CATHOLIC CHURCHFri Jun 23, 2017 – 2:25 pm EST
U.S. Bishop: No funerals, Communion for people in same-sex ‘marriages’
by Claire Chretien
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, June 23, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Those in same-sex “marriages” shouldn’t present themselves to or be admitted to Holy Communion, nor may they receive a Catholic funeral if they died without showing signs of repentence, Illinois Bishop Thomas Paprocki says.
Paprocki is the Catholic bishop of Springfield, Illinois and well-known to the pro-life and pro-family movements for his defense of Catholic orthodoxy and morality.
On June 12, Paprocki signed a “Decree Regarding Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues.” It was sent to priests and diocesan staff last week and subsequently leaked to media sympathetic with the homosexual cause.
“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,” Paprocki explained after reminding his flock of “the clear and consistent teaching of the Catholic Church since her founding by Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paprocki wrote that he has a “responsibility as diocesan bishop to guide the people of God entrusted to me with charity but without compromising the truth.” Because of this, he outlined diocesan policy on issues related to same-sex “marriage,” citing the Code of Canon Law throughout.
Paprocki holds a licentiate and doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, in addition to a civil law degree from DePaul University and theology degrees. (Paprocki co-founded the South Chicago Legal Clinic to offer legal services to the poor when he was a parish priest.)
No diocesan facilities – such as parishes, schools, or “dedicated, consecrated or used for Catholic worship” – are to be “used for solemnization or blessing of same-sex marriages or hosting of receptions for these events,” Paprocki instructed. Priests and diocesan employees are not to assist at or solemnize same-sex “weddings.” Doing so could result in “just punishment” for them.
Citing Canon 915 and 916, Paprocki wrote, “Given the objectively immoral nature of the relationship created by same-sex marriages, persons in such unions should not present themselves for Holy Communion, nor should they be admitted to Holy Communion.”
Canon 915 says that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
Canon 916 instructs Catholics conscious of grave sin not to “receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession.”
Paprocki instructed his priests to privately meet with people living in such situations, “calling them to conversion.” They can receive Holy Communion after they have been “restored to Communion with the Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”
In the case of someone in a same-sex “marriage” in danger of death, he or she may be given Holy Communion as part of Viaticum (the Last Rites) provided he or she “expresses repentence for his or her sins.”
Paprocki’s instructions also outlined how to deal with the reception of the sacraments for children whose parent or guardians are living in a same-sex relationship. If there is “well-founded hope that he or she will be brought up in the Catholic faith,” it’s okay to baptize him or her. Pastors should “use due discretion in determining the appropriateness of the public celebration of the baptism.”
Children living with same-sex couples may receive First Holy Communion and Confirmation provided they are “otherwise qualified and properly disposed.”
They won’t be denied admission to Catholic schools or catechetical programs, Paprocki said, but the children will be taught “according to the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality.” So “parents or those who legally take the place of parents” should be aware of this if they choose to enroll their children in diocesan schools. They must agree to follow the Family School Agreement.
Those who have publicly entered same-sex “marriages” may not be Baptism or Confirmation sponsors. They are not to receive the sacrament of Confirmation unless they have “withdrawn from the objectively immoral relationship.” They are also not to serve in “public liturgical ministry,” like being a reader at Mass or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
The risk of ‘pubic scandal’
“Unless they have given some signs of repentence before their death, deceased persons who had lived openly in a same-sex marriage giving public scandal to the faithful are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rites,” the letter continues. “In case of doubt, the proper pastor or parochial administrator is to consult the local ordinary, whose judgment is to be followed (cf. c. 1184).”
It was this section in particular to which the liberal media drew attention.
The Code of Canon Law states in Canon 1184:
Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:
1/ notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;
2/ those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith;
3/ other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines scandal as “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil” (CCC 2284).
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued similar guidelines last summer.
