Although response from Catholic clergy has been muted in the wake of Springfield, Illinois, Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s June 12 decree that prohibits Catholics in “same-sex ‘marriage’ ” from receiving Communion, lay organizations have been vocal about their disdain for the decree.
The decree bars Catholics in same-sex marriages from receiving Communion as well as from receiving “ecclesiastical funeral rites,” unless they show signs of repentance before death.
The decree also bans people in same-sex marriages from serving in liturgical ministries. The decree does state that any children “living with persons in a same-sex marriage” cannot be denied acceptance to Catholic schools or other programs.
The statement ends by saying that people experiencing “same-sex attraction” are welcome in the diocesan parishes “as we repent our sins and pray for God to keep us in His grace.”
Most dioceses have stayed silent about Paprocki’s decree — even those known for supporting LGBT ministries. Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, who spoke at LGBT organization New Ways Ministry’s symposium in April, refused a request from NCR for comment.
The communications director at the Archdiocese of Newark, Jersey, said, “We don’t comment on another bishop’s statement or actions.” Newark’s archbishop, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, recently made news when the archdiocese’s basilica offered a pilgrimage for Catholics identifying as LGBTQ and their families. Tobin welcomed the group by saying “I am your brother, as a disciple of Jesus. I am your brother, as a sinner who finds mercy with the Lord,” according to a New York Times story.
Communications personnel at the Archdiocese of Chicago told NCR that “the Archdiocese of Chicago does not have the same policies as Springfield. We do not comment on policies of other dioceses.” In the past, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago has reached out to the LGBT community. Following the Pulse nightclub shooting, Cupich addressed a letter to the community offering support and hope. Cupich was one of a few prelates who publically addressed the shooting while also naming the LGBT community.
The most substantial response to the decree from a prelate came from Bishop Patrick McGrath of San Jose, California. McGrath issued a letter to his diocese June 29 addressing the recent “confusing” policies related to members of the LGBT community.
“I take this opportunity to assure you that the pastoral response in the Diocese of San Jose remains just that: compassionate and pastoral. We will not refuse sacraments or Christian burial to anyone who requests them in good faith,” McGrath wrote.
Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego told NCR that he agrees with the “approach” McGrath has taken.
“I think that is the appropriate policy that I would hope the priests would observe, especially in the times of funerals, but more broadly in the sense of regular pastoral action in support of men and women who are in all states of lives and who have all sorts of challenges,” McElroy said. “Our fundamental stance has to be one of inclusion in the church, especially during a time of burial.”
If the diocese puts limits on which sinners can have funerals, McElroy said, “we’re going to have very few funerals in the Diocese of San Diego.” He said he “hope[s] and believe[s]” that a similar stance is taken by most bishops in the U.S.
This is not the first time Paprocki has been vocal about the LGBT community.
In May 2013, Paprocki gave a speech on “Marriage, Same-sex relationships and the Catholic Church.” The speech opens with Paprocki talking about the 2002 death of his former secretary, Mary Stachowicz. Paprocki explains that Stachowicz was murdered after she “urged her co-worker … to change his gay lifestyle.” He compared her death to the one of Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in Laramie, Wyoming, for identifying as gay.
“Both murders were senseless and brutal, and I condemn them both unequivocally,” Paprocki said. However, “Mary’s murder was widely ignored by the media, despite the fact that she died as a martyr for her faith.”
NCR contacted the diocese of Springfield to ask if the bishop wanted to respond to reactions against the decree. The diocese sent a copy of Paprocki’s July 9 column in the diocesan newspaper, Catholic Times, saying that “explains everything.”
Full story at The National Catholic Reporter.