St. Patrick's Cathedral funeral service for transgender advocate Cecilia Gentili sparks controversy

Sonia Rincón Image
Monday, February 19, 2024
St. Patrick's Cathedral funeral service for transgender advocate Cecilia Gentili sparks controversy
Sonia Rincon has the story from Midtown.

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- On the first Sunday of Lent, there is controversy surrounding a funeral service Thursday at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

This weekend, the cathedral's pastor offered a mass of reparation following the service for Cecilia Gentili, a well-known transgender advocate - a service that church leaders now describe as 'sacrilegious and deceptive.'

Thursday's funeral packed the cathedral with friends and members of a community expressing gratitude for her advocacy.

Some are questioning why a funeral for a trans activist and self-proclaimed atheist be held at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The New York Archdiocese issued a statement saying, in part, '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.'

Gentili's family responded with a statement saying that all are supposed to be welcome,

"We brought precious life and radical joy to the Cathedral in historic defiance of the Church's hypocrisy and anti-trans hatred. Cecilia Gentili's funeral service, which filled the pews in ways the Cathedral only can during Easter service and NYPD funerals, was a reflection of the love she had for her community and a testament to the impact of her tireless advocacy."

New York's Catholic League issued a statement of its own, calling the event 'profane' and saying 'those who support defiling St. Patrick's Cathedral are rank anti-Catholic bigots who look, talk, and act like deranged men and women.' And taking issue with the funeral being led by a Catholic priest who referred to Gentili as a woman.

Meanwhile, Fr. Eric Andrews, a pastor at nearby St. Paul the Apostle Church, which is Catholic and LGBTQ-friendly, posted on social media hinting that the Cathedral could have done some homework, writing,

"Pro Tip: It is good pastoral practice to reach out to the family of the deceased directly to express condolences and to plan a funeral liturgy--and by all means google the name of the person to learn as much as you can about their life. Beyond that, all I can say to our neighboring parish is: Welcome to LGBTQ Ministry."

Gentili was an icon in the LGBTQ community, known and truly beloved for her decades of advocacy and activism. Actor Billy Porter was among those in attendance on Thursday to say goodbye.

Since the funeral was officiated by Catholic priests, it did not raise too many questions at first.

Gentili's family declined to talk on camera because they are grieving.

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