Trust a lawyer to add to the tension between clergy and the funeral director.
A Kentucky priest felt the need to re-establish the ground rules for funerals conducted in his parish, and a local funeral director took offense. Claiming the rules were "an intentional and wrongful interference" with his business, the funeral director brought suit against the Archdiocese of Louisville.
The lawsuit has the unfortunate consequence of highlighting what some clergy disdain about today’s funeral: the commercial aspects of the death care profession. However, the lawsuit has also generated dialog about a tension that is also worthy of attention: reconciling the church’s message of hope with the funeral director’s focus on the immediate family.
The GetReligion blog has a thoughtful post regarding the Archdiocese lawsuit. Denominations can differ substantially in their approach to funeral liturgy, and some provide very little training to its clergy when counseling parishioners facing end of life issues. Every funeral director has a story about a minister who alienated the family with a sermon unrelated to the deceased. But, even trained pastoral ministers are often placed in the awkward position when requested to officiate at a funeral by families they do not know, or for a deceased who did not attend a church.
Funeral directors that serve denominations that have well established funeral liturgy should adopt cooperative approaches to working with clergy. Suing the priest makes no sense (unless, of course, those parish rules are causing families to cancel their preneed contracts).