Tony Danza’s Funeral Outburst Makes Sense November 17, 2010

Tony Danza’s Funeral Outburst Makes Sense

Philip Carlo, the biographer of a couple notable mass murderers, recently died.

At his funeral, the priest did what so many priests do in those occasions: He talked about the Bible. A lot.

That apparently made actor Tony Danza very upset…

A source at Thursday’s wake at Peter C. La Bella Funeral Home in Bensonhurst said the priest — “who said he was a substitute priest from a federal prison, which made some people smirk — started to ramble on and on about religion, quoting the Bible and making mourners uncomfortable.

“Tony, who was one of Carlo’s closest friends, walked right up to the priest and said angrily, ‘Excuse me, but this is not about you. It’s supposed to be about my friend, and if you can’t do that, maybe you should let someone else speak!’

“People were stunned, while the priest was visibly shaken. He tried talking about Carlo before quickly wrapping things up. Danza took over and eulogized Carlo with memories from their younger days.

Wow. I don’t know if you want to call that a dick move or not, but what Danza did makes a lot of sense.

A funeral ought to be a place to talk about the person who has died — a place to share the memories that person left behind — not a biography of Jesus.

I hate the idea of a cookie cutter funeral (or wedding, for that matter). A funeral should be unique to the person who passed away, not something any random priest (or what have you) off the street can perform on a moment’s notice.

No wonder Danza was upset. This priest knew next to nothing about Carlo and he thought he was fit to perform the funeral service because he knew something about the Bible.

What arrogance.

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  • Good for Tony.

    I’ve been to too many funerals where the presiding pastor droned on all about how the recently departed was “saved” and therefore going to heaven instead of hell. And then droning on about how each an everyone in attendance needs to get right with God before you die. I can easily see how if you know the person that dies and knew that they didn’t buy in to the whole saved and damned, heaven and hell business, that you might feel like telling that presiding priest (or pastor) to basically shut the hell up.

  • Inthewater

    I say not a dick move at all. I think that if I were faced with the same situation, I may do a similar thing.

    It is similar to when people use awards shows to pimp their beliefs. At least in my opinion.

  • Eskomo

    I’ll bet that priest doesn’t do that again. Maybe, the problem is that no one has ever asked (told) a priest that they should talk less about the bible and more about the deceased. The only response most give is “Thank you.”

  • venus

    my younger brother died at age 32. My older brother is a devout mormon. We were all in shock, particularly my parents. My older brother’s father-in-law was a bishop at his church, he asked if he could officiate the ceremony. Now, this man is a very kind man, he actually knew my younger brother and all that. But, he was bringing two other guys with him to speak…. who had never met my brother. I know it was important for my older brother to get his god in on the act, but the rest of us are – at best – pantheist. My younger brother himself was vocally agnostic.

    So, living in fear of the mormons taking over the service… I spent the week waiting for his remains to arrive from back east working on an extremely long and detailed eulogy. In the end, the write up took over 20 minutes to read. That, coupled with other people getting up to say things about him, really cut into the amount of time the 3 god-guys had to blather on about god, etc.

    People who knew I had written the thing came up to me and told me how much it meant to them to have a service that was really about him.

  • I couldn’t agree more. Having been to a lot of funerals recently, I’m more and more acutely aware of how little most funerals are actually about the decedents or their families. I understand that people who are religious should have that aspect of their lives respected and recognized during the funeral, but if I have to listen to one more preacher go on and on about salvation and damnation I’m simply going to scream… much like Tony Danza.

  • Kaitlin

    At my cousin’s funeral they did the same thing, but she was my age and not remotely religious. I felt it was disrespectful to turn her funeral into a “this could happen to you and go to hell situation”. As a matter of fact growing up in Christian atmosphere I can think of numerous occasions things like this have happened. It’s kind of the last stop for Christians to “save”, at a funeral… tactful…

  • Daniel

    Some years ago, a football player at a local high school died and they had a large funeral for him. (several hundred people) At one point they asked if anyone wanted to share memories of him, and this woman got up and talked about how she had just been driving by and Jesus had tugged her heart to come and and talk about salvation.

    The deceased had been Jewish. They had rented space at a Christian megachurch because they were expecting over a thousand people.

    Extremely upset congregation when she was done and an usher escorted her out. Absolutely crazy crashing a funeral to proselytize.

    Totally agree with what Danza did.

  • Erin

    Dale at the Parenting Beyond Belief blog had a great post about attending a funeral that a good learning experience for his kids.

  • Breanna

    My step-grandfather passed away a couple of years ago and the funeral was actually really nice. A similar situation happened. The priest or whatever started talking about god and someone stood up put a stop to that quickly. We spent the rest of the time telling funny stories about him.

    After the funeral there was a wake at a bar. Charlie and my grandmother would go to that bar on a weekly basis for over 20 years. They met when she was working there as a bartender. The wake was awesome. Standing room only– people telling stories about Charlie– buying him drinks, etc. It may sound a little tacky, but it was appropriate. When you consider that fact, it was rather nice.

  • Situations like these are why I love being a humanist celebrant. Having sat through my fair share of religious ceremonies (and having walked out of my grandfather’s funeral), working with people to create the kind of ceremony (wedding, memorial, etc) that meets their needs is very rewarding.

