A Church Wedding?
Still, I must say that I wasn't tremendously surprised that he was married in the Catholic church at Corracrin in Co. Monaghan. The right of the baptised Catholic to be married in the Church is very strongly upheld by the Code of Canon Law, and whilst Tiernan seems to have displayed little respect for the Church in the past, I'm not in a position to speculate about the current religious attitudes of himself or his bride.
Waiting for the Bride
However, the newspaper report's description of the wedding annoys me for a whole variety of reasons. Firstly, the wedding was supposed to take place at 2.30pm. Any priest will tell you that the bride being a little late is traditional, and that it's rare enough for her to be ridiculously late. In my own experience, I find that couples are usually quite good, and on those rare occasions when I've been kept waiting due to unforeseen circumstances, the bride has usually been most apologetic. However, in this case, the groom didn't arrive until 5 to 3, and the bride was a full hour and a half late, eventually showing up at 4pm. Now, one of the challenges that I have with weddings is trying to preserve an air of recollection in church beforehand. Folk are excited, and maybe some aren't frequent church-goers, so I don't run around slapping their palms with a ruler for talking in church. However, I always preface a wedding with a few words of welcome for friends and family and a reminder that they're all gathered to prayerfully accompany the couple on their big day. That, I think, helps bring things under control in the 5 or 10 minutes we spend waiting for the bride.
Now, let's be honest. I find it hard to believe that the great and the good of Irish showbiz society were quietly prayerful during the 90 minutes wait for the future Mrs Tiernan. When a wedding runs that late, it seems as though respect isn't being shown to the Church, the priest, the guests or Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
I was also disturbed by the fact that security guards were hired to keep the riff-raff (i.e. local parishioners) out of the church for the duration of the wedding. Marriage is a public act, and in Canon Law should only be performed secretly for a grave and urgent cause. (Canon 1130) Personally, I wouldn't dream of allowing any church in my parish to be closed to my parishioners in such a manner.
I'm also puzzled as to how this fits in with the provisions of the Civil Registration Act of 2004 which states:
51.—(1) A marriage may be solemnised by, and only by, a registered solemniser.The Cleric as Tight-rope walker
(2) A registered solemniser shall not solemnise a marriage
(c) the place where the solemnisation takes place is open to the
My attitude to this is pretty much the same as my attitude to the controversy surrounding the late Ronnie Drew's funeral. The Church has rules to guarantee the rights of the faithful and to assist the Christian people grow in holiness. They're often administered with a light hand for the sake of the salvation of souls. However, when it seems as though the usual procedures are set aside for the rich and famous, the Church is made to seem as though she favours those who have been successful in the eyes of the world. Preferential option for the poor, where are you? Sometimes it's a case of priests caving to pressure applied to them, at other times it's a case of an unfortunate cleric having his head turned by fame or celebrity. Sometimes my brother priests can be disloyal in having little time for the basic rules and regulations which the rest of us try to compassionately uphold. Sometimes the laity take the initiative and arrange for things to be done 'their own way' whether the clergy like it or not, and we're left in the situation of making the best of a bad situation without causing too much scandal.
I'm not in a position to make accusations or point fingers at anyone - lay or cleric - in the case of Tommy Tiernan's wedding. I don't have the inside story on how things were arranged by anyone involved in the celebration. Perhaps everything was done 'by the book' and in good faith. However, the media report of the wedding seems to raise several questions about the way in which the marriage was conducted, and seems to me to be an example of how scandal can be caused when special allowances are made for people who are only special because of worldly success. What can I do, but echo the bewilderment of the parishioners who were locked out of their own church?