Don’t Blame the Priest for Acting Catholic

Loetta Johnson died recently and, at her funeral, her daughter Barbara Johnson went up to receive communion from Rev. Marcel Guarnizo. What happened next made national news:

Barbara Johnson (Marvin Joseph - The Washington Post)

The priest refused Johnson, who is gay, the sacramental bread and wine.

“He covered the bowl with the Eucharist with his hand and looked at me, and said I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin in the eyes of the church,” Johnson told ABC News affiliate WJLA.

To make things worse, the priest later left the altar when Johnson delivered her eulogy and then said he couldn’t deliver the final blessing at the mother’s gravesite.

Johnson and her brother want the priest “removed from dealings with parishioners.” There are additional complaints that this priest didn’t do his job, that he is a disgraceful human being, that he should’ve dismissed Johnson privately instead of publicly — but all of that misses the point.

He did what he did because it’s what the Catholic Church demands.

He won’t be reprimanded; he’ll be given a pat on his back.

Don’t blame the priest. Blame the Church.

The Atheist Pig says it well:

Personally, I don’t want the church (or religion in general) to change to accommodate everyone’s particular beliefs because that would imply that religion still has worth and relevance in today’s world. In my opinion, it doesn’t. I’d rather that people throw of the shackles of religion and superstition and embrace truly secular society.

… I’m sorry, Barbara, I sympathize with your situation, but I do not support your effort here. If you’re unhappy with your current club, I would suggest joining ours. We’ve got a wonderful membership that’s growing every day. We don’t ask you to tithe. We don’t ask you to get up early on Sunday. And we don’t ask you to change. We’re fine with you just the way you are.

This funeral ought to serve as just another reason you should abandon Catholicism. This priest wasn’t the problem. He was taught to act this way by his superiors. Blame them. Your family deserved more respect than the Church could offer and your mother deserved a better sendoff than the one she received. When the grief begins to subside, I hope you can muster the courage to leave that faith.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Aljaž Kozina

    I’m kinda surprised it hasn’t happened earlier…

    • Roving Rockhound

       Oh, it has in one way or another, many many times. It just hasn’t been talked about in the papers like this one.

      This conversation has been going on at Pharyngula for a while, and a lot of people came out with their own stories. My story is actually my mother’s, who for some strange reason has not become an angry atheist like me. When her dad died, she was told by the priest (before mass) that she couldn’t take communion because she was living in sin, married to a divorced man (so basically she was an adulterer). She thought it was ridiculous, but didn’t say anything. Years later when my dad died, the same priest (he’s considered a family friend) came up to her before the mass to tell her (cheerfully) that now she was allowed to take communion again, since she was no longer living with a divorced man.

      She didn’t punch him, and somehow has not left the church. This is in Latin America, so she’s more of a cultural catholic anyway, but still. That story is one of the many that made me switch from being a cultural catholic that didn’t believe in god to openly atheist.

  • Otto

    I do think it’s a major issue that the priest is a dick.  No, absolutely, he shouldn’t serve the Eucharist to anyone he thinks is not in a state of grace.  He chose to single out the dyke because he knew she wasn’t, but chose to just let everyone else slide on the assumption that non-homosexuals would NEVER try to take communion if they weren’t a state of grace, rather than asking everyone if they’d been to confession.  But, you know, fine.  I’ll even be generous and assume he always does this for anyone who he knows is unfit to receive – if he knows someone is in an adulterous relationship, for example.  Let’s assume he treats all sinners the same if he knows of the sin.

    The dickness is from him (a) not making this clear beforehand, (b) walking out of the eulogy, and (c) not going with the family and doing the final blessing.  That is him not doing his damn job and being a terrible, terrible priest.  Even if he was legitimately not feeling well (he says he had a migraine), you don’t do that to someone’s funeral without finding another member of the clergy to cover for you. 

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

       Oh, now I know why visiting church with my Catholic friend, I was told “No, you just sit back here while we go up…”
      I wasn’t in a state of grace or some crap like that. Still, to a high school kid, the meaning of the church was there for me. Good donuts and lemonade.

      • Anonymous

        He was sparing you from cannibalism.  You should thank him for that next time you see him.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t get hung up on the communion thing. The real offense was stepping away from the altar during the eulogy and then refusing to accompany the body to the cemetery – excusing himself with a blatant lie. There is absolutely no excuse for that. Not in theology, not in dogma and not in morality.

    Even as far as the communion goes, refusing it in public is not really customary. He should have explained it to her in private. And they did talk before the service. That’s how he learned that she is gay. He should have told her then. And not make a public spectacle.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t Blame the Priest for Acting Catholic

    Bullshit. This assumes there is only one way of being Catholic. Every day millions of people who the priest knows full well is living in some sort of sin take communion with no issue. Priests can and do use personal judgement to decide how to handle these situations. Often, they include taking parishoners aside for private conversations about the issue. The priest absolutely could have handled this differently and still be in agreement with his absurd dogma. There was nothing in his dogma that required him to walk out on her eulogy or bail out of accompanying the casket to the grave.

    He won’t be reprimanded; he’ll be given a pat on his back.

