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Bishop Paprocki Boldly Rebuts His Detractors

11810605_sEver since he issued internal communication to the clergy and staff of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois on same-sex marriage and related pastoral issues, Bishop Thomas Paprocki has been under fire for allegedly attacking the LGBT population; however, he’s not about to give in to LGBT bullies and their allies and has published a brilliant defense of the Church’s teaching upon which it was based.

In an article appearing in the July 9 issue of the Catholic Times, the newspaper of the Diocese of Springfield, Bishop Paprocki addresses the consternation that arose when a copy of his internal communication about how to handle various situations concerning same-sex marriages was leaked to the public.

In this decree, which was entitled, “Decree Regarding Same-sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues,”  he addressed the current reality of the legalization of same-sex marriage and the pastoral situations that have been arising in parishes. For example, the decree states that parish facilities are not to be used for same-sex weddings; parish personnel cannot perform same-sex weddings; Catholics involved in same-sex unions cannot receive the sacraments, including funeral rites, or serve in public liturgical roles unless they repent; children who live with same-sex parents can be baptized if there is a well-founded hope that he or she will be raised Catholic and be properly prepared to receive the sacraments; children from same-sex households cannot be denied admission to Catholic schools based on those grounds alone.

“All of this is totally consistent with Catholic teaching about the sacraments and the understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman that has prevailed for millennia in all of society, not just in the Church,” Bishop Paprocki writes. “The fact that there would be such an outcry against this decree is quite astounding and shows how strong the LGBT lobby is both in the secular world as well as within the Church”

Detractors are doing to him exactly what they did to Pope Francis in 2013 when they took his comment about, “who am I to judge” in regard to the gay population completely out of context.

As the bishop reminds, Pope Francis said at the time: “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?” But the Pope quickly added, “The problem is not having this [homosexual] tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another, and there is this one and there is that one. The problem is in making a lobby of this tendency: a lobby of misers, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of masons, so many lobbies. For me, this is the greater problem.”

In other words, even Pope Francis recognized that the gay lobby – the same lobby which is pressuring Bishop Paprocki to rescind his decree - is a great problem.

The Bishop then turns to the criticism leveled at him by Father James Martin, S.J., author of a controversial new book about building bridges between the Church and the LGBT community.

bishop paprockiThe New York-based Jesuit addressed the bishop’s decree in a series of tweets in which he said: “If bishops ban members of same-sex couples from funeral rites, they must also ban divorced and remarried Catholics without annulments . . . women who have children out of wedlock, members of straight couples living together before marriage, anyone using birth control . . . . To focus only on LGBT people, even those in same-sex marriages, without a similar focus on the sexual or moral behavior of straight people is in the words of the Catechism a ‘sign of unjust discrimination.”

Bishop Paprocki clearly rebuts these arguments: “Father Martin gets a lot wrong in those tweets, since canon law prohibits ecclesiastical funeral rites only in cases of ‘manifest sinners’ which give ‘public scandal,’ and something such as using birth control is a private matter that is usually not manifest or made public,” the bishop writes.

“Moreover, my decree does not focus on ‘LGBT people,’ but on so-called same-sex marriage, which is a public legal status. No one is ever denied the sacraments or Christian burial for simply having a homosexual orientation. Even someone who had entered into a same-sex ‘marriage’ can receive the sacraments and be given ecclesiastical funeral rites if they repent and renounce their ‘marriage’.”

However, Father Martin’s tweets do raise an important point with regard to other situations of grave sin and the reception of Holy Communion, the Bishop admits.

“He is right that the Church’s teaching does not apply only to people in same-sex marriages. According to canon 916, all those who are ‘conscious of grave sin’ are not to receive Holy Communion without previous sacramental confession. This is normally not a question of denying Holy Communion, but of people themselves refraining from Holy Communion if they are ‘conscious of grave sin.’ While no one can know one’s subjective sinfulness before God, the Church can and must teach about the objective realities of grave sin.”

The absence of sound teaching on the objective realities of grave sin is why so many Christians cave to the dictates of political correctness and the need for human respect. No one wants to be called a “hater,” and so we too often refrain from what Bishop Paprocki is doing – calling a sin a sin. While we are never to judge a person’s motives, we are absolutely called to renounce sinful behaviors such as cohabitation, same-sex relations, abortion, artificial contraception, etc., but to do so with the love of Jesus Christ. If this makes us a “hater,” then so be it, but at least we tried to spare a soul from everlasting damnation. What greater love is there that this?

As the Bishop states, “The truths of the faith revealed by our Lord in Scripture and Tradition are not always easy to accept, especially in a world that seeks to make all truth subjective,” he writes. “The fact is that some truths are objective and unalterable.”

And may God bless him for having the courage to say so!

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