Bp. Morlino affirms prohibition of eulogies. As night follows day, liberals whine.

We have written about H.E. Most Rev. Robert Morlino, Bishop of Madison on several occasions.  Bp. Morlino is one of the true stand-up men in the USCCB.

Now comes this from Channel 3000 which seems to have something to do with CNN.

My emphases and comments.

Some Catholics Upset Over Bishop’s Mandate Ending Eulogies
Bishop Says Eulogies Shouldn’t Be Made During Funeral Mass  [You can see from the beginning that the writer/publication/site aims at making Bp. Morlino into the bad guy.  Will they in fairness go beyond this and say that Bp. Morlino did not just make this up?  The Church’s liturgical law, which the bishop cannot change or disobey or ignore, says that eulogies at funerals are not permitted.  Right? Yes?  No?]

MADISON, Wis. — Some in the Catholic Diocese of Madison are upset over a recent mandate ending family remembrances and eulogies at funeral Masses.   [The “recent” mandate was already made in 2000, GIRM 382: “At the Funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind.”  Is that the law?  Yes? No?]

It happened to Dane County Supervisor Dianne Hesselbein on Monday. [Soooo… she is a prominent person in the area and gets access to the CNN outlet.  I am prompted to wonder, given that she is an elected official in one of the most liberal counties in the USA, and a Catholic, what her positions are on matters about which the Church has clear teachings.] She spent hours over the weekend to come up with a few short words to remember her father.

“It was about my dad — this was about my kids’ grandfather,” Hesselbein said.  [And?  The Church’s law does not say “No eulogy unless it is about your kids’ grandfather.”]

And she said she couldn’t believe her ears when she was told just minutes before her father’s funeral on Monday that she would not be allowed to speak. [First, it may be that violation of the Church’s law for years in this area has given people the false notion that they can give eulogies.  It may be that it could have been made clearer in the pre-funeral arrangements.  Thus, correction seems new, harsh, capricious, especially to those who think the Church’s laws mean nothing.  But this has been exacerbated by the antinomian self-centeredness of priests (and former bishops?) who thought they could do as they please with the Church’s worship and, therefore, to God’s people.]

“This is a tribute to my father that we all agreed that I would be the only one to speak on,” Hesselbein said. [Who is “we”?  Her close relatives?  I suspect “we” didn’t include the pastor of the parish.] “And they said I couldn’t do it, because the bishop made this recent decision.” [“They” must be the priest and bishop.]

That decision came from Madison Bishop Robert Morlino last month. [No.  The decision came from Rome long ago. ] By phone, he told WISC-TV these “family remembrances” during a funeral Mass are a major distraction from what the Mass should be about.  [Think of the innumerable absurdities burbled in churches during these illicit and ill-advised eulogies.  Horror stories could abound, but they won’t here.]

In a letter to diocese churches, the bishop said, “I am asking that such words of remembrance not be spoken at any time during the funeral liturgy in the Diocese of Madison.”

He goes on to say family would have the opportunity to share words of remembrance “In some other setting outside of the sacred liturgy, such as during the visitation … at the cemetery … or at the funeral banquet.”

“I don’t want to be kind of piling up too many other concerns at the Mass,” Morlino told WISC-TV. [That’s because a funeral Mass is primarily for praying for the deceased, asking God’s mercy.  It is not for telling off-color stories or tales of getting drunk together or watching some poor person burst into tears.]

In fact, Morlino said such remembrances — or eulogies — have never been allowed during Catholic Mass. But he said rules have been bent over the years, so it’s been happening more often than not. [Therein lies a problem.  Correcting an abuse is very hard.]

But for those like Hesselbein who want to remember their loved ones with their words — it’s news that’s hard to take.

There’s a way to have a compromise,” Hesselbein said. “Because I was not granted closure. I was not granted the opportunity to celebrate my dad.”  [Look at that carefully.  Her “compromise” means “Let me do what I want even though we all know it is against the Church’s law.”  Which isn’t a compromise at all.  Note also “celebrate”.  No.  Not at Mass.  That is not what the funeral Mass is for.  Folks, we need a return to black vestments, I’m afraid.  The funeral Mass, as offered in so many places for so long, has been damaging to the faith of the people, I’m afraid.]

Madison’s Call to Action group, an organization that’s been very critical of Morlino’s decisions over the years, said it is outraged over the move. [When are these heretical whiners not outraged about something.  The live to gripe.] The group is encouraging others if they’re not happy with their church, to move to another one. [Don’t let the door hit you.]

Hesselbein said she’s worried if more decisions like this are made, the Catholic Church will lose more members. [This is just a guess: could Ms. Hesselbein be involved with Call to Action?]

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Will D. says:

    Thus, correction seems new, harsh, capricious, especially to those who think the Church’s laws mean nothing.

    And, in Ms. Hesselbein’s defense, it comes at a time when emotions are understandably raw and heightened. It could be that she was taken aback by the correction, or even that her pastor may have been tactless in applying it. We can’t know, despite the family’s hurt feelings the Bishop has acted correctly.

    The prohibition on eulogies at the Mass is correct, one needs only to look at Patrick Kennedy’s boorish eulogy of his father for proof, but the catechism is sorely lacking. People need to be taught about this long before they find themselves at the parish office planning a loved one’s funeral. During my own father’s funeral planning, our priest gave us the option of speaking before Mass, but we decided that even then, it was superfluous. We eulogized and remembered between his death and the Mass, and afterwards at the reception, but kept the Mass for prayers for his soul and the worship of God.

  2. Ben Trovato says:

    Yes, modern funerals are a real problem. If there’s one in the parish on a day when I’m off work, I make an effort to go (despite the outrage to my sensibilities) so that there is at least one person present praying for the soul of the deceased, rather than celebrating his life…

  3. Clinton says:

    So according to Channel 3000, the Madison chapter of Call to Action, and Mrs. Hesselbein
    herself, His Excellency Bishop Morlino did not give the woman an opportunity to “celebrate
    her dad”.

