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CELIA IS A 'CONCUBINE' Outrage at top Catholic scholar's slur on Bertie.

Byline: PAT FLANAGAN

A TOP Catholic scholar has caused grave offence to Bertie Ahern and Celia Larkin by branding the Taoiseach's partner a concubine.

Theologian Fr Maurice Dooley said if the couple were "living in sin" they were "not worthy" to receive holy communion.

The use of the word concubine has angered many of the Taoiseach's friends and supporters.

Although the literal meaning is a woman living with a man outside marriage, many would consider it a term of abuse.

Fr Dooley's comments are likely to add to the growing row over the relationship between Mr Ahern and Ms Larkin.

The remarks were described by a senior Fianna Fail figure as "highly offensive".

Fr Dooley said that if the couple were in a sexual relationship they should not be seeking communion.

He said: "If he is living in concubinage with Celia Larkin, then neither he nor she is entitled to go to communion.

"As he is in the public eye and he appears to be in a state of public concubinage, then neither are worthy to go to communion.

"As the Ten Commandments say, and I agree, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery'."

He said that according to the laws of the Catholic Church, Cannon 915, a priest must refuse communion to those who "obstinately persist in manifest grave sin".

However, no priest can refuse to give communion to the couple unless he knows for sure that they have such a relationship, he said.

The remarks are likely to spark an unholy row between the Taoiseach's supporters and Catholic authorities.

Already Junior Minister Liz O'Donnell has defended Mr Ahern and said the Church should get its own house in order before it starts criticising others.

Fr Dooley admitted that before a churchgoer can be refused communion the priest must first ask if they are having sex.

He said: "If a couple come up to receive communion and the priest thinks they are living in sin, he cannot refuse to give it the first time as it might cause a scandal and they may have already repented."

Fr Dooley said the priest should then talk to the couple about the situation.

If they are having sexual relations then he has to tell them that they are not entitled to go up for communion and that it can be refused them.

The former professor of Canon Law added: "If they come up after they have been told, they are putting a bold face on it.

"They are violating the laws of the Church and therefore have to repent.

"If they do not repent and come to receive communion, then they are challenging the authority of the church."

Concubine noun (in particular societies) a woman, or one of a group of women, usually of lower social rank, who lives and has sex with a man she is not married to. A woman might be described as a particular man's concubine if she is living and having sex with him but they are not married.

History of the word

1. Woman who is the lover of a wealthy married man but with the social status of a subordinate form of wife, often kept in a separate home. The term usually refers to such a woman in imperial China.

2. Woman lover living with man; a woman who lives with a man and has a sexual relationship with him but is not married to him.

[13th century. Via Old French from Latin concubina, literally "bedmate", from cubare "to lie down".]

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WORDS MATTER: Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and partner Celia Larkin have faced criticism
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 19, 2001
Words:598
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