    A pat on the back? I doubt it. In fact, this prompted an official apology from his higher ups, something I think is worth linking to. The story includes this directive from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops:

    “Since it is difficult to know what is in a person’s heart, it is also
    important that when doubt arises regarding whether a person is properly disposed to receive the Eucharist, it is handled in a pastoral and compassionate manner, privately between the priest and the communicant.”

    So as per the very standards of the Catholic Church, this priest handled the affair inappropriately.

    I think it’s a little nuts for a lesbian to continue to be a member of the Catholic church, given that she’s both gay and a women. However I think she had a perfectly reasonable assumption that she would not be given such public, humiliating crap at her mothers funeral. Though a full on rejection of the entire organization would be best, I don’t think dismissing the concerns of people who want them to behave better is an answer.

    • Anonymous

      “This assumes there is only one way of being Catholic.”
      No it assumes the Catholic religion is what it is.   The Catholic church is a totalitarian hierarchy.   It is in fact those priests that fail to follow the rules that are not acting Catholic.   Sort of like those Nazis that refused orders to gun down the innocent, and helped Jews to escape.

      • Anonymous

         To pretend that the Catholic church is a single uniform entity is to deny the empirical reality that it is not. There are liberal Catholics (with liberal priests and even a few liberal bishops) and conservative Catholics. Even within the hierarchy there are differences of opinion.

        But even if you wish to pretend that all Catholic priests everywhere are the same, this is still not in accordance with the orders of the hierarchy. The issue of whether or not to give the Eucharist is supposed to be discussed in private, and there is no order that required him to leave during her funeral or refuse to accompany the casket to the grave which, besides not being officially sanctioned, is supposedly doing a disservice to the dead persons soul. The fact that this was handled inappropriately even as per Catholic doctrine is shown in the fact that the woman recieved a letter of apology from the church.

        I’m no fan of the Catholic church. There is so much horrific shit that they do, we don’t need to make a straw man church. The real church is quite bad enough.

        • Anonymous

          Also, the funeral director called a retired priest who did the cemetery ritual

        • Anonymous

          So you’ve only provided more evidence that my original claim was correct, while providing additional arguments that are completely orthogonal, and no evidence against my claim.

          I reject all your false strawmen.    I don’t need to believe any of your several straw men such as “To pretend that the Catholic church is a single uniform entity is to deny the empirical reality that it is not.” and “But even if you wish to pretend that all Catholic priests everywhere are the same,”

          The fact remains that it is an authority heirarchy.   If the Church sent a letter of apology because there was a violation of Church doctrine that in no way disproves it is a hierarchy.  It in fact shows the priest is NOT supposed to violate church policy ( to act independently) as your argument assumes.    There may be a de facto disregard for policy but that doesn’t mean the Catholic church is anything like the Unitarians.

        • Nackles

          Different people in the church have different beliefs, but the actual RULES are the same for everyone.  They come from the higher-ups and you’re supposed to follow them–and if it’s something issued under the conditions of infallibility, then you HAVE to.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    If you’re unhappy with your current club, I would suggest joining ours.

    It doesn’t work that way. In the minds of millions of theists, there is no connection whatsoever between the reprehensible policies of their religious organization and their belief that gods exist. When they see the former, they don’t automatically start to consider the latter. If that happens, it is usually a slow and painful process,  and it does not always end up with complete freedom from god-belief. If there was a strong link between the two, then atheism would have become the majority viewpoint in the world centuries ago.

    I agree that expecting the priest to behave as anything other than an agent of his church’s inhumane doctrines is unrealistic, BUT expecting the god-believing victims of those doctrines to just shrug off their deeply-ingrained beliefs is also unrealistic, and it tends toward justifying an unsympathetic attitude that they deserve the victimization.

    There is opposing the cruelty and backwardness of religion, and there is treating people with kindness and compassion. These do not have to be mutually exclusive.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

      I see it as kind of a David Silverman 5-second sales pitch. He only has 5 seconds at the end of most TV interviews to get his message accross, so it tends to be provocative and compressed. Bloggers doing the same thing strike me as lazy.

      “This is your church, stop doing church,” implies that internal reform is impossible or impractical. Confusingly, it’s obviously possible for the church to change. So as a sales pitch to the religious I think we’re better off emphasizing how impractical the basic structure is for dealing with social issues. Even if you get all Catholic priests to commune gay people, there will still be a historical precedent and back doors for bigots throughout the future.

    • Anonymous

      ” If there were a strong link between the two, then atheism would have become the majority viewpoint in the world centuries ago. ”

      Huh?  With the combined populations of communist China, the old USSR, NPR, atheist religions like Buddhism, and atheists in various other countries you don’t think if not a majority there is a larger proportion of atheists than say Muslims or Catholics?

      There are other options than atheism of course.  There has in fact been a strong link in the minds of the religious between Church corruption and their beliefs, but it has channled them mostly into switching religions.   Protestants, Amish, Mormons, etc.   Happens all the time.

      “and it tends toward justifying an unsympathetic attitude that they deserve the victimization. ”

      Depends on how one understands the words deserve and victim, which depends on ones own world view.   The judgement of ones world view is also dependent upon the particular circumstances of the individual, family, country and other factors.   

