Gay and Catholic? No Religious Funeral For You!

Catholic leadership in Madison, Wisconsin recently sent an email to priests detailing recommended guidelines for handling funerals for gay church members. In a display of heartlessness, the leaked message suggested that those who may have been active in the LGBTQ community be denied a religious funeral service. Leadership also communicated that same-sex partners be excluded from having any prominent role in the funeral ceremony, including mention “in any liturgical booklet, prayer card, homily, sermon, talk by the priest, deacon, etc.”

The reason? If you know anything about how much money and effort the Catholic Church spends to protect its image and cover up controversy, this will come as no surprise. The email states the rationale behind these directives is “to minimize the risk of scandal and confusion to others.” So yeah. They’re dead. Screw ’em. Let’s just make sure we avoid looking bad.

Here’s the full list of recommendations shared with clergy in the Madison area:

  • Was the deceased or the “partner” a promoter of the “gay” lifestyle?  What is the attitude of the deceased’s family members, especially towards the Church?
  • Did the deceased give some signs of repentance before death?
  • If ecclesiastical funeral rites are allowed, should they occur without a Mass?
  • To minimize scandal, should there merely be a short scripture service at the funeral home?  Or maybe merely a graveside service? Maybe a later “Mass for the Dead” with or without explicit mention of the name of the deceased or “partner” could alternatively or in addition be offered at the parish or even at another parish (to avoid scandal), with or without family members present.
  • Any surviving “partner” should not have any public or prominent role at any ecclesiastical funeral rite or service.
  • A great risk for scandal and confusion is for the name of the celebrating priest and/or the parish to be listed in any public (e.g., newspaper) or semi-public obituary or notice that also lists the predeceased or surviving “partner” in some manner. This can’t happen for obvious reasons.
  • There should be no mention of the “partner” either by name or by other reference (nor reference to the unnatural union) in any liturgical booklet, prayer card, homily, sermon, talk by the priest, deacon, etc…
  • It may be wise to keep the priest or deacon involvement to the minimum (i.e., limited to one priest or deacon and at merely essential times of a service or rite, if one occurs).

I’m not sure why anyone who isn’t a straight male would want anything to do with the Catholic Church in the first place (based on their doctrine and traditions), but these guidelines are more likely to affect Catholic families of LGBTQ persons who wish to give their loved ones a Catholic funeral based on their own traditions. The concerted effort the Church is making to bury the existence of LGBTQ members and their families under the carpet is disgusting and should be a clear sign to anyone in this situation that the Church is unable to evolve with society and should be abandoned for a more progressive and inclusive community.

[Originally published at Secular Voices on October 25, 2017]

Kevin Davis is the Founder and Managing Director of SecularVoices.org, and the author of Understanding an Atheist: A Practical Guide to Relating to Nonbelievers, a book aimed at improving relationships between the religious and their atheist loved ones.
He’s most recently known for being co-founder and Executive Director for Young Skeptics, an elementary-level after-school program for kids. Young Skeptics was launched in January 2015 as an alternative to the controversial Good News Club, an organization operating in public schools that evangelizes children and spreads fundamentalist Christian doctrine focused on shaming children for their sins.

His writing has been featured or mentioned on CNN, Huffington Post, Salon, RichardDawkins.net, Patheos, and many others.

You can find Kevin on Twitter (@SecularVoices) and Facebook.

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