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A pious Church and Cardinal Dolan trashes a dead trans woman who, like Jesus, helped the marginalized

Cecilia Gentili transgender performer activist Red Ink Show NYC Funeral St Patricks Cathedral catholic church
instagram @ceciliagentili72; Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Cecilia Gentil helped trans people, sex workers and HIV/AIDS victims, while a certain Catholic cardinal lives extravagantly

A human being died. This person was a longtime activist for the trans community, sex workers, and people living with HIV — without question the most marginalized groups in our society today.

Her name was Cecilia Gentili. She was literally and honestly doing the work of Jesus. She risked her life to help those whose lives were at risk. A rejective society cast them aside. Gentili made sure they had a home in her. Jesus is proud to welcome her home for all her extraordinary work while she lived.

Her funeral — which was a joyous celebration of her life — was held at St.Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. Over 1,000 people attended, a testament to the love she spread during her lifetime. It was a bit risqué, like Gentili, But she was trans, and so were many in the pews. There were also sex workers and people living with HIV.

Being trans doesn’t make someone a sinner, except in the eyes of certain religions, including the Roman Catholic Church, which is, without question, the most hypocritical organization in the world. And the New York City diocese takes the lead in that hypocrisy.

The pious Catholic priests — and New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan — thought the funeral mass for Gentili made a mockery of the faith. (We’ll get to how Dolan makes a mockery of the faith.) St. Patrick’s officials inexplicably said they were “duped” into allowing the service, which is rich for a faith and a church that has duped its congregants for generations.

In response to honoring a Catholic dead woman who did good in her life at a funeral mass, the Catholic Church slapped her down. Over the weekend St. Patrick’s held what’s called a Mass of Reparation, which means that a service was conducted to wipe away the memory and the “sacrilegious act” of Gentili's funeral.

Think about that for a moment. Millions of little boys, including me, were being groomed and sodomized – let’s call it what it is, raped, and still are – in churches all over the world. Where was the rush to have Masses of Reparation for all the victims whose lives were ruined by the criminality of the clergy?

That’s only the beginning. How about all the women the church has scorned over centuries? Where are the Masses of Reparation for them?

How about all the mobsters who have attended Sunday masses – at St. Patrick’s and in cities all over the world, and whose blood money helps keep the church functioning? Where is the Mass of Reparation at the Brooklyn Catholic church where murderer and thug Al Capone was married?

How about the case of the "Vatican girl," shocking to its core, which is the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi (the Netflix documentary is a must-see), who vanished some 40 years ago? The crime has been covered up for decades by a complicit church. Was there ever a Mass of Reparation at St. Peter’s for her life?

I could do this all day, but you get the idea. Gentili really did the work of Jesus by helping those marginalized people — it’s worth saying again now that we can contrast her life with the sins of thousands of “fathers” who abused innocent boys. They were doing the devil’s work, and the evil of their actions still permeates churches.

And let's compare Gentili's life to the double life lived by so many of the church’s hierarchy, who say mass on Sunday and are wined and dined by their wealthy patrons during the week, and no one enjoys that part of being clerical more than Cardinal Dolan.

From the gospel of Mark: “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan has many treasures he’d never relinquish. In the years I lived in New York City, I frequently saw him carted around in a chauffeured car. He is a staple at high society events. I’ve seen the man drink, eat lavish food, and pal around with people who run hedge funds and private equity firms, not sex workers or those with HIV.

A good investigative journalist would go back through TheNew York Times' Sunday Style section and count how many times Dolan was featured on the society picture page in famed lensman Patrick McMullan's photographs of the rich and famous.

When Cardinal Dolan isn’t out and about, he has his breakfasts, lunches, and dinners in a lavish, midtown Manhattan home. It’s his “rectory” worth millions of dollars. St. Patrick’s itself underwent a $177 million renovation a few years ago. There’s no doubt that money-mongering fat cats paid for that – the same people Dolan hangs out with during his nights out on the town.

Dolan’s first love isn’t God. It’s money. He was ruthless as archbishop of Milwaukee during the height of the exposure of the priest abuse scandal. He didn’t lift a finger to help anyone but himself and the crooked church.

“Tragic as the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church has been, it is shocking to discover that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, while archbishop of Milwaukee, moved $57 million off the archdiocesan books into a cemetery trust fund six years ago in order to protect the money from damage suits by victims of abuse,” The New York Times reported in 2013.

The Archdiocese of New York, which Dolan leads, has been crying poverty for years, closing churches and schools all over the city while Dolan sits on his multimillion-dollar lifestyle. He isn’t the first to live high off the hog with disdain for those marginalized like Gentili.

Dolan was preceded by Cardinal Edward Egan, and if there should be a Mass of Reparation for anything, it should be for his abominable behavior while a bishop in Connecticut. While Egan headed the Bridgeport diocese, his response to the sexual abuse scandal was “profoundly unsympathetic, inadequate and inflammatory,” according to an investigation. The report further stated that he “took a dismissive, uncaring and at times threatening attitude toward survivors.”

I also saw Egan being carted around in a chauffeur-driven car, and the only time I ate at Daniel, arguably the best and most expensive restaurant in New York City, there sat Egan, enjoying his multicourse gourmet meal. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He’s representing Jesus? It was galling.

Yes, New York City Catholics will point to the fact that the church does work on behalf of the poor, and that these organizations need funding, and the cardinal is the biggest fundraiser in the Catholic Church. But wouldn’t responding to a letter from the cardinal with a donation be more effective — and cheaper — than feeding these corpulent cardinals?

Pope Francis rides around in a compact car, forgoes the lavish apartment at the Vatican, and wears cheap shoes. Dolan is thumbing his nose at Francis and all of those who truly do God’s work, like Gentili.

Throughout my life, I have tried my best to be a good Catholic, despite what happened to me at the hands of a priest when I was 13. But seeing how the church treated my trans sister, one who truly embodied compassion, I can't fathom participating in a religion that would smear the name of someone who spent her life doing God’s work. How in God’s name can this sanctimonious lot of clergy judge her?

Where, I ask, are the Masses of Reparations at St. Patrick's for all of the many sins of hypocrisy and brazen entitlement that Dolan and Egan have committed on behalf of the faith and the church they discriminatorily oversee?

"Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8 verses 6-70. Dolan and his raiders and abettors shouldn’t be throwing rocks at anyone.

John Casey is a senior editor at The Advocate.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride

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John Casey

John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.
John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.