    More info about humanist celebrants can be found at

  • JohnJay

    Same sort of thing happened at the memorial of Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afganistan.(The story’s really upsetting, as there are hints that his fellow soldiers dispised him for his atheism, and the government covered up his friendly fire death). His brother got up and denounced all the “he’s with god” talk. The whole video is great, but watch out, language is NSFW:

  • FormerCatholic

    A family member of mine recently died. She was a positive influence in many lives, and held onto her belief even throughout a difficult sickness. The Catholic Church, at least, misses the mark in memorial services; the service was a lot more about god than my aunt, which I think is typical for these things. The priest even at one point said something to the effect of “well, our religion believes that everyone goes to purgatory after death, but I’m sure she’ll only be there for a little time.” I wished I could tell him off after that, so I absolutely sympathize Mr. Danza’s response. I can only hope that when I die my funeral will be a positive remembrance, and that priests will stay out of it.

  • Deiloh

    My grandmother’s funeral was a little like that. My uncle hired his minister who felt it was appropriate to talk about the need for everyone to accept J.C.

    What made it more irritating is that she wasn’t religious. If the dead could spin, she would’a knocked the coffin right over and rolled out the door.

  • Funerals don’t just happen, they are planned and directed events.

    If you’re in charge of the planning, and you invite a priest who has no connection with the deceased’s family or friends, you can’t really be angry when he plays his cards.

    If someone else did the planning, then you don’t really get to decide what the people they invite talk about.

    I don’t know what Danza’s role in the planning was but I’m going to say “dick move” on the funeral act.

  • littlejohn

    First thing Danza has ever done that I admire.
    The priest got off lucky. Remember, Danza was a professional boxer before he became an actor.
    If he’d REALLY wante to be a dick …

  • Reuben

    That is fantastic.

  • JD

    I guess this is a cue to make sure you check up on the people you invite to speak. And invite only people that knew the person in question. The fact that a Christian priest was hired though, you need to expect some Jesus talk. Usually that’s kept pretty short, maybe this one carried on too long.

  • Kudos to Mr. Danza for showing that level of respect for his friend.

    I’ve lost two brothers who each died before they turned 50. One was somewhat religious, and he and his wife wife were both somewhat catholic, so his funeral in a catholic church with a mass was appropriate. The priest did not commandeer the event – he just did what he was supposed to do (unlike certain jailhouse priests).

    The other was only two years older than me, and though he had a “born again” stage which he quickly grew out of, he was somewhat of a theist. He did have the cross that was in the house we had grown up in hanging from his wall, but outside of that born again phase he never mentioned jesus. The four siblings who were at his funeral are all atheists (the other two remaining siblings are theists but were unable to make it, staying at our mother’s side while she recovered from an operation… it was a pretty sucky couple of weeks). We had his service at the funeral parlor, with no sign of any religion except that cross mixed in with other memorabilia. When people came up to speak about my brother, nobody was so arrogant as to make their speech about their own personal mythology – they kept their stories on topic.

  • Digitus Impudicus

    I always liked Tony Danza. I still do.

  • If the preist had no connection to the deceased then why was he asked to speak?

    If your argument is that funerals are suppose to be about the person who died, then it seems that in this man’s case, that was not a priority. Perhaps Danza will plan better for his own funeral.

    More than that, this priest, while he did not know Carlo, probably did know something about Jesus. He chose to speak about the thing, that from his perspective, is very important at one’s death–His Savior.

  • Major dick move. The priest just did what he thought was expected of him. Let’s be for real, folks…what the fuck ELSE would you expect a priest to do?
    To treat a pig like shit for acting like a pig is being a dick in a major way.

  • Epistaxis

    A Christian might say this is just an example of why you need to be active in your church community, so that the pastor/priest/whatever has nice things to say about you after you’ve met Jesus.

  • I was at that sort of funeral earlier this year, with a sleazeball “pastor” using it as a sales opportunity for his sect’s beliefs. At one point they even claimed the deceased had “accepted Jesus.”

    Fine, right? Could be true? Not really. You haven’t really seen how low they can go until you see someone stand up and tell a roomful of mourners that a dead eighteen-month-old child accepted Jesus. Sickening.

  • Heidi

    First of all, this didn’t happen at the actual funeral. It happened at the wake. (On the east coast, unlike in movies, a wake is not the reception party after the funeral. It’s the viewing beforehand.)

    Danza spoke again Friday morning during the service at the chapel at Greenwood Cemetery, but this time, “he brought people to tears,” the source added.

    Second, it appears that Mrs. Carlo was on Tony’s side.

    His wife, Laura, told us, “The funeral went very well, and we know Phil would have been very happy. We all agreed that the priest had to go and leave it to Phil’s friends to come to the rescue.

    Hardly a dick move if the guy’s wife supports it. Good job, Tony.

  • Tyro

    Speaking of dick moves, the article says that after the priest was done, Danza went to speak and people heckled *him*! Tough crowd.

  • Flah the Heretic Methodist

    I’ve been to two funerals lately where the officiant clearly didn’t know the decedent from adam’s housecat. They were uncomfortable because the officiant fell back on their default message: the deceased has returned the bosom of jeebus. As folks have said above, what do you expect them to do? Let the folks that knew the deceased speak, have better planning, or invite Tony Danza.

  • This priest knew next to nothing about Carlo and he thought he was fit to perform the funeral service because he knew something about the Bible. What arrogance.

    Wait, how is the priest arrogant? Whether the priest knew Carlo or not is irrelevant. He was hired to perform a funeral service and he talked about the bible. He is a priest. He’s being arrogant for doing his job? If the priest didn’t know Carlo personally, how could he possibly perform the service otherwise?

    In Tony Danza’s shoes I probably would have acted the same due to my emotions. But I also think the priest was put into a no win situation.

