That’s the headline accompanying the piece below in the Columbus Dispatch. The headline and story, I think, reveal much about both the people in the pews and the perception many have of the Church.
As they drove home from a recent funeral in Cincinnati, the 60-something Westerville couple started thinking about the plans they had made for their own burials, and those of their children.
What would happen, they asked each other, when their openly gay son died? Would they be permitted to bury him in one of the plots they had purchased in a Roman Catholic cemetery north of Columbus?
The couple called Resurrection Cemetery and were told that, yes, a gay Catholic could be buried there.
They remained concerned, though, in view of recent media reports about the Roman Catholic Church’s stance against same-sex relationships. The couple, who asked that their names not be published due to family sensitivity, are now considering other burial options.
Funeral and burial benefits are given to members of the Catholic Church under its governing Canon Law, and they cannot easily be cast aside, said Monsignor Stephan Moloney, vicar general of the Diocese of Columbus.
Such benefits, he said, are refused “only in extreme circumstances” — when someone has publicly denied or renounced the Catholic faith or become a schismatic; when someone has chosen cremation for reasons contrary to the Christian faith; and when someone is a “manifest sinner” who cannot be granted a funeral without causing scandal.
“In the funeral liturgy, the church prays that all the sins of the deceased will be forgiven by the mercy of God and the merits of Christ the Savior,” Moloney said. “All of us are sinners. Unless the contrary is evident, the Church presupposes that those sinners who have died are repentant.”
The Westerville couple raised their concerns after hearing that a physical-education teacher was fired from a diocesan high school in March after she listed the name of her same-sex partner in her mother’s obituary. Their fear, they said, is that if their son would not be welcome to work for the church, would he be welcome in one of its cemeteries?
But Kevin Pica, an openly gay Catholic who attends St. John the Baptist church in Italian Village, said that he and his partner of 10 years plan to be buried next to his grandparents in St. Joseph Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery in Lockbourne.
Pica said he has talked to priests and funeral directors who cited no issues when it comes to funerals and burials for gay parishioners.
“One place the Catholic Church is really, really, really nice about is death,” Pica said. “That’s where they treat people the best.”
One of the most prominent cases I can recall of a Catholic being refused a funeral Mass occurred after the death of John Gotti:
Gotti, responsible for at least five murders during his bloody reign atop the Gambino crime family, will not receive a Mass of Christian burial, the Rev. Andrew Vaccari, chancellor of the Diocese of Brooklyn, said Wednesday. Instead, Vaccari said in a one-sentence statement, “there can be a Mass for the dead sometime after the burial of John Gotti.”
Gotti died of cancer Monday at a prison hospital in Missouri. He had been sentenced to life in 1992. The Brooklyn diocese also oversees nearby Queens, where Gotti is to be buried.
The decision on the Mass echoed the ruling made by church officials after the Gotti-ordered murder of his Gambino predecessor, “Big Paul” Castellano, in 1985. Castellano’s family received permission for a private Mass after his burial, but was denied a funeral Mass with the body in the church. But unlike Gotti, Castellano was also denied burial in a Catholic ceremony because of his life of crime.
In Gotti’s case, he had reportedly been offered the chance to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation in the last hours before his death—and refused. But, as the story notes, he is buried in a Catholic cemetery, and a private Mass for the family was celebrated later.