James Bartylla, the vicar general of the Diocese of Madison, where Bishop Robert Morlino is bishop, sent the following remarks in a communication to his priests, Pray Tell has learned. This conforms with the mind of Bishop Morlino and has his approval.. Pray Tell publishes this excerpt from the communication without further comment.
Consideration of Funeral Rites for a Person in a Homosexual Civil or Notorious Union – You may encounter the situation in which a person in a homosexual civil union (thereby in a public union gravely contrary to the natural law) or in an otherwise notorious homosexual relationship gravely contrary to the natural law dies, and the family wants Catholic funeral rites for the deceased. My short answer to pastors and parochial vicars in these cases is to think through the issue thoroughly and prudently and likely call the local ordinary early in the process to discuss the situation. The main issue centers around scandal and confusion (leading others into the occasion of sin or confusing or weakening people regarding the teachings of the Catholic Church in regards to sacred doctrine and the natural law), and thereby the pastoral task is to minimize the risk of scandal and confusion to others amidst the solicitude for the deceased and family.
If the situation warrants (see canon 1184 – specifically canon 1184.1.3), ecclesiastical funeral rites may be denied for manifest sinners in which public scandal of the faithful can’t be avoided. If there is a doubt, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment is to be followed (canon 1184.2). Here are some general considerations in such situations that may be of preliminary assistance to you:
- 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).
Correction: An earlier version stated that the communication was from Bishop Morlino. It was from his vicar general. The post has been corrected and Pray Tell apolgizes for the error.