  • My grandparents’ funerals were both infested with god-talk, even though neither was ever outwardly religious in any way. I do think my family bears the brunt of the blame for not getting involved enough in planning or presenting at their services. Everyone was miffed at the pastor who tried to save everyone at my grandfather’s funeral, and yet 17 years later we allowed two ministers who had only met my grandmother to drone on and barely even mention her. One of my major regrets is not standing up at her service to speak. Good on Danza for making sure his friend was remembered. Father what’s-his-name will get over his hurt feelings.

  • David Cleveland

    Go Danza! I’ve been to several funerals in the last few years for people of faith and everyone of them was incredibly depressing as the minister (all Calvinist types) went on and on with a bible sermon. Reminded me that i need to get my will in order so so i don’t put my family and friends that horrible crap. To make sure i’m not caught died in a church.

  • Unfortunately, Danza is wrong. The Catholic church has been very clear that your funeral is about God and Jesus and the Pope and the Church etc, not about you.

    It sucks but there is nothing you can do about it….

    Well, there is one thing.

    (Respect to Danza though – cool move)

  • Ubi Dubium

    Bravo Tony! Usually I’m in the “don’t be a dick” crowd, but in this case I think it was totally warranted. The priest was trying to use a funeral to push his own agenda. Funerals should be about remembering the deceased, and comforting friends and family. The priest was the one being a dick, and Tony was right on the money telling him to cut it out.

    “…hold me closer Tony Danza…” 🙂

  • runawayuniverse

    My brother passed away on July 26th of this year. At his memorial, there were a couple of Navy guys that did not know my brother, who got up to speak about him. Each of them spoke about Jesus and how my brother was now sitting at Gods side etc. etc.

    I wanted to stand up and scream “But he was an Atheist!” at them, but I gritted my teeth and sat quietly while they droned on and on about my brother and his being Jesus now.

    I would have liked to have done what Tony did, but that would have just upset my family even more than what we already were. I knew who my brother was and how he felt about religion and at the end of the day, I guess that’s all that really matters.

  • Joshua

    I wish I had the balls to do that at my Mother’s funeral.

    FYI people, funeral doesn’t = religious ceremony. To say as much is making a HUGE leap away from our actual history and, like with marriage, trumping it for an antiquated belief.

    Humans were burying people and remembering them WELL before the Jesus myth popped up on the scene.

  • runawayuniverse

    his being *WITH Jesus now .. my bad lol

  • bullet

    At the funeral of the mother of a close friend of mine, the director got the pastor at the Jehovah’s Witness temple to officiate, even though she hadn’t been a member or even religious for a long time. I guess he simply couldn’t fathom having a funeral without some sort of preacher there. Not knowing her very well, the pastor turned the whole thing into “Come to Jesus” sermon. He said at one point, “If she could speak right now, she’d tell you to turn to Jesus.” At that point, my increasingly pissed off friend said, quite audibly, “No, she’d say get me out of this fucking coffin.” The service came to a close fairly quickly. 🙂

  • Jason

    You forgot to mention that before he interrupted the priest he started it off with “EH, OH, OH, EH, Forgetaboutit!”. 🙂

    I was never a big fan of Tony Danza before today (except for the sex act – sorry bad taste but I had to sneak that in), but he did what I should have had the courage to do before in a similar scenario at the funeral for my Aunt a few years ago. Go Tony!

  • I wasn’t a fan of Tony’s, until now. He rocks. I’d probably do the same if I was there, and someday maybe I will.

    This gives hope to people who are scared to tell Christians when they’re doing something wrong. They need to be told!

    Thank you, Tony Danza. You rock.

  • Philip

    Danza is wrong only if this was a funeral Mass at a catholic church. This was not a dick move in any other situation.

  • Philip


    His wife, Laura, told us, “The funeral went very well, and we know Phil would have been very happy. We all agreed that the priest had to go and leave it to Phil’s friends to come to the rescue.”

    Also, Heidi beat me to it

  • I try my hardest to center on the life of the deceased. But if I’m called in at the last moment and the friends and family won’t tell me anything about him/her ahead of time, then all I have are generalities. I don’t preach an evangelistic sermon, but I assume if they called on a minister, they at least wanted a religious tone to it. If they don’t want any of that, don’t ask me.

    All that aside, I’m glad the man had a friend to speak for him–that was obviously needed.

  • I would have to say it’s ridiculous to be angry at Tony Danza. First of all, if it bothers you that he tried to de-religionize the funeral or something, can’t you just chock up his outburst to grief? Secondly, he makes a good point. Every funeral I’ve gone to becomes more about everyone else and their relationship with god and hardly anything (relative to what should be said) is mentioned about the deceased.

    However, I would say shame on Tony if he knew that Philip’s family were very religious. Funerals are for the ones left living, not the ones dead. So his outburst would be rude if his family was traditionally very religious and wanted the funeral to be that way. Besides, the people that really knew Philip don’t need a stale old man to help them feel their loss.

    This makes me think of Kevin Tillman bursting out during his brothers funeral when McCain made it all god-y.

  • walkamungus

    Kudos to Tony Danza.

    The flip side: My dad was an atheist, but we opted to hold his funeral in the local Methodist church because there wasn’t a big enough secular space we could get at short notice (and that’s where my parents took us to Sunday school as kids). The pastor conducted the service according to the family’s requests — my sister & I, atheists both, were vehement about Dad being an atheist and how there was no way he was with god — but we had a couple of prayers as well, because my stepmom was a Xtian and many of the mourners were, too. The pastor came up with prayers about remembering those we’ve lost and keeping them in our hearts (true for both atheists and religious believers, right?). We also tossed in the Lord’s Prayer, mostly because everyone knows it.

