Gay Catholics could be denied proper funerals, leaked email suggests


A leaked set of directives attributed to a Catholic diocese in Madison, Wisconsin urges priests to minimise 'the risk of scandal and confusion' when asked to conduct the funeral service of a person in a 'notorious homosexual relationship'.

The Vicar General of the Madison diocese, Msgr James R Bartylla, reportedly made the controversial remarks in an email sent to priests in the diocese that included guidelines on how to handle funeral services for homosexual Catholics.

The email, first published on the Catholic blog Pray Tell on October 22, reportedly listed several factors that the priest should take into account when considering whether or not to conduct the religious rite, including: 'Was the deceased or the 'partner' a promoter of the 'gay' lifestyle?' And, 'Did the deceased give some signs of repentance before death?'

Bartylla also reportedly advised that the surviving partner of the deceased 'should not have any public or prominent role at any ecclesiastical funeral rite or service' ― adding that the grieving partner should not be mentioned in 'any liturgical booklet, prayer card, homily, sermon, talk by the priest, deacon'.

According to Pray Tell, the guidelines continued: 'If the situation warrants...ecclesiastical funeral rites may be denied for manifest sinners in which public scandal of the faithful can't be avoided.'

In a statement, the diocese's communications director Brent King told the Huffington Post that the communication published on the Pray Tell blog is 'not an official diocesan policy'. However, he added that 'it does conform with the mind of the bishop and meet his approval'.

Homosexual Catholics have reacted with outrage over the directives. Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the Catholic LGBTQ advocacy group DignityUSA, said that the guidelines were 'outrageous and shameful'.

She said: 'This document is the very antithesis of pastoral care. It shows that this bishop believes that lesbian and gay people who have lived a deep commitment to a spouse or partner should be demeaned even in death. Our families could be refused the sacraments of our faith at the moment of their greatest grief. This is heartless. It is cruel. It is unchristian in the extreme.'

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the homsexual Catholic group, New Ways Ministry, said he believed these guidelines harm Catholic families who are grieving.

'Funerals are times that families will remember for a long time. If they are turned away at that point, it is very likely they will never return,' DeBernardo said in a statement. 'For the sake of the Catholic Church and for LGBT Catholics and their families, the Diocese of Madison should rescind this decision immediately and offer a public apology.'