    Will the TV station, CTA, and Mrs. Hesselbein also complain about the meanies who denied
    her the opportunity to say her piece at either the wake, at the graveside, or at the reception
    after the funeral Mass? The Bishop of Madison’s authority extends over the funeral Mass,
    and rightly so– but who are these other people with the power to gag a grieving daughter?

  4. SimonDodd says:

    I include Bp. Morlino in my prayers every day, and have done since some contretemps he was involved in last year where he did the right thing in the face of significant resistance. (I don’t even remember what the issue was, now.) I hadn’t intended to make him a permanent fixture, but once you’ve started, it’s hard to find a place to stop! And I see now that it is good to continue doing so. His excellency has a tough billet; may God bless him.

  5. benedetta says:

    How about, as an alternative to ‘call to action’ we begin talking, prevention. Laity could form societies for the prevention of liturgical/spiritual abuse. We need to take steps now to prevent further, would the word be, profanation, in order that the typical and healthy development of young people everywhere will not be interrupted/disrupted/re-routed by elitists seeking to create custom-made liturgy crafted in their own image…

  6. rinkevichjm says:

    Why didn’t she have a wake, rosary, or interment service if she wanted to have the eulogy?

  7. isnowhere says:

    I also wish the typical father (Just call me by my first name) would also stop with the sermons where the deceased is spoken of in Heaven playing golf with Our Lord Jesus, and other such non-sense.

  8. Malateste says:

    You know, it’s easy to rant about liberal abuses and cast out dark hints about this poor woman’s probable political leanings, [I didn’t hint.] but this reads just as much like a failure of leadership or catechesis by the bishop and priests as it does like any sort of over-reaching by the laity. [This actually is a case of leadership. It is simply a direction you don’t like, apparently.] In a diocese where funeral eulogies have been common practice for years, [Correction: a comment abuse for years…] I think it’s perfectly legitimate for someone who’s just lost her father to be distressed at finding out, five minutes before the funeral mass begins, that her carefully and doubtless painfully composed remarks won’t have a chance to be heard. [Who said they could not be heard? They simply could not be delivered during Mass.]

    Priests and bishops are supposedly our spiritual fathers, [Not “supposedly”.] and any parent understands that while you can’t always give the kids what they want, there are definitely right ways and wrong ways to make prohibitions. [Most of the time it involves saying “No.” And when the kids whine, they say “No” again. And then when more whining comes, the “No” generally gets louder.] Perhaps the phase-out of eulogies was necessary, but who on earth in the bishop’s office thought it was a great idea to do it abruptly via a poorly-publicized internal memo, [Poorly publicized internal memo? Do you have additional knowledge beyond what is in the news account? And to whom should the bishop make things known… to the pastors of the parishes, right?] apparently without any effort at updating the faithful, explaining the theological grounds for the change, or registering any sort of compassion for the legitimacy of the grieving person’s urge to praise or memorialize the dead? [I suspect no amount of publicizing, advertising, catechizing, compassionizing would have been enough. Some people simply want to get up into a church’s pulpit.]

    If the priest had rung this woman up the day before and had a sympathetic chat outlining what she could expect from the funeral liturgy and suggesting alternative placements for the eulogy– or if there had been any sort of aggressive diocese-wide announcement and catechesis a month before, when the edict was made– would we really be seeing this kind of indignant backlash? [First, you don’t know that that wasn’t done. Second, my own experience is that people will at times simply ignore parish rules about funerals and weddings and act as if they didn’t have to follow them, no matter how they were communicated in written or spoken form. That happens.] Instead, Right was served, but the anti-Catholic media has yet another arrow for its quiver. [Yah… big surprise there.] I sometimes wonder whether it’s a judgment on the Church as a whole, to be given a leadership where orthodoxy, charity and common-sense seem so infrequently to go together. [The Church as a whole? Piffle.]

  9. The Order of Christian Funerals addresses the eulogy issue in the context of the Liturgy of the Word and the homily: “A brief homily based on the readings should always be given at the funeral liturgy, but never any kind of eulogy.”

    However, there is a place reserved for something similar near the end of the liturgy. The “red” for the final commendation notes: “A member or a friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased before the final commendation begins.”

  10. Dirichlet says:

    I agree with Isnowhere. A requiem homily shouldn’t be a feel-good speech about how good the deceased was and why he/she has to be in Heaven. On the contrary, it should be –at best– a reminder of our finite existence, that we are dust, and that we belong to Christ.

  11. Fr. W says:

    I have done hundreds of funerals. I do my best to move eulogies to the wake or cemetery. But one thing that is VERY clear, is that if someone wants to do one, it is up to THEM to speak to the priest about doing it. Not just show up and expect to walk up – that is ridiculous. Out of many hundreds of funerals, no more than 2 or 3 have presumed to be giving a eulogy without speaking to me, on the day of the funeral.

    With or without the new policy, it is ridiculous to presume to walk up and speak without having discussed it with the priest the day before.

  12. Random Friar says:

    I agree with the good bishop. I try to gently guide people away from eulogies at funeral Masses, explaining that there have been many bad incidents, people who thought they were strong breaking down, off-color remarks (sometimes to fill the time), and so forth. I encouraged them to “get all their words out” after the Vigil, to pour out their stories there.

  13. Random Friar says:

    Oh, and a little problem with modern technology: folks sometimes want to play a video or audio tribute to the dear departed at Mass as well.

  14. marymartha says:

    A couple of years ago at a family funeral in Madison at a more ‘liberal’ parish there were several eulogies – in a kind of odd part of Mass – after Communion and after the final blessing. I think that was a way to say that the eulogy was not part of the Mass.

    That whole experience was very odd because one of the eulogies was a exhortation that we should all vote for Obama (it was late summer of 2008) because that is what the deceased would have wanted from us all.

    A month ago there was a very sudden unexpected death in the family. When I called the pastor of the parish in the Madison suburb where the deceased lived I was very kindly told in that first phone call that eulogies are not done during the service. With that experience I wonder if the pastor didn’t tell another member of the family that the eulogy would not be an option but that message was not conveyed to Ms. Hesselbein by her family.

