Bishop Blowback

John at Americablog (links all over the place) has been doing some cross-country covering of the denial of a Catholic funeral to John McCusker here in San Diego. Let’s just say that the people of San Diego aren’t rushing to get behind the skirts of Bishop Brom:

As hundreds of people memorialized a gay San Diego nightclub owner yesterday, the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego defended its decision to deny him a Catholic funeral by stating that a pornographic video had been filmed in his club.

At least 500 people packed the pews and aisles of St. Paul’s Cathedral, an Episcopal church near Balboa Park, to pay respects to John McCusker, 31, who died Sunday of apparent heart failure. He owned Club Montage, which has a large gay clientele and is one of the city’s most popular dance spots.

Outside the church after the funeral, McCusker’s friends and other members of the gay community expressed outrage at the diocese’s action. Theresa Bolton, who spoke at the funeral and teaches at a Temecula prep school operated by McCusker’s parents, called it “ludicrous.”

“I’m leaving the Catholic Church because of it,” said Bolton, 36.

Earlier this week, citing McCusker’s “business activities,” San Diego Bishop Robert Brom announced that McCusker couldn’t receive a Catholic funeral at any parish in the diocese’s jurisdiction, which encompasses 98 parishes in San Diego and Imperial counties.

From the very conservative Union Tribune editorial page:

Whatever happened to the age-old Christian precept, “Hate the sin and love the sinner.”?

San Diego Bishop Robert Brom apparently rejects this maxim of charity and tolerance. His highly rare decision to deny a Catholic burial to a gay businessman who owned a gay-oriented nightclub sends a message that is the sheer antithesis of charity and tolerance.

To the bishop, a Catholic funeral for John McCusker, who died Sunday of congestive heart failure, would be a “public scandal” because the business he owned, Club Montage, was “inconsistent with Catholic moral teaching.”

In our view, the real scandal is Bishop Brom’s narrow-minded ostracism of McCusker after the family arranged for his funeral at the Immaculata Catholic Church at the University of San Diego, which McCusker had attended. Brom rescinded the arrangements and decreed that McCusker’s funeral could not be held in any of the 98 Catholic churches in the diocese of San Diego and Imperial counties.

To our knowledge, McCusker never has been accused of doing anything illegal. If Bishop Brom has information to the contrary, he should step forward with it.

We respect the Catholic Church’s denunciation of homosexual acts on moral grounds, just as we respect the church’s denunciation of abortion on moral grounds. At the same time, we respect the many morally upright individuals who do not share the church’s views on homosexuality and abortion. What should bind people on both sides of these divisive issues is a shared respect for the dignity of every human being. Bishop Brom’s decree runs counter to the wisdom of St. Augustine, the 5th century bishop of Hippo, who wrote, Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum: “With love for mankind and hatred for sins.”

From the letters page:

The San Diego Catholic Diocese cites “inconsistent with Catholic moral teaching” as its reason for denying John McCusker his due right as a practicing Catholic to be allowed services at the Immaculata Catholic Church.

Yet the Catholic church, specifically The Holy Name Church in West Roxbury, Mass., allowed a vicious predator of innocent children, John Geoghan, a full and dignified Catholic service.

McCusker was a businessman who operated an establishment for mature, consenting adults. The children raped by Geoghan were defenseless and went along with his warped motives because of his collar.

I pose this question to Bishop Brom: Exactly which of these two men is more deserving of a Catholic service and burial?



How heartening and reassuring it was to awake to the morning newspaper and television reports. I am so relieved that the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, and specifically Bishop Brom, is protecting our morals by refusing to hold the funeral services of one of its own because “the church has deemed his business “inconsistent with the Catholic moral teaching.”

Such compassion and forgiveness are so overwhelming. It is a shame that so many convicted murders, rapists, wife and child abusers, mafia hit men, pedophile priests, drug kingpins, burglars, gang thugs, and other predators apparently have either slipped through the cracks of this moral code or their business is deemed consistent with the moral teachings of the Catholic church.

Bishop Brom, John McCusker may not have been the model Catholic you believe he should have been, but in his life he gave of himself to those less fortunate than he and showed considerable compassion to others. Bishop Brom, your sense of compassion and forgiveness offer me and others insight that is most enlightening.

San Diego

I didn’t know John McCusker, nor am I Catholic.

Being a Jew and not a Catholic, I can’t presume to fully understand Catholic doctrine.

The church cited “public scandal” for canceling McCusker’s funeral rites. Ironically, the church itself has now created its own “public scandal,” as it did a number of years ago when it denied Communion to a wonderful public servant, Lucy Killea.

The church owes an apology to the family and partner of John McCusker, a young man who graduated from the Catholic University of San Diego, who donated tremendously of his time and money to charitable causes, and who loved his friends, nieces, nephews and extended family very much.

Again, I am not a Catholic, but isn’t this service part of what being Catholic is all about?

The church must apologize to the McCusker family and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community for the tremendous hurt it has caused McCusker’s friends and family in this time of great sadness and pain.

San Diego

…and, as John pointed out, Bishop Brom has a bit of history himself.

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