Wednesday, August 26, 2015

ARE THERE TIMES THAT THE CHURCH SHOULD DENY A FUNERAL TO A NOTRIOUSLY SINFUL CATHOLIC OR AT LEAST DEMAND THAT THE FUNERAL BE SOBER AND SOMBER?

Last week there was a lavish funeral for a mafia boss in Rome. It was controversial even there. Most of the lavish activities occurred outside the Church and beyond the control of the Church, except those providing the lavish send off of a notorious mafia crime boss where baptized Catholics, thus the Church was doing it like it or not!

Catholic News Agency reports  an outlandish funeral for an alleged Italian mob boss, complete with a horse-drawn carriage, flower petals strewn from a helicopter and a brass band playing theme music from the movie “The Godfather” was slammed by Rome’s politicians Thursday as an intolerable display of impunity.

Hundreds gathered outside the church of San Giovanni Bosco on the outskirts of Rome to pay their respects to Vittorio Casamonica, 65, who’s been identified as the leader of the Casamonica clan, which has previously been accused of racketeering, extortion and drug trafficking.

But don't we as a Church now do this sort of thing as a matter of course in the New Order of the Funeral Mass compared to the Ancient Order?  Aren't our Funeral Masses for the most part a canonization of the faithful or faithless departed person? Aren't accolades heaped upon the deceased to help the living feel better about the crudeness of death? Yes what happened in Rome is an extreme version of it but it happens consistently in almost every parish funeral in the world.

And what about eulogies given at Mass by lay people? Isn't the purpose of this to extol the dead person in a lavish way, albeit more sober than what the Catholics outside of Mass did for the mafia crime boss in Rome?

Isn't it time for the pope and the bishops of the world to reform the New Order of the Mass for Funerals and get back to what the Ancient Order accomplished? Just asking.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is nothing I hate more than this "we will have a celebration of life for..." We are NOT celebrating the life of the deceased; we are celebrating the life and death of Jesus Christ, who has redeemed us.

Julian Barkin said...

Short answer, yes. I say bring the Novus Ordo funeral rite back to the way it was for the Latin Mass but in the vernacular and no eulogies or self-serving "words of rememberence."

Anonymous said...

Why is this problematic yet a huge, extravagant funeral Mass for notorious men like Sen. Edward Kennedy and Gov. Mario Cuomo aren't an issue? Maybe we should call a special synod to discuss ways of incorporating active Mafia activity into the life of the Church. We should recognize the inmate goodness in Mafia activity and learn from it. Right? Isn't that merciful.

Ted Kennedy, among other things, left his alleged mistress to drown at the bottom of a lake, and got away with it. Ted Kennedy, a self described Catholic, arguably did more than any other "Catholic" to make abortion acceptable and seen as something good.

Mario Cuomo, another self proclaimed "Catholic" started the ball rolling that it is perfectly fine for Catholic politicians to violate the teachings of the Church in their public duties. Mario Cuomo was also another devotee who fiercely promoted the murder of unborn children.

So why is it merciful to go all out for a pro abortionist yet it is scandalous to do the same thing for a Mafia don? The only differen that I noticed was that the Italian one was over the top tacky. That's the only difference, but that is a cultural thing. All of these funerals were well represented by the hierarchy. And when faithful Catholics were outraged and expressed dismay at the actions of these prelates we were labeled "hateful" "cruel" "dogmatic".

Robert Kumpel said...

In 1979, Terence Cardinal Cooke of New York denied a funeral Mass to slain mafia boss Carmine Galante after he was gunned down at an outdoor cafe. Cooke told the press:

"The Archdiocese of New York cannot permit a public celebration of a funeral liturgy for the late Carmine Galante. We extend our sympathy to his family, but we are not able to grant liturgical services in the church because of the scandal that would ensue."

The Church is the instrument of God's mercy on earth. However, it is only right that the Church, in the name of justice and decency, take great care not to endorse the lifestyle of people whose lives are lived in polar opposition to what the Church stands for. For that reason, the Church has also denied Catholic funerals for other notorious mafiosi such as John Gotti, Paul Castellano, Frank De Cicco and Frank Narducci.

In 2005, the Diocese of San Diego, hardly a bastion of orthodoxy or conservatism, denied a Catholic funeral to John McCusker, an openly homosexual owner of several gay nightclubs, including one that was used as a location for a pornographic film.

As Anonymous noted above, Ted Kennedy hardly led an exemplary Catholic life. But not being an exemplary Catholic isn't enough to be denied a funeral. Ted Kennedy went out of his way to defend abortion "rights". When Clarence Thomas appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation, it was downright embarrassing to watch Senator Kennedy's over-the-top grilling that revealed a rabid obsession with protecting legal abortions. For that reason alone, Kennedy deserved the same denial that the above-mentioned mafia dons were given. However, the Archdiocese of Boston scandalized many Catholics and non-Catholics alike by giving Kennedy's life a veneer of "respectability" with a Catholic funeral. What is Joe Catholic in the pews supposed to think, when he obeys the rules, often suffering for doing so, and a man of such wealth and power is honored at the end of his life? It gives the appearance that one can purchase the status of "Catholic in good standing".