      It’s hard to believe that the person (and their family) in this example is not aware of all the many other options open, so it is hard to blame this mostly on the church.    It would be the responsibility of the gay person to inform the family of their situation, and then the families to decide to leave the church for another or not.   They certainly don’t live in a country where the church controls the government, and via that means keeps everyone ignorant and controlled.

      Given that the priest knew she was gay I assume the family did and in addition decided to stay with the Catholic church instead of pursuing the many other options which included becoming atheists.    My grandmother in fact left the Catholic church when they refused to bury someone in a church cemetary for some ridculous reason or another.     So the choices can be made.   Her mother, or father could have decided to join the Unitarians or another church that was more accepting.    They didn’t and bear some portion of the responsibility.

      I’m openly atheist and have been to many a Catholic funeral.   I don’t accept the eucharist.   I certainly didn’t feel victimized by not recieving a cracker, and some wine (with side dish of herpes).    That can hardly be viewed as a victimization.   If she’s willing to reject church teachings on being gay (and she is), then why not on cracker consumption.   I assume the priest would have been fine giving it to her if she hadn’t actually been acting on her sexual and emotional needs and had surpressed them like any good priest does.

      People are responsible for their choices even when they find making the right choice to be hard.    Often the consequences of choices are a mixed bag an like any engineer the person making the choice chooses balances a mixture of consequences.    

      If I choose McDonald’s over Burger King because I like the fries it is hard to argue I’ve been victimized because their chicken nuggets suck.   It doesn’t matter if I’m also finding it hard to switch because the rest of my family likes to go to McD’s and it would be inconvienient.

      I’m also responsible for my false beliefs.   It may be very hard for me to change my mind on how something works but if I keep operating on the truth of certain beliefs than there is no one else but myself to blame when the consequences of my actions bite me in the ass.

      In this case my understanding is that this particular priest broke with Catholic doctrine on not the issue of the eucharist but the rest of it, and in that case the entire family was victimized.

      That she didn’t get the eucharist is her own fault, and guess what, she shouldn’t want it.

      • The Other Weirdo

         It is a mistake to assume that the populations of China and the old USSR are entirely atheist. Just because their systems of government were in no way implies that the people were. Christianity’s expansion into China appears to be serious enough for that government to implement some repression methods. As for the old USSR, a surprising number of the old republics(now independent countries) were Muslim.   State repression of a religion generally results in that religion’s resurgence when the state disappears. Besides, from what I hear, Christianity is currently seeing something of a resurgence in Russia and the Ukraine, at least.

        • The Other Weirdo

           In other words, at least some of the former member states of the USSR are now replacing one state religion(Communism) with another(Christianity).

        • Anonymous

          Yes I understand that some proportion were resistant, but the same can be said in theocracies.  Not every self professed Muslim is a theist, and would be stupid to mention otherwise. 

          Many Muslims in the former Yugoslavia are cultural Muslims, aka non-Theists.   China has about 75% non-theists, and Russia is 30%.  Then you’ve got all the atheists and non-religious in Europe.

          Universal Almanic has world population percent of atheist & non-religious at 26.8%.    Catholic News Serves & Encyclopedia Britanica have nonbelievers a 21.6%.     The former number is greater than the number of Muslims.

          The number of atheists in the world is substantial, although I will grant that a strict  theist vs. atheist is probably 2 to 1.  

    • Pseudonym

      You say this as if atheist
      clubs have a perfect track record of treating women with nothing but
      respect.

      • Demonhype

         Key difference is that atheism has no particular holy book, holy leader/pope, holy rules, or anything else to define an atheist besides “I don’t believe in a god or gods”, whereas a particular religion is defined by all those things (or else why would anyone consider, say, Catholicism to be distinct from either Islam, Mormonism, or Protestantism, rather than just proclaim them all some generic “theism”?)  To assign this sort of thing to an atheist “club” you would need to look at the rules and definitions and philosophies of that particular group of atheists.  For example, “secular humanist”.  Or a group that is entirely focused on litigation regarding atheistic issues.  Or even Raelianism or FSMism, for that matter.

        I would actually say that atheist “clubs” that embrace secular humanism as its guiding philosophy do have one hell of a good track record regarding treatment of women–perhaps not perfect, but excellent, ever-improving, and always ready to self-critique.

        • Pseudonym

           

          Key difference is that atheism has no particular holy book, holy leader/pope, holy rules [...]

          This is often cited as a key difference, but I don’t buy it. The culture of an organisation is influenced by its foundation and leadership, but it’s almost never defined by it.
          The vast majority of Catholics in the developed world use contraception regardless of what any holy books, holy leaders or holy rules say. Catholicism is as much about cultural and ethnic identity as it is rules and hierarchy, if not moreso.

          • Curious…

            Could you provide a link to the source of your assertion that the “vast majority of Catholics in the developed world use contraception…” ?

            • Anonymous

               The often quoted statistic is that 98% of all American female Catholics use it

              • Pseudonym

                That statistic isn’t accurate. See the above for the actual figures.

