Catholic Priest Denies Communion to Lesbian at Mother's Funeral

By Michael O'Loughlin

Originally published on Advocate.com February 10 2014 3:38 PM ET

A Roman Catholic priest in Missouri has told a grieving daughter that she would not be able to receive communion at her mother's funeral because she was in a same-sex relationship.

The pastor at Saint Columban Catholic Church in Chillicothe, Mo., told Carol Parker and her partner of 20 years, Josephine Martin, that he would not be able to welcome them to communion because the obituary for her mother, who died in December, listed Parker and her partner as survivors, reports Fox Kansas City affiliate WDAF.

“If that one word [partner] had not been in there, he would be fine,” Martin told the station.

Parker said she had been an active member at St. Columban for over a decade, singing in the choir and serving as a lector. She said she laments the loss of her faith community.

"To be singing in the choir and be lectors, and everything, it’s all God. He just took it away in a second,” she said. “I just really don’t understand where his heart is.”

According to a press release from PROMO, Missouri's LGBT rights organization, a letter from the church's pastor, Rev. Benjamin Kneib, sent to Parker after the incident became public, said that "having a same-sex attraction is not sinful in and of itself ... it is only when a person moves from attraction to willfully acting upon it that the situation becomes a sinful matter."

Kneib apologized to Parker for the pain the situation caused her during an already difficult time, and he invited her back to the parish. But Parker said she and her partner have found a new church, an hour away.

She told the St. Joseph News-Press that she hopes the priest will "open his eyes and fully receive the LGBT community into the church."

"We’re all God’s children, and we have every right to receive Communion,” she said. “Even the pope has said, ‘Who am I to judge?’”

According to a profile in The Catholic Key, Kneib was ordained a priest in 2012 by Bishop Joseph Finn. After choosing to enter the priesthood instead of going through with his plan to become a Marine, Kneib said, "From a spiritual warfare standpoint, priesthood is like serving on the front lines of society."

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that attraction to members of the same gender is not sinful, but that sexual activity between two people of the same gender is. A series of high-profile cases involving the dismissal of openly gay and lesbian teachers and administrators from Catholic schools around the U.S. have prompted protests from lay Catholics, including the firing of Mark Zmuda, who had been vice principal of Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Wash. And in 2012 in Gaithersburg, Md., there was a similar case of a lesbian being denied communion at her mother's funeral, prompting an apology from the Catholic archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

Watch the WDAF report below.

Contributor: 
Michael O'Loughlin