City News

Catholic leaders in Madison suggest ‘guidelines’ for funerals for gay individuals, leaked email shows

Bishop Robert Morlino, who heads the Catholic community in Madison, supports the email, according to Pray Tell.

A leader in Madison’s Catholic community emailed local priests this weekend a list of “considerations” to use when deciding whether or not gay individuals are eligible to receive funeral services.

Pray Tell, a progressive religious blog based in Minnesota, published parts of the email Sunday, prompting backlash from members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The email — written by James Bartylla, vicar general of the Madison Catholic Diocese — urges priests, in underlined text, to think through funeral requests “thoroughly and prudently,” as well as to reach out to officers of the church to discuss it, before reaching a decision.

Bishop Robert Morlino, who heads the Catholic community in Madison, supports the email, according to Pray Tell.

The list of considerations includes:

  • “Was the deceased or the ‘partner’ a promoter of the ‘gay’ lifestyle?”
  • “What is the attitude of the deceased’s family members, especially towards the Church?”
  • “Any surviving ‘partner’ should not have any public or prominent role at any ecclesiastical funeral rite or service.”

It also says there should be “no mention” of the “partner” in any religious text or by funeral leaders. Additionally, a priest or parish involved with a funeral of a gay individual should not be listed in any public obituary that also lists the partner.

“This can’t happen for obvious reasons,” Bartylla writes.

If the situation warrants, according to the email, priests can deny funeral rites “for manifest sinners in which public scandal of the faithful can’t be avoided.”

In the Catholic doctrine, the term “scandal” refers to leading others toward sin or confusing or weakening people regarding the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The email is “discriminatory,” according to Steve Starkey, Executive Director of OutReach, a community center in Madison for LGBTQ+ individuals.

“I would have hoped that since the Pope has [been more tolerant of LGBTQ+ individuals than his predecessors], the Catholic community would have followed,” Starkey said. “But obviously that’s not the case — at least locally.”

Badger Catholic, a prominent Catholic student organization at UW-Madison, declined to comment. 

UPDATE Oct. 26 10:39 a.m.: This post was updated to reflect that Badger Catholic would not comment.

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