Bishop under fire for denying funerals for people in same-sex ‘marriages’ refuses to back down
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, June 30, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Catholic Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s response to condemnation and controversy after his recent decree on same-sex “marriage” and a follow-up clarifying statement was to reaffirm Church teaching.
Asked in a Catholic World Report interview whether being denounced so strongly in the media had been difficult for him, the bishop’s answer also exhibited pastoral leadership.
Bishop Paprocki replied, “I’ll take my cue on that question from my patron saint, Sir Thomas More, who said, ’I do not care very much what men say of me, provided that God approves of me.’”
His June 12 Decree Regarding Same-Sex “Marriage” and Related Pastoral Issues explained that marriage is between a man and a woman, clarifying that diocesan clergy and staff may not take part in any way in a same-sex “marriage,” and also that diocesan facilities or items dedicated for Catholic worship were to be used for such events.
The decree also made clear that individuals in same-sex relationships were not to present themselves for or be admitted to Communion, and in situations of danger of death, they may only receive it in the form of Viaticum provided they express repentance for their lifestyle.
Further, those in same-sex relationships may not have a Catholic funeral unless they showed some signs of repentance before death. They may not serve in liturgical roles for Mass, as a Confirmation or Baptism sponsor, or enter into RCIA without withdrawing from the homosexual relationship.
The bishop’s June 23 follow-up statement explained the norms were needed due to changes in the law and in the culture pertaining to these issues, and that it was the obligation to defend the sacrament of marriage.
“Jesus Christ himself affirmed the privileged place of marriage in human and Christian society by raising it to the dignity of a sacrament,” Bishop Paprocki wrote. “Consequently, the Church has not only the authority, but the serious obligation, to affirm its authentic teaching on marriage and to preserve and foster the sacred value of the married state.”
When Church teaching stirs up a fuss
Amid praise from many of the Catholic faithful, high-pitched complaints emanated from expected liberal corners.
LGBT champion Jesuit Father James Martin used part of a passage from the Catechism to claim the bishop was discriminating against LGBT people because, according to Father Martin, without a similar focus on the moral and sexual behavior of straight people, the decree was a “sign of unjust discrimination.”
The dissenting National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters not only called for Bishop Paprocki’s removal, he insolently said the bishop should be “sacked,” and worse, he said, were he a bishop, “I would issue a decree that Tom Paprocki can't be buried in my diocese.”
“This document is mean-spirited and hurtful in the extreme,” stated Christopher Pett, the next president of the LGBT group DignityUSA. “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.”
Father Martin had also said recently in defense of active LGBT individuals that “pretty much everyone’s lifestyle is immoral.”
“Father Martin gets a lot wrong in those remarks,” Bishop Paprocki answered when asked about these comments. “Everyone is a sinner, but not everyone is living an immoral lifestyle. Since we are all sinners, we are all called to conversion and repentance.”
The bishop explained how the denial of people in same-sex “marriages,” “unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death,” is a direct quote from canon 1184 of the Code of Canon Law, which, he said, “is intended as a call to repentance.”
Bishop Paprocki also said Father Martin did help illustrate, though, that the Church’s teaching on situations of grave sin and the reception of Holy Communion does not apply only to people in same-sex “marriages.”
"One can say that all those who have sexual relations outside of valid marriage, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, should not receive Holy Communion unless they repent, go to confession and amend their lives,” said Bishop Paprocki. “This includes the divorced and remarried without an annulment, as is well known from all the recent media attention on that issue.”
He was asked about comments from Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the LGBT groups New Ways Ministry, which said the decree would drive those with same-sex attraction away from the Church.
“The real issue is not how many people will come to church,” Bishop Paprocki said, “but how to become holy, how to become a saint.”
“The Church is a means on the path to holiness,” he continued. “Jesus teaches us how to be holy, but not everyone accepted His teaching.”
“A lot of people seem to have missed the whole point of the call to repentance and conversion,” Bishop Paprocki went on to note. “They seem to think that the decree is a blanket condemnation of people who are gay and lesbian. It is not.”
“My decree does not focus on “LGBT people,” he said, “but on so-called same-sex “marriage,” which is a public legal status.”
To further clarify, he said that no one is ever denied the sacraments or Christian burial simply for having a homosexual orientation, and that someone who entered into a same-sex “marriage” could receive the sacraments and be given ecclesiastical funeral rite, should they repent and renounce the “marriage.”
Fidelity to the Church conveyed in lower decibels
Bishop Paprocki said he has received numerous supportive comments and assurances of prayer from his fellow diocesan bishops, and he has also gotten positive response from priests for the clarity on Church teaching, with feedback with gratitude for the guidance in responding to such situations.
Gay activists have harassed not only him but his staff via “obscene telephone calls, e-mail messages and letters using foul language and profanity, supposedly in the name of love and tolerance.”
“I am sorry that people around me have been subjected to such hateful and malicious language,” the bishop said.
The vicious response echoes the tragic loss of his secretary at a parish where he served before he was named a bishop. A homosexual co-worker murdered Mary Stachowicz after she urged him to repent.
A need to educate on the Church’s principles
Other U.S. dioceses have likely issued similar decrees on same-sex “marriage,” the bishop said, though without the same media coverage. The level of attention his decree has received is surprising, he said, “to the extent that the decree is a rather straightforward application of existing Church teaching and canon law.”
“The Catholic Church has been very clear for 2,000 years that we do not accept same-sex ‘marriage,’” stated Bishop Paprocki, “yet many people seem to think that the Church must simply cave in to the popular culture now that same-sex ‘marriage’ has been declared legal in civil law.”
“From a pastor’s perspective, it is quite troubling to see that so many Catholics have apparently accepted the politically correct view of same-sex ‘marriage,’” he continued. “This just shows how much work needs to be done to provide solid formation about the Catholic understanding of marriage.”
Last year, Bishop Paprocki defended Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput after he issued guidelines for his archdiocese on the proper disposition to receive Communion.
He had also asked last year that in diocesan facilities people use the bathroom facilities corresponding with their biological sex.