Watch: Funeral priest kicks mourning black family out of church, calls them 'crackheads, prostitutes and thieves'
A Maryland priest threw a grieving family out of his church ahead of a funeral service last week after someone accidentally knocked over the church chalice
A family was kicked out of a funeral by a priest in Maryland on Tuesday and now the Archdiocese of Washington has issued a formal apology to the family. The confrontation was captured on several cellphones that recorded the scene as it played out at Saint Mary's Catholic Church in Charlotte Hall.
Hundreds of people showed up to remember Agnes Hicks at the funeral when hell broke loose after someone knocked over and damaged the church's sacred golden chalice.
The ensuing argument between Pastor Michael Briese and the family was recorded by several attendees as the body of the deceased 54-year-old rested in the open casket.
As police cars and shocked attendees gathered in the parking lot, the family was seen carrying the casket out of the church to leave the premises a short time after the incident.
“This was uncalled for and it really hurt me. It really did. To see your loved one come there to rest and to be shut down like that,” Larry Hicks, the brother of Agnes Hicks said.
Agnes Hicks was baptized as a young girl at the church in Charles County. According to the family, it is where she had always wanted her funeral, reported Fox News.
However, when someone went in for a hug, they bumped into the cup near the altar, knocking it down instantly, the family said.
“That's when all hell broke loose. He literally got on the mic and said, "There will be no funeral, there will be no mass, no repass, everyone get the hell out of my church,’" Shanice Chisely, the daughter of Agnes Hick recalled. “He disrespected our family, he disrespected my mother. He called my mother 'a thing.' He said, 'Get this thing out of my church! Everyone get the hell out of my church!’ It was very sad. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Briese then called the law enforcement authorities to the scene, the family said.
“Bad enough we had to bury our own mother yesterday but for you to say she’s a 'thing’ and there will be no funeral... You're not a preacher. You’re not a pastor. You’re not a father of the Lord. You’re not any of that. You’re the devil,” Renetta Baker, daughter of Agnes Hicks said.
After the authorities' arrived, they concluded that the family was not at fault. The deputies subsequently escorted the family to a funeral home in another county where a different pastor performed the funeral rites.
Issuing an apology to the family, the Archdiocese of Washington wrote, "What occurred at St. Mary’s Parish this morning does not reflect the Catholic Church’s fundamental calling to respect and uplift the God-given dignity of every person nor does that incident represent the pastoral approach the priests of the Archdiocese of Washington commit to undertake every day in their ministry."
They further added that the matter was still under review and they were taking it very seriously.
“My mom was supposed to have a great funeral and all this came up and I’m so traumatized by it. I'm going to be thinking about this every day. I’ll never forget this day,” Davon Chisley, son of Agnes Hicks said.
Tony Tonic and Kim Briscoe-Tonic, the funeral home’s co-owners, told HuffPost that Briese was calling the funeral attendees “crackheads, prostitutes, and thieves. I’ve been a funeral director for 30 years and I have never experienced anything like that.”
On Thursday, the priest apologized for his actions in an open letter published in the Maryland Independent.
“I am a Catholic priest and the pastor at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Newport in Charlotte Hall. I lost my temper at a moment when anger was the most inappropriate response to those people entrusted to my care at that moment of ministry.
“I uttered words I never use, and treated people I have lived with and committed my life to serve in an unacceptable manner,” he said. “Instead of care and compassion for the grieving family and friends, my focus turned to anger.”