Refusal of Funeral for Gay Man Overturned by Diocese

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 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.

It should be noted that there are reports of unnamed sources for the church denying they refused to bury Sanfilippo, saying that only the Mass was denied.

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


Dink F.
Dink F.6 years ago

"M.A.R.C.S. knows no boundries; M.A.R.C.S. doesn't discriminate"
Everyone should help a fellow person no matter whom they have for a lover!

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

The xtian variety called catholics, have a leader that time after time makes it very clear where this antiquated church stands for. He is anti-LGBT, anti-women, anti-choice, anti-children and so much anit he must be related to the infamous antichrist! The catholic church will never change. Accept it as a fact. The reason is because their patriarchal structure and and undemocratic rule.
The only solution is to ban them and all other religions and then, and only then, can humans live free!

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B6 years ago


Glen P.
Glen P6 years ago


Darcy H.
Darcy H6 years ago

This type of treatment deserves an apology- a sincere one.

Gary A L.
Gary L6 years ago

change comes very slowly and the only way to move that chage is to stay involved BTW what pass's for the bible is nothing more than a control device for the mass's

Judith Corrigan
Judith Corrigan6 years ago

Did they change their minds after learning of the contents of the will?

clara H.
Clara H6 years ago

At least the church reversed their ruling. Maybe they are finally getting the idea that this is not the 1800's

Joseph Belisle
Joseph B6 years ago

I was raised Catholic and though I'm not currently attending church I am well aware of the attitudes and beliefs of the Catholic church and Catholics.
I see a lot variance. Liberal Catholics. Conservative Catholics. Fundanmental Catholics. The same with priests.
I agree with what Jo Anne P. states. Don't condemn the Catholic religion based upon this. The church is slowly coming around. It's causing division amoung the ranks but it does change slowly.

I want to end this post stating that the God and Jesus I know are not prejudice against gays. I personally don't think the Catholic Church should hold anything against them either. Nor should any religion that holds anything in their faith of compassion.

Marc Freden
Marc Freden6 years ago

The prediction was anarchy…so said former NY Giants Superbowl star David Tyree. He was talking about the results of the hotly contested gay marriage bill which just passed in New York, granting the right to gays the nation over to…God forbid…tie the knot. Just what could he mean by anarchy? Could he mean the national rush of drag queens to Kleinfeld Bridal of television reality fame—to ‘say yes to the dress’? Did he mean that traditional brides would have to plan that much further in advance as all the good ballrooms of Manhattan will be scooped by the double income no kids, DINKs, flush with cash and desire to out do the last do? Or is it something simpler, like public displays of affection springing up everywhere—hand holding, kisses goodbye? I dare ask, has Tyree ever walked through Chelsea? If it means anarchy…bring it on. The last time I understood true anarchy was during the LA Riots where people of Tyree’s own ethnicity took to the streets to burn what they could to…I guess…make a point and scare a nation. Fear not Tyree, gays are scared of fire—too much product in our hair makes us more combustible than the average straight guy. There will be no burnings in the streets.

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