Gotti, responsible for at least five murders during his bloody reign atop the Gambino crime family, will not receive a Mass of Christian burial, the Rev. Andrew Vaccari, chancellor of the Diocese of Brooklyn, said Wednesday. Instead, Vaccari said in a one-sentence statement, "there can be a Mass for the dead sometime after the burial of John Gotti."
Gotti died of cancer Monday at a prison hospital in Missouri. He had been sentenced to life in 1992. The Brooklyn diocese also oversees nearby Queens, where Gotti is to be buried.
The decision on the Mass echoed the ruling made by church officials after the Gotti-ordered murder of his Gambino predecessor, "Big Paul" Castellano, in 1985. Castellano's family received permission for a private Mass after his burial, but was denied a funeral Mass with the body in the church. But unlike Gotti, Castellano was also denied burial in a Catholic ceremony because of his life of crime.
Gotti's remains were removed from the Missouri prison on Tuesday for their eventual return to New York and his family, which has been splintered by federal prosecution. Two of his brothers, his son and his ex-son-in-law were all jailed at the time of his death; another brother and a nephew were under indictment.
Gotti will end up in the family mausoleum that holds his son Frank, who died in 1980 at age 12 when he was accidentally struck by a neighbor's car. The neighbor, 51-year-old John Favara, disappeared four months after the accident and is believed to have been murdered. The mausoleum is inside St. John's Cemetery in the Queens, a New York City borough, where an assortment of Mafia figures found their final resting spots. Those buried at St. John's include Carlo Gambino, Carmine Galante, Vito Genovese and Charles "Lucky" Luciano.
Wednesday's announcement did not say why Gotti was deemed qualified to be buried in a Catholic cemetery. In addition to Castellano and Gotti, the church has denied a funeral Mass to other mobsters: Galante and Gotti underboss Frank DeCicco.
At issue is a church precept called "scandal" - the idea that by granting a funeral Mass to someone who lived outside church teachings, the wrong message would be sent to the church faithful. The denial is not a judgment on the deceased's lifestyle, since the church believes that only God can make that determination.