                The important (IMO) figure is that of Catholic women who are at risk of unintended pregnancy, 68% use a “highly effective method” of contraception, and 15% use condoms (which is not a “highly effective method” according to the terms of the study, which is odd).

                Only 15% use no contraception or so-called “natural family planning”.

            • Pseudonym
      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Pseudonym, I do not understand why you are replying to me with your remark about atheist clubs’ treatment of women. I did not say the remark about clubs, I quoted it from Atheist Pig, from the original post.

        • Pseudonym

           My apologies. I replied to the wrong comment.

      • Anonymous

        You say this as if feminist clubs have a perfect track record of treating women with respect.

        You say this if women’s clubs have a perfect track record of treating women with respect.

        … and so on and so forth.

        • Pseudonym

           

          You say this if women’s clubs have a perfect track record of treating women with respect.

          Tell me about it. I have a transgendered friend who has some horror stories of bigotry.

          But thank you for making my point for me. Treating people badly is human nature, and the presence or absence of deities makes little difference.

          • Anonymous

            I was mocking the impossible standard. Since you don’t care about the actual philosophy and policies of the groups then you get to tar them with responsibility for random unrelated behavior. You are also generalizing so that if there are hundreds of atheist groups and one group has one member who violates the standard (even if the group disapproves) then you get to tar and feather all the groups.

            Now if all the groups shared a common document that instructed them they were allowed to take women as sex slaves, that women’s testimony was worth a quarter of a mans, etc. And then some random member acted on these teachings you could blame all the groups. that’s because it is in their philosophy. So the presence of deities that instruct you to be a bigot does make a difference.

            Never criticize others on the lack of perfection. No one is perfect and that is even more true of collections of individuals. It is unfair and will piss people off. As in using the inept social skills of some random dude to smear a not just the group he was at but all atheists, as in, “I hate atheists.”. That’s wasn’t you but I’m pretty certain you are thinking of it.

            So I disagree because your reasoning here is wrong.

            • Pseudonym

              The “book” that you refer to makes no difference because it demonstrably makes no difference. If the Roman Catholic Church had ever allowed women to be taken as sex slaves, you’d have a point.

              I’m not concerned about a lack of perfection. Especially Christians, since that is a core part of the teaching. My point is that arseholes exist in all organisation, and it’s far from guaranteed that Barbara Johnson will be welcomed in any given random atheist club than any more than in given random Catholic church. There are good ones and bad ones, and it’s a coin flip either way.

              • Anonymous

                That was a general point.  So I did have a point.   It also happens to be true of Islam, which I was alluding to if you had some knowledge.   I wasn’t making a point about the Catholic church. 

                “If the Roman Catholic Church had ever allowed women to be taken as sex slaves, you’d have a point.”

                They allowed little boys to be used as sex slaves in modern times and we know their historical record on torture.  I don’t think you’d be hard pressed to find an instance where the Roman Catholic Church allowed female sex slaves.  Especially since it took them more an entire millenia and a half before they condemned slavery itself.  You can be sure that male slavers were having sex with the female slaves.  I think that counts as sex slavery.

                Your last paragraph is ridiculous in light of the fact that she was just welcomed by an atheist organization.    There is no reason to see why she wouldn’t be welcome by any random atheist club given we have no creedos, and don’t generally excommunicate people (except for Objectivists and Scientologist).   That’s easy to avoid though.  Just don’t pick an atheist organization that has stupid bigoted and discrimantory rules like the Catholic Church does.   She pick another religion too.   The Jains seem nice.

                It is also ridiculous because in part this priest was following church rules in being “arsehole”.   Withholding the eucharist at a parents funeral is quite a bit dickish, but them’s the rules.    It’s sanctioned assholery.  

                • Pseudonym

                   

                  They allowed little boys to be used as sex slaves in modern times and we know their historical record on torture.

                  You’re pushing the definition of “sex slaves”. More to the point, what the Church (as in, the leadership and the organisation) is rightly accused of isn’t allowing it, but covering it up. Child sex abuse is completely against the rules, and always has been. It’s even condemned in the Didache, which predates the Bible.

                  It is also ridiculous because in part this priest was following church
                  rules in being “arsehole”.   Withholding the eucharist at a parents
                  funeral is quite a bit dickish, but them’s the rules.

                  Once again, what this priest is accused of isn’t withholding the eucharist, though it was arseholish to do it in public rather than in private. If it were just that, this wouldn’t have made news.  The first reply to this post makes the point:

                  The real offense was stepping away from the altar during the eulogy and
                  then refusing to accompany the body to the cemetery – with a blatant
                  lie, telling her that he doesn’t feel well.

                  The problem was that he went out of his way to disrupt a funeral that he was supposed to be officiating. That is the act of an arsehole.

    • Sware

      I agree with this however, I can say at least in my case, Catholics behaving “Catholic”, and other churches merely enforcing their doctrine in ways I found disgusting, were seeds planted in my path to eventually discarding it altogether.   I was 4 years old when my family left the Catholic church due to their refusal to baptize my nephew born out of wedlock.  That and my family knew a woman that had divorced (also a big no-no) and could no longer receive communion as a result.  I would spend 30 years of my life church hopping and coming up frustrated and disappointed at all manner of things they did (not allowing dating outside of your religion, discouraging friendships outside of your religion, refusing to marry my husband and I in the church because we were going to share the same residence for two whopping months prior to our wedding, etc. all of which I would find repugnant invasion into personal life).  Couple this all with coming to know and respect a good atheist friend and I would finally understand that it was perfectly OK to let go of.

