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