There is no question that Rep. John Murtha was a giant on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House of Representatives. Thus, it was no surprise that his funeral received significant coverage in the publications that specialize in covering life on the Hill. Take, for example, The Hill. Here is a crucial part of its funeral story, focusing on remarks by Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
Pelosi, one of Murtha's closest friends and allies in Congress, was one of three speakers to eulogize him, alongside the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Conway, and Donna Murtha, the late lawmaker's daughter.
Pelosi remembered Murtha the "patriot, champion, hero, giant," and spoke of his legislative power as "a master at work"; his seat on the House floor "respectfully" and sometimes "fearfully" known as the Pennsylvania corner; his dislike of long speeches; his dedication to medical research and his love for the men and women in uniform.
When Murtha famously came out against the war in Iraq, after voting to authorize it, Pelosi said that he never wavered in his support for the military. "He taught us to make a distinction between the war and the warrior," she said from the pulpit of the Westmont Presbyterian Church in Johnstown.
The service was carried live on C-SPAN and the Pennsylvania News Channel and was held in a church not far from the family's home in southwestern Pennsylvania.
However, several GetReligion readers noted that the location of this funeral was rather interesting. After all, there are a number of online reference sites about Murtha that list his religious affiliation as "Catholic," including his Facebook page. Murtha was a moderate to conservative Democrat and, in the past, had been given a 0 rating by NARAL and a 70 rating by the National Right to Life Committee. His most recent rating from NRLC rating was 25 percent.
So why was his funeral held in a Presbyterian sanctuary? Has there been any public discussion of a Catholic funeral in another setting? I would think that this would have been a logical question to ask.
The coverage in The Hill does include a Catholic connection, when discussing those who spoke during the funeral:
One speaker at the funeral services made light of the criticism surrounding Murtha's earmarking, drawing laughter from those who came to pay tribute to the late lawmaker and his family.
Father William George, a Jesuit priest and president of Georgetown Preparatory School, read a portion from the Book of Ecclesiastes and made his own addition to the text. "The writer of Ecclesiastes could also have written 'a time to make law and a time to change laws,' he said. "And yes, 'a time to earmark.'"
Over at The Politico, there was this reference to the church in the advance story. Once again, no one asked why -- there may be a completely logical reason -- the funeral of a Catholic member of Congress was held in a Presbyterian church. Are other members of the family no longer Catholics? Is his wife a Presbyterian?
Inside the church, which is adorned with stained-glass windows and speckled with uniformed military, many of Murtha's subcommittee and personal staff filled the pews.
Murtha's family asked Pelosi to give the final remarks in this church, which seats roughly 400 people.
A military flyover is expected at the burial.
Perhaps the sanctuary for the Catholic parish in this town was too small to hold the crowd from Washington, D.C.? There certainly seem to be a number of Catholic sanctuaries located nearby.
All in all, this is a small -- but quite strange -- hole in the coverage.