A 63-year-old patient in Washington, D.C., says an Archdiocesan priest stopped giving him last rites when he learned that he is gay.
The patient, Ronald Plishka, was receiving Communion prayers and last rites at MedStar Washington Hospital Center Wednesday after he suffered a heart attack.
Plishka said he had been in the hospital for 24 hours on Feb. 7 and asked to see a priest.
He said that Rev. Brian Coelho asked if he would like to confess before he was anointed. That’s when Plishka told him about his lifelong struggle with homosexuality.
A native of Northeast Washington, Plishka was an altar boy until he was 18 years old. He didn’t come out until he was 50.
“Then we started talking about the pope, and I said I was so excited about him, because of what he said about gays” Plishka told the Washington Post.
I said: ‘Does that bother you, that I’m gay?’ And he said ‘no.’"
But then Coelho refused to go any further with the last rites.
“He said, ‘I will pray with you,’ but that’s all he’d do. That was it.”
Plishka said he shouted at Coelho and then felt terrified that he never received the rites.
“I just saw red," he said. "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. 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.”
“I’ve tried to be a decent person all my life," he added. "I’m not perfect, believe me. And I wouldn’t wish [being gay] on anyone. But you can’t be somebody you’re not. Otherwise you’ll end up 63 and alone."
Plishka said days later he called the Basilica of the National Shrine, where he attended noon Mass for a decade. He asked a priest about what Coelho had done, and the priest agreed with the chaplain.
“He said, he can’t give you [Communion] if you continue that lifestyle, if you’re an active participant,” he said.
Medstar emphasized its support for gay and lesbian patients.
“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,” the hospital said in a statement.
“Our hospital was recognized last year as a ‘Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality’ by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation,” the statement continued. “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.”