    After my family member’s funeral there was a lunch in the Church hall (Wisconsin church ladies put on a lovely church lunch) and the pastor made a point of setting up a microphone for people to speak if they wanted. It is entirely reasonable to have people give their speeches outside of the church service.

  15. scotus says:

    However, this one is aslo on the website of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales:
    It appears to be an English translation of the Vatican document referred to above. It makes it quite clear that there is not to be a eulogy.

  16. jbas says:

    In a truly Catholic culture it might not be a problem having such persons speak about the dead before the final commendation. But I find that it is usually a non-Catholic, lapsed Catholic or poorly educated Catholic who usually wishes to do so, leading to predictably problematic (and lengthy!) comments. They usually have a difficult time getting through it due to heightened emotions, anyway.

  17. Arieh says:

    Most Catholic funerals these days seem to simply canonize the deceased. I really hope that my family prays for me after I die rather than tell a few quaint anecdotes.

  18. amenamen says:

    Clarifying the obvious: it was an ambush

    “…she was told just minutes before her father’s funeral on Monday that she would not be allowed to speak”

    To clarify the obvious: this means that SHE must have waited until “just minutes before Mass” before she bothered to tell the priest what she was planning to do at Mass. This is called an “ambush.” Do not ask for permission; do not give advance warning; do not give the priest a chance to see what you have decided to do. Wait until all the guests are seated, the priest is vested for Mass, and the casket is at the front door of the church, and only then tell him you are going to “speak” at the Mass (for twenty minutes?). Then blame the priest and the bishop for not telling you sooner.

  19. PghCath says:

    Deacon Greg et al: It seems that Bishop Morlino was not speaking about GIRM 382, but rather about Order of Christian Funerals 170, which you cite. Here is the text of his letter:

    In recent months I have had discussions with several of you, and in particular with the Presbyteral Council, regarding the practice of commemorations given by the loved ones of the deceased at funerals. In light of our conversations and after my own prayerful reflection, I wish to make public some important principles on the matter and set forth some directives for all Catholic funerals in the Diocese of Madison. In our pastoral ministry and in our own personal lives, we have experienced the sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, and we can all appreciate the natural impulse to honor the deceased, share our stories, and express our grief. Yet, it is for us as the sacred ministers of the Church—who are witnesses of divine mercy and of the hope for resurrection—to place these impulses in proper relationship with the Sacred Liturgy for funerals. The funeral liturgy, and especially the Holy Mass, is in the first place the Church’s worship of Almighty God on the occasion of the death of one of God’s people, together with the prayerful mourning and grieving. It is not an act directed toward honoring the deceased, though this may occur in passing. For this reason, it is forbidden by the Church for there to be a eulogy within the funeral liturgy. The homily of the priest or deacon draws the assembly’s attention to the mercy and love of God and to the Paschal Mystery; while the life and death of the deceased are spoken about only in reference to these.

    Liturgical norms [OCF 170] allow a member or friend of the family to “speak in remembrance of the deceased” after the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Nevertheless, I am asking that such words of remembrance not be spoken at any time during the funeral liturgy in the Diocese of Madison. The reason for this is that, due to the common experience of eulogies in non-Catholic religions and in the secular world, a person invited to speak in remembrance of the deceased would almost certainly think he or she is to give an open eulogy. The intention of the liturgical norm is for there to be a brief, discreet statement about the deceased reference to their life of faith; but in practice we know that such a remembrance can easily become lengthy, awkward, and even at times indecent. Therefore, I am asking all the priests and deacons of the Diocese to refrain from inviting anyone to offer words of remembrance during the Sacred Liturgy. And if anyone asks to do so, they are to be invited to so do in some other setting outside of the Sacred Liturgy, such as during the visitation (but outside the Vigil Service), at the cemetery (but after the Rite of Committal with Final Commendation), or at the funeral banquet. In special cases, such as at the funeral of a veteran, such words may also be spoken before the funeral liturgy begins.

    Thank you for your careful and conscientious implementation of these directives. Let us unite in prayer, through the intercession of Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Joseph – patron of a happy death – that the funeral liturgies in our Diocese may be increasingly endowed with sacredness, dignity, and a spirit of divine worship, and that all who mourn may be inspired to draw nearer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, our Hope and Resurrection.

    Invoking upon you all the blessings of Almighty God, I remain,

    Faithfully in Christ,

    Most Rev. Robert C. Morlino
    Bishop of Madison
    From the Chancery February 25th 2011.”

    I found this in an online bulletin from somewhere in the Diocese of Madison. Thus, it seems that rather than simply affirming GIRM 382, he is using his authority as Bishop of Madison to interpret the that the word “may” in OCF 170 to mean “perhaps elsewhere in the Latin church, but not in the Diocese of Madison.”

  20. amenamen says:


    It is not so hard to see what this Catholic politician stands for:

    Dana Hesselbein is listed as a Sponsor for a fundraising event (“Wine and Choice Tasting”) for NARAL Wisconsin Pro-Choice

    In an interview in August 2009, Dana Hesselbein criticized her Republican opponents for being “very anti-choice.”
    “Her proudest accomplishments on the board include the enactment of the county smoking ban as well as the establishment of a county domestic partnership registry.”
    Her priorities include “marriage rights for same-sex couples, which she is willing to do by introducing a constitutional amendment to counteract the amendment approved in 2006.”

  21. amenamen says:

    Dianne Hesselbein received a Masters degree in theology from Edgewood College, “a Catholic college in the Dominican tradition.”

  22. inara says:

    We recently attended the funeral Mass of our pastor(a third order Franciscan)’s father. The bishop was scheduled to preside (is that the proper term?) but had to cancel last-minute, so another prominent priest from the area took his place. There were several other priests (& the abbot from Belmont) also present & seated in the sanctuary. Our pastor gave a fairly lengthy & anecdotal eulogy which, at the time, I had no idea was inappropriate. Certainly no one who should have known better seemed to mind. :o/

  23. jbas says:

    AmenAmen may well be right. This last-minute “informing” certainly happens to me with some frequency. But, as Fr. Z. and others are saying, the main culprits remain those poor but well-meaning priests who allowed these practices to grow over recent years, thus establishing a fairly solid precedent.

