Catholics have reacted strongly against Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s decree prohibiting people in same-gender marriages from participating in the church’s life.
Bondings 2.0 reported Thursday on the decree released by the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois. In it, Bishop Paprocki instructs pastors to bar people in such marriages from receiving Communion, participating in liturgical ministries, entering RCIA programs, and being granted funerals. You can find an initial report by clicking here.
Yesterday, Francis DeBernardo, executive director 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 leaders.
Fortunate Families, a network of Catholic parents with LGBT children, published its own letter to Paprocki. The Board referred to the decree as “a hard-hearted document” in which the bishop shows “no pastoral sensitivity, no attempt to dialogue about the positions taken and no effort to reach out to our LGBT children.” The letter continued:
“In denying [LGBT people] the reception of Communion and funeral rites you effectively excommunicate them. Your decree indicates that a dying person who is living publicly in a same sex marriage may be given Holy Communion only if he or she repents. Is being in a same sex marriage on the same level as a person who denies the Creed? Imagine someone in a committed loving relationship for his or her entire life having to choose on his or her deathbed whether to discount a life of love and receive the Body and Blood of Christ or continue a commitment of integrity.”
Fr. James Martin, S.J., who recently published a book on Catholic LGBT issues based on an address he first gave upon receiving New Ways Ministry’s Bridge-Building Award, posted on Facebook:
“If bishops ban members of same-sex marriages from receiving a Catholic funeral, they also have to be consistent. . .they must ban anyone who does not care for the poor, or care for the environment, and anyone who supports torture, for those are church teachings too. More basically, they must ban people who are not loving, not forgiving and not merciful, for these represent the teachings of Jesus, the most fundamental of all church teachings. To focus only on LGBT people, without a similar focus on the moral and sexual behavior of straight people is, in the words of the Catechism, a ‘sign of unjust discrimination’ (2358).”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said in a statement:
“It is simply cruel and shameful to refuse burial or Communion to those who seek the grace and comfort that our Church offers at some of the most difficult moments of life. This is reminiscent of the appalling practice of denying Communion, funerals, and burial to people dying of AIDS at the height of the epidemic. . .[The decree] is unchristian and demeaning. It is totally unworthy of our Catholic faith.”
John Freml, a married gay Catholic in the Diocese of Springfield, told The State Journal-Register the decree “puts priests and other church workers in a difficult position.” Another Catholic in the diocese weighed in:
“Cindy Carlson Rice, also a Springfield Catholic, said she was implicitly told she couldn’t approach for communion because of her support for her daughter’s same-sex marriage. . .said the decree was ‘a smack across the face’ to those LGBT Catholics who have stayed involved in the church.”
In the same article, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, said that Bishop Paprocki’s decree goes beyond previous restrictions imposed by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and other prelates. DeBernardo added, “Paprocki is an anomaly and is not in the mainstream of Catholic thought (with this decree).”
Also quoted was Christopher Pett, the incoming president of DignityUSA, who said:
“Bishop Paprocki’s decree makes it very clear why so many (LGBT) people and their families feel unwelcome in the Catholic Church and why so many leave it. . . .
“This document is mean-spirited and hurtful in the extreme. It systematically and disdainfully disparages us and our relationships. It denies us the full participation in the life of our Church to which we are entitled by our baptism and our creation in God’s image.”
Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter told NPR News that he “can’t imagine a cruder thing more at cross purposes with what the Holy Father is trying to do,” and that “privately, 95 percent of other bishops in the U.S. are reading [the decree] and are horrified. Even the ones who are pretty arch on same-sex marriage think this is too far.”
Bishop Paprocki is defending the decree, telling The Washington Post, “These norms are necessary in light of changes in the law and in our culture regarding these issues.”
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.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki
Catholic Pastoral Center
1615 West Washington Street
Springfield, Illinois 62702-4757
Phone: (217) 698-8500
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 24, 2017
The Chicago Tribune, “Springfield bishop: No communion, last rites, funerals for same-sex couples”