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Can a Priest Deny Sacraments to a Gay Man in the Hospital?

The news was on fire this morning about a DC priest who purportedly refused to give Last Rights to a gay heart-attack patient at the Washington Hospital Center.

Oh boy, here we go again! This man condemns the priest but we only have his side of the story.

I suspect there is a lot more to the story than what we are hearing.  A priest was requested and Father Brian Coelho came to the bedside of the patient, Ronald Plishka.  The priest followed the ritual by offering the Sacrament of Penance prior to the Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion.  If a patient is unconscious, the priest will often presume contrition and a desire for the sacraments, giving absolution even without auricular confession.  In this case, the patient was alert and responsive.  The patient seemed to want to make small talk and remarked about how as a homosexual person he was so happy that the Pope was accepting of gay people.  But he next asked if this admission bothered the priest, almost as if he were baiting him.  The priest said it did not but offered to pray with him.  Nothing more was said about Extreme Unction and Viaticum.  While left unsaid in the article, this intimates that this dialogue took place as part of a Confession.

Because the disagreement probably happened during Confession, the priest is silenced by the seal and cannot share his side of the story. Indeed, he would face automatic excommunication if he says anything… something I hope that Church authorities appreciate. Even they cannot question the priest.

Instead of a civil conversation, the patient rejects the offer of prayer and tells the priest “to get the [deleted] out of here!”  That in itself probably demonstrates an improper disposition for God’s mercy.  Then the doctors came in to calm him down.

We should pray for all the parties involved. 

4 Responses

  1. We were not there and we do not know what was said or how it was said. I do pray for all involved. But this man cannot expect to have everything the way he wants it just because he wants it. There has to be a sincere repentence on his part and sorrow for his sins. Go and sin no more.

  2. A disorientation would not be grounds for withholding the sacraments. He must have said something about his lifestyle.

  3. The pope said it, who am I to judge? Who am I to judge? Who am I to judge? Stop judging! It is time to end the hate. This poor man needed healing from his minister. Instead, all he got was rebuke. This is wrong!

  4. The hospital parades its record in “LGBT Healthcare Equality.” A hospital representative told reporters (The Washington Blade): “We want to hold true to this important commitment to the LGBT community and to all of our patients. It is our expectation, that all who offer spiritual care to patients in our hospital adhere to our values and extend excellent care, both physical and spiritual, to all patients regardless of their faith traditions. Our Department of Spiritual Care will reinforce our expectations with this priest and his superiors.” Such an approach is utterly unacceptable, literally saying that the Church would have to compromise its values and redefine its faith in light of a hospital’s secular guidelines. It is similar to the religious liberty fight that the Church is waging against Obama’s oppressive HHS mandate. Next we will be told to cuddle and give approval to women who enter the hospital to abort their children. Compassion from ministers— yes; but forfeiture of identity and mission— no!

    The man praises his doctors for saving his life but there is only venom for the priest who wanted to save his soul. Absolution and Extreme Unction require or presume a certain level of contrition for sin. It is in light of this that we can ask for forgiveness; however, it is not our place to demand it. The sacraments are not magic. If one desires to remain in his sins then the sacraments of healing cannot do their job. It is a bit like medicine. What can heal one person might make the situation of another worse. Without sorrow for sin and a firm purpose of amendment of life, they can bring the full weight of divine judgment upon our heads.

    The renegade Catholic organization Dignity was in disbelief about the altercation. But given their rejection of Catholic sexual morality, they can hardly have any say in this matter of a faithful priest. Next a priest who operates without faculties, Father Henry Huot, offers his criticism: “Any baptized Christian ought not to be denied the sacraments at his or her request, and that is a cardinal rule of pastoral care. So I don’t know what was going through the mind of this hospital chaplain to deny this man the sacraments. It violates this cardinal rule.” This is utter nonsense. Priests withhold sacraments all the time. Absolution is often withheld from people who are divorced-and-remarried outside the Church, as well as couples (heterosexual or homosexual) who are cohabitating and having sexual relations outside of a true marriage. The Anointing of the Sick is an extension of the Sacrament of Penance. They are distinct but one almost always comes along with the other.

    It is stated, and is quite true, that there is no policy to refuse the sacraments to people because of sexual orientation. The disorientation is not a sin; however, sexually acting out is. If the issue erupted within a Confession, then it is likely that the patient refused to show respect to Church teaching or sufficient resolve to amend his life, or at least to try on some meager level to be sorry for past transgressions. Indeed, it seems that the patient’s arrogance is contagious, particularly against this priest and the Church’s view about sin and the need for conversion. Without the proper disposition for grace, no priestly absolution, anointing or even the Eucharist can save the person. Could it be that the good priest was hoping that this man might see the truth of this?

    The President of Dignity, Marianne Dudd-Burke argues that the Church can make no judgment call or conditions for its sacraments. Indeed, she demands that the Archdiocese set “Pastoral care standards for priests under its jurisdiction” that will insure this does not happen again. To an extent, this is already realized. When a priest refused to give Holy Communion to a Lesbian Buddhist a few years ago at a funeral in Montgomery County, the priest was stripped of his faculties and expelled. Archdiocesan priests were subsequently told that they would never refuse Holy Communion to anyone who comes up to them— that this was the policy for now on. Many priests were sickened by this capitulation, something that we had already seen in reference to the politicians who were enablers for abortion and infanticide.

    Both Father Marcel Guarnizo and now Father Brian Coelho were placed into the hot seat. The head of Dignity wants Father Coelho similarly punished: “And I would hope that if this case is brought to the attention of Archdiocesan officials, as it should be, that they would respond appropriately and discipline this priest and make it known to every priest and every person that’s providing pastoral care in the Archdiocese that people should be treated as children of God first.” In other words, scare the hell out of the priests and force them to surrender their integrity as men of God.

    Like Barbara Johnson, I would not be surprised if we see Plishka on the television news. He was no sooner home from the hospital that he called again to lodge his complaint. Next, he called the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and was told by another priest that Fr. Coelho had done the right thing. Would it not be a wonderful thing if every priest of the Archdiocese signed a letter of support for their brother clergyman? It would be a powerful testimony about priestly fraternity and standing up for the truth. But I doubt it will happen.

    Plishka relates that a Methodist minister came to his room and gave him Holy Communion. That in itself constitutes grievous sin for a Catholic and is the expression of religious relativism. Like the Buddhist lady, he plays free with religion, even if he has an emotional attachment to Catholicism.

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