A note on Madison’s (not James) funeral policy

October 25, 2017

One might be willing to have an informed and dispassionate discussion (that pretty much rules out the internet) about whether Canon 1184, (which in mildly obtuse terms denies ecclesiastical funeral rites to “manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful”) reflects a good understanding of what ecclesiastical funerals do and don’t accomplish for the dead and their familiars*, or about whether these points are generally correctly understood by the faithful, but about whether persons who enter civil “same-sex marriage” qualify as “manifest sinners” under canon law, no, that is simply not a question.

Analysis of the terms used in Canon 1184 essentially tracks that used to understand Canon 915 and, as has been demonstrated many times, persons who enter “same-sex marriage” plainly manifest their opposition to crucial and infallible Church teaching that restricts marriage to one man and one woman.

1983 CIC 915. Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion. (See also CCEO 712)

Olim: 1917 CIC 855. § 1. All those publicly unworthy are to be barred from the Eucharist, such as excommunicates, those interdicted, and those manifestly infamous, unless their penitence and emendation are shown and they have satisfied beforehand the public scandal [they caused]. § 2. But occult sinners, if they ask secretly and the minister knows they are unrepentant, should be refused; but not, however, if they ask publicly and they cannot be passed over without scandal. (See also: Canon Law Digest I: 408-409.)


The positions taken by Springfield IL Bp. Paprocki and by the Diocese of Madison restricting funerals in such cases and outlining possible exceptions to those restrictions are thoroughly consistent with the canon law of the Catholic Church. + + +

* “I should like to interject a comforting remark at this stage. It should not be forgotten that [even] an error in this matter of denying Christian burial has none of the consequences that could arise from a refusal to grant the sacraments. This law is purely of the external forum, and the external state of the soul is in no way determined by it. Where the reception of the sacraments may mean the difference between salvation and damnation, Christian burial cannot decide the eternal status of a soul which is already before God, and beyond the power of the Church either to save or to condemn.” Charles Kerin, “Christian Burial Problems” The Jurist 15 (1955) 252-282, at 262.



Bp Paprocki’s norms on ‘same-sex marriage’

June 23, 2017

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.

Update, 28 June: An interview with Bp. Paprocki in the wake of his norms.



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Bishop Robert Morlino.
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U.S. diocese: Funerals ‘may be denied’ to ‘married’ homosexuals

MADISON, Wisconsin, October 24, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A second U.S. diocese has communicated to its priests that active homosexuals in a “civil union” do not have free rein to a Christian burial.

The Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, presided over by Bishop Robert Morlino advised priests in an October 21 communication how to handle a funeral request for a “person in a homosexual civil union.”

“My short answer to pastors and parochial vicars in these cases is to think through the issue thoroughly and prudently and likely call the local ordinary early in the process to discuss the situation,” the communication stated.

The communication, meant to be used internally by priests within the diocese, was leaked to the press on Sunday. The communication did not come from Bishop Morlino, as misreported by Pray Tell Blog, but from James Bartylla, vicar general of the diocese of Madison.

The communication states that “if the situation warrants (see canon 1184 – specifically canon 1184.1.3), ecclesiastical funeral rites may be denied for manifest sinners in which public scandal of the faithful can’t be avoided.”

“The main issue centers around scandal and confusion (leading others into the occasion of sin or confusing or weakening people regarding the teachings of the Catholic Church in regards to sacred doctrine and the natural law), and thereby the pastoral task is to minimize the risk of scandal and confusion to others amidst the solicitude for the deceased and family,” the communication states.

Some “general considerations” are offered to priests when considering a funeral request for public homosexuals.

“Was the deceased or the ‘partner’ a promoter of the “gay” lifestyle? Did the deceased give some signs of repentance before death?” the communication states.

The communication also states that “any surviving ‘partner’ should not have any public or prominent role at any ecclesiastical funeral rite or service.”

“There should be no mention of the ‘partner’ either by name or by other reference (nor reference to the unnatural union) in any liturgical booklet, prayer card, homily, sermon, talk by the priest, deacon, etc,” the communication adds.

Diocese of Madison spokesperson Brent King told LifeSiteNews that while the communication is “not an official diocesan policy,” it does, however, “conform with the mind of the bishop and meet his approval.”

“The communication, which took the form of a weekly e-mail to priests from the Vicar General of the diocese, was a result of pastoral questions asked by the priests themselves, and was to serve as a tool to provide some framework and considerations in this confidential setting,” he said.

The communication comes three months after Illinois Bishop Thomas Paprocki issued guidelines that explicitly state that those in same-sex “marriages” should not be admitted to Holy Communion, nor receive a Catholic funeral if they died without showing signs of repentance.

Prior to this, Oregon Archbishop Alexander Sample released guidelines in May that stated that Catholics in “serious sin” – specifically mentioning active homosexuals and those in adulterous unions – must repent before receiving Communion. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput issued similar guidelines in July 2016.

Homosexualist activist and Vatican adviser Fr. James Martin criticized the Diocese of Madison’s funeral directives in a series of five posts on Twitter, saying to his tens of thousands of followers that they amounted to “discrimination.”

“There is no focus on the sexual morality of straight Catholics at the time of their funerals … The (sic) focus solely on LGBT people and their morality is an instance of what the Catechism calls ‘unjust discrimination,’” he said.

But Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, a priest in the diocese of Madison, criticized  Fr. Martin for using what he called communist tactics against Bishop Morlino in presenting him as an “‘Enemy of the People’ to the mobs” for “attack and public abuse.”

“The new catholic Left cadres have received signals from on high and they are now starting to target anyone whom they deem might not tow their party line. They are whistling and pointing to (what Communists called) Enemies of the People,” he wrote on his blog.

“What is more disturbing is the trend building among the catholic Left, of building an Enemies List. It’s downright evil,” he added.

“So, James Martin, SJ, smeared Bp. Morlino – in public – and with something inaccurate. Now watch the black and chilling sleet of hatred that he initiated… on purpose. I suspect the Jesuit doesn’t care, because his task was fulfilled,” he said.

Bishop Morlino is considered by many faithful Catholics to be among the most orthodox bishops in the United States.

Earlier this year, he asked his entire diocese to begin receiving Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling so as to increase “reverence” for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Last year when  Vatican Liturgy chief Cardinal Robert Sarah asked clergy to adopt the ‘ad orientem’ — facing the East — position for Mass in time for advent, Morlino was one of the first bishops in the Church to respond to the call.

Morlino has also asked that tabernacles be returned to the front and center of every church in his diocese.

When the Bishop first came to the Diocese of Madison in 2003, there were only six men studying to be priests. Under his leadership, that number increased sixfold in 12 years.

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I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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