Philando Castile (whom I mentioned in a post the other day) was laid to rest here in the Twin Cities on Thursday. Mr. Castile's funeral was hosted by the Cathedral of St. Paul at the request of Valerie Castile, his mother. There are some moving photos taken outside the building here at this article from the St. Paul newspaper website. There you can also view photos of the program detailing the chosen readings and speakers.
At the end of the article are comments, which I in no way recommend you to read. Some of them gave me the impression that the Archdiocese has received some comments from persons identifying as Catholic who object to the Cathedral's welcoming the Castile family to bury their son at a public ecumenical service. Castile was not a Catholic, and a Baptist minister was invited to deliver a sermon, while the rector of the Cathedral delivered introductory prayers.
My impression was strengthened by the Cathedral's release of the following statement:
The Archdiocese was honored that Philando Castile’s mother, desiring that her son’s funeral be an opportunity for “people to come together in a new way,” thought our cathedral could be a fitting setting for an ecumenical service at which our community could unite with her family to pray for peace and reconciliation.
During his general audience on September 9, 2015, Pope Francis said “the assembly of Jesus takes the form of a family and of a hospitable family, not an exclusive, closed sect.”
At this difficult moment we feel privileged to have the opportunity to offer hospitality to the Castile family and to our hurting community.
We are praying that our cathedral might serve as a place where all might encounter a God who offers consolation and hope.
I endorse this wholeheartedly.
Some of the objections to Mr. Castile's burial from the Cathedral are of a character that I will not dignify with a rebuttal.
On the other hand, the question "Why can Mr. Castile, a non-Catholic, have a 'Catholic funeral?'" is a reasonable one, even if expressed--rather insensitively--during the funeral in question, to judge from the time-stamps on the various comments. So is the corollary continuation "....when my brother/dad/son/grandpa was not allowed to have one?"
Let me just offer some context for that one.
The term "Catholic funeral" is imprecise. There is such a thing as a Requiem Mass, which is the quintessential "Catholic funeral." It can only take place inside a Catholic church or Catholic chapel.
There is also among the ecclesiastical funeral rites a "Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass," which is also a type of Catholic funeral. If you have been to a "Catholic funeral" in a funeral home chapel, in a private home, or in a cemetery chapel, that is what you most likely experienced. Sometimes (for example, in families that include Catholic and non-Catholic members) this is deemed the most fitting pastoral choice regardless of the location of the funeral.
It is also permitted (in fact it is encouraged!) to hold ecumenical prayer gatherings inside Catholic churches, presided over by Catholic and non-Catholic clergy, for many different reasons. These can include funerals and memorial services. Mr. Castile's funeral would seem to fall into this category.
Finally, at any memorial service at all, at a gravesite, in another church, at a wake, in someone's home: if a Catholic priest happens to be in attendance, he might accept an invitation to offer prayers or a blessing.
The first two categories, because they belong to the ecclesiastical funeral rites, are properly called "Catholic funerals." The latter two are not.
The diocese and the pastor have leeway in deciding who may or may not be buried according to the ecclesiastical rites, anyway. In some dioceses, under some circumstances, a baptized non-Catholic may be buried with full funeral rites. In other dioceses and in other circumstances, it may not be allowed. It can seem as if the standards are looser for non-Catholics than for Catholics, because in some dioceses a so-called "non-practicing" Catholic might not be permitted a "Catholic funeral" while a person who never was a Catholic might be permitted one, or at least might be buried in a Catholic cemetery.
It is undoubtedly upsetting for a bereaved family, at a vulnerable time, to be told that their loved one cannot receive a requiem Mass, or that a requiem Mass cannot be held at the location and/or time that they are planning to have the funeral, or that the deceased is ineligible for the ecclesiastical rites at all. Some of the commentary and pushback probably comes from this place.
To that I can only say: This post is the short answer giving reasons why Philando Castile could be permitted a memorial service in the Cathedral. There really is no short answer as to why some particular person might not be permitted the type of funeral desired by his or her family. You would have to talk to the pastor, and listen to the explanation, and then possibly do a lot of reading, in order to understand that. No short answer. I am sorry I cannot help relieve that pain.
The purpose of Catholic ecumenism is to foster true Christian unity. When Valerie Castile called the Cathedral and asked that it host her son's funeral "for people to come together in a new way," this was precisely what she was asking -- and she asked it not just of the Cathedral parish, but of the whole local church, the diocese. In a sense she asked it of our universal Church.
Who are we to turn her son away?
If I had been the one to take that call, I would have wept in humility before Mrs. Castile. It was she who honored our church, not the other way around, by reaching out to us.
Furthermore, everyone knows that Mr. Castile's funeral was not just a funeral. It was also a gathering to call for peace, justice (in the Christian sense), and love in the wider community.
For what the Catholic Church has said about ecumenism, I encourage you to refer to the Pontifical Council's Directory for Application of Principle and Norms on Ecumenism (link). Here is an excerpt:
108. Where appropriate, Catholics should be encouraged, in accordance with the Church's norms, to join in prayer with Christians of other Churches and ecclesial Communities. Such prayers in common are certainly a very effective means of petitioning for the grace of unity, and they are a genuine expression of the ties which still bind Catholics to these other Christians. Shared prayer is in itself a way to spiritual reconciliation.
109. Prayer in common is recommended for Catholics and other Christians so that together they may put before God the needs and problems they share—e.g., peace, social concerns, mutual charity among people, the dignity of the family, the effects of poverty, hunger and violence, etc. The same may be said of occasions when, according to circumstances, a nation, region or community wishes to make a common act of thanksgiving or petition to God, as on a national holiday, at a time of public disaster or mourning, on a day set aside for remembrance of those who have died for their country, etc. This kind of prayer is also recommended when Christians hold meetings for study or common action.
110. Shared prayer should, however, be particularly concerned with the res- toration of Christian unity. It can centre, e.g. on the mystery of the Church and its unity, on baptism as a sacramental bond of unity, or on the renewal of personal and community life as a necessary means to achieving unity. Prayer of this type is particularly recommended during the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" or in the period between Ascension and Pentecost.
111. Representatives of the Churches, ecclesial Communities or other groups concerned should cooperate and prepare together such prayer. They should decide among themselves the way in which each is to take part, choose the themes and select the Scripture readings, hymns and prayers.
I see no evidence at all that Mr. Castile's memorial service was not a suitable instance of the sort of ecumenism discussed in this document.
(Incidentally, paragraphs 120 and 121 of this same document explicitly grant to the local ordinary -- normally the bishop -- the discretion of offering full funeral rights as well as prayers and blessings of other types to non-Catholics.)
For a deeper examination of the role of ecumenism, one could consult two documents of the Second Vatican Council in particular, Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio.
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I am grateful to Mrs. Castile for reaching out to our diocese, and I am glad that our Cathedral rector responded with welcome. I'm sorry that anyone calling themselves Catholic publicly objected to the rector's decision, which was entirely in accord with Catholic teachings. May Mr. Castile rest in peace, and may eternal light shine upon him.