In what many might see as further evidence that Father Ted is less a sitcom and more a documentary, a debate raged on Wednesday’s Liveline about dancing priests and whether or not Jesus took to the floor at the wedding feast of Cana. It started with Fr Ray Kelly, well-known for his prowess on the dancefloor to viewers of RTÉ’s Dancing with the Stars, telling Joe Duffy about some unpleasant phone calls and messages he began receiving when he started doing the show.
“As a priest for 31 years, I’ve never really experienced that level of criticism.”
The criticism came to a head, Fr Ray told Joe, at the end of January when a man rang him to tell him what he thought of him:
“ ‘A fat effin’ belly, dancing around the floor. He should be effin’ ashamed of himself.’ ”
The abuse got Fr Ray down and he thought he should maybe pull out of the show. The producers of Dancing with the Stars told him to report the call to the Gardaí, which he did, something he thinks took a load off his mind and he started to enjoy doing the show again.
Caller Kevin rang the Liveline to give his opinion on Fr Ray’s dancing on the telly – he was not impressed by the priest’s participation in the reality TV show. In fact, dancing priests are a no-no, as far as he’s concerned. Kevin told Joe that priests have been selected by Jesus Christ and that he should be honouring that.
“Jesus Christ never went ‘round or out dancing for women or anything like that. And there’s no need for the priest to do it.”
Fr Ray countered that Jesus was, famously, at a wedding in Cana and Fr Ray was sure he danced with the family while there. Kevin disagreed. But Fr Ray assured Kevin – and listeners – that he was carrying out his duties as a priest, despite – and sometimes because of – his time on Dancing with the Stars.
“I am one hundred per cent committed behind my priesthood and behind my call and that’s number one in my life. And because I have been invited to do this, I have been told, I’ve brought so much life and light into people’s lives on a Sunday evening.”
Kevin wanted to get back to that biblical wedding in Cana and the possibility that Jesus would kick back and get down on the dance floor with the rest of the guests:
“You cannot presume in any way that Jesus Christ danced at the wedding feast of Cana.”
Fr Ray said that he couldn’t know either way whether Christ danced at the wedding or not, as it isn’t recorded. But Kevin was adamant:
“A hundred per cent, like, he didn’t partake in that. He done what he was there to do… It didn’t say anything about him dancing or anything else and you can’t presume that that he done that.”
You can hear Fr Ray and Kevin’s full debate on Jesus at Cana, and dancing priests in general, here.
Niall Ó Sioradáin
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