Charlotte Hall priest placed on leave after angry funeral outburst
Briese cleared Charlotte Hall church before funeral Mass after visitor accidentally toppled, damaged chalice
The Rev. Michael Briese of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Newport has been placed on administrative leave after an incident last week in which the priest evicted a funeral from the Charlotte Hall church in an apparent fit of anger over a damaged chalice.
Archdiocese of Washington spokesman Edward McFadden said Briese has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into the matter. Local archdiocese priests will fill in for Briese during services, McFadden said in an email.
“Parish staff and volunteers will have to fill in for [Briese] for the food bank [which serves] more than 150 families per month, his employment aid pro- gram and his housing aid program, the latter two he operated by himself,” McFadden said in an email.
On June 27, as guests filed into the church for the funeral Mass of Agnes Theresa Hicks of Charlotte Hall, one guest unknowingly knocked over a chalice, damaging it. According to Hicks’ family and other witnesses, when Briese discovered this, he exploded into a fit of anger, canceling the funeral before the Mass could begin, calling the police and evicting the family, guests and the deceased.
The funeral later took place in a Mechanicsville funeral home with a priest from a neighboring parish, who offered apologies to the family on behalf of the archdiocese. The archdiocese also sent a letter of apology to the family.
The story and video of the incident have since made the rounds on social media, receiving national attention and inspiring the Twitter hashtag #MourningWhileBlack.
Briese is white; the Hicks family is black.
Briese apologized in a letter to the editor which ran in Wednesday’s edition of The Enterprise. In it, Briese stated, “The man who canceled this family’s funeral and dispatched them in anger, is not the man who hours before worked to minister to their needs in a time of grief. Instead of lifting them up, I let them down. For the anger and embar- rassment I caused to that family, I am profoundly sorry.”
The archdiocese stated that Briese would be meeting with the family in the coming days to offer his personal apologies.
According to the Catholic Standard, Bries is a native of Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Archbishop Carroll High School and the University of Scranton. He attended Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Mass., and was ordained in 2009.
Briese became pastor of St. Mary’s in July 2016. With members of the congregation, Briese opened the Good Shepherd Food Pantry in the basement of the church in February 2017, delivering food to those in need.