July 21, 2005


Catholic conservatism on the rise as priest refuses funeral for 'sinner' (Richard Owen, 7/22/05, Times of London )

A PARISH priest has refused to give an Italian woman a Christian funeral because she had “lived in sin”.

Father Giuseppe Mazzotta, parish priest at Marcellinara, near Catanzaro in Calabria, said that he had denied a Christian funeral to Maria Francesca Tallarico, who died of breast cancer at the age of 45, because she had lived with her partner but never married him. Her partner was separated and had an 11-year-old daughter.

“She lived with her lover, so she was a public sinner,” Father Mazzotta said. “I decided not to celebrate an official Mass for this woman, who was not in communion with the Church.”

Father Mazzotta said that he had performed the liturgy of absolution for the dead. He added that he was close to the dead woman’s family and had offered them “words of comfort”.

Father Antonio Sciortino, the Editor of Famiglia Cristiana, a popular Catholic magazine, accused Father Mazzotta of “excessive zeal”. Mario Paraboschi, a local councillor, said that he was perplexed. Father Mazzotta said that his action carried a message: “Marriage is a sacrament. We cannot simply pretend.”

The priest’s decision has underlined the growing power of conservative Catholicism in Italy. The liberal and secular Left is increasingly alarmed by the return to “Catholic values” in politics and everyday life, which has clear implications for the general election, due next May.

It's nearly enough to kindle hope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 21, 2005 11:46 PM

This is so typical of the liberal mind. Their feelings trump the dogma of a religion that's been around for a couple of millennia.

The Catholic church has rules by which their adherents must live. Those who don't wish to abide by these rules are not practicing Catholics even though they may have been born into Catholic families.

This being the case in this instance, why would the family expect a Catholic funeral?

Posted by: erp at July 22, 2005 8:22 AM

>The priests decision has underlined the growing power of conservative Catholicism in Italy.

The first word that starts with "c" in the sentence above is superfluous and indicates the author doesn't get it.

I assume others have heard about the CBC radio broadcast calling for gov't regulation of religion? I read about it at the Anchoress, I believe...

Posted by: b at July 22, 2005 9:04 AM

Aren't pretty much all people sinners? Doesn't Catholic doctrine hold this to be true? Why make an example of this one woman?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at July 22, 2005 9:58 AM

All "clubs" have rules. If you want to be a member in good standing, you have to abide by them. Churches have rules, sacraments. If you don't like them, try to change them. If you can't, either abide by them or go elsewhere. Just don't expect to flaunt the rules and remain in good standing.

Posted by: Mikey at July 22, 2005 10:05 AM

Robert Duquette,
That was a "class action" decision - on behalf of many other people - in the only Court that really matters. Expect many more under Pope Benedict.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at July 22, 2005 10:10 AM

Rather than "growing power of conservative Catholicism in Italy," what this demonstrates is growing power of orthodoxy within Catholicism. It wasn't long ago no priest would have dared to enforce Catholic sacramental standards.

Robert - All people are sinners, but not to the same degree. She wasn't made an example of, she was given a memorial service and everyone there led by the priest prayed for her to be forgiven her sins.

Posted by: pj at July 22, 2005 11:41 AM

A priest/minister has a duty not to perform/celebrate a rite or ritual (marriage, funeral, a sacrament, or whatever) if to do so would violate his conscience. Can folks disagree w/what he did [actually declined to do]? Yes. Do folks have a right to criticize him for this in light of why? No.

Posted by: Dave W. at July 22, 2005 11:58 AM

Robert Duquette,

Yes, the Church accepts that we are all sinners, the Church also accepts the doctrine of free will. This has nothing to do with her status as a sinner, nor do I believe the Priest was making an example of this one woman. This woman chose to live in a carnal relationship with a man not her husband. The Church does not accept that as the behavior of a good Catholic. We categorize sins as venal (not that bad) and cardinal (really bad), and often when one commits a cardinal sin, or practices sinful ways, they cease to be a Catholic in good standing, commonly called being excommunicated. This is meant to be a temporary situation, one that is easily rectified by confession and penance to get right with God and return to the body of Christ.

This happens more than you'd think. My cousin married a divorced man, since that day she's been out of communion with the body of the Church. Even now, years after divorcing him, while she attends services every Sunday she cannot receive the Eucharist, nor is she eligible to receive many of the other sacraments. Should she get an annulment, and seek to do confess and do penance, she will again be a Catholic in communion with the Church. The woman in this story was not in communion with the body of the Church, effectively she excommunicated herself and remained that way for twelve years, yet her family expected her to receive a funerary mass which is only available to people who are in communion with the Church.

The Church can not force people to abide by it's doctrine, but neither is it under an obligation to reward those who willingly choose to flaunt that doctrine. What the Priest did was right, and proper.

Posted by: Robert Modean at July 22, 2005 12:35 PM

The church, then, should stop taking money from people it won't bury.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 22, 2005 6:38 PM



Posted by: oj at July 22, 2005 6:45 PM

Don't be "shumerish" Harry.

Posted by: Dave W. at July 22, 2005 11:41 PM

The article makes no mention of who requested the funeral mass. I'm guessing it was her parents and not her. Funerals are for the benefit of the survivors and not the deceased, in any event.

As I'm an ex-Catholic by choice I really have no standing to tell the Church what it should do, and I don't have any patience for Catholics who believe they have some right to tell the Church to change its laws to benefit themselves, like Andrew Sullivan or women who demand to be allowed into the priesthood. The Church is not a democracy, and any Catholic who can't understand that is too stupid to live. But being a Catholic nowadays is purely a personal decision. Noone is holding a gun, or hot poker, to your head anymore to stay in the Church.

I just think that if they are going to crack down on willful disobedience, then they should not plan on performing many funeral masses going forward. Start with all the Catholics who use artifical birth control. Add to it all the Catholics who engage in pre-marital or extra-marital sex. What about married men who frequent prostitutes? What about all the young boys who "choke the monkey", as they say? They have a big task ahead of them.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at July 23, 2005 12:42 PM

Eighth Commandment, Orrin

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 23, 2005 3:23 PM


Guilt money isn't stealing.

Posted by: oj at July 23, 2005 3:30 PM

Robert M.: The cardinal sins are what we think of a vices: pride, lust, envy, wrath, greed, sloth, and gluttony. Actual sin, for which the actor is personally responsible, may be vwenial or mortal. Mortal sin consists of conduct which is grievously wrong, which the sinner knows to be grievously wrong, and which the sinner chooses to do nonetheless. Such sin may or may not be related to one or more of the cardinal sins or vices.

I do not see why the cousin you write of may not be readmitted to the sacraments. Quite simply, she is no longer a public sinner, her past acts now being a matter of private repentance and absolution.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 23, 2005 5:35 PM

Taking it is.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 25, 2005 5:09 PM


Why? They should feel guilty. Why not let some good come of their evil ways.

Posted by: oj at July 25, 2005 5:14 PM