Despite criticism from homosexual supporters, the Phoenix Catholic diocese has stood by its decision to host Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki as the preacher at its annual Red Mass.
The Diocese of Phoenix praised the Illinois bishop, who is known for his strong defense of life, marriage, and family in the public square.
“Bishop Paprocki was invited to be the guest homilist at the annual Red Mass because of his background, expertise and insights,” Phoenix Diocesan Director of Communications Robert DeFrancesco told the local CBS affiliate.
The Red Mass, scheduled this year for January 20, is celebrated at the onset of the legislative session to pray for lawmakers and legal professionals.
The diocese highlighted Bishop Paprocki’s qualifications and disposition, his compassion and value as a speaker in the statement, which was confirmed by DeFrancesco for LifeSiteNews.
“Bishop Paprocki is a civil and canon lawyer, he's charismatic, and he has a great concern for the poor and the most vulnerable,” the Arizona diocese’s representative said. “Bishop Paprocki is going to be a great homilist in that he'll be able to share his insights on the many issues facing the Church and culture today.”
Paprocki is known for his ardent but compassionate support for life and marriage, running a 2011 marathon to raise awareness and support for the pro-life cause, and conducting a public exorcism when Illinois legalized homosexual “marriage” in 2013 to cast out evil influences in the state. The bishop faced a decidedly pro-homosexual crowd at a 2013 public event where he respectfully debated a dissident nun on the definition of marriage.
CBS 5 was one of just two inquiries received by the diocese on the invitation for Bishop Paprocki to offer the homily.
The diocese confirmed for LifeSiteNews it had initially responded to another inquiry which likely resulted in the diocese being contacted by the CBS station.
The initial story was a January 8 East Valley Tribune story titled, “Controversial Illinois pastor to speak at Red Mass,” which said some Catholic legislators were upset over the choice of Bishop Paprocki.
Democrat Rep. Martin Quezada from Phoenix told the Tribune he was hugely disappointed in Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted, and said he intends to boycott the Mass.
Democrat Rep. Robert Meza, also of Phoenix, and an openly homosexual legislator, “questioned the religious accuracy of the message” Bishop Paprocki would bring.
“It's out of character with what the pope has been saying,” Meza said in the report, naming the Holy Father, who the Tribune stated, “said he does not have any problem with people being gay,” before it quoted the infamous Who am I to judge? line.
Quedeza told the newspaper he “would follow the pope’s lead instead of the bishop’s lead on this.”
Republican Rep. Kate Brophy McGee from Phoenix lined up with her counterparts in the Arizona House.
“I’m going to go with the pope on this one,” she said, saying the message is “to grow our church and grow our understanding of God and not let anybody feel that they’re not worthy to be in front of God.”
DeFrancesco had told the Tribune that Bishop Paprocki was a vocal defender of marriage and conscience rights, and said he didn’t see the issue with the invitation.
He was joined by the Arizona Catholic Conference (ACC) in affirming the choice of Bishop Paprocki for the legislative Mass, pointing out that the Mass is for lawmakers, judges, and lawyers.
“He's a legal scholar in both canon law and civil law as well,” ACC Executive Director Ron Johnson.
Johnson noted that Bishop Olmsted looks for interesting Catholic figures from across the country and the world to offer the homily, and that Bishop Paprocki fit the bill.
One Catholic pro-life leader disapproved of the negative characterizations of Paprocki.
Father Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International, told LifeSiteNews it was bad form to imply that a faithful and charitable shepherd like Bishop Paprocki is in any way at odds with the Holy Father, who has also affirmed the true nature of marriage as being between one man and one woman, for life, and open to life.
“Bishop Thomas Paprocki is an excellent choice for homilist at this year's Red Mass at Phoenix’s St. Mary's Basilica,” Father Boquet said, “given his excellent credentials as a professor and his faithfulness to the Church.”
The point of celebrating a Red Mass is for Catholic attorneys, judges, and politicians to call upon the Holy Spirit to give them wisdom and courage in executing their important work, he continued. “It is not to affirm their personal political positions.”
“Charity is in harmony with truth, or it is not truly charity at all,” said Father Boquet. “This is why the Church must continue to preach the truth in love, especially on issues that many modern public figures find inconvenient to deal with.”