Woman gives ‘lecture’ in place of homily at Mass in Ireland, contravening Canon Law
Canon Law stipulates that only a priest or deacon deliver the homily during Mass.
WESTPORT, Ireland (PerMariam) –– In an apparent violation of Canon Law, a woman preached in place of the homily at two Masses in Ireland over last weekend.
On the evening of February 3 and morning of February 4, parishioners at St. Mary’s church in Westport, in the West of Ireland, had their homily given by a pastoral worker from Dublin.
Pádraigín Clancy was invited by parish priest Father John Kenny to deliver her own reflections at two of the weekend Masses, in the place of the homily.
She started by giving a homily-style reflection on the Epistle and Gospel. With the feast day of Ireland’s national patron St. Brigid having taken place on February 1, Clancy’s reflections then focussed chiefly on the life and times of the saint.
Thanks for reading Per Mariam: Mater Dolorosa! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support the work of this site.
Clancy used a small part of her time at the pulpit to re-issue self-described “feminist” talking points, along with subtle support for female governance in the Church. She stated that “we are told that when Brigid was being consecrated, and this is a big one for all the feminists in the country, St. Mel was so taken by her that he recited the wrong words and created her bishop.”
Clancy stated that St. Brigid “calls women in the church today into finding our voice, and to challenge the structures that exist today, and to realize our power.”
“She calls us to into being realistic into having an imaginative response into the challenges we face,” added Clancy. She was a woman “who broke the mold,” Clancy said.
While Fr. Kenny introduced Clancy to the congregation on both occasions, he did not give a homily, leaving Clancy’s interventions to take the form and place of a homily.
The Church’s current Canon Law strictly notes that a homily is reserved to a priest or deacon.
Canon 767 §1 reads: “Among the forms of preaching, the homily, which is part of the liturgy itself and is reserved to a priest or deacon, is preeminent; in the homily the mysteries of faith and the norms of Christian life are to be explained from the sacred text during the course of the liturgical year.”
The current Canon Law, revised in 1983, does contain an admission for lay people to deliver styles of preaching outside of Mass “in a church or oratory, if necessity requires it in certain circumstances or it seems advantageous in particular cases.” However, even this permission is given “according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops and without prejudice to can. 767, §1,” thus ruling out the possibility of a lay person giving the homily.
In the USCCB’s 2001 commentary on lay preaching, issued by then-USCCB president then-Bishop Wilton Gregory, the Canon Law prohibition was again outlined and explained:
In providing for preaching by the lay faithful the diocesan bishop may never dispense from the norm which reserves the homily to the sacred ministers (c. 767, §1; cfr. Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, 26 May 1987, in AAS 79 , 1249). Preaching by the lay faithful may not take place within the Celebration of the Eucharist at the moment reserved for the homily.
Speaking with this reporter, Fr. Kenny stated that Clancy’s intervention at the Mass was more akin to being “a guest speaker, more like a lecture than a speech.” She led a holy hour with reflections on St. Brigid, in addition to speaking at the two Masses, and also spoke at the local Anglican church.
Kenny stated that Clancy was invited by himself along with the parish pastoral council and the Westport Eco-Congregation – which is an ecumenical grouping of the local Catholic and Anglican churches to promote climate change related issues.
This reporter contacted the Archdiocese of Tuam, led by Archbishop Francis Duffy since early 2022, to inquire if Clancy’s speaking at the parish had been approved by the archdiocese. PerMariam is aware that archbishop’s secretary has received the email, but has not replied as yet.