Catholics have continued to express their strong responses to Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s decree barring people in same-gender marriages from participation in church activities, including being denied funerals. To read further about the decree, click here. For more reactions, click here.
Deb Word of Fortunate Families wrote an open letter to Paprocki, and noted that the decree was released on June 12, the one year anniversary of the massacre at an Orlando LGBT nightclub in which 49 people were murdered. Word wrote:
“I thought your decree was heartless and an assault on our families, our children, our church community. That was until I realized the date of the [decree]. You chose to remember the dead with a communication that says they were not worthy of BURIAL. I have never seen such hate and I am filled with grief and frankly nauseous that any human could do this. . .Please sir, resign. Or put down the pen. But please stop hurting my kids!”
To read an open letter to Paprocki from Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, click here.
On Vox.com, Brian Flanagan, a theologian at Marymount University, Virginia, believes Bishop Paprocki is “entirely qualified” to deem married gay Catholics as “manifest sinners,” according to canon law definitions. Vox’s report continued:
“At the same time, [Flanagan] points out, other canon laws suggest that Paprocki’s narrow interpretation is itself problematic: He notes that, generally speaking, when there’s room for interpretation, the governing principle of canon law is that a law should be interpreted ‘to the benefit of the baptized Catholic.'”
Flanagan also questioned whether Paprocki’s actions were prudent, saying “he’s essentially failed” in preventing scandal:
“[T]his decree’s mean-spiritedness deeply undermines respect for Catholic bishops and their teaching authority. Coming just after Pope Francis’s Year of Mercy, denying funerals to the departed and their grieving families seems jarringly unmerciful, and un-nuanced in its blanket application to married gay people as compared to other Catholics who fall short of perfection. . .the denial of a funeral to a married gay person is more scandalous to most Catholics than that funeral’s occurrence.”
Martin Pendergast, a member of London’s Farm Street Church LGBT Community, told Independent Catholic News:
“A number of [U.S.] bishops are locked into the realm of ideas rather than really responding to the reality of peoples’ lives which Pope Francis keeps urging ALL of us to do. . .LGBT Catholics, parents and families are not the stumbling blocks here, rather it is ideological bishops such as Bishop Paprocki who are the real cause for scandal.”
Dr Gemma Simmonds, C.J., a theologian at Heythrop College in England, added, “I hope that we can all work to build a scandalously merciful church rather than setting ourselves up as harsh judges of those whose judgement lies in God’s hands alone.”
Michael Sean Winters, writing in the National Catholic Reporter, said Paprocki “should be sacked.” Winters says that Paprocki’s action “warrants the extreme sanction of removal from office proposed in the motu proprio, Come una madre amorevole.” He continued:
“If I were a bishop, and I think we can all agree it is a good thing I am not, but if I were, I would issue a decree that Tom Paprocki can’t be buried in my diocese. As it is, I suspect 95 percent of the bishops in this country were horrified by what Paprocki did, and the other five percent, while not horrified, would not follow his lead.”
Finally, Steve Jones submitted a letter to The State Journal-Register opposing the decree despite Jones’ own reservations about marriage equality. He wrote:
“Maybe Bishop Paprocki should open his eyes and see what his flock has been seeing for years. Such as Catholic grade schools closing because of lack of students, Masses not full, and the younger generations not involved in the church, largely in part to the gross mishandling of the priest abuse scandal. Don’t believe me, go to a Catholic Mass and count the number of attendees who might fall between the ages of 16 and 36. . .Now is the time for the Catholic Church to unite and grow, not divide and continue its downward spiral.”
Jones concluded by referencing Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” statement, adding, “the God I pray to at night loves people for who they are, not who I want them to be.”
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
For continuing updates on Bishop Paprocki’s decree and more Catholic LGBT news, subscribe to Bondings 2.0 using the box in the upper right hand corner of this page.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 29, 2017