Illinois Priest Sends Entire Town Anti-Gay Letter, Calls it a "Public Service"

Fr. Timothy Sauppé’s letter

Thousands of Illinois residents received an unsolicited public notice about the “homosexual culture war” from a Peoria diocesan priest earlier this month, but Fr. Timothy Sauppé is refusing to apologize for his action and words, as criticism in his community grows.

The August 11th letter sent to all addresses in the 61883 ZIP code (Westville, IL) opened with the following:

“I am Fr. Sauppé, pastor of St Mary’s Catholic Church & the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! The US Supreme Court has issued a new ‘civil right’ recognizing same-sexed ‘marriages.'”

The referenced parish is St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Westville, and the letter continued by attacking same-sex relationships, reported Commercial-News.

When contacted by the press, the priest defended his letter, written “to evangelize and to protect St. Mary’s Catholic Church from future attack” according to the parish website. Sauppé told Commercial-News:

“As pastor, I’m not only over Catholics, but I’m over everyone within my parish boundaries and a lot of those people don’t know about the other side to this issue.

“So I was doing a public service to them by explaining that we have a constitutional right not to condone [same-sex marriage].”

He further denied claims the letter was political and said anyone objecting to his actions is a “religious bigot.”

The letter’s reverse side advertised local events with several organizations listed as cosponsors, though these groups deny any affiliation. Westville Lions Club president Darren VanDuyn told reporters:

“I was furious because we are a diverse group of people and I didn’t want to be tied to this belief that we don’t all share this opinion of. . .I know a lot of good people from St. Mary’s and Sauppé’s opinions just don’t represent the church as a whole. . .This is the action of one individual. Throw the flyer away and be done with it.”

While throwing the flyer away is a good first step, this is not Fr. Sauppé’s first, and, unless he is stopped, likely not last inappropriate act when it comes to homosexuality.

Fr. Sauppé

In a homily shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling last June, the priest claimed “they will come after the Catholic Church” by challenging churches’ tax exempt status and by forcing ministers to perform same-gender weddings.

In a post on the parish website, “Identifying & Preparing For The Homosexualist Agenda,” he said marriage equality’s expansion is linked to a new age of persecution that will “tear at the Mystical Body of Christ, as surely as did the Roman flagellum, thorns, and nails on the historic body of Christ.”

Fr. Sauppé’s tirades are not limited to opposing LGBT equality. He made headlines in 2013 with the claim that couples’ use of contraception had put the parochial school out of existence. Glancing at the parish website and a quick Google search clearly shows he holds extremist views on many topics.

The Diocese of Peoria, in which Westville is located, has at least one previous precedent of extremist Catholic rhetoric. In 2012, Bishop Daniel Jenky compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, causing some to question whether he broke election laws.

Regardless of what Sauppé says, his actions are neither a public service nor evangelical. They are precisely the opposite, and they stymie the well-being of both civil society and the church.  Sauppé owes the people of Westville a profound apology for using church funds to mail anti-gay materials to their homes and businesses. Otherwise, he is simply doing the church a great disservice by fostering prejudice and fear.

To reconcile with the community after apologizing, he could educate himself like reading what some of the People of God would say to Pope Francis about LGBT issues, which have a lot more to do with love and inclusion than condemnation. He could take the further step of meeting with local LGBT people and their families, including Catholics, and follow Pope Francis’ lead in trying to create a church that is “home for all” at the Westville parish.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

20 replies
  1. Brian Kneeland
    Brian Kneeland says:

    Yes – the priest does not have to “condone” same sex marriage. To me that means he does not have to perform them. However, he does not have the right to attack people in the LGBT community nor our allies. I think he alienated more of us and our allies than he brought people to the Church and to God with this bit of hate mongering – you cannot call it evangelizing since its aim is to keep people out! This is the kind of things some priests and almost all bishops in this country are engaged in. Are they trying to divide the Body of Christ? It appears that they are – Where will our sense of belonging and healing come from? Not clergy like this!

