Gay Man Refused Last Rites? “GetReligion” Has Some Thoughts On This Story

You’ve probably seen the story published by The Washington Post about the gay man who was allegedly denied a Sacrament by a priest because he was gay.

When I read the story, something didn’t smell right to me. The first thing that popped into my head though was a question. Is this news? Or is it propaganda disguised as news? I think it is the latter.

GetReligion has a fine stable of writers who, unlike many journalists, actually do “get” religion. Terry Mattingly does a great job sifting through this lopsided attempt to snare readers with an outrage inducing headline and lede.

Take a look,

The sad story of a priest, a partial-penitent and the press

At this point, it is no longer unusual to read a news story about an issue linked to homosexuality that yanks the pope’s famous “Who am I to judge?” quote out of context. Alas, this is now business as usual in the mainstream press. Click here for a refresher course — video and transcript — about what Pope Francis actually said.

So let’s move on.

Gentle readers, what is the key word that is missing from this opening passage from a recent Washington Post story? This ran under the headline, “Gay patient says Catholic chaplain refused him last rites.”

A Catholic chaplain at MedStar Washington Hospital Center stopped delivering a 63-year-old heart attack patient Communion prayers and last rites after the man said he was gay, the patient said Wednesday, describing a dramatic bedside scene starting with him citing Pope Francis and ending with him swearing at the cleric.

Details of the exchange this month between the Rev. Brian Coelho and retired travel agent Ronald Plishka couldn’t be confirmed with the priest, who did not respond to a direct e-mail or to requests left with the hospital and the archdiocese. The Archdiocese of Washington, for which he works, declined to comment and said Coelho “is not doing interviews.” The bedside discussion was first reported Monday in the Washington Blade.

The key word that is missing, of course, is “Confession.”

Read Mattingly’s whole piece, as he addresses a number of the questionable points raised by the Post’s reporter.

For folks who aren’t sure why Catholics believe that another fallible human being can give them absolution, remember that God often utilizes human beings as his agents.

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:21-22)

Allow me to edit Mattingly’s final paragraph for clarity (my edits **).

“What happened was supposed to be between the priest, the penitent and God — with the press left out of the Sacrament. Journalists do not have to agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church, of course. However, it is *incumbent upon them to* know enough about *the teachings* to make a professional attempt to represent viewpoints on both sides with fairness and accuracy.”

That certainly did not happen in the Post story.


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