Another Boston Catholic Funeral with Non-Catholic Eulogies

BCI has received a number of messages from readers calling attention to the funeral plans on Wednesday for former Boston Mayor, Kevin White.

Once again in Boston, it appears that the intended focus of a funeral Mass for a famous politician is going off course. Just to be clear, former Mayor White was, according to media reports, a Mass-going Catholic, and he had no history of public opposition to Catholic Church teachings, so there is no controversy (as existed with the late Ted Kennedy) over whether he should have a Catholic funeral.  over him having a Catholic funeral.

That said, as we all know, the Catholic funeral liturgy is supposed to focus on the saving mercy of God which we pray will bring the soul of the deceased into eternal life. Hopefully that will be the case here, but based on the advance publicity that highlights the famous political figures who will give eulogies, it sounds like the Kevin White funeral will likely have some similarities to the Ted Kennedy funeral, in that there will be a significant focus on commemorating and celebrating the life of the deceased and some risk of politicization.

The funeral Mass is taking place at St. Cecilia Church in the Back Bay. Fr. John Unni will be the lead celebrant of the Mass; the Rev. J. Donald Monan, a former Boston College president, will concelebrate.  According to the articles describing the plans, four (4) eulogies will be delivered–by Boston Mayor Tom Menino; US Representative Barney Frank; Robert Crane, a close friend and former state treasurer; and Mark White, the mayor’s son.

Perhaps Fr. Unni or those working with the family on the funeral plans have forgotten the revised “Order of Christian Funerals (OCF)” published by the Vatican in 1989. The long-standing prohibition of eulogies at Catholic funerals was again upheld and restated:

“A brief homily based on the readings should always be given at the funeral liturgy, but never any kind of eulogy.” [OCF # 141]

In the revised “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” promulgated by John Paul II in year 2000 (GIRM 2000), this prohibition of eulogies was again restated:

“At the Funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind.”

One might ask oneself, if the Church prohibits eulogies at funerals, how is it that we might have four speakers deliver a series of eulogies?  There is a small loophole in that the Order of Christian Funerals does allow that, “A member or a friend of the family may speak in remembrance of the deceased before the Final Commendation begins.” (OCF # 170). However, if a family member or friend speaks, the ritual intends for this to happen after Communion at the conclusion of the Mass while the priest and ministers are standing at the coffin about to begin the Final Commendation. The words are expected to be very brief, highlighting an aspect of the life of faith of the deceased.

That is not what is in the plans for this funeral Mass.  Instead, a number of politicians who publicly oppose the Catholic Church on moral issues of importance to the church and society will be giving eulogies.

Several readers sent us a link to an article by Fall River priest, Fr. Roger Landry, published in September 2009. shortly after the Ted Kennedy funeral.  Fr. Landry predicted this problem would occur in view of what was permitted at the Kennedy funeral:

The funeral rites of Senator Edward Kennedy generated a lot of controversy…

The overall tone of the funeral liturgy — from the three eulogies, to the prayers of the faithful, to the homily, to the celebrity musicians, to the guest list, and to the nationally-televised gushing color commentaries — seemed to communicate that it was more a public, political apotheosis of Senator Kennedy than a humble, insistent prayer of the Church his mother for the forgiveness of his sins and the repose of his soul. This was probably not helpful to the Senator eschatologically, obviously scandalous to devout pro-lifers spiritually, and likely injurious to the Church both doctrinally and practically.

On the last point, since lex orandi, lex credendi — “the way we pray indicates what we believe” — the overall impression left by the tone of the funeral will likely influence the way Catholics and non-Catholics understand the purpose of the Catholic funeral liturgy for quite some time. It will, moreover, doubtless impact what some Catholics ask for in the funerals of their loved ones; if pastors are unwilling to allow what they observed Senator Kennedy received, there will be wounds to pastors and parishioners both.

This last controversy was totally avoidable; all that was necessary was to adhere to the letter and spirit of the Catholic funeral rite. And the Senator, pro-lifers and the Church as a whole certainly deserved that the Senator’s funeral be an unambiguous and undiluted expression of the Church’s faith.

As evidenced by the publicly announced funeral plans for former Mayor White, the overall impression left by the tone of the Ted Kennedy funeral apparently is very much influencing the way Catholics and non-Catholics understand the Catholic funeral liturgy.  Before history repeats itself once again, BCI suggests that either Vicar General Msgr. Deeley or Director of Worship (and Secretary to Cardinal O’Malley) Fr. Jonathan Gaspar drop a dime to Fr. Unni and let him know that the Catholic funeral rite should be followed on Wednesday.  That means no eulogies, and perhaps one person might be allowed to share a few brief words of remembrance of the former mayor, highlighting some aspect of his Catholic faith. (Hint, that is unlikely to be Rep. Barney Frank).  If you agree, feel free to forward this post to Msgr. Deeley ( .

That is what BCI thinks.  What do you think?

54 Responses to Another Boston Catholic Funeral with Non-Catholic Eulogies

  1. David S. says:

    Numerous pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians are expected to be in attendance at this funeral Mass including Thomas Menino and John Kerry.

    Does the Archdiocese of Boston intend to instruct Fr. Monan and Fr. Unni to enforce Canon 915 and prohibit these abortionists from receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of God Himself? Or will our Church leaders stand silently by and allow a public sacrilege to occur?

    • halo says:

      these new mass or mess services are a sacrilege in themselves,nothing more than a protestant narrative of the last supper ! why else do you see communion in the hand, female alter servers and scad dressed women. it is not a replay of the passion of Christ that it is with the true mass !

  2. Stephen says:

    They will allow a public sacrilege to occur.

  3. Carol says:

    Former Mayor Ray Flynn?

  4. Very timely post, BCI!

    Fr. Landry is right–I’ve had a number of families bring up the Kennedy funeral as an example to justify why they should be allowed to have multiple family members and friends offer eulogies.

    When families say they want to have a eulogy offered, I refer them to the Archdiocese of Boston Policy on Ecclesiastical Funeral Rites.

    “18. Following the prayer after Communion and before the Final Commendation, only one speaker, a member or a friend of the family, may speak for not more than five minutes in remembrance of the deceased.”

    That’s the way it should be on Wednesday. I’m prayiing that the Vicar General exercises his authority to prevent another liturgical fiasco.

  5. David S. says:

    I also pray that the new Vicar General makes sure that the Prayers of the Faithful are in keeping with the dignity of a Roman Catholic funeral Mass.

    You may recall that several Prayers of the Faithful offered by some family members during the Ted Kennedy funeral were an abomination.

    • halo says:

      like i said before these so called masses are a abomination, when the priest fells like he has to face the people to be welcome and give a short speech before every service is this a replay of the sacrifice of the Christ or a man made service invented by heretics ????????????????? no traditional holy priest i have every known of would have done a service or allowed eulogies where i go !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. jwsr says:

    OK, eulogies are NOT a good idea until Mass is ended, but PLEASE show a little perspective when comparing Mayor White and Teddy Kennedy’s funerals.

    Kevin White WAS Catholic.

    Kevin White went to Mass. Often.

    Kevin White was never in danger of being denied the Sacraments.

    St Cecilia is a Church he ACTUALLY attended (I am sure it also worked best logistically, but it was not chosen solely because of that)

    Mayor White’s family has no legislation they want to use his funeral to promote, they just want to send him to his reward. To which we should all add a hearty Requiescat in pace.

    If you don’t think THIS Mass will help Mayor White obtain eternal rest, don’t just complain; have a Mass said for him.

    PS. The music at his funeral WILL be something that can be taken as an example to the faithful for what is appropriate.


      Thank you. The other comments leave me speechless, on a personal level and as a Roman Catholic.

    • Carolyn says:

      I’m with you on this one — this isn’t the Teddy circus. While the norms should be observed, and the secular/political appreciations should not come from the ambo, his son’s reflection is completely appropriate. Bob Crane could say a few words (three minutes?) on behalf of Kevin’s “ministry” as mayor.

      As a canonist friend says, we show very little flexibility until funerals — we reserve flexibility for when you’re dead.

      That said, Barney could bring down the wrath of God… he has no place speaking in a Catholic church. And Mumbles should, just this once, not try to make it about him.

      • I agree with you on Barney Frank and Mumbles Menino. Frank is likely to politicize whatever he says during the funeral. He’s already said this about White:

        Describing White as “the first modern mayor,” Frank lauded him for his inclusive spirit:

        ” ‘City Hall was pretty much a Whites-only — almost an Irish-only — place,’ Frank told The Associated Press. ‘He opened it up, hired people of all races, genders’ and even embraced the gay rights movement.”

        “White also was the first major state-level political figure to open up the political system to new people, including African-Americans and gays,” Frank said.