    • Nackles

      The Catholic church doesn’t think gay people should stop being gay, it says they should be celibate.

  • http://twitter.com/wpooflinger kathy w pooflinger

    My bad for expecting the priest to show compassion and love like Jesus was said to do.  I guess in their Bible, Jesus turned all kinds of unsavory sinners away.

  • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

    Those are his views and beliefs, so fine.  He didn’t force anything on anyone in that circumstance and he resisted according to his philosophy when something was being put upon him that he morally objected to.  Fine.  I may completely disagree with him but, hey, that’s how this whole freedom thing works.

    What I don’t get is what Johnson actually expected to happen.  Part of the whole freedom bit is that just like you don’t want other people to impose their beliefs on you, you can’t expect to impose yourself on someone else’s beliefs – however foolish, archaic and decrepit they may be.  Complaining that the Catholic priest was, on this occasion, a little too Catholic for you seems ludicrous to me.  

    Whether or not the whole thing’s a bunch of malarkey (it is) you can’t legitimately expect a True Believer ™ to turn their deeply held convictions into what amounts to a stage show to appease you and your “special and unique” version of their faith.

    • Anonymous

      You really don’t get it. It’s not so much about what he did, but how. If he weren’t a completely inhuman asshole, he would have explained his alleged moral objections before and gotten someone else to perform the service. No one forced him to do anything.

      • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

        That’s fair, he could have come out beforehand and said what he could and couldn’t do without creating a spectacle.

        Of course, the problem would be that any Catholic priest who actually follows the faith structure would have had to do the same thing, which leaves them in the same position.  If they wanted a “real” Catholic priest then something like this was inevitable.

        That’s what I don’t get.  This is what a Catholic priest would have to do so it seems like they were expecting a “Catholic” priest or maybe an actor who would go through all of the motions of a Catholic ceremony without the baggage of any actual belief system to get in the way.  To me that’s as absurd, selfish and irrational as anything else in this situation.

        • Anonymous

          No, not all Catholic priests would have done that. Jeez, I hate the CC as much as anyone, but not all priests are complete jerks.

          Standard operating procedure is to discuss such concerns in private and not humiliate people in public. Moreover, there is nothing that required him to mess up the rest of the ceremony

  • http://www.dougberger.net Doug B.

    Punishing the mother and her family is where the priest stepped over the line. I’m not surprised though and I also ask myself why people continue to attend a church that doesn’t want them?

  • Rthomas7946

    I’m guessing he molested a few kids to celebrate his intolerance and ignorance

  • Heidi

    If they’re unhappy with Catholicism, but still want to be Christians, it’s not like it’s the first time it’s happened. It happens all the time. That’s why there are Protestant churches in the first place.

    If the problem is that they’re surprised that a priest was a dick, all I can suggest is a reality check.

  • Micah Caputo

    My mother died February 17 of this year. She was Catholic, but her sisters are of varying religions (Mormon, Baptist, Pagan), and I am an Atheist. My aunt’s (Baptist) church offered their building for us to do the memorial for free, and they offered to make food and so on. I agreed because, hey, free food, free building, right? I should have known right then and there that this would become a religious war, and that nothing that involved religion could be easy.

    One of my mother’s best friends from childhood happens to be a preacher of another denomination of Baptist, but he knew her very well and had a great singing voice so he was asked to say a few words about my mother (secularly) and sing a song. Immediately when the preacher of the church found this out, he asked us to “uninvite” my mother’s friend because he was of another denomination and the preacher did not want a sinner behind his “pulpit”. My Baptist Aunt thought this was a great idea and asked us to uninvite him.

    My pagan aunt and I then asked the preacher if even we, or my Mormon aunt were even welcome in the building then, since we were definitely more than a denomination away from his religion and were seen as sinners. He said essentially, no. I, as an Atheist, was not welcome at my own mother’s memorial. Her sisters, Pagan and Mormon, were also not welcome.

    I immediately told them that we could have the memorial at a banquet hall where all of our other secular family events were held, and that we didn’t need their free use of the building or free food.

    My Baptist Aunt and Mormon Aunt (despite being not welcome, felt it was important to have her memorial at a church) threw a fit and asked the preacher for his opinion. He “prayed on it” and then “god told him” that he was wrong and that everyone should be welcome to celebrate my mother’s life. My aunts then begged me to continue to have it there, since it was less than a week away and it had already been written in the papers. I ended up reluctantly agreeing.

    The memorial ended up being fairly nice for what it was. I was just slightly naive and ended up shocked that I would be asked not to attend my own mother’s memorial, which required my approval to even happen.

    So, I guess that entire long story is me saying that I sort of know how this woman feels. When you’re mourning your mother, you don’t really expect people to still hold something like religion or sexual preference against you.

