A grave matter: Church funerals denied to priests accused of abuse, says ACP
By Cian Molloy – 01 December, 2018
Is it contrary to Canon Law to insist that funerals of priests accused of abuse must take place in private chapels?

Several diocese and religious orders have policies that allow church funerals to be denied to clergy that have been accused of sexual abuse, says the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).


Instead, requiem Masses for these priests are being held in private chapels, with no death notices published in national or local media.
The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) has had a “Guidance on the Funerals of Clerics or Religious against whom there is a Case to Answer” available for several years now.
It includes considerations as to whether those who made complaints against a priest should be informed of his death; what role other priests of a diocese or a religious community should play in a funeral Mass; how the location and the timing of the requiem Mass might have a negative impact on complainants; what burial sites are appropriate; and what inscription should be put on headstones.
The guidance document is not an exhaustive list, the NBSCCCI admits. It appears that several diocese and religious orders have put additional measures of their own in place.
“A number of priests have contacted us to say that as a group they are being singled out and treated differently to everybody else,” Fr Tim Hazlewood, a member of the ACP’s admin team, told
“I know of no lay person who was ever denied a funeral because of their involvement in paramilitary activity, gang violence or abuse of children, but it seems that priests who have an allegation of abuse against them are being denied public funerals.”
Fr Hazelwood says the ACP has in its possession two policy documents – one belonging to a diocese and one belonging to a religious order – where restrictions go beyond what is proposed by the NBSCCCI. The diocesan guideline suggests “consideration be given to have the funeral liturgies in a private chapel and/or a time other than the usual times”.
When the notorious child abuser Fr Brendan Smyth was buried by the Norbertine Order, his funeral took place before dawn and the grave was covered in concrete to stop it being vandalised.


But the ACP say there are priests who are being denied normal funerals even though the accusations against them have never been proven and are unlikely to ever be substantiated. Holding funerals in private chapels appears to be contrary to normal Catholic practice. In an online guide to Catholic funerals, prepared by St Mary’s University in London, it says “a funeral is a public event so anyone can attend”.
There are also subtle differences between a church and a chapel, with a church being a centre of community worship and a chapel being a subsidiary place of worship. Insisting that a funeral take place in a private chapel is probably contrary to Canon Law. Canon 1185 states: “Any form of funeral Mass is also to be denied to a person who has been excluded from a Church funeral.”
The additional guidelines seen by the ACP also suggest that no funeral notice be published of priests accused of abuse and that their requiem Masses not be concelebrated. “I don’t know about the Canon Law aspect,” said Fr Hazelwood. “But not publishing death notices is very unfair to relatives. One of the purposes of a funeral is to offer consolation to the bereaved, but this measure denies that to families.”
False allegations of abuse have been made against priests in the past, as Fr Hazelwood knows to his cost. Two years he had to take a civil case to the High Court before a person making false accusations against him admitted he had been lying. He said that Church policy in this area is not priest-friendly and that there is a presumption of guilt.


The Cloyne diocesan parish priest points to the fact that the NSBCCCI operates to seven different standards: creating and maintaining safe environments, procedures for responding to child protection concerns and allegations, care and support for the complainant, care and management of the respondent, training and support for keeping children safe and quality assuring compliance with the standards.
“All of these standards are audited, except for the one to do with the care and management of the respondent,” said Fr Hazelwood. “So if it’s not audited, it’s not worth the paper it is written on and priests are left in a very vulnerable position. Why does the Church treat us differently? Why do these special funeral arrangements only apply to priests and to no one else? It is not fair to priests, some of whom might be suspended from ministry for decades on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. Then when they die and they don’t get a proper funeral, their families have to live on with hurt and shame.
“Those who are accused of abuse are being treated like lepers. While not condoning their actions, it is not right to single out one group of people like this. Judging them after they have died is the role of God, not the Church. We should not be distinguishing between what type of funeral we will give one group of people and not another.”


A Catholic funeral is, traditionally, a Mass celebrated asking God to allow a departed sinner into Heaven.

So logic would suggest that the bigger the sinner the more need for the funeral.

I always thought that it was very cowardly of the Irish RC Church to bury Brendan Smith in the middle of the night and to pour concrete in over the coffin so that the grave could not be attacked.

Mind you, now that the Norbertines have sold their monastery to a builder for housing it will be easier for a crane to lift a 7 x 4 concrete block out of the ground that it would have been to go coffin and bone fishing.

The questions raised here are threefold:

  1. Should an accused but not convicted priest be given a public funeral?
  2. Should a convicted priest be given a public funeral?
  3. Should the Church ever treat any person or group of people al lepers?


In civil law a not convicted priest is an innocent man.

However every accused priest generally has two trials – a civil one and a canonical one. So you can have a priest innocent in civil law and guilty under canon law. 