Yet the paradox remains: God is infinitely merciful. We cannot know or judge the state of any deceased person's soul, as that is God's and God's alone to judge. For that reason, I think it IS reasonable for their to be a private memorial Mass for the family of the deceased, but the emphasis should be placed on PRIVATE. That is what the Diocese of San DIego ended up doing for McCusker and it was a reasonable thing to do.

Anonymous said...

I think I will agree with the second Anonymous, the mafia funeral isn't all that different from the funerals of many powerful people who were born into a Catholic tradition but had a public life that went against that faith. I don't know if they should be refused the funeral rite, but simply because of their rank should they (their associates) be able to craft a rite to suit their own needs? Within the dimensions of the Church rite, I would think it more appropriate if they followed a rite that was well defined and universal. Both the politicians and the Mafia can hold their remembrances as they see fit outside the church and the Church's liturgical rituals. They can hold their eulogies and celebrations outside church grounds, in their own homes and venues. I would think that should hold true for ordinary citizens also. Should a Catholic sitting in a pew have to sit through a secular event promoted as a Catholic liturgy?

Anonymous said...


Can. 1184 §1. 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.

§2. If any doubt occurs, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment must be followed.

Can. 1185 Any funeral Mass must also be denied a person who is excluded from ecclesiastical funerals.

"Because Christian burial is not to lead the faithful away from the Church but to draw them closer to God, the priest confronted with the denial of Church burial should lean to leniency and mercy." (NCCC Guidelines, CLD 9:694)

Anonymous said...

But, what if the mafia don had given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Church and financed several buildings, etc. I'll give you a clue...he ain't gonna' be denied a Church funeral.

Cletus Ordo said...

I've got this funny feeling that after the upcoming adultery synod, the next move will be a synod on canon law. They will need to "update" it to "reflect God's mercy" in the modern world.

Robert Kumpel said...

I meant to write "there" not "their". Sorry.

Anonymous said...

You can only imagine the lay eulogies (maybe even clerical ones!) when Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi pass on. Both should have long ago been disciplined by their bishops, along with Teddy Kennedy, Mario Cuomo, Andrew Cuomo (current governor of New York), Geraldine Ferraro, Barbara Mikulski...you get the idea...

gob said...

The Catholic ruling class is REALLY touchy about "causing scandal". Most of us want transparency in government at all levels, in business, family matters...but we ...."they" need church missteps, mistakes, misdeeds etc. to stay under the rug a bit. We don't want the protestants to know when we screw up. "Not causing scandal" is what caused thousands of children and teens to be sexually abused....and thousands of Catholics of all ages to take a hike.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

True Gob and not airing dirty laundry happened and continues to happen in the nuclear family where father abuse their daughters and siblings their young siblings. Maybe they don't want guilty family members to go to jail, who knows, but the facts are the facts and yes these priests could have been abused at home and no one told. Why just single out the institutional Church made of real humans who come from real families with real problems and give public schools a pass where abuse is rampant even to this day? Why do you focus just on the institutional church?

gob said...

The Catholic church sets itself up to be the road to salvation....better than the rest of us poor struggling sinners. It sets the example...sets the pace....shows us the way....

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Why describe the Church apart from yourself? You are a Catholic aren't you? The Church is clergy and laity and both groups had laity as their primary teachers and formaters.

gob said...

This site is not about me....it's about the Church. right? The idea that started my discussion was the notion of the Church "avoiding scandal"....not families or others...or me....

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

All baptized Catholics come from the laity and are the Church! The Church is you in part!

gob said...

I don't make the rules....I don't know about, or decide to cover up sexual molestation....or any other goofs...(That's all....)

Lefebvrian said...

The Church doesn't seek to do anything other than save souls. Unfortunately, the human element in the Church does all sorts of things that undermine that basic mission. And that includes all levels of the human element, from me all the way up to the popes.

rcg said...

Gob, you are just plain wrong about the Church setting itself up as a paragon of virtue. One thing she has been consistent about is the universal state of sin for all humans, even Bishops, priests and Popes.

Fr Martin Fox said...

In this Mafia case...

The Church isn't able to control much of what happens before or after the Mass or prayers in church. She can refuse the prayers, but that's pretty harsh. We pray for everyone's salvation.

So if the funeral Mass itself were conducted properly, even then the rest of the extravaganza -- elaborate procession, Godfather music -- would likely have happened. Why is this part the fault of the Church.

In the Ted Kennedy case...

