US: Gay heart attack patient says Catholic priest refused to give him last rites

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A Catholic priest in America’s capital refused to give last rites and communion to a heart attack patient because of the man’s sexuality, it’s been claimed.

Ronald Plishka, 63, a retired travel agent and lifelong Catholic, said he asked a nurse to arrange for a hospital chaplain to visit him at Washington DC’s Hospital Centre on 7 Feb.

Mr Plishka had suffered a heart attack the day before and wasn’t sure he would survive.

Washington Blade reports Father Brian Coelho came to his bedside with holy water, took Mr Plishka’s confession, but upon learning of his sexuality, said he couldn’t offer last rites or communion – he offered to pray with the patient instead.

“We started talking and I told him I was so happy with this new Pope because of his comments about the gays and his accepting the gays,” Mr Plishka told the Blade. “And I mentioned that I was gay. I said it and then I asked him does that bother you? And he said, ‘Oh, no, that does not bother me.’”

“But then he would not proceed with administering the last rites or communion,” Mr Plishka added. “He couldn’t do it.”

“He wanted to pray. That’s what he wanted to do. He said well I could pray with you. And I just told him to get the f*ck out of here — excuse me. But that’s what I told him.”

The patient was then told to calm down by his doctor, fearing the stress could cause another heart attack.

In a statement, Washington Hospital Centre said the Archdiocese of Washington had assigned Fr Coelho to serve as a Catholic chaplain at the hospital – and that it had not hired him.

The hospital said it was taking Mr Plishka’s concerns “very seriously” but it cannot comment on the specifics of the interaction between Fr Coelho and Mr Plishka “because we were not a party to it.”

However, it did say: “Our Department of Spiritual Care will reinforce our expectations with this priest and his superiors.”

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