A White priest has been placed on leave after footage of him telling a church full of Black mourners to leave mid-funeral has gone viral.
Rev. Michael Briese was officially placed on leave July 3 while the archdiocese investigates what it claims is being called a “serious misunderstanding,” according to The Washington Post. The priest reportedly began disrespecting the congregation because of an accident that took place in the sanctuary.
Hundreds of people were in attendance for the funeral of Agnes Hicks at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Maryland. While family members were greeting and hugging attendees, someone accidentally knocked over the church’s sacred chalice, sending Briese into a rage, according to cell phone footage of the incident.
Hicks’ daughter, Shanice Chisley, told Fox 5, “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.’ 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 also called 911 on the family, with cops waiting in the parking lot as Agnes’ casket was carried out of the church.
“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, told the local news station.
Officers found that the family did noting wrong and escorted them to a funeral home in a different county. The family said Hicks requested her funeral take place in the Maryland church because she was baptized there as a child.
The Archdiocese of Washington has issued an apology to the family:
“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.”