    • Demonhype

       They can be like vultures.  The best way is to hurt them when they’re already grieving.  I’m glad to hear how you dealt with that guy!  No excuse for playing the “you’re not allowed in my clubhouse” game at a time like that, and if people can get so upset over the WBC, I’d think they should be just as pissed at this much more common and much more overlooked kind of abusive behavior at funerals–and many victims of this abuse don’t have an entire world to comfort and support them either and have to deal with it alone in most cases.

  • Anonymous

    She should have told him, in front of the congregation,  ”GO FUCK YOUSELF”!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Why belong to a group that treats you like shit?

    • Anonymous

      Why get upset when they won’t give you a cracker?

      • Anonymous-Sam

        But-but-but! My cracker! ;_; And I brought the cheesus and everything, just like they said!

      • Travshad

        It is a natural reaction to being humiliated in front of your family and friends at what is one of the most emotionally difficult times in a person’s life.

        • Anonymous

          I think the priest walking out was the main offense, but let’s suppose he didn’t do that.    She had already openly disobeyed Church doctrine by “living in sin” and if she really believed in Catholicism she already knew a) She’s not supposed to go up for the cracker. b) She is going to burn in hell forever (aka shes fucked big time).   

          Now either she believes or not.   If she does then she’s way more fucked than mere embarrassment.   If she doesn’t then she could have spared herself the embarrasment by not going up to receive.

    • Pseudonym

      I’ll wager that your country, wherever you happen to live, hasn’t been entirely nice to you. Why haven’t you moved?

      Sometimes it’s better to help reform your club than leave it. It depends on the club.

      • Anonymous

        Reform the Roman Catholic Church? Into what? A good, oppressive, patriarchal, corrupt religion?

        • Pseudonym

          If the southern states of the US managed to get rid of their racist laws, the Roman Catholic Church can get rid of its homophobic ones.

          • Anonymous

            Then . . . it wouldn’t really be the Roman Catholic Church, would it?

          • Anonymous

            The Catholic Church is not a democracy and there is no body that could play the role that the Federal Government did in the Civil Rights era. There is no plausible story about how the Church will reform itself given the decades that Woytila and Ratzinger have spent filling the ranks of Bishops and Cardinals with hardline conservatives.

            • Pseudonym

              Perhaps apartheid-era South Africa is a better example.  It wasn’t a democracy, in the sense that the oppressed couldn’t participate in their government. There was no equivalent of the Federal Government; the UN or Commonwealth couldn’t force South Africa to do anything.

              And yet it changed.

              • NickDB

                 As a South African, you don’t know what you’re talking about. There were tons of sanctions against us, we were feeling the pinch of being cut off from the world and eventually enough people woke up and said enough. Apartheid is wrong and as a country we’re suffering because of it.

                • Pseudonym

                  I do know what I’m talking about, or at least more than you think. What happened in South Africa was pressure both from the inside and outside pressuring the regime to change. That could indeed happen to the Catholic Church.

              • Anonymous

                Those oppressed had to be members of SA, whereas those who are members of the Catholic church do not.   It’s like the difference between being forced to work (slavery) and being an voluntary employee.

          • Anonymous

            Except the southern states didn’t manage to get rid of their racist laws.   They were forced to.  First forced to end slavery by the Republican Yankees, and then forced to accept elimination of segregation by the Federal government, again when Republicans voted in larger numbers than democrats for the Civil Rights Act.   (Yes, I’m rubbing certain peoples noses in facts that they are not likely to know).

      • Anonymous

        I’m a white male living in the US; I’ve had it pretty fucking easy. But I didn’t choose to be born here. You choose to belong to the Roman Catholic or any other church.

        • Pseudonym

          Most religious people are born into a particular religion in the same way that people are born into a particular nation: that’s where their parents happened to be.

          You can choose not to adhere to that religion. You can also choose not to associate yourself with that nation.

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

    If acting Catholic includes humiliating a person and childish grandstanding at a solemn ceremony I guess I can’t blame the guy.   Otherwise I think he’s a complete prat.   As Tom said, if he had objections to the lesbian daughter he should have just refused up front to do the event.  Instead he accepted the offer and ruined it with his outrageous behavior.

  • The Vicar

    A) Other commenters are right: whether or not the priest gave her communion is unrelated to whether he continued the funeral. He didn’t do the latter, and it makes him an asshole.

    B) It really is fun to read these stories where Catholics, in essence, want a church whose ritual and dogma is democratically elected. Having a top-down, out-of-date, irrational structure is THE WHOLE POINT. If you want a more comfortable church, leave Catholicism, and if you want rationality, leave religion. But no, they are convinced (like the priests themselves) that if they kick up enough of a fuss, they will be granted changes. Look at Joan Walsh’s recent articles on Salon on the birth control flap for another example of “but surely, what the majority does must be more important than mere dogma”.

  • Anonymous

     This story echoes profoundly with a recent experience of mine.  I attended a funeral service yesterday for my grand-father and as I belong to an old (and old-fashioned) French-Canadian family, it was held in a catholic church. 

    My dealings with the priest were limited, thankfully, but I did feel some tension when I failed to participate in the service by saying all kinds of things that people apparently have to say  (answer the priest?) and at the end, for not going forward to receive “the body of christ”.

