WASHINGTON — A gay man who suffered a heart attack and was treated at Washington, D.C.’s Hospital Center said that a priest refused to give him last rites after he said he was gay, a new Washington Blade report reveals.
The man, Ronald Plishka, 63, suffered a heart attack Feb. 6 and didn’t think he’d survive, so asked that he receive last rites from a local priest. The priest came to his bedside with holy water, took Plishka’s confession, but upon learning of his sexuality, said he couldn’t offer last rites or communion.
“We started talking and I told him I was so happy with this new Pope because of his comments about the gays and his accepting the gays,” Plishka told the Blade‘s Lou Chibbaro Jr. “And I mentioned that I was gay. I said it and then I asked him does that bother you? And he said, ‘Oh, no, that does not bother me.’”
“But then he would not proceed with administering the last rites or communion,” Plishka said. “He couldn’t do it.”
Last rites are prayers and ministrations offered to Catholics when possible shortly before death.
Since the inauguration of Pope Francis in 2013, gays across the globe have hailed what they see as a more tempered response from the church to homosexuality. Asked about a secret “gay cabal” within the Vatican last year, Francis told reporters, “I have yet to find anyone who has a business card that says he is gay.”
“They say they exist,” the pontiff continued. “If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society.”
Francis’ “who am I to judge?” comment sent shockwaves across the globe. But in practice, however, Francis’ remarks haven’t meant holistic changes throughout the church.
In January, a member of a same-sex Missouri couple said a priest had denied her communion at her mother’s funeral by the Church following revelation of their partnership in an obituary.
“He had called me the day of the rosary and said he wouldn’t be able to give us communion because of our same-sex relationship,” the woman, Carol Parker, said.
Plishka said he received the same treatment.
“I mean he stopped,” Plishka said of the priest, Father Brian Coelho. “He would not do it. By him not doing it I assumed he would not do it because why was he getting ready to do it and all of a sudden when I say I’m gay he stops?”
Plishka said Coelho instead offered to pray with him.
“He said what he wanted to do,” the heart attack victim declared. “He wanted to pray. That’s what he wanted to do. He said well I could pray with you. And I just told him to get the f*ck out of here — excuse me. But that’s what I told him.”
“And then the doctors came in and told me to calm down or I’m going to have another heart attack,” he told the Blade.
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