“Two persons in an active, public same-sex relationship, no matter how sincere, offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community,” wrote Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput. “Such a relationship cannot be accepted into the life of the parish without undermining the faith of the community, most notably the children…those living openly same-sex lifestyles should not hold positions of responsibility in a parish, nor should they carry out any liturgical ministry or function.”
Chaput’s guidelines also instructed priests that those actively participating in adultery – another sexual union the Church labels immoral – are not to receive Holy Communion.
Pro-gay Jesuit Father James Martin seemed to accidentally explain consistent Catholic teaching on marriage and public scandal with the following tweet:
“And?” asked TradStrips, a Facebook page that posts traditional Catholic memes.
“When you’re so liberal that you accidentally wrap around to being conservative again,” one commenter posted.
“Brilliant deduction,” wrote another.
Martin went on to release a storm of tweets suggesting Paprocki’s guidelines should ban from Catholic funerals women who have given birth out of wedlock, people who haven’t been “forgiving,” and people who don’t respect the environment. He did not appear to make a distinction between a person committing, and then repenting, of a sin like fornication versus continually and publicly living in defiance of Church teaching on homosexual activty.
He also tweeted links to statements from New Ways Ministry and Dignity USA, two groups that reject Catholic teaching on sexuality. The New Ways Ministry post went as far as to suggest that Catholics who “deny climate change” ought to be denied funerals under Paprocki’s reasoning. It also said that Paprocki’s upholding of Church teaching was telling employees not to “adhere to a most fundamental church teaching and follow their properly formed consciences.”
“Channeling Fr. James Martin’s outrageous claim that ‘Pretty much everyone’s lifestyle is sinful’, [New Ways Ministry’s] Shine apparently thinks that, because it is manifest that everyone sins, everyone’s sins must be ‘manifest,'” observed canon lawyer Dr. Ed Peters. “But Paprocki, having actually studied canon law, knows what canon law means by the phrase ‘manifest sinners’.”
“Paprocki’s decree is not aimed at a category of persons (homosexuals, lesbians, LGBT, etc., words that do not even appear in his document) but rather, it is concerned with an act, a public act, an act that creates a civilly-recognized status, namely, the act of entering into a ‘same-sex marriage,'” Peters explained. “That public act most certainly has public consequences, some civil and some canonical.”
Paprocki’s former secretary was murdered by a gay activist after she suggested he change his lifestyle.
Bp Paprocki’s norms on ‘same-sex marriage’
.A few days ago, doubtless in response to pastoral questions he had been receiving from ministers in his local Church, Springfield IL Bp Thomas Paprocki issued diocesan norms regarding ministry toward persons who had entered a ‘same-sex marriage’. These norms, hardly remarkable for what they say, are nevertheless noteworthy for being necessary and for Paprocki’s willingness to state them clearly while knowing what kind of vilification he would suffer in their wake.
Predictably New Way’s Ministry attacked Paprocki’s norms using equally predictable language and arguments and by hosting a combox replete with personal attacks on the bishop. All of this is sad, but none of it is newsworthy. Worth underscoring, though, is the glibness with which Robert Shine, an editor at New Ways, attempts to school Paprocki, of all people, on canon law, of all things. A little background.
Paprocki has, besides the master’s degree in theology that Shine claims, a further licentiate degree in theology and, even more, a licentiate and doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. While I can’t quite say that Paprocki “wrote the book” on the defense of rights in the Church, he certainly wrote abook on it, his 580 page doctoral dissertation, Vindication and Defense of the Rights of the Christian Faithful through Administrative Recourse in the Local Church (1993), which tome I can spy from my desk right now. And before his canon law studies, Paprocki had already earned a civil law degree from DePaul University and had centered his legal practice around services to the poor.
