Bishop Doubles Down on Denying Communion to Gays, Lesbians, and Others

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield has doubled down on his June decree barring married lesbian and gay people from the life of the church. In a video responding to critics, he said there are also many other people who should not present themselves for Communion.

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 9.46.24 AM

Screenshot from Bishop Paprocki’s video

The video, released July 9, applied Canon 916 from the Church’s Code of Canon Law to a number of groups the bishop considered to be “conscious of grave sin.” Catholic News Service reported that groups targeted by Paprocki include:

“[T]he divorced and remarried without an annulment. . .An exception would be where the couple agrees to live as brother and sister, as long as there is no public scandal. Similarly, if there is no public scandal, two men who live chastely with each other as friends or as brother and brother, or two women who live chastely with each other as friends or as sister and sister, may receive Holy Communion if there is no public scandal.”. . .

“Those politicians and judges who helped to make same-sex marriage legal and who aid and abet abortion, for example, by voting for taxpayer funding for abortion, should not receive Holy Communion unless they repent, go to confession and amend their lives.”

Paprocki’s video is a response to critics of his “Decree Regarding Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues,” which bars married lesbian and gay people from parish and liturgical ministries and even says ecclesiastical funeral rites should be denied to them (though not if, in Paprocki’s words, such a Catholic were to “repent and renounce their marriage”).

The bishop said it was “astounding” that “there would be such an outcry” about the Decree. which  That outcry, Paprocki said, shows “how strong the LGBT lobby is” in society and in the church. The Decree was released on the first anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando in which 49 LGBT people were killed.

Paprocki pushed back specifically against Fr. James Martin, SJ, who used social media to publicly criticize the Decree. The bishop said Martin “gets a lot wrong” because his Decree is a “rather straightforward application of existing Catholic doctrine and canon law,” not discrimination.

In addition to those listed above, Paprocki named several other groups who should not present themselves for Communion. These include people who have “sexual relations outside of a valid marriage,”  people who have had or assisted in abortions, people using artificial contraception, and anyone who misses Mass on Sundays. He added:

“These are just a few examples. . .Those who do receive Holy Communion while conscious of grave sin compound the moral offense by committing the sin of sacrilege.”

The Decree is not Bishop Paprocki’s first damaging act against LGBT people and their families. Last year, he implicitly criticized Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich for suggesting that reception of Communion is to be determined by each person according to their conscience. When Illinois passed marriage equality in 2013, Paprocki held a public exorcism because of the law, and he had previously suggested that supporters of marriage equality should be disciplined like children.

As expected, Catholics have continued to implicitly and explicitly criticize Paprocki.  In San Jose, Bishop Patrick McGrath released a memo to pastoral ministers in the diocese saying their response to the faithful should be “compassionate and pastoral,”and that they “will not refuse sacraments or Christian Burial to anyone who requests them in good faith.”

Elsewhere, Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry wrote an open letter to Paprocki; fourteen church reform organizations sent him a letter expressing their shock and disappointment; and Women-Church Convergence sent a pastoral letter to the faithful in the Springfield diocese.

Bishop Paprocki’s Decree has already done tremendous damage, and caused the very scandal he ostensibly sought to avoid. He should not be doubling down on harming people. His words har not only people in the Diocese of Springfield affected directly by them but many people across the United States who hear about them. It is time for church leaders to follow Bishop McGrath’s example and publicly, even if indirectly, join Paprocki’s critics.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 28, 2017

Related Article

New Civil Rights Movement: “Catholic Bishop Decrees Lawmakers Who Voted for Same-Sex Marriage Should Not Receive Communion



18 replies
  1. Patrick Gallagher
    Patrick Gallagher says:

    Another ignorant fool! No wonder the hierarchy sounds more and more like Donald Trump every day! They are despicable!

  2. Friends
    Friends says:

    I wish there were some way to arrange for Paprocki and Trump to trade places! They’re both certifiably crazy — but institutional and constitutional constraints would serve to limit the amount of damage they could do in their new positions.

  3. Joe Geist
    Joe Geist says:

    I feel abundant sympathy for those who live in the diocese of Springfield, Il. They are the victims of such a limited vision God help us all.

  4. paularuddy
    paularuddy says:

    For one thing, Bishop Paprocki doesn’t seem to realize that Catholics have ethical obligations as U.S. citizens. We are talking about “civil” marriage. Shouldn’t Catholic politicians, judges, and also voters have respect for the freedom of people who do not have the same religious beliefs as they do about marriage? What about 14th Amendment equal protection of the laws for GLBT persons? Catholic politicians, judges, and voters (and also bishops) cannot impose their construction of natural law on all U.S. citizens.

    For another thing, Bishop Paprocki doesn’t seem to realize that Catholics do not believe in the sinfulness of many acts that the official Church still holds to be sinful. He should apply the doctrine of reception of laws. It isn’t about the gay lobby. It is about evolving and maturing faith.

    Maybe we should be grateful to Paprocki for helping to make the sense of the faithful so clear.

  5. Barry Blackburn
    Barry Blackburn says:

    There is an old expression that fits Bishop Paprocki- “the style is the man himself”. He is a leader of the Church that takes comfort in a strict vision of the letter of the law and its application. Jesus reminded the people in his own time about an obsession with rules “the washing of pots..” Jesus reminded the people to respect these strict rulers because they sat in the chair of Moses. Jesus reminds us to see these people for what they are and to remember mercy and not rules. Pope Francis reminds us of this too. To let people like Bishop Paprocki rule our lives is to be blind to both Jesus and Pope Francis.

  6. Aleta Galusha
    Aleta Galusha says:

    I am hoping Pope Francis is watching this horrible excuse of a priest/bishop and will find a useless role for him as far away from the U.S. as possible.

  7. FrAnthony
    FrAnthony says:

    Paprocki has gone too far in denying funerals. His other prohibitions are nothing new. Same old, same old. Shows the need for a new understanding in the Church for marriage, and sexual ethics. God is Love.

  8. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    His defense clearly shows two things. One, he is clueless regarding the reality of Catholics, e.g., cIting artificial birth control. Two, he uses man-made laws as his defense rather than God’s showing he doesn’t know God. Sad. Shake the dust from our feet.

  9. Sue Roediger
    Sue Roediger says:

    However much we dislike what this Bishop says…

    He is just stating official Church policy. The Catechism is available on line. It has not changed. In practice, many parishes have become enlightened and inclusive… but officially the church is still as it always was. Note the repition of the words “public scandal”. Parishes will seem to accept you…unless it becomes known that you are not “living in celibacy”. No place therenfor an unrepentant lesbian like me. I have nothing to repent of. I am as God made me.

    This is one of many reasons I walked away from the church of my baptism and found open arms and a place at the table, and the communion rail…in the Episcopal church. We have openly LGBTQ members and clergy, women priests and bishops, and the knowledge that ” God loves ALL God’s children.


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