Wineke: Church stance on homosexual funerals should not be secret

Wineke: Church stance on homosexual funerals should not be secret

I guess what got to me most in the guidance letter the Madison Catholic Diocese recently sent its priests about funerals for gays and lesbians was the quotation marks.

The letter, sent by Monsignor James Bartylla on behalf of Bishop Robert Morlino, refers frequently to the “partner” of a deceased gay or lesbian person.

Why refer to that person as “partner?” Why not just refer to that person as partner? The quotation marks serve only to denigrate the partner’s status.

That might seem picky had Bartylla not followed up by suggesting that “there should be no mention” of the partner’s name in “any liturgical booklet, prayer card, homily, sermon.”

I have a feeling that, like many things the local Catholic diocese does, this guidance was created with good motives.

Rather than just issuing a directive that priests refuse to officiate at funerals for gays and lesbians who are in relationships, the diocese set down some guidelines that could help pastors find ways to honor a person’s Catholic faith even while staying within official church rules.

The overall church teaching is that unmarried persons should be celibate. It doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, nor, for that matter, does it recognize marriage between formerly divorced people.

But, no matter how well-meaning the Bartylla memo might have been, it comes across as demeaning to gays and lesbians.

For example, the memo suggests priests take into consideration whether those involved promoted a “gay lifestyle.”

Just what might a “gay lifestyle” be? Certainly, there are gays and lesbians who live licentiously, just as there are straight men and women who participate in orgies and wife-swapping.

But, honestly, the “lifestyle” of people in committed relationships and who might have some desire to be part of a Catholic parish is far more likely to be one of the couples who lead pretty conservative lives, buy homes, raise families, go to church, that sort of thing.

My other question is just why the diocese didn’t publish its guidance in its diocesan newspaper, rather than sending it secretly to priests.

The diocese said it is “lamentable” that the guidance was made public and that its publicity places “at risk the ability of the bishop to communicate with his priests confidentially.”

Actually, it isn’t the priests with whom the bishop should be communicating. He should be communicating openly with his people.

If the policies of the church are bigoted, then the bishop should take the blame for them, not let some overworked parish priest have to justify them to grieving family members.

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