  24. PostCatholic says:

    If one believes in the eschatology of the Catholic church and also its teachings about the sacraments of (particularly) Baptism and Eucharist, then the legislation which Bishop Morlino is enforcing only makes sense–it prevents any number of profanations, instant canonizations, and so on. Once the premise is accepted, I don’t know why someone wouldn’t happily assent to such logic with relief, as so many commenters here are doing.

    I suspect strongly, though, that a great many Catholics are surprised that their church instructs that a funeral is a time when they’re meant to pray that the dead don’t suffer the torments of purgatory, that Mom didn’t just become an angel, that a Catholic heaven does not have a 36 holes of golf or a cruise ship and that their statements of their love and affection for the decedent aren’t useful to the liturgical moment. I suspect many of them do not believe in the notions of hell and purgatory at all. And perhaps, neither did their departed loved one. I suspect many of these people believe in a universal salvation of sorts, making exceptions for notorious bad guys like Hitlers, bin Ladens, and Kennedys.

    So given that, why do nominally or even luke-warm Catholics have a Catholic funeral at all? Why do clergy assent to offer one? And isn’t, perhaps, a little too late to do the instruction in Catholic eschatology? I think they mistakenly hope that a funeral is a time for comforting the living, rather than rescuing the dead from further misery beyond the mortal coil.

    I’m reminded of a cartoon in a light-hearted devotional book I had in seminary, of a broad shouldered man in a double-breasted suit and sunglasses holding a baby over the font with a priest standing nearby. The caption read something like, “Perhaps I should explain the meaning of the term Godfather…” Well quite, perhaps he should. But I think maybe he’d left the teaching moment arrive a little late.

  25. JaneC says:

    Besides being prohibited and inappropriate, eulogies during the funeral Mass–or even after the final blessing, which though not technically during the Mass is still in the church–can create logistical problems as well, especially in a busy parish. (I’m a singer, and attend more funerals in that capacity than the average bear.) Sometimes I see florists doing impatient little dances in the vestibule because they are supposed to set up for a wedding that’s in less than two hours, and the organist likewise checking his watch because he thought he’d have time to grab lunch between the funeral and the wedding (maybe the priest is thinking the same thing). But the world has stopped because some poor person is standing at the front of the church sobbing, unable to finish reading the words of a carefully prepared speech, or worse, telling an interminable story that’s more about the speaker than the deceased.

    Save it for the reception. That’s what we did at my grandmother’s funeral, and it was much pleasanter to listen to that interminable story with a plate of cookies in front of me. I suspect that some of the people who want to speak during the Mass really want a captive audience who aren’t checking out the buffet or whispering to rarely-seen relatives during their speeches.

  26. albizzi says:

    ….”The group is encouraging others if they’re not happy with their church, to move to another one”.

    Nobody is making obstacles for them to leave: The doors are wide open.
    What the the Church needs is obedient and confident faithfuls, not people feeling “outraged” by her teachings every time a good bishop dares to remind them.

  27. Philangelus says:

    I’m confused about the idea that the mean Catholic Church denied her closure. The only way to achieve closure is to give a speech? Really?

    As others said, there’s more than one time and place to give a talk, and I would add that there’s more than one way to achieve closure. And if anyone in the world actually achieved “closure” within a week after a parent’s death, they need to bottle it and sell it. Most normal humans grieve the loss of a parent for upwards of a year after the death, with or without giving a speech.

  28. jamie r says:

    Right before the Funeral Mass is already too late to explain why there are no eulogies. The Bishops as a whole have already dropped the ball on this one – calling it a “Mass of Resurrection,” letting priests wear white vestments, etc. If it’s already being treated as a Mass of Resurrection, why should a lay person understand that it’s not a celebration fo the decedent’s life?

    And really, if you look at the way announcements, and, to a lesser extent, homilies, the peace, and intercessions are done at most parishes, it’s a wonder anyone knows that eulogies don’t belong in the mass. A crackdown on eulogies is going to result only in anecdotes like the ones above until there’s a similar crackdown on announcements, etc.

  29. Malateste says:

    [Most of the time it involves saying “No.” And when the kids whine, they say “No” again. And then when more whining comes, the “No” generally gets louder.]

    Respectfully, Father, I wonder if you’ve spent a great deal of time around children. It’s been my experience, at least, that the BECAUSE-I-SAID-SO! stage comes about five steps after you’ve already lost the disciplinary battle– by being inconsistent, arbitrary, or lazy, by demanding more than the situation will bear, or by stressing the relationship to the point where the kid starts to mistrust your wisdom or your goodwill.

    I suppose we all stand on our positions occasionally, but I do think history bears witness to the fundamental differences between authority and authoritarianism. Certainly in academia, which is my other sphere of experience, the most rigidly authoritarian educators, the ones who just say NO!, who sneer and lay blame, who don’t know what their classes think and don’t care, who believe persuasion is for suckers, who wouldn’t dream of condescending to explain their actions to the hoi polloi, are seldom the ones with well-ordered classrooms or especially compliant, productive students. And conversely, I’ve seen in action plenty of good leaders who were capable of getting things done– even quite unpopular things– while still retaining the love, respect and obedience of the people they governed. I guess I was just suggesting that a more attentive and skillful shepherd might find himself with more docile sheep.

  30. albizzi says:

    Before my Mom died in January 2010, she had already warned me that she didn’t want any eulogy. Although our parish priest never made obstacle, I prevented my brother to say an eulogy that hadn’t its place in a funerals mass. Only I gave a few words to be read by my son (I was too moved) recalling her action in the parish (she taught catechism for almost 50 years and sang in the parish choir) and underscoring that we were here first to pray God to accept her as soon as possible in His Paradise, and no other futile remembrance.
    My brother read his eulogy during the lunch we had at home with many friends and we had a lot of fun with it, moreover when he told that the famous moviemaker Jean Renoir asked her to be an actress in one of his movies (she was a very beautiful woman) and she replied no bcs God gave her 7 kids to educate.

  31. catholicmidwest says:

    Fr, you said, “Most of the time it involves saying “No.” And when the kids whine, they say “No” again. And then when more whining comes, the “No” generally gets louder.”

    Re raising kids: The trick is knowing what the parents’ authority covers and what the kids’ authority covers. Many parents yell at their kids for foolish things and they deserve the BS they get from their kids over picking their nose, making faces, playing loudly at playtime, etc. Kids will be kids on those counts and should not be harassed by bossy parents who don’t have any thing better to do. ON THE OTHER HAND (and this is what you are interested in), some things ARE the business of the parents: safety, how money gets spent, how important things happen, health things. And in those a parent should NOT argue with their children. Children should be taught to yield immediately to NO. Whining or legalism should be met with proportional and rational consequences immediately. And never promise something you aren’t prepared to deliver. Somebody has to be the adult in the room and it should be mom or dad if they are up to it.

  32. catholicmidwest says:

    The format of liturgies is the business of Rome, and in union with Rome, the bishop. So people need to yield to the bishop because it’s his to decide.

    PS. IN my comments above, “being the adult in the room” implies that the parent act like an adult, and not just when they want something from their kids. Consistency & rationality is paramount. Respect for parents is a presumption that comes from the natural order, but one has to earn it to KEEP it.

    And of course, according to the metaphor we’re using, bishops need to behave like bishops in EVERY sense if they want respect. They cannot get out the pomp and ceremony and expect to get respect when they are acting like goofballs in private or semi-private. People aren’t stupid and respect must be earned to be KEPT.

    [Needless to say, Bishop Morlino should be obeyed. In my experience, he has been a decent and honorable bishop. He’s one of the good ones. Shame on those people, whining. Lower the BOOM.]

  33. catholicmidwest says:

    PPS, we have a serious dislocation of authority in the Catholic church, and that’s the cause of most of this kind of stuff. Priests want to be laity; laity want to be priests. Bishops insist on things that they don’t comprehend (their stupid other-worldly (Mars?) missives on money, etc), and wonder why people ignore them. Bishops get caught doing very strange things and then lie like little schoolboys, etc. The Vatican doesn’t want to insist on anything (seemingly across the board) and then gets out of joint when people don’t listen, etc etc.

    It’s a big problem. We need to get this mess straightened out. It’s why people think they can whine and do whatever they want. And unfortunately, the good bishops and others with legitimate authority take the brunt of this mess too. Like I say, respect may come from the natural order of things, but it must be EARNED to be KEPT. The key is understanding exactly what authority belongs to whom.

  34. jbas says:

    Malateste, Christ suffered dearly at the hands of those who should have formed his flock. On the other hand, this week’s OF Gospel text for Mass shows Christ bluntly “telling it like it is”, and thereby making a convert. Faithful Catholics will follow faithful priests and bishops, even when the clergy tell them “no” at apropriate times.

  35. Ef-lover says:

    I support the good bishop –no eulogies– in the past year I attended 3 funeral masses in my parish and all had eulogies at one of them the eulogy was 5 minutes longer then the funeral mass 4 family members came up to speak which lasted about 40 minutes.

  36. catholicmidwest says:

    I agree. IF all that has to happen, it should take place somewhere else–the wake or a funeral home or something like that. NOT IN MASS.

  37. catholicmidwest says:

    Not disputing what you’re saying necessarily.
    But people learn what they see, and they will do what they have learned to do. Teach them to whine and act badly by example, and you can bet, they will. Natural law is not suspended here.

  38. MissOH says:

    Between the white vestment “celebration” liturgies of resurrection, and eulogies, I fear there are many deceased spending much more time in purgatory due to all of the folks who “know” their beloved is in heaven now. I am letting all concerned know that I don’t just attend the EF mass on Sundays, when I die, I want a EF mass.

    It is unfortunate that Ms. Hesselbein never learned that the time for her to get closure by celebrating her father with rembembrances is at the wake or the church dinner after the burial.

  39. Ben Yanke says:

    Typical liberals. Getting mad at a bishop being a bishop. He’s simply restating church doctrine.

    Now if, as she says, she was told minutes before the Mass, that could have certainly been handled better (unless the priest was just notified himself minutes before). But it’s still beside the point.

    At 1:38 in the video, the woman says
    “I don’t understand it, I don’t agree with it … There’s a way to have a compromise, because I was not granted closure. I was not granted the opportunity to celebrate my dad.

    There is a compromise. You may “have your closure” at the luncheon, or after the comittial. She says earlier she “couldn’t share this with anyone”. Did they have a luncheon? Did she live under a rock for the rest of her life?

    Btw, I wonder what she’d say if you asked her what a catholic funeral is for? (hint: It’s not about celebrating someone’s life)

    I’m really not suprised call to action has stuck their nose in this either.

  40. Ben Yanke says:

    I almost forgot:

    KEEP IT UP, BISHOP!!! ;) Thanks for being strong!!

  41. EXCHIEF says:

    I have not read all of the posts here but it is my understanding that following the “ite missa est”, i.e. when Mass is over, a eulogy can be given then while all in attendance are still in Church. Is that correct?

  42. benedetta says:

    It is true that not all priests are always 100% ideally pastoral when it comes to discussing funeral Mass arrangements, as apparently many here have recounted. It seems it should be reasonable overall to aim that people will get what they expect when they attend a Catholic funeral Mass: a Catholic funeral Mass, whether it is in this part or that part of the country. Is it better to just permit all sorts of things at whim or imitation of something at some other church down the road? I attended a funeral Mass recently and there was no eulogy by family member. The priest did speak very personally, kindly and reverently about the deceased and also connected the salvation we pray for with the readings. It was very uplifting and unifying. It is good to send off loved ones on that note, of unified prayer and hope than to leave a Mass, where we are to pray communally, with one particular family member’s personal expression of memories, grief, or relationship, no matter how profound the reflection or important the family member. I agree, the purpose of the Mass and the priest’s role in it for a funeral is something profound and has its place, and the reminiscences, tributes and grief also has its own place.
    The next time we experience a consistently or frequently practiced liturgical innovation, or are confused about omission of leadership on important issues of the day, a story on the local cnn affiliate will not be one avenue open to the rest of us.
    In other news, cable movie offerings this evening are as follows: Mean Girls, The Manchurian Candidate, and, Underdog…

  43. Peggy R says:

    I went to a relative’s funeral at which 1 brother and 1 friend were given the opportunity to speak after communion. It was a fine mass, prior to those talks. The priest’s homily focused on praying for the deceased’s soul. But the deceased was well known at the parish by the current and most recent pastors, both of whom were present. The deceased had turned his life around and was of great service at the parish. But the mass started at about 1, and the speaker’s took 20 mins or more. Actually I don’t know. I had to leave in the middle of the 2nd person to pick up my children from school. I felt awful about doing so.

    Some years ago, I went to a funeral for a friend’s mother in law in DC area. The deceased had left her Lutheran minister husband and their children in our midwestern city for political activity in DC. The funeral service allowed people to speak up with brief remembrances of her. I was so infuriated when I heard all this praise for the activism of this woman who left her children (when the youngest was 18) and husband. It was as if her family did not exist and were guests. I wanted to scream out about her children here before us who were left behind. The husband never granted divorce, good for him. And who had become fine men in spite of her departure.

  44. cblanch says:

    It’s remarkable that she ends up on the same page as the Pope…the Church may have to become smaller in order to remain faithful.

  45. cblanch says:

    It’s remarkable that she ends up on the same page as the Pope…the Church may have to become smaller in order to remain faithful.

  46. TNCath says:

    “‘There’s a way to have a compromise,’ Hesselbein said. ‘Because I was not granted closure. I was not granted the opportunity to celebrate my dad’”

    I HATE that word– “closure!” It sounds like Ms. Hesselbein is closing down a summer home.
    And since when was a Requiem Mass supposed to “celebrate” her dad or anybody else for that matter? This is a very good example of how Catholics have assimilated themselves into to the secularist culture and no longer possess a distinct identity of their own in this country.

    This is just another example of how we have completely abrogated our responsibility to educate our people about what liturgy is all about.

  47. catholicmidwest says:

    Either that or clean up its act and “become the adult in the room,” thereby getting back the respect due to it.

  48. Volanges says:

    I applaud the good Bishop but don’t envy the priests who have to bring this to a stop in their parishes. It must be very difficult for them to enforce this when the parishioners have seen the televised funerals of Catholic politicians, often celebrated by Cardinals or Bishops, which include 3 or 4 eulogies, flags on coffins, non-Catholics given Communion, etc., etc. Why should they believe their pastor after they’ve seen these things seemingly approved by the higher ups?

    We can at least be thankful that Ms. Hesselbein didn’t pull the stunt one of our parishioners pulled at his mother’s funeral. Our pastor at the time didn’t allow eulogies at all. It was my job to light the charcoal for the thurible at Communion time so that it would be ready for the Final Commendation. I was in the sacristy when I heard these words spoken: “We were told not to do this but I’m sure you folks won’t mind…” and I recognized the voice. I opened the door a crack and looked out and I could swear steam was rising from the Pastor’s ears. Fr. had been sitting for a period of post-Communion silence when the man came to the ambo, made himself at home and spoke for 20 minutes. I thought Fr. was going to have a stroke, so angry was he.

    That pastor was immediately followed by one who never said ‘no’ to anything during funerals, including having a tent set up in the sanctuary because the deceased was an outdoors type of guy — the cremated remains were placed on a bench in front of the tent. I’m surprise they didn’t go for the fake campfire. He was big on video tribute to the deceased too.

    Today, we strongly discourage eulogies but if the family insists it has to be done before the start of the Mass. It’s the compromise Fr. has reached since he replaced Pastor Anything Goes. At least families are told it’s not supposed to happen during Mass.

    Unfortunately Catholics today are very poorly catechized about the Catholic Funerals. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard “A funeral Mass is about the deceased after all.”

  49. frjim4321 says:

    If all eulogies were one-page double spaced like Supervisor Hesselbien’s that would be an improvement. It is possible that her prepared statement was fully in accord with OCF 170. We don’t have the data. It would seem more propitious to enforce the provisions of OCF170 than to make up new rules and require the Faithful at funerals to be “more Catholic than the church.” It’s always unwise to require more than the church requires, and this bishop should know that.

    That being said, the vast majority of “remembrances” I hear are really eulogies and are very poorly done. In the last year I have heard ONE prepared remembrance. It was fully in accord with OCF170.

    I don’t understand why people with no training in public speaking think they can stand up in front of a crowd and be coherent with no preparation.

  50. catholicmidwest says:

    The mass is not the place for this; the wake at the funeral home is.

  51. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, that goes for even very famous people. It’s really obnoxious to listen to a mass for a famous person and hear about nothing but their celebrity, until it overwhelms the point of the mass. They’re dead as a old shoe; their celebrity is over; give it a break.

  52. Gail F says:

    Every Catholic funeral I have ever been to in this city has one or more eulogies in the middle of it. Some good, some bad, some long and weepy, some long and rambling, some with multiple short speeches… you get the picture. EXCEPT last year, when my husband’s uncle died. When we were all gathered in the church — where the visitation had just finished — the priest came in and said that the man’s son would say a few words before mass. Then the son, a lawyer, gave a wonderful speech about him, his service in WWII, an unusual hobby, and his family life. It was about 15 minutes long but it was good (the man speaks professionally!). When he was done mass began. I thought this was a HUGE improvement on any of the other funeral masses I’ve ever been to.

    Now, you could say that it happened at the visitation instead of before mass — as they were at the same place and one began when the other ended, I suppose the speech could technically be the end of the visitation, not “before mass.”

  53. frjim4321 says:

    Gail, yes this is a great advantage of providing some visitation at the parish.

  54. jpmulcahy says:

    Kudos to the good bishop! Since being assigned to my first pastorate four years ago, I have never permitted eulogies. There was some initial conflict, but now people like how much better the funeral rites flow. I have the funeral directors tell the family in their meeting that if they want to give a eulogy, they can do so at the funeral home the day before. My uncle wanted to give a eulogy at the funeral Mass of my grandmother and I did not permit him. Good thing. In his eulogy at the funeral home he used “the” four letter word. And my grandmother’s funeral was at the Cathedral Church. Imagine if he would have done that then. Sheesh!

