Thursday, April 18, 2024

What does this mean?

By now you should have already heard about the controversy surrounding the funeral for Cecilia Gentili at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.  I should not need to remind you but just in case you have forgotten the details, Gentili was a transgender prostitute, an atheist, and a misogynist whose life epitomized everything that the Roman Catholic Church is against.  Yet somehow or other she was given a Church funeral in one of the most prominent Roman Catholic sanctuaries in America.  As if that were not problem enough, the service as not quite by the book and featured prayers for transgender rights and a eulogy that praised Gentili as “Saint Cecilia, the mother of all whores.”  Before you get upset, remember that the priest in charge already apologized and by explanation said he had no idea of what was to transpire in the service. I am sure we are all sighing with relief right now.  It is done.  Move on, right?

Except for this issue.  The same thing will inevitably happen again.  That is what happens at all kinds of funerals, including those in churches.  Families and friends take over the service in order to make it personal, relevant to the individual, and a statement of some kind or another.  In its more benign forms it may be an ode to a favorite sports team or hobby.  Its more troubled form may be the substitution of sentiment for faith, storytelling for the Gospel, and secular music for songs of the faith.  Its worst forms are when the church is merely the venue and faith is conspicuously absent from eulogy, liturgy, and homily.  You do not have to be a dead trans prostitute for this to happen.  It happens everyday in funeral homes and in churches.  We have lost control of what happens in the celebrations of life that masquerade as modern day rites of death.  We have lost the narrative and are no longer even in charge.  Clergy and churches have become mere venues, familiar places, and rental spaces for the grieving to do what they think will make them feel better.  I understand why this happens in the funeral home since the family is paying the bill but nobody has the right to make a fool of God or God's servants.  We have to do more than apologize for things getting out of control.  We need to be the people in charge -- even if this means saying no and risking some bad publicity or an offended family member.

Funerals are not opportunities for self-expression -- either of the dead or the living.  They are the places where God's story is told because that is the only story that offers any hope or answer to the elephant in the room in the form of the dead body (or ashes).  St. Patrick's should not be allowed to get off the hook by saying they did not know what was about to happen.  Of course they did.  We all know what will happen if the pastor and parish musician are not there to say this is what the funeral is and this is what it is not.  Worse than merely desecrating the sacred space, this offends against the very faith itself and makes us and the God whom we worship fools before the world.  As sinners, we already do enough of this.  We do not need to help out our critics by giving them opportunity to mock the cross and empty tomb while we sit in vestments and watch it all unfold before us.  Have you gone to a typical funeral lately -- pardon me, celebration of life?  I watched with horror not long ago as a mic was passed around at the invitation of the presiding clergy so that the folks could tell their funniest story at the expense of the deceased.  I got up and left.  You should to.  This is not what it means to be friendly to those outside the faith.   

1 comment:

Carl Vehse said...

The Angst und Schmerz over the funeral for the atheistic, perverted ["transgender" is a nonsensical word] Cecilia Gentili at the Romanist St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York would be more believable if a similar outrage had been expressed toward the LCMS Reporter's fawning eulogy of noted pro-abortionist and former Demonicrat Senator Paul Simon.