And now Shine (sporting zero legal credentials) is going to tell Paprocki how canon law should be understood? Okay …
According to Shine, among the “other things wrong with Paprocki’s new guidelines” is their use of Canon 1184 which, as Shine correctly notes, restricts ecclesiastical funeral rites for, among others, “manifest sinners” whose funerals would provoke scandal. But then Shine attempts to explain what Canon 1184 means by the phrase “manifest sinners”.
Per Shine, “It is discrimination to target LGBT people when, in a certain sense, all Catholics could be deemed ‘manifest sinners.’” Channeling Fr. James Martin’s outrageous claim that “Pretty much everyone’s lifestyle is sinful”, Shine apparently thinks that, because it is manifest that everyone sins, everyone’s sins must be “manifest”. But Paprocki, having actually studied canon law, knows what canon law means by the phrase “manifest sinners”.
Paprocki knows, for example, that the CLSA New Commentary (2001) discussing Canon 1184 at p. 1412, understands one in “manifest sin” as one “publicly known to be living in a state of grave sin”. That’s a far cry from Shine’s rhetorical jab, delivered as if it were the coup de grace to Paprocki’s position, “Who among us, including Bishop Paprocki, does not publicly sin at different moments?” Hardly anyone, I would venture, and so would Paprocki. But the law is not directed at those who, from time to time, commit sin, even a public sin; it is concerned about those who make an objectively sinful state their way of life. Fumble that distinction, as Shine does, and one’s chances of correctly reading Canon 1184 drop to, well, zero.
Yet Shine goes on, thinking that offering some examples of supposedly-sinning Catholics who yet are not refused funeral rites should shame Paprocki into changing his policy, citing, among other debatables, “Catholics who … deny climate change.” Yes. Shine actually said that. And this sort of silliness is supposed to give a prelate like Paprocki pause?
There are several other problems with Shine’s sorry attempts to explain the canon law of ecclesiastical funerals, but I want to end these remarks by highlighting a much more important point: Paprocki’s decree is not aimed at a category of persons (homosexuals, lesbians, LGBT, etc., words that do not even appear in his document) but rather, it is concerned with an act, a public act, an act that creates a civilly-recognized status, namely, the act of entering into a ‘same-sex marriage’. That public act most certainly has public consequences, some civil and some canonical.
Bp Paprocki, by long training and awesome office, understands what the consequences of ‘same-sex marriage’ are and are not and he is much more likely to be thinking clearly about them than is Mr Shine.
On June 12, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois issued a decree regarding same-sex “marriage” (SSM) and “related pastoral issues”. In it, he reaffirmed traditional Catholic teaching that marriage can only be “a covenant between one man and one woman …” and promulgated diocesan norms relating to SSM. Norms included that no member of the diocesan clergy or staff is allowed to participate in a SSM service in any way, nor is church property to be used for SSM services or receptions. Persons in SSM relationships may not receive Holy Communion, and when in danger of death, persons in SSM relationships may not receive Holy Communion in the form of Viaticum unless they express repentance for their lifestyle.
Additionally, persons in SSM relationships may not receive a Catholic funeral unless they offered some signs of repentance before their death, nor may they serve as lectors or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass. Children of parents in SSM relationships may receive the sacraments and attend Catholic schools; however, such parents should be aware that their children will be instructed in the fullness of Catholic teaching.
In a follow-up statement released June 23rd, Bishop Paprocki added that “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.”
While the decree was applauded by some Catholic commentators and pundits, it drew vehement criticism from others. Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter said that the bishop should be “sacked,” and that the decree is “so completely at odds with the direction Pope Francis is trying to take the church.” Christopher Pett, the incoming President of DignityUSA, described the decree as “mean-spirited and hurtful in the extreme. 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.” Fr. James Martin, SJ, who frequently comments on issues related to same-sex attraction, complained, “To focus only on LGBT people, without a similar focus on the moral and sexual behavior of straight people is, in the words of the Catechism, a ‘sign of unjust discrimination’ (2358).”
Bishop Paprocki, who was interviewed by Catholic World Report last December, spoke with CWR about his recent decree and the controversy that has followed.
