Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois,does not fear controversy when it comes to gay and lesbian matters. Now, a new video has emerged where he speaks in pastorally harmful and belittling ways about LGBT people that seem shocking in the age of Pope Francis.
Paprocki, who once debated Sr. Jeannine Gramick on the issue of marriage equality, made headlines last November for holding an exorcism on the same day Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who is Catholic, signed equal marriage rights into law in their state. The video which has recently emerged is the bishop’s attempt to explain why he held the exorcism, and was filmed by Life Site News, a conservative Catholic website, during mid-January activities surrounding the March for Life in Washington, DC.
Claiming the exorcism was appropriate because the Catholic Church was undergoing “persecution” by advocates of LGBT equality, Paprocki stated in the video:
“I thought that would be a fitting time for us to have that prayer, really for praying for God and his power to drive out the Devil from his influence that seems to be pervading our culture so much in our world this day. That was kind of the whole context for offering it.”
The interviewer also asked Paprocki how he would respond to those criticizing the exorcism as hateful. Paprocki’s response:
“You really have to understand what love is all about…By being to opposed to the redefinition of marriage and by being opposed to things that are sinful, that’s actually a very loving thing…perhaps it’s the permissiveness of our society that people think that if you don’t get what you want that you’re somehow being hateful, if you don’t give them what they want.
“But sometimes, like any good parent will tell you, that sometimes you have to discipline your child, sometimes you have to say no. And sometimes, you even have to punish.
“And when a parent does those things, they’re not being hateful towards their children, they’re actually being very loving by correcting them and showing them the right way to do things.”
As for those working for marriage equality, he called their efforts a “stridently secular agenda” driven by politicians and the media. Paprocki even went so far as to say “the work of the Devil is behind this” and quoted a disputed comment by Pope Francis during his time as a cardinal in Argentina to justify his anti-gay actions.
Paprocki concluded by making unsubstantiated claims that children raised by same-gender couples experience adverse effects and that the two people of the same sex who marry is “basically a lie.” You can view the entire video at Raw Story by clicking here.
Bishop Paprocki’s remarks seem to be standard fare for him, but this does not mitigate the damage an interview like this does. It is well past time for Paprocki to stop his exaggerated criticism, which only alienates LGBT Catholics and their supporters, and instead do some positive pastoral outreach and reconciliation.
Pope Francis has shown through word and action that he wants bishops who show mercy and welcome to all, including LGBT people, and asked bishops to stop obsessing over issues like same-gender marriage. Without changing their beliefs on marriage, South Africa’s bishops sought solidarity with the LGBT community instead of division in response to anti-gay laws and a handful of cardinals have reached out for greater LGBT inclusion as well.
Paprocki should follow the steps of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who heads up the American bishops’ anti-marriage equality campaign, and at least listen to LGBT people’s lived experiences with compassion. Perhaps he will see the many Catholics who work for marriage equality and LGBT inclusion because of their faith, working not for demonic reasons, but for God and their beloved friends and family who are gay.
At the very least, Paprocki should keep quiet on LGBT issues for awhile. Suggesting that those who support marriage equality are similar to children needing discipline and punishment directly contradicts the Church’s call for respect when engaging LGBT people and issues. His comments have no place in the Catholic community.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry