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Catholic Bishop Apologizes…

John McCusker was denied a Catholic funeral because the church claimed that a gay porn movie was shot at his niteclub

San Diego- The head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego apologized yesterday to the family of gay nightclub owner John McCusker, less than a week after denying McCusker a Catholic funeral because of his “business activities,” according to a statement released by McCusker’s family.

In a stunning twist to a controversy that has created an uproar in San Diego’s gay and Catholic communities, Bishop Robert Brom also promised to preside at a Mass in memory of McCusker at Immaculata Catholic Church at the University of San Diego, according to the statement.

McCusker, 31, died March 13 while vacationing in Mammoth.

In the statement released by McCusker’s family, Brom said, “I deeply regret that denying a Catholic funeral for John McCusker at the Immaculata has resulted in his unjust condemnation, and I apologize to the family for the anguish this has caused them. To help rectify this situation, insofar as it can be, I will preside at a Mass for the family, in memory of John, at the Immaculata. In consideration for the family, I will not be available for any further public statements on this matter.”

Earlier in the day, a woman who answered the phone at the diocese said neither the bishop nor his spokesman would have any further comment.

Last week, Brom forced the Immaculata to cancel McCusker’s funeral, declaring that no parish within the diocese, which includes San Diego and Imperial counties, could hold a Catholic service for him. At the time, the diocese said McCusker’s “business activities” – he owned a gay bar and a popular nightclub with a largely gay clientele – “were contrary to Sacred Scripture and the moral teaching of the Church.”

In defending its decision at the time, the diocese said it had obtained information that a gay porn video had been recorded at McCusker’s Club Montage, near Lindbergh Field, and that gay porn stars had appeared at his North Park bar, ReBar.

McCusker’s friends said McCusker often rented out Club Montage and had no involvement in making the video.

Last week’s decision forced McCusker’s family to scramble for an alternate venue for his funeral, which was held Friday at St. Paul’s Cathedral, an Episcopal church near Balboa Park.

Last night McCusker’s mother, Christine McCusker, read the bishop’s latest statement to a packed crowd at the San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center in Hillcrest. The crowd of at least 300 people, who showed up expecting to discuss ways to respond to the diocese’s actions, was stunned and delighted by the unexpected news. Christine McCusker told the crowd that when her family met with the bishop yesterday, Brom “regretfully acknowledged his hasty decision.”

She urged the crowd to accept the bishop’s apology “as an offering of peace and an offering to do what John would have done, as he is a great advocate of reconciliation and forgiveness.”

The controversy over McCusker’s funeral became a popular topic on the Internet and came at an awkward time for the Catholic church, which has been dealing for several years with fallout from disclosures of widespread sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the United States.

Those who showed up last night to support McCusker’s family said the bishop probably didn’t expect the backlash that his actions received.

“I think he saw the response from our community as well as our straight allies,” said Ken Riley, 50, a physician and member of Ebony Pride of San Diego.

Some conservatives expressed grave disappointment at the bishop’s about-face. Ernie Grimm, who edits the monthly Catholic newspaper San Diego News Notes, said he felt “betrayed.”

“He had showed a lot of courage in making his original decision and encouraged a lot of us lay Catholics who had been looking for stronger leadership from our bishops,” Grimm said. “He caved in the face of opposition.”

James Hartline, a Christian conservative activist from Hillcrest, said he alerted the bishop to McCusker’s gay business interests.

Hartline said he spoke with Brom at least four times about the McCusker case, including a meeting yesterday that lasted an hour. At no time did the bishop indicate he would reverse his position, Hartline said last night.

“He emphatically stated to me he would not budge one bit,” Hartline said. “It’s very, very strange. He was preparing a document that was going to include the fact that he was not going to reverse course at all.”

Rebecca Moore, a professor of religious studies at San Diego State University, said Brom acted with grace and compassion in owning up to what she and many others said was a mistake.

“A funeral does not make a statement about the morality of the deceased, but rather it makes a statement about the mercy of God,” Moore said. “Bishop Brom had second thoughts about his original decision and had the guts to publicly change his mind. That takes courage.”



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