    Funerals are for the living, indeed, and if you’re very lucky, like we were, you can manage a service that accomodates everyone.

  • Richard Wade

    Since nobody’s looking at this from the priest’s point of view, (sorry if I missed any) I will:

    This MAY have been a dick move, depending on circumstances that are not available in the article.

    In the tenth coment, sc0tt points out that…

    Funerals don’t just happen, they are planned and directed events.

    …and so you get what you ask for, and it’s dickish to object after you or someone else has set it up. I can see his point.

    Parallel to that, I think it could have been an unfair move against the priest because of a different possibility:

    Actually, funerals are often not well planned at all, but hastily thrown together by people who are upset and distracted. It can be quite chaotic and ad-lib. If the deceased or the family did not have well established relationships with clergy, somebody just calls up a priest randomly because nobody else seems to be organizing the thing.
    There’s a good possibility that the priest was called in at the last minute, and knew nothing about Philip Carlo. There’s a clue here:

    A source at Thursday’s wake at Peter C. La Bella Funeral Home in Bensonhurst said the priest — “who said he was a substitute priest from a federal prison…

    If the priest had no time to interview the family, it’s not at all his fault that he had to fall back on a generic religious service. He’s in a tough position. He’s trying to give some comfort and sense of propriety and dignity to people in grief, but he has no information and very little time for preparation.

    Hemant says:

    No wonder Danza was upset. This priest knew next to nothing about Carlo and he thought he was fit to perform the funeral service because he knew something about the Bible.

    What arrogance.

    That has a big jump to a conclusion in it. I’m sure the priest was asked to speak. He didn’t crash the party uninvited, and if he didn’t know anything about Carlo, that might not at all be his fault if it was all arranged at the last minute.

    Tony Danza may have had a legitimate complaint about the services not being enough about his friend, but to take it out on the priest as if the priest was deliberately minimizing the importance of Carlo’s individuality is assuming a lot and assuming the worst.

    Assuming a lot and assuming the worst are usually the beginnings of a dickish move.

    Ironically, in the end the service still wasn’t that much about his friend. It was more about Tony Danza. Just look at the wording of the headline of this post.

  • Susi

    Good for him! I like him even more now! More people should speak up in this regard.

  • Or maybe

    Or maybe the priest was ASKED by the family to say a funeral and wasn’t given any insight/assistance ahead of time.

    What’s arrogant (and bigoted) is your assumption of the worst about the priest, because of your own beliefs.

  • TH

    Wow. I never thought I’d say this, but I just gained a lot of respect for Tony Danza.

  • Rich Wilson

    My grandmother was an atheist. Her memorial was low key, but religious. At the end I stood up and said: “Out of respect for grandma, I’d like to remind everyone that aside from everything said here today, she was an atheist.” That was it, and that was enough. A couple of family looked a bit uncomfortable, but a few more thanked me. I’m pretty sure it was what she would have done- correct the misconception, and then move on.

  • RJ

    Awesome! I went to a funeral 2 weeks ago and it was run by a Catholic “deacon”. It was like attending mass and the deacon knew next to nothing about the deceased. It was quite rediculous really, watching the catholic attendees answer in unison during the prayers and the deacon telling everyone how good and kind the lord is and how the deceased is in the lord’s hands. It was all I could do to keep from getting up and walking out. I got dizzy from rolling my eyes so much. I think I’ll make a video for my funeral and in it I will rail against religion and the afterlife. After all, if I offend anyone there’s not much they can do about it.

  • I hope that Danza realized that since he is a celebrity, he was not only taking on the priest but also all of the “oppressed” Christians/Catholics in America.

    I hope that he made his decision fully aware of that, and if he did then I respect him even more.

  • Heidi


    I think I’ll make a video for my funeral

    My mom made an audio recording for her funeral. She told everyone how much we meant to her, and played a bunch of songs she liked and wanted to dedicate to us. It went pretty well. Although my then five-year-old grandnephew, upon hearing her voice, said really loudly “Grammie’s talking to us from Heaven!” LOL. That made all the SDA relatives happy, though.


    I wanted to stand up and scream “But he was an Atheist!” at them, but I gritted my teeth and sat quietly while they droned on and on about my brother and his being Jesus now.

    If you haven’t seen it, scroll up to JohnJay’s link and watch that Kevin Tillman video. You’ll love what he says after John McCain and Sarah Palin’s “Pat is with god” spiels.

  • I’ve only been to two funerals (one for a secular Jew and one for a Sikh), so I’ve never encountered preaching. I do sympathize with Tony Danza, and I’m quite sure that I’m going to have to grit my teeth when I’m eventually forced to attend a Christian funeral. However, I can’t blame the poor priest in this situation, either. If they didn’t want someone to go on and on about religion, they shouldn’t have invited a Catholic priest to speak in the first place. He was just doing his job.

  • I guess the moral of the story is to have a funeral plan for your loved-ones (or yourself) well before the responsible people have to go through the agonizing decision process of putting it together. That way the right decisions will be made and people won’t just fall back on some convenient decision (which may be inappropriate) like having some relative’s priest do it.

    When my father died (who was an atheist) we had a grave-side service where his friends and co-workers got up and said some anecdotal stories. No priests… not a single religious word. No statements implying that half the people in attendance were going to hell.

    It was a tough time but at least the service was nice.

  • flatlander100

    Many years ago, my wife’s mother died, and we and our three young children attended her funeral. Her minister conducted it. His eulogy consisted entirely of telling the children there “if you don’t accept Christ into your lives, you will never see Maw Maw again, for she is now in heaven with Jesus and you won’t be.” And variations on that. He said very nearly nothing about her.