CWR: What prompted you to issue this decree on issues related to same-sex “marriage”?
Bishop Paprocki: These norms regarding same-sex “marriage” and related pastoral issues were prompted by changes in the law and in our culture regarding these issues. Jesus Christ Himself affirmed the privileged place of marriage in human and Christian society by raising it to the dignity of a sacrament. 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.
CWR: Have you been surprised at the extensive national media coverage it has received?
Bishop Paprocki: Yes, 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 two thousand years that we do not accept same-sex “marriage,” 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.” This just shows how much work needs to be done to provide solid formation about the Catholic understanding of marriage.
CWR: Fr. James Martin, SJ, has complained (on his Facebook page) that this decree is “discrimination” against people with same-sex attraction because it does not include heterosexuals who commit sin or non-sexual sins. Additionally, relating to people in same-sex “marriages” receiving Holy Communion, he recently told The New York Times, “Pretty much everyone’s lifestyle is immoral.” How do you respond?
Bishop Paprocki: Father Martin gets a lot wrong in those remarks. 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. He misses the key phrase in the decree that ecclesiastical funeral rites are to be denied to persons in same-sex “marriages” “unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death.” This is a direct quote from canon 1184 of the Code of Canon Law, which is intended as a call to repentance. Jesus began his public ministry proclaiming the Gospel of God with these words: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Applying this biblical teaching to the specific issue of funeral rites, people who had lived openly in same-sex “marriage,” like other manifest sinners that give public scandal, can receive ecclesiastical funeral rites if they have given some signs of repentance before their death.
Father Martin’s comments do raise an important point with regard to other situations of grave sin and the reception of Holy Communion. He is right that the Church’s teaching does not apply only to people in same-sex “marriages.” According to canon 916, all those who are “conscious of grave sin” are not to receive Holy Communion without previous sacramental confession. This is normally not a question of denying Holy Communion, but of people themselves refraining from Holy Communion if they are “conscious of grave sin.” While no one can know one’s subjective sinfulness before God, the Church can and must teach about the objective realities of grave sin. Speaking objectively, one can say, for example, 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. This includes the divorced and remarried without an annulment, as is well known from all the recent media attention on that issue.
CWR: Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, said that the decree will drive people with same-sex attraction away from the Church. What is your response?
Bishop Paprocki: The real issue is not how many people will come to church, but how to become holy, how to become a saint. The Church is a means on the path to holiness. Jesus teaches us how to be holy, but not everyone accepted His teaching, for example, the rich young man who walked away from Jesus sadly because he did not want to sell his possessions to follow Jesus (Matthew 19:16-22). People are free to accept or reject Church teaching, as they are free to accept or reject Jesus Himself. It is disappointing when people leave the Church, just as it surely must have been disappointing for Jesus when people walked away from Him.
CWR: When you read the press coverage relating to the decree, are there any common misunderstandings or misinterpretations you see?
Bishop Paprocki: A lot of people seem to have missed the whole point of the call to repentance and conversion. 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,” but on so-called same-sex “marriage,” which is a public legal status. No one is ever denied the sacraments or Christian burial for simply having a homosexual orientation. Even someone who had entered into a same-sex “marriage” can receive the sacraments and be given ecclesiastical funeral rites if they repent and renounce their “marriage.”
CWR: What comments are you receiving privately about the decree? Have any of your fellow diocesan bishops spoken to you privately about it (if so, what are they saying)?
Bishop Paprocki: I have received many supportive comments and assurances of prayer.
CWR: What reaction have you received from your diocesan priests? My first reaction is that many must be grateful that you have taken the heat off them. For example, should a person in a same-sex “marriage” come for Holy Communion or asking for a Catholic funeral for a recently deceased (and unrepentant) lover, the priest can simply say, “I’m sorry, I work under the authority of the diocese and its bishop, and diocesan regulations do not permit me to do that.”
