Dear Bishop Paprocki: An Open Letter

As we reported in yesterday’s Bondings 2.0 post, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, has issued a wide-ranging decree barring lesbian and gay couples in civil marriages from communion, pastoral leadership, being granted funerals, among other things.  The following is an open letter to Bishop Paprocki in response to that decree from New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo.  

New Ways Ministry recommends you to send your own letter to Bishop Paprocki, and we encourage you to communicate honestly, personally, and civilly with him.  

Contact information:

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Catholic Pastoral Center

1615 West Washington Street

Springfield, Illinois 62702-4757

Phone: (217) 698-8500

Email:  [email protected]


Dear Bishop Paprocki,

Your “Decree Regarding Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues” has been received by Catholics across the nation with one of the strongest negative reactions that I have witnessed in almost 25 years of ministry with the LGBT community in the Church.

While there have been many harsh and negative statements from church leaders over the past quarter century, I think the reason that people responded so emotionally to your edict is that it addresses two very core Catholic areas:  sacramental experience and life/death issues.


Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Of all the responses that I have heard and read in just the last day–and they have been numerous–the directives you issued which have wounded people most deeply are your prohibition of communion reception by married lesbian and gay people, and your denial of funeral services to the same group.  Catholics just do not understand how such regulations correlate with a Church that preaches love and inclusion.

Most Catholics are well aware that you do not support civil marriage for lesbian and gay people and respect the legal right of Churches not to marry such couples. But Catholics do not understand how this one area of disagreement can lead to such draconian measures of exclusion–especially at times of death, loss, and grief.

Despite whatever good intentions may have motivated you to issue these regulations, you need to know they will, in fact, do no pastoral good, and they will wreak much pastoral harm.  You have not singled out any other group for such negative pastoral treatment.  It seems as if you consider civil same-sex marriage to be the ultimate sin, beyond the pale of any of the countless ways that human beings do not follow church teaching.

Regardless of whatever doctrines you think you are enforcing, the effect of such enforcement will be that more and more Catholics–gay, lesbian, heterosexual, bisexual, transgender, and all in-between–will leave the Church because of the negative images of LGBT people and the Catholic Church that you have communicated.  And many will never return.

What’s more, the negative messages that you sent will be heard by many young people (and some who are not so young) who are struggling with their sexual and gender identities.  They will interpret this message as one more piece of evidence that the Church and God do not love them.  That message will move them many steps closer to psychological harm, self-destructive behaviors and tragically, for some, suicide.

Many gay and lesbian couples are leading lives of heroic devotion to each other, their children, and their communities.  Many, too, are leading lives of struggles and stumbles, where they are seeking support from churches.  Those couples who are Catholic seek nourishment for their spiritual and human journeys.  They seek a community where they can share and develop their faith through education, relationship, service, and ritual. They seek Eucharist.

Catholics, who are often very aware of how their lives in many ways do not conform to ideals that the church has presented them, are ready and eager to welcome these lesbian and gay couples into their communities and their hearts.  No Catholic, not even the pope who famously offered the primary definition of himself as a “sinner,” is perfect.  All fall short.  All depend on grace.  The many who seek grace through membership and participation in the Catholic Church should not be denied God’s free gift.

I hope and pray that you will reflect not only on the harm that this decree will cause but also the good that can occur if you withdraw it.  Please welcome lesbian and gay families back into the Springfield Diocese’s Catholic parishes.


Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, June 23, 2017







23 replies
  1. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    Excellent letter. Thank you for his address. I will write one myself and send to him. We stand in solidarity.

  2. mrnickvirga
    mrnickvirga says:

    I’m disgusted by the man. He isn’t doing things that the Jesus I learn about every Sunday would do. He’s not being “another Christ” in any sense of the word by being so harsh. I don’t know how he can sleep at night while being such a stumbling block to Christ’s church.

    Also,there must be bishops who think he’s gone too far. They need to speak out as well.

  3. Vernon Smith
    Vernon Smith says:

    Excellent! Thanks for this, and for sharing the means to send our own honest, civil feedback to him. He needs to hear it. May the spirit move him to listen.

