Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Catholic Church Refuses Gay Man’s Funeral; Community Outraged

John Sanfilippo, gay Catholic denied a funeral because of church homophobia

San Diego, California – John Sanfilippo was a lifelong, devout Roman Catholic–and an openly gay man.  His parish church, Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, flatly denied his funeral because of his sexual orientation, according to Channel 10 News.  Sanfilippo, who died last week after a long struggle with emphysema, planned years ago for his funeral mass to be held at Our Lady of the Rosary.  He was a faithful parishioner there for decades, and according to his friends had even left a large sum of money to the church in his will.  That did not stop the church from rejecting his funeral.  Last weekend, his partner of 30 years, his family, and his friends were curtly notified that the funeral was banned from the church because Sanfilippo was an openly gay man.  A storm of controversy has broken out in the San Diego LGBTQ community about the overt institutional homophobia that caused the denial of a dying man’s last request.  Sanfilippo was a fixture in the San Diego gay community, a businessman who owned and operated the popular SRO Lounge. According to EDGE, one of the parish clergy, Fr. Louis Solcia, allegedly said that gays themselves had “set up” the church for controversy in the wake of criticism from all over the region. A group of Sanfilippo’s friends went to the steps of the church to pray and get answers about why a Christian congregation would cause such pain and sorrow so needlessly. Queerty editorialized, “When the priests at Our Lady of the Rosary Church found out that [Sanfilippo] was survived by his partner of 30 years, Brian Galvin, they told Sanfilippo’s family that the Mass was canceled. That the priests managed to do so just two days after Sanfilippo died speaks both to their efficiency and their complete lack of humanity.”

Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Little Italy

The Diocese of San Diego, backtracking on the decision, tried to quell community anger by claiming that the initial refusal to hold Sanfilippo’s funeral mass was made by a visiting priest who was “unfamiliar” with customs and practices of the parish. Few are buying the story.  “All of a sudden, they change their mind…Why? Because they got caught in the process of denying equal rights to people,” Sanfilippo’s friend, Neil Thomas, said to the San Diego LGBT Weekly. Six years earlier, another devout, openly gay parishioner of Our Lady of the Rosary was denied a funeral, John McClusker–and the painful memories are still fresh in the San Diego community.  Hurt and deeply angered by the 2005 decision to refuse McClusker the pastoral offices of the church, members of his family converted to the Episcopal Church where his funeral was held in lieu of his Roman Catholic parish. In the Sanfilippo case, diocesan damage control did not work, either.  Though a confusing statement from the diocese said the “ritual” could now be carried out at Our Lady of the Rosary for the deceased, his partner and his family had enough.  On Thursday, John Sanfilippo’s final rites were performed at Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum on 4470 Hilltop Drive. The Roman Catholic Church in San Diego has some explaining to do: to their LGBTQ parishioners, to their families and friends, and to the LGBTQ community—but most of all, they have some explaining to do to themselves: about how a Christian church could reject the dying request of anyone.  Much less a baptized believer who sought to be authentically gay and Catholic at the same time.

July 1, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, California, funerals, gay men, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, religious intolerance, Roman Catholic Church and Homosexuality, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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