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Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, July 18, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — A Catholic bishop simultaneously skewered those celebrating supposed changes in Church doctrine and defended a fellow bishop who instructed Catholics in his diocese to follow the Church’s teaching on sexual morality.

Responding to a “misleading” Associated Press article that ran in Illinois' State Journal-Register, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, wrote in the same newspaper that the guidelines Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput issued on proper disposition to receive Holy Communion “are certainly correct” because they uphold Biblical teaching.

The AP article pitted Chaput’s actions against Pope Francis. The article said Chaput “is closing the door opened by Pope Francis to letting civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion, saying the faithful in his archdiocese can only do so if they abstain from sex and live 'as brother and sister.'”

Earlier this month, Chaput issued diocesan guidelines for the implementation of Pope Francis’ controversial exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which many Catholic theologians and philosophers have warned could undermine the Church’s moral teaching.

“As with all magisterial documents, Amoris Laetitia is best understood when read within the tradition of the Church’s teaching and life,” Chaput wrote, and the document should be read in continuity with the Church’s longstanding teaching that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics may receive Holy Communion provided they live as “brother and sister.”

“As I explained in my statement about the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis on April 8, the date it was issued, ‘There are no changes to canon law or church doctrine introduced in this document,’” Paprocki wrote. “I addressed this conclusion in greater detail in my column in our diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Times, on May 1, explaining that in-flight press conferences on an airplane, apostolic exhortations and footnotes ‘by their very nature are not vehicles for introducing or amending legislative texts or making dogmatic pronouncements.’”

Paprocki pointed to St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, when the apostle wrote, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself” (1 Cor 11:27-29).

“This biblical teaching is reflected in canons 915-916 of the Catholic Church's Code of Canon Law,” Paprocki wrote.  

Canon 915 teaches that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also teaches that anyone “conscious of [having committed] grave sin” should not receive Holy Communion until he or she has repented and been to the Sacrament of Confession (CCC 1385).

The guidelines that Chaput issued apply “not only in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but also here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois … [and] elsewhere in the Church,” Paprocki wrote.

Other prelates have not been so clear. Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich called Amoris Laetitia a “game-changer” that could potentially normalize the influential bishop’s approach of giving Holy Communion to the divorced and civilly remarried.

In January, Paprocki publicly corrected Cupich after he claimed that those in actively adulterous or homosexual relationships could receive Holy Communion based on their “consciences.”

Paprocki has a history of defending orthodoxy and Catholic teaching. In 2013, he stopped a group of activists from praying a “blasphemous” pro-gay rosary inside a cathedral.

Later that year, with “great reluctance,” Paprocki held a rare public exorcism as the governor of Illinois signed a law redefining marriage to include same-sex couples.  

“I did not seek to enter any controversy and I don't relish being part of one,” he said at the time. “But I have given this matter a great deal of thought and prayer, which has led me to the conviction that God is calling me to speak out and conduct these prayers.”

Paprocki has decried transgender activists for turning “common sense on its head.” He has asked that people respect the Catholic Church’s “clear” teachings on human sexuality and gender in their use of diocesan facilities. Paprocki has also worked to maintain the identity and integrity of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Springfield by ensuring children are taught the Catholic faith regardless of their parents’ lifestyles.

“Catholics … have a free choice: if they persist in sexual activity outside of valid marriage, they must refrain from taking Holy Communion; if they wish to receive Holy Communion, they must refrain from sexual activity outside of valid marriage,” concluded Paprocki. “The latter may seem impossible to those steeped in our sex-saturated culture, but ‘with God, all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26).”