Father Michael Briese, pastor of St Mary’s Parish in Newport, Maryland, has been forced to apologise for losing his temper after a chalice was accidentally knocked over and damaged during a funeral.
According to this report, Briese abruptly stopped the funeral of a black woman – 54-year old Agnes Hicks – and told mourners:
There will be no funeral, there will be no mass, no repass, everyone get the hell out of my church.
Video footage captured by cell phone shows a chaotic scene in which family members are seen arguing with the priest and then leaving the church with Hicks’s casket.
This report adds that the priest called the mourners:
Crackheads, thieves and prostitutes.
The Archdiocese of Washington has issued a formal apology and noted that the matter is under investigation.
What occurred at St Mary’s Parish … does not reflect the Catholic Church’s fundamental calling to respect and uplift the God-given dignity of every person nor does that incident represent the pastoral approach the priests of the Archdiocese of Washington commit to undertake every day in their ministry.
In an interview Shanice Chisely, the dead woman’s daughter said:
He disrespected our family, he disrespected my mother. He called my mother ‘a thing.’ He said, ‘get this thing out of my church! Everyone get the hell out of my church!’ It was very sad. I’ve never seen anything like that before.
Briese has since issued a public apology to the family where he said “anger was the most inappropriate response,” to the chalice being knocked over after one attendee knocked it over after hugging another mourner.
Two minutes can change a life. In an emergency medical situation, two minutes can save a life. But can two minutes erase a quarter-century of a person’s life and commitment to serving and caring for his community and those entrusted to his care? I hope not.