    What really irritated me though is that most of the time was spent discussing Jesus and his suffering and all that while very, very few words were spoken about my grand-father.  Aside from two passages from the priest (one in which he got his name wrong), only family members spoke any length about him or made any mention to his life and the very large family raised. 

    I feel a secular ceremony would have been much more rewarding and inspiring to the whole family by allowing us to voice our feelings instead of having Jesus-talk shoved down our throats.  I went to the service in order to mourn with my family, not be converted to your religion.  If you have nothing to say, just make it a short ceremony or invite the family to come forward and speak up, don’t read the entire bible to us!

    As for the story I was to comment on, I will echo a lot of what people are saying though, if you belong to a club that doesn’t treat you as an equal, get out!  I find that the atheist community is generally pretty damn friendly to homosexuals and other “marginal” members of society.

  • http://www.facebook.com/onanyes Ollie Nanyes

    I agree completely; if you don’t want to follow the rules of a church, don’t belong to it.  I admit that it gets tiring to read about “how Jesus would have done this and that” by people who cherry pick which verses to follow and which ones to ignore.
    If you think that the humane thing to have done is to have given the communion (as some Priests actually do), then it is because YOU think it is a good idea to be humane and compassionate and not because “the Bible” or “the church” says so.

    The Vicar (above) gets it right.

    • Pseudonym

       

      I agree completely; if you don’t want to follow the rules of a church, don’t belong to it.

      Perhaps Rosa Parks should just have moved states?

      • Anonymous

        Not the same thing in the least.   You actually have to go out of your way to get up on Sunday and drag yourself to church for a bite of Jesus.

  • Erp

    I have to point out the canon rule  refers to what the person receiving communion should do or not do.  It does not state what the person giving the communion should do and apparently other perhaps unstated rules are that the recipient must be personally warned ahead of time that they won’t be given communion before publicly refusing to give them it.   This did not happen.    The priest might have gotten away with it if he hadn’t then refused to listen to her eulogy of her mother or even worst refused to go with the body to the grave site to finish the service. 

    Admittedly he might have really been feeling ill because everyone else at the church seems to have supported the daughter and shown it (another  eucharistic minister gave her communion immediately after his refusal).  Another priest, Peter Sweeney, finished off the service.   Catholic laity and the Catholic hierarchy seem to have split radically on certain issues (birth control, gays/lesbians, treatment of child raping priests being three) and this event seems to have shown it (though the priest in this case went further than the hierarchy felt prudent, fine to attack gays and lesbians as a group, bit more tricky individually when they are part of a large tithe paying family).   Pro-Catholic gays and lesbians will point to the actions of the congregation and Peter Sweeney as showing the goodness of the Catholic church; others will point to Father Marcel Guarnizo as showing the badness of the Catholic church.

  • Ndonnan

    Im wondering why a woman who was known as an athiest would be given a church service by her family at all.Surely this is a dissrespectful thing to do to her  by her family.If somone was jewish and the family burried them in a moslem ritual, it would be insulting their memory,not celebrating it.And why would somone who isnt practising that religion even go up for communion,its like offering a pork chop to a jew,or asking to open in prayer at an athiest meeting,lets see who would be so pleasant then.This girl knew exactly what she was doing

    • J24u

      They weren’t atheists, did you assume that because the story is being reported on this site?

      • Ndonnan

        Yes i did,why else would it be here?dosent make sense otherwise. In that case its up to the individual to decide if they should take communion

  • http://www.bblss.org/ Miki

    It wasn’t until I lost my mother that I truly understood the words “grief-stricken.”  If that priest had pulled that stunt on me, we would’ve made news for entirely different reasons, the main one being that I punched him in the fucking face. 

    I organized my mother’s funeral in the manner she requested, out of respect for the last bit of autonomy she exercised in her lucid moments.  This included a religious funeral in a church and a bunch of other stuff.  Fortunately, the preacher was stellar. 

  • Demonhype

     When we went to my aunt’s funeral years ago, we had quite an entertaining time.  There weren’t a lot of people–some older folks and my cousins and their husband and boyfriend, who were *gasp!* black!  The priest was an older gent and didn’t make a spectacle or anything, but we noticed at the dinner afterward he got his food and made a beeline to my family’s table. Seemed like he was avoiding the daughters of the deceased–I mean, why go straight to sit with the distant relatives and not even look at the grieving daughters?   Everyone else was mostly crowded around my cousins and their SO’s and I imagine to him that we, being a nice white properly nuclear family all dressed properly for a funeral in the traditional style (no one was dressed for a funeral except my cousins’ husband and boyfriend and us) sitting apart from the crowd (we aren’t racist, but we’re not very close to that side of the family, we live too far away and only really see my other aunt once every couple years, but he didn’t know that), must have looked like a Godsend.  Little did he know….

