Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, has implicitly critiqued the recent comments by Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago on the matter of conscience and the distribution of communion.
Paprocki responded to a letter to the editor of a local newspaper which had supported Cupich’s inclusive approach. The supportive letter, written by John Freml, coordinator of the Equally Blessed coalition, was published by The State Journal-Register. Freml praised Cupich’s advice that Catholics, including LGBT ones, must make their own conscience decision about whether or not to receive Communion and added that the church must respect this decision. You can read more about Cupich’s remarks by clicking here.
Freml noted further that, despite conservative opinions to the contrary, a properly formed conscience is not necessarily a conscience in harmony with magisterial teaching. Inviting more Catholics to communion, Equally Blessed’s coordinator concluded:
“In fact, the church has a rich history of saints who have stood up to church leaders in good conscience, including St. Joan of Arc and St. Catherine of Siena. . .I hope that local Catholics who have previously refrained from participating in communion will take to heart Jesus’ message: ‘Take this, all of you, and eat it.’ Remember that Jesus welcomed everyone to the table without condition, even Judas.”
Paprocki contradicted Archbishop Cupich’s claims about conscience. He suggested that only those who “recognize and repent of their sins” through the Sacrament of Reconciliation are actually in good conscience. He cited Canon 915 in his advocacy to deny Communion to those who are in same-gender marriages to, in his words:
“protect both the Sacrament from the risk of possible sacrilege and the faith community from the harm of scandal caused by someone’s public conduct that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
Paprocki cited the new English translations of the Mass which state that Jesus died “for you and for many” in his conclusion to suggest that, while Jesus welcomes all, “not everyone accepts what Christ offers” like Judas. On a technical note, the “for many” cited is a disputed change in those new Mass translations, as the Latin phrase used for “many” actually implies an uncountable multitude synonymous with the “for all” in older translations.
While Bishop Paprocki’s argument challenged Cupich’s, his comments can also be seen as opposed to Pope Francis. Actions like zealously citing Canon Law to deny the sacraments are precisely what the pope has repeatedly criticized.
Catholics’ response to Bishop Paprocki should be precisely what Freml suggested: to answer Jesus’ call for all to come and be nourished regardless of who we are, from where we are coming, or how we ended up at the altar.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry