WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- A 63-year-old man who suffered a heart attack and was being treated at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., says he was denied last rites and communion by a Roman Catholic priest after the chaplain found out he was gay.
D.C. resident Ronald Plishka told the Washington Blade that in addition to revealing his sexual orientation, he also told the priest that he thinks Pope Francis is sympathetic to gay people. Plishka is a lifelong Catholic.
According to Plishka, he arranged to meet with Father Brian Coelho on Feb. 7 because he wasn’t sure he would survive a heart attack he had suffered the day before.
“We started talking and I told him I was so happy with this new Pope because of his comments about the gays and his accepting the gays,” Plishka said. “And I mentioned that I was gay. I said it and then I asked him does that bother you? And he said, ‘Oh, no, that does not bother me.’ But then he would not proceed with administering the last rites or communion. He couldn’t do it.”
According to Plishka, after Coelho stopped giving him the sacraments, he offered to pray with him. When Coelho, who has been at the hospital since last fall, made his offer, Plishka flew into a rage.
“I just saw red. I cursed at a priest. I called him a hypocrite. As he was leaving -- I can’t repeat what I said, but it was bad. . . . I’m thinking I’m going to rot in hell now,” he said. “But after that, I became scared -- fear settled in. I don’t have the rites, I didn’t get Communion. I believed in the sacraments; this is something we’re taught we need before we die.”
While it appears that Coelho has yet to comment, the hospital released a statement about the matter:
“While the priest is not an employee but rather is assigned by the Archdiocese to provide spiritual care at our hospital, it is our expectation that all who support our patients adhere to our values. This includes offering pastoral and spiritual support to all patients, regardless of their faith traditions. Our hospital was recognized last year as a ‘Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality’ by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. We want to hold true to this important commitment to the LGBT community and to all of our patients. Our Department of Spiritual Care has reinforced our expectations with this particular priest and his superiors.”