Another Gay Person Is Denied Communion at a Parent’s Funeral

While religious conservatives are predicting that they will become victims of imagined dire violations against religious freedom in the wake of the Supreme Court marriage equality decision, it seems the real victims which are piling up are LGBT people.

After over a week of terrible news concerning the firing of married lesbian teacher Margie Winters from a Philadelphia Catholic school, a new story out of Louisiana about a communion denial seems to indicate that much more education work needs to be done with Catholic clergy on pastorally responding to married gay and lesbian people. Baton Rouge’s Advocate newspaper reported this news out of Louisiana:

“Tim Ardillo said he was standing next to his mother’s coffin leading his young son to receive a blessing when the priest presiding over the funeral Mass denied him communion.

 “The longtime Catholic said the priest told him it was because he married outside the church, but Ardillo doesn’t think that’s the whole story.

“He believes he was denied the sacrament because, as is stated in his mother’s obituary, he is married to a man.”

This is the fifth known case in recent years of gay and lesbian people being denied communion.  It is the third case where the denial occurred at the funeral of a parent.  (See links to previous stories at end of this post.)

The priest, Father Mark Beard of St.Helena Church, in the town of Amite, did not return the reporter’s phone calls to comment, but the Diocese of Baton Rouge, where the parish is located, issued an apology to Ardillo, which was also followed up by a personal apology from Archbishop Gregory Aymond of the neighboring Archdiocese of New Orleans.  [Editor’s note:  In my search for a copy of the apology which I thought might be on the archdiocese’s website, but was not, I found a page of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about LGBT issues and the Church which provides some of the most sensitive and pastoral explanations about these issues that I have found from an official Catholic Church source.  Click here to read it. The homepage of the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ LGBT ministry can be found here. ]

The denial at the funeral did not end there, though.  The Advocate reported:

“Ardillo said the church passed out a quotation from 1 Corinthians at Mass the next Sunday, which states, in a portion highlighted in red ink, ‘Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks in judgment of himself.’ “

The Diocese of Baton Rouge clearly sees the pastor’s behavior as wrong, from the way they explained regulations about communion reception:

” ‘With respect to the specific matter raised, the Catholic Church expects that any individual Catholic who is in a marital situation which is not in conformity with its doctrines will not come forward to receive the body and blood of the Lord at Mass. For Catholics, reception of Holy Communion among other things is an expression of unity with the church’s teachings, including those about marriage,’ the diocese wrote in a statement.

“Diocese spokeswoman Donna Carville, a Eucharistic minister, said the diocese does not condone denial of communion to Catholics just because they are gay.”

Carville echoed Pope Francis’ famous phrase in her explanation:

” ‘That’s very surprising that he was denied communion. That just doesn’t happen. … We don’t deny people communion,’ she said. ‘Who are we to judge whether they believe (the church’s teachings on the communion) or not? It’s between you and God.’ “

The news story also quoted a canon law expert on the topic, who agreed with the Diocese of Baton Rouge’s assessment, and also disputed Father Beard’s incorrect explanation of why he denied communion:

“Being married outside the church should not be used to deny someone the Eucharist, said the Rev. Roger Keeler, executive coordinator of the Canon Law Society of America.

“As a practical matter, Keeler noted that a priest or Eucharistic minister can’t possibly know the marital standing of everybody in line. He also raised more philosophical concerns.

” ‘This is not a weapon. Communion is not a reward for good behavior,’ he said. ‘It’s the food for weary souls.”

So there is good news and bad news that arises from this terrible incident.  The good news is that we hope the publicity this story receives, including the instructions on communion reception from the Diocese of Baton Rouge and the canon law expert, will educate pastors not to repeat such an egregious act again.  There’s no place in the Church for such pastoral insensitivity.  Especially at funerals, which may be an occasion for people to reconnect with their faith or experience in a deeper way, such denials are not only insensitive, but downright spiritually harmful.

The bad news, however, is that for Tim Ardillo, who had prayed intimately with his mother in the period leading up to her death, this action was spiritually devestating. The news story stated of him:

” ‘He said he still believes in the Catholic faith but isn’t sure of his ‘place’ in the church.

“Toward the end of his mother’s life, the two would pray together; she signed the cross on her leg when she couldn’t lift her hands higher. They prayed the rosary together the last time they saw each other, Ardillo said.

“He had thought the funeral would serve as a reintroduction into the Catholic community, but not anymore.

” ‘I can’t,’ he said. ‘I don’t have it in me.’ “

We can only pray that the Spirit will find the way and the means to heal this additional hurt which he experienced, and that he will find peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation in his heart.

