics who aid them in such an endeavor would be also committing a sin. If this would be a big public thing, it would all be compounded by public scandal.
Look. It isn’t a sin to become a Justice of the Peace. If one is a Justice of the Peace it may not be a sin to officiate at the weddings of fallen away Catholics, since it is not the business of JPs to know the religion of the people asking to be married. But if you become a JP in order to officiate at the wedding of Catholics not practicing their faith,…. no… that’s just plain wrong. In that case you are knowingly helping Catholics attempt marriage.
If this fellow is known by many people not to agree with the Church’s teachings on various matters, and yet he is functioning as an usher and lector, then I think the pastor should explain kindly that he must no longer to fulfill these functions so long as he stands in opposition to the Church’s teachings. Does the pastor not know? Not care? If not… why not?
“But Father! But Father!”, you may say. “Aren’t you being mean? Isn’t it better to keep the guy involved and work with him? Bring him around?”
What is this? A quirky British sitcom? Keep the eccentric but lovable disenter ready to commit public scandal in highly visible positions so he can spark hijinx and provide opportunities for gossip over coffee and doughnuts?
It may be that there important things going on in the parish which need the pastor’s attention and this this issue is not on his radar screen. Maybe the roof is caving in and he can’t pay the bills. Nevertheless, situations like the one described need to be addressed with charity and diplomacy. Roofs don’t have soul. Ushers, however, do.