And of course we have priests like Father Hazelwood who was falsely convicted.


A convicted priest will have been sentenced and have served his sentence – unless like Brendan Smith – he dies in prison.

If he has served his sentence he has paid his debt to society – although his victims may suffer forever.


I think we know from Jesus’ teachings that the Church should never treat people like lepers.

Having said that, I attended one nation meeting of The Association of Catholic Priests and most of the priests there – including the ACP leadership treated me like a leper!



Was the ACP right to do that – and are they now hypocrites by saying that no one should be treated as a leper?


I think that every Catholic should be accorded a public funeral in the church they were associated with.

In the case of convicted priests maybe the funeral should be held in the cathedral and celebrated by the bishop, who makes it clear at the funeral that people are not there to memorialise the dead priest but to pray for his eternal soul.

In doing this we should be as sensitive as we can not only to the priest’s family and friends – but perhaps more so to his victims.



Jesus Christ, Bishop Pat! Have you never come across the word ‘abridgement’.
I couldn’t be bothered wading through that lengthy and tedious post of yours, I have much better things to do.
For future refernce, keep it brief!!! If not for Christs sake, then for mine. 😆


12.54: Magsy Wagsy, apply the same requirement of abridgement to your own crazy, bizarre meanderings. You are long winded most of the time. Now you’re aggressive with Pat. Too much after midnight booze!!


Mad Magna Caca 12:54am
Once again the despicable Troll Polly starts her vile post with BLASPHAMY! She has much better things to do like open an other cheap tin of the GARGLE and bore us all with more of her vitriolic rants.
Evviva Maria!


Pat, I am annoyed you printed photo of Brendan Smyth. Having experienced abuse his photo resurrects memories. I think anyone who has been abused will be upset by this photo if they see it. I think the article didn’t need his photo. Priests live in constang fear of being falsely accused. We live in a very changed landscape. I always believe that victims are our primary focus. I hope you remove his photo. Otherwise the content is challenging. I dread the comments that will follow.


Pat, the article did not need the photo of B. Smyth. It is upsetting for all victims to have their hurt and experiences of abuse surface again. You should be aware of how easy it is to retraumatise survivors by a photo or a misjudged sentence. The issue is deserving of reflection and rational thought.


9.31: And who mught you be referring to in your comments? Victims/survivors if sexual abuse? Photos and words can do unimaginable harm in retraumatising already hurt individuals.


09:51 below ….. By snowflake, I think I mean you, crusading on the part of victims. Let the victims speak for themselves. They don’t need you to tell us and them how they are traumatised at every turn. Actually, I think most victims are a lot more robust than you give them credit for. They get on with life, damaged yes, but courageously. I suspect more damage is done to them by people like you going around all sensitive like and treating them with kid gloves. Perhaps your sensitivity and snowflakeness has more to do with your needs than theirs ? Alles klar ?!


11.27: You obviously haven’t a clue what you are talking about. In my earlier comment I said I had experienced abuse as a young teenager from a neighbour. That memory never leaves. I wasn’t permanently damaged psychigically or emotionally, but nonetheless the inner psyche knows something happened which made me, not the peroretatir, feel so bad about my sexuality for a long, long time. Thankfully I received support and help. For you to be so rude, unintelligent, dismissive, unaware of the effects of sexual abuse and condescending shows your ignorance. Ask any survivor of abuse, listen carefully to their truth, read of the experiences in media print of those who have waived their anonymity to tell their story – and if you have any semblance of emotional intelligence, you would not make so ignorant a comment. I’m quite certain you would not express this comment personally to any survivor of sexual abuse and I hope you never have the misfortune of abuse of any kind. Yes, survivors may become strong and resilient but you do not know the painful journey rrquired to find your way through the trauma of sexual abuse. I’m disappointed that Pat, who himself understands the horrendous nature of sexual abuse and identity should print so offensive a comment.


Yes Pat was sexually abused at 6.

It’s very important that we have debate and free speech.


‘If i had known it was going to be like this i would never have brought this here’

Peader o keane
June 1982
Cloyne diocess


11.27: You seem like a total twit. A phillistine – you are intellectually challenged in expressing so callous and ignorant a comment to someone who was abused. You fool.


Gays must leave priesthood if they cannot be celibate….says the Pope.


Seems reasonable ? Makes sense ? If you want to be a priest and the requirement at present is mandatory celibacy, then if you can’t sign up to that, then the honest thing to do is to move on. Not make ‘messy compromises”, as the Pope puts it.

Now, if I put my mind to it, I would say that at least 50% of priests that I know make “messy compromises” in the areas of sexuality, sexual activity, relationships, living situations etc. I’m content to be as understanding and merciful in my judgements of individuals as I can be. But, when push comes to shove, many of them are living a lie, and that must have a qualitative effect on their ministry, and their own personal lives and integrity. not a happy mix.