        Most importantly, as Frank tells the tale, if it weren’t for the Catholic White, there would have been no “Congressman Frank:”

        “ ‘He was an enormously important figure for the city, for many of the values I cared about and, in my case, really made a great difference in my life,’ Frank said.’I was still, when I met him, planning on an academic career, figuring I would dab in politics. He was the one who persuaded me to try fulltime government political work.’ ”

        “He is the reason I’ve done what I have done for the past 40 years,” Frank said.

    • jwsr,
      Thank you for your comments. All valid points.

  7. halo says:

    you people dont even know what a catholic mass is if you walked in on one. thank you vatican two, when the shepherd is struck the sheep scatter.

  8. Warren Goddard says:

    To have proabortion Tom Minino and sodomite Barney Frank in a Catholic is as discusting [edited by BCI]

    • bitsnbytes says:

      Warren, some of us BCI readers — people who live in this diocese, unlike yourself — would prefer that you not use this web site to insult our bishop.

      • Warren Goddard says:

        I have been imprisioned in your diocese several times rescuing babies about to be murdered. Pardon the intrusions.

      • Warren Goddard says:

        In view of the babies consigned to Hell by Sen. Kennedy I say “insult”: no; scorn: yes. Council of Florence; Denzinger 693.


    Mayor White is/was a great Catholic man who did a tremendous job first as Secretary of State then as Mayor. I am the proud owner of a Revere Bowl he gave me when I left my assignment. As great as he is and deserving as he is, I think Fr. Uuni should make the following recommendation:

    At the public ceremony tonight, have the three eulogies given.
    At Mass tomorrow, have just one.

    That should make all of us happy….I think!!!! “JUST WONDERING”

  10. Anni says:

    A Boston Globe reporter is “tweeting” the funeral service. The timeline is rather interesting:

    11:00 am – The pallbearers remove the casket from the hearse and carry it into the church

    11:10 a.m.: The Reverend John Unni, pastor of St. Cecilia’s opens the funeral ceremony

    11:13 a.m.: Menino is the first speaker, describing White as someone with a “grand vision” and “irresistible personality.” Menino asks: “Does anyone doubt that Boston was put on a path of greatness by Mayor White?”

    11:25 a.m.: Frank is the second speaker. He says he learned from White, “Be the best person you can, but don’t be phony.”

    So the mayor spoke THREE minutes after Father Unni met the casket at the entrance of the church? THREE minutes? That’s barely enough time for the casket to be brought into the church! What happened to the Liturgy of the Word?

  11. Anni says:

    My question has been partially answered:

    11:44 a.m.: Mass continues with reading from Book of Ecclesiastes, hymn “The Lord’s My Shepherd.”

  12. Liam says:

    The politician remarks *preceded* the liturgy proper. The liturgy proper, including the liturgical greeting of the body, began after the remarks.

    The practice of having remarks precede the liturgy proper is a fairly widespread finesse of the rubrics. Putting aside the choice of which politicians to give remarks, the development of the practice is the kind of thing one can see Romans embracing; you give a nod to the rules, and life goes on, et cet., is a lot of the sensibility of Romanita.

    • Thank you for these real-time updates. If you look at the times in the live reports, the Mass started at around 11:40am–after the eulogies by the other politicians.

      • Anni says:

        Which is how they got “around” the prohibition on multiple eulogies, I suspect. From the tweets, it seems that Father Unni met the body at the entrance of the church and received the body, and that both Mayor Menino and Barney Frank spoke before the Liturgy of the Word. From the time sequence – three minutes – I would suspect that the introductory rites followed the first two “eulogies”, so technically those two eulogies did not take place at the Requiem Mass. Both the Mayor’s son and Bob Crane spoke after Communion. The Homily was given by Father Monan. The reporter called it a eulogy, but it appears to have been the Homily, which probably was turned into a eulogy.

      • bitsnbytes says:

        Well, let’s give some credit. Simply complying with the norm (even if only minimally) is a milestone. Thanks to Fr. Unni and to any experts who advised him.

  13. This would not happen during the Traditional Requiem Mass.

  14. Anni says:

    Mayor White’s son spoke after communion:

    12:34 p.m.: Mayor White’s son, Mark, who bears a strong resemblance to his father, speaks and thanks Mayor Menino and the people of Boston for their support. Also thanks people present who have “journeyed with his father.”

  15. Liam says:

    But the traditional requiem mass is desired by relatively few in the Boston area, and very evidently the White family did not request it, so that’s that. It’s not like this Mass avoided the idea of the Final Judgment – the Gospel pericope was the very thing, after all. The general intercessions avoided the agitprop that plagued the Kennedy funeral.

