St. Patrick’s holds rare Mass of Reparation after ‘scandalous behavior’ at service for NYC trans icon Cecilia Gentili

NEW YORK — St. Patrick’s Cathedral held a rare Mass of Reparation Saturday after the Archdiocese of New York claimed mourners at a funeral service for trans icon Cecilia Gentili last week engaged in “scandalous behavior.”

St. Patrick’s pastor, the Very Rev. Enrique Salvo, said that at Cardinal Dolan’s request, the Mass was offered to pray for forgiveness for what some Catholics considered a desecration of the historic Midtown house of worship.

“Thanks to so many who have let us know they share our outrage over the scandalous behavior at a funeral here at St. Patrick’s Cathedral earlier this week. 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,” Salvo said Saturday in a statement. “That such a scandal occurred at ‘America’s Parish Church’ makes it worse.”

Dolan has not spoken about the funeral.

Priests holding the service on Thursday were reportedly not told that Gentili was trans.

Joe Zwelling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the church didn’t take issue with Gentili’s sexual identity, but the actions of the mourners.

Outraged Catholics complained on social media that attendees wore racy outfits and cursed openly at the podium while paying tribute to Gentili, 52, a renowned trans activist and award-winning author, former sex worker, and actress.

Mourners also jokingly identified Gentili as a “saint” and changed the lyrics to some Catholic songs to honor the LGBTQ advocate.

Among the mourners was “Pose” star Billy Porter, who, according to the group Catholic Vote on X opened the service “with a song mocking the Our Father prayer.”

The group went on to say the service was a “mockery of the Christian faith INSIDE St. Patrick’s Cathedral.”

Ceyeye Doroshow, who organized the memorial, admitted to The New York Times that she did not mention Gentili was trans to St. Patrick’s officials and kept her identity “under wraps.” Organizers did put out an extensive news release advertising the funeral at the church.

More than 1,000 people attended the service, which was live streamed on Trans Equity YouTube channel. Many of the mourners were trans and were seen wearing miniskirts, halter tops, fishnet stockings and fur stoles.

So many people showed up at the “homegoing service” that the Rev. Edward Dougherty, who presided over the Mass, commented on the size of the crowd.

“Except on Easter Sunday, we don’t really have a crowd that is this well turned out, you know?” Dougherty said during the service.

Gentili’s family on Saturday pushed back at St. Patrick’s, saying the funeral brought “precious life and radical joy to the Cathedral in historic defiance of the Church’s hypocrisy and anti-trans hatred.”

“Cecilia Gentili’s funeral service, which filled the pews in ways the Cathedral only can during Easter service and NYPD funerals, was a reflection of the love she had for her community and a testament to the impact of her tireless advocacy,” family members said in a statement to The New York Daily News. “Her heart and hands reached those the sanctimonious Church continues to belittle, oppress, and chastise, and she changed the material conditions for countless people, including unhoused people and those who needed healthcare.

“The only deception present at St. Patrick’s Cathedral is that it claims to be a welcoming place for all,” they said.

On Thursday attendees had heralded the Cathedral’s hosting of the funeral as a pivotal turn in the church’s treatment of trans Catholics.

Catholics have long excluded queer and trans people, and the national conference of Catholic bishops in the U.S. rejects the concept of gender transition. However, the Vatican announced in October the church would allow trans people to be baptized and serve as godparents under some circumstances.

In 1989, thousands stormed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in opposition to the Catholic Church’s policies on homosexuality, HIV/AIDS and abortion.

Catholics held a Mass of Reparation in Brooklyn in November to cleanse Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church. The Brooklyn Diocese said the church was desecrated when someone filmed a sexually provocative music video inside the house of worship.