  2. Friends
    Friends says:

    I would suggest filing a formal complaint about his conduct DIRECTLY with the Vatican — and I’m also reminded of the comment by one of our contributors, remarking on a similar situation: “The worst anti-gay bigots are typically the biggest closet cases!” Just study his picture for a minute or two, and tell us what sort of “vibe” you’re getting. I already did — and I know what I’M getting!

    • Peter Mangini
      Peter Mangini says:

      I agree with you whole heartedly, that is exactly what I was sensing too, that he is most likely a closeted gay man.
      It’s very sad and harmful as to what he is doing in the church. He needs our prayers for a change of heart.

  3. Richard Rosendall
    Richard Rosendall says:

    The ones using children as pawns in the culture war are anti-gay clergy. My friends who have children are simply raising families. Every child of gay parents is wanted. So very much wanted. Last night I went to a baseball game at Nationals Park, and there was a gay couple sitting a few rows in front of me with their baby boy. They were like any other family enjoying a night at the ballpark. I don¹t understand what purpose is served by the sort of obsession displayed by the priest in Illinois. We exist, our families exist, and we have the same right to equal protection under the secular laws, and to happiness, as anyone else. Any religion that says otherwise is an obscenity. I am getting less and less patient with this pope given the persistence of anti-gay bigotry in the Church. I understand the bishops are powerful, but Francis washing feet and having a meal with gay folks and saying ³Who am I to judge?² doesn¹t cut it when neither the policy towards us nor the behavior at the diocesan level changes.


  4. jono113
    jono113 says:

    Sending a letter to the Vatican – always good advice. The next time he goes off in a homily, stand up, shout “you are wrong” and walk out.

    [email protected] says:

    Bob, I am so impressed with your even-keel responses.  I have to keep my blood from boiling when I read such articles…….where do these people get their educations?          No need to respond.                      Joy and gentle blessings.         Paula M.

  6. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    His rectory phone #: 217-267-3334. His email: [email protected]. I emailed to protest his lack of love, compassion, his homophobia, his complete misunderstanding of Christianity. I also Tweeted the Chicago Archdiocese @archchicago @cathnewworld @catolico_news — and now I’m looking up Pope Francis’ Twitter acct. I hope his own relationship with sexuality is healed.

  7. Kay Davis
    Kay Davis says:

    Did he really say that he is over everyone within the parish boundaries?! That is a bit of hubris to assume that he is the pastor of everyone, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

  8. Mike T
    Mike T says:

    I “like” his comment that he is not only OVER Catholics, but OVER everyone within his parish borders… Gives you some insight into how he views the clerical state

  9. Carlos Piñeiroa
    Carlos Piñeiroa says:

    I know all too well about this person. I m a gay Catholic married to a Larry Lesko of westville Il. I been to his church St. Mary’s many times and you have to see the arogance this guy displays during mass. He thinks he is God. And the way he talks, the hate he preaches and his political views are his daily sermons to his flock. He is obsessed with gays abortion and president Obama. But the worse is what happen to our family. Larrys mother was a devout Catholic a member of this church we attended many times with her when we visited her from Florida. Many time she told me she felt like getting up and walking out in the middle of the sermon. On the day of her funeral just less than an hour after putting her body to rest at the cemetery this priest gave Larry a card that read. There will be Gregorian masses said for the soul of your mother and another set for you and Carlos because your a sin is an abomination and you will burn in hell if you don’t change your ways. The following Sunday after mass I confronted him and he lied and blamed the ladies of the rosary. He is not what I would like my priest to be. An accepting non judgmental living nurturing in the faith. He preaches hate. As for the fact that he may be a closet case all I have to know is what he told me he said being gay and acting on it is a sin and you should repress all gay actions. He much rather have an unhappy congregation than a loving one. He needs to be removed and never allow to be the guiding light of a community. I feel sorry for the people that support him and follow his advice. Things need to change and soon. As a foot note none of my in laws go to that church. As long as he is there no one will set foot at their beloved church. Very sad. They belong to that church for over fifty years. Very sad.

  10. Jason
    Jason says:

    He mentions Romans 1, but somehow he seems to ignore Romans 2:1 “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”


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