  55. Scott W. says:

    A perfect example of an abuse creeping in, becoming entrenched, getting corrected, and people howling about losing something they weren’t supposed to have in the first place and making bishops look like the bad guys.

  56. chironomo says:

    There are so many instances where a breaking of the rules becomes the rule, such that following the rule becomes an oppression. I recall the incident in Minneapolis concerning the LGBT Mass at a parish that was eventually stopped…. and the reaction was that it was just this mean-spirited Bishop who was putting the kibitz on it… as though a Mass in celebration of the LGBT lifestyle is something that is a part of the catholic tradition and it is just the personal whim of this Bishop that it not be done! The longer such abuses are allowed (i.e – not firmly and unequivocally ended) , the more they become a part of what is accepted. That’s the danger.

  57. amenamen says:

    Liturgy and morals
    Keep it firmly in mind that the Catholic politician in Wisconsin champions same-sex “marriages” and abortion. That ugly reality is not very far beneath the facade of her public attack against Bishop Morlino. The Call-to-Action crowd has never forgiven Bishop Morlino for his outspoken defense of marriage in 2006, during a referendum in Wisconsin on marriage.

  58. Mrs. O says:

    This is something that needs to be addressed everywhere and I applaud the Bishop!
    BUT, where it has no place really in the homily, offering a time and place outside of the mass for family and friends to share would be appropriate and does help those who would like to reminiscence and share about their family.
    I think this could be a catechetical moment if only people would stay open and not shut down, or shut the Church out when they are upset.

  59. Bp Morlino is giving great leadership by this judgment, and I am sure there are many priests who are relieved that they can now appeal to this judgment when faced with ill-formed and understandably emotional mourners.

    I have often thought that funerals must be one of the most difficult occasions for a solid priest who wants to celebrate the liturgy as it should be. It must be very hard to say no to a eulogy or an incredibly inappropriate piece of music. Yet, it is so necessary. I have myself witnessed outright new agey/feminist heresy attacks on the Church in such a eulogy as well as probably more innocent and unintentional spiritual doginess. It must be a relief for a priest faced with requests by mourners for such inappropriate and potentially outright disastrous intrusions on the Mass to be able to point to a clear decision by their bishop. It is, indeed, difficult to correct abuse, but leadership in conjunction with charitable catechesis, prayer and holy example might just be able to achieve this by the grace of God.

    Of course, one of the difficulties is that so many mourners are not practising Catholics in the first place, but while this makes it more difficult to avoid aggravation, it does not constitute an excuse for failing to protect the Mass. Rather, it is more important to avoid eulogies now than at a time when one might more safely have assumed that it would at least not turn out to be something of an anti-Catholic lay homily!

  60. frjim4321 says:

    Story I heard last night about a funeral in Buffalo about six weeks ago. One person in the church made mistake of chewing guy (right, it is very tacky, but that’s what this person was doing). The priest (who had the annoying practice of proclaiming/dramatizing the gospel in “voices” [changing his voice for each “character”]) at communion time made an annoucement around who would be welcome for communion, including, “so long as you have observed the one hour communion fast, and that includes chewing gum and tic-tacs and the like.” At communion this gentleman came forward for communion a which a several-seconds long stare-down ensue. The priest then gave the man communion but was heard by many to say “Beware the Body of Christ.”

    We often may do things feeling that we are doing the “right thing,” but end up alienating people. Then we scratch our heads over why the churches are emptying out.

  61. frjim4321 says:

    guy = gum

  62. Of course, I also think it is important that the mourners are told that they will not be able to give a eulogy during Mass at the earliest time appropriate.

  63. Random Friar says:

    I definitely agree with Volanges. How can we say “no” when politicians like the late Sen. Kennedy (God rest his soul) gets eulogies and speeches, complete with cardinals? The problem is that then it can smack of “favoritism” or a “preferential option for the rich and powerful” at funeral Masses.

    And for the poster who related the experience of the pastor who said no and had someone come up to the ambo during the Communion meditation, I would have simply stood up, said “Thank you, but the Mass must finish on time, for the funeral home is waiting for us, and it would be rude to delay any longer” and then immediately go to “Let us pray.” Masses are not for crashers.

  64. Seraphic Spouse says:

    My mind is boggled at the thought of a “mourner” chewing gum at Mass, let alone a funeral Mass, and then just shuffling up to receive communion. I am a little hazy on what ushers are for, but weren’t they originally supposed to keep order so that priests wouldn’t have to ? People might come to Mass more often if more effort was made to underscore that Mass is sacred and important, even more sacred and important than the classical music concert you paid $50 to attend.

    Part of the funeral problem may be that people see funerals (usually not modelled on the Catholic Requiem Mass) more often in television dramas than in real life and think that’s how they should be.

  65. frjim4321 says:

    Yes, portrayal of Catholic liturgy on television and the movies is usually way off track.

  66. robtbrown says:

    If I might offer a few comments:

    1. The article is just another example of poor contemporary journalism. Although American journalists have historically leaned liberal, at least they could write and usually had some knowledge of their subject. The sad truth today is that is no one who approaches HL Mencken (anti-Catholic) or Jimmy Breslin (Catholic) for wit and style. Print journalism (incl the Internet) is little else than just See-Tom-Run drivel produced by superficial hacks.

    2. I can’t remember the last time I attended a Catholic funeral in the US that didn’t seem like a Beatification. I half expect a tapestry to drop down with the image of the deceased on it and the mention of the feast date in the calendar. Usually, the only mention of praying for the soul happens at the cemetery. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is the new funeral liturgy.

    3. The core of the matter is, as someone mentioned above, whether the purpose of a funeral mass is to offer the Sacrifice of the mass and to pray for the soul of the deceased–or is it to recall happy memories. IMHO, the contemporary funeral mass fosters a sin against the virtue of Hope.

    I am reminded of comments attributed to St Bernadette while a sister at Nevers. When told that people back in Lourdes considered her a saint, she replied: “That’s just an excuse so they think they don’t have to pray for me. After I die, they’ll be running around saying what a saint I was–while I’ll be cooking in Purgatory.”

