Carol Parker and Josie Martin have been committed to one another for nearly two decades, but their love did not stop one priest from denying Parker Communion at her mother’s funeral last December.
The lesbian partners have attended St. Columban Catholic Church in Chillicothe, Missouri, for over a decade, but it was not until arrangements were being made for the funeral that Fr. Benjamin Kneib informed them they could not receive Communion. NewsPressNow reports:
” ‘It was a shock to hear him say that,’ Ms. Parker said. ‘I never expected that, especially at my mother’s funeral.’
“She added that at the funeral, most in attendance chose not to take Communion out of respect for her and Ms. Martin. Despite this show of solidarity, the women no longer feel welcome at the church and have begun visiting another an hour from their home.
” ‘That was our faith community. It really took away a lot of things for us…He (Father Kneib) would still like to see us there, but I don’t feel like I’m welcome if I can’t take part in the main focus of the Mass.’ “
Fr. Kneib wrote a letter on January 1st to Parker explaining why he denied the couple Communion, and he apologized the he did so at a moment like her mother’s funeral. For her part, Parker hopes the priest will:
” ‘…open his eyes and fully receive the LGBT community into the church.’
” ‘We’re all God’s children, and we have every right to receive Communion…Even the pope has said, “Who am I to judge?” ‘ “
This recent event is reminiscent of a 2012 incident when Barbara Johnson, a lesbian woman in Maryland, was denied Communion at her mother’s funeral. In that case, the priest was not only removed from ministry, but asked to leave the Archdiocese of Washington. Johnson, on the other hand, spoke about how the experience strengthened her faith and reminded Catholics that “All that matters is love.”
Communion denials are a very controversial issue, and though infrequent, are deeply harmful when they occur. It is helpful for all LGBT-positive Catholics to call to mind the words of a Rhode Island priest responding to inquiries after a gay couple there was denied Communion:
” ‘I am not in the business of denying Communion…As Pope Francis said, it’s not fair to judge. I preach the Gospel, and whoever hears it, hears it.’ “
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry