What we have here, in this short New York Times wedding announcement, is a dangerously vague and terribly loaded word — “assisting” — being used in a liturgical context of some kind. It’s crucial that the word “assisting” is being used in a way that directly connects it with another controversial word in this day and age — “married.”
Here is the bulk of this short society-news item:
Roger Thomas Danforth and Richard James Termine were married Friday evening in New York. The Rev. David C. Parsons, a Lutheran minister, officiated aboard the Lexington, a chartered yacht, on the East River, with the Rev. Michael DeVito, a Roman Catholic priest and a cousin of Mr. Termine, assisting.
Mr. Danforth (left), 63, is the artistic director of the Directors Project, a career development program for theater directors run by the Drama League, a New York organization dedicated to professional theater. He is also a freelance director. …
Mr. Termine, 59, is a freelance photographer in New York. He has done work for the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Carnegie Hall and the 92nd Street Y. He is also the on-set photographer for “Sesame Street,” and is on the board of the Jim Henson Foundation in New York. …
The couple’s wedding took place on the 30th anniversary of their meeting at a performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.
Pretty ordinary wedding stuff in the Gray Lady, other than, of course, that reference to the Roman Catholic priest. So let’s walk through this logically, trying to find out what may or may not have happened here.
For starters, it seems that we have a generic Lutheran wedding, which one can only assume is a rite linked to the liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, an oldline Protestant body that is steadily moving to the doctrinal left on issues of moral theology.
But here’s the key journalistic question: What does it mean to say that a Catholic priest was “assisting” in an ELCA wedding?
The bottom line: I do not think that it is safe to assume that the Times is accurate in it use of the word “assisting.” The liturgical implication is that this priest actually took part in the prayers and blessings during the service, that he was, in effect, vested and participating as a clergyman. What if he was simply sporting a clerical collar and merely said a few words on behalf of the Termine family? What if he read a poem?
Yes, Catholic readers need to know where the priest was standing and what he was wearing. For Catholics, the Devil is truly in the details of this case.
There are ways that this Father DeVito could have taken part in the event that would not represent a Catholic priest “assisting” in a same-sex marriage, in a true liturgical sense of the word. The rite did not take place in a church, after all.
In other words, did the Times get the facts straight?
Without question, the priest’s participation in any way will scandalize many traditional Catholics. One website has already noted that a priest of this name is, in fact, active in the Archdiocese of Hartford (Conn.). Others have, with appropriate caution, stressed that it is not safe to assume that this is the same man. Here’s hoping that someone from the diocese speaks out to clarify matters.
(Hat tip to Deacon Kandra at The Deacon’s Bench)