Quebec bishop gets Vatican OK for nun to officiate at wedding

| August 2, 2017 | 2 Comments

When no priests were available, the bishop of the Quebec Diocese of Rouyn-Noranda sought and received Vatican permission for a local nun to officiate at a recent wedding.

While the story has been portrayed around the world as a sign that Pope Francis is changing the role of women in the church, Bishop Dorylas Moreau said the wedding was carried out according to a long-established provision of canon law.

It allows an exception for a layperson to be permitted to officiate at a wedding when a bishop, priest or deacon is unavailable. That layperson can be a man or a woman.

“It is an exceptional situation, not something habitual,” Bishop Moreau said in French.

The bishop said he has only 16 priests for 35 parishes in a diocese that covers nearly 9,300 square miles of rugged territory. The diocese has more than 75 nuns, but no deacons, although three are currently in formation.

This priest shortage, especially acute in the summer, led the bishop to make a request through the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for permission to have Sister Pierrette Thiffault of the Sisters of Providence conduct the wedding. Approval was received in May.

On July 22, Sister Thiffault conducted the wedding of a couple identified only as David and Cindy at a Catholic parish in Lorrainville, Quebec, about 300 miles northwest of Ottawa. The church was not far from the parish in Moffett, where Sister Thiffault is a pastoral worker.

She had known David since he was a high school student through her role as a catechist.

The couple was unavailable for an interview.

“It was a new experience for me,” Sister Thiffault said in French. She described the experience as “precious” for her, for the couple and for the people in the parish.

“It was good for the diocese,” she said. “It was also an experiment for the Catholic Church.”

Sister Thiffault called her involvement a “work of evangelization,” because she met with the couple several times to help prepare them for marriage.

If another need arises, she would be happy to officiate again, she said.

“I imagine the authorization will not be given only for one marriage,” she said. “If I can help, I will accept.”

Gyapong is Ottawa correspondent for Canadian Catholic News.

Tags: , ,

Category: U.S. & World News

  • Charles C.

    The fact that a nun is presiding at a wedding is unusual but the diocese is in a desperate situation and unconventional steps may be taken. There is no story here about a change in Rome’s attitudes towards women’s role in the sacraments.

    What does interest me is the diocese itself. It’s very close in size to the state of New Hampshire and has 62,400 Catholics out of a total population of 67,900. They’re spread out all over the place. The Diocesan headquarters is in a town of 23,500. The town of Ville-Marie has 2,600, and Malartic has 3,400. The rest seem to be scattered all over.

    When the diocese was formed in 1976 there was one priest for 800 Catholics. Now, one priest serves 2,400 Catholics. That’s the part that interests me from the story. What’s going on? Quebec is over 83% Catholic. They should have enough priests for themselves with enough left over so that we can hear French accents in every diocese in the world. Again, what’s going on? Just another symptom of the priest shortage?

    And, no, I don’t believe that turning nuns into priests is the solution.

    • CLQ24

      You have to remember that unless someone (religious or lay people) is supporting and encouraging vocations, you are unfortunately not going to get a lot of people looking into or even considering the priesthood, deaconate, or religious life. Statics here in the U.S. show that men who were ordained as priests were encouraged to consider their pastor and/or a layperson.

      Also when the statics say that Quebec has 83% Catholics, one of my questions would be how many of them are practicing Catholics? If the number is low that means that the statics shows mostly those who identify as Catholic which means you are not going to get that many, if any, vocations from those families.

      It is sad that there are so few priests for so many people but if people are not encouraging men and women to listen for God’s call, I am afraid it is going to missed.