    We were furious but I was pleasantly surprised as well when all filed out and people mingled outside chatting, that others in her family, as devout as she was, and members of her congregation were also appalled at what had happened.

  • Thegoodman

    I had a cousin that died while I was in college (he was a senior in H.S. and died by his own hand in a drunk driving accident).

    The preacher who eulogized him said the WRONG NAME. Do a little homework you insensitive dick.

  • Hollynoats

    This story made me feel great!

    My grandpa died in September and someone invited Jesus to his funeral.
    I was so upset during the service while this minister was speaking. Everything great and wonderful that made my grandpa my grandpa was turned around to equate him with leading a Christ-like life. Pray with me, stand, kneel, recite the Lord’s prayer, listen to this verse, now listen to the same verse in the form of a poem; now pray with me some more.
    After the service, my brother, sister-in-law; my 2 cousins and I all agreed that that scam artist was way over the top. We all agreed that it felt like we had gone to church.
    We also agreed that none of us, aged between 23-30, had not once heard our grandpa, who was 94 when he died, mention the bible, or god, or especially Jesus.
    In fact, the only story I can ever remember my grandpa telling me (and he told a lot of stories) that had anything to do with religion, was about a time in the early 60s when he kicked a pushy Mormon coworker out of his car.

    There were a lot of people to come to his funeral and I feel sick to think that even 1 of them walked away thinking my grandpa did the things he did because of a desire to get to heaven, or because his heart was filled with the love of Jesus.

    I have to thank the minister in one regard, though… between his schlock, people who actually knew my grandpa: friends, family, stood up and said some beautiful and touching things. And I cried. A lot. But then the fancy suited, white-toothed reverend would stand up and yay, here we go, walking again through the valley of death… Tears gone!

    It was a really tough day for all of us. It’s just unfortunate to know how disappointed he would have been with the whole situation.

    This minister met my grandpa on just a few occasions after he went into the hospital for the last time, yet he was the one who was able to speak at the service without his voice cracking because he truly knew the least about my grandpa. And what do people do when they don’t know what they’re talking about? Fill it in with bullshit they do know about and hope it applies.

    I’m glad my grandpa wasn’t there to see any of it.

    So thanks again for sharing.

  • Lin

    We were at a friend’s wedding that the pastor managed to turn into a rant about how homosexual marriage is wrong. Everyone in the audience was really uncomfortable… especially those of us who don’t spend much time in church. Blech!

  • Parse

    I’m reminded of this post from April.
    The problem isn’t with the priest, but instead with the person who asked him to come and speak. If you ask a priest to speak at such an event, you shouldn’t be surprised when they talk about religion.
    That being said, it happened at the wake, not the funeral, and wakes generally aren’t structured affairs. Anybody who wants to can speak and reflect on the deceased; there isn’t usually a formal schedule. Obituaries in my neck of the woods tend to list times for both the wake and funeral service, so there’s a slim chance he may have invited himself (although Hanlon’s razor would suggest otherwise).

    And @Richard Wade, I disagree with your last paragraph – “Ironically, in the end the service still wasn’t that much about his friend. It was more about Tony Danza. Just look at the wording of the headline of this post.” What was *newsworthy* about the service was Tony Danza and his actions, and that’s what attracted Hemant’s attention to the story. If it weren’t for this, would Philip Carlo’s wake and funeral have made it into the New York Post, or onto this blog? Or what if it were John Doe off the street, instead of Tony Danza, who called out the priest – it may have showed up here, but probably not in the papers.
    (The majority of a typical Dover school board meeting in 2005 wasn’t about creationism (to start with, at least), but the bit that was is what made them newsworthy.)

  • A few years ago one of my cousins died. The funeral was maybe 20 minutes long. Probably two of those minutes were spent on her, the other 18 were about the glory of god. Her immediately family may have been comforted by that, but I was discussed.

  • Good for Tony! Priests may feel that because the service is on their turf they have the right to rant on and on about Jesus, Heaven and all of that malarkey but the considerate thing to do would be to speak with the family ahead of time to set the ground rules and expectations for the service. Even still, the shift of focus off of the deceased is just cold.

  • Pierce

    On the dangers of substitute preachers at a funeral:
    My best friend’s step-father died a few years back, and for whatever reason the pastor of his small West Texas church couldn’t do the ceremony. So his wife wrote up a few notes for the substitute, who was a pastor from a different denomination, because they couldn’t get anybody to town in time, so he could come up with something suitable.
    The pastor leads off, and he’s really quite good. Talks about the man’s upbringing and his time in the Navy, doing well without overselling. Then he gets to the part where he had joined the Chamber of Commerce, gotten steadily more involved, rose to prominence and finally made it one of the centerpieces of his life.
    My friend’s mom’s stage whisper was a study in anger: “‘C of C’ means ‘Church of Christ’!”

  • ursasru

    I just have a need to share this here. So please bear with me.

    A friend and coworker of mine passed away, and I attended her funeral, along with 95% of the store (Walmart) where she was a people greeter. She was a fiercely religious Irish Catholic, so that is the type of funeral her husband decided to have At her own church. As funeral Masses go, I guess it was a good one. They celebrated her faith, they celebrated God, and they even had the sharing of the bread and wine. But it didn’t remind me of her at all.

    The woman I knew would cuss up a storm if you said anything about her (Philadelphia) Eagles. She would tell you all the time about how she was walking weird and her husband’s back was sore from the night before. She could make a sailor and trucker blush and run away. She was the most loving woman I have met, and always had a piece of gum for anyone who wanted it. Juicy Fruit. She was a non conformist who worked in construction as a riveter before women were accepted in the workplace.

