I find this story somewhat difficult to figure out. Christian-style weddings are all the vogue in Japan and Westerners are making lots of money pretending to be priests at these services.
Mark Kelly from the UK explained,
“I was living in Sapporo, studying Japanese, and I needed the money. It’s far better paid than teaching in a language school. Being a fake priest is big business in Japan – I’ve done a TV commercial for one company. In Sapporo, there are five agencies employing about 20 fake priests. In a city like Tokyo, there must be hundreds.”
Read more in the article at BBC News:
Since the weddings have no legal force, the couples must also go to civil magistrates. It is truly bizarre because while only about 1% of the Japanese are Christian, 90% of weddings are performed in a Christian way. I am not talking about the content of the prayers, but rather the borrowed ritual and festivities. Prayers are often perloined from many sources. The old Shinto chapels are gathering dust and Christian ones are doing a booming business!
Of course, it is all about externals. These wedding chapels have flowing fountains, plastic cherub angels, flowers and special lighting. They are popping up everywhere, even in shopping malls.
The article says that the Japanese priests are not happy, but the problem is that there are not enough priests to satisfy the demand. The article and the Japanese are both missing the point.
The real priests in Japan have every right to be angry. It is admitted that many people do not know that fake priests are performing the ceremonies. Impostering a cleric is illegal in many nations and such should be the case in the Orient, too.
Is no one using this fascination with Christian marriage ceremonials for evangelistic and catechetical purposes? It is a tragedy that people are attracted to the externals and yet unable to appreciate the meat-and-potatoes of what Christian faith and the sacraments are about.
Does not the presence of fake priests pose a real danger that a few actual believers might get conned by them and think they are married when really they are not?
Real Catholic priests are generally forbidden to marry couples where neither is a member of the Church. Thus, the dilemma is more than a priest shortage.
Are there any ex-priests or laicized priests among these so-called fake priests? It all reminds me of the local problem with Rent-a-Priests. There are no checks on their abuses. If you pay, they will pray.
This story might seem like only a harmless oddity, but I would disagree. A fake priest and a ceremony for show, empty of substantial meaning or faith constitutes a deceit or fraud. Marriage implies promises being made where honesty and truth are paramount. A counterfeit priest and service undermines the truth with lies.