Had he been properly chastised early on -- for the sake of his own soul, as well as others -- then the problem would have been easier to manage. If you're the priest called to his bedside in his last hours, are you supposed to bear the weight of all that the bishop ought to have done all those years, but for whatever reason, declined to do? If he goes to confession, or if he simply signals (if unable to speak) that he wants to be forgiven, what do you do?

When that funeral happened, what I'd like to have seen happened was this: the Cardinal himself ought to have said, "I will be the celebrant of the Mass." And then he takes the heat for refusing all eulogies, all narcissism and tributes, and he celebrates a sober, dignified Mass.

And in the homily? He talks about repentance and conversion and purgatory and the peril of hell for those who don't repent.

Let the family complain. He wanted a Mass? He got a Mass.

Jdj said...

Excellent points all, Fr. Fox! Thanks for your practical, no-nonsense approach to a highly contentious subject. Wish you were here more often...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I agree with Father Fox too. Bishops should finally set a policy that there will be no eulogies for politicians or public persons or for anyone in any of the rites of the Catholic Church for funerals.

If a family at a funeral home setting wants to do this and televise it or do it at the state house or some other public facility, fine, but not on Church grounds or during any liturgy of the funeral.

Ted Kennedy is a prime example of what not to do for a politician at a Catholic funeral.

Pastors and priests need to be reminded that the homily at a funeral Mass is not to extol the deceased but the preach what Fr.Fox wrote as well as the Paschal Mystery in which all of us as sinners are in desperate need.

Anonymous said...

In this thread and the one about the pope and th church of the poor I notice a pattern. Shouldn't the conversation begin with an understanding of moral theology as developed by the Magisterium rather than reinventing the wheel? Yet the basic premises are't stated (or on this thread misunderstood).

On this thread, Gob seems to have misunderstood the meaning of the term "scandal" and nobody appears to have picked up on that as the conversation developed. He has a point, but it is a rather different point than the main subject here. Scandal in the current context doesn't mean a public event or allegation that is damaging to one's reputation (and Gob is absolutely right about the sex abuse mess being a scandal in this sense). Instead, it means, in the words of Aquinas, "something less rightly done or said, that occasions another's spiritual downfall," or in the words of the Catholic Encyclopedia, "a word or action evil in itself, which occasions another's spiritual ruin."

Ted Kennedy's funeral is a particularly odious example of scandal in the theological sense, because the Church gave every official impression that it was formally ratifying/approving Kennedy's agenda. Thus, one who doesn't know better but who takes the funeral at face value can reasonably believe that s/he may behave and act as Kennedy did without risk to one's soul.

The problems with Fr. Fox's position are 1) indifferentism and 2) debasement of personal responsibility. Re the former: why not just give everybody, including non-Catholics, agnostics, atheists, etc., a Catholic funeral? After all, we should forgive everybody on the grounds that they know not what they do. Aha, you say: but they didn't profess to be Catholic. They weren't baptized. I reply: according to Mystici Corporis, to be Catholic, one must not only have received the sacraments of initiation, but also profess the faith and have not excommunicated themselves "by their own unhappy act." Was Kennedy Catholic? I guess only his confessor knows for sure. If the bishop were talking his duties really seriously, then maybe we can argue that the nature of Kennedy's funeral broke the seal of the confessional. He manifestly persisted in grave and public sin; he died; he received a Mass that showed Mother Church's approbation. Thus, he must have said cetain things in the confessional.

To be continued . . .

Anonymous said...

Continued . . .

2) re personal responsibility: again, anyone can plead this. Christ pled it on the cross for his killers. Yet that hasn't been how the Church has done things, largely because of the danger of scandal. So has the Church been wrong for hundreds of years or is it wrong now?

All of this mess could be avoided if all catholic Masses were somber, incorporated the reality of hell (certainly for those of us in the Church Militant who are still running the risk of ending up there, if not for the deceased), and focused on the worship of God and the saving work of Christ. I was once at an Adventist funeral at which the minister said clearly that the point of his preaching wasn't for the deceased, since his race had been run; it was for those in attendance, whose decisions and actions still might lead them either to heaven or to hell.

Of course, how to comfort the bereaved? I remember hearing about a Protestant funeral (probably small evangelical church) where the pastor actually said that the deceased was in hell. Predictably, a riot resulted. Again, this is where the hope comes in. I suppose threading the needle is hard, but if you don't do it, overexuberant efforts to comfort the family and celebrate the life of the deceased may help damn others in the Church to hell. To refuse to acknowledge this is for the celebrant (and bishop) to presume on God's mercy.

Calvin of Hippo said...

Anonymous, when a relative of mine died...a guy who had lived a rough and ragged life, alienating himself from family and friends...I was standing by the casket with an uncle and his wife, when the wife said, "Well, at least he did not suffer." My uncle responded, "Yeah, well, I'll bet he is suffering now." I had to turn away to keep from laughing.