Congratulations to Rev. Michael Jack Byrne on completing extra units of CPE in University College Cork. Byrne will be an excellent LGBT Chaplin to hospital patients.


All well and good, 11:39. Makes Pope Francis seem rather a good egg: reasonable and fair. Except for one, jarring note: his unfounded, unscientific presumption (‘homophobic prejudice’, in other words) that gay men are more likely than straight men to engage in sexual promiscuity. Which is obviously why Francis upheld Pope Benedict’s ban on gay candidates from entering seminary…but not straight ones. This, and his other (apparent?) presumption, shared by Pope Benedict, that gay men are much more likely to be ‘kiddie-fiddlers’, and are, therefore, primarily responsible for the sexual abuse criminality in the Church.

He doesn’t seem quite a good egg now, does he? 😆


I have a reasonable expectation that an alleged seminarian would have come across the word ‘chaplain’ in print before and made a mental note of the spelling.
It’s not Chaplin as in Charlie Chaplin the comedian, and I think we have another comedian here.


These guldelines on burials for priests (‘credibly’?) accused of sexually abusing children are unworkable, if they seek to prevent a public funeral for such a priest with a family. Up to a point, the decision here on what type of funeral to conduct is a matter for the family alone not for the institutional Church.
Any priest CREDIBLY accused of sexually abusing a minor (like ex-cardinal, Theodore McCarrick) of course should not be accorded a conventional (canonical) funeral. (Mind you: no priest should be given such a send-off. Who the hell do they think they are?! 😆)


Hatred? Oh, such a wild imagining!
It is not hatred, but biblically-inspired honesty. Priests were meant to be servants, and servants are not accorded the privilege of an unconventional (special) funeral.
You don’t get it, do you, Father? 😆


5.38: Mags, yes, I called to say you are a Trollope! Just saying like, you know, like…..


5.35: Magna, stay in your den. You have nothing worthwhile to offer. Enjoy your nightly drink binge. Sadly, it’s demolishing any gene of humanity in you. God bless our good clergy.


Mad Magna Caca at 8:24
Polly you’re at it again, trying to hint that you are a priest! Guffaw Guffaw Guffaw. you’re so delusional even if you went threw some illicit ordination by some illicit bishop it would never be valid. So stop kidding yourself on . A disciple of satin or a coven of witches I accept but a priest never! PML!
Evviva Maria!


Sorry but it is you who is a torture for us readers( posters)
Why are you so jealous of Magna that you feel the need to comment on his every post.
Your posts are so dreary and so uninterestingly predictably.


All people should be buried. In a humble and peaceful way.
All this dressing up for bishops and cardinals is so disgusting
And a pile of celebrants at any funeral is uncalled for.


I’m sure McCarrick will have a funeral with all honours.
I genuinely don’t understand why the Association of Catholic Priests fail to understand that the Catholic hierarchy doesn’t treat anyone well, respectfully or even with common human decency, unless forced to by external pressure.
Particularly not their own clergy who are mere cannon fodder unless their face fits, they are useful or have something on their bishop.


I’m a mental health nurse and my current job only involves contact with the public by phone, not face to face. You would not believe how reassuring it is that all calls are recorded so there is always a record of what I am actually saying.


Hello … just discovered this blog … very interesting… thank you to you and all people commenting


8.28: Magna, did you have your baby bib on when replying “me too”? Sounds terribly babyish. Following Pat like a sheep.


Aside from the question of if priests accused of abuse should have a public funeral I ask the question of should they have a public canonical trial?
The constitution requires all justice to be administered in public. Yet canonical trials are never public and often the accused priest is not allowed to be present – sometimes he doesn’t even know it happened until afterwards!!!
This little procedural issue may give any priest a right to legal redressin the civil courts.


I have had a fair bit of experience bring bishops to court.

The civil courts will only intervene if you can prove to them that the church contravened canon law in their dealings with you.


It needs to be proven that priests are not truely self-employed. Rather priests are under the control and employment of bishops, bishops who fail to pay employer PRSI and are guilty of tax evasion.
Once that happens employment law must be applied to priests


8.36: Mags, MMM couldn’t bear your rants anymore. Too much abusiveness from your words. Too predictable and tiresome. We do miss the more balanced, reasoned and tolerant MMM.


Mad Mgna Caca at 8:36
Polly, gone for good I hope, it’s bad enough having to put up with the rants of an auld lush like you. Mad Mad Mad was just an other member of the ” mutual admiration society” spewing the same vitriolic caca, so we can do without any of her Mad Mad Mad comments.
Evviva Maria!


The ex Armagh Seminarian who abused two seminarians continues to evade the Civil Authorities.


The whole funeral thing is over rated. Loads a priests and a pointy hat. We do not control God or his judgement. Do we trust God to deal appropriately with each person hi. Keep it simple but


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s