St. Patrick's Cathedral conducts Mass of Reparation after trans activist funeral stokes outrage: 'Sacrilegious fiasco'

Celebration of life held for transgender activist and former prostitute Cecilia Gentili at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City on February 16, 2024.
Celebration of life held for transgender activist and former prostitute Cecilia Gentili at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City on February 16, 2024. | Screengrab/CBS New York/YouTube

The pastor of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City performed a Mass of Reparation over the weekend after a funeral for a trans activist prompted outrage from Catholics for its sacrilegious antics.

More than 1,000 people packed the pews of the iconic midtown Manhattan cathedral last Thursday to celebrate the life of Cecilia Gentili, a trans-identifying man who was born in Argentina and lived in the U.S. illegally for a decade until being granted asylum in 2011 and becoming a citizen in 2022. Gentili died Feb. 6 at age 52.

A former prostitute who was once was addicted to drugs and jailed at Rikers Island, Gentili appeared on TV, performed Off Broadway, and became a well-known advocate for the transgender community, sex workers, and HIV/AIDS patients, according to The New York Times. Gentili reportedly had a strained relationship with religion and identified as an atheist.

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According to footage of Gentili's funeral that circulated on social media, raucous applause erupted throughout the service as eulogists repeatedly referred to Gentili as "Saint Cecilia, mother of whores," cross-dressing actor Billy Porter sang a song by Whitney Houston, a reader prayed for transgender healthcare, and an attendee danced down around the casket and down the aisle.

Father Edward Dougherty, who noted that the funeral drew an Easter-size audience, also used feminine pronouns to refer to Gentili and called him "our sister."

The event prompted fierce backlash from conservative Catholic organizations.

CatholicVote called the ceremony "unbelievable and sick" and "a mockery of the Christian faith. The Rev. Nicholas Gregoris of the Priestly Society of Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman condemned it as a "blasphemous & sacrilegious fiasco" that was "a deplorable desecration of America’s most famous Catholic Church."

On Sunday, Catholic author and Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo blasted the antics at the funeral as a "catastrophe" for Catholics and "an outrage" that demands answers.

"Not everybody can get married at St. Patrick's, or get a funeral at St. Patrick's," he said. "There are requirements."

Noting how Canon Law forbids ecclesiastical funerals for "manifest sinners" whose funeral would cause "public scandal of the faithful," Arroyo said, "It's not 'come as you are.' This is not a Broadway theater. This is not a club. This is a house of worship, you must come on the terms of the Church."

Amid the outrage, Father Enrique Salvo said in a statement released by the Archdiocese of New York on Saturday that church leaders were unaware of Gentili's identity and how irreverent the service would be.

"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," Salvo wrote. "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," Salvo continued.

Salvo added that a Mass of Reparation had been performed in the cathedral Saturday at the direction of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who has not publicly commented on the situation.

The funeral was organized by Ceyenne Doroshow, another trans-identifying man, who maintained that they kept Gentili's trans identity "under wraps" from the archdiocese, according to the Times.

Doroshow said Gentili's family wanted a funeral in St. Patrick's because "it is an icon, just like [him]," and blasted the archdiocese for "hypocrisy and anti-trans hatred" in the wake of their statement.

Gentili's funeral marks the second time in recent months a Mass of Reparation at a New York City church has made headlines.

In November, Bishop Robert Brennan of the Diocese of Brooklyn performed a Mass of Reparation to cleanse the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Williamsburg after pop star Sabrina Carpenter used it as the setting for a lewd, violent music video.

The parish reportedly maintained to the diocese at the time that Carpenter's production company had been misleading about the content of the video they intended to film, but the diocese demoted its pastor and said "a review of the documents presented to the parish in advance of the production, while failing to depict the entirety of the scenes, clearly portray inappropriate behavior unsuitable for a church sanctuary."

Jon Brown is a reporter for The Christian Post. Send news tips to

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