Church denies funeral Mass for gay businessmanAround the City Thursday, June 30th, 2011
Two days after local businessman John Sanfilippo died, his church, Our Lady of the Rosary in Little Italy, canceled a funeral Mass scheduled for Thursday, June 30, because he was gay. The next day, however, the Roman Catholic Diocese in San Diego overturned the decision.
Sanfilippo died on Friday, June 24, after a battle with emphysema. He was the long-time owner of the SRO Lounge, a gay cocktail bar.
After the initial announcement of the cancellation, a small group of LGBT Catholics gathered outside Our Lady of the Rosary on Monday to recite the rosary for Sanfilippo. Nicole Murray Ramirez, a friend of Sanfilippo and his partner Brian Galvin, organized the event.
The decision to allow the funeral service was not known until after Monday’s rosary.
In a statement made by Chancellor Rodrigo Valdivia, the cancelation was made by “a visiting priest substituting during the pastor’s vacation (and who was) not familiar with local practice.”
When asked to clarify the church’s policy, Valdivia told San Diego LGBT Weekly the Policy Handbook of the Diocese of San Diego includes a section called Guidelines for Catholic Funeral Rites. Those guidelines start with: “Every Catholic, unless specifically excluded by the norms of law, is entitled to the Church’s ministry at the time of death.”
“Neither these guidelines, nor the document to which they refer – the Order of Christian Funerals – establish distinction based on sexual orientation,” Valdivia explained.
Ramirez said the Sanfilippo family made alternate plans at a different San Diego church.
Meanwhile, SRO Lounge (located at 1807 Fifth Ave. in Bankers Hill) remains open.
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