Bishop Thomas Paprocki performed a widely publicized exorcism last night, coinciding with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s signing of the state’s new marriage equality law. Such an extreme action from the bishop prompted two Catholics to question this episcopal obsession with marriage equality, and suggest it is time to move on for the good of the Catholic Church, as well as LGBT people and their families.
Writing in the Washington Post, Thomas Villareal tries to separate the bishops’ opposition to LGBT rights from other issues, especially abortion. He begins:
“On Wednesday, the Catholic bishop of Illinois, Thomas Paprocki, will perform an exorcism for the state of Illinois. That’s right, an exorcism – for the entire state…
“Outrageous –and perhaps even a bit comical –as many might find the use of the rite of exorcism to make a political statement in the culture wars, the entire body of U.S. Catholic bishops has, in fact, implemented a far less theatrical, yet ever more serious plan in their attempt to sully the love and commitment of same-sex couples, along with their civil marriage equality, in the minds and hearts of lay Catholics. This is no laughing matter.”
Mired in these culture wars, Villareal, who is both pro-life and pro-marriage equality, rejects how closely the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has linked abortion, marriage equality, and contraception. He especially objects to the Eucharistic Holy Hours for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty that were re-affirmed just last week at the bishops’ conference meeting in Baltimore. Villareal observes that the moral and biological differences between abortion and same-sex marriage are huge, but the bishops seem intent on blurring these distinctions:
“The Catholic bishops of the United States are attempting to make their own conflation of two polar opposite issues, abortion and homosexuality, a permanent feature of American Catholic prayer life. And they are using the Blessed Sacrament, the body of Jesus, to do so. To me, this is despicable.”
In conclusion, Villareal urges Catholics to make their voices heard not only to Pope Francis and the Synod on the Family, for which several surveys have emerged, but also to their local Catholic leaders.
The final outcome of Bishop Paprocki’s exorcism stunt could be to “cast out more Catholics than demons” as Neil Steinberg, a Chicago Sun-Times columnist writes:
“There is a harm here, and at some point the hurt being inflicted shifts from the traditional victim — the LGBT community — to the people doing the baseless slurring. In 1974, 47 percent of Catholics attended mass once a week, according to Pew Research. In 2012, it was almost exactly half that, 24 percent.
“Exorcise that, fellows. And while we can’t lay the blame entirely on intolerance of gays or marginalizing women — the endless sex-abuse scandal no doubt had a hand — the numbers still reflect what happens when you put a medieval doctrine above people.
“None of this is loving, none of this is ministering to souls. It is a mean, small, fearful gazing beneath the sheets — a church tradition, yes, but now clearly jamming their noses into realms where they never belonged and belong even less today.”
Check back here this afternoon for updates on both Governor Quinn’s signing of the law and the outcomes of Bishop Paprocki’s exorcism last night.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry