Stop Leaving Cigarettes and Beer on Funeral Altars, Irish Priest Begs

What, like leaving a pack of Parliaments and an empty High Life on a casket is disrespectful or something?
August 7, 2019, 5:52pm
Photo: Getty Images / Composite by VICE Staff

Father Tomás Walsh, a parish priest in Cork, Ireland, has had a big summer of scolding people. Earlier this summer, an Irish reporter apparently made the mistake of asking Walsh about some of his opinions, and he responded by dragging couples who get married in churches just for the ambience ("It's a charade"); by dragging their non-believing friends who attend the weddings ("They don’t even pretend to have faith"); and by dragging parents who let their kids run around during the service (fair enough).


So now that he's unloaded on weddings, Walsh is back with his thoughts about funerals. According to the Belfast Telegraph, he has had it with grieving family members who choose to remember their loved ones by putting "appalling things" like beer or cigarettes on the altar during the service.

"Bringing things such as a can of beer, a packet of cigarettes, a remote control, a mobile phone, or a football jersey does not tell us anything uplifting about the person who has died," he wrote in his most recent church newsletter. "Surely items such as a flower, a family photograph, a prayer-book or rosary reveals far more about the person who has died—and the loss he/she is to the family who grieve." (Note to self: Never die in Cork, Ireland because BORING.)

Because Walsh probably doesn't have a word count, he finished by making some assumptions about this theoretical corpse. "Very often it might have been the drink or smokes that had killed the person in the first place," he harrumphed. "It's like saying 'Mary was a chain smoker so let's bring up a packet of cigarettes' or 'Jimmy was an alcoholic so let's offer up a can of beer.'" (He also shook his fists about lengthy eulogies.)

Here in the United States, some funeral homes are alright with "appalling things" like beer, even if the deceased's family and friends want to serve it during the service. Two years ago, the Scott Funeral Home in Jeffersonville, Indiana, got a liquor license, and offers an alcohol-friendly package that includes the beverages of your choice, a special visitation space, and a funeral director who doubles as a bartender.

"This is for the families that absolutely want [alcohol], and if they don’t want it, they don’t have to have it,” Aaron Scott told FOX59 at the time. "It’s not like it’s ‘boozing.' It’s not a lot of alcohol, we’re going to do everything we can to keep it high-class."

Scott also said that Yuengling was the most-requested beer at funerals and now we've changed our mind about everything Fr. Walsh said. That is appalling.