  4. Loretta Larkey
    Loretta Larkey says:

    Just sent my respectful email voicing my concerns & objections to Bp. Paprocki. Thank you for keeping me informed, for sharing your response to Bp. Paprocki, and for urging me to do the same.

  5. Edward Poliandro
    Edward Poliandro says:

    Exquisite, Frank! Can you give this to the media? The country , at least NCR should see this . I’m angry and shell shocked. What must his people think and feel? His priests? We still have to write thank yous to Tobin and Cruz AND organize OUR MARCHING IN NYC PRIDE ON Sunday. Ed

    Sent from my iPhone


  6. Francis
    Francis says:

    Thanks for your respectful tone. I wonder where other bishops might stand on the issue of lgbt participation in the sacraments.

  7. Barbara Fried
    Barbara Fried says:

    Francis De Bernardo, thank you for addressing this. I’m still focusing my energy on the damage
    the proposed health care bill could do to so many in our country and now this! Corporate greed
    needs to take front seat attention in the church. One seldom hears an outcry on this! The Pope
    said it well, “Who am I to judge?”

  8. Mary Ann Coyle
    Mary Ann Coyle says:

    Thanks, Frank, for responding to the Bishop of Springfield so very nicely. One could easily have responded in anger. Thanks for including his address so we can write our own letters. MA and MA

  9. Joe
    Joe says:

    I’m really confused at the reaction that many of you are expressing as nothing in the Bishop’s letter is actually new He is simply stating what the Church as consistently and prophetically taught through the ages.

    To say “Catholics just do not understand how such regulations correlate with a Church that preaches love and inclusion” does not speak for me or the vast number of Catholics I know. As St. John Paul the Great so often said “we are called to preach the truth in love.” This is what, I believe, the Bishop is trying to do and I support him in his efforts.

    • Shane
      Shane says:


      As a gay Catholic I invite you to consider the following. The Church has never stated that being gay is a sin, but that sexual relationships are inappropriate among LGBT couples. There are millions of LGBT individuals who internalize a message such as the Bishop’s as being that they do not have a place in the Church community. Every person has sinned in some way. To choose one group of people and exclude them from the entirety of church life is to say, “What you’re doing is worse than stealing, killing, or any other sexual acts outside of marriage.” I invite to consider, Joe, (since I do not know you I will not assume) that if you had sex at any point outside of marriage, how would you feel if a bishop or priest refused to perform funeral rites at your death? What if they told you that you couldn’t ever receive Eucharist again (even if you had gone to confession)? Doesn’t every human being deserve funeral rites?
      Let me posit one more thing. Where, in the four gospels does Jesus (not Paul in his many letters) speak on homosexuality? If you look, Jesus does not speak once on this issue, but speaks about every other circumstance that Catholics consider sinful. Jesus would’ve been the first pastor to accept LGBT people because those are the types of people Jesus sought out. Jesus ate and shared his time with the outcasts of society. Some of his most faithful followers have come from unexpected places. Thank you for considering my thoughts.



Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] otra parte, Francis DeBernardo, del Ministerio de Nueva Maneras, escribió una carta abierta a Paprocki; Catorce organizaciones de reforma de la iglesia le enviaron una cartaexpresando su […]

  2. […] Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry wrote an open letter to Paprocki; fourteen church reform organizations sent him a letter expressing their shock and […]

  3. […] DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, who has written an open letter to the bishop which you can read here, commented to WGLT […]

  4. […] del mismo sexo. Usted puede leer un informe sobre su decreto aquí , junto con las reacciones aquí y aquí . Mientras que otros obispos (en particular, el arzobispo Charles Chaput de Filadelfia […]

  5. […] Catholics in same-gender marriages. You can read a report on his decree here, along with reactions here and here.   While other bishops (notably Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput and […]

  6. […] To read an open letter to Paprocki from Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, click here. […]

  7. […] wrote an open character to Paprocki in which he condemned him for shattering the progress that has been made by Pope […]

  8. […] of New Ways Ministry, released an open letter to Bishop Paprocki that you can find by clicking here. Today’s post highlights from other Catholic […]

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