When a priest is celebrating a funeral Liturgy or a wedding Liturgy and he is following the liturgical law laid out in the liturgical books of the Catholic Church, the laity does not have the right to interject anything into the celebration.
As I understand this unfortunate case, the priest, Father Sirianni was celebrating the Mass and a member of the family was, presumably with the priests prior permission, reading one of the readings. When the woman announced that she would read another reading of her choosing the priest invited her to take her seat. At which point the father of the deceased, from his seat in a pew, told the priest to let her read the reading she had chosen and the mother of the deceased began to cry loudly and uncontrollably. At which point the priest broke off the celebration of the Mass and proceeded with the rite of committal of the body of the deceased and announced that a memorial Mass would be celebrated the next day.
I believe that the priest acted properly. When laity interrupt a Mass and the priest has not yet begun the Consecration of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, he should terminate the Mass. To do otherwise invites chaos. I have been present at a funeral Mass (I was not the celebrant) when five members of the family of the deceased took over the Mass and gave five eulogies that lasted 45 minutes. The pastor did nothing to stop the maudlin eulogies and the funeral liturgy was a liturgical disaster.
The way to prevent such liturgical disasters is for the celebrating priest to meet with the family before the liturgy, explain the liturgy and spell out that there is to be no liturgical improvising by the laity during the celebration.
Report: priest stops funeral Mass mid-liturgy
From a TV station in Rochester, New York:
A local family said a priest suddenly stopped their loved one’s funeral during the ceremony.
Michael Klimchuk said Father Louis Sirianni at Saint Mark’s Church in Greece ended the funeral mass for his sister, Mary, Monday because a family member went outside the order of the mass and wanted to do another reading. He said Father Sirianni then said, “Now is not the time,” and ended the funeral mass itself.
“This is the last time we have to pay respects to my sister,” said Klimchuk. “She’s 35 years old. She just passed away, I mean we needed to do certain things in order to pay our respects and say goodbye. He denied us that.” The family claimed he was rude and could have handled it differently, adding they were appalled. 13WHAM News reached out to the church Tuesday night and asked Father Sirianni if he would speak with us. He declined.
The Diocese of Rochester released the following statement Tuesday:
“The Diocese office has not received any complaints. The liturgical rites of the Catholic Church, especially as they concern the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, are governed by universal norms of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Code of Canon Law, and the Order of Christian Funerals. The latter provides for Words of Remembrance after the Closing Prayer. Regrettably, there was a misunderstanding or lack of information regarding this optional part of the Rite. It appears that individuals became upset when instructed about the proper place for these reflections. When the upset continued, the Funeral Rites were completed with hymns, incensation of the body and final prayers. A Memorial Mass will be offered for the deceased tomorrow.”
The family said a letter has been sent to Rochester Bishop Salvatore Matano. They said they do not want similar experiences to happen to other families.
UPDATE: A local columnist offered more details on this mess:
As the family tells it, a woman assigned to read from the Bible at the Mass attempted to follow her reading with the passage from Ecclesiastes.
The priest told the reader to take a seat, to which the deceased’s father told the priest to let her proceed, to which the priest responded that then was not the time for an additional reading, to which the mother of the deceased began crying inconsolably, to which the priest ended the service then and there and delivered the last rites.
Without knowing the full details, and hearing both sides of the story, we can’t really judge fairly what happened here. But whisper up a prayer for this priest and for this family.
I think at many parishes more unnecessary pain and heartache have been caused over funerals than any other event. This appears to be another example.
When we were arranging the funeral Masses for my father, and later, my mother, we wanted to use different readings from Scripture than those recommended by the liturgical books. We submitted those to Father for his approval, and since they were appropriate, he approved them. We did not diverge from what we were permitted to read. I cannot imagine why this family did not get approval before the Mass for the reading.
Once again, disobedience to authority so prevalent in our culture, followed by indigence when the authority is asserted, shows its ugly face.