    Those of us who worked with her either wore green or an Eagles Jersey to her funeral, and we wore green ribbons at work. We made up the majority of the guests at her funeral, infact, I think I counted five other people there, not including family.

    After the funeral, most of us spent about an hour and a half in the parking lot of the church remembering her with her family, talking about all the good times we had with her. Her family members were so relieved that we wore green/Eagles stuff. They also agreed that THIS was how she should have been remembered. But we ALL said the same thing. The funeral was more for her husband than for the rest of us, so we allowed him to have the service the way he wanted it.

    Funeral services might not be what YOU would have them be, but they are the way they are for a reason. It sounds to me that the funeral in question (with Danza) was not well planned out or thought, kind of hastily put together. In that case, yes, I think he was right for taking over the service and remembering his friend in that way. In the case of my friend, the rigidity, Holiness, and Catholicness (is that a word?) is what the husband needed and wanted.

  • CatBallou

    Since everything relevant has been said about this particular incident, I want to focus on this statement by Hemant:

    I hate the idea of a cookie cutter funeral (or wedding, for that matter).

    Please please please no, let’s not make funerals the same kind of “It’s MY special day” that weddings have turned into! Haven’t we seen enough of the awful Bridezilla phenomenon, where every single detail has to be personally specially individually uniquely “mine”? I know this is totally driven by the wedding industry, but can you just imagine how bad it would be if the funeral industry starts pushing the grieving relatives to plan a funeral that “stands out from the rest”? Widowzillas determined to dazzle all their friends and family with the most lavish fairy-tale funerals imaginable?
    (Ridiculous, I know–but the wedding industry really gets me riled up!)

  • Don Rose

    This is why I never invite clergy to any event! lol

    The Tillman clip is great. They are heroes on many different levels.

    My wedding, back in 1989 was conducted by a Justice of the Peace. We instructed her to leave out the religious nonsense…… and she did a great job.

    When I die, there will be absolutely no church, no clergy, and no prayers, or hymns. My family knows exactly how I feel about the subject.

  • Houndies

    its good to hear that someone stood up and said something. all too often people allow religious figures to blither on at will. Tony Danza was right. the funeral is too remember a friend or family member not to get a sermon. i wrestle with the idea of the next funeral i have to go to because where i live funerals and sermons go hand in hand.

  • embalmerbee

    Licensed Funeral Director here-

    In my state, families tell me which clergyperson/speaker they want to officiate, and if they have no ties to one, I have a small list of various religious/non religious folk who I can call, however, unless they’re Catholic, every one of these officiants meets with the family ahead of time to discuss their expectations.
    However, once that person gets up and starts talking, everyone is forced to listen to them out of politeness, even if they perform an altar call or try to “save” everyone…and I’ve seen a few of them do it. None of these types are on my list.
    Kudos to Tony for speaking up, I’m tired of watching a group of people suffer through something they didn’t want.

  • BlueRidgeLady

    I feel that while Danza’s outburst would be uncomfortable, talking about heaven and hell at someone’s funeral is tacky and disrespectful, unless they (the dead) specifically requested that that be part of the ceremony. A funeral is for the living to experience, and the person’s memory shouldn’t be fodder for a religious guilt party. I hope I live a long life, but you bet your ass I don’t want god mentioned ONCE at my funeral. Preferably, someone else would have my organs and everyone at my funeral would get tanked. Put me in a coffee can from Ralph’s.

  • ZombieGirl

    At my funeral, I want everyone to wear crazy outfits, dance, and get drunk. Seriously. 🙂

  • Zac

    I have it in my will that there better not be any mention of religion at my funeral. So hopefully this won’t have to happen.

  • whoa. Hemant, you just made me respect… Tony Danza! wow, i never thought that was even possible. heh.

    sorry for your loss, Tony. way to stand up for your friend! i hope i have one like you at my funeral, if some fool comes to speak mythology over my grave. way to man up.

  • When one of my colleagues died, his pastor decided that the memorial service would be a wonderful opportunity to harangue the insufficiently devout college professors who would come to pay their respects. So he did, ranting at length about Jesus and so on and so forth while the decedent’s family and friends waited (and waited!) to pay tribute. I doubt the pastor noticed how the weary and stony faces perked up when we actually got to share memories of our late colleague and to appreciate his life — instead of sitting through a come-to-Jesus exhortation that impressed no one.

  • my recent funeral experience: my younger cousin, who killed himself. but not really; it’s a long story and i won’t bore you. anyway, for his mother’s sake they invited a religious to speak at his funeral, as one of the (several) speakers. i am so proud of my family! this dude wasn’t first, and he wasn’t the most important, and the only religious thing he said was that “god is our mother and our father” and the rest of what he had to say? all about my cousin and his, um, ways with the women. which was true; my cousin was a Dawg (but the good kind all the honies loved).

    bring the religious to heel, i say. they need *us* not the other way around. if they don’t please the community, they don’t eat. it’s really that simple. i won’t argue that they don’t “serve a purpose,” perhaps they do. but they should conform to our will, what we want and need from them, when the “time comes.” trust me: they are more afraid of losing their particular franchise to World of Warcraft, than they are all the other shit they prattle on and on about, constantly.

    don’t fear them. in truth, they are Weak. it’s why they go into ‘the business.’

  • Dez

    When my dear cousin Pamela died from lung cancer two years ago, the officiating priest mispronounced her name.

    One may wonder, how do you mispronounce, “Pamela?”

