Far be it from me to shed a tear for a murderous scoundrel whose various scams increased the price of everything in my adopted hometown. But did John Gotti get a raw deal when the Catholic Church denied him a funeral mass? A scholar makes the case here (PDF), arguing that the Church broke its own rules regarding how to deal with mafiosi:
Carlo Gambino was one of the more notorious mafia individuals in history, yet even he was able to receive the rite denied to Gotti. Gambino, who was the head of the New York mafia prior to [Paul] Castellano, was linked to dozens of “hits.” Nevertheless, when he died of a heart attack in 1976, still very active within organized crime, the Church raised no protest regarding his funeral…The Church also deemed Joseph Bonanno, known to some as “Joe Bananas,” deserving of a funeral Mass when he passed away of natural causes in May of 2002. Bonanno had been credited with being a creator of the American mafia and all evidence seems to point toward him being responsible for dozens of killings.
There is little doubt that Gotti was in a similar situation as Bonanno, both aware of his fate and having been removed from the criminal element for quite some time. The obvious difference between a Paul Castellano and a Carlo Gambino is not the way in which they lived their life, but how they died. Based on this “precedent,” it appears that the Church believes that a public death leads to “public scandal,” and accordingly, a funeral Mass should be denied. Naturally, after comparing Gotti with these other individuals, one is left with the impression that Gotti’s situation is similar to that of Gambino, Bonnano, and Dellacroce, rather than that of Castellano, De Cicco and the Spilotros. Based on this line of reasoning, it is asserted that John Gotti, having died in a hospital, in a very non-public manner, deserved full funeral rites.
The Church’s decision-making process was obviously affected by society’s changing attitudes toward organized crime, which were reflected in the way that Gotti was portrayed in popular culture. Who said the ecclesiastical hierarchy is totally incapable of sensing which way the wind blows?