Bishop Paprocki: I have received positive reactions from my priests for the clarity of the Church’s teaching and expressions of gratitude for providing guidance regarding how to respond to such situations as they may arise.
CWR: Do you believe other dioceses will issue similar decrees?
Bishop Paprocki: I believe some already have, but for whatever reason they did not receive much, if any, publicity.
CWR: Has the negative press on this issue been difficult for you personally, or have you come to see that it goes with the office you hold?
Bishop Paprocki: 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.”
CWR: Any other thoughts?
Bishop Paprocki: Gay activists have harassed my staff and me with 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.
CWR: Is there anything you’d like to see Catholics who support the decision do to help?
Bishop Paprocki: Please pray for the conversion of sinners.
Bishop Paprocki and his critics: someone here is unhinged
Liberal Catholics are badly rattled by Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s decree that Catholics engaged in same-sex marriage cannot receive the sacraments in his Springfield diocese. So badly rattled, in fact, that…
The excitable Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter argues that Bishop Paprocki “should be sacked.” In a column that carried a headline referring to the bishop’s decree as “unhinged” (and “unhinged” is a good word to use here, although not for the Paprocki policy) Winters says that the bishop’s stand “warrants the extreme sanction of removal from office proposed in the motu proprio Come una madre amorevole. As you may recall, Come una madre amorevole was released by Pope Francis just a year ago, detailing how a bishop could be removed from office if he had “committed or omitted acts that have caused grave harm to others.”
To date, the Vatican has never invoked Come una madre amorevole to explain the removal of any bishop. Winters believes it is time to start. Not with the bishops who covered up evidence of sexual abuse—for whom the motu proprio was obviously intended. But with Bishop Paprocki.
The problem, you see, is that Bishop Paprocki’s policy is not merciful. Winters, showing his deep commitment to the merciful treatment of all offenders, tells us that if he were a bishop, “I would issue a decree that Tom Paprocki can’t be buried in my diocese.” The Gospel of Mercy meets lex talionis.
All this, in response to a decree which—as Bishop Paprocki himself observes in an interview with Catholic World Report, answering his critics, is a “rather straightforward application of existing Church teaching and canon law.”
Another outraged critic of the Paprocki decree, Father James Martin, SJ, has paused in his promoting his own new book on acceptance of gay Catholics just long enough to condemn the bishop’s policy as discriminatory. Father Martin’s Facebook post is worth a careful look:
If bishops ban members of same-sex marriages from receiving a Catholic funeral, they also have to be consistent. They must also ban divorced and remarried Catholics who have not received annulments, women who has [sic] or man who fathers a child out of wedlock, members of straight couples who are living together before marriage, and anyone using birth control. For those are all against church teaching as well.
As Bishop Paprocki notes in his CWR interview, “Father Martin gets a lot wrong in those remarks.” The Church does ban all those people from Communion—at least until they have confessed their sins and reformed their lives. (The same logic that applies to reception of Communion also applies to funerals; the Church cannot treat someone as being “in full communion” if that person is actually not in communion.) However, in most such cases, the Church instructs the individuals to refrain from Communion on their own; the ban is not made public, because the sins are not public acts. A legal marriage falls into a different category; it is a public act, and a Catholic whose public act is incompatible with Church teaching engages in a public scandal. Which is why the Church does ban Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics who have not received annulments. Someone should probably inform Father Martin.
But just for the sake of the argument, imagine that an American bishop issued a policy similar to that set by Bishop Paprocki, but expanded (with appropriate clarification) along the lines suggested by Father Martin. Imagine that a bishop directed his priests to remind Catholics that they should not receive Communion if they had been involved in procuring an abortion, or if they were living together outside marriage, or if they were using contraceptives. Imagine that the bishop warned Catholics who are divorced and remarried that they could not have a funeral in a Catholic parish. Does that prospect frighten you? Because I say: Go for it!