    4. IMHO, the proper place for eulogies, anecdotes, etc., is a reception after the return from the cemetery. I have noticed that if these take place during mass, the result is often blubbering relatives or fantasy portrayals of the deceased.

  67. Joe in Canada says:

    Kudos to the Bishop! All eyes will be on the Cathedral. The Bishops in Canada were very firm about this some years ago. Then the great Catholic Trudeau died (our Kennedy), and his televised funeral featured 3 eulogies, including one by the Cardinal Archbishop of his home town. Makes it hard for us lesser folk to toe the line, when the laity can say ‘maybe, but look at that.’

  68. MarnieBarcelona says:

    What this woman wanted for her father was a funeral ala Ted Kennedy. These are the fruits of that debacle. [We don’t know that that is what she wanted.]

  69. digdigby says:

    Seraphic Spouse-
    “My mind is boggled at the thought of a “mourner” chewing gum at Mass, let alone a funeral Mass, and then just shuffling up to receive communion.”

    You must not remember JP II’s fabulously POPULAR outdoor masses where people, chowing down picnic style on the grass would put down their sandwiches and go up receive in their hands (which were probably drippy with mayonnaise).

  70. irishgirl says:

    Kudos to Bishop Morlino for taking a stand!

  71. Fr_Sotelo says:

    robtbrown: I half expect a tapestry to drop down with the image of the deceased on it and the mention of the feast date in the calendar. That comment gave me a good laugh, because I have often had the same image in my head at funerals.

    I ask people to share eulogies after we have prayed the rosary at the funeral home the evening before, and that works out well for all involved.

  72. frjim4321 says:

    The fact that many funerals follow a rigid schedule that meets the needs of the funeral directors and cemetery workers (and hopefully rarely the convenience of the priest). The 3 to 5 & 7 to 9 wake is taken with people lining up to greet the family. There is usually hardly time for a proper vigil service, let alone time for people to share memories of the deceased.

  73. I haven’t read all the comments. There are so many of them. Just random thoughts here …

    Liturgical norms notwithstanding, I wouldn’t mind eulogies so much, if they weren’t so dreadfully presented. Usually it is someone without prepared notes (so that the celebrant can review them for appropriateness), and there always has to be more than one, which is even more dreadful. I attended the vigil of the late Sargent Shriver. You never saw so many people in one place congratulate each other. It was pathetic. I imagine “Sarge” would have gotten up to leave if he could have.

    But the Church does not allow the eulogy, and I can see Her wisdom, although there is this mentioned earlier:

    “However, there is a place reserved for something similar near the end of the liturgy. The ‘red’ for the final commendation notes: ‘A member or a friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased before the final commendation begins.'”

    It seems to me that this would allow a representative of the family to thank those who came for their presence, and most of all, to ask for prayers for the deceased. Again, such remarks would be on paper for the celebrant to approve beforehand, thus still avoiding a eulogy. (That’s what the wake is for, along with the necessary libations.)

    In my diocese, I would know of any number of pastors who would be “by the book” on this one. But when a priest dies, you can bet your boots they put the book aside, and you get to read all about it in the diocesan newspaper. I’m not impressed. I will be when the same standard applies to both clergy and laity in my diocese.

    But hey, that’s just me.

  74. Consilio et Impetu says:

    I was never a fan of “eulogies” at Funeral Masses. When the fad first started most were respectful overviews of the deceased’s life. As time passed they went from “memorializing” the deceased to outright threats to some of the mourners. Let me give you an example: a father was giving the eulogy for his son who had overdosed on drugs. The father went off, using obscenities and threats to the persons he thought had sold his son the illegal drugs from the ambo. I agree with any bishop who has disallowed eulogies at funerals. There are a few other “corrections” I think need to be made concerning funerals. A funeral Mass is just that; too often have I seen and heard lately funeral Masses referred to as “Mass of Christian Burial” to, very recently, “Mass of the Resurrection”. Perhaps the USCCB needs to take a look at what goes on throughout the U.S.A. and get it corrected ASAP, not only for funerals but for weddings, Confirmation, First Communion. Sorry guys; the days of “liturgical experimentation” are over!

  75. EXCHIEF says:


    The chances of the USCCB correcting just about anything are slim and none. There are far more serious abuses (though I agree that eulogies during Mass are an abuse) that they have turned their backs on.

  76. Random Friar says:

    @manwithblackhat: I placed on my funeral request card that I not be mentioned by name in the homily. I requested a friar that I know will follow through, and will be in charge as well. They’d have to do it over my dead body…well, not even then!

  77. mjballou says:

    There are many moments in which family and friends can share their memories. At the wake, at a dinner the night before the funeral, at the luncheon afterwards. And these moments can be very precious. The moment NOT to do this is during the funeral Mass.

    Interestingly, as we put together my mother’s memorial service (she wasn’t Catholic), one of my sister’s had a reading she wanted. The Episcopal canon of the cathedral looked at it and said, “No. You can’t have this [it was one of those “I’m not really gone, but right around the corner” type readings). Death is death and we need to acknowledge it for what it is.” Of course, I saw this same sacchrine reading on a Catholic funeral card the other day.

    We need priests and others involved in the funeral rites to help families understand the purpose of the rites – and that we care for both them and the deceased family member.

  78. Centristian says:

    A friend of mine who is the pastor of a busy suburban parish came up with a pretty good solution for family members who wish to eulogize at funerals: he conducts the funeral Mass, and once Mass is ended, after the Prayer of Commendation, he processes out of the church and at that point family may eulogize. He said he decided to do it this way after having endured an absurdly lengthy 45 minute eulogy.

  79. cl00bie says:

    Priest or Deacon: “The Mass is ended, go in peace”

    Congregation: “Thanks be to God.”

    Priest: “Now anyone who would like to can stay for the eulogies”.

  80. amsjj1002 says:

    I think it’s a dangerous thing for a supervisor to do, scorning to following liturgical law; does this mean I can refuse to follow the Dane County Ordinances?

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