Church 'Outraged' at 'Scandalous' Funeral

Trans activist Cecilia Gentili was memorialized at an iconic New York church, in iconic fashion
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2024 12:30 AM CST
Updated Feb 24, 2024 6:30 AM CST
Church 'Outraged' Over Funeral for Trans Activist
Transgender activist Cecilia Gentili poses for a photo at the offices of the Oxford University Press in New York on April 24, 2014.   (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

The funeral of a trans activist that was held at Manhattan's iconic St. Patrick's Cathedral went viral last week, and now the Archdiocese of New York is speaking out against it in no uncertain terms. Cecilia Gentili, who died at age 52, was a "pillar" of the city's trans community, and a former sex worker who became "a fierce advocate for sex workers and people with HIV/AIDS," per CNN. She was also an atheist, though she grew up Catholic in Argentina. She was eulogized as "Saint Cecilia, mother of all whores"; shown on a mass card with a halo over her head and surrounded by words including both "blessed" and "transvestite"; and some of the more than 1,000 mourners (who showed up wearing "feathery red dresses, fishnet stockings, and lace veils," per CNN, and danced in the aisles at times) changed the words of the hymn "Ave Maria" to "Ave Cecilia," the Washington Post reports.

The archdiocese responded harshly Saturday, two days after the funeral, expressing "outrage" in a statement that decried the "scandalous behavior" of mourners. "The Cathedral only knew that family and friends were requesting a funeral Mass for a Catholic, and had no idea our welcome and prayer would be degraded in such a sacrilegious and deceptive way," the rector said in the statement. "That such a scandal occurred at 'America's Parish Church' makes it worse." The cathedral held a rare "mass of reparation" to atone for the funeral and "cleanse" the cathedral, the New York Post reports.

Not everyone was on board with the church's reaction. "Jesus welcomed everybody. He didn't say if you're one thing or another, you're outside the tent," says one Catholic lawyer who attended the funeral. A funeral organizer says no information about Gentili's gender identity or sexuality was offered to the church during the planning process: "If a cisgender person's family organizes their funeral, does their family tell the church that they were cis? If not, why is that being asked of us?" An opinion piece at CNN says the church's response lacked "compassion, humanity," and indeed, "Christianity." (More Catholic Church stories.)

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