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Thursday, June 29, 2017 12:07 am

The bishop cracks down

No funerals, communion for same-sex couples

Bishop Thomas Paprocki
Bishop Thomas Paprocki this month unleashed a national firestorm with a three-page decree making clear, if it wasn’t already, his views on homosexuality.

Folks in same-sex marriages can’t present themselves for communion, nor can they publicly read stuff aloud during services or otherwise have any official role in services. People who have married people of the same sex can have Catholic funeral masses, the bishop wrote, but only if they repent prior to drawing their last breath.

There is some hope for children in Paprocki’s worldview: A child with a Catholic parent, or parents, who are married and of the same sex can be baptized, but only if there is a “well-founded hope” that the child will be raised in the Catholic faith. Kids with parents in same-sex marriages can also be confirmed in the church. But kids who’ve been raised as Catholics by same-sex parents may need to hunt for someone to sponsor them at baptisms and confirmations, given that Paprocki has ordered that such parents can’t sponsor their own children.

The bishop’s edict came with a warning to priests.

“They are also warned that culpable violation of any of these norms can be punished with a just penalty,” Paprocki wrote in the decree dated June 12 and made public last week, just four days before a gay pride celebration was held in his hometown of Chicago.

Such a decree isn’t necessarily surprising, given that Paprocki has long held that same-sex marriage is sinful. In 2013, the bishop held a public exorcism to cast out evil in Illinois on the same day that then Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law that legalized same-sex marriage.

National Public Radio, the National Catholic Reporter, the Washington Post and other national media picked up on Paprocki’s decree last week, and most commenters were not kind. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest from New York whom Pope Francis has appointed a consultant to the office that oversees communications from the Vatican, wrote in a biting Facebook post that bishops who forbid funerals for folks in same-sex marriages should be consistent and refuse funerals for men and women who have lived together before marriage, anyone who has used birth control, anyone who has had a child out of wedlock, anyone who doesn’t care for the poor and others who have failed to follow various teachings of the church.

“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,’” Martin wrote.

There does appear to be some wiggle room when it comes to funerals for folks who have married folks of the same sex.

“Unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death, deceased persons who have lived openly in a same-sex marriage giving public scandal to the faithful are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rites,” Paprocki wrote. “In case of doubt, the proper pastor or parochial administrator is to consult the local ordinary, whose judgment is to be followed.”

Does Paprocki mean doubt about whether about whether someone has repented before they die? Does he mean doubt about whether someone who is married to someone of the same sex has “lived openly” in the marriage – after all, there are lots of people of the opposite sex who, for whatever reason, will have nothing to do with their spouses. Paprocki did not respond to an emailed interview request, other than to send an automatically generated message instructing reporters with questions to contact the diocese’s press office.

Paprocki seven years ago found himself having to explain funeral protocols after presiding over the funeral mass of former Mayor Tim Davlin, who committed suicide in 2010. The church once banned funeral masses for those who took their own lives on the grounds that life is sacred. Pope John Paul II lifted the ban in 1983, but funerals can still be denied for parishioners who kill themselves. “My place was to be shepherd of the flock in their time of grief,” Paprocki wrote in a Catholic Times column aimed at telling the faithful why he approved a funeral mass for Davlin. He emphasized that point during a 2011 interview with Illinois Times.

“The funeral is as much for the family and friends as it is for the departed person,” Paprocki said. “I thought my place was to be with the Catholic community and leading the community at that point.”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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