Wednesday, November 23, 2005
This is my first Thanksgiving in the US since 1987. I always liked Thanksgiving. We made a pretty big deal of it at home when I was a kid. I look forward to spending some time with family.
A suspended State Police officer shot and killed his ex-girlfriend Monday night (she was a local police officer) and then turned the gun on himself. This happened here in town and the family of the State cop is a long time member of my parish. Mom and Dad are in the front row every Sunday, prayer circle, food drives... the whole package. They are devastated.
We will do the wake here on Friday evening and the funeral and burial will be Saturday morning. One of the old timers that helps out at the church asked me if it was all right to celebrate a funeral Mass given the circumstances surrounding the death.
Some folks still remember the days when suicides were not given a funeral Mass or 'Christian' burial. But the understanding of the emotional and mental states that often end in taking one's own life has deepened and Canon Law has changed accordingly. Suicide is no longer mentioned explicitly in the norm (1184) that refers to exclusion from exequia ecclesiastica. In principle, a funeral Mass could be denied in three cases: a known apostate, heretic or schismatic; someone who has been cremated for reasons contrary to the faith; a notorious sinner for whom a funeral Mass could not be celebrated without grave scandal of the faithful.
Conceivably, in the case of a murder/suicide, the third condition could be invoked as motive for denying the funeral in church. This man, however, was clearly not well and had been exhibiting signs of imbalance and disturbance even before his suspension from the force back in March.
The question is not really whether he should receive Christian burial, but how he was allowed to go that far without proper help.
In short, I will celebrated the Mass and bless his burial site. But I have no idea what I will say to his parents after the most wretched Thanksgiving of their lives.