Let us pray, too, that this will never, never, happen again.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

Bondings 2.0 past posts about communion denials to lesbian and gay people:

February 28, 2012:  “Communion Denied to Lesbian Woman at Her Mother’s Funeral

August 9, 2013: “Rhode Island Gay Couple Denied Communion at Parish

February 1, 2014: “Missouri Lesbian Couple Denied Communion at Mother’s Funeral

September 23, 2014: “Montana Bishop’s Divided Thinking in Communion Denial Case

 

 

21 thoughts on “Another Gay Person Is Denied Communion at a Parent’s Funeral

  1. Friends July 19, 2015 / 5:37 am

    This is so strange, since he seems like a very “hip” and charismatic priest — a convert to Catholicism in fact, and an LSU graduate. Here’s a photo and a comprehensive bio:

    http://www.amitetoday.com/local-lifestyle/meet-father-mark-beard-%E2%80%9Cwe%E2%80%99ve-been-blessed%E2%80%9D

    Hopefully, the guarded reprimand he received from Church officials who rank above his head in theological matters will cause him to act with more compassion and discretion in the future. Everybody’s entitled to one mistake — but a repeat performance of this screw-up would be objective grounds for disciplinary action by the Diocese.

    • Friends July 19, 2015 / 8:57 am

      Just a follow-up clarification, and another story about him here:

      http://www.amitetoday.com/doubting-thomas-father-mark-beard-introduction-new-priest-local-parishioners

      The clarification is that he wasn’t actually a “convert to Catholicism” — but rather a somewhat agnostic and indifferent sports-oriented kid from a Catholic family. He was a business major at LSU, and he had a steady girlfriend, when he started to feel his calling to the priesthood. He would almost be a likeable guy, were it not for this huge gaffe he committed. As I said above, everybody’s entitled to one mistake — but let’s hope he learned an important lesson from the huge public uproar that his gaffe has generated.

    • Don Siegal July 19, 2015 / 9:22 am

      “[A] convert to Catholicism”

      …[T]he term “convert” should be reserved strictly for those converted from unbelief to Christian belief and never used for those baptized Christians who are received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. Right of Christian Initiation of Adults, National Statues for the Catechumenate #2, p. 363.

      Our parish has adapted the Celebration of Reception as follows: { [N.], by your baptism you are already one with us.} Of your own free will, you have asked to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. You have made your decision after careful thought under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. RCIA #584, p. 351.

      I serve as a parish catechetical leader in the capacity of director of RCIA. This issue is particularly poignant to me because I am one of those who was received into the full communion with the Catholic Church at the great Easter Vigil of 1991. Thank you for your understanding in this serious matter.

      This should not be confused with conversion that we all know is a continuous process throughout our entire life. Even at age 78, I am amazed at the depth of conversion experiences that the Holy Spirit leads
      me through some of the most profound of which I have experienced on this blog site.

      • Friends July 19, 2015 / 10:58 pm

        Don — you’re absolutely right! See my “follow-up clarification” above — which apparently had not yet appeared here at the time that you posted your comment. Fr. Beard was, in fact, by his own admission, a religiously indifferent (and somewhat agnostic) kid, who just happened to be born into a Catholic family, but who didn’t discover his true vocation until close to the end of his college career at LSU. At that point, he needed to choose between his steady girlfriend and his vocation. He chose his vocation. Full credit where due — even though we necessarily quibble with the call he subsequently made, to deny Communion to a man who was legally married outside of official Church norms. Keep in mind that the late Sen. Ted Kennedy was himself divorced, and then remarried to another woman — and yet he was a Lay Eucharistic Minister at his home church on Cape Cod! Go figure. Church norms are not universally and equally applied, for some reason. That’s the way it is — depending on the whims of the local bishop. Go figure. (For the record, I don’t recall any recent posting of a news item at this site which has provoked such a passionate torrent of readers’ responses! Thanks, Francis — you must be doing something right!)

  2. terryweldon July 19, 2015 / 7:46 am

    This is tragic. Has the priest not heard Pope Francis’ words about the Church being a “field hospital for the wounded”? Or Christ’s own words to the woman caught in adultery – “I do not condemn you” – let alone the Catechism instruction on “respect, compassion and sensitivity”

    Sensitivity is needed above all, to the bereaved at times of grief. If anyone should be denied communion, it is surely the priest himself, for his flagrant disregard of the Gospels and the core of Catholic social teaching – which is about justice, love and radical inclusion, not about puritanical sexual morality, at all.

  3. Annette Magjuka July 19, 2015 / 8:26 am

    There is no excuse for this behavior. I cannot imagine being denied communion at the funeral of a parent.

  4. Don Siegal July 19, 2015 / 10:10 am

    Re: Rev. Roger Keeler, executive coordinator of the Canon Law Society of America quoted statement in the text above. I have been informed by my Diocese of Fresno that it is against cannon law to deny the Eucharist to anyone in the communion line. Rev. Keeler addressed this particular situation in a narrow pastoral interpretation. Can anyone confirm the more broad topic of the denial of the Eucharist to someone who comes forward in the communion line to receive the Eucharist?

  5. Richard July 19, 2015 / 3:16 pm

    The link to the “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about LGBT issues and the Church” at http://lgbt.arch-no.org/faqs in today’s Bondings 2.0 no longer functions. Does anyone know if it has been taken down?

    • newwaysministryblog July 19, 2015 / 3:55 pm

      You’re right. I found the link to that page in the original news story I cited in the post. I just checked that link from that source, and I received the same “Not Found” response.

