A priest from Aalborg in Denmark refused to conduct the funeral of a woman when he found out that she had been living in a lesbian relationship for the past 30 years.
Today the Danish tv channel, DR1, tells the story about a minister who refused to bury a woman 2 weeks ago because the deceased had lived in a lesbian relationship.
The deceased’s daughter, Kirsten Østergaard, states to the tv channel that the priest’s announcement came as a shock:
“I thought, can it really be true that we should be ashamed of it? I looked at my mother’s life partner and she was completely silent – and then I became really upset on her behalf. It’s a terrible situation to put her in,” Kirsten Østergaard tells.
Her mother’s partner is 80 years old and they have been registered partners for most of the 30 years they have lived together.
The priest has since changed his mind after the family sent a complaint to the Dean in Aalborg:
“It was a mistake on my part, the biggest mistake I have ever made as a priest. It was a blunder and a mental short circuit that goes against everything I stand for. At first I had agreed to carry out the funeral, but then it crossed my mind that it would be wrong to conduct funerals of gay people when I do not want to marry gay people. But it was completely wrong of me,” the priest says. His regrets, however, do not succeed in changing the diseased daughter’s view of the unpleasant experience.
At the same time Kirsten Østergaard emphasizes that it is about time that the Danish church begins to move with the times:
“I believe that the church needs a 2012 upgrade. The priests should not be allowed to screen and sort by the door as they do when the e.g. refuse to marry divorced or homosexual people,” Kirsten Østergaard says.
A Danish Professor in Church Law, Lisbet Christoffersen, calls the decision taken by the priest unlawful.
“It is just not legal to refuse to bury a member of the church,” Lisbet Christoffersen says to DR News, “and it makes no difference that the priest has made a mistake”.
The Danish National Organisation for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons, LGBT Denmark, is appalled by the incident: “We are completely shocked by it. It is illegal and obscene. He has no right to make such a decision,” George Hinge from LGBT Denmark says.
“The Bishop needs to reprimand the priest in question and at the same time impress upon every minister in the Danish church that discrimination is not accepted,” George Hinge continues.
The Bishop of Aalborg, the city in which the priest resides, has now asked the priest for a written explanation and will then decide what measures need to be taken.
“There is an ongoing debate these days that priests can refuse to marry gay couples, but it has nothing to do with funerals,” George Hinge states.
LGBT Denmark has never before heard of priests refusing to bury homosexuals – but is aware of prejudice and internal disagreements within the church.