21 February 2024, The Tablet

New York cathedral regrets ‘disrespect’ at trans activist’s funeral

One friend of Cecilia Gentili said they wanted to hold the funeral at St Patrick’s Cathedral because “it is an icon, just like her”.

New York cathedral regrets ‘disrespect’ at trans activist’s funeral

Mourners outside St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, during Cecilia Gentili’s funeral on 15 February.
Tribune Content Agency LLC / Alamy

St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City has hosted a Mass of Reparation following criticisms of scenes at the funeral of a transgender activist last week.

Around one thousand people attended the cathedral for the funeral of Cecilia Gentili, an Argentine-American trans woman and former sex worker.

When The New York Times reported on some of the mourners’ conduct, conservative Catholics voiced their anger and the cathedral authorities expressed alarm at the proceedings.

According to the Times report and a video of the liturgy, many mourners were dressed in drag attire and the prayers of the faithful were vulgarized, while one attendee interrupted the church’s musician singing “Ave Maria” to shout “Ave Cecilia” and parade down the center aisle.

A sign placed near the altar described Gentili as a “madre de putas” or “mother of whores”.

Gentili’s friends, the Times report said, did not mention she was transgender when planning the funeral with cathedral staff. One friend said they wanted to hold the funeral at the famous Gothic Revival cathedral because “it is an icon, just like her”.

The cathedral’s rector, Fr Enrique Salvo issued a statement following protests at the reports.

“Thanks to so many who have let us know they share our outrage over the scandalous behavior at a funeral here at St Patrick’s Cathedral earlier this week,” Salvo said.

“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.”

He said New York’s Cardinal Timohty Dolan had requested a Mass of Reparation. The cardinal has not issued his own statement on the funeral controversy.

Archdiocesan spokesman Joe Zwilling told the Daily News that the archdiocese was concerned about the behaviour of some of the attendees, not the sexual identity of the deceased. Members of Gentili’s family said the negative reaction only demonstrated the Church’s “anti-trans hatred”.

Fr James Martin SJ was quoted in the Times report saying that it was “wonderful” the funeral was taking place as it showed “that LGBTQ+ people are as much a part of the Church as anyone else”.

However, in a subsequent post on social media he said that he had made his comments before the funeral, “assuming that St Patrick's Cathedral had approved the service, which seemed like a compassionate gesture towards the deceased's family and friends”.

He said that some of the scenes recorded “struck me as, while perhaps to the congregation joyful and celebratory, disrespectful of the sacred space”.

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