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Canon lawyer: Refusing funerals for active gays is ‘thoroughly consistent’ with Church law

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien Follow Claire

October 26, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Denying a Catholic funeral to someone in a same-sex “marriage” is “thoroughly consistent” with the Church’s laws, a top canon lawyer wrote after a second U.S. diocese issued guidelines saying priests “may” do so.

Canon 1184 of the Code of Canon Law says “ecclesiastical funerals” are to be denied to “manifest sinners” whose funerals would cause “public scandal of the faithful.”

The Canon says:

“Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:

1/ notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;

2/ those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith;

3/ other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.”

“If any doubt occurs, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment must be followed,” the Code of Canon Law concludes.

“Persons who enter ‘same-sex marriage’ plainly manifest their opposition to crucial and infallible Church teaching that restricts marriage to one man and one woman,” canonist Dr. Ed Peters wrote on his blog.

It “is simply not a question” whether someone in a public same-sex “marriage” qualifies as a “manifest sinner,” according to Peters.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church labels homosexual acts “intrinsically disordered.”

The Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, led by Bishop Robert Morlino, sent its priests an October 21 communication on what to do if they are asked to officiate a Catholic funeral for a “person in a homosexual civil union.”

The diocese said that although this communication to priests wasn’t the institution of an official policy, it meets Morlino’s approval.

“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,” Fr. James Bartylla, the vicar general of the diocese, wrote.

Bartylla wrote that the main issue at stake is whether people will get the impression the Church approved of the deceased’s homosexual lifestyle.

“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,” the communication said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines scandal as “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil” (CCC 2284).

The instruction said priests should consider whether someone was an active “promoter” of the “‘gay’ lifestyle.”  

“Did the deceased give some signs of repentance before death?” priests were asked to consider.

The instruction says the surviving homosexual “partner” of the deceased “should not have any public or prominent role at any ecclesiastical funeral rite or service.”

“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,” priests were instructed.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois issued guidelines to his priests on June 12, 2017 instructing them that people unrepentently living a homosexual lifestyle are not to receive Holy Communion or funerals. 

Paprocki said he has a “responsibility as diocesan bishop to guide the people of God entrusted to me with charity but without compromising the truth.”

Like Morlino's vicar general, Paprocki wrote, “in case of doubt, the proper pastor or parochial administrator is to consult the local ordinary, whose judgment is to be followed.”

Liberal news outlets like the Huffington Post and Madison.com quoted gay activists as upset with Morlino's supposedly unpastoral guidelines.

“Other faiths have evolved on this issue,” but Morlino “just refuses to budge at all,” said Steve Starkey, executive director of Madison-based LGBT OutReach.

New Ways Ministry, which dissents from Church teaching on moral issues like homosexuality, said the letter was “the very antithesis of pastoral care.”

Pope Benedict XVI explained as then-Cardinal Ratzinger that “pastoral” does not mean affirming people at the expense of truth.

“Assuredly, the word of truth can be painful and uncomfortable,” the pope emeritus wrote. “But it is the way to holiness, to peace, and to inner freedom. A pastoral approach which truly wants to help the people concerned must always be grounded in the truth. In the end, only the truth can be pastoral.”

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