    “Pall-mella was a devout Catholic and a loving mother and grandmother…”

    Fortunately several people had the chutzpah to correct him, calling out individually. “Pam. Her name was Pam. Pam-e-la.”

    She was indeed a loving mother and a devoted new grandma, but she wasn’t by any means a devout Catholic. She was vaguely Christian — she believed in God in the generic sense — but her spirit lived in and was moved by Nature, and she studied meditation and Buddhism.

    We all sat and squirmed as he described this mythical devout Catholic mother and grandmother named Pall-mella. I was so relieved when it was my turn to do the eulogy and talk about what she was really like. And to say her name correctly.

  • When my uncle died last 2008, the funeral service was attended by a Catholic priest who was good friends with our family.

    I was relieved when the guy (Fr. Ramirez) kept the eulogy short, and talked about his friendship with my uncle, and how he lived well and with dignity.

    The service was bittersweet – several relatives I hadn’t seen in years were there, but they were talking about their happier times with my uncle, with the priest wrapping up the service by preaching about living one’s life to the fullest given how fragile a life can be, and about the message “Love one another.”

    Barely any utterance of God or the bible during the whole affair.

    I still detest the RCC as a whole.

    But in Fr. Ramirez’s case, who turned one of the saddest moments of my family’s life into a point of insight and gentle assurance, I think I can make an exception.

  • Ian

    Absolutely not a dick thing to do at all. Often funeral ‘planning’ is nothing of the kind. The bereaved family just want whoever’s organizing stuff to just do it. They assume a level of professionalism. And often whoever is doing the funeral has absolutely no idea of the actual wishes of the deceased or their family and friends. Even if they do meet, there’s often no real way to get any credible planning done.

    I sat through a funeral of a young friend of mine where the priest quoted the story of Jesus raising lazarus. Talk about totally insensitive. Now I didn’t know the religious beliefs of the family, and I hadn’t had much to do with this friend since he caught religion a few years ago, so it would have been a dick move to stand up. But utterly inappropriate God focus in wakes in endemic as far as I can see.

    And totally agree with the other commenters… Danza, really!

    (oh and total props to embalmerbee, good to hear the voice of bitter experience talk!)

  • I think it was a right on move!

    a. He was a close friend and it vaguely sounds like he was trying to help the widow plan it. She seems grateful for his intervention.

    b. As someone said above, allow leniency for the grief talking. Whatever happened to that? There used to be a time when outbursts of this nature were shrugged off and immediately forgiven with an it’s the grief talking. Frankly, that needs to be brought back. We are not ourselves when we are stunned with the death of a loved one, even when it’s expected, much more so when it’s not. Have we become such a perfectly perfect and judgmental society that someone can’t be forgiven for being beside themselves with grief now?

    c. We are not ourselves when we are stunned with the death of a loved one. Hence, planned or not (and I don’t know in this case), so-called planning consists largely of following someone’s recommendation and nodding your head numbly and going that would be nice when you only half heard them.

    I think it’s great that now two celebrities have spoken up and objected. I would hope attendees who are on the peripheal and where the deceased’s family is religious wouldn’t make such outbursts but I think it’s more than about time those who are closest to the deceased or where the deceased was irreligious (regardless of whether their family was or not) did stand up and put a stop to preaching nonsense at their funerals.

    It is incredibly disrespectful to the deceased, in that case, to use their funeral to save souls and they should be called out on it. Albeit, I do like what someone said above about just standing up and saying excuse me, everyone but, in honor of her memory, I’d like to point out that grandma didn’t believe in God. That is such a tactful, classy way to do it if one has the presence of mind to.

    Cudos to both Danza and Tillman. Hope more and more people absolutely do this. I’m glad there’s been two so publicized so people know that yes they can break that unspoken taboo and say stop disrespecting my loved one.

    I certainly hope if a funeral director or something tries to do so, my daughter and/or my grandson have the guts to interrupt and stop them dead in their tracks. Even if they ever (FSM forbid) turn to god, I would hope they still would — to honor my memory and who I was.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    I tell you what: any of us would be lucky to have such a good friend that he would still get our back at our own funeral. You gotta stick up for a chum, and that’s exactly what he did.

  • The Pint

    I had no idea it was possible to respect Tony Danza, but there you have it. Good for him. Etiquette-wise, maybe it was a dick move, but then again, his friend’s widow approved of his actions. I’d have applauded had I been there – I absolutely cannot stand how some priests will co-opt someone’s funeral as a “product pitch” moment.

