Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, addressed the outcry following a “sacrilegious” funeral held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral last week, in which wildly dressed transgender activists celebrated the life of an atheist, trans-identifying male prostitute.

“I think our cathedral acted extraordinarily well,” said Dolan, as he discussed the incident with Father Dave Dwyer in a podcast episode posted Tuesday. “They get a call. They didn’t know the background of this woman, who had died, all they know is that somebody called and said, ‘Our dear friend died. We would love to have the funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It would be a great source of consolation. She’s a Catholic. [It] would be a great source of consolation for us, her family, and her friends.’”

“And of course, the priests of the cathedral said, ‘Come on in. You’re more than welcome,’” Dolan added. “Which was beautiful. We didn’t know the background.”

He added with a chuckle: “We don’t do FBI checks on people who want to be buried. So, anyway, then, of course, once the funeral started is when the trouble started, because of the irreverence and the disrespect of the big crowd that was there. It was very, very sad.”

“And again, I applaud our priests who made a quick decision that, uh-oh, with behavior like this, we can’t do a Mass. We’ll do a liturgy of the word, which is the readings, and the sermon, and the prayers of petition and the ‘Our Father,’ and then we’ll stop it. The Mass is not going to go on. Bravo for our cathedral people, who knew nothing about this that was coming up. And then, of course, it got worse with the eulogies that were very irreverent and disrespectful.”

During the funeral service, transgender activists appeared to mock Catholic saints and repeatedly celebrated “whores.” The memorial service was for a transgender-identifying prostitute and self-professed atheist who went by the name Cecilia Gentili, also revered by LGBTQ activists as a “transgender icon” and advocate.

Videos of the service went viral on social media Friday.


One of the organizers of the funeral said that St. Patrick’s Cathedral was not told that Gentili identified as a transgender woman. “I kind of kept it under wraps,” organizer Ceyenne Doroshow, a man who identifies as a woman, told The New York Times, explaining that St. Patrick’s Cathedral is “an icon, just like her.”

The Rev. Fr. Edward Dougherty led the service, according to Time magazine, telling the funeral attendees: “Cecilia died with Christ.” Dougherty, who did not respond to requests for comment, repeatedly referred to Gentili as a woman.

A livestream of the event depicts one of the funeral organizers, identified by Time magazine as Oscar Diaz, describing Gentili in the following way: “This whore. This great whore. St. Cecilia, mother of all whores!” The congregation wildly claps and cheers, many standing.

People attend the funeral of a transgender community activist at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Feb. 15 in New York City. (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Diaz’s remarks appear to reference the Catholic Saint Cecilia, one of the most famous virgin martyrs of the Catholic Church and the patron saint of musicians. Cecilia is believed to have been beheaded by the Roman Empire for refusing to give up her faith.

More than 1,000 people attended the funeral, the Times reported, including several hundred transgender activists dressed in fur, fishnet stockings, miniskirts, and even thongs, as photographs posted by Time magazine showed.

The funeral attendees also placed a picture near the altar, where priests celebrate the Catholic Mass, that depicted Gentili with a halo and the Spanish words for “transvestite,” “whore,” “blessed,” and “mother,” as well as the text of Psalm 25, the Times reported.

A livestream of the funeral shows Dougherty delivering a homily to those in attendance, joking, “Except on Easter Sunday, we don’t really have a crowd that is this well turned out,” to which the crowd of transgender activists cheers, claps, and laughs.

Dougherty chuckles. As those in attendance continue to cheer, someone in the background can be heard saying that there should be merely a funeral service, not a Mass.

It was unclear who was speaking.

A priest delivers the eulogy at the funeral of a transgender community activist at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Feb. 15 in New York City. (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

During his Tuesday interview, Dolan emphasized that he thinks the cathedral handled the matter well.

“So, anyway, I think our cathedral did well,” he said, before suggesting that secular media outlets have misrepresented the cathedral’s role in the funeral. “We have a lot of misunderstanding. Why in the world are people out there still believing what the secular press reports is beyond me.”

Dolan pointed to a statement from Father Enrique Salvo, the pastor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Salvo issued a statement on Saturday amid outrage over the funeral, calling the activists’ behavior “scandalous” and emphasizing that 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.”

“That such a scandal occurred at ‘America’s Parish Church’ makes it worse; that it took place as Lent was beginning, the annual 40-day struggle with the forces of sin and darkness, is a potent reminder of how much we need the prayer, reparation, repentance, grace, and mercy to which this holy season invites us,” he said. “At the cardinal’s directive, we have offered an appropriate Mass of Reparation.” 

Dolan called that statement “excellent.”

“Why people still think the cathedral purposefully did that; well, a lot of people always want to believe the worst, and they don’t like us anymore than the protesters did in the cathedral,” the cardinal said. “But who knows?”

He also addressed the Mass of reparation, which has already taken place, and was not livestreamed.

“In a way, it’s redundant, because every Mass is the renewal of the infinitely powerful act of reparation that Jesus did on the cross, correct?” he said. “He’s the one that made reparation. We can’t do much. All we can do is unite with him on His cross in his sacred act of reparation. There is a bit of an arrow in the quiver of the church’s treasury of prayer, that if a particularly sacrilegious or scandalous act has occurred in a church, it would be good to offer a Mass, in particular reparation for that act of irreverence. So, we did that.”

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