On June 12, 2017, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, issued a Decree “Regarding Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues.” The Decree reaffirmed Catholic teaching that a marital union is only possible “between one man and one woman.” The Decree included the following directives:

  • No member of the clergy or representative of the Diocese should assist or participate in a same-sex marriage;
  • No Church property should be used to host same-sex marriage ceremonies or receptions;
  • Persons in a same-sex marriage should not present themselves for Holy Communion, nor should they be admitted to Holy Communion;
  • Those in a same-sex marriage can be restored to communion with the Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation;
  • In danger of death, a person living in a same-sex marriage may receive Holy Communion “if he or she expresses repentance for his or her sins.”

Immediately, James Martin, S.J., took to his Facebook account to criticize the Decree. He stated:

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 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. Moreover, they must ban anyone who does not care for the poor, or care for the environment, and anyone who supports torture, for those are church teachings too. More basically, they must ban people who are not loving, not forgiving and not merciful, for these represent the teachings of Jesus, the most fundamental of all church teachings. 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).

In the comments section to Martin’s post, a reader stated:

Liberal Logic. If someone else is doing something wrong it makes what I am doing wrong ok. Because the church has been lazy on some teachings doesn’t mean it should be lazy on all it’s teachings.

Martin responded with:

No, it’s discriminatory. If you only focus on one group, and not the others, you are by definition discriminating. The moral and sexual lives of straight people do not come under similar scrutiny.

Although Martin is notorious for enforcing his “Two post limit,” he allowed the most inflammatory and vicious comments about Bishop Paprocki to remain in the Facebook comments thread concerning his post; this is incredibly hypocritical because Martin has argued that:

…the institutional church—popes and councils, archbishops and bishops—speaks with authority in their role as teachers. They don’t all speak with the same level of authority (more about that later), but all Catholics must prayerfully consider what they are teaching. To do that, we are called to listen. Their teaching deserves our respect…Beyond what you might call ecclesial respect, the hierarchy deserves simple human respect. Often I m disheartened by the things that I hear some L.G.B.T. Catholics and their allies saying about certain bishops. I hear these things privately, but also publicly.

Here are just a few examples of the numerous comments made; they include scurrilous allusions to Bishop Paprocki as a closeted homosexual (Warning: some coarse language):

OH, the hypocracy, of a denomination which protected child rapists and allowed them to continue consecrating the Body and Blood of Christ! No one asks to be born gay. Why should they be forbidden to love in a way natural to the way God made them.

God help this fear-based man. I was in Springfield when he outlawed the use of Reiki and healing touch which the nuns were performing to help people. I’m so glad that I don’t have to deal with him anymore.

How hard is this Bishop working to keep his own closet door shut? This disgrace to the church should remember that funerals are not for the deceased, but to aid and comfort the greiving family and friends. This horrible person should turn in his rosary, priestly collar and funky hat.

What a wanker, it’s ok for some if his fellow priests to assault kids and be forgiven by the pope etc. The Catholic Church is a joke. The life a priest leads is not natural! 
As an x Irish catholic, want to be cremated with any religious ceremony and my ashes scattered in the bay at home. Prefer my friends have a piss up in the pub and have a laugh. 
The likes of this twat and his church’s closed mind fellow priests days are numbered.

There seems to be a lot of hate in Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s heart! He will be remembered in my daily prayers.

What an idiot. You can’t be serious that he has the label of a church leader! No he isn’t. So sorry for Illinois parishioners to deal with a guy like this.

This Bishop is terribly conservative and is still living in a Pre-Vatican world. We should disregard anything he says. I feel sorry for the people in his diocese, since he is still considered “young” so they all need to move to a more progressive diocese!

Methinks that bishop doth protest too much. What does he have to hide?

Men like Bishop Paprocki are the reason people are leaving the Catholic Church and reject organized religion as a whole.

Perhaps Francis will remove this cancer from the body of our church.

The following day, on June 23, 2017, Martin promoted the New Ways Ministry website page which lists several LGBT friendly parishes in the US; during a June 16, 2017 Podcast, when asked who he would most like to personally canonize, Martin responded with the name of Jeannine Gramick.

Along with Fr. Robert Nugent, Jeanine Gramick founded the gay affirmative Catholic outreach, New Ways Ministry in 1977. Almost immediately the group’s wide divergence from official Catholic teaching caught the attention of concerned prelates in the United States, and the Vatican began an investigation into their published work and unusual pastoral practices. In 1984, both Nugent and Gramick were ordered to step down from leadership positions at New Ways Ministry. But both continued to speak out against Church prohibitions concerning homosexual activity. In 1992, they co-wrote and published the book: “Building Bridges – gay and lesbian reality in the Catholic Church” – here is an excerpt from tone of the essays written by Gramick:

A lesbian/gay spirituality or theology begins with the individual’s encounter with God. It is not necessary that God’s presence be mediated through formal religious structures….In their personal encounter with the living God, lesbian and gay people must read the scriptures in the light of their own experience…In his ministry of teaching and healing, Jesus challenged the authority of the religious leaders of his day. By the witness of their lives of faith, responsibility, and love, lesbian and gay Christians similarly reject traditional teachings regarding the moral status of homogenital acts and thus threaten the authority of contemporary religious structures.

In 1999, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a “Notification Regarding Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent,” both were:

Permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons…

Gramick ignored the notification stating – “I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression.”

In 2010, the USCCB, then headed by Cardinal Francis George, issued a clarification on the status of New Ways Ministry – stating:

No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice. Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination.

In a 2012 Op-ed for “The Washington Post,” Gramick wrote in favor of a Catholic rationale for accepting gay marriage:

In forming our consciences, Catholics also consult scripture and our theological tradition. Here, again, there is little firm reason to oppose marriage equality.

In 2013, Bishop Paprocki debated Gramick on the subject of gay marriage; he is also a stalwart supporter of the Courage apostolate.

Several of the parish level LGBT ministries listed on the New Ways Ministry web-site are either controlled by gay advocates, and or individuals currently in a same-sex marriage; many openly promote the legitimacy of same-sex marriage; they include parishes and ministries in San FranciscoSeattleNew YorkChicagoLos AngelesMinneapolisBaltimoreSan DiegoBostonSan Jose, and Portland.

Please take a moment to contact Bishop Paprocki and share your support and prayers for this brave man.