    Since we’re sharing funeral stories, I’ll throw one in as well, and I hope you’ll bear with me because even though this is over a decade old, it still infuriates me because it was my dad’s. My father’s wake (the night before the funeral/burial service) was actually a double-whammy: pitching for Jesus & the RCC AND harping on ethnic identity. Both my parents were Filipino – my mom died a few years before my dad and he remarried about a year and a half after she died, only to die 8 months later after the remarriage. I was 14 when he died and my stepmom is also Filipino. Both of my parents had been rather lapsed Christians (mom from a Protestant family and dad from a Catholic one) but we never really went to church outside of holidays/when family visited. Neither were they really into defining their social circle based on shared ethnicity. The stepmom, however, was a “church every Sunday because it wouldn’t look right if we didn’t go” kind of attendee and she was REALLY into the whole “Filipino majority” social scene (lots of upperclass as well). So dad went to mass after they started dating, but mostly to make her happy – he never had a “come to Jesus” moment.
    And yet, there was the Catholic priest (also a Filipino guy) my stepmom had arranged to speak at the wake, commiting a duel offense of exhorting the joys of finding Jesus and belonging to the Catholic church, AND pointing out how faith in Jesus and the RCC was a particular strength of being Filipino. He also went on a vein about how non-Filipinos were often “taken aback” by the typically “dramatic emotional behavior” exhibited by Filipinos at funerals, but what “those people” didn’t understand was that “Filipinos are naturally VERY emotional people” and were just naturally demonstrating both their grief at the loss of the deceased and their joy that the deceased could now truly experience the love of Jesus and the Holy Father. Had my father been a friend of this priest or a religious man who put a lot of stock in ethnic identity, I’d have been personally disgusted but not too upset on my dad’s behalf. As it was, I was livid. At least there were a good number of my father’s closest friends who got up after that embarassing circus show to talk about who my dad really was, including an Iraqi Muslim, an Indian Hindu a Japanese Buddhist. They talked about his horribly corny and often dirty jokes, how he loved his vodka martinis and playing jazz on the piano, his obsession with books and sci-fi, what a ladies’ man he’d been, how he could have been a fantastic WWII historian if he hadn’t been a doctor… I took far more comfort from their obvious love and respect for my dad than I could have ever had from this stranger priest’s screed on how “wonderful” it was to be a Catholic Filipino. I hate the idea that anyone at the funeral might have taken that priest’s presence there to be a reflection of who my dad was.

    And I got to hear him do it again the next day at the actual funeral service, but I guess that was more expected because it took place in the church and burial services tend to be more “ceremonial” anyway.

    I wish I had the courage to do what Danza had done and read that priest the riot act, even if it was after he’d finished his screed at the wake. As it was, the best I could manage was rudely refusing to shake his hand and muttered something about how yes, he would see me at mass on Sunday, but only because my stepmom insisted I come if I didn’t want to be grounded, and I wouldn’t take communion because I wasn’t Catholic and would never convert because I was finding Buddhism and Wicca to be more appealing anyway (ah to be a teenager fascinated with non-Christian religions). He said he’d “pray for me.” At least my stepmom was mortified.

  • Sarah

    What I don’t understand is why a priest and church service is chosen if that is not the deceased lifestyle and/or view. There are many more options for a funeral/memorial service. If a church is chosen by the family you must expect some type of religious speaking and if the priest/Pastor/Rabbi didn’t personally know the person what else do they have to talk about.

  • RG

    One of my best friends died when I was still a teenager. The Pentecostal preacher doing the service went on and on about how women, starting with Eve, were the reason for the world’s evil. He then talked about a couple of things found in my friends wallet that were religious in nature. This was really all he knew about my friend, or perhaps he thought they were the only things important now that he was dead. He assumed that since he carried these things, one of which was a bible verse on a card, that he was a deeply religious person. I never knew my friend to care about religion. Never mentioned god, definitely didn’t lead a Pentecostal lifestyle. But he was a good person. Everybody liked him. To imagine the person he was, think Ferris Bueller. It bothered me that the preacher painted him as a Christian, that shared these sexist misguided beliefs that his church held. I wanted everyone to know how kind and fun he was, how much he loved life, how my life was a better one for him being on the earth even for a short 18 years. Being terrified of public speaking I said nothing, but now that I’m remembering this again, I wish so badly that I had the courage Mr. Danza had.

  • Vanessa

    Oh my gosh, I read this title and thought Tony Danza had died!

  • Martin

    Wow, this reminds me of the funeral of a good work friend I attended earlier this year. The father just finished speaking about how he just lost his second son, which was sad, and saying how much he will miss him and what he lost, and then the priest comes up and starts talking about God’s loss being more painful than the fathers (correct me if I am wrong, but I thought according to Christianity, they join God when they die… so God didn’t lose anything… confusing none the less)… Anyways, then he turned it into a whole advertisement for Christianity, it made me physically ill listening to him.

    Now I completely believe in what Tony did, and if it was a closer friend or family member I have known for longer or spent time outside of work, I would probably have done the same thing.

  • The Evidence

    I attended the funeral of a good friend of mine none too long ago, and I felt exactly like Mr. Danza, minus actually giving in to the outburst.

    And it was a Catholic church too, so the well appointed building just made it worse.

    How dare they trot out their little Jesus-on-a-stick and wave it around as if it had any significance at a time like this. Bringing toys to a funeral might be forgiven in young children, but adults ought to GROW OUT OF IT.

  • Lisa

    I agree with the point some people have already made: if you don’t want any religion in your funeral, don’t let your family hold it at a place of worship or be led by clergy. And on the other end, if you’re at a funeral in a place of worship, you should be expecting the fact that there will be religious themes in the service. I wasn’t at Carlo’s funeral, so I can’t speak for this exact situation (maybe what the priest said was inappropriate for the situation,) but as a general rule, I think it’s silly to be angry that a Catholic funeral has Catholic themes.

    This is the problem with all the non-practicing Catholicism of the Northeast US. I grew up there, I know.

  • Ccenta72

    You can’t sit back, let the priest take over not get involved in the arrangements and then dog the Priest!!!!!!!! If u want yhe right stuff said n done u do it yourself. Tony Danza is a stupid loud mouth who wanted attention and lokes the sound of his own voice. Please.

  • The priest at my father’s funeral took the opportunity to say how “we Catholics” are so lucky at such a time because “we” have faith. “I don’t know what those atheists do”, he said. My fellow atheist nephew and I just looked at each other, both stunned and pissed. I still regret not saying something to the dick afterwards, but I wasn’t exactly in a confrontational mood given the nature of the event. I now realize that made what he did even more of a dick move, saying such a thing to a mixed audience of mourners and pretending that they were all Catholic just because we were in a Catholic church.  

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