      It’s a shame. It was a wonderful explanation of conscience, moral decision-making, and many other LGBT-affirming statements that are solidly within Catholic doctrine.

  6. Sid Samuel July 19, 2015 / 4:05 pm

    I don’t make time for a Church that doesn’t make time for me. I speak from years of gender-reparative pastoral counseling sessions with priests as well as former ex-gay group membership. I’m through killing myself. I spent 6-9 months homeless without any support from the Church. I moved on, converted to Judaism, & happily married another ftM. My mom and sister (and her husband) still teach in Catholic schools. At the time my father died, I was studying with a rabbi and about to begin testosterone. They let me do the Old Testament reading, but most of the parish I had grown up with ignored me entirely. I stopped receiving communion when I started coming out. I also stopped self-harm when I came out.

    There is no space for me here…and I truly believe it will be at least 50 years before the Catholic Church approaches social justice and human rights in a sane manner. All that being said, I admire those who are willing to stick up for LGBTIQA folks in Catholicism. That’s why I started the Dignity USA Facebook group and passed it on once the board members began joining FB. I don’t believe anyone CAN judge another person, especially the Church or other organized religious groups. I will do what I can to support the cause, but I’m not coming back. I was lucky to escape with a belief in a loving Creator. To expect more is just…..not reasonable.

  7. pjstone July 19, 2015 / 4:40 pm

    This was such an opportunity to show the compassion and respect with which the Catechism states the LGBT community are to be treated, and to welcome someone back into the church who was just looking for an opening. Unfortunately, this priest slammed the door to the church in this man’s face, and he may never walk through it again. Who committed the greater sin?

  8. Tim MacGeorge July 19, 2015 / 5:03 pm

    When, where, and how did these priests get the idea that they have the right to deny Eucharist to anyone who approaches the Lord’s Table? In my seminary and theological training, such a thought would have been unheard of — pastorally anathema! These priests have appointed them guardians of the gate to sharing in the Body and Blood of the Lord — that’s not part of the job description that I was ever aware of!

  9. Frank White July 19, 2015 / 6:09 pm

    The New Orleans Archdiocese website FAQ about LGBT issues was so informative that I tried to make a copy for myself and send a copy to a friend. Since the website seems to have been taken down, did Bondings keep a copy of the information it contained. Can you send me a copy of that information? Or a link to where I might access it?

    Aside from that, what is to be made of this removal of the website which was accessible this morning? Could this have been a forged, bogus website? I in fact was amazed at the dates, some 25 or even more years old of some of the positive statements attributed to various Catholic Church bodies about the respect due to homosexual persons. Was the Church actually speaking that way that long ago about respect for gays? Did someone think the website was too liberal and take it down after Bondings brought it today to the attention of a wider audience?

    Thank you for your attention.

    Frank White Philadelphia

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • newwaysministryblog July 19, 2015 / 8:35 pm

      Alas, I did not make a copy of the webpage of FAQs. If any other reader of this blog did so, I would appreciate receiving a copy of it. You can email the text to director@NewWaysMinistry.org.

      I don’t think it was a bogus or forged site because it was part of an official Archdiocese of New Orleans website. Yes, back in the 1970s and early 1980s, church officials were making much more prophetic statements than they had been doing in the recent past. I don’t think they would have thought it too liberal and felt it needed to be taken down since I imagine that they would have received much attention of it locally before this date.

      • Friends July 19, 2015 / 10:25 pm

        I suspect that what happened in between were the Papal administrations of Pope St. John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. St. John Paul II started off as a wildly popular and charismatic Church leader — especially among young people — but he pitched much further to the right after the assassination attempt which all-but-killed him. He also hated Liberation Theology, and he castigated its proponents in South America at every opportunity. Pope Emeritus Benedict — an enrolled and uniformed member of the Nazi Youth in Germany, a fact not sufficiently publicized — was a problematic Church leader from the get-go, because of his personal history as a Nazi partisan, albeit a naive one. If there were ever a need (in modern times — bypassing the Inquisition debacle) — for the Holy Spirit to intervene and renovate the Catholic Church, that time is NOW, with Pope Francis in charge. We can only PRAY for it to happen — and soon.

  10. Judy Lorenz July 20, 2015 / 8:02 am

    It’s nice that Francis is more rational. But until we learn to think and act on our own and not care about the encyclical of the month this institution will continue to be empowered by the laity.

  11. Wendeln, Noreen July 20, 2015 / 2:14 pm

    The links in this article lead to a website in Louisiana that has been deactivated.

    I’m guessing that you know this by now, but I thought I would reply anyway. Also, if you have the information on “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about LGBT issues and the Church” I would LOVE to read it! I have wanted to begin a GOOD & PASTORAL ministry for the GLBT community, but haven’t been able to get around the conservative hate-spewing language that’s out there now.

    Please let me know!

    God’s Peace!

    Noreen Wendeln
    1436 Needmore Road
    Dayton, OH 45414
    Office: (937) 222-0227 ext. 5027
    nwendeln@catholiccincinnati.org

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”
    Proverbs 3:5,6
    http://www.ChristattheCenter.org
    [cid:image001.jpg@01CE3C38.34614C70]

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