Bishop Robert Morlino of the diocese of Madison, Wisconsin has notified the priests of his diocese that they must avoid "scandal and confusion to others" when considering whether and how to provide Catholic funerals for members of same-sex couples. The bishop says that when asked to offer a funeral for a person in a same-sex civil union or "otherwise notorious homosexual relationship," the priest must contact the bishop, "and his judgment is to be followed."
A set of "considerations" offered in the communication directs the priests to consider whether a "short scripture service" or "merely a graveside service" be offered instead of a funeral Mass. The surviving partner is not allowed any role within the service. The considerations also state, "There should be no mention of the 'partner' either by name or by other reference ( nor reference to the unnatural union ) in any liturgical booklet, prayer card, homily, sermon, talk by the priest, deacon, etc…"
Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, called the directives "outrageous and shameful." DignityUSA is the organization of Catholics committed to equality for LGBTQI people in the Church and society.
"This document is the very antithesis of pastoral care," said Duddy-Burke. "It shows that this bishop believes that lesbian and gay people who have lived a deep commitment to a spouse or partner should be demeaned even in death. Our families could be refused the sacraments of our faith at the moment of their greatest grief. This is heartless. It is cruel. It is unchristian in the extreme."
Duddy-Burke noted that in June 2017 Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois banned Catholics in same-sex marriages from Communion and from receiving Catholic funerals. Bishop Paprocki was later forced to state that these bans applied to others in relationships not affirmed by the Church, such as those divorced and remarried without an annulment.
"It seems there are a number of bishops in the U.S. who are intent on penalizing the LGBTQI community as harshly as possible," said Duddy-Burke. "Some tried this shameful tactic during the height of the AIDS crisis, denying Catholic funerals to those who died of the disease. It only served to devastate families in need of comfort. Now, Church officials see they have lost in the civic arena, on the issues of marriage equality, military service, and adoption, so they are lashing out again. But we and the vast majority of Catholics now know there is no conflict between loving someone of the same gender and loving our faith. Masking attempts to separate LGBTQI Catholics form the rest of the Church under the guise of pastoral instructions breaks the Body of Christ. It shows that these bishops are unwilling to do the real work of pastoral leadership, which is to engage their flocks in honest dialogue."
Duddy-Burke said, "DignityUSA calls on Catholics in general and on other Church leaders to demand an immediate end to these unjust and mean-spirited pronouncements, which only serve to distance LGBTQI people, our families, and many young people from our Church."