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DignityUSA Calls For Apology From Bishop of San Diego

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Washington, DC – The leadership of DignityUSA is calling on Bishop Robert Brom of the Diocese of San Diego, California, to apologize to the family of John McCusker, a local gay business owner and community activist, as well as to the GLBT community in San Diego for turning the untimely death of John into a chance to twist church law and wrongfully denying him a Mass of Christian Burial.

The Bishop of the diocese denied the family of Mr. McCusker permission to have his funeral in “any Catholic Church or Chapel in the diocese of San Diego, because his business activities were contrary to the moral teachings of the church.”  John owned two bars that catered to the GLBT community.

“Denying a member of the faithful access to a sacrament, any sacrament, is not something that should ever be done lightly”, said J. Montoya, DignityUSA National Board Member; “Lack of access to the sacraments puts the very soul of a person in jeopardy. Funerals are for the repose of the soul of the departed, as well as for the comfort of those who are left behind. In this case, many are experiencing additional pain by this sad turn of events.”

According to a statement by the Chancellor of the diocese, Rodrigo Valdivia, Bishop Brom cited Canon 1184 of the Code of Canon Law, which provides a list of those who must be "deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rites." Among those on the list are "manifest sinners" for whom such funeral rites "cannot be granted without public scandal to the faithful." The church uses the term "manifest sinners" to describe those whom it considers obstinate and persistent sinners.

“This canon law is ambiguous at best,” stated Pat McArron, local Dignity San Diego member and former president of Dignity USA. “Unless the Bishop Brom himself had personal knowledge that Mr. McCusker was a “manifest sinner” he is wrong in denying the funeral rite to him and his family. Certainly, owning a legal establishment, which is in compliance with state, county, and municipal law is not a sin, regardless of who patronizes the establishment.”

Local Dignity San Diego chapter spokesperson Tom Kirkman invites Catholics and other faith communities to partake in a strategy meeting on Monday, March 21st, 6:00 p.m. at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of San Diego, 3909 Centre Street, 92103. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss and formulate response options.

The leadership and members of Dignity USA call upon the bishop to issue an immediate apology to the family, and to the faithful for abusing the sacraments and his office.

DignityUSA is the nation's foremost organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their families, friends and supporters. Founded in 1969, it is an independent nonprofit organization with members and chapters across the country. DignityUSA works for full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the Church and Society.  www.dignityusa.org