    He sits right down, we politely welcome him because we’re just nice like that, and he starts talking very confidently about Jesus and God and yadda yadda.  My father, who is like George Carlin without the stage flair, starts questioning him.  Uncomfortable questions.  Questions that are more like challenges, though they are phrased in the nice, even, polite tones one uses at a funeral dinner of course.  He starts eating a little faster and then pulls my mother into the conversation, probably figuring the wife will back him up.  My mother is the most religious person in the family, but not the way he would understand or approve, and she has little to no tolerance for priests.  And what she lacks in knowledge about the history of the church or of church doctrine in general or the history of the bible or textual criticism, etc.  she more than made up for with a very intimate knowledge of things that happened at his very parish, which she attended when she was young.  She would tell him something, he would be aghast and say “where did you hear that?”–thinking, of course, she heard it from some other source and he could say “well, that’s not our parish”–and she’s say “in this parish, in that catholic school that used to be across the road!” and he began eating even faster.

    Then he decided, in some strange, last-minute, desperate move, to ask the children what they think because, after all, “the children are the future”.  What he was expecting from two such irreverant people I don’t know, but we politely agreed with everything we had just heard our parents say (I was in my late-teens/early twenties, my sister and brother were both mid- to late-teens).  He finished his meal in a flash and quickly excused himself, saying he enjoyed our discussion but he really should get going.  He immediately got involved in the main group–apparently the whole inter-racial couple thing isn’t quite as offensive or upsetting when compared with the Satan family over here!  Later, when my dad was turning onto the freeway to go home, he started chuckling and asked “did you guys see how quick he started eating once he started talking to us?”  He didn’t have a problem and was totally confident, like he was with “his own”, right up until he found out we aren’t what we might seem to him, and then he just got increasingly visible disturbed all through the encounter.  It was hilarious!

    I like to think that we might have helped him reconsider his priorities about people and faith and interracial relationships and whatnot.  :)

  • Jett Perrobone

    I remember once being refused communion.  It was when my family and I went to mass in a church called “St. Bernard” (woof!).  It was an ordinary Catholic mass, with all of the usual rituals.

    When it came to the Eucharist, the priest stood in front of the altar with a bowl of communion hosts, and a line of parishoners formed in front of him.  I remember quite vividly hearing him boom “THE BODY… of christ” to each person whose turn it was to receive communion.  I stood at the end of the line, and when it was finally my turn, the priest looked at me, stood back, and said I couldn’t receive it.

    I, to this day, have no idea why he refused me communion.  I wasn’t wearing a rainbow sash or a “Pro-Choice” t-shirt, or anything!  And I filed off my demon horns just that morning! ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

       Maybe you held out your hand and he was one of those “only on the tongue” priests?

  • Achess

    You are absolutely right Hemant. My first reaction to this story was emotional. I too thought the priest had acted in an unacceptable way and should be punished. But actually, he didn’t: he was abiding to the standards of discrimination that his church actually condones. She’s the one cherry-picking. How can people accommodate so much cognitive dissonance is beyond me.

  • Aataxi

    Years ago I pondered this problem and the only solution is for people to leave the Catholic church. They will never change, do not expect them too. Grow a pair and realize what
    life is really about.

    • Mairianna

      Xactly!  The church has been operating this way for thousands of years.  Does anyone really think one gay woman is going to make them change now? 

      • Anonymous

        The most I could expect one gay woman to get then change would be to reinstitute witch burning with her as victim.

  • Mairianna

    Know what’s funny (as in odd) about this?  I was an RC and divorced (unabsolved), which in the eyes of the church is a sin worthy of keeping you from the eucharist.  But, since the church I attended didn’t KNOW THIS, they never balked at giving me the eucharist at communion.  Isn’t that a kick?  She was refused communion because the priest KNEW she was gay.  That’s all. 

    On the opposite hand, I was an atheist when my mother died and I purposefully did NOT go to communion.  Man, I got a MILLION virtual dagger-looks from family and friends.  You just can’t win.  And the priest refused to shake my hand at the end of the mass as we filed out.  You just can’t win with the Catholic church….you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, as the saying goes.  

    • Anonymous

      The whole purpose of these shibboliths is so that they can publicly identify and shame the sinner.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/godless_monsters The Godless Monster

    Don’t be surprised when you stick your hand into a bag of vipers and get bit. 

  • T-Rex

    Meh, the only thing surprising here is that she hadn’t left the Catholic cult earlier. You want to belong to a cult? Follow the rules and don’t get so butt hurt when your lifestyle is in conflict with the doctrine. Sheep are stupid animals, that’s why they’re so easy to herd. Even dogs can do it.

  • Anonymous

    I was baptized Lutheran and my dad told me a story from when he was a kid that sounds about the same.   The minister (priest) had gone out of his way to tell a six year old girl her father was burning in hell because he died a drunk (or commited suicide).   The little girl ran off crying.   My father described it as child abuse.

  • Anonymous

    The problem here is that the churches (and not just the Catholic Church) tell their members that they loves them and wants to help them when they need support.  Then when the time comes to rely on that, they admit that what they really care about is church doctrine, and who the hell are ou to put your human needs above God’s Law.  It’s the bait-and-switch that is at the heart of most religion.  

    • Anonymous

      It’s tough love.   Perhaps the shock of the moment will make her realize she’s on the path to HELLLLLLL!!!!!    God loves you so much that if you reject him he gets really, really PISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSED!!!!!!!!!!!!


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