  16. Anni says:

    Liam, I think that the reason that “relatively few” request the traditional requiem Mass is that most people have no idea what that is. I have had to educate numerous relatives regarding what is and what is not appropriate at a funeral Mass. Many priests are not doing a good job here. Of course, the time to “educate” in this matter is not when a grieving family is requesting, through tears, that a popular song be used as the recessional. Parishes should be using their bulletins to provide education, even if it is in little bits and pieces over time.

  17. Liam says:

    As best I can recall, the music was as follows: The prelude hymn was the Battle Hymn of the Republic, famously used as the recessional in June 1968 at the funeral of RFK at St Patrick’s Cathedral. The actual processional hymn was All Creatures of Our God and King. The responsorial psalm was Ps 23, with the verses set by Peloquin. The offertory meditation was the Ave Maria adaptation of the Schubert setting. The Eucharistic Prayer acclamations were the revised (for the new Missal text, that is) settings of the Mass of Creation, while the Lamb of God was from Peloquin’s Lyric Liturgy, IIRC. During Holy Communion, the hymn “You Are Mine” was sung, and also Newman’s “Lead Kindly Light” (to the tune Sandon, which is not as often matched to the as it should be). The Gregorian In Paradisum was sung (very well) by the male schola at the commendation, and the recessional hymn was O God Beyond All Praising, to the immortal Holst tune, Thaxted. Lots of trumpet descants all around, which is an eschatological instrument in this context, if anyone missed that dimension of this….

    • jwsr says:

      I might add that this was the first major funeral with people from diverse Parishes where the new translations have been scrupulously used, by the Priest, people and choir, and so a good gauge of the implementation.

      Overall, a very few glitches/stragglers, but I got the general impression that people have taken to them across the Archdiocese very well.

  18. Liam says:

    Oh, and I forgot John Rutter’s setting of Ps 23 was also part of the music during Holy Communion.

    • Objective Observer says:


      You know how to answer a question. Talk about good information… and sounds like a beautiful liturgy based on the music.

      Having the politicos speak as prologue was a somewhat suitable outcome — well done that they did not speak once Mass had begun.

    • jwsr says:

      Thanks Liam, all correct.

      Overall a very appropriate funeral the Archdiocese could be proud of. Very happy, as Mayor White and his family deserved a worthy send off, and got it.

      While the notice of all the eulogies raised concerns that this would be a travesty, Fr Unni, Bishop Hennessey, Fr Monan, and Richard Clark (music director) are all to be commended.

      Now please pray for the repose of the soul of Kevin White.
      May he gain eternal rest.


    As an aside, many years ago I waitressed at C’est si Bon, which was located on Arlington Street, overlooking the Public Gardens. Kevin White was a regular, along with his wife and a woman staffer/friend whose name I cannot remember now. He always sat in my station since we both had very sensitive stomachs and he liked the fact that I could advise him on just what was safe for him to order. He was a really nice man; very easy to please; very unassuming and never demanding. He ate there a few times every week and each time he would pop down to the kitchen in a very quiet way to thank the chef/owner.

    RIP, to a genuinely nice man.

  20. I met Kevin White on a number of occasions in connection with my youthful flirtation with liberalism (a.k.a. the Democratic Party). He was a good guy to my unformed political mind. I remember chatting with him and his acolyte Barney Frank once in an elevator. They both seemed like unimpeachable gentlemen. I subsequently drifted away from politics because even then it seemed a retrogression into the abyss.

    At the time I had no idea that Barney Frank was was a homosexual. He seemed like a normal guy. Perhaps I simply didn’t think about such perversions. Then again, I’d no experience of them. I was under the delusion that a man would marry a woman and have a family. Fool that I was.

    Would that Barney had found by God’s grace a nice Jewish girl and married her. Would that he had known the consolation of children. Of the protection of his wife and the mother of his children.

    We might have been spared his legislative and moral aberrancies.

    Lord, where was Thy mercy?

  21. GGT says:

    Say what you want about St. Cecilia, but they know how to do liturgy. The church is beautiful, the music is breathtaking, when they try, the rubrics are followed and they don’t skimp. Would that other parishes paid this kind of attention to ritual and beauty. Liturgy has the potential to take people out of themselves and bring them to a place of encounter with the transcendent. Unfortunately, it often feels like a town meeting. So, congratulations to anyone at St. Cecilia who was involved in the planning and execution of this funeral. Other parishes can learn from how well you do things.

