Catholics/Respector of person.


QUESTION: Sir, I asked father Michael, this question, which I have posted below. And I can hardly believe his answer, especially with all the scripture pertinent to the question.
I would appreciate your view point on not only to his answer, but to the question that was asked!

Expert:    Fr. Michael
Subject:     "Respecter of Persons"
Question:    Hi. I have a Catholic friend who tells me that they have a Catholic Cemetery that is separate from the Protestant Cemetery. I asked him why that was, and he didn't have an answer!  Maybe you could?

Especially when the bible says, that God is no respecter of persons.

Romans 2: 11 for there is no respect of persons with God.

James 2: 1 My brethren,hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

James 2: 9 but if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors.

1 Peter 1: 17 And if ye call on him as Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to each manís work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear:

Now if God isn't a respecter of persons, why does the Catholic church show respect of Catholics over Protestants...?

Mr B.

Answer:    Protestants are denied ecclesiastical in a Catholic cemetery because adherents to Protestant sects are considered heretics (Codex Iuris Canonici 1240[1917]).  A heretic is one who denies at least one dogma of the true Christian Faith.  Protestants deny many dogmata.

Moreover, you have to very careful about using "translations" of the Bible.  That is why the Church in the past wisely suppressed many of them, which were grossly inaccurate.  If you want to understand accurately the meaning of the New Testament, you must take the time to study it in Greek.  Otherwise, you are reading, to use St. Paul's phrase, "through a glass in a dark manner."

The phrase "respecter of persons" does not at all mean what you erroneously seem to think.  The Greek word in question, prosopolemtes, has, of course nothing to do with Protestants and Catholics, as we now call them.  Until the early 16th century, there were no "Protestants."

A prosopolemtes is one who acts differently toward different people BECAUSE OF THEIR STATION IN LIFE.  Our Lord was frequently described in this way in Scripture because it did not matter to Him whether one was a poor man or a wealthy Pharisee.  Therefore, He is quoted in Scripture often as praising the poor man and denouncing the Pharisee.  On matters of faith and morals, to the contrary, He was an open "disrespecter" of persons, condemning outright the unjust, the un-humble, and the hypocrite.

ANSWER: Father Michael is quoting from the Code of Canon Law as promulgated in 1917.  That code has been updated with a new Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983. Given what Father Michael writes about himself in the area of expertise I do not believe he accepts the authority of the Code of Canon Law as promulgated in 1983.  

Father Michael as he says of himself is not a priest of the "New Order" and therefore does not speak for the modern Catholic Church. His answer therefore should not be taken as representative of the Catholic position on the subject.  

I do not pretend to be a Canon Lawyer and this is therefore outside my area. But what I write below is what I understand of the situation today.  

As I understand it non-Catholic Christians today are not automatically bared from being buried in a Catholic cemetery if they have some connection to the Catholic Church. (For example: they are married to a Catholic spouse, Catholic children, etc.)  It is expected but as I understand it not required that Catholics will be buried in a Catholic cemetery.  For the purposes of keeping families together Non-Catholics may be buried with their Catholic relatives if they wish.  

From the Diocese of Madison Catholic Cemeteries Website:

"May non-Catholics be buried in a Catholic cemetery?

The Church expects that Catholics will be buried in a Catholic cemetery.  To avoid breaking family ties, however, non-Catholic members of Catholic families including spouses, children, parents and other relatives may also be interred in a Catholic cemetery.  Other Christians with a connection to the Catholic community may also be buried in a Catholic cemetery, in certain circumstances."

I grant the Diocese of Madison is only one diocese--but I believe this is representative of the Catholic Dioceses in America and the world today. I think most, if not all bishops are very open to allowing non-Catholics to be buried in a Catholic cemetery.  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Mr Bechtel; My question is based on the no respect of person scriptures, that negate any differentiation between Christians. If a believer has accepted the Saviour, according to scripture, there is to be no respect of one over another.

Just the fact that there is a Catholic, and Protestant cemetery demonstrates a division, does it not? Especially with the writings of Paul, that there is to be a one mindedness, and only one accord with believers...  Which brings up Pauls chastening question to those early christians, who were saying... "We are of Apollos, We are of John, We are of Peter, We are of Paul.....and Paul asks..." What?  Has Christ been divided? [ very good question ]

And thanks for the clarification on brother Michael. To think that the Lord would give man His word, and then expect any to understand it, they must learn Greek, just flies in the face of the Lord providing not only His word, but the witness to the word, and the Spirit to enlighten its wisdom. Allowing any believer, who receives the Spirit to be able to read, and be instructed by the Very Spirit that caused it to be written in its teachings.

1Corinthians 2:10  But unto us God revealed  them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
 11 For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God.
 12 But we received, not the spirit of the  world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God.
 13 Which things also we speak, not in words which manís wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth;  combining spiritual things with spiritual words .
 14 Now the  natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually  judged.
 15 But he that is spiritual  judgeth all things, and he himself is  judged of no man.
 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Sincerely In Christ
Mr B...

I would say the fact that there are Catholics and Protestants demonstrates a division in Christianity--not just a Catholic or Protestant cemetery.  

The division between Catholics and Protestants is not something I can help. I agree there must be a "one-mindedness" or unity among believers, and I desire that as much as Paul did, but that unity does not exist. It is that fact that necessitates a certain amount of "restrictions" in some cases such as not having open communion or regulations concerning who can be buried in Catholic or Protestant cemeteries.  (Though as I said the Catholic Church is at this time pretty open to allowing Protestants to be buried in a Catholic cemetery if they had a connection to the Catholic Church in some way--family friends, etc.)

Why doesn't that unity exist? Why are Lutherans Lutheran or Presbyterians Presbyterian?  Why are Baptists Baptist or Anglicans Anglican?  Why are Methodists Methodist?  Why do Protestants continue to be Protestant? That is not a question I can answer, and again, the disunity that exists between Catholics and Protestants is not something I can help. I can explain why I think the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Christ, but I cannot speak for Protestants.  Both of us will approach the question from our different Church polemics.

We must pray that one day we may once again be of one mind, heart and Faith and we must always work towards unity.  Until such time we will be brothers and sisters in Christ and fellow Christians but sadly divided on many things.  That division will be reflected in our different Church policies.  I am not sure what else I can say but I thank you for your observation.  


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Father Dave Bechtel


I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.


I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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