A San Diego Catholic church’s decision to cancel a Thursday funeral because the deceased was gay has been reversed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego.
Devout Catholic John Sanfilippo died Friday June 24 after a battle with emphysema. His 28-year partner and close family members had arranged for a funeral at Our Lady of the Rosary Church where John had been a parishioner for several decades. Reports suggest John even left the church a large sum of money in his will.
The family was understandably shocked then to be told this past weekend that the service was canceled. Why? They were told it was because John was gay.
The Diocese stepped in this week to overturn the decision, issuing a rather lukewarm statement saying the funeral can go ahead and saying the original error was made by a non-affiliated traveling priest, but the church itself has made no such remark or apology.
While the family has understandably shied away from commenting, friends told 10news.com the family has already found another church:
At the cocktail lounge that Sanfilippo owned for 28 years came outrage from friends over what some called a confusing statement from the San Diego diocese.
“All of a sudden, they change their mind and say, ‘Well, you know, we may still allow the funeral to be here.’ Why? Because they got caught in the process of denying equal rights to people?” asked Neil Thomas, a friend and customer of Sanfilippo’s.
Ramirez said the statement was proof the parish was acting alone and the diocese needs a diocese-wide policy so a similar situation does not happen again.
But after a hurtful rejection, it appears Sanfilippo’s family has moved on.
“From what I’m told, they don’t want it there now,” said Thomas.
Ramirez said Sanfilippo’s family had already found another Catholic church for the funeral. Ramirez said the family would not feel comfortable going back to Our Lady of the Rosary after what happened.
This seems odd given the Diocese felt the need to expressly state to Channel 10 news that “The Diocesan office was notified about this situation earlier today… Diocesan Authorities have concluded that the funeral as scheduled at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish may take place. Plans for the ritual are yet to be made.”
Readers may be interested to know this has happened before in the Diocese.
In 2005, Bishop Robert Brom refused to let the family of John McCusker, a gay businessman, hold a funeral at any of the Diocese’s churches. The family was forced to have a service at an Episcopalian church and later converted because of the treatment they had received. Bishop Brom eventually apologized but it was too little too late.
While religious freedom of expression should of course be protected, one cannot help but feel that incidents such as these are mean spirited and run contrary to the pastoral care churches are supposed to provide to everyone. It also seems necessary to point out that, if reports are accurate, the church was perfectly happy to take Sanfilippo’s money — money that I presume came from his gay cocktail lounge business. Lastly, we are all aware of the importance of a funeral for the family members left behind in the wake of a death. To deny them the chance to bid farewell to their loved one at the parish he so dutifully attended strikes me as a despicable lack of Christian charity and a violation of the “judge not lest ye be judged” tenet.
Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to D. Bjorn, Catchin’ Up