    • Serviam says:


      Yes, there are several parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston that pay attention to both following liturgical rubrics and tapping into a significant Catholic patrimony of Sacred Music. Here a few that come to mind:

      Cathedral of the Holy Cross/Boston, St. Paul/Cambridge, the former Holy Trinity (German)/Boston, St. Brendan/Bellingham, Mary
      Immaculate of Lourdes/Newton Upper Falls, St. Adelaide/Peabody, St. Mary Star of the Sea/Beverly, St. Catherine of Genoa/Somerville, St. Monica/Methuen.

      Saint Clement Eucharistic Shrine [Oblates of the Virgin Mary]

      I’m sure there are many more and it was not my intention to leave any church off the list.

    • St. Cecilia is beautiful inside and the music for the Sunday morning Masses is beautiful. But I think you go a bit far in saying “they know how to do liturgy.” A few years ago when I was last there, I went to the student Mass at 6pm on Sunday evening and Fr. Unni had everyone leave the pews during the Liturgy of the Eucharist and gather up around the altar. No one knelt during the consecration. The Eucharistic bread was baked with honey. Has any of that nonsense changed?

      • halo says:

        even though the so called man made new mass is invalid, anything added like honey would make the true mass invalid by matter. our lord is not a honey bee!!

  22. DKinsela says:

    Oh, it’s all changed. Hasn’t been that way for years. People stay in their pews (where they belong) for the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the hosts are the normal type of host that Jesus used. I’d say that Saint Cecilia and Fr. Unni are the paradigm of liturgical norms.

  23. DKinsela, has the 6pm student Mass changed too? I know the people stay in their pews for the Sunday morning Masses, but the Mass for college students was aways different.

    Also, I hear the statue of Jesus crucified on the cross with Mary Magdalene and other women at the foot of the cross that used to be in the courtyard is gone now, after the handicapped ramp was installed.

    • brsf says:

      I am also not really in agreement that St Cecilia is the “paradigm of liturgical norms.” Far from it. I once attended a mass with a baptism. While we sang the beautiful Litany of the Saints, the baptism itself was a total fabrication from beginning to end, not a word from the Rite of Baptism. It was outrageous. Fr. Unni has had a reputation of making up his own prayers throughout the mass. I pray that has all changed with the new missal. I certainly hope he has stopped making up his own Rite of Baptism or any other sacrament for that matter.

      • rgk says:

        This is true. Fr. Unni makes up baptism rite. I am not sure that the baptisms he performs are even valid. This man needs some course work in liturgy and sacramental theology. Any priests out there care to comment? Even the baptismal promises are entirely fabricated. I wonder why we have so few priestly vocations?


        Speaking of the “paradigm of liturgical norms”:

        I would love to hear what some of the same posters think of Holy Cross charging admission for the upcoming Ronan Tynan concert right in the church. When I first saw it announced in our bulletin I was taken aback since I never remember paying admission to a RC church anywhere for any reason. I googled it a bit and it seems to be quite a controversial thing. It is a church, not a museum. Hmmm. Nice fundraiser and I am not even objecting to it. ($25 admission). It is just that so many are so harsh in their criticism but selective in it. I guess the harshness is saved for the “liberals,” See the Tynan Concert poster at this link:

        Click to access ronan_tynan_in_concert.pdf


        “Featuring selections from traditional, Irish, religious an classical venues, this is a concert you really don’t want to miss.”

  24. […] Another Boston “Catholic” Funeral with Non-Catholic Eulogies – Boston Catholic Insider […]

  25. GGT says:

    Yes, Not Really in Agreement, the 6 p.m. Mass has changed, too. And, yes, the statues you refer to have gone bye-bye.

  26. DKinsela says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that the ambo, like the chair and the altar, should be reserved for proclaiming the Word and for preaching the Word? I don’t like that announcements are made from the ambo and that eulogies are given from the ambo. I don’t have a problem with Mayor Menino or Barney Frank speaking at a funeral prior to the start of the liturgy, but I do have a problem with them doing so from the ambo. We could learn a lesson from our Jewish brothers and sisters who have a better understanding of and appreciation for the sacred. We think that in order to be “welcoming” everyone has to be allowed to parade around the sanctuary and use the ambo as a podium. Come on….let’s show some respect. How can we expect people to show reverence in church when the church’s leaders allow sacred things to be used for secular and casual purposes.

  27. […] around the funeral of the late Boston mayor Kevin White, BCI noticed an intriguing exchange in comments over what happened to a statue of